5 good reasons to own a synopsis of the gospels

can be found at James White’s blog here.


(1) You never have to ask yourself, “Is this story in Mark also found in Matthew, Luke, or John as well? Or “How does Luke’s account describe this same parable in Matthew?” A synopsis allows you to see the parallel accounts on a single page. Are you aware that the story of the feeding of the 5000 is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels? Again, a synopsis format conveniently lets you see all four accounts together and their different details and emphases. Another example, the story of Jesus calming the storm has Matthew’s account with Jesus saying, “O men of little faith.” Mark has “Have you no faith?” Luke has “Where is your faith?” Reading this story in a synopsis would make these differences observable.

(2) Learn the theological emphases of each gospel. Reading the gospels “vertically” is the most common way–Matthew through John, one at a time. But reading them “horizontally”–Matthew, Mark, Luke, John at the same time–will allow you to compare the theological differences with much more effectiveness because you are viewing the accounts together.

(3) To be aware of the distinctives in the gospel stories. Can you tell me which gospel account of the birth narrative contains the story of the “Wise Men”? Matthew or Luke’s account (or both)? Answer: only in Matthew. What about the “Shepherds out in the field keeping watch over their flock by night?” Answer: only in Luke’s account. (And Mark and John do not contain a birth narrative). If you use a synopsis, all these facts would be conspicuous on a single page!

(4) Read all four gospels in chronological sequence. Have you read the gospels before and noticed that the writers are often “inconsistent” with the chronology of events in the life of Jesus? That is not because they were careless and making mistakes in recalling the life of Jesus. Rather, they were more often concerned with thematic development than with a mere chronicle (and historicity for these ancient writers did not always require chronological sequence.)

(5) Read a synopsis in one year by reading one pericope every day! By coincidence, the synopsis has 367 pericopes (That is, all four gospels combined contain 367 units.) If you read one pericope a day next year, plus two additional days (but it is a leap year), you will have read all 367 units of all four gospels in a full year.


Following the 5th reason is also a great way to keep up on one’s NT Greek if one gets it in the NT Greek edition! (there is a Greek/English edition too).

I also recommend Scot McKnight’s Interpreting the Synoptic Gospels (Guides to New Testament Exegesis) for a description of a good coloring system that helps in deciphering the differences between the accounts, which come out best only in the Greek.

HT: Dave Black