Appendix 10. Harmony between John and the Synoptic Gospels


Jacob Jordaens, 'The Four Evangelists' (1625--1630), Louvre Museum, Paris.
Jacob Jordaens, 'The Four Evangelists' (1625--1630), Louvre Museum, Paris.

Anyone who takes time to compare the accounts of Jesus' Passion and Resurrection will notice differences between John's Gospel and the Synoptic Gospels -- Matthew, Mark, and Luke. For most of Jesus' life, John and the Synoptics rarely coincide, because John, for the most part, describes different incidents and teachings. But when we get to the Last Supper, Jesus' arrest, trial, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection we see differences.

Most of these differences can be attributed to John's different style and eyewitness perspective. After all, by the time John's Gospel was written in the 90s AD, the Synoptic Gospels had been circulating throughout the churches for at least twenty years. John felt no need to repeat what had been recorded already. But he did feel a need to paint a picture of Jesus with an evangelistic purpose:

"Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (20:30-31)

To do this John was very selective about the material he chose to include and leave out. If an incident or detail didn't fit his purpose, it wasn't included. So we shouldn't be surprised by the differences.

However, we are surprised that in some cases the details seem to differ, or the order of events varies. Reasons for these differences are several. One important factor is that first century standards of historical accuracy are very different from our own. What was common and expected in the first century is different from what we expect of historians in our own time, so it's important to judge the gospel writers by the standards of their own age rather than ours.

One particular challenge in harmonizing John and the Synoptic Gospels is that day upon which Jesus partook of the Last Supper with his disciples, and was crucified. This is discussed above in Appendix 7. The Chronology of Holy Week in John's Gospel.

John's Gospel: A Discipleship Journey with Jesus, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Entire study is available in paperback, Kindle, and PDF formats.

The study of the differences between the Gospels, especially between John and the Synoptics, is known as "the Synoptic Problem," and is the subject of many, many books. Much of what has resulted is multiplied speculation. In this volume, my purpose is primarily to develop disciples who will follow Jesus their Master. So I'm not spending a great deal of time on the Synoptic Problem. For more on this topic, consult an introduction to the New Testament.

However, some may find a tentative harmony of John's Gospel and the Synoptic Gospels to be useful. Just realize that this harmony -- and, indeed, any harmony of the Gospels -- is speculative. Devout students of the Bible will disagree about the details. And that's okay. This is a brief harmony I found on the Internet.

Harmony of the Events of Holy Week

Day

Event

Matt

Mark

Luke

John

Fri/Sat

Jesus arrives in Bethany

 

 

 

12:1

 

Mary anoints Jesus

 

 

 

12:2--8

 

Crowd comes to see Jesus

 

 

 

12:9--11

Sunday

Triumphal entry into Jerusalem

21:1--11

11:1--10

19:28--44

12:12--18

 

Some Greeks seek Jesus

 

 

 

12:20--36

 

Enters temple

 

11:11

 

 

 

Returns to Bethany

21:17

11:11

 

 

Monday

Jesus curses the fig tree

21:18--19

11:12--14

 

 

 

Clears the temple

21:12--13

11:15--17

19:45--46

 

 

Returns to Bethany with the Twelve

 

11:19

 

 

Tuesday

Disciples see the withered fig tree on the return to Jerusalem 21:20--22

11:20--21

 

 

 

Temple controversies in Jerusalem

21:23--23:39

11:27--12:44

20:1--21:4

 

 

Olivet Discourse on the return to Bethany

24:1--25:46

13:1--37

21:5--36

 

Wednesday

Jesus continues daily teaching in the temple

 

 

21:37--38

 

 

Sanhedrin plots to kill Jesus

26:3--5

14:1--2

22:1--2

 

Wed/Thur

Preparations for the Passover

26:17--19

14:12--16

22:7--13

 

Thursday

Passover meal/Last Supper

26:20--35

14:17--26

22:14--30

 

 

Upper Room Discourse

 

 

 

13:1--17:26

 

Jesus prays in Gethsemane

26:36--46

14:32--42

22:39--46

 

Friday

Betrayal and arrest (after midnight?)

26:47--56

14:43--52

22:47--53

18:2--12

 

Jewish trial:

 

 

 

 

 

--before Annas

 

 

 

18:13--24

 

--before Caiaphas and part of the Sanhedrin

26:57--75

14:53--72

22:54--65

18:19--24

 

--before full Sanhedrin (after sunrise?)

27:1--2

15:1

22:66--71

 

 

Roman trials:

 

 

 

 

 

--before Pilate

27:2--14

15:2--5

23:1--5

 

 

--before Herod

 

 

23:6--12

 

 

--before Pilate

27:15--26

15:6--15

23:13--25

18:28--19:16

 

Crucifixion (approx. 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.)

27:27--54

15:16--39

23:26--49

19:16--37

 

Burial (evening)

27:57--61

15:42--47

23:50--54

19:38--42

Sunday

Empty-tomb witnesses

28:1--8

16:1--8

24:1--12

 

 

Resurrection appearances

28:9--20

16:9--20

24:13--53

20:1--21:25


Copyright © 1985-2017, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

Sign up now!To be notified about future articles, stories, and Bible studies,why don't you subscribe to our free newsletter,The Joyful Heart, by placing your e-mail address in the box below. We respect your privacy and never sell, rent, or loan our lists. Please don't subscribe your friends; let them decide for themselves.
FirstLast
E-mail
Country(2-letter abbreviation, such as US)
Preferred FormatHTML (recommended) Plain text