The four Gospels all cover the period of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. However, they do so at different paces and with different emphases. Sometimes they cover the same story: the feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus’ crucifixion are in all four Gospels, for instance. But sometimes they don’t contain what the other Gospels cover or include details that the other Gospel writers did not incorporate into their account.
It is possible to study these differences by comparing the four Gospels as they are included in our New Testament: flipping back and forth from book to book and locating the corresponding passages. But ever since the Tatian’s Diatessaron in the 2nd century, people have produced Gospel harmonies where individuals attempt to arrange the contents of the Gospels in chronological order and put passages that cover the same events side-by-side for easy comparison.
The CSB Christ Chronological is one of the latest of these Gospel harmonies to be produced. How does it fare as a tool to study the Gospel accounts of the life of Christ chronologically?
The CSB Christ Chronological is a beautiful book. It is well designed and colorful without being garish or flashy. It is simple and straightforward and clearly identifies the portion of Jesus’ life in each section, the references from each Gospel quoted, and the different excerpts themselves.
The above picture includes an example of a section of Jesus’ life included in all four Gospels: Jesus’ baptism. Note the references in the upper right corner to where it is found in each Gospel and how the accounts are all placed together. You can immediately make several observations comparing the accounts: Matthew and John have the longest accounts of this episode, all three Synoptic Gospels end with a version of “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased,” etc.
For visual clarity, each Gospel is assigned a different color for its text, which is displayed at the bottom of each page for reference.
Additionally, some sections have introductions that discuss how the various Gospel accounts do or do not align with each other as well as the reasons behind this or possible harmonizations.
When an account appears only in one Gospel, that section is inserted on its own. Note how the multiple accounts that are side-by-side at the top of the above page then shift to John 5 all by itself. The same goes for when a story, miracle, or teaching is found in only two or three of the Gospels.
So the CSB Christ Chronological is beautiful, designed well, has great colors, helps you make immediate comparisons between different sections of the Gospels…is anything missing?
This resource lacks a Scripture index or even numbers for each individual section that align with other Gospel harmonies to reference. This initially might not seem like that big of an issue, but it drastically reduces the usefulness of the CSB Christ Chronological as a study tool.
Say, for instance, that I am interested in the story of Jesus healing two blind men and how the Gospels each do or don’t address it. How am I to find it in this book?
I might know that the reference for this episode in Mark is Mark 10:46-52. But that doesn’t help me that much without an index recording which page(s) Mark 10 is on in this book. I can manually skim through the book searching for it. But because this is a Gospel harmony and not all the Gospel writers arranged things strictly chronologically in their Gospels, I might run into some problems. For example, page 38 has the story of the faith of the centurion (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10) but then page 39 has Jesus’ answer to the question from John the Baptist (Matthew 11:1-19; Luke 7:18-35). It isn’t until page 48 that the harmony returns to Matthew 8 with the story of Jesus stilling the storm, found in Luke 8. The editors of the book have followed Luke’s chronology and assumed Matthew arranged his account more thematically than chronologically from Matthew 8 to Matthew 11 but have not given the reader a tool to follow what they are doing (e.g. an index).
Should a future edition of this book include a Scripture index, episode numbers, or some other way to quickly find a specific Gospel reference, this would be an excellent resource to aid in the study of the Gospels. However, without any sort of tool like this, the CSB Christ Chronological is much less useful and more suited to reading beginning to end devotionally than for study.
3 stars out of 5
CSB Christ Chronological. Holman Bible Publishers, 2017. 144 pp. Hardcover. $19.99.
Thanks to B&H Bloggers for the review copy, which I received for free in exchange for an impartial review!