From Tatian To Swanson, From Calvin To Bendavid: The Harmonization Of Biblical History -- By: Ronald Youngblood

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 25:4 (Dec 1982)
Article: From Tatian To Swanson, From Calvin To Bendavid: The Harmonization Of Biblical History
Author: Ronald Youngblood


From Tatian To Swanson, From Calvin To Bendavid:
The Harmonization Of Biblical History

Ronald Youngblood*

The canon of Holy Scripture contains a rather large percentage of material (especially—though not exclusively—historical narrative) that is repeated (of-ten-though by no means always—verbatim), sometimes more than once. It is understandable, then, that students of the Bible would attempt to construct harmonies and synopses of the parallel passages in order to simplify comparison of them.

I. The Difference Between “Harmony” And “Synopsis”

Although the words “harmony” and “synopsis” are often used interchangeably, we will distinguish between them for the purposes of this paper. “Harmony” will refer to any literary work that has interwoven two or more sections of Scripture into a continuous narrative. In the broadest sense of the term, “harmony” can be applied to such volumes as The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, in which chap. 1 of book 1 exhibits the following Biblical phrases and paraphrases, culled from both Old and New Testaments: “He who follows me does not walk in darkness,” “hidden manna,” “they have not the spirit of Christ,” “vanity of vanities,” “the lust of the flesh,” “to attend only to the present life, and not look forward to the things to come,” “that which passes… away,” “the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing,” “to separate your heart from the love of things which are seen, and to turn it to the things which are not seen,” “defile their conscience.1 One of Thomas’ editors refers to the Imitation as the “little Bible.”2 Other examples of such harmonies in devotional literature are legion (cf., e.g., Thomas Browhe’s Religio Medici). In the more traditional sense, however, “harmony” is used of works like that of Arthur T. Pierson,3 in which the compiler weaves together the first four books of the NT into one continuous story.

“Synopsis,” on the other hand, will refer to those works that set forth similar Biblical texts or accounts in parallel formats of various kinds, usually in some sort of columnar arrangement. An excellent recent example would be A Harmony

*Ronald Youngblood is professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Bethel Theological Seminary West in San Diego, California.

of the Gospels, edited by Robert L. Thomas and Stanley N. Gundry.4 As its tit...

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