Interpreting the Four Gospels: Neither Ripping Them Apart Nor Smashing Them Together is Necessary
We often adopt extreme approaches to Bible interpetation methods, and that is often true when interpreting the four Gospels. The extremes are either ripping the Gospels apart, or smashing them together.
I explain below:
Approah One: Ripping the Gospels Apart From Each Other
Bart Ehrman is very emphatic that the four Gospels must be interpreted fully independent from each other because each Gospel writer holds widely different perspectives from one another. For example, Ehrman claims that each of the Gospels have totally different portrayals of Jesus’ death.
Ehrman writes, “What I came to see was that it was both fruitless and impoverished to think the two Gospels were both trying to say the same thing. Each of them is rich in meaning, but they meaning they ascribe to the event is very different. Failing to appreciate the difference means failing to understand each author and the point that he is trying to make.”
I call this ripping the Gospels apart from each other. As a result, we create internal contradictions that are not there. That is why we have four Gospels in the Bible. They were meant to be read and interepreted together.
Approach Two: Smashing the Gospels Together
Bart Ehrman and others claim that those who interpret a single pericope (passage unit) by using all the Gospels together (if recorded in all more than one Gospel) is artificially smashing the independent Gospels together, and in so doing, we actually create our own Bible passage.
Approach Three: Harmonizing or Integrating the Gospels Together
My approach to interpreting the Gospels is neither to rip them apart or to smash them together. I believe the four Gospels were meant to be interpreted by harmonizing or integrating them, for no one Gospel stands on its own. Again, that is why we have four Gospels in the Bible. Otherwise, why were they all included in the Bible.
Each Gospel provides new information that is required for a full interpretation to be done. I want to make clear, however, that I am not speaking about artificially smashing the Gospels together. Those who harmonize and integrate the Gospels are often accused of doing this, but I reject the accusation. For I believe that one can harmonize or integrate the Gospels without destroying the integrity of each Gospel.