4 is better

I am not the first to make a compilation covering 'The Jesus Event'. If done thoroughly, it is no easy matter to compare all four Gospels line by line, and work out how to blend the 'full' account into one 'harmony', a continuous narrative using all of the data. There was a recent 'Life of Jesus' publication (NLT) put out by Tyndale House as a paperback, I think in 2004. It seemed to be thorough, though I no longer have a copy to examine. It has disappeared without any trace, I could find it, not even 'out of print'. (I was not trying to replicate the Tyndale House work; my production is much, much simpler.)

I noted an NIV 'Harmony' (Harper One) available on the internet.

Long before any of us, other writers tried to combine the information from all the Gospels. Justin Martyr, an educated man, produced a harmony. He was prominent in Rome as an advocate for Christianity. (As a Christian, Justin was beheaded there about 165 CE {ODCC}). His work looks to have continued to influence readings in the West.

More prominent is the Diatessaron of Tatian. Possibly Tatian took a lead from Justin but composed his Syriac harmony (a single document from  the four) elsewhere in about 172 CE. No copy is extant. Efforts have been made to reconstruct the work from other writers who quote him. It seems his versions of the Gospels varied in places from the generally accepted text. Tatian's Diatessaron influenced the later Syriac texts, and the Georgian and Arabic and possibly also the Armenian. For some period, in places where it was circulated, the Diatessaron was in competition with 'the fourfold Gospel'.

Although there was an understandable struggle to clarify the authoritative and normative, from other documents, those living at the time must have had access to evidence. Communications were not comparable to our times, but communication did occur within the Empire, and beyond. The fourfold Gospel was well established quite early. That is, early references were made to 'the Gospel', as read in four sources: 'According to Matthew'; 'According to Mark'; 'According to Luke'; and, 'According to John'. One Gospel through four authors.

People of those long ago times knew that, in the 'fourfold Gospel', each component document (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) has a distinctive character. The documents are best read as they stand.  A harmony or compilation presents less than the original. It took some time but ultimately the 'fourfold Gospel' prevailed everywhere.

As to my post, 'The Jesus Event': It is best seen as a sampler of various Bible versions of Mark, created to be brief by slight subtractions in favour of Matthew or Luke, plus a sample of John, and to keep within copyright requirements. As I said previously, it is best to read the full documents themselves, the for-good-reason long-treasured 'fourfold Gospel'.

An unfamiliar reader may find it useful to follow my suggested 'Self-guided Reading Plan'. I hope it will help 'set the scene' and make connections or developments more easily recognised. 

A (bulky) tool for comparing and contrasting the Gospels is: Synopsis of the Four Gospels, Aland, K. (ed.), German Bible Society. The volume contains all of the text in parallel as many times as it is required for comparison whilst also retaining each Gospel intact. (English {RSV} and Greek on opposite pages.)

I have drawn on: S.E. Porter, 'NT Versions, Ancient', in Dictionary of NT Background, (IVP, Downers Grove, IL, 2000)