Book Review: Where The Four Roads Merge

Where The Four Roads Merge:  A Chronological Narrative Of The Four Gospels, by Tony Kessinger

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Bostick Communications.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

When reading this book, I could not help thinking of one of the more notable works of early Christendom, namely Tatian’s Diatessaron.  I did not think of this merely because I am fond of old and obscure books, although this is certainly true.  What led me to think about it is the fact that those who seek to write harmonies of the Gospel, the genre which contains this book, face a choice between two options.  Either they can seek to show in parallel all of the relevant Gospel accounts in some kind of chronological order based on the interpretations of the author, where the reader can notice the different details included by different Gospel authors, as is usually the case [1], or they can seek to combine the different Gospel accounts into a single narrative, as is the case here.  Tatian’s Diatessaron was among the most important and most controversial works of the early Syriac Church, and Tatian’s reputation as a heretic is probably what kept this author from mentioning the effort and accounts for his wise caution to the reader for this book to be viewed as a commentary of sorts on the Gospels [2] rather than a replacement to them.  This restraint is wise, and it would have been even better had the author been more restrained in other areas.

This book, which is about 180 pages, is divided into eight chapters after a disclaimer and Trinitarian prologue.  The first chapter gives the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and includes amplified references to what happened during the reigns of the rulers discussed in the genealogy that Matthew provides through Joseph.  The second chapter looks at the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist.  The third chapter looks at the teaching ministry and miracles.  The fourth chapter gives examples of teaching in Jerusalem.  The fifth chapter shows Sabbath teaching and parables.  The sixth chapter looks at Jesus’ statements on the road to Jerusalem.  The seventh chapter looks at the chronology of the last supper.  The eighth and final chapter goes from the Garden to the tomb.  Each chapter includes materials under various headings ending with a parallel list of references in rough chronological order so that the reader can see where the author has drawn material from.  This is the sort of work that is most appropriate for those churches looking for a handy narrative text in order to assist the writing of a church play from the Gospels and not for those looking for scholarly exegesis.

Despite the author’s modesty about this book, there are a few serious criticisms that must be addressed.  For one, the author is at his best when discussing material from the Bible out.  Unfortunately, far too often the author seeks to amplify the text by adding unbiblical references to the Trinity instead of sticking to the material from John 1, for example, and his chronology is dodgy all the way through, although it is dodgy in the way that many people misunderstand and misinterpret the Gospels.  The author, for example, has no clue about three days and three nights and does not realize that the women buying spices for the tomb did so between the First Day of Unleavened Bread and the weekly Sabbath, something that mistaken chronologies about Christ’s time in the grave leave no time for.  nor does this exhaust the errors, as the author skips some particularly notable aspects of the Gospels, like the execution of John the Baptist at the instigation of Herodias, and includes numerous mistaken references to years which are likely all wrong.  Far too often the narrative flow was interrupted by a realization that the author had smuggled in misguided and mistaken interpretation rather than letting the Bible speak for itself.  Even so, this book has some value as an aid to a fluent understanding of the Gospels, so long as one is aware of its elisions and its mistaken glosses.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/04/17/book-review-a-harmony-of-the-four-gospels/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/11/22/book-review-the-christmas-story-in-40-days/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014/08/19/book-review-the-trial-of-jesus-from-a-lawyers-standpoint-volume-1/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2013/12/03/book-review-jesus-an-historians-review-of-the-gospels/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2013/08/30/book-review-johns-gospel-the-way-it-happened/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Biblical History, Book Reviews, Christianity, Church of God, History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Book Review: Where The Four Roads Merge

  1. Pingback: A Musing On Parallel Accounts | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Under An Open Heaven | Edge Induced Cohesion

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