We have four Gospels that tell the same story. We have four unique gospels telling four different stories about the same Person.We must harmonize the gospels. We must let the Gospels stand alone, as viewpoints, all truth, of different primitive Christian communities.
One of the hermeneutical mistakes that I have made in the past is to attempt to fully harmonize the Gospels. In doing do – while it is possible – it removes the distinct flavor of each Gospel. There were not written by the same people – but different people, with different backgrounds and thus, different voices.
The Internet Monk gives us some tips on Interpreting the Gospels.
1. Don’t harmonize the Gospels. That’s like taking four paintings and combining them into one. You come up with something no one painted and no one intended to paint. Let each Gospel author be an artist in his own right. However, a Gospel synopsis, such as those available from UBS, are very useful and important in comparing Gospel texts to one another WITHOUT harmonizing them.
2. When you interpret anything in the Gospels as if the words were spoken or the incident happened in the contemporary world (especially the west), you are almost certainly headed in the wrong direction. The Gospels come to us from another time and place. They aren’t inaccessible, but they require us to let them be what they are and not attempt to contemporize them.
Go read the rest here.