- Do you want to do more than just read your Bible?
- Do you want to study your Bible, but you don’t have a clue where or how to begin?
- Do you want to begin to build a simple Bible study library, but need some advice as to what books should make up some of your first purchases?
- Do you have a curiosity as to how the four Gospels compare and contrast with each other?
- Do you often make use of the Common English Bible and yearn to see reference works appear that are based on that translation?
If you answered “Yes” to any of the preceding questions, you’d do well to acquire a copy of the Common English Bible Gospel Parallels (CEBGP) edited by Joel B. Green & W. Gil Shin (Common English Bible, 2012).
Why? Because the CEBGP arranges the text of the Common English Bible’s renderings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John side-by-side for easy comparison. By means of the CEBGP, a reader can tell at a glance if a Gospel account is unique to a particular Gospel or if it has parallel accounts in other Gospels, and if it has a parallel account(s), how they compare and contrast with each other. After using the CEBGP a little while, a reader will begin to pick up on some of the different tendencies of the various Gospel writers.
For example, peruse pages 100-101 and you’ll see the parallel accounts of the happening we’ve come to know as “the feeding of the five thousand.” From just a quick perusal of the narratives we learn:
1. All four of the Gospels record this event, something not at all that common (Matt. 14.13-21; Mark 6.32-44; Luke 9.10b-17; John 6.1-15).
2. Only John’s account gives us an idea as to when this event took place (“It was nearly time for Passover”). John often makes note of when things happened.
3. Only Luke’s account reveals something of an idea where this event took place (a remote area near the “city called Bethsaida”). The locations of events are matters of importance to Luke for they often appear in in his Gospel and Acts.
4. Mark and John’s accounts alone tell us of the disciples’ noting how costly it would be to provide food for such a crowd. According to Mark’s account, the disciples told Jesus it would require “almost eight month’s pay” for the purchase of the bread alone. John’s account attributes essentially this same comment to Philip.
5. Matthew and Mark record how Jesus was moved to compassion on the crowd. Mark alone records the reason for this compassion (“because they were like sheep without a shepherd”).
6. While Mark’s account and that of Luke both tell of Jesus directing the crowd to sit down in groups of “about fifty,” John’s account tell us the place where they sat had “plenty of grass” and Mark tell us the grass was “green.” One gets the distinct impression of something like an eyewitness account by these simple, vivid notations.
These are only a very few examples of the sort of things one can learn very quickly by using the CEBGP.
While parallel reference works on the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark & Luke) or all four of the Gospels are not anything new (e.g. – Gospel Parallels: A Comparison of the Synoptic Gospels edited by Burton H. Throckmorton, Jr. and Synopsis of the Four Gospels, English Edition edited by Kurt Aland), most of what sets the CEBGP apart from similar works is that it makes use of the latest committee-based English translation of the Bible, the Common English Bible (CEB) and the fact that it presents the text of the Gospels sans reference to matters of interest to only advanced students (i.e. – Greek manuscripts, apocryphal Gospels, etc.). Unlike most Gospel parallels with which I am familiar, this reference work is designed with the basic Bible student in mind.
The two indices included (a Scripture index and an Index of the Parallels) are invaluable and make the CEBGP all the more accessible and useful. The hardcover binding is tight and of good quality. The paper is bright and thick, made to hold up with sustained use over time. A dozen blank pages are included at the end of the book, a useful addition for those who like to make notes in their books. The font is crisp and clear, and though a tad on the small side (something to be expected given the project at hand), it is quite legible and easy-on-the-eyes to this bifocaled reader.
The publishers of the Common English Bible are to be commended not only for producing this quality reference work, but for doing so in a timely manner following the initial publication of the CEB. It joins, among works built around the CEB, the outstanding CEB Bible Map Guide.
Works such as these make us yearn for even more serious reference works based on the CEB. Might I suggest an exhaustive concordance and a NT Greek-English interlinear?