A modern English blending of the New Testament

Table of Contents



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Gospel Index

Charles Templeton Home

Anecdotal Memoir

Brad Templeton Home
Brad's Photo Pages

Brad's Panoramic Photos

RHF Home


Preface to 'Jesus' - a Blending of the Gospels


Jesus Christ is undoubtedly the single most influential figure in the history of Western civilization. His influence touches the daily life of every individual. Yet, most know little about him. More often than not, what they do know has been altered by myth and colored by misconception. The story of his birth is familiar through numberless recounting at Christmas time, as are the details of his death through annual Easter celebrations, but his life and his teachings are little known and less understood.

The Jesus portrayed in the four accounts in the gospels is unlike the commonly held conceptions of him, and anyone expecting to read in these pages of the "gentle Jesus, meek and mild" will be caught by surprise. Gentle he was; meek and mild he certainly was not. To many, including many Christians, Jesus is seen as a hopelessly idealistic demi-deity, his brow halo-encircled, his face beatific, his body frail and ethereal - God, yes, but not really man. They forget that in the gospels he was sweaty after effort and dirty after a journey; that he wept, felt fatigue, was sometimes impatient, and was, on occasion, angry. He said of himself, "I came not to bring peace, but a sword," and as a consequence his ministry was passionate with conflict and noisy with controversy. Meek and mild? - he is more aptly described as a disturber, revolutionary. Indeed, the charges that led to his being sentenced to death were that he challenged the system and stirred sedition among the people. And he said the unthinkable: that he was the son of God.
Why is Jesus so little understood, so frequently misunderstood? There are many reasons. The principal one lies in the difficulties encountered when one sets out to learn about him from first-hand accounts. Virtually all that is known about Jesus is in the New Testament; there is scant reference to him in the histories of that time. But when one picks up a copy of the Bible, the obstacles are many and forbidding. To learn the full story it is necessary to read all four gospels. To someone unfamiliar with the New Testament, this is an intimidating task. To begin, there are the confusing similarities and variations in many of the incidents in the synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), and before the reader gets to John it is probable that the initial enthusiasm will have flagged. The different style and content of John only compounds the confusion.

There are other obstacles. Many of the available translation are archaic in style and language and, for all their beauty, often unintelligible. Moreover, the form in which the text is printed - the arbitrary and sometimes awkward segmenting of the narrative and the numbering of the "verses" – is unfamilar and distracting to a modern reader. As a result, although the Bible has been for centuries and remains today the unchallenged best-seller, it is the least read of books.

It was for precisely these reasons that this book, Jesus, was prepared. Its principal purpose is to inform a reader in the easiest possible way about the Jesus Christ of the of the New Testament. To achieve this, the four gospels have been woven together into one narrative. That narrative has been rendered in a modern English paraphrase and has been printed in a style familiar to the contemporary reader. Every event in the gospels and every word Jesus spoke has been included. No interpretive additions have been made.

It should be understood that what is presented here is not nor does it purport to be another translation of the gospels: it is a synthesis of the gospels rendered in a paraphrase. Some biblical scholars hold that such a synthesis is neither possible nor desirable, and maintain that the fourfold picture in indispensable to a full understanding of Jesus and of Christianity's beginnings. The editors of this book would concur but would assure also that, while each of the four narratives is unique and irreplaceable, the whole is infinitely richer than any one. Further, it is the hope of the editors that this book will motivate many to undertake a careful examination of the four gospels. To encourage this, an Index has been included, listing each of the sources in the gospels on which each page of the synthesis has been based.

It was recognized by the Editorial Committee that it is not possible to fuse the four gospels perfectly into one any more than it is possible to translate poetry perfectly. That having been granted, however, it must be said that it is possible to translate poetry and it is possible to make a synthesis of the gospels. In each case the result may not be entirely satisfactory - the poem loses something in the translation and the synthesis loses the individual character of each gospels - but it is better to have a poem in translation than not at all, as it is advantageous to have the entire life of Jesus available in a single narrative.

Even a casual student of the New Testament will be aware of the problems that must be faced in any attempt to achieve a synthesis of the four gospels. The Editorial Committee was acutely aware that all of the difficulties are not subject to satisfactory resolution and began its task by establishing a set of criteria to be applied when dealing with such instances. The criteria were: (1) While it is desirable to avoid pointless repetition this must never be achieved through the omission on any fact recorded in the gospels. (2) Where so-called "insoluble variations" in the texts are encountered, care must be taken in making the synthesis to include all of the details given by the gospel writers, so long as doing so does not create ambiguity. And whenever, for the sake of clarity, a significant fact must be omitted, reference must be made to that fact in the footnote. (3) A blending of the various accounts must never be achieved by structuring a composite that does violence to the meaning of the original texts. (4) In reconciling difficulties, care must be taken not to do so through the introduction of any theological, denominational, philosophical, or personal bias.

A further problem the Editorial Committee faced was caused by the fact that some biblical scholars argue that certain passages in the gospels should not be included in any translation since they are not in the earliest and most reliable manuscripts. Some of these passages are the most familiar: the story of the woman taken in adultery, the mention of the angel stirring the water in the pool of Siloam, the reference to the appearance of the angel and Jesus' "bloody sweat" while praying in Gethsemane. The decision was to include all such passages because they have been a part of Christian story for centuries and because the paraphrase is not intended to be a commentary on the textual material.

A further problem lay in the fact that a most careful study of gospels does not reveal either the time or place of certain events. In such instances the Editorial Committee arbitrarily inserted the events into the narrative at points where they would enhance the flow of account but not do violence to either the text itself or the context.

The two genealogies posed a particular problem. It is not possible to synthesize them for many reasons, the principal one being that the purposes of the gospel writers were different and as the consequence their approaches were different. The genealogies are "hard reading", and rather than deter a reader at the beginning of the story of Jesus' life,it was decided to include both genealogies but to place them in an Appendix.

The book here presented is the result of the labors of five men, a unique combination of biblical scholars, educators, and communicators. The original work on the synthesis was done by Charles B. Templeton, of Toronto, Canada, over a period of six months in 1948. The first draft of the paraphrase was not begun until March, 1972 and was completed in September of that year. The draft then went through four revisions.

The Editorial Committee was formed to ensure that the text remained faithful to the sources and did not lose any of the nuances embodied in the original languages. Additionally, the Committee made fundamental contributions in the clarification of the meaning of difficult passages, in the final determination of the sequence of events, and in matters of style and the validity of the contemporary idioms employed.

The Editorial Committee comprised Charles Templeton, Dr. David Noel Freedman, Dr. Theodore Gill, Dr. William Summerscales and Thomas Harpur. Two of the Committee were born in the United States, two were born in Canada and one in England.

Mr. Templeton has a unique background in the fields of communications and the ministry. A Canadian Journalist, he did special studies at Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey, and was ordained in the Presbyterian Church USA. He has been Associate Director of the Board of Evangelism of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and Director of Evangelism for the Presbyterian Church USA. No longer in the ministry, in recent years Mr. Templeton has been Executive Managing Editor of the Toronto Daily Star, Director of News and Public Affairs for the Canadian Television Network and Editor of Maclean's Magazine.

David Noel Freedman holds a B.A. (University of California at Los Angeles), a Th.B. (Princeton Theological Seminary), and a Ph.D. (Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland). Dr. Freedman is Director of the program of studies in Religion and Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Literatures at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He was previously Dean of San Francisco Theological Seminary, the Editor of the Journal of Biblical Literature, and Director of the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem. He is recognised as one of the foremost biblical scholars in the world and is General Editor of the Anchor Bible series.

Theodore Gill has a B.A. (University of Wisconson), a Th.B. (Princeton Theological Seminary), and a D.Theol. (University of Zurich, Switzerland). Dr. Gill was formerly Executive Director of the Commission on Higher Education in Geneva, Switzerland, President of San Francisco Theological Seminary, and Editor of The Christian Century magazine. He is now Chairman of Division of Humanities of John Jay College of the City University of New York.

William Summerscales holds a B.A., Th.B. (Eastern Nazarene College, Quincy, Massachusets), a M.Div. (San Francisco Theological Seminary), an M.A. (University of Toronto), and a Ph.D. (Columbia University, New York City). Dr. Summerscales was formerly the Director Of Experimental Lay Studies with the Board Of Education of the United Presbyterian Church and is now Associate Professor of Education and Director of Institutional Development, Teachers' College, Columbia University.

Thomas Harpur holds a B.A. (University of Toronto), an M.A. (Oxon), a B.Theo. (Wycliffe College, Toronto), and was a Rhodes Scholar. Professor Harpur was formerly Professor of New Testament at Wycliffe College, Toronto. He is now Religion Editor of the Toronto Daily Star.

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