18 September 2008

Would you... Diatesseron?

Sounds weird, eigh? Actually, the Diatesseron, written by a chap named Tatian, is the earliest Gospel Harmony for which we have an account. It consists of pretty much the entire text of the four Gospels harmonized in what was, at the time, believed to be the correct chronological order. All four texts are melded into a single account.

What was the Diatesseron used for? Well, as best we can tell, it was the liturgical Gospel text for the Syriac Church well into the fifth century. Later, the Peshitta version began to take hold, and the Gospels were separated in the Christian far east, but the memory of the Diatesseron was long... and it is, in its way, still with us today.

The question, though, is... would you Diatesseron. In other words, would you, dear reader, elect to proclaim the Gospels in the Sunday liturgy of your own congregation in a Diatesseron-like format? To be honest, I would.

One of the most common arguments against such a practice today is the notion that each of the four Gospels was written to a particular audience. Such is a true statement. However, if we are realistic, we - you and I - are not the audience that the Gospels were written to, at least not in the linguistic and contextual sense. With a properly prepared Diatesseron in clear, modern English, we could provide an outstanding Gospel text that would shine through for the contemporary reader.

Such a text would have to be well footnoted, to ensure that differences in the Gospels were not lost, and that readers could easily locate them in a regular Bible. But my concern is more for the regular reading of the Gospels in the Church than it is the personal study undertaken by the Christian at home. And I, for one, would be more than comfortable adopting a Diatesseron-like Book of the Gospels for use in Christian worship.

So... would you Diatesseron?


All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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