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"Some critics...say that that by no means the least important aspect of good arrangement is that a work should begin where nothing can be imagined as preceding it, and end where nothing further is felt to be required."
Dionysius of Halicarnassus, De Veterum Censura 11 - In reference to the
design, crafting, and writing of a historical account.

Gospel Sequence of Events

Let's understand that the ancients did not write casually. They did not have 25-cent tablets stocked in the drawer and free promotional ballpoint pens cluttering up the office desktop. Writing was a serious and generally arduous or tedious and expensive undertaking, and the ancient writer usually had to have significantly better, stronger motivations than his modern counterpart.

Sequence less important than impact

Lets also understand that the ancients did not attach any great importance to the technical sequence of events unless that was crucial to what they were really pursuing, i.e., the essence, the effect, the impact, the MEANING of the "history as story" that they were taking great pains to set in tangible text.

When we are first talking to friends after we return from a long vacation full of significant and enriching experiences, and they ask us to tell them about our trip, we don't tell them that we first went to the airport and then flew to wherever. Rather we tell them that when we were in Rome we found the answer to the lifelong question of what made Rome great enough to supplant ancient Greece (It is chiseled on the corner of every ancient building: SPQR—the Senate and the Public, THAT is Rome). Or, instead of a mundane account of when we went to the Grand Canyon and saw its features first hand, we say we became convinced that it was carved out by an interplanetary electrical discharge in a matter of minutes instead of being eroded by the Colorado river over millions of years. We generally want to make sure that we get the highlight experience mentioned and featured.

Thus, we often order the telling of a journey by the impact and significance of the experiences to us. The sequential order seldom if ever rises to the level of being taken into consideration, by us or by the listener. So it is with much of the ancient history as it has come down to us.

The telling of a story also depends upon to whom you are talking. We wouldn't tell the story in the same way with the same content to children as we may do to our poker buddies, or to our intellectual colleagues.

So, as to the actual sequence or chronology of the various events and sayings, we can have no confidence in the various Gospel compilers always being correct in their reported sequence,. A close look at the four accounts actually precludes this assumption. Although many have tried diligently, there is probably no adequate way to provide an absolutely sequential chronology without divine intervention, and certainly not without violating some of the incidental sequences and connecting phrases such as "After this, Jesus went...".

There are probably less than a handful of event accounts where the lack of correct placement in the timeline of Jesus' life may have even a minimal impact on our thinking. Only one comes readily to mind. The Temple cleansing comes very early in the Gospel of John, in the second chapter, and late in the Synoptic Gospel accounts (Matthew chapter 21, Mark chapter 11, Luke chapter19). Some commentators interpret this as there having been two Temple cleansings, one early in the ministry and one late, but this is doubtful. Let the reader decide, but this author can't come up with much significance one way or the other to these three options. A case can be made for each.

Lack of context problem

What is far more important is that there should be no question that long passages of sayings in the compiled Synoptic Gospels have been strung together without regard for either context or sequence. The ancient compilers were trying to salvage the sayings of Jesus for their group, and put down passages or phrases without regard for context, probably often because they didn't have any. They had no idea that their material would someday be canonized with the CANON made into the infallible word of God instead of the message of Jesus. Given that Christianity has gotten the issue being addressed confused or wrong on some of these sayings, this has proved to be much more troublesome in terms of what Jesus was actually meaning than the lack of a sequentially correct chronology of events.

Two important points are worth making. 1) The author finds the inability to capture this sequence to be essentially inconsequential, and 2) Any attempt by a non-believing naysayer to use these incidental chronological discrepancies to discredit the authenticity of the life of Jesus is inept, misguided and lame.

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