Design and Printing

The book will have a classic, woven cotton hard­cover and a ribbon for marking your place. The binding will be stitched not glued, allowing pages to lay flat when open and remain durable over time. The font is easy to read and the paper is the same quality as you'd find in classical books—not what is normally used in Bibles. The top edge will have gold gilding—customary with older books so that when it sits on a shelf, the gold can be seen from above: the gild also seals the book, keeping out dust and moisture. Sized at 4 ½ by 6 ¾ and less than three hundred pages in length—it will be small enough to comfortably fit into a backpack or purse.

because every book is a limited edition each copy will be sequentially numbered. There is not now, nor has there ever been, a blended Gospel laid out to read like this. Nor has there ever been such a high-quality cover and interior. This book is printed to be enjoyed for years, if not generations.

The Production Company

The Jesus Story will be printed and bound by RR Donnelley, the largest and one of the most prestigious printers in the world. RR Donnelley was recognized with 41 awards in the 2014 Gold Ink Award competition, one of the print industry's most prestigious competitions. The Gold Ink Award winners were selected from approximately 1,000 entries submitted in nearly 50 different categories. Winning pieces surpassed their competitors based on print quality, technical difficulty and overall visual effect. A panel of distinguished graphic arts professionals judged entries over the course of four days.

I’m excited to have this award winning company produce The Jesus Story, and I’m confident it will be printed and bound with the utmost skill and precision. Eric Webber, my print broker, helped me identify them as the best printer for The Jesus Story.

This Unique Translation

Since the second century AD, roughly 170 blended or harmonized versions of the Gospels have been published, a number of very good ones appearing in the twentieth century. But the blended version used in The Jesus Story is unique for several reasons.

First, this version utilizes the “interweaving” method of harmonizing the four Gospels. Rather than laying out the four texts separately in parallel columns or horizontal lines, they are carefully interwoven to read as one complete story. Other versions of interwoven Gospels are often selective. When the Gospel writers report the same event, other versions may use the account with the most information while minimizing or omitting the contributions of the others. But wherever possible this version uses every word from every Gospel in order to provide a complete story.

Second, this version has been thoroughly authenticated using English and Greek texts. Though they consulted more than twenty English translations, the authors, Johnston Cheney and Stanley Ellisen, also checked the integrity of their work against the Greek text of the United Bible Society of 1966. The process of translating and authenticating was painstakingly and prayerfully completed over a period of twenty-three years. The fascinating story of Cheney and Ellisen’s work is summarized below.

Third, the chronology of events in this narrative reflects the authors' scholarly conviction that Jesus’ earthly ministry covered a period of about four years instead of the traditionally accepted three years. The readings in this book are organized on this basis.

As you read through The Jesus Story you can be sure you are getting the whole story—every detail of Jesus’ life and ministry as originally provided by the four Gospel writers, yet skillfully blended together into one narrative.

Gustave Dorè’s Art

I’ve always had a fondness for Gustave Dore’s Life of Jesus. One of the most prodigious artists of the 19th century, his work was often featured in Bibles and I thought it would be a nice addition to The Jesus Story. I hope you like the twenty images I’ve chosen.

The Design Team

After searching for a team to design the cover and interior layout I decided to go with Faceout Studio. This award winning creative team, located in beautiful Bend, Oregon, has won national awards for numerous book covers. They are considered the best-of-the-best by their contemporaries. And I was privileged to work with creative genius, Emily Weigel, who came up with the logo, cover, and the interior layout.

Jesus Christ the Greatest Life

Compiled by Robert A. Meltebeke this volume provides study notes, commentary, maps, chronological charts and much more to help you understand the historical, geographical and cultural setting of the life of Christ. The biblical text is the same as The Jesus Story but is formatted for study.

The Man Behind The Jesus Story

Attending college in the early twentieth century, Johnston Cheney specialized in English, the humanities, public speaking, and Greek—where he showed exceptional skill—along with three years of Bible and theology.

When he returned from World War II Cheney devoted himself to studying the Gospels in Greek. During this time he discovered that the three different accounts of Jesus’ baptism in the Greek New Testament could be blended into a single narrative without leaving out any of the words. Soon he began applying this process to other parts of the four Gospels. Growing in his devotion to the task of compiling Christ’s life into a single narrative, he memorized nearly all of the four Gospels in the original Greek language from the Textus Receptus.

After twenty years of work he showed his blended translation to Dr. Earl Radmacher, then president of Western Theological Seminary in Portland, Oregon. Impressed with Cheney’s keen ability in the Greek of the Gospels, Radmacher connected him with seminary professor Stanley Ellisen, Th.D., a scholar in the life of Christ. Ellisen was similarly impressed with Cheney’s unique translation. The two men labored side by side on the project for three more years. Ellisen’s expertise as a scholar and editor proved to be invaluable to the book’s first edition.

Shortly after completing his work, Cheney suffered a stroke that left him unable to speak. Assured that his book would soon be published, he penned his final words to his family in his own hand: “I love you all.” Then he passed into the presence of the Lord whose story he had labored so long to tell in a simple and seamless way.

The first edition of Cheney and Ellisen’s blended Gospels was published by Western Seminary in 1969 under the title The Life of Christ in Stereo. A subsequent edition, entitled The Greatest Story, was published by Multnomah Books in 1994. These first two editions of the book were laid out as traditional Bibles and are now out of print.

But one man was not content to allow Cheney and Ellisen’s excellent translation to disappear. Robert A. Meltebeke, Dr. of Ministry, an acquaintance of Ellisen and Radmacher, acquired the rights to the blended translation. Enlisting Ellisen’s help, Meltebeke published another edition of the work entitled Jesus Christ, The Greatest Life (Paradise Publishing, 1999), including a leader’s guide and study guide. Shortly after completing his work on this edition, Dr. Ellisen passed away.

In early 2015 Bill Perkins approached Bob Meltebeke about creating a unique version of the blended Gospels in which the four Gospels could be read like a novel, without chapter and verse references, footnotes, endnotes or commentary. Bill's desire to publish such a book flowed from his monthly reading of the blended Gospels for 36 consecutive months. Dr. Meltebeke agreed that such a version would be unprecedented and would provide readers with a unique way to experience the story of Jesus. And so this version of the blended Gospels came to life.

The Gospels’ Four-Year Chronology

How long did the earthly ministry of Jesus last? The traditional view is that he taught and healed throughout the land of Israel for three years and a few months. This view appears to allow for the events recorded in the four Gospels, but it has left scholars and students of the Bible with several difficult time problems.

During his task of weaving the four Gospels into their natural sequence and a single narrative, Johnston Cheney allowed the blended text to develop its own chronology. This process provided solutions to many perplexing problems of harmonizing the Gospels, and it led Cheney to believe that the earthly ministry of Christ encompassed a period of four-plus years instead of three. His chronology is utilized in this The Jesus Story.

The key to unlocking the mystery of Jesus’ earthly ministry is Passover, the Jewish feast which was, and still is, celebrated annually in the spring close to Easter. If we can determine how many Passover feasts occurred during Jesus’ ministry, we can determine it’s length.

The Traditional Three-Year Chronology

The best foundation for a chronology of Jesus’ life and ministry is John’s Gospel, because it mentions three separate observances of Passover (2:12; 6:4; 11:55). The Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—refer to only one Passover, the one Jesus observed with his disciples mere hours before his arrest, trial, and crucifixion. This final Passover is the one also reported in John 11. So in the four Gospels we have only three Passovers specifically mentioned during Jesus’ life on earth.

However, most Bible scholars believe that a period of two years separates the Passovers mentioned in John 2 and John 6. Another Passover took place during that time, but it is not specifically mentioned. So the traditional three-year chronology of Christ’s ministry accepts four Passovers in the Gospels, the first near the beginning of Christ’s ministry and the fourth during the week of his Passion, accounting for three years and a few months.

Yet the Gospel texts in no way limit Jesus’ ministry to three years. References to Passover are quite incidental to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John’s accounts. These writers did not set out to write chronologies; their focus was on the Messiah’s redemptive work. For example, John mentions three Passovers, but he never mentions the annual Feast of Pentecost. The Feast of Tabernacles and Feast of Dedication, also annual events, are only mentioned once. So it should be no surprise that John mentions only three Passovers and the synoptic Gospels only one.

Many Bible scholars believe that the popular three-year chronology has irreconcilable problems. Chiefly, this view compresses too many events into the last six months of Jesus’ ministry, especially in light of Luke’s extensive “travelogue” of Jesus’ activities during this period (9:51–19:27).

Furthermore, the three-year view assumes that Jesus’ departure from Galilee to attend the Feast of Tabernacles in John 7 is the same as his departure for Jerusalem described in Luke 9:51. However, this assumption overlooks the differing contexts in the two passages. John 7 describes Jesus going directly to Jerusalem within a few days to attend the feast. But Luke 9:51 introduces a lengthy, indirect journey through several provinces, a journey that would have taken several months to complete. The two “departures” have almost nothing in common.

There have been a number of attempts to make these two passages fit together. Since Luke states three times during his travelogue that Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem (9:51; 13:22; 17:11), some people assume that Luke is talking about three separate trips to the city instead of one. In order to validate this assumption they must squeeze the travelogue into a narrow four-month window or split it into several shorter trips over a four-month period. The former is difficult to accept due to the sheer length of the journey, and the latter is very unlikely because of the continuous nature of Luke’s travelogue. It is more likely that Luke’s three references to going to Jerusalem are all about the same trip, not three different trips. Furthermore, the many stops Luke mentions on the journey have little relation to Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem described in John 7.

For these reasons, it is only fitting to explore acceptable alternatives to the three-year chronology. The most obvious is a four-year ministry, which appears to harmonize the historical facts noted above. A four-year ministry allows ample time to accommodate the many events in the final portion of Jesus’ ministry. His final tour, on which he continued to search for penitent hearts, was hardly a feverish, whirlwind campaign governed by a tight schedule he was forced to meet.

The Alternative Four-Year Chronology

If we assume that Jesus’ ministry spanned at least four years and allow for several short periods of silence during the final year, which was also true of other ministry years, most chronological problems disappear and a unique harmony of the Gospels unfolds. Let’s review some of the evidence for a four-year chronology, beginning by identifying five successive Passovers spanning Jesus’ earthly ministry.

Passover 1—John 2:13. After his baptism and temptation, Jesus spent a few months in Galilee collecting disciples and beginning his public ministry. During Jesus’ first Passover, he was in Jerusalem. There he confronted the money changers in the temple for the first time. He would do so again on his fifth Passover during Passion Week.

Passover 2—Luke 6:1-5. Jesus’ second Passover, which occurred between the first two Passovers mentioned in John’s Gospel, is strongly implied in Luke 6. On that occasion, Jesus and his disciples were in the Galilee region. As they walked through the grain fields one Sabbath day, they picked and ate grain. The fact that the grain was ready for harvest meant that it was springtime, the same time of year as Passover.

Most modern translations of Luke 6:1 read something like this: “Jesus was passing through some grain fields on the Sabbath.” However, many ancient Greek texts read, “Jesus was passing through some grain fields on the second First-Sabbath.” This phrase, which was probably left out by early scribes who thought it nonsensical, very likely relates to the Old Testament custom of counting seven Sabbaths from Passover to Pentecost (see Leviticus 23:15-21). The seven Sabbaths came to be known as First Sabbath, Second Sabbath, and so on, as Israel moved through the early harvest season. The custom was likely still observed in Galilee during Jesus’ time.

This insight suggests that Jesus was in Galilee on First Sabbath of Passover, which was taking place in Jerusalem. Luke, the careful historian, records that the event in the grain fields took place on the second First Sabbath of Jesus’ ministry, fixing the time of the event at shortly after the beginning of Jesus’ second full year of ministry.

Passover 3—John 6:1-13. As John describes the feeding of the 5000 beside the Sea of Galilee, he mentions that the Passover was near. Yet Jesus does not journey to Jerusalem for his third Passover, remaining in the Galilee area to minister with his disciples.

Passover 4—Matthew 17:24. Matthew reports that Jesus was at Capernaum in Galilee when he was solicited for the temple tax. This tribute was usually collected before Passover to allow the temple officers time to take the proceeds to Jerusalem for the feast. Prior to this time Jesus and his disciples had been traveling in the north around Caesarea Philippi, away from Capernaum at the collection of the tax. This additional Passover, the fourth of Jesus’ ministry, would have occurred in Jerusalem about the time of his transfiguration in the area of Caesarea Philippi.

Passover 5—John 11:55. According to the Father’s grand design, the long ministry journey concluding Jesus’ fourth full year ends in Jerusalem at the fifth Passover of his ministry. Here the Lamb of God is sacrificed once and for all for the sins of the world.

Another possible hint of a four-year chronology is found in Jesus’ parable of the barren fig tree recorded in Luke 13:6-9 (see Day 217). In the parable, a man sought fruit from his fig tree for three years, but the tree remained barren. So he told his caretaker to chop the tree down. The caretaker suggested that they give the tree one more year to bear fruit. Since Jesus told this parable after about three years of his ministry, some Bible scholars suggest that he was alluding to Israel’s lack of repentance to date and his extension of grace for another year—his fourth year of ministry. A year later, as Jesus began his final week in Jerusalem, he cursed a fig tree and it withered, perhaps indicating that the final year of grace was at an end.

A four-year ministry structure allows plenty of time for the many events and widespread travels of Jesus’ final preaching tour. This journey involved visits to many towns and villages throughout Galilee, the upper border of Samaria, and into Perea and Judea, ending in Jerusalem. All this travel, of course, was accomplished on foot. Such an undertaking would require many months to complete at a reasonable pace, which the four-year chronology affords.