"The student, perplexed by the consideration of these matters [differences among the Gospels], will either give up the attempt to find everything in the gospels true, and, not venturing to conclude that all f our information about the Lord is untrustworthy, will choose one of them at random to be his guide; or he will accept all four, and will conclude that their truth is not to be sought in the outward and material letter (Origen, Comm. Joh. 10.2)".
"[I]f they sometimes dealt freely with things which to the eye of history happened differently, and changed them so as to subserve the mystical aims they had in view – speaking of something that happened in one place as if it had happened in another or of something that took place at one time as if it had taken place at another, and introducing into what was spoken in a certain way some changes of their own. Where possible, they intended to speak the truth both materially and spiritually; and where this was not possible, they chose to prefer the spiritual to the material. Spiritual truth was often preserved, as one might say, in material falsehood (Origen, Comm. Joh. 10.4)".
"Each evangelist constructs his own particular narrative on a kind of plan which gives the appearance of being the complete and orderly record of the events in their succession. For, preserving a simple silence on the subject of those incidents of which he intends to give no account, he then connects those which he does wish to relate with what he has been immediately recounting, in such a manner as to make the recital seem continuous (Augustine, Harmony of the Evangelists 2.5.16)."
"If you ask which of these different versions represent what was actually expressed by the voice, you may fix on whichever you wish, provided that you understand that those of the writers who have not reproduced the identical form of speech have still reproduced the same sense intended to be conveyed. And these variations in the modes of expression are also useful in this way, that they make it possible for us to teach a more adequate conception of the saying than might been the case with only one form, and that they also secure it against being interpreted in a sense not consonant with the real state of the case (Augustine, Harmony of the Evangelists, 2.14.31)."
“In Augustine’s reflection on gospel differences, there is no trace of an a priori commitment to the precise historical accuracy of every part of every gospel. Rather, this is a pragmatic, inductive approach that considers each difference on its merits, and finds the harmony of the gospels more in the theological subject-matter than in the verbal expressions … Origen’s claim that a theological truth can come to expression in a historical falsehood, and that the fourfold gospel itself falsifies the absolute historicity of its individual narratives, seems better attuned to modern scholarly assumptions about the gospels. Yet, in the end, Origen and Augustine have a great deal in common. They have both made a careful study of the gospel differences; they are both convinced that the four gospels speak in various ways of a singular though infinitely rich theological subject-matter; and they both believe that this subject-matter is articulated in the differences and not in spite of them. In contrast, it is not clear that modern scholarship has achieved the balance sought by these patristic theologians in their reflections on the fourfold gospels: the balance between individual text and its plural contexts, or between difference and commonality (p. 50).
This raises some interesting issues for Gospel interpretation!