Have you ever wondered why God gave us the four gospels in the Bible? It is striking that the stories of Matthew, Mark and Luke are quite similar, while John tells the same story, but in another style. Why do we need the different gospels?
By Marco le Roux
Think about it like this: When there are a few eyewitnesses testifying in court, the magistrate knows they are telling the truth when everyone describes the events from their own viewpoints and the conclusions are the same. However, when their stories are the same word for word, he knows that they have decided what to say in advance. Every witness will recall something else that has struck him or her. It is like the Lord said to his people in the Old Testament: “One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses“(Deuteronomy 19:15). It is the same with the four Gospels: the different viewpoints on the story of Jesus Christ and his earthly ministry show us that the information is accurate.
Did you know …
The word gospel comes from the Greek word that means good news or joyous message. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell the good news of the coming and work of Jesus Christ. Oh, what joy to read about our salvation through Christ.
The authors of the Gospels
In all four Gospels the message remains the same although the messengers differ. Because everyone describes it in their own words and through their own experiences, we get a more complete picture of what happened. Each described the same history with their own emphasis. The Gospel of John is strikingly different than the first three gospels. It was probably written decades after the previous three (± 85 AD) and considers that readers know the first three gospels. Since the Bible was inspired by God as a whole (2 Timothy 3:16), he used people from different backgrounds and personalities as writers. Every gospel writer had a specific purpose behind his gospel and to achieve those goals, each emphasized different aspects of the person and Ministry of Jesus Christ.
1. Matthew, the tax collector who became a disciple
The Gospel of Matthew was written by the Jewish tax collector, Matthew, who became one of Jesus’ disciples. He wrote mainly to the Jews and tried to prove to them that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah prophesied about in the Old Testament. Matthew quotes from the Old Testament several times to show this fact.
2. Mark, friend of the disciples
It is generally assumed that this gospel is the one written first (± 58-62 AD). It is also the shortest one of the four, almost half as short when compared to the other gospels. This gospel is probably directed to the church in Rome or at least to Christians who have a pagan background. Many of the Jewish customs are explained to readers. Mark himself was not one of Jesus’ disciples, but he was friends with, among others Barnabas, Paul and Peter. He especially had a close relationship with Peter, and Peter probably revealed most of the information that Mark wrote to him.
3. Luke, the meticulous doctor
The Gospel of Luke was probably written by the medical physician, Luke. He puts a lot of emphasis on how Jesus had pity and healed people and came to deliver them. He was not a disciple or a Jew, but a travel companion of Paul. In Luke 1:3 we read that he “carefully investigated everything from the beginning“. Luke is the longest of all four Gospels and approximately half of it contains data that is not described elsewhere. This gospel was also written to people with a pagan background.
4. John, the beloved disciple
One of the Lord’s disciples, John does not call himself by name, but says that the author is the disciple whom Jesus dearly loved (John 13:23). Because John was a disciple of the Lord just like Matthew, he was able to write a reliable version of the joyful message as a key witness. He focuses much more on Jesus’ words than his actions, and for example, his account does not contain the parables of Jesus. John explains the purpose of his gospel in John 20:30-31: “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name“. The message that John preaches is therefore: Believe in Jesus as the Christ, and you will have eternal life!
Spread the joy of the Gospels
In one of his letters in the New Testament John writes about his joy: “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete” (1 John 1:3-4). From this we clearly see that those who saw Jesus Christ’s life on earth could not be untouched. Through reading the gospel and believing the good news lives are changed. The eyewitnesses shared the message with others and that is exactly what we must do. Share the gospel and spread the joy that we receive from believing in God.
If you want to know what to tell others about God and your salvation – start with the story of the history of the life of Jesus, your Saviour!