I receive several hundred channels on my television. That would be remarkable, if it were not for the fact that the vast majority of them were not reruns. I cannot tell you how many times I have questioned my wife why the cable company keeps increasing our bill each year, just so we can see more reruns of the reruns?
Some people see the four Gospels of Jesus the Christ in that same manner – reruns. This is so prevalent, that there are high learning courses offered that deal with which one is the original, and which are the reruns. A closer examination tells us that they are in fact not reruns, but the presentation of a different view of the Christ.
The Source Or Q
Some time around the 19th century, theologians came up with the theory that Mark was the original source, often referred to as the Q from which Matthew and Luke took much of their material. To these experts, Matthew and Luke simply told their version of Marks theology. This theory stands on shaky ground, because there are too many inconsistencies within the idea, but still, the average reader has often questioned, why four?
The one gospel that has never been associated with the “rerun” concept has been the Gospel of John. Anyone can tell this book is an original run – so to speak.
So How Do The Four Differ?
Let’s begin with a little background, if you don’t mind. The gospels were written in the common language of the Alexandrian Greek dialect, which was understood by all in the days of Christ – as English is today. The first century dates the Gospel’s time of originality.
Among other oddities, the written Greek consisted only of all capital letters with absolutely no punctuations marks. Periods, commas, etc. came many years later and hopefully in the correct places. Cardinal Hugo created the biblical chapters that we are so familiar with today, in the 13th century. Biblical verses originated in the 16th century by a Parisian typographer by the name of Robert Stephens.
None of the Gospels records the life, of Christ – that is not their purpose. None of them reveals details that have no direct bearing on why He died on a Roman cross, and then rose up from the dead on the third day. That is the entire heart of each of the Gospels and any other information given, are simple sidebars. The bulk of all the Gospels involve the last days of Christ, specifically His judgment, death, burial, and resurrection. There is nothing in the world more important than that one singular month in human history.
As to the question of accuracy that many argue, i.e. “how do we know that what we are reading is what the Apostle’s wrote?” is a valid question. The answer goes all the way back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries, when Origen of Alexandria; Ishihi, the Bishop of Egypt, and Lukian the priest of Antioch took upon themselves to copy the originals with extreme care so as not to lose a noun or verb. The thought of any corruption of the text was abhorrent within their minds. However, they were fully aware that the originals were of extreme value. Preserving them was paramount in their minds.
The Apostle John’s death was still fresh in everyone’s mind, – as one might think, he was quite the celebrity, and I don’t mean that in the vague sense. At John’s time, each original Gospel was well known, and many copies were circulating throughout the churches in the world. However, it was Ignatius Theophorus of Antioch in 107 AD. who testified of their accuracy. He was a living friend of John the Beloved. Ignatius’ writing exists to this day.
Order Of Writing
The publishing of the four Gospels came sometime after the Apostles had written their Epistles. By the way, not all the Apostles wrote an Epistle. The first priority of the Apostles was to evangelize, establish, and educate the churches throughout the world.
As in every organization, once the churches were established, there were those who saw within this thing called “Christianity” an area where one could become powerful, wealthy, and famous, so a number of spurious leaders appeared with their followers. In order to create their claim to fame, they – as today – began to teach doctrines that the Apostles did not teach. They told of things concerning Jesus never revealed by those who actually knew Him. Later there arose those who where called Gnostics, Ebionites, and the followers of Cerinthus. Various religions now came from the heathen world to Christianity.
It became evident to the Apostles that there needed to be a written eyewitness record of the ministry, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. As the Spirit directed each man, they in their own style, in their own words, began to write to their own desired audience. They set forth a record of what they witnessed and knew to be true – to their deaths.
Modern evidence indicates that Matthew’s Gospel was the first written. Next Mark wrote his Gospel, followed later by Luke the Greek, and finally by John the Beloved.
There are only four accepted Gospels. Some have thought that they seem to contradict each other, while trying to record the same history. Far be it. One must understand that there are no contradictions, just different targeted audiences, and different themes advanced.
If I’m writing to theologians, there are certain things I can inscribe, and certain things better left unsaid, knowing those reading understand to what I’m referring. They know exactly what a Theophany is. If I am writing to a non-theological group, and if I use the term Christophany, I’m obligated to explain that a Christophany is an Old Testament appearance of Christ. That is the manner in all nonfictional writing. Do you understand? The detail of the writing depends fully on one’s target audience, and the specific subject matter the author is teaching.
Gospel of Matthew – The First of the Four
Matthew, who was also known as Levi, is that same Levi who collected taxes from the Jews to give to the Romans. His own people hated him, as one might expect, yet Jesus called him to be one of His disciples. Matthew wrote his record no later than 50-60 AD.
Matthew, I believe was a man who not only was a Hebrew, but proud of it, and – I think he always felt he owed his nation for his own betrayal as a tax collector and a thief (as were all tax collectors).
Therefore, Matthew wrote specifically to the Jews, often referring to things Judaistic without explanation, speaking frequently of the Kingdom of God, which was a judaistic concept. His primary target audience was his own people, the Jews, and his primary topic was – the fact that Jesus the Christ was indeed the rightful King of Israel, the legitimate Son of David, and the Messiah the Jew’s had longed for.
Matthew begins his proof by reciting the heritage, which Israel always kept well documented. This was legal documentation of heritage. He traced Jesus back to the King David. The activities that Matthew records, and the miracles Jesus all said, “Look! The King was here and here’s the proof. ”
There is within each of the four Gospel a proof of authenticity stamp, coming from the book of Ezekiel 1:-1-28, but specifically verse 10. Here Ezekiel sees a Cherubim (actually four cherubs, cf. AND GOD CREATED ANGELS), each having a different face. One had the face of a lion, the face of an ox, the face of a man, and the face of an eagle.
The symbol that marks the Gospel of Matthew is that of a lion, which makes Scripture testify with Scripture.
Gospel of Mark
Mark has a different personality from Matthew. You would not have thought that God would have chosen him to be one of the great writers of the ministry of Jesus the Christ. There are those who simply consider Mark a scribe, a recorder of the account that the Apostle Peter is telling him. He was with Peter in Rome according to 1 Pt. 5:13. That is if one assumes that Babylon was another name for Rome and not truly Babylon (Iraq). There is room for argument over what Babylon the author has in mind.
There never has been much of a question as to whether or not Mark wrote this Gospel, which bears his name. It has been accounted to him since the 5th century AD. There has also never been much argument among accepted scholars that Mark’s target audience happens to be the Romans. As Matthew point his loaded account to the Jews, Mark aimed his to the slave within Rome.
At the time of Mark’s writing, there was more slave in Rome than there were freeborn citizens. Mark we know was in Rome at the same time as Paul was, and apparently, he had a tremendous burden for those people. Mark wanted to show Jesus as being the Servant of God – even obedient to death.
Back to Ezekiel and the cherubim he saw consisting of four different faces: there was also one face of an ox. An ox was a beast of burden, a slave if you will, and this is the symbol of the Gospel of Mark.
Who Was Mark?
Mark was one of two men who were not one of the inter circle Apostles of Jesus. It assumed (righty?) that he was one of the seventy who hung around the group whenever he could. At the night when the soldiers came for Christ, he alone talks about a young man who ran away in such a fright, he lost his tunic and ran away naked.
Mark traveled with the Apostle Paul and Barnabas in later years.
The Gospel of Luke
Of all the authors, Luke is the most unique, in so many ways. While Matthew wrote to the Jews, and Mark wrote to the Romans, Luke wrote to the Greeks. In fact, he even addresses his friend Theophilus. The Greeks were notorious for worshipping humanity. Man was his or her own god, and man would eventually find the way.
To address this belief Luke’s objective was to show Christ as the Divine Man. God in the flesh, and his genealogy takes the Christ all the way back to first man, Adam, the first born of God. The Christ he presented was fully God, and fully man.
Matching the symbolism of Ezekiel’s angel, he shows Christ with the face of a man.
Who Was Luke?
He was a man of science, probably a half-breed, Jew and Greek. Eusebius of Caesarea first announced the Greek blood of Luke.
Many assume, but there is no proof other than his vast knowledge of Christ’s ministry, that he, like Mark, was one of the seventy mentioned in his Gospel alone. There is linguistic room to believe that Luke was the second of the two men who were on the road to Emmaus the day that the risen Lord began to walk with them. Luke does not name the second man, (generally accepted method of assuming authorship), but he does name the first man was.
Many believe that he was Mother Mary’s personal physician, because he tells personal events that no one would have known unless Mary had revealed them.
The Gospel of John
This gospel is unlike any of the three that precedes it. John is not at odds with Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s presentation of Jesus, but he gives and entirely different view. The first three Gospels are cited as the synoptic gospels – meaning, viewed with the same eye. Their gospels centered on the work of Jesus in Galilee, while John centered Jesus’ ministry in Judea.
John wrote the last gospel of Jesus. After his release from his imprisonment from Patmos, where he penned The Revelation of Jesus Christ, he made his final home in the ancient city of Ephesus in ancient Turkey.
There can be no doubt that John was quite familiar with the three synoptic gospels, to the Jews, Romans, and Greeks. However, there remained the rest of the world – both known and unknown. They too, needed to know that God loved them and provided a way to reconnect with them.
The Gospel of John targets the rest of the world, and his theme is that Jesus is not just a Man, is not just the Messiah, nor is He just God’s Servant, but He is was in fact God Himself. John’s gospel desperately tries to explain that in some miraculous manner, God took on the form of a human. No tricks, no half-breed, no phantom, no angel, but the very God whom the world believes He knows nothing of what they are going through here on earth. Again, and again, beginning at verse one, chapter one, John desperately attempts to get us to understand that Jesus is the physical manifestation of God who came to this world temporarily, and has experienced everything that His creation experiences. This includes the cruelty of humanity-to-humanity, unto physical death.
To this day, no scholar that I know of fully understands the depths of the Gospel of John. I believe a person could spend their lifetime studying this gospel and not understand all that it contains.
Ever so briefly, this is a summary of the four gospels we call The Gospels of Jesus the Christ.