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The Gospels

Original Publication Date
September 9, 2023
Updated
Sep 9, 2023 3:37 PM
Tags
MatthewMarkLukeJohn
Bible References

Matthew; Mark; Luke; John

Status
Done
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Table of Contents

Introduction

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—collectively known as the Gospels—are among some of the most famous books of the Bible. These four books detail the life and teachings of the Messiah, making them the most oft quoted scriptures among Christians today. On numerous occasions I’ve witnessed new believers ask where they should start, and the answer they’re provided with is often one of these three books (usually John).

Interestingly, these may also be some of the most controversial books in the Bible, too. The lineage attributed to the Messiah in Luke doesn’t match the one in Matthew. One gospel says 2 people were healed, another says 1 person was healed. People have received PhDs for dissertations on what is known in the theological community as the harmonization of the Gospels (in plain English, this means proving that the gospels are in agreement with each other even when it appears they contradict).

Truth be told, the Gospels are both the easiest and most difficult books of the Bible to understand.

My Method For Discussing the Gospels

For most books of the Bible on this site, I picked the book, studied chapter by chapter, and updated the blog as I went along sharing my thoughts and what I’ve learned from the passage. However, for the Gospels I’ll be going about this a bit differently. I have a chronological study Bible[1][2] that attempts to render the texts of the Bible in order of occurrence. The Bible that I purchased interleaves the Gospels, placing the accounts of the same event by different authors back to back. Since I have studied the Gospels many times before but have never studied in this manner, I thought it would be interesting to read this interleaved version instead of going chapter by chapter.

As such, the entries for these books will not necessarily be chapter by chapter and some posts will appear under multiple Gospels.

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Disclaimer: I believe that both reading chapter by chapter of a single book and this interleaved method are beneficial. Reading a passage in context helps identify the author’s motivation for the passage, which may provide more information on how that particular author saw the story and why they included the information they did (or didn’t include the information they didn’t).

Harmonization of the Gospels

As I mentioned in the beginning, there are lots of points where the Gospels seem to diverge. The attempt to explain theses differences is called the Harmonization of the Gospels. I will touch on this as we go through the passages this effects.

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Please note that there is a lot to be discussed when it comes to the gospels. Theres is the message itself, the history, prophecy fulfillment, and the harmonization. It will likely take me quite a while to get through the entirety of the Gospels.

Overview

Fourfold symbolism

Theme
👑 Matthew
🛎️ Mark
👨🏾 Luke
✝️ John
Symbols
Lion
Ox
Man
Eagle
Written for?
Jews
Romans
Greeks
The World
Theme
The Royal Gospel of the Lion of Judah
The Gospel of the Servant
The Gospel of the Son of Man
The Gospel of the Son of God
Colors from the Temple
Purple, for royalty (👀 Judges 8:26)
Scarlet, for the servant’s sacrifice
White, righteousness for the purity of Messiah in the flesh
Blue, for the sapphire heavens and the deity of Messiah (👀 Exodus 24:10)
Behold (from the OT)
"Behold, a king” -Zechariah 9:9?
“Behold, my servant” -Isaiah 42:1
"Behold, the Man” -Zechariah 6:12
"Behold, your God” -Isaiah 40:9
The Branch (from the OT)
“to David a Branch…a King” -Jeremiah 23:5,6
“My servant the Branch” -Zechariah 3:8
“The Man…the Branch” -Zechariah 6:12
“The Branch of the LORD” -Isaiah 4:2

The 4 Faces of Angels

In Ezekiel 1, we are told of living creatures or a type of angel that was present in the throne room. Each of these beings has four faces: a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle. In Revelation 4, we see this motif repeated as four creatures sit before the throne. Although these four creatures on have one face each, the lion, ox, man, and eagle are still represented. People throughout the ages have tried to apply these symbols to the Gospels. Some of these make sense to me (e.g., oxen were used to serve man so an ox is fitting for a gospel about a servant) while others take a little more effort to understand (e.g., the connection between an eagle and the divinity of Yeshua—Exodus 19:4 and Isaiah 40:31 may help)

Who Was Each Author Writing For?

Each author had an intended audience for their writing and it’s important to keep that in mind when reading.[3] Think about the difference between explaining a complex topic to a 5 year vs. a 25 year old. Alternatively, think about discussing a cultural norm with someone from within your culture vs. someone unfamiliar with you culture. A good communicator tailors their message to the audience by filling in pieces of information that they may not have and focusing on the parts that are most relevant to the listener.

The Gospel of Matthew was likely written for the Jewish community. It has the largest number of quotations from the Old Testament, allowing the Jewish reader to bridge the gap between what they already know and the the continuation that Messiah provides. This is also one of the reasons that Matthew includes the genealogy of Yeshua early in his writing.

The Gospel of Mark is more likely to have been written for their Roman captors who believed Caesar was god. Mark focuses on the miracles of Yeshua to pique the interest of those who would be more likely to say “why should we follow this man.” The Romans don’t need to know how this connects to the Old Testament and they don’t care about Yeshua’s lineage.

The Gospel of Luke is said to be written for the Greeks. The Greeks were known for their art and literature. As such, Luke writes in a manner that more appealing from an artistic standpoint.

The Gospel of John is thought to have been the “universal” gospel—in other words a gospel for everyone. John focuses on the divinity of Yeshua and is likely meant to evangelize the message.

Colors

Four main colors were used in the tabernacle (and Temple); you can read about the creation of the tabernacle and see these colors in Exodus 26. Believer’s Bible Commentary suggests that each of these colors can be applied to a different gospel symbolically. In their discussion of these colors, the claim blue is fitting for John because it is how the dome of the heavens is described in Exodus 24:10, which they say is representative of Yeshua’s deity.[3] While there are passages that link God with sapphire (re: blue), I think blue is fitting for a different reason. Blue is also the symbol used to represent the law and the commandments (Numbers 15:37-41). The compilation of God’s law and commandments is a large part of scripture, otherwise known as The Word of God or just The Word. John starts the chapter by referring to Messiah as “the Word”

The Gospel Writers

Each Gospel is thought to be written by the person it is named from: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John respectively. Matthew is the tax collector who became a disciple, making him a primary source and his gospel a first hand account of the teachings and life of our Messiah. There are a lot of John’s in the Bible, but it is thought that the John who wrote the Gospel of John (as well as 1, 2, and 3 John) was John the son of Zebedee, also a disciple and primary source.[4] Mark—also known as John Mark—was not one of the twelve disciples, however, and was likely a companion of Peter, Paul, and Barnabas.[5] Luke, on the other hand, is the only Biblical author we know for a fact was not an Israelite. Not only does he author a gospel meant to relay the teachings of Messiah, he is also the author of Acts, which details the history of the Church. Interestingly, as many people relate the Church to a hospital for the broken, Luke was in fact a physician.[6]

References and Footnotes

  1. This is a link to the exact Bible I have: Chronological Study Bible (New King James Version)
  2. The books of the Bible are not in chronological order, and in some cases neither are the chapters of particular books. Chronological Bibles are an attempt to place passages in such an order. There are some passages that people do not agree on. For example, some scholars believe Job existed before the Israelites and thus the book of Job occurs somewhere between Genesis 10 and Exodus 1. Others believe Job was an Israelite and thus his story happened after Exodus.
  3. William MacDonald. Believers Bible Commentary; pg. 1197-1200. 1995
  4. Henry Chadwick. “St. John the Apostle”. Britannica. August 14, 2023; visited September 2023
  5. Saint Mark”. Britannica. October 6, 2022; visited September 2023
  6. E. Earl Ellis. “St. Luke”. Britannica. March 23, 2023; visited September 2023

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PSALMS to God is a blog, podcast, and YouTube channel that discusses many topics and issues, always keeping YHWH as the anchor. Hosea 4:6 says “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”—here, the aim is to always ask questions and study to find the answers. You can keep up with new content by signing up for the weekly newsletter.

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