HOW AND WHY THE FOUR GOSPELS ARE DIFFERENT (2023)

The four gospels tell of the life of Jesus Christ, His sufferings and death, and then go on to accounts of His resurrection. John ends his testimony by saying, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”

The four gospels are not the same and we should not expect the exact same things to be repeated.What purpose would the Spirit have in the same story repeated four times? Sure, it is the same Jesus Christ and the same history of His life, but we should give God some credit for having a bit more depth than to be a simple copyist. In the different gospels the Spirit emphasizes and portrays different things through the gospel writers. For example the synoptic gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – present the coming of Jesus Christ to Israel for the purpose of being received, while the gospel of John shows Jesus as rejected by His own and the world from the very first chapter (John 1:10-11). This sets up a definite emphasis and character for John’s gospel which the others don’t have.

There are various glories of Jesus Christ revealed and developed by the Holy Spirit in the different gospels, and we do well to understand these differences. They are the differing character and viewpoint presented to us by the Holy Spirit through the writer. When we come to acknowledge the differences, then we will better understand the Spirit’s reasoning for their existence.

In Matthew, Jesus is presented from the outset as the accomplishment of prophecy and promise to Israel – “…that it might be fulfilled what was written by the prophets,” or some similar phrase is repeatedly used, especially in its early chapters. It shows Jehovah/Messiah coming to the people, Emmanuel, Son of David, the rightful King of Israel. So we reason that one of the specific characteristics in Matthew’s gospel is that it, more particularly than the others, is the gospel presenting Jehovah/Messiah to Israel, and is written more distinctly for a Jewish mind and audience.

Mark’s gospel takes on the different character of Jesus as the Servant-Prophet. In it His service is emphasized, especially His prophetic ministry. Of the four, Mark’s gospel is the most historically accurate in its chronology.

Luke presents Jesus as the Son of Man come in grace – the grace of God shown to man through the second Adam. Because his writing emphasizes mankind’s fallen sinful nature, it has a profound moralistic approach. Luke was unique in that he was a Gentile writing to a Gentile. He seems to be used by the Spirit to write a testimony of the life of Christ geared more to the Gentile mind. Regardless, in Luke’s first three chapters, the Spirit of God presents a beautiful and heartfelt picture of the faithful Jewish remnant waiting for salvation in Israel and animated in testimony by the Spirit.

John’s gospel is quite different. The Spirit has him presenting Jesus as God come in human flesh (John 1:14), the Son of God eternally in the bosom of the Father, yet sent now by the Father to reveal the Father (John 1:18). In John He is seen as God the Son, visiting the world which He Himself created (John 1:10). Because it is this presentation and character, His entrance into the world beyond just Israel is the broader viewpoint developed in this gospel. In John, we see many passages which show who Jesus is intrinsically in His Person – the Son of God.

First we will focus on Matthew, who characteristically presents Jehovah/Messiah coming to Israel as the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy and promise. However, this one emphasis doesn’t tell the whole story of his gospel. Early on in Matthew we begin to find evidence of the Lord being rejected by the Jews. Although rejection is a common subject matter in all four gospels, it is particularly and strategically emphasized by the Holy Spirit in Matthew. The reason for this? So that the Spirit can then show in this particular gospel the consequences of the Lord’s rejection for both Israel and the Gentiles. – bad news for the Jews; good news for the Gentiles. These results are given dispensationally in Matthew’s gospel – it is shown as a transition between two dispensations, one ending and the other taking its place. What is ending with the rejection of Jehovah/Messiah is the Jewish dispensation. What takes its place as the new dispensation is the kingdom of heaven in mystery (Matt. 13:11- the Christian dispensation).

The Jewish dispensation encompasses the time from Israel being delivered out of Egypt to the presentation of Messiah to the Jews. It would include the giving of the law at Sinai with the priesthood, Israel being brought into the land, the judges, prophets, and kings, and their scattering into the nations or captivity in Babylon. In the time of Solomonwith his many wivesand idols, the nation was divided by God into two kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Soon after this, idols filled the land and the northern kingdom fell to the Assyrian. God kept the southern kingdom in tact for a longer period of time, in honor of David. But idolatry soon filled the land of Judah, and God brought in the Babylonian to destroy the city of Jerusalem and its temple, taking a remnant captive to Babylon. This first destruction of the city and temple was caused by Israel’s utter failure under the law and the overwhelming growth of idolatry. After 70 years God brings back a remnant, and they rebuild the walls of the city and the temple. The purpose of this return and rebuilding was for the presentation of Messiah to Israel, according to their promises and prophecies. This second test of Israel’s responsibility was also a grand failure; they crucified Him, refusing to have Him as their King. This second failure brought about the physical end of the Jewish dispensation – the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans in 70 AD. (This is just the bare bones of details about the Jewish dispensation, but it will suffice for describing the character of Matthew’s gospel. I will eventually write an article comparing the two dispensations. Note: Jan. 26, 2020: this comparison is made in article #36)

In many different passages in Matthew we can see the transition between dispensations being implied by the Spirit. There are passages in the other gospels as well that do a similar thing,especially John’s. But in Matthew we are given a label or title for the new Christian dispensation – “the kingdom of heaven.” In his writings this term is used exclusively, appearing some thirty-two times. Why is this only found in Matthew? Because the Holy Spirit particularly shows in his gospel a dispensational character and emphasis, and also the importance of dispensational transition in the ways of God.

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This is not the only term used exclusively in Matthew. The phrase “the Father’s kingdom” is also peculiar to him (Matt. 13:43). Again we have to ask why? Because Matthew’s gospel, more than the other three, shows this dispensational character. The full development of the kingdom of God in general, as it relates to the new dispensation, especially as it is shown to be at the end of this age, is only brought out by the addition and use of this term. It is Matthew alone that specifically and directly shows a distinction between the Father’s kingdom in the heavens and the Son of Man’s kingdom on the earth (Matt. 13:37-43).

Jesus is rejected as Messiah to the Jews in a general way in chapters 11, 12 of Matthew. We see that God waits until Jesus is rejected by the nation in order to set the Jews aside. Matthew’s gospel emphasizes God’s specific dealings with Israel on this matter. It was God who built up the wall of separation during the Jewish dispensation – that which enclosed this nation by their own religion (Judaism), and kept them separated from the heathen Gentiles (Eph. 2:14-15). As long as Israel is acknowledged by God, and here it was on the basis of the last biblical principle that remained associated with the nation, that of calling, He could not do anything that would compromise the integrity of His ways. In His faithfulness God would not set Israel aside to establish anything else that denied their privileges, prophesies, and promises. He would not do this until Israel rejected His Son, and thereby rejected the promises themselves. God had suffered long, with much patience, the disobedience and failure of this people, by the law and sending them prophets to call them back to the law. But the sending of the Son as Israel’s Messiah would be this nation’s last test. This is clearly shown in this parable in Matthew:

Matt. 21:33-39
“Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a wine-press in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.”

The parable tells us the general events of the Jewish dispensation, and why it came to an end. Israel is the vineyard planted by God (Isa. 5:1-7). Yet the nation failed in all their responsibilities under the law. Also when God sent His servants (prophets) to them, they mistreated and killed them. Last of all God sends His Son. The coming of Messiah to the Jews was the final testing of Israel in their dispensation. His rejection means that God is now free to reject them, by setting them aside and removing from them any thought of a Messianic kingdom (Matt. 21:40-46). God is free to do a different work. Israel was God’s original planting. With the Jewish dispensation ended, God would have a new planting in the new Christian dispensation. “Behold,a sower went out to sow.” (Matt. 13:3, 24)

In Matt. 12:43-45, Jesus speaks of Israel as being the man that an unclean spirit goes out of, but in the end will return to Israel with seven others more evil than himself. This speaks of Israel’s history, both past and future. The unclean spirit is idolatry. The nation was delivered from this spirit in the time of the Babylonian captivity. When Jesus was speaking, the house of Israel had been swept clean and empty for some time. The ending condition refers to the nation’s future time under the Antichrist. Then Jesus ends all natural connection with Israel after the flesh (Matt. 12:46-50). He ends up quitting the house of Israel in figure (Matt. 13:1). In chapter 13, we are given a complete prophetic picture of the new Christian dispensation. Prophetically the number seven (7) is used to form a complete whole or spiritual perfection. The seven parables in this chapter give us the complete picture of the kingdom of heaven in mystery (things that are unseen and only perceived by faith during the time of the Christian dispensation). This does not involve the nation of Israel, but Christendom as the new corporate body.

With the rejection of Messiah, God sets Israel aside as a nation – they would no longer be considered God’s people, and He would not be their God (Hosea 1:9). God would make their house desolate (Matt. 23:37-39). It would remain that way for a long time. With these events the Jewish dispensation comes to an end. These things are particularly shown in Matthew, especially the transition to the new dispensation that takes its place. Sowe have near the beginning of Matthew the Baptist heralding the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matt. 3:2); Jesus preaches the same thing (Matt. 4:17); later on the disciples were sent outfor the same purpose(Matt. 10:7). This is peculiar to Matthew as well and shows the dispensational character of his gospel – the kingdom of heaven is always “at hand,” and not yet present.

Messiah is a title that is confined entirely to the Jewish dispensation. With the rejection of Messiah the Jewish dispensation comes to an end. The Messiah title is set aside along with the dispensation, simply because the title belongs to the dispensation, as do all the Jewish promises associated with Messiah and the land. Matthew shows the presentation of Messiah to Israel, who is the fulfilment of all Jewish promises, shows the rejection of Messiah by the Jews, and then shows the transition to the new dispensation, even giving its specific name. The new dispensation would be a new planting by God. The title of Jesus associated with the new dispensation is shown by Matthew when Jesus says, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.” (Matt. 13:37)

But all the parables of the kingdom of heaven show the Son of Man going away, or the particular developments that take place during this entire agewhile He is gone. This is why the kingdom of heaven was always preached as “at hand.” It doesn’t exist or start until He does, in fact, go away. The wheat doesn’t come up in the field until after He is gone. The sovereign work of God in planting the wheat was dependent on the work of redemption being completed and Jesus being raised from the dead and glorified. The wheat relate to Jesus there, hidden from the world at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1-3). And this is all mysterious because the things are all unseen and by faith (Matt.13:11). There is a kingdom developing in the world (Matt. 13:38), but there is no apparent or present King – how mysterious is this? And how foreign to Jewish thought would this be?

What about the sermon on the mount? We find this early in Matthew’s gospel (Matt. 5, 6, 7), and somewhat out of place as to the historical order (as for its placement and timing, Luke’s version seems to be more accurate – Luke 6:20-49. His version is greatly condensed, and the differences between the two versions, especially what Luke adds, is characteristic of the moral characterimpressed inhis gospel). But how doesit fit into the character of Matthew’s gospel? The sermon explains the principles of the kingdom of heaven, particularly as it is in mystery. And the Holy Spirit does this by contrasts – the differences are shown between the two dispensations by contrasting the teachings of Judaism with those in Christianity. The sermon in Matthew does this sixseparate times (Matt. 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43). It is unique to Matthew, again showing transitionfrom one dispensation to another.These phrases are not found in Luke’s version.

You may notice that in the sermon on the mount there neverare any instructions on how one is saved. The whole message speaks only of principles to be followed, responsibilities to be carried out,rewards to be gained, by thosewho profess to already bein the kingdom of heaven. The sermon never deals with the redemption of man and its means. It is a simple dispensational talk concerning the new principles and behavior associated with the new form the kingdom of God takes.

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After finishing the sermon, the Spirit of God through Matthew doesn’t take long in showing the failure of Israel concerning the new dispensation and its founding principle of grace through faith. In the very next chapter, when dealing with the Roman centurion, Jesus marvels:

Matt. 8:10-12 (NKJV)
When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The sons of the kingdom that are cast out are the Jews. Israel should have been the place where faith in God was found, but Jesus says otherwise. The many that come from east and west are of the Gentiles. They are found in the kingdom of heaven while those of privilege and natural descent are excluded. The Jews in Judaism walk by sight. It is not by faith (Rom. 9:30-33). But the story of the healing of the centurion’s servant does afford us another opportunity to show the difference in character between Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels (Matt. 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10). In Matthew the Spirit of God has the centurion himself coming to Jesus. This is so the centurion and his faith may serve as a type for the Gentiles entering the kingdom of heaven. This is evidence of the transition between dispensations about to take place, one passage of many that can be found in Matthew. However Luke’s emphasis is a simple moralistic lesson of the low estate of man, rather than trying to impress a kingdom characteristic. In Luke the leaders of the Jews and the centurion’s friends are intermediaries for him.

There actually are three things given by the Spirit in Matthew that take the place of the Jewish system;

1. The kingdom of heaven, the Christian dispensation (Ch. 13)
2. The church prophetically announced (Ch. 16),
3. The kingdom of glory (Ch. 17).

The three are distinct from each other, although they all have certain connections. So when Jesus speaks of the revelations of the new dispensation Hetransitions tothe sovereignty of God’s choiceof the disciples and not the people (Matt. 11:25-27, 13:10-17).When Jesus substitutes the church, He forbids the disciples from telling anyone He is the Messiah (Matt. 16:20) – this is transition as well. Messiah is the title for the nation of Israel and the Jewish dispensation – all now set aside by God.When He is on the mountain with Moses and Elijah, who represent the law and the prophets of the Jewish dispensation, they disappear from the scene (Matt. 17:1-8). The instructions from the Father were “This is My beloved Son…Hear Him!” For the Christian this replaces the law and the prophets; basically it replaces Judaism. Yet He says to them, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.” (Matt. 17:9) Until His resurrection, the vision on the mount has no application. Again, this is all transition.

Previously I mentioned that the phrase “the kingdom of heaven” is only found in Matthew’s gospel, and is used in a dispensational way to show the transition from one stewardship to another – the Jewish dispensation ending and the mystery of the kingdom of heaven replacing it. This obviously involves thoughts of the kingdom of God if the word “kingdom” is in the label or title of the new dispensation, and so, a need for explanation and sorting out of different terms. The kingdom of God is a general and generic term. Itencompasses all passages and situations where the word “kingdom” is mentioned in Scripture in relation to God’s involvement, in any sense or way, in the government of such kingdom, or the power being particularly displayed (Matt. 12:28). I mention this last point to show its general use. Jesus says in His rebuke of the Jewish leaders, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.” God’s will was accomplished by the deliverance of the individual, and this through the manifestation of God’s power in a governmental way.

“The kingdom of God” is the expansive umbrella under which we fit these distinctive terms from Scripture – the Messianic kingdom in Israel (Isa. 9:6-7), the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 3:2, 4:17, 10:7, 13:11, 24, 31, 33, 44, 45, and 47, 25:1, 14), the kingdom, power, and throneof the Son of Man (Dan. 7:13-14, Matt. 13:41, 25:31), the kingdom of the Son of His love (Col. 1:13), and the Father’s kingdom (Matt. 13:43). These all are, more or less, specific terms and different ideas that all fall under the generic label, “the kingdom of God.”

Now this begs the question: When John the Baptist, Jesus, and then His disciples sent out before Him,declared that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, were they speaking of the presentation of the Messianic kingdom to Israel? My question is not whether the Messianic kingdom was actually presented to Israel – it certainly was, for Jesus is Israel’s Messiah, and He came to Israel as their Messiah according to Jewishpromises and prophecy. The question is whether thephrase “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” refers to the Messianic kingdom for Israel and Jesus as their Messiah. Or does it specifically refer to something entirely different?

What its true reality is,can easily be provedin the Scriptures.

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Before leaving Matthew let’s look at another passage that is distinctive to the character of his gospel, the presentation of Jesus as the Messiah of Israel, and the association of this title with the passing Jewish dispensation.

Matthew 15:21-28 (NKJV)
“Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.”

Here Jesus is seen as the promised Messiah of Israel, and as under this title, even though He is away among the cities of the Gentiles. The Canaanite woman acknowledges Him as the Son of David because the fame of Him and the testimony of the things He did could not be contained to just the regions of theJews. By His remarks in dealing with the womanwe have the defining of the scope and extent of the promise and mission of Messiah – “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” And again, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”The children’s bread refers to the privilege of the Jews receiving their earthly needs met under the ministry of Messiah – healings, deliverances, and food for the poor. All the works of power that Jesus did among the Jews. These statements define for us the title of Messiah and it’s dispensational connection. He was not sent except to Israel. There are no other qualifying statements bringing further understanding or clarification. Jesus, as seen as Messiah, has this limited mission. Why? Because Messiah is a title related only to Israel and the Jewish dispensation. And this dispensation would soon be ending, and a different one would be taking its place. The title of Messiah would be set aside in a similar fashion as the nation of Israel was set aside. But we see here, just as the centurion did earlier (Matt. 8:1-12), this Gentile woman crossing over the dispensational wall by her faith to get what she desperatelyneeded.

This example is so characteristic of Matthew’s gospel. We have the presentation of Messiah and the Jewish system dispensationally, His rejection as Messiah and His takingup the broader title of the Son of Man (Matt. 13:37, 16:20, 17:9), and the transition between dispensations in type.When this story is found in Mark, key phrases are left out because the character of Mark isChrist’s service as the Prophet-Servant and not concerning dispensations and transitions (Mark 7:24-30). It is in the stories and teachingsthat are unique to each gospelwe tend tofind their intended character, or it is impressed by the telling of the same events with different content or added expressions. All the additions and all the differences in the four gospels have intentional purpose by the Holy Spirit. All the major events in the life of Christ – birth, baptism, rejection, Gethsemane, betrayal,trial, crucifixion, death, resurrection, ascension – are told by the Spirit in a different manner in the different gospels in order to accomplishHis intended effect.

The genealogies, or the omission of them, are characteristic of each gospel. From the first verse of Matthew (Matt. 1:1) we know the first emphasis of his gospel is the presentation of Messiah. In his genealogy we have both David and Abraham featured, the two great fathers of Israel, to whom all the promises were made. It traces through David to Abraham, and dramatically stops there – this is very Jewish and Messianic in character. However, when we look at Luke’s genealogy, it traces Jesus linage back to Adam (Luke 3:38). The main emphasis of the Spirit in Luke is presenting Jesus in the character and history of the Son of Man, the second Adam, come in grace. The Spirit uses Luke to, more so, deal with the low state of man as fallen. Therefore, it contains additional passages that have the character of moral teachings and lessons. Mark has no genealogy and no account of Jesus’ birth. His gospel presents the Lord’s ministry as the Servant-Prophet. The genealogy or birth of a servant is not viewed in Jewish culture as significant. Therefore, because of the emphasis of Mark’s gospel, these things are left out. John also has no genealogy. He presents the personal glory of Jesus Christ as God in the flesh, the Son of God, who was there in the beginning, yet without any beginning – a genealogy would not be necessary or appropriate.

As I mentioned earlier, John’s gospel is unique. He presents God come in the flesh into the world He had created. The first two verses of the gospel actually precede the account of Genesis one (1), showing us the divinity of Jesus in eternity past. It shows the glory of the Word in HisPerson, the Son of God in His essential nature.So John doesn’t present to us the birth of a baby into this world and time,who by linage was the Son of David and the promised Messiah. In John there are no tracing genealogies back to David, Abraham, or Adam. Rather the Spirit presents to us this One whoexisted before the beginning of everything that had a beginning – “In the beginning was the Word…” Then we see a personal existence is ascribed to Him – “The Word was with God…” Then His nature –“…and the Word was God.” In His existence He was eternal. In His nature He was divine. In His person He was distinct (John 1:1-2).

The third verse brings us the creation account (John 1:3). In His divinity He createdall things; they had their origin from Him.The verse brings forth the most positive and direct testimony of the distinction between those things made and the One who made them. The chapter is the defence of both the divinity and personality of the Son of God. Creation owes its existence to Him, yet it was always external to Him. It did not exist in Him. But in Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” If we’re wise, here we may see the thoughts and counsels of God from before the foundation of the world, and God’s intention in connection with blessing man(John 1:4).However verse five (5) is the first of many found in this gospel that gives us His rejection – “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” The whole world lies in darkness. When the true light came into it, the darkness did not change. And finally, inthe sense of the presentation of the chapter, theSon who created the world was now sent by the Father into it –“The Word became flesh…”

BecauseHis divinity iswhat John presents, it is here we see so characteristically the sovereign grace of God that leads and draws any individualto faith in Christ – they are born of God, not of the will of men (John 1:12-13). This principle is boldly brought out in John as a consequence of His rejection. From Adam to the cross God tested man in the principle of human responsibility, looking for the fruit of obedience. He never found in Adam’s children any fruit satisfying to Himself. Consequent to the rejection of the Son of God, inthis gospel we see the end of the moral history of the world (John 12:31, Heb. 9:26, Gal. 4:4).Man in Adamwas proven to be depraved, and the worldis condemned as a result. What then? Because of the work of the cross that follows, which work glorified God completely and perfectly concerning man’s sin (John 13:31-32), God now comes in with sovereign grace asthe new principle and thesolution to man’s depravity. In this principle, which is the means of our redemption freely given to us in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:24), He chooses some out of the condemned world (John 15:19, 17:1-6). Despite His rejection by Israel, the Good Shepherd will have His own sheep (John 10:3-5, 10:11-16). Then we see the lasting security of God’s choices in sovereign grace (John 10:28-29, 6:37-39).Because the sovereignity of God is so prominent in John, many call this the Calvinistic gospel.

But from the first chapterJohn has Jesus rejected, both by the Jews and by the world:

John 1:10-11 (NKJV)
“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.”

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This gives a certain character to the entire gospel. The Jews are set aside by God from the beginning and are treated as reprobate. The friction and tension between Jesus and the nationis noticeablethroughout this gospel (i.e. John 5:38-47).

When man fails in his place and is fully shown to do so(in Adam we are all in the flesh and reprobate – Rom. 8:8), God comes out according to what He is in Himself – this is what John’s gospel characteristically shows. In the three synoptic gospels we have the presentation of Christ to man in his responsibility, and there we see the eventual rejection of Him. So in this last gospel, in John, we have the bringing in of God. And John’s character is not simply God limited as a answer for the Jews – certainlyHe is this. But in John Jesus says, “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world.” And in the opening chapter, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.” As presenting God in the flesh this could not be confined to the Jews and the Jewish promisesof their Messiah. John addresses the world, and then condemns the world, even thoughhe shows how God so loves the world in His own nature and being (John 3:16). The love of God gives the Son for this purpose, that God may condemn His Son to death on the cross. So in John we have this distinctive phrase – the Son of Manlifted up (John 3:14, 8:28, 12:32) in the redemptive work. By this all men, not just the Jews, might be drawn to Him. As a consequence He then enters the sheep fold that is Israel and takes out only those sheep that are His (John 10:3-4). But He has other sheep not of Israel, and these also He must have (John 10:16). Its not just Israel, but in John the world is the broader emphasis.

Because of the distinctive character of John’s gospel there are many differences from the others. There is no account of the birth, no genealogy, no baptism by John, and no temptation in the wilderness. These are, more or less,associated with human means and human activity. When we read in the three synoptic gospels the accounts of His temptation by Satan, we should always be thinking of Jesus as the Son of Man, the second Adam. The first Adam failed his temptation. The second Adam did not. But John presents God, and not necessarily the Son of Man, and so theseevents are omitted from his writings. Look if you will at John’s account of Gethsemane. There is no suffering of Jesus in sweating, as it were, great drops of blood. All we see is how the entire detachment of troops fell back and down when He answered them saying, “I am He.” (John 18:1-6) Also in His crucifixion, John shows no real human suffering, although the othergospels detail this thoroughly. All we have is Jesus saying, “It is finished.” Look at the passages that are unique to John. Some examples:

1.) Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in John eleven (11). The reason it is found in John only is because it so fits the character and purpose of his gospel. “When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4) It was the Father’s testimony that Jesus was the Son of God, and that He would hear Him (John 11:42).

2.) When He was confronted by the Jews about some of the things He was saying, their unbelief and hatred frustrates Him to the point where He directly says concerning His divinity, “Before Abraham was I am.” (John 8:58)

3.) The passage in John twelve (12) identifies Jesus as Jehovah on the throne over Israel as seen by Isaiah the prophet (Isa. 6, John 12:37-41). Jesus was quoting the prophecies of Isaiah and John remarks by the Spirit, “These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.”

All these passages, unique to John’s gospel, show the glory of Jesus as the Son of God.This is the distinct character ofhis gospel.

It would take to long to show details of how Luke and Mark’s gospels differ from Matthew and John’s, or from each other. The important point to remember is that the Spirit of God uses the four in different ways to show forth the different glories of Jesus Christ. We should not expect them to be exactly the same. People look for errors and mistakes in order to prove to themselves and others the lack of inspiration in Scripture – they desperately want to believe that the bible is not the word of God, because if it is, their consciences would have to answer to its testimony. They simply fail to understand, in their carnal minds and reasoning, the ways and purpose of God in giving the different written accounts of the life of Christ, and that the author, the Holy Spirit, never intended these accounts to be the same. It shows that God’s wisdom is not understood by the intellect of natural man (I Cor. 1:17 – 2:16). If one doesn’t have the Spirit of God, how can he know the things of God?

One other point. In order to answer the critics who point out the differences in the gospels as errors and reason to discount their divine inspiration, many Christians undertake the task of harmonizing the four gospels in some type of chronology. Their idea and great mischief is to make the four gospels practically one gospel, to fuse them together into one mass, and make them give out, as it were, one single voice. This article shows that such an exercise is futile and erroneous. This would be like squeezing into one mold things which are not the same. It always will result in great loss in the apprehension of the multiple and diverse glories of Christ. Harmonizing the four gospels into one was never the Holy Spirit’s purpose. Therefore, it should never be our purpose. In order to answer the skeptics, we cannot rely on human reasoning and explanations — this is all harmonizing the gospels would be.

FAQs

Why are the 4 gospels so different? ›

The four gospels all tell a unique perspective of the same story. They all claim Jesus is the Jewish Messiah who fulfills the Hebrew Scriptures. Mark is widely considered to be the oldest Gospel. The genealogies at the start of Matthew have hidden design patterns in them that unify the Old and New Testaments.

How does each of the 4 gospels begin They are all different? ›

Why don't they all start in the same place or have the same stories? Each of the four gospels begins by introducing Jesus to us. Each of the four gospel writers has the same purpose in his introduction; he wants to show who Jesus is and why his story should be considered.

Why do you think there are four gospels instead of one? ›

There is no claim that this canon represents four gospels that are all saying the same thing. It is rather an attempt to bring together as many Christian communities that were bound to a particular gospel into one major church. And this was essentially accomplished through the four gospel canon.

What are the 4 different gospels? ›

The four gospels that we find in the New Testament, are of course, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The first three of these are usually referred to as the "synoptic gospels," because they look at things in a similar way, or they are similar in the way that they tell the story.

Which gospel is most accurate? ›

Scholars tend to consider Luke's works (Luke-Acts) to be closer in genre to "pure" history, although they also note that "This is not to say that he [Luke] was always reliably informed, or that – any more than modern historians – he always presented a severely factual account of events." New Testament scholar, James ...

What makes Matthew different from other gospels? ›

Matthew is the most Jewish of the Gospels. It seeks to tell the story of Jesus Christ to a distinctively Jewish audience. Matthew's purpose in writing the Gospel is convince devote and dedicated First Century Palestinian Jews that Jesus is the promised Messiah of God.

Are there differences in the Gospels? ›

Anyone who reads the Gospels carefully will notice that there are differences in the manner in which they report the same events. These differences have led many conservative Christians to resort to harmonization efforts that are often quite strained, sometimes to the point of absurdity.

Are all four gospels the same? ›

The gospels are narrative literature

They're also narratives with plot, characters, and setting. While all four gospels are concerned with the same historical events—the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ—they present different versions of these events.

What is the main message of the 4 gospels? ›

The four gospels' main themes are called thus because they document the life of Jesus Christ from the birth, ministry, death and the resurrection of the savior. From this stemmed the gospel – good news.

What gospels were removed from the Bible? ›

They are: the Didache (or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles), the Shepherd of Hermas, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Epistle of Barnabas and the Epistle of Clement.

How do the 4 gospels portray Jesus? ›

He is Messiah (Hebrew) and Christ (Greek), God's anointed one sent to be saviour. He is recognised as a teacher who speaks with unaccustomed authority. Jesus is a king who surpasses his ancestor David with a kingdom that is eternal and embraces all people of every age.

Why are the Lost gospels not in the Bible? ›

One possible reason they were not included in the emerging New Testament is they were not meant to be part of a wider canon or to be read as scripture in church - instead each one was meant to be read by an elect few.

Who wrote the four gospels? ›

Irenaeus thus identified the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, as the four pillars of the Church, the four authors of the true Gospels.

What is the difference between Matthew Mark Luke and John? ›

These books are called Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John because they were traditionally thought to have been written by Matthew, a disciple who was a tax collector; John, the "Beloved Disciple" mentioned in the Fourth Gospel; Mark, the secretary of the disciple Peter; and Luke, the traveling companion of Paul.

How is Luke different from the other gospels? ›

Luke's Gospel is also unique in its perspective. It resembles the other synoptics in its treatment of the life of Jesus, but it goes beyond them in narrating the ministry of Jesus, widening its perspective to consider God's overall historical purpose and the place of the church within it.

Which Gospel is most important? ›

It was traditionally placed second, and sometimes fourth, in the Christian canon, as an inferior abridgement of what was regarded as the most important gospel, Matthew; the Church has consequently derived its view of Jesus primarily from Matthew, secondarily from John, and only distantly from Mark.

Which Gospel is the oldest? ›

Mark is generally agreed to be the first gospel; it uses a variety of sources, including conflict stories (Mark 2:1–3:6), apocalyptic discourse (4:1–35), and collections of sayings, although not the sayings gospel known as the Gospel of Thomas and probably not the Q source used by Matthew and Luke.

Why is Mark's Gospel not reliable? ›

Lack of embellishment. The Gospel is written in a simple, straightforward style. Even when miraculous events are reported, the accounts are generally brief and without a fanfare. In fact the miraculous events are not the object of focus in themselves, but are used to highlight the question of the identity of Jesus.

Why is Matthew Mark and Luke the same? ›

The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as the synoptic Gospels because they include many of the same stories, often in a similar sequence and in similar or sometimes identical wording. They stand in contrast to John, whose content is largely distinct.

How does Matthew compare Jesus and Moses? ›

Matthew uses "fulfillment citations" to prove that Jesus was the Jewish messiah. Matthew further emphasizes Jesus' importance to Judaism by modeling his birth and ministry on Moses' birth and mission: Jesus is the new Moses who has been appointed by God to free his people from bondage and to give the (new) law.

Why did Matthew edit Mark's Gospel? ›

Matthew's Treatment of Mark

Fourthly, Matthew often edited the Marcan texts he did retain either to remove offence or to correct unpalatable theological features in Mark's account. In Mark 6.5 Jesus is unable to work miracles in Nazareth, while the Matthean parallel in 13.58 states that he did not do many miracles.

What is the purpose of each Gospel? ›

Thus the purpose of the Gospels is to proclaim the good news of what God has done in and through Jesus Christ so that people will respond by repentance.

What makes the Gospel of Mark unique? ›

One of the peculiar features of Mark's gospel in its presentation of Jesus is that, when Jesus teaches he often actually conceals the significance of his own words from the the popular audiences, and directs it only to his own disciples. Everyone will recognize that Jesus teaches in parables.

What do the Gospels mean? ›

The word gospel is derived from the Anglo-Saxon term god-spell, meaning “good story,” a rendering of the Latin evangelium and the Greek euangelion, meaning “good news” or “good telling.” Since the late 18th century the first three have been called the Synoptic Gospels, because the texts, set side by side, show a ...

Which book in the Bible did Jesus directly write? ›

Following "Jesus the Man" and "Jesus of the Apocalypse", this is Thiering's third work on the life of Jesus. She takes another bold, controversial step in looking at the New Testament and develops the theory that the Book of John was written by Jesus himself.

Which Gospel should I read first? ›

The best order to read the Gospels in the New Testament is to start with the Gospel of Mark. Mark covers all the essentials of the life of Jesus but does not require as much historical or theological background knowledge as the other Gospels. It is also the shortest of the Gospels.

What are the symbols of the four gospels? ›

The four authors of the Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are known as the Evangelists. They are often represented with their attributes: the Angel for Saint Matthew, the Lion for Saint Mark, the Ox for Saint Luke and the Eagle for Saint John. Sometimes these symbols stand in for the Evangelists.

What is the theme of all gospels? ›

The great biblical themes are about God, his revealed works of creation, provision, judgment, deliverance, his covenant, and his promises. The Bible sees what happens to mankind in the light of God's nature, righteousness, faithfulness, mercy, and love.

What are the similarities between the four gospels? ›

Besides all the four gospel books giving details about Jesus Christ's life, religious scholars claim that they all provide essential facts that led to His birth. The four books acknowledge the significance of John the Baptist in preparing Jesus Christ for his Messianic tasks.

Why was the book of Mary removed from the Bible? ›

The Gospel of Mary is an early Christian text deemed unorthodox by the men who shaped the nascent Catholic church, was excluded from the canon, and was subsequently erased from the history of Christianity along with most narratives that demonstrated women's contributions to the early Christian movement.

Why was the book of Enoch left out of the Bible? ›

200 that the Book of Enoch had been rejected by the Jews because it contained prophecies pertaining to Christ.

Why was the book of Judas removed? ›

Early church leaders examined all known writings for accuracy and value. The gospel of Judas was correctly left out and specifically labeled as heretical by early church leader Irenaeus in the year 180. The gospel of Judas may date to the early days of Christianity, but age itself is not a guarantee of accuracy.

Who is Jesus of the four gospels? ›

Matthew presents Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, or Christ. Jesus Christ is the long-awaited, long-expected and long-predicted King of the Jews who has finally come to take his throne. The promises are now finally fulfilled in Christ.

Why is John not a synoptic Gospel? ›

John's Gospel differs from the Synoptic Gospels in several ways: it covers a different time span than the others; it locates much of Jesus' ministry in Judaea; and it portrays Jesus discoursing at length on theological matters.

Who is the central figure of the four Gospel? ›

Jesus Christ (circa 4 BC - AD 33) is the central figure and founder of Christianity. His life, message, and ministry are chronicled in the four Gospels of the New Testament.

Why was the Gospel of Peter rejected? ›

Because the work reflects the view that Christ's body had only the appearance of reality, Serapion, bishop of Antioch c. ad 190, believed it was written by a member of the heretical Docetist sect.

Is it true that Jesus had a wife? ›

Although the Biblical gospels contain metaphorical references to Christ, saying he is a bridegroom, they mean he is married to the church and there is no reference to a real wife.

Why is the Gospel of James not in the Bible? ›

Yet the Protoevangelium of James was not a text that had come to be accepted formally as part of the biblical canon. In fact, especially in the West, it was referred to explicitly as an apocryphal gospel and was excluded from the canon.

Are all four gospels the same? ›

The gospels are narrative literature

They're also narratives with plot, characters, and setting. While all four gospels are concerned with the same historical events—the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ—they present different versions of these events.

What do all four gospels have in common? ›

Nevertheless, all four Gospels record at least 18 of the same short narratives. Strikingly enough, only four events before the last week of Jesus' life are recorded by all four authors: John the Baptist and his preaching, the baptism of the Savior, Jesus' rejection at Nazareth, and the feeding of the five thousand.

Do the four gospels tell the same story? ›

Written over the course of almost a century after Jesus' death, the four gospels of the New Testament, though they tell the same story, reflect very different ideas and concerns. The first attempt to tell the story of the life and the death of Jesus, this narrative began the gospel tradition.

What is the purpose of the four gospels? ›

The Four Gospels present different insights into the life of Jesus Christ. A highly literary and symbolic account, John's Gospel serves a theological purpose to proclaim the divinity of Jesus Christ as The Word and as a real presence in the Eucharist.

Why is Matthew Mark Luke and John the same? ›

These books are called Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John because they were traditionally thought to have been written by Matthew, a disciple who was a tax collector; John, the "Beloved Disciple" mentioned in the Fourth Gospel; Mark, the secretary of the disciple Peter; and Luke, the traveling companion of Paul.

How is the Gospel of John different from Matthew Mark and Luke? ›

For example, Jesus dies on a different day in John's gospel than in Matthew, Mark and Luke.... Whereas in the three synoptic gospels Jesus actually eats a passover meal before he dies, in John's gospel he doesn't. The last supper is actually eaten before the beginning of passover.

Why is Matthew Mark and Luke the same? ›

The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as the synoptic Gospels because they include many of the same stories, often in a similar sequence and in similar or sometimes identical wording. They stand in contrast to John, whose content is largely distinct.

What miracle is in all 4 gospels? ›

The first miracle, the "Feeding of the 5,000", is the only miracle—aside from the resurrection—recorded in all four gospels (Matthew 14:13–21; Mark 6:31–44; Luke 9:12–17; John 6:1–14).

Who wrote the four gospels? ›

Irenaeus thus identified the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, as the four pillars of the Church, the four authors of the true Gospels.

How do the 4 Gospels portray Jesus? ›

He is Messiah (Hebrew) and Christ (Greek), God's anointed one sent to be saviour. He is recognised as a teacher who speaks with unaccustomed authority. Jesus is a king who surpasses his ancestor David with a kingdom that is eternal and embraces all people of every age.

Why is Luke's Gospel different? ›

Luke's Gospel is also unique in its perspective. It resembles the other synoptics in its treatment of the life of Jesus, but it goes beyond them in narrating the ministry of Jesus, widening its perspective to consider God's overall historical purpose and the place of the church within it.

What makes the Gospel of Mark unique? ›

One of the peculiar features of Mark's gospel in its presentation of Jesus is that, when Jesus teaches he often actually conceals the significance of his own words from the the popular audiences, and directs it only to his own disciples. Everyone will recognize that Jesus teaches in parables.

Which Gospel should I read first? ›

The best order to read the Gospels in the New Testament is to start with the Gospel of Mark. Mark covers all the essentials of the life of Jesus but does not require as much historical or theological background knowledge as the other Gospels. It is also the shortest of the Gospels.

What are the four Gospels summary? ›

The New Testament contains four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These books tell the stories about Jesus' life, ministry, and death. The Gospels were written anonymously and came to be ascribed to disciples (Matthew and John) and associates of the apostles (Mark and Luke) sometime in the second century.

What are the symbols of the four Gospels? ›

The four authors of the Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are known as the Evangelists. They are often represented with their attributes: the Angel for Saint Matthew, the Lion for Saint Mark, the Ox for Saint Luke and the Eagle for Saint John. Sometimes these symbols stand in for the Evangelists.

What do the Gospels mean? ›

The word gospel is derived from the Anglo-Saxon term god-spell, meaning “good story,” a rendering of the Latin evangelium and the Greek euangelion, meaning “good news” or “good telling.” Since the late 18th century the first three have been called the Synoptic Gospels, because the texts, set side by side, show a ...

Videos

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(Fun Bom)
2. The Four Gospels: an Introduction
(Blogging Theology)
3. What are the difference in the four gospels?
(John Ankerberg Show)
4. Who Wrote the Bible? Episode 5: The Gospels
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5. Why Four Gospels?
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6. Why four Gospels? | Q&A 04 | Jacob Cherian
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