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Why four Gospels?
|Created by Gerard de Vos|
Category: Christ related
Many people, especially liberal theologians question the differences between the 4 accounts of Jesus’ earthly life, attributing them to human errancy, and wrong writings. Obviously, the main question is this: did the authors write the accounts of Jesus’ life of their own accord, or were they inspired by the Holy Spirit? If the Gospels are the work of men, then we can disregard them, since we have no reason to believe them. God never allowed men to write about Him or His plans for man on their own accord. Humans have only two fundamental sources of knowledge, namely experience and reason. Neither of these two can be trusted in such an important issue as eternal life. We accept that when Jesus said He would give the Holy Spirit to teach us all things, and remind us of everything He has said, it would imply that their writing would be under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Old Testament (inspired by the Holy Spirit, according to 2 Timothy 3:16) has many prophecies about the coming Messiah. It would not be true to God’s character to allow a few men to write down how these prophecies were fulfilled, on their own initiative. We would have no reason to accept man’s interpretation of predictions, because they can differ from each other. We want God’s authoritative Word, and that is what we have.
Only about fifty days of the three and a half years of Jesus’ ministry is touched on by these writers of the Gospels, and they concentrate on the last week of his life. It is not normal for people to write like that, although it is normal for God. Throughout the Bible the writers, inspired by the Holy Spirit concentrate on issue of importance to God’s theme of redemption. In the Gospels the Holy Spirit is picturing the Saviour of the lost world, the hope of humanity. There is not space to waste on Jesus’ childhood, or other irrelevant details. There is no information on His childhood friends, or what games they played, et cetera. There would be millions of disciples through the ages that would not see Jesus personally. God saw to it that they have an accurate, written picture of His Son on whom hinges the failure or success of the Kingdom of God. The attempts at harmonizing the Gospels is really futile, as their main function is to present Jesus from four different angles, that of King (Matthew), of Servant (Mark), of Son of Man (Luke), and of Lord (John).
1) Matthew portrays a King who came to find a Kingdom. His genealogy is placed first to illustrate his royal line. The magi enquired about ‘the king of the Jews’ (2:2). Their presents of gold, insense and myhrr reflect those given to a king (2:11). John is not willing to baptize Jesus as he recognizes His authority (3:14).
2) Mark portrays Jesus as the suffering Servant who comes to serve and sacrifice Himself for all mankind (think of the Servant songs in Isaiah, of which chapter 53 is the best known). No genealogy or details about His birth is given, as servants serve and their origin is not important. There is no Lord’s prayer, or long discourses, as a servant does not draw attention to himself by talking that much. He is not addressed as ‘Lord’ (‘A man with leprosy came to Him and begged Him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean,” Mark 1:40). Jesus doesn’t denounce the Pharisees and the scribes as in Matthew 23, He only warns the people to beware of them (12:38-40). At His arrest, He doesn’t mention His right to summon 12 legions of angels to His defense (14:43-50). The whole book is marked by the repeated use of the words ‘immediately’ and ‘at once’, signifying the quick response of a servant (1:12, 20, 43...).
3) Luke portrays Jesus as the perfect man, a friend of sinners, and one worthy to be followed. More details about Jesus’ birth and the place of women, treatment of the poor, care for small children, the help of the Holy Spirit, healing miracles, and joy is given (1:14, 47, 58,64; 2:10,13,20,38). His genealogy is traced back to Adam, showing Him to be the brother of all humanity, the sinless Son of Man. As He is devoted to God, so He submits to His parents (Joseph was not His real father, God is). Jesus is shown as a poor, ordinary member of humanity, not someone who is independent of class, but one who is on the side of the lowest members of society. Born in a manger, of poor parents, buried in another’s tomb, He had nowhere to lay His head (9:58).
4) In John we see Jesus as the glorious Son of God. What He says and does is highlighted. John starts with a heavenly genealogy of Jesus (1:1). Jesus is the light of men (1:4,9), He is glorious as is His Father (1:14). Jesus’ relationship with God is described as one of an intimate nature. Most of Jesus’ sermons are given in the temple.
Matthew wants the reader to obey the King.
Mark wants them to allow the Servant to serve them.
Luke asks us to follow the perfect Man.
John writes about life, light, truth and glory so the readers will believe and love God’s glorious, light-bearing, life-bringing Son.
The information given is a short summary of a book by J Bickersteth and T Pain, The Four Faces of God, Kingsway Publications, 1992. The value of it is that it shows how easily one can be prevented from believing the Bible by some doubting theologians. Instead of accepting that God wrote in a certain way, they are always enquiring about so called discrepancies, errors and such. We should be well aware of their agenda, as they are not in God’s employ, but in that of Satan. Jesus warned us about them (Matthew 23). No theologian or any other student of the Bible who really loves the Lord, will dare to change, or add to God’s Word. Our only question is this: ‘Holy Spirit, what are you teaching me here, or what is the message for me?’ Countless numbers of eager Christians have had their faith destroyed by these workers of the devil who pose as ‘angels of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Remember Jesus’ words: ‘As for the person who hears My words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects Me and does not accept My words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day,’ (John 12:47-48). Judgment will be based on what God said, not man’s opinions of God and what He said through Jesus. The four Gospels are inspired and reliable.