“The Four Gospel Accounts”
The Four Gospel Accounts
By Jeff Curtis
Note: since we haven’t a Sunday morning Bible class, I thought it would good to work on our study of Matthew and the Gospels.
We begin with a study of the life of Jesus Christ as told by the first four books of the New Testament, each of which is named after its author.
Matthew – a former tax collector and an apostle of Jesus.
Mark – the John Mark of the book of Acts, a young preacher of the apostolic age.
Luke – Dr. Luke, who accompanied Paul on several of his missionary journeys, including the trip to Rome.
John – a former fisherman and the “beloved” apostle.
This study, as a kind of harmony of the Gospels, brings together the four accounts of His life into one story. Later, thorough commentaries will be written on the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John individually.
Four Accounts of One Story
The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are often called “the Four Gospels,” but actually they are four accounts of the one gospel. The term “Gospels” has been used to refer to the first four books of the New Testament since around the second or third century.
The first three books are generally called “the synoptic” Gospels. “Synoptic” combines with a Greek word for “together” with a word meaning “to see or view.” “Synoptic” then means “to view together.” The first three books are designated “the synoptic Gospels” because they present similar views of Jesus. All of them were probably written before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
The book of John is sometimes called the “autoptic (self-view) Gospel” because it takes a somewhat different approach that the other three. The word “autoptic” can also have the idea of an eyewitness. John’s account was probably written later than the first three, in the AD 90s.
Why Four Accounts?
Why did God give us four books that cover the same period of time and the same story? In the Scriptures, other periods of time are covered by more than one book (many events in 1Samuel through 2Kings are also reported in 1&2 Chronicles), but to have four accounts of the same story is unusual.
In the early history of the church, men speculated as to why there were “four accounts. One guess was that “four is the (symbolic) number of man.” We don’t know why God decided on this specific number, but the fact that He inspired multiple accounts indicates several truths.
(1) Four accounts show how important the story of Jesus is.
(2) Four accounts impress the need to authenticate the story of Jesus. Moses said that “on evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed (Deut. 19:15). Four witnesses are even better.
(3) Four accounts reveal the multifaceted nature of Jesus. One writer could probably never do Him justice.
In the National Gallery in London there are three representations on a single canvas of Charles I. In one his head is turned to the right; in another, to the left; and in the center we find the full-face view. This is the story of this production. Van Dyck painted them for Bernini, the Roman sculptor, that he might by their help make a bust of the king. By combining the impressions so received, Bernini would be better able to produce a “speaking” likeness. One view would not have been enough.
It may be true that the Gospels were intended to serve the very purpose of these portraits. Each represents a different aspect of our Lord’s life on earth. Together we have the complete picture. He was a King, but He was the Perfect Servant, too. He was the Son of Man, but we must not forget He was the Son of God!