“Comparing the Four Gospels”
Comparing the Four Gospels
By Jeff Curtis
All of the four accounts have the same basic purpose – to reveal Jesus – but each was written from a slightly different point of view, apparently appealing to a somewhat different audience. For an example of tailoring an account an account for different audiences, see the three accounts of the conversion of Paul in the Book of Acts: in Acts 9 the account was written for Luke’s readers; in Acts 22 it was part of Paul’s defense before the Jews in Jerusalem; in Acts 26 it was part of Paul’s sermon in Caesarea which was primarily directed to King Agrippa. Simon Kistemaker made this comment on the last two accounts: “From the same incident (his conversion), (Paul) wisely chose different words and emphasized different aspects in his effort to bring the gospel to each party…”
Regarding the four Gospel Accounts, Matthew was apparently writing for the Jews. He quoted over one hundred Old Testament passages and used terms familiar to the Jews, such as “son of David” (Matt. 1:1). He presented Jesus as a King who came to set up His kingdom; the word “kingdom” appears fifty-five times in the book. He put special emphasis on Jesus as the Messiah and wrote of His teachings, His kingdom, and His authority.
Unlike Matthew, Mark seems to have written for a non-Jewish audience. He eliminated matters of little interest to the Gentiles, such as genealogies. When he mentioned Jewish traditions, he usually added an explanation. Many writers think Mark was addressing a Roman audience; he sometimes used Latin phrases in stories where the other writers used Greek phrases. According to Clement of Alexandria (c. AD 150-215), Mark received a request from Christians at Rome to record the life of Christ as he had heard it from Peter. Mark seems to have been more concerned with Jesus did than what He taught. He presented Jesus as a Savior, one who helped others (Mark 10:45). He emphasized the miracles of Jesus because, in them, the Lord’s love and care for people can be seen.
Like Mark, Luke apparently wrote for a non-Jewish audience. However, while Mark’s account seems directed to the action-oriented Roman, Luke’s account appears to have been written for the intellectual, the student. Many conclude that Luke had a Greek audience in mind. His account presents Jesus as “the Son of Man” (Luke 19:10) and outs special emphasis on His perfect humanity.
John’s account, which was probably written near the end of the first century, has its own special emphasis. Erroneous concepts had arisen regarding the nature of Jesus, causing confusion among believers. John presented Jesus as “the Son of God” (John 20:31) and stressed His deity.
We could say that Matthew has special appeal today for the Bible student and Mark has special appeal for the average person, including businessmen, while Luke appeals especially to scholars, thinkers, idealists, and truth-seekers. On the other hand, John has been called “the universal Gospel,” appealing to all people for all time.
Further, we could say that Matthew’s purpose is to present Jesus as the promised Savior; Mark, the powerful Savior; Luke, the perfect Savior; and John, the personal Savior. As we make these distinctions, however, we must not lose sight of the fact that the ultimate purpose of each book is the same: to bring all men to saving knowledge of Jesus.