Originally published in SPEAK AS THE ORACLES, July 1986, Volume 1 Number 2
By Rod Ross
Of the 27 books of the NEW TESTAMENT, four of these are known as GOSPELS, or
Biographies. They are the first four books in the New Testament as found in most Bibles:
MATTHEW, MARK, LUKE and JOHN. They contain the narrative of the life of Jesus as we know
it. Necessarily, as in all biographies, there is only a small portion of His life chronicled in these
books. However, these four books speak of the birth, boyhood, baptism, temptation, teaching
ministry, trials, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of the Christ.
“And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written
every one, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that should be
written. Amen” [JOHN 21:25].
“But these are written, that ye might believe3 that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that
believing ye might have life through his name” [JOHN 20:31].
WHY ARE THERE FOUR DIFFERENT GOSPELS?
The first three GOSPELS are very similar in content, with the fourth (JOHN) containing more
unique material. Each GOSPEL, however, has its own emphasis; or, has its own viewpoint
from which it records the life of Christ. Each complete the picture that is drawn by the other
three of the character and actions of the Savior of the world. It is much like looking at a book:
only by looking at the front cover, the back cover, the sides and the inside may one really know
what the book looks like. In the same way, by looking at Jesus from the viewpoints of four
different biographers, one may really know what Jesus was like.
The first of these four books of biography is that of the apostle Matthew, who is also known as
Levi. He presents Jesus as the son of David, the fulfillment of the law and prophets for the
Jew. Those elements contained in the record of MATTHEW are those which would convince
the Jewish mind that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, the Christ, the only begotten Son of
God, born of a virgin.
MATTHEW introduces his record with the genealogy of Jesus through his adoptive father,
Joseph, the legal line of inheritance to establish His right as the son of David, the son of
Abraham, to be the fulfillment of the promises to these great men of faith of the Old Testament.
Time and time again MATTHEW makes reference to the fulfillment of prophecy in the life of
Christ from His birth to the events of His crucifixion.
He alone refers to the church.
He alone makes the extensive record of the speeches or sermons of Jesus.
Jesus is shown to be both the Lawgiver and the fulfillment of the law, both Prophet and the
fulfillment of prophecy.
The second book of biography is MARK, referred to by some early writers as the MEMOIRS OF
PETER because Mark was to have written his record of the life of Christ under the direction of
MARK is written for the Roman. It is similar in literary style to Julius Caesar’s immortal
GAULIC WARS. MARK records the action of Jesus, while keeping to a minimum his words.
The Roman was a man of action, not words. It was the graphic description of action found in
MARK’S record that would convince him that Jesus was the Son of God. Thus, MARK is the
shortest of the GOSPELS.
The third book of the biographies is Luke. This Gospel is written for the Greek. It portrays
Jesus as the perfect man, thus the Son of the perfect God. The Greeks had a greater concern
for humanity; thus, within his record LUKE records more detail of the birth and boyhood of
Jesus than all the other GOSPELS combined. Especially does Luke describe the human
compassion of Jesus. The genealogy of Jesus withinthis biography rather than establishing
the legal inheritance through his adoptive parent, depicts the physical or human line of
birthright through His mother to the promises made.
The last record of biography is JOHN. Although there are great areas of similarity between and
among the first three GOSPELS, in the majority of material covered JOHN stands alone. He
supplements the narratives of the other GOSPELS by supplying material not found in them.
Especially does JOHN emphasize the personal touch in conveying conversations Jesus had
with individuals. John emphasizes the Deity of Jesus beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Each of the four GOSPELS has its own emphasis. They were written with different groups of
people in mind to convince them that Jesus is the Christ, the only begotten Son of the living
God. MATTHEW was written to the Jew. MARK was written to the Roman. LUKE was written to
the Greek. JOHN was written to the Agnostic. Each, therefore, emphasizes those aspects of
the life and character of Jesus which would convince his audience that Jesus of Nazareth was
the Savior of the world. The impact of this on each of the GOSPELS will be further discussed in
the introduction to each Gospel.
This explains the differences in approach to the life of Christ that makes each GOSPEL
peculiar in its own right. It also affords for us a more complete picture of the life and character
of the most important man in history. Without any one of the GOSPELS our picture would be
less complete and our knowledge of the Lord would be marred.