Introduction to the Gospels

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Below you will find a comparison of the four Gospels. 

As you study the Gospels you will find that there are differences in them that at times almost feel contradictory.  It’s important to note that differences in the gospels lend to their credibility as original source content that is historically accurate rather than take away from it.  At first that statement seems counterintuitive. How could differences lend to credibility?  To help us understand, let’s look at an illustration that will highlight how differences in eyewitness testimony actually build credibility.  Imagine having four people on different street corners seeing the same car accident.  Each of them would tell a different story about what they saw during the accident.  One person might say they saw the driver swerve to avoid a cat in the road, the person behind the car might say, it seemed like the driver was erratic.  The person closest to the action might say, there were actually two people in the car even though everyone else only focused on the driver.  We wouldn’t say that because we had four different accounts they must be false – the fact that they are different is what would tell us they actually were telling the truth.  Eyewitness accounts are never exactly the same in content but are always the same in essence (the truth of the whole story).

This is why we can trust the Gospels as eye witness acounts – because the essence of the story is unified and true across all the accounts – even if some individual details are different from their various perspectives.  


Each Gospel introduction below will detail the following information:

Original Readers

Who the Gospel was written for and who the likely group was that first read it.

Significant Themes

Each of the Gospels has a theme that it highlights and is trying to emphasize as a part of Jesus’ story.

Writers Style

Learning the style each writer uses to convey their message is important as you read them.

Greatest Emphasis

Each of the four Gospel writers emphasizes specific aspects of Jesus’ ministry.  Learning what they are emphasizing helps you see what they are doing at a greater level.

When were the Gospels Written?

Most of the Gospels are believed to be written potentially as early as 10 years after the death of Jesus to anywhere up to 30-40 years after his death (here’s a great article about reasons to assume an earlier date for the gospels).  It is believed that Mark is the earliest Gospel and that Matthew & Luke used Mark as a primary source to help guide their writing.  Because of this fact, Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called Synoptic Gospels by some.  John’s gospel tends to focus on different aspects of the ministry of Jesus’ ministry than the other three and stands alone as a theological treatise on the work of Jesus.

Can we really trust these documents if they were written after so much time had elapsed?

Yes, 100%.  Early Christians believed Jesus would return in their lifetime. As the first Christians and eyewitnesses grew older they began to realize they wouldn’t be around to convey the story of Jesus and so they wrote down the things they had already been preaching for years to the church in an oral manner.  Since the very beginning of the church (see Acts 2:42) these leaders had been telling the stories of Jesus repeatedly and it would not have been hard for them to write them down.

As a side note, when humans experience something life-altering we tend to have an incredible ability to recall those experiences later in life, sometimes with photographic like recall (think the birth of a child, the loss of a loved one, moments on a battlefield for a soldier).  Now imagine you are seeing things like the healing of lame people, or the blind, or seeing someone flip over tables in a temple, or hearing them teach ideas you had never been exposed to.  There is a very strong likelyhood those events would be burned into your memory for the rest of your life.

Aside from that, the whole job of a disciple was to learn to be exactly like their rabbi – to learn how they talked, thought, and what they taught.  Jesus’ disciples would have been no different.  They spent three years studying every move Jesus made and were even sent out on a couple missions to practice teaching and living out the way Jesus lived.

It’s also important to note that the earliest records we have from the Christian community (people living 60-70 years after Jesus) accepted these four Gospels as the accurate eyewitness accounts of the live and ministry of Jesus.

Trust it, 100%!

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Jesus is viewed as the Promised King

Original Readers

Jewish People

Significant Themes

Jesus is the Messiah because He fulfilled Old Testament prophecy

Writers Style


Greatest Emphasis

Jesus’ Sermons & Words


Jesus is viewed as the Servant of God

Original Readers

Romans, Gentiles (non-Jewish people)

Significant Themes

Jesus backed up His words with action

Writers Style


Greatest Emphasis

Jesus’ Miracles & Actions (fast-paced)


Jesus is viewed as the *Son of Man

Original Readers


Significant Themes

Jesus was God but also fully human

Writers Style


Greatest Emphasis

Jesus’ Humanity


Jesus is viewed as the *Son of God

Original Readers

Christians throughout the world

Significant Themes

Belief in Jesus is required for Salvation

Writers Style


Greatest Emphasis

The Principles of Jesus’ Teaching

-Taken from The Life Application Study Bible

*”Son of” in the bible.  Sons are the representation of their fathers in the Bible.  They carry their likeness and can represent them in any matter.  The New Testament uses this idea to help us understand who Jesus is and what He has come to do.  For Luke, He is the quintessential human – the “son of man” (be sure to do some study in the Old Testament book of Daniel and look up the prophecy of the “son of man”.  For John, Son of God tells you about the essence of Jesus.  He is God’s exact representation – when you see Jesus you see the Father is a common idea.  The Jewish people thought this was a serious offense to call yourself a son of God – so much so that they see it as Blasphemy and try to stone Jesus for it in John 5:18.  

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