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Transcript of The Gospels
Origins of the Gospels
The earliest Christians did not have any written accounts of Jesus' life. Christians, following the death and resurrection of Jesus, believed themselves to be living in the last days/generation. Thus, because they had lived during or shortly after the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, written accounts were not necessary because they could recall for themselves stories of Jesus.
The Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
Before we can begin to look at the Gospels in comparison, we first need to look at them individually.
The term gospel means "good news"
The Gospels center around the figure Jesus Christ who was a Palestinian Jew born around 6 BCE and crucified on a cross by Pontius Pilate around 30 CE. Christians believe that following Jesus' death on the cross, he was raised from the dead (resurrection), and ascended into heaven with God
Jesus is known by several names:
Jesus of Nazareth (reflecting where Jesus grew up)
Jesus, the Messiah (Messiah means "anointed one" in Hebrew)
Jesus Christ (Christ is greek for messiah)
With a critical reading of the Gospels, differences start to emerge between the four accounts. However, there are also many similarities that emerge between Matthew, Mark, and Luke as well.
As such, Matthew, Mark, and Luke are known as the Synoptic Gospels
Synoptic means "viewed together"
The Synoptics have a general outline that is followed with large amounts of overlapping content with close verbal similarities
However, the Gospel of John is vastly different in many ways from Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The chronology of Jesus' ministry and its length greatly differs from the Synoptics and there are few parallel passages
To help explain why Matthew, Mark, and Luke have such striking similarities in places but in other places differ, and why the Gospel of John stands so outside of the Synoptic Gospels, scholars refer to the theory known as the Synoptic Problem
Please note that most scholars are not using the term "problem" here in the general sense. The Synoptic Problem is simply the attempt to explain how the similarities and differences arose between:
Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Synoptics) - there are phrases written down identically between the Synoptics and there are also similarities in placement of content. On the other hand, there are also differences between the accounts. So, what accounts for the similarities as well as the differences?
Synoptics and John - How is it that the Gospel of John is so different in chronology, stories, and vocabulary than the Synoptics?
For three or four decades following the death of Jesus, Jesus' life and ministry was told and preserved orally.
This impacted what we now have in the Gospels. Christians passed on the stories of Jesus that had a direct impact on their lives as Christians which left gaps in Jesus' life for later generations who did not know Jesus.
For example: what was Jesus doing during the age of twelve until his baptism later in life?
Also, because the traditions were told in isolated fragments, the original sequence or setting (sitz-im-leben) of Jesus' sayings and ministry have been lost
The Gospels that we have today are more likely based on thematic considerations rather than being an historical and chronological representation of Jesus' life and ministry:
Synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) - Jesus' ministry lasts for one year and there is only one trip to Jerusalem
John - Jesus' ministry lasts for three years with multiple trips to Jerusalem
Once there were fewer and fewer eyewitness accounts and the last generation had not yet happened, it became important for written accounts to be collected to pass on the life and ministry of Jesus.
Mark is believed to have been the earliest gospel written
Written approximately between 65-70 CE
Traditionally attributed to Mark, a companion of Peter (who was a disciple of Jesus)
However, written anonymously and we do not know who actually wrote this gospel (this will be the case for all four gospels)
Focuses on Christians facing the possibility of suffering on account of their faith
Possibly due to Nero's persecution in 64-65 CE or the Jewish War in 66-70 CE
Very fast-paced read - does not include a lot of teaching material - focuses more on miracles and the action of Jesus
Pays special attention to the last week of Jesus' life before his crucifixion and resurrection
Jesus was a "suffering Messiah"
Traditionally attributed to the disciple named Matthew who was a tax collector.
Written approximately between 75-90 CE
Includes a birth narrative which Mark lacks
Includes the famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) - Read Matthew 5:1-24
Written with appeal to Jewish readers - Jesus is a fulfillment of Jewish prophetic expectations
Traditionally attributed to Luke, a physician and Gentile Christian who occasionally traveled with the apostle Paul - written anonymously though
Written approximately between 75-90 CE
Has a sequel - the Book of Acts
Has a birth narrative - different than Matthew
Written with an appeal to Gentile readers and emphasizes the inclusiveness of the gospel
Traditionally attributed to the disciple John - although actually written anonymously
Written last - approximately 90-100 CE
Uses language very different from that of the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke)
Whereas the Synoptics focus on the earthly kingdom of God and Jesus avoids attention to his identity, the Gospel of John focuses on Jesus' heavenly role and kingdom
Known as the "spiritual/theological" gospel
Think about your Gospel Comparison Homework Assignment:
1.) Were the Gospel accounts identical in the story of the empty tomb between Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?
What are some of the differences between the Gospels?
2.) Was there an account that stood out more than the others with its differences?
Additional Information on the Gospels:
As already mentioned, the Gospels were written anonymously. Most biblical scholars believe that they were not written by these individuals
The titles (Matthew, Mark...) were added in the 2nd century BCE when the books were starting to be collected - these titles are who the books at that time were attributed to, although not necessarily the case
Although there is much debate and uncertainty about who wrote these four gospels, it is still common practice to refer to these books by the titles given them in the 2nd century
It is also important to note that the writers of the four gospels were not the "authors" of these works but rather "redactors/editors" of earlier sources and oral traditions that had been passed down.
Q - Quelle Source
Scholars believe that Mark was the first Gospel written - it is the shortest of the Gospels and the "least polished"
Matthew and Luke are believed to have used Mark as a source for their works. Mark would have already been composed and familiar within the various provinces/communities.
The ""Q" - Quelle Document:
It is also believed that Matthew and Luke used another source in addition to Mark. This would explain the passages that Matthew and Luke share with the exact same wording that are not found in Mark.
The document believed to have been used as a source for Matthew and Luke is known as the "Q" document - meaning "source".
This document is a hypothetical document - has never been found
Believed to have been written approximately 50-70 CE
Includes material such as the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew and Luke's Sermon on the Plain
Matthew and Luke are believed to share about 230 verses from Q.
While Matthew and Luke are believe to have used Mark and the "Q" document as a source for their Gospels, they each have their own unique stories that can only be found in that respective Gospel.
This material is known as "M" for Matthew
This material is known as "L" for Luke