The New Testament

The Gospels

Matthew

From at least the 2nd century A.D., the Gospel of Matthew has been ascribed to Matthew the publican, tax collector, and disciple. It is the most complete account of Jesus’ teachings and was written to convince the Jewish audience that Jesus was the Messiah descended from David, the One promised by the Old Testament Prophets. The most significant teaching passages are the Sermon on the Mount and the parable sections.

The book can be divided into five structurally distinct sections:

 I.    The genealogy, the birth, and the infancy of Jesus (Matthew Ch. 1; Matthew Ch. 2).

II.   The discourses and actions of John the Baptist preparatory to Christ's public ministry (Matthew Ch. 3; Matthew Ch. 4:11).

III.   1.   The discourses and actions of Christ in Galilee (Ch. 4:12–26:1).

        2.   The Sermon on the Mount, concerning morality (Ch. 5–7)

        3.   The Missionary Discourse, concerning the mission Jesus gave his Twelve Apostles. (Ch. 10–11:1)

        4.   The Parable Discourse, stories that teach about the Kingdom of Heaven (Ch. 13).

        5.   The "Church Order" Discourse, concerning relationships among Christians (Ch. 18–19:1).

IV.   The Eschatological Discourse, which includes the Olivet Discourse (the orderly and extended teaching given by Christ on the Mount of Olives) and Judgement of the Nations, concerning his Second Coming and the end of the age (Ch. 24–25).

V.  The sufferings, death and Resurrection of Jesus, the Great Commission (“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”)  (Ch. 26-28).

Mark

The Gospel of Mark, the shortest, is also held by most to be the first of the Gospels to be written. A tradition dating from the 2nd century ascribes this book to John Mark, a companion of Peter and also of Paul and Barnabas in their missionary endeavors. The preaching of Peter may well have been the source of most of Mark’s material. Mark accounts for the ministry of Jesus from His Baptism to His Ascension.  Mark’s purpose was neither biographical nor historical, but theological: to present Jesus as the Christ, the mighty worker rather than great teacher. Hence, Mark makes fewer references to the Parables and discourses, but meticulously records each of Jesus’ "mighty works" as evidence of His divine power. Mark contains 20 specific miracles and alludes to others. Bible scholars quite generally agree that Mark wrote his Gospel in Rome for the gentiles. 

It concentrates particularly on the last week of Jesus’ life (Ch. 11-16, the trip to Jerusalem). Its swift narrative portrays Jesus as a heroic man of action:

1.   An exorcist, a healer and miracle worker. It calls him the Christ (the Greek translation of Messiah), the Son of Man, and the Son of God

2.  Two important themes of Mark are the Messianic secret and the inability of the disciples to understand. In Mark, Jesus often commands secrecy regarding aspects of his identity and certain actions

3.  Jesus uses parables to obscure his message and fulfill prophecy (Ch. 4:10-12). At times, the disciples have trouble understanding the parables, but Jesus explains what they mean, in secret (Ch. 4:13-20, 4:33-34). They also fail to understand the implication of the miracles that he performs before them.

Luke

There is almost universal agreement that Luke, the "beloved physician" (Ch. Col. 4:14) who accompanied Paul on his missionary travels, was the author of the third Gospel. Luke wrote to present Jesus as the Universal Savior, the compassionate healer and teacher. His careful historical approach is revealed in the preface, which states that the author has traced "all things from the very first". Unlike Mark, this author includes an account of the Virgin Birth, and unlike Matthew he extensively describes the Perean Ministry (ministry in Perea toward the close of the last year of Jesus' life - to the Feast of Dedication, final departure from Galilee) (Chapters 9-18).

It gives details of Jesus' infancy found in no other Gospel:

1.  The census of Caesar Augustus, the journey to Bethlehem, Jesus' birth, the adoration of the shepherds.

2.  Jesus' circumcision,

3.  The words of Simeon, (Nunc dimittis: “Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word,  for my eyes have seen Your salvation, a Light to lighten the Gentiles, the Glory of Your people Israel.”)  and Jesus at age 12 in the temple talking with the doctors of the Law.

4.  It also is the only Gospel to give an account of the Ascension.

5.  Among the notable parables found only in Luke's Gospel are those of the good Samaritan and the prodigal son.

John

The Gospel of John endeavors to explain the mystery of the Person of Christ by the use of the term "logos" (word) and was written to confirm Christians in the belief that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. Its purpose is evangelical and is so stated in Ch. 20:31. John not only records events as do the other Gospels but also uniquely interprets the events by giving them spiritual meaning. The author makes significant use of such words as light, water, life, love, and bread. Traditionally the author of this Gospel is considered to have been John, the Beloved Disciple.

John is the gospel of belief:

1.  It was written to convince people to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.

2.  Of the four gospels, John presents the highest Christology, describing him as the Logos (the Greek term for "Word," "Reason," "Rationality," "Language," or "Discourse") who is the Arche (the Greek term for "existed from the beginning" or "the ultimate source of all things"), teaching at length about his identity as savior, and declaring him to be God (Thomas the disciple declared concerning Jesus, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28), "the Word was God" and "the Word became flesh", John 1:1, 14,  John 10:30, Jesus declared "I and the Father are one.").

3.   Compared to the Synoptic Gospels, John focuses on Jesus' mission to bring the Logos ("Word" or "Reason" or "Rationality") to his disciples. Only in John does Jesus talk at length about himself, including a substantial amount of material Jesus shared with the disciples only.