The Gospels: An Introduction (#1)

The Gospels: An Introduction (#1)

As we approach Easter, I thought it might be nice for us to look at the Gospels. For some of you, this will be very basic, but I’m writing this with all Christians, both new and old, in mind.
First up, let’s start with the very term “gospel.” It’s a word that has a long history, but in the interest of time, its history can be traced back to the Greek word euangelion, from which we also take our word “evangelism.” In its original context, a “gospel” was a message of good news, generally relating to a success or victory of a ruler, particularly the king or, in Christ’s day, the emperor of Rome.
So, our first takeaway here is that the gospels are messages of good news about King Jesus.
Next up, why are there four gospels? Why isn’t one good enough? Why aren’t there more? These are some great questions, and they answers are very involved. For the sake of time and space, I’ll be brief, but if you would like details, please feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email.
The four gospels included in the New Testament were either written by a disciple of Jesus (Matthew, John) or by a close associate of a disciple (Mark, who was close to Paul and may have even transcribed his gospel based upon Peter’s recollections, and Luke, who traveled with Paul extensively and interviewed many eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life and ministry.)
These documents have been closely examined and scrutinized for years, centuries even, and we have a considerable amount of documentation that dates them to only a few decades after Christ’s death, which is a gap smaller than nearly any other major ancient source of historical writing.

Chart pulled from Enrichment Journal
Chart pulled from Enrichment Journal
Furthermore, even though these gospels do not appear to be exactly the same on the surface, their differences are minor and their similarities profound. Thus, by including all four in the New Testament, we get four different perspectives, written with different purposes/audiences in mind, by four distinct individuals. To me, this is an important point to make about Christianity: God values the individual, values unity in diversity. Again, even when you consider the difference presented within the collective story of the four gospels, the overall unity of the story is unmistakable.
However, that cannot be said of all “gospels.” There are a number of books that claim to be gospels, and yet their oldest copies have a much larger gap that the other gospels. In addition to this, these gospels do no fit into the unity of the others, nor do they even agree with each other. The book/movie The Da Vinci Code presented a theory that these gospels were kept out the Bible by the Church because they presented the “true Jesus,” human and not divine. However, these gospels, often referred to as the “Gnostic gospels” actually do the opposite, making Jesus appear more divine and less human, less real.
Thus, the four gospels included in the New Testament have been vetted and found to be the most reliable and the closest to the original incidents.
We’ll stop here for now, but I’ll be back soon to look at the authors of the Gospels and their intended audience, which should help us to better understand the differences we find in them.
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below.