|Posted on 14 January, 2015 at 10:00||comments (2)|
Why do we have four gospels in our Bible? It seems like if the goal is to have the most complete account of Jesus' life and ministry, four separate books would not be the way to go. First of all, the four writers include some of the same stories but each contains stories that are not found in the others. Second, when they do tell the same story, we find that it is really not the same at all, but similar. Do we say that one must be in error? Do we compare the two and decide which one we like more?
There are some principles that we must remember when we are reading the gospels.
1) Author: Each author wrote in a different time, with a different personality, and with a different purpose.
2) Audience: The gospels were not written in a vaccuum. Each gospel account is written to a specific context with its own needs. Mark is concerned about encouraging persecuted Christians in Rome while Matthew is concern about showing how Jesus is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament.
3) Theology: The gospels primarily teach theology, not history. Of course we affirm the history is 100% true, but the purpose of the history is to tell us about the person and work of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
4) Discipleship: The purpose is also to generate belief in the readers and to shape us into the image of Christ.
Example: Mark 1:47: In this text, the author (Mark) is instructing the audience (church) by referencing the teaching of Jesus (history) that God will judge sin (theology) and that they should therefore take great measures to fight sin in their lives (discipleship). The main point of discussion is not why Mark and Matthew's account of the same teaching have slight differences. The main point is application: We must remember that God judges sin and that we must therefore turn away from our sinful ways.
Some questions we can ask when reading the gospels:
1) Why did the writer put this story/teaching in this specific place?
2) What does this text teach me about the person and work of Jesus Christ?
3) What promises does this text ask me to believe? What actions does this text ask me to do?
When we remember that the authors wrote their gospels to build the church, we can begin to read the gospels with an expectation that God has something for us today.
What do you think? I'd be happy to hear your thoughts and comments on this. Click on the comment button, send me an email, or drop by to discuss this further.