Gospels, four


Gospels, four
The gospels according to Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John were compiled in the second half of the 1st cent. CE, and, in accordance with contemporary custom, were intended to be read aloud. They were all written to satisfy needs felt in the growing Church. At first there was just the oral tradition; Jesus himself did not write a word; but parables spoken by Jesus and many of his conversations were remembered and in the early days of the Church these reminiscences were constantly passed on. The store of traditions was drawn on by Christian evangelists who tried to persuade members of the synagogues, and by controversialists in debates. There were new recruits to the Church who wanted to know how it had come about that a good man (Jesus) had suffered death at the hands of the Romans. Moreover this man was being preached as a Saviour who had been raised from the dead! Not surprisingly, when Mark was persuaded, perhaps in Rome, to put in writing the reminiscences that were held in the Church, his gospel was a detailed account of the trial [[➝ trial of Jesus]] and execution of Jesus, with an introduction containing excerpts of teaching and examples of about a dozen miracles. It was left to Mark's successors to fill out his narrative not only with extended extracts from Jesus' teaching but also with narratives about his birth. The gospel of Matthew follows Mark's order in the main, but incorporates it with much added material in five great discourses of Jesus, edited by the author of the gospel. He makes improvements to Mark's style by pruning verbosity and clarifies some of the Marcan obscurities. The gospel of Luke also uses Mark but less slavishly. So these first three gospels have much material in common, as is demonstrated by comparing them word for word, paragraph for paragraph, in three parallel columns. For this reason they are known as the ‘synoptic[[➝ synoptists]] gospels’—i.e. gospels that can be viewed together. The fourth gospel (John) is in another category, was almost certainly written later, and is very different in style, content, and theological emphasis. Much of it spells out what in the synoptics appears in disconnected fragments or veiled allusions.
The four gospels did not represent the end of these literary ventures. They were, however, the works which were in due course pronounced by the Church to be parts of the NTcanon’; but Gnostics [[➝ Gnosticism]] and others promoted rival versions of the Jesus story, such as the gospel of Thomas (c.140 CE), which was discovered at Nag Hammadi; it is a collection in Coptic of 114 alleged sayings of Jesus but this ‘Apocryphal Gospel’ offers the reward of salvation (immortality) to those who gain the right knowledge.
The gospels are not biographies in the modern sense, and the form critics [[➝ Form Criticism]] maintained that they were not biographies in any sense. But such a negative view cannot be sustained in view of some similarities to contemporary biographies; yet the gospels are differentiated by their religious message (John 20:31) and their claim that the promises of the OT are fulfilled in the main subject (Jesus) and in the evangelists' hope to influence their readers' lives.

Dictionary of the Bible.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Gospels of Mael Brigte — The Gospels of Mael brigte (British Library, Harley MS 1802, also known as the Armagh Gospels and the Marelbrid Gospels) is an illuminated Gospel Book, with glosses. It was created in 1138 in Armagh by a scribe named Mael Brigte Ua Mael Uanaig.… …   Wikipedia

  • Gospels —    The central fact of Christian preaching was the intelligence that the Saviour had come into the world (Matt. 4:23; Rom. 10:15); and the first Christian preachers who called their account of the person and mission of Christ by the term… …   Easton's Bible Dictionary

  • Four Evangelists — The Four Evangelists refers to the authors of the four Gospel accounts in the New Testament that bear the following ancient titles: *Gospel according to Matthew (Greek: Εὐαγγέλιον κατὰ Ματθαίον), *Gospel according to Mark (Greek: Εὐαγγέλιον κατὰ… …   Wikipedia

  • Four Document Hypothesis (Synoptic problem) — A Four Document Hypothesis is an explanation for the relationship between the three Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It posits that there were at least four sources to the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke: the Gospel of Mark, and three …   Wikipedia

  • Gospels of Otto III — The Gospels of Otto III (Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 4453) is a late tenth or early eleventh century illuminated Gospel Book. The manuscript contains the Vulgate versions of the four gospels plus prefatory matter including the… …   Wikipedia

  • Gospels — gos·pel· || gÉ‘spl / gÉ’spl n. any of the four first books of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John); excerpt from one of the four Gospels …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Gospels of Henry the Lion — The Gospels of Henry the Lion were intended by Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony, for the altar of the Virgin Mary in the church of St. Blaise s Abbey, Brunswick, better known as Brunswick Cathedral. The volume is considered a masterpiece of… …   Wikipedia

  • Gospels, The —    The four canonical records of the Life of our Lord written by St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke and St. John. The first three are called the Synoptic Gospels, because they all look at the events they describe from the same point of view; while… …   American Church Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Gospels — noun the four books in the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) that tell the story of Christ s life and teachings (Freq. 2) • Syn: ↑Gospel, ↑evangel • Derivationally relate …   Useful english dictionary

  • GOSPELS —    the name by which the four accounts in the New Testament of the character, life, and teaching of Christ are designated; have been known since as early as the 3rd century, of which the first three are called Synoptic, because they are summaries …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia