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LIFE OF CHRIST
A Harmony of the Gospels

INTRODUCTION

THE WRITERS

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The Gospel of Matthew

Writer
The disciple Matthew, formerly a Publican (tax collector for Rome)

Abundant early historical testimony ascribes this Gospel to Matthew the publican,  also called Levi by Mark and Luke.

As a former tax gatherer Matthew was well qualified to be used of God to produce such a Gospel.

His business knowledge of shorthand enabled him to record fully the discourses of Jesus.
His acquaintance with figures is reflected in his frequent mention of money,  his interest in large sums  (Mt. 18:24, 25:15),  and his general interest in statistics  (e.g. 1:17).

Date
Before A.D. 70

The date of Matthew's Gospel must be prior to A.D. 70,  since there is no reference in it that Jerusalem was in ruins  (all predictions of its destruction being clearly prophetic).
Such passages as 27:8  ("unto this day")  and 28:15  ("until this day")  suggest an interval of some time,
but fifteen or twenty years following the Resurrection would be sufficient.

Theme - Jesus as Messiah

Much attention is given to demonstrating that Jesus fulfilled Messianic prophecy and therefore was Israel's Messiah, who would establish the promised kingdom.
The discourses that Matthew records at length distinguish this Gospel, and emphasize the principle, scope, and movements of the messianic kingdom (Mt. 5-7; 13; 24-25).
Thus Jewish Christians, who numbered in the thousands in the early church (Acts 2:41, 47;  4:4;  5:14, 28;  6:1, 7) were given an authoritative explanation that faith in Jesus involved no repudiation of the Old Covenant, but was the very goal toward which Old Testament revelation pointed.

The Gospel of Mark

Writer
Mark, a young man acquainted with Jesus and the disciples.

John Mark,  although not one of the twelve disciples,  was closely associated with them from the beginning.
After working with Paul and Barnabas, he became closely connected with Peter.  Apparently Mark wrote this Gospel for the church at Rome, shortly after the death of  Peter.
Eusebius,  in his Church History,  quoted Papias of Hierapolis,  who wrote the Interpretations Of  The Lord's Sayings about A.D. 150: 
"Mark having become the interpreter of Peter,  wrote down accurately everything that he remembered,  without however recording in order what was either said or done by Christ."
This means that Mark's Gospel is based upon the eyewitness accounts of the big fisherman,  Simon Peter,  as he preached and taught them under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

Mark lived in Jerusalem where he seems to have had some contact with the high priestly circles.
Many think he was the  "young man"  who followed at the trial of Jesus and literally ran out of his clothes when they seized the  "linen cloth"  that he wore (Mark 14:51).

It is certain that the disciples were later meeting in the home of Mary,  Mark's  mother (Acts 12:12);
and the Upper Room of the Last Supper,
as well as the meeting place of the church at Pentecost (which was very likely the same room as the Last Supper)

Date
Probably between A.D. 65 & 68

The most likely date for the writing of Mark would be A.D. 65-68 because:
Peter was martyred about A.D. 64 under the emperor Nero
Mark wrote the Gospel to carry on the message that Peter could no longer preach
According to Mark 13, the city of Jerusalem and the temple have not yet been destroyed

Theme - Jesus the Burdon Bearer

Because the great leaders,  Paul and Peter,  had already been killed,  it was desperately important for the young Christian movement that the accurate account of Jesus and His ministry be preserved.  It was clearly Mark's aim to hold the suffering Christians steady in their loyalty to Christ in the face of trial and persecution.  The careful way in which he explains the meaning of Aramaic phrases that fell from the lips of Jesus,  like the cry of dereliction from the cross (Mark 15:34),  suggests that he was writing especially to the Gentile Christians who would not have understood the native tongue of Palestine.

The contents of this Gospel are the most detailed account of the activity of Jesus that we have. Forty times Mark uses the word Euthus (straightway) and always follows it with a vivid account of some deed of Jesus.

The Gospel of Luke

Writer
Luke the Physician

Luke began his two-volume work with what we know as the third Gospel in our New Testament  (the second volume was the book of Acts).
According to The Muratorian Canon it is believed that the Gospel of Luke was  "compiled by Luke the physician, when,  after Christ's ascension,  Paul had taken him to be with him."
Luke is named by Paul as his companion in Philemon 24 & 11Timothy 4:11.
In Colossians 4:14 Luke is called the "beloved physician"
Luke's first contact, as far as we can tell,  must have been at Troas since he first includes himself  with the pronoun "we" at that point in Paul's second Missionary Journey (Acts 16:10).
He may have joined the Apostle because of Paul's illness (II Cor. 12:7)
Tracing the "we" passages in Acts, we find that:
1. Luke was with Paul again on the 3rd journey,  some 6 or 7 years later  (A.D. 57-58)
2. He returned with Paul to Jerusalem, where Paul was imprisoned.
(It is supposed that during the 2 years Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea,  Luke collected much of the material for his Gospel from the believers and Apostles in Jerusalem.)
3. He accompanied Paul on the trip to Rome.
4. The last words written about Luke in Scripture are a monument to his faithfulness,  and endear him to the hearts of  Christians who have felt the sting of persecution,  as Paul says from a cold Roman prison:  "Only Luke is with me."  (II Timothy 4:11)

Of the four,  Luke's Gospel is the most complete,  as he set out to compile  "an orderly account
(Luke 1:3).

Date
Probably between A.D. 58 & 68

If  Luke and Acts were a continuous story of  Christ and the early church,  then the Gospel must have been written first.  The account in Acts terminates abruptly while Paul is still in prison in Rome (A.D. 61),  before the fate of Paul had been decided

Many scholars believe that Luke used the Gospel of Mark as one of his sources,  thus requiring a date after Mark's Gospel in the late 60's.

Others assume that Luke had composed an earlier form of his Gospel about A.D. 58 based upon his contact with the "eye-witnesses and ministers of the word" (Luke 1:2)  during the time Paul was in Caesarea,  and that he later encountered Mark and other sources which he used to compile his  "orderly account."

Theme - Jesus as Savior

More than any other Gospel,  Luke recorded a detailed historical account from all reliable sources available concerning the ministry and teaching of Jesus.

The theme is  "THE UNIVERSAL SAVIOR,"  and it seems his intention to reach the great multitudes of Greeks and Romans for Christ.

The Gospel of John

Writer
The disciple John, brother to the disciple James, formerly fishermen at Galilee referred to as the Sons of  Thunder

Although the disciple John does not explicitly name himself as the writer of this Gospel,  he is indicated as  "the beloved disciple".
John himself states that it was  "...the disciple whom Jesus loved ... this is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things." (John 21:20, 23)
The testimony of the Early Church is to the effect that this is John, the son of Zebedee, brother of James (cf. 21:2). And of the ancient church, Irenaeus is the chief witness.

Date
Probably between A.D. 80 & 90

According to historical tradition,  John spent his later years at Ephesus,  ministering,  preaching,  teaching,  and writing.  It was from Ephesus that he was exiled to the island of Patmos during the reign of the Emperor Domitian,  where he received the Revelation.

He seems to have knowledge of the other three Gospels, and for this reason is placed last in the series.
It was probably written between A.D. 80 & 90. Some have dated it even later.
The discovery of Egyptian fragments of the Gospel of John,  dated from A.D. 100- 150,  indicates that it must have been written before the end of the first century.

Theme

 
The three-fold emphasis: 1. "These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing, ye might have life through His name."
(John 20:31)
  2.  The exposure of  Judaism as an inadequate religious system that crowned its other sins by rejecting its promised and only Messiah.
  3. The refutation of  Docetism  (the denial of the humanity of Jesus).  
(John 1:14)

This Gospel is simple in both language and structure

yet it is one of the most profound expositions of the Person of Christ.

It combines a message for the humble disciple of  the Lord

with instruction for the most advanced theologian.

John is the Gospel designed for young believers to wade in as they become accustomed to the Water of Life.

At the same time,  there are unfathomable depths to swim that transcend the human intellect in the glories of the unfolding of the plans,  purposes,  and person of Jesus Christ.
A CORRELATION

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Matthew: To The Jew
1. Showing Jesus as the PROMISED MESSIAH,  of the seed of Abraham,  through the kingly line of David.
(Matt. 1:1)
2. Showing that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament predictions relating to the Messiah.
Note the recurring expression:  "This was done that it might be fulfilled."
(Matt. 1:22, 23; 2:5, 15, 17, 23; 3:3, 15; 4:14; etc.)
Mark: To The Romans
1. Presenting Jesus as the MIGHTY WORKER,  the faithful  "Servant of the Lord,”  doing the will of God perfectly.
2. There is no genealogy in Mark,  for one is not interested in the pedigree of a  "servant."
3. There is hardly a reference to the Old Testament,  as the Romans were familiar with neither the Old Testament Scriptures,  nor the prophecies of the Messiah.
4. The Keynote of Mark is  "straightway"  &  "immediately".
(Mark 1:10, 12, 18, 20, 28, 29, 42, and 43: 2:2, 8, 12; etc.)
Luke: To The Greeks
1. Portraying Jesus as the PERFECT MAN.
The Greeks idolized humanity,  and the humanity of Jesus Christ is especially emphasized in the Gospel of Luke.
2. He is the Son of Man.
3. His genealogy is traced through Adam, the first man  (Luke 3:38).
4. His human attributes and characteristics are prominent.
He is the Ideal Man,  the Perfection of Manhood.
4. Not only A son of man, but THE Son of man.
John: To The Church
1. Showing Jesus as the PROMISED MESSIAH,  of the seed of Abraham,  through the kingly line of David.
(Matt. 1:1)
2. Showing that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament predictions relating to the Messiah.
Note the recurring expression:  "This was done that it might be fulfilled."
(Matt. 1:22, 23; 2:5, 15, 17, 23; 3:3, 15; 4:14; etc.)
   

* * * * * *
 
Matthew Presents the DISCOURSES or teachings of Jesus Christ.
Mark Rapid outline survey of the history of Jesus,  dealing mainly with the GALILEAN  MINISTRY
Luke Complements Matthew and Mark,  and supplements them by tracing what is not otherwise omitted.  The ministry in PEREA is especially emphasized.
John Presents the highest reflective view of the eternal Word in the Son, dealing almost exclusively with the JERUSALEM MINISTRY.

* * * * * *
 
Matthew Past Sets forth the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies.
Mark Present Manifests the life and activity characteristic of the Roman mind.
Luke Future Portrays the universal and comprehensive character of the Gospel destined to embrace all the Gentile nations.
John Eternal Presents the Gospel in its absolute perfection as related to the Father in eternity.

* * * * * *
 
Matthew A Profile Showing Jesus in clear-cut outline against the background of Old Testament history,  prophecy,  promise,  and type as the promised Messiah.
Mark A Steel Engraving The very straight-forwardness and directness of the inspired artist,  and His boldness of description,  leaves an irresistible impression of the powerful One Who is able to save to the uttermost.
Luke A Half-Tone The strong light of divinity is sifted,  and in a sense moderated,  as it passes through the fine lines of humanity,  showing Jesus as
the Son of Man
,
the Friend of sinners,
the Elder Brother Who can restore us to the love of the Father.
John A Life-Size Portrait The one who was closest to Jesus paints a picture of Him as the loving heart of faith is bound to see Him.  His divinity and His humanity rounded out into the completeness that experience gives,  to whom is unfolded the whole secret of life and salvation.
FOUR-FOLD PORTRAIT OF THE MESSIAH

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Matthew King   (Isa. 32:1;   Jer. 23:5;   Zech. 9:9)

This title includes the particulars of the Kingdom:
its nature,
extent,
growth,
subjects,
glory, and
strength.

It fully agrees Matthew's Gospel,  whose very aim is to show Jesus Christ as the

King of Israel,
Founder of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Therefore, the genealogy in Matthew is traced back through the royal kingly line of David.

The  "kingdom of heaven"  is referred to 16 times in Matthew.

 
Mark Servant   (Isa. 42:1-7;   Isa. 53;   Ezek. 34:23)
Jesus is portrayed as the Servant of God - the One doing God's service and will.

Jesus is the

Sin-bearer,
Sacrifice,
Law keeper,
Prophet,
Priest, and
Teacher.

This agrees with the purpose of Mark's Gospel,  which is Service,  and which is characterized by the words "straightway" and "immediately."

Therefore,  no attention is paid to the matter of genealogy,  for we are not interested in the pedigree of a servant. Mark plunges at once into the activities of the life and ministry of Jesus.

 
Luke Son Of Man Humanity (Isa. 7:14;    Isa. 9;6;    Dan. 7:13)
In these passages the Messiah is presented as being
genuine man,
with a human nature like ours

with the exception of course is sin,  which,  by the way,  is not an integral part of human nature as originally created.

In Luke Jesus Christ is presented pre-eminently as

the Son of Man,
the Ideal Man.
The genealogy is traced up through Adam.

Characteristic of this Gospel is the phrase:  "Handle me, and see."

 
John Son Of God Deity (Isa. 9:6;    Isa 47:4;    Dan. 3:25)
In these prophetic scriptures the Messiah is set forth as Jehovah Himself.
He is equal with God,
One with God,
Really God.

This is in complete harmony with John's Gospel.  As John himself says:  "But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God"  (Jn 20:31).   See also Jn 1:1-14

 
THE FOUR CHERUBIC SYMBOLS IN THEIR RELATION TO THE GOSPELS

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Lion - stands for kingly majesty represented by MATTHEW
Ox - speaks of patient service corresponds with MARK
Man's Face - expressing humanity as in LUKE
Eagle - with its soaring wing, lofty flight and divine majesty is in harmony with JOHN

NOTE: 

Three of these living creatures WALK ON THE EARTH
so the  "synoptics" (Matthew, Mark, Luke) tell of Christ's life on the earth.
John soars as an eagle ABOVE THE CLOUDS of human infirmity
and reveals to us the mystery of the Godhead.

KEY TO THE FOURFOLD GOSPEL

Gospel Written To Shows Jesus As Records Main Thought Prominent Word
Matthew
Lion-King
Jews Messiah-King Discourses Kingship Fulfilled
Mark
Ox, Servant
Romans Servant of God Miracles Service Straightway
Luke
Human
Greeks Perfect Man Parables Humanity Compassion
John
Eagle
Church Son of  God Discourses Deity Believe

NOTE:  Information on the Correlation taken from  “Outline Study of the Bible”  by William Evans  –  Moody Press.

Click on MAP to see the Kingdom of Herod the Great,  as it was divided during the ministry of Jesus Christ.

(End of the Introduction)

Bibliography

 


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