Simple Things to Know About the Gospels

28 Jul

Many people feel they don’t have enough knowledge of the bible to lead teen or adult faith-sharing groups.

But Jesus teaches in stories, parables, and saying that almost all of us can understand. In fact, an ability to remember and narrate events develops in children as they start school. “And then, and then, and then,” they recount, putting happenings in sequence.

We can read the bible; it’s meant for all of us.

The work of scholars can help us deepen our understanding and know more about Jesus’ time.

Simple Things to Know About the Gospels

The four gospels narrate four accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. In earlier centuries theologians tried to harmonize the four gospels into one composite story. Today we value the distinct portrait of Jesus that each gospel draws. Jesus is:

  • a dynamic prophet and healer in Mark’s gospel
  • a teacher and lawgiver in Matthew’s gospel
  • a Spirit-filled prophet who brings good news to the poor in Luke’s gospel
  • Wisdom incarnate in John’s gospel.

Each evangelist writes in different decades for unique communities.

About AD70 Mark writes for fear-filled Christians, either those who fled Jerusalem ahead of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 or those in crisis in Rome after the martyrdoms of both Paul and Peter.  Because the original eyewitnesses have been martyred or are growing old by this time, Mark gathers together oral traditions and writes them down for future generations.

About AD 85, Matthew writes for Gentiles, seekers like the magi, who believe in Jesus and his new law as a result of the apostles’ preaching to the ends of the earth. He follows Mark’s narrative and adds many more of Jesus’ sayings.  He organizes many of the sayings into Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Matthew emphasizes that forgiveness and mutual love make Christian communities work.

Also about AD 85 Luke writes for educated Gentiles who want a formal, orderly, and inspiring account of Jesus’ whole life.  Luke uses Mark’s narrative and adds more sayings and stories, emphasizing Jesus as a man of prayer who challenges us to invest in the poor.

In the AD 90s John writes a unique narrative for a community that washes one another’s feet and proclaims that Jesus is the Word who, like Holy Wisdom in the Old Testament, was with God from the beginning.   Jesus is living water, living bread, the best wine, the light of the world, the resurrection and the life.

Which evangelist resonates with your faith community? your family? your friends?

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