Why are the Gospels similar yet different? To answer this question let us understand how the Bible is compiled. First of all, the Gospels are the transition between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Bible is divided in to 3 sections and the Gospels are found right in the middle. These are the accounts of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection and the many miracles he performed from different perspectives to reach different audiences. The New Testament actually begins from the Book of Acts and goes to the book of Revelation.
The Gospel of Matthew
The first Gospel was written by Matthew. He was a tax collector and was called by Jesus to be his disciple. It was written approximately between A.D. 50 to 70. Its time span represents about 37 years from 4 B.C. to A.D. 33. Jesus was passing by and called Matthew to eat with him and other tax collectors.
And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. – Matthew 9:9 KJV
Since Matthew was a Jew and very familiar with the Law of Moses there are many Old Testament references used. He wanted to show the Jews that Jesus was the ONE who was prophesied by many previous prophets. He was the “Messiah” promised to Israel. His focus was to tell of His birth, life, death and resurrection.
The Gospel of Mark
The Gospel of Mark is one of the shortest Gospels. The author is John Mark but he was called Mark. It was written approximately A.D. 50 to 70. It spans about 3 1/2 years between A.D. 29 – 33. The interesting thing is that Mark was not a disciple of Jesus. Most of his preaching came from Peter. He did spend some time with Paul and Barnabas but once they separated from Paul he remained with Peter.
(37) And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. (38) But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. (39) And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; – Acts 15:37-39 KJV
Mark focused on writing to the Romans. They were a society focused on victories and conquering the world. Mark enticed them and spoke to them about Jesus the “King“, the victories He won against darkness and the power he used to achieve it. There are many accounts of healings, miracles and deliverances. The last chapter is the mandate or more commonly known as the “Great Commission“, Jesus gave to all to preach the Gospel to every creature.
The Gospel of Luke
The Gospel of Luke is very detailed and the longest of the Gospels. It was written approximately between A.D. 58 to 70. Its time span is about 38 years from 5 B.C – A.D. 33. The author’s name is Theophilus but we know him as Luke. Luke was not a disciple of Jesus either. He was a disciple of the Apostle Paul. He was a Greek descendant and a physician so this is why you read a lot of detail in this book. His focus was reaching the Greeks and presented Jesus as the “Son of Man“. The Greeks were always seeking knowledge and perfection. Jesus was this person who was perfect in every way and full of wisdom.
And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. – Luke 2:40 KJV
The Gospel of John
The Gospel of John is uniquely different in many ways: style, structure, use of personal interviews, lack of parables, and spiritual explanations of events. It was written approximately A.D. 85 to 96. Its time span is about 3 1/2 years between A.D. 29 to 33. The author’s name is John, son of Zebedee. Jesus surnamed John and his brother James as Boanerges which is the “Sons of Thunder“. John was a disciple of Jesus and he often referred to himself as the one whom Jesus loved. His focus was reaching the gentiles and expanding spiritual aspects to the believers. He presented Jesus as the “Son of God” and emphasized his relationship to the Father as he teaches, heals, prays and ministers.
I and my Father are one. – John 10:30 KJV
Together these 4 books make the transition between the Old and the New Testament. As it was mentioned earlier, the New Testament begins in the Book of Acts after the Apostles received power from the Holy Spirit in Acts chapter 2.
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. (2) And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. (3) And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. (4) And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. – Acts 2:1-4 KJV
So if we remember who the particular audience was that the writers were reaching it makes sense why there are certain aspects that appear more prevalent.
- Matthew – written to the Jews
- Mark – written to the Romans
- Luke – written to the Greeks
- John – written to the church and gentiles