UNDERSTANDING YOUR FAITH: The Gospels

By Vic Scarvilli


Jesus is best summarized in the New Testament books known as the four gospels. Gospel, meaning good news, is where we learn of the life, teachings, and fulfillment of the salvation plan of God through His Son.

Our knowledge of Jesus is derived from four parallel writings. These gospels are named after their authors: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These writings are the heart of all Scriptures because they are the principle source of our teachings given to us by Christ.

The gospels were not written immediately after the Resurrection of Jesus. The apostles and their ordained successors spread the Good News of Jesus by preaching. Oral Tradition was the authoritative source used to preserve and proclaim the truths Christ taught His disciples.

Why was information about Jesus passed on orally for so long? First, the Church was just beginning; it was a gradual process before believers grasped the full impact of Jesus. Second, early believers thought Jesus would soon return. Third, Christianity was unpopular and persecuted in many areas so writings were not popular.

As the years went by, the believers began to realize Jesus might not return for a long while and saw a need to preserve their recollections of Jesus in writing. Collections of miracle stories, sayings of Jesus along with prayers, narratives, testimonies, hymns, and professions of faith were written down.

Beginning approximately thirty years after the Jesus’ resurrection, some people, including the four evangelists, began to compile the Oral Traditions and recollections of Jesus and to write unified accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry. Each of these writers adapted his writing to meet the situations and circumstances of his specific audiences.

The apostle, Matthew wrote his gospel in Palestine for Christians converted from Judaism. His emphasis was on Jesus’ Jewish background and how He is the long awaited Messiah. Matthew’s gospel contains more sayings of Jesus than any of the other gospels.

Mark, who was not an apostle but rather an assistant of Paul and a spokesman of Peter, wrote the shortest of the gospels and focuses more on the active ministry of Jesus than on His teachings. This gospel was probably written to Roman Christians where he urges us to put our faith in the Son of God and to share our faith with others.

Luke, a medical man and originally a pagan, accompanied Paul in his journeys and wrote two New Testament books. The gospel is the first half of his two-part work that included the Acts of the Apostles. Luke tells us he was not an eyewitness to the events of Jesus’ ministry but rather uses the testimonies of others to develop his gospel.

John, the apostle, wrote the last gospel in approximately 95 AD after writing the Book of Revelation. He used a very different writing style from the other three gospels. John uses symbols to present the different messages of Jesus. He also writes about the Oral Traditions not used by the other three gospel writers.

No books have touched the hearts and lives of people so dramatically as have the four gospels. These books give us four inspired portraits of Jesus. In them, we encounter and learn of our Lord and Savior.

The Writings of Vic Scaravilli

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