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Why does the Bible have four gospels?

The gospels are four books in the Bible that give an account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. These books are right at the beginning of the New Testament and called Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each of these gospels add their own unique perspective and details to the overall portrait of Jesus. Without these four gospels, we wouldn't have as much information on Jesus. Additionally, these multiple accounts add credibility to Jesus' claims to be the Son of God. But let's back up and get a better overview on why four gospels are important.

The gospels give us a fuller picture of Jesus.

Each author had a different audience and emphasis in mind when they wrote their gospel. Matthew was writing to a Jewish audience, Mark was writing to a Gentile (non-Jewish) audience, Luke was writing to Theophilus, a Gentile of high repute, and John was writing to all people. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the "Synoptic gospels" due to their similarities and their combined summary of Christ's life. All of these perspectives together help give us a more complete picture of Jesus as a person.

Jesus' Fulfillment of Old Testament Prophecy: Matthew

Matthew’s gospel focuses on Jesus' fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies about a coming Messiah or Savior. He lays out the genealogy of Jesus' ancestors in Matthew 1, tracing Christ's lineage all the way back to Abraham, and proving Jesus to be the "Son of David" (Matthew 21:9; Matthew 9:27) who was prophesied to be the one true king of Israel.

Jesus as the Suffering Servant: Mark

Mark was a cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10), as well as a friend of Peter, and a firsthand witness to Jesus' life. Mark's main audience was the Gentiles, shown by his lack of details that would be important to the Jews (heavy Old Testament referencing, Christ's lineage, etc.). Instead, Mark emphasized how Jesus was the suffering servant who came to serve, not be served, "and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45). (Check out our 412teens Bible study on the book of Mark HERE.)

Jesus' Life as Reliable History: Luke

Luke’s gospel is attested to be historically true and reliable. Luke was a "beloved" doctor (Colossians 4:14), a respected historian, and the only Gentile author in the New Testament. He made it his responsibility to accurately record what he learned from eyewitnesses to Jesus' life (Luke 1:1-4). He addressed his gospel to Theophilus, also a Gentile, with the desire to present historically credible reasons for trusting in Jesus Christ. He presents Jesus as the “Son of Man” to place a spotlight on the fact that Jesus is 100% God and 100% man.

Jesus as the Son of God: John

John focuses on the deity of Jesus and the meaning of faith instead of on the biographical or historical importance of Jesus. John's gospel opens with a description of Jesus before He was born into humanity (John 1:14) and documents moments where Jesus announces His Oneness with God (John 8:58; Exodus 3:13-14). John's book captures the people's acknowledgement of Jesus as the divine Savior of the world (John 4:42; John 20:28) while simultaneously defending the fullness of Jesus' humanity. John writes with the purpose of showing that Jesus is God (John 1:1) and that, if we accept Him, we can have life in His Name (John 20:30-31).

We can't know everything about Jesus, but these four different accounts give us a very well-rounded view of who He really is.

The Gospels: a Cross Examination for Truthfulness

Deuteronomy 19:15 says, "A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established." Even back in Old Testament times, there was an established law that two or three witnesses were required to verify the accuracy of an event or a statement. If we only had one gospel, it would not stand up under the scrutiny of the many critics of the Christian faith.

The gospels provide four separate eyewitness accounts with different writing styles, different details, and different audiences to communicate about the singular life of Jesus.

According to Simon Greenleaf, a respected figure on what is and isn't acceptable in the court of law, having multiple testimonies that differ in detail yet ultimately agree on the core question strengthens the credibility of the event. If the gospels all covered the exact same details, then the accounts would actually be considered less trustworthy and suspicious, because that would make it look like the writers collaborated to "get their stories straight." Instead, we have four accounts from writers of different cultural and professional backgrounds all verifying Jesus to be the prophesied Savior and the Son of God.

Each gospel holds hidden treasures.

Learning about Jesus in the gospels is like finding hidden treasure. In the different gospel accounts, some passages may not explain every situation fully. For example, in Matthew 14, Jesus tells His disciples to go across to the other side while He sends the crowd away. But why? Matthew doesn’t tell us.

But Mark does expound on this event. In Mark 6, we learn that the disciples had just returned from casting out demons and healing people of different illnesses. And, well, the disciples' egos had gotten a little inflated, as they came back telling Jesus what He should do (Matthew 14:15). So Jesus sent them across to the other side of the Sea of Galilee to teach them two lessons. While the disciples were crossing over to the other side, a huge storm broke out, and they were terrified. Jesus met them out there, walking on the water, and when they called out to Him for help, He calmed the storm (Mark 6:48-50).

The lessons Jesus taught there were: 1. They can do nothing in their own power, and 2. Nothing is impossible if they call on God's power and rely on Him in faith. The same teaching still rings true for us today. There are many similar stories spanning all four gospels, and each of them carry jewels of wisdom to discover.

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TL;DR

God gave us four gospels to help us know Him better, to give us a more complete picture of Jesus, to show the gospel accounts are trustworthy, and to enhance our discovery of treasures of wisdom within the gospels. Matthew shows how Jesus is the true King and Messiah spoken of in Old Testament prophecy (Matthew 21:9). Mark emphasizes how Jesus is the suffering servant (Mark 10:45). Luke’s gospel presents a solid historical account for why Jesus is Truth (Luke 1:1-4). John is written with the purpose of highlighting Jesus’ divinity and showing that if you believe in Him, you will have life through His Name (John 20:30-31). The differences in these four gospels attest to their genuineness. If they were all 100% the same, that would actually be suspicious. As it is, the four gospels offer us four unique pieces of the overall portrait of Jesus’ life.

By: Vivian Bricker

Vivian loves learning, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She is dedicated to helping people learn more about Jesus and is ready to help in any way she can. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, cooking, drawing, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, you can find her soaking up the sunshine or going on an adventure.

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