The four New Testament (NT) gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John present four accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus. Bible scholars and historians assigned the gospel names and their authors as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John respectively. The three gospels, of Matthew, Mark and Luke are known as the Synoptic gospels.
The aim of this paper is to discuss the main themes and focuses of each of canonical gospels and show how they relate to reveal a complete picture of Jesus' life and work.
Matthew was one of the first twelve disciples. It would appear that his intended audience were Jews, and he presented Jesus mainly as the King, the Son of David and the promised Messiah-King. He records Jesus’ genealogy showing Jesus is descendant from the royal line of David. In (1:1), he also introduces Jesus as the Son of David. Matthew records more teaching concerning God’s kingdom, for example the entire Sermon on the Mount. The term “Kingdom of Heaven” appears 33 times and “Kingdom of God” 4 times. Matthew’s gospel is listed first in the NT because it seems that it is bridging the OT and NT, ushering the Jewish reader from the familiar OT story to Jesus in the NT. Matthew narrates the gospel to convince the Jewish audience of Jesus’ link with the Jewish history and Jesus’ fulfilment of OT prophesies.
The gospel is recognised as the “Teaching Gospel”. When Jesus teaches, he demonstrates His authority as King over physical, psychological, spiritual diseases and even over elements created by God. (5:17, 4:24, 8:1-17, 23-27) Jesus’ authority is recorded, (28:18-20) 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth....'
Mark is the shortest of the gospels, the probable intended audience were gentiles specifically in Rome and he presents Jesus mainly as the Servant. The gospel commences with Jesus as a grown up and does not record the birth and childhood and omits Jesus’ genealogy.
He translates the Aramaic phrases for his audience and uses more Latin and less OT quotations suggesting that he wrote for non-Jewish who did not understand the Jewish language.
Mark concentrated on Jesus' miraculous works and the gospel is also known as an “action” gospel because the language he uses is action packed. He uses phrases and words such as “immediately”, “at once”, “as soon as”, “quickly” stressing his focus on action. He writes with the aim of converting his audience by proving that Jesus is the Son of God, a Jesus of power and action.
Marks’ audience faced persecution and martyrdom and so he also writes to strengthen them. He needed to tell them that Jesus had also suffered, and had triumphed over suffering and death.
Luke was a doctor who got his information from many eye-witnesses. The book may have been commissioned by a non-Christian Roman official called Theophilus (1:3,4). Luke’s gospel also is a sequel to the book of Acts. This gospel is the longest of all NT books. It bridges the events between Christ and the establishment of the church. His genealogy traces Jesus' roots back to Adam versus genealogy tracing back to the Jewish Abraham. There appears to be evidence in Colossians 4:10-14 that Luke was a gentile, therefore suggesting his audience may have been gentiles and the only gentile to have his writings canonised. He portrays Jesus as saviour by including more distinct healing miracles and parables than the other gospels.
Luke records more narrative of the events, and he alone records John the Baptist’s parentage and records the longest period.
Luke emphasises that salvation is for all and more of Jesus at prayer. He may have wanted the gentiles to know that they had the same access to God and presents God’s grace as available to all.
Reading the NT gospels shows that the content and style between John and the Synoptic gospels is different....