Book of Matthew

 

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Matthew, one of the twelve apostles, is the accepted writer of this Bible book although he is not named as such in the account. His name means in Hebrew “Gift of Jehovah,” and he was a tax collector for the Roman government when he became a follower of Jesus. His account of Jesus’ life was written in the Greek language although some scholars say it was originally written in Hebrew and later translated by him into Greek, but it was intended for Jewish readers. This would explain why he traced Jesus’ descent back to Abraham, why he uses more quotations and allusions from the Hebrew Scriptures than any other writer and why he does not explain any of the Jewish customs that he mentions as does the writer of the book of Mark.

Matthew stresses the kingdom as the theme of Jesus’ preaching mentioning it more than fifty times. His account is not written in strict chronological order other than the last ten chapters (19-28) that outlines Jesus’ Judean ministry up to his death. Nearly half of the information found in the book of Matthew is not found in any other gospel account including ten parables. Matthew traces Jesus’ life from birth to just before his ascension to heaven. It is not known for a certainty when Matthew wrote his gospel account.

 

 

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Book of Mark

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Mark, whose surname is John, was not one of the twelve apostles but he is credited with writing this account of Jesus’ life, which is the shortest of the four accounts. He was, however, associated with the apostles early in the Christian era as his mother’s house was used as a meeting place for the disciples and is the place that Peter went after the angel released him from prison. (Acts 12:12) Early on Mark was closely associated with Peter and it is believed that he received the information used to write his account from Peter, as he was not an eyewitness to these events. (1 Peter 5:13) Mark is also identified by some as the “young man” who was following the crowd when Jesus was arrested and who had to flee when the crowd turned on him. (Mark 14:51, 52)

Some scholars believe that Mark was a Levite because he was a cousin of Barnabas and he accompanied him on the first missionary tour where because he did not continue with them but returned to his home caused Paul to refuse to take him on the second tour. But later Mark gained Paul’s trust and Paul requested that Timothy bring him when he came to see Paul because he would be of use to him in the ministry. (2 Timothy 4:11)

Mark’s style of writing is terse and to the point in that he stresses facts and actions rather than narratives or topics. He is more concerned with what Jesus did rather than what he said. Therefore he omits the Sermon on the Mount and some of Jesus’ parables. His account is one of fast action and his use of the word, “immediately” more than 30 times when making transitions from one event to another gives the impression of events happening very quickly.

As with Matthew’s account, it is difficult to determine when Mark wrote his account, but scholars believe it was the first one penned, that it was written from Rome and was written for non-Jewish readers. Some of the reasons given are that 1) Mark explained to his readers any references he made to Jewish customs, 2) he translated any Aramaic words he used, 3) his use of certain borrowed Latin words and 4) the fact that he makes very few references to the Law of Moses.

 

 

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Book of Luke

 

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The book of Luke is the longest of the gospel accounts and reflects a more scholarly approach than used by the other writers. Some scholars have compared this Bible book with some of the finest of Classical Greek literature. Luke was a physician so was well educated and is believed to have been a Gentile who converted to Christianity in Antioch, Syria. (Colossians 4:14) He uses more than 300 medical terms in his writing and describes certain diseases in a way that only a physician would.

Since Luke was not an eyewitness to the events of Jesus life, he tells us that he did “a careful investigation tracing accurately all the details in order to write an orderly account” for the person to whom he was directing his writing, Theophilus. Theophilus was a convert to Christianity but had been orally taught so Luke sought to write the facts down for him to read to strengthen his faith and to counter some false stories about Jesus that may have been circulating at this time. His work would also have a more universal appeal to both Jews and Greeks.

He traces Jesus ancestry back to Adam, rather than just to Abraham as Matthew had done but he also stresses to his readers that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah of the Jews. His account also highlights Jesus’ kindness to people of all classes especially women, the poor, the outcasts and the weak. His account of Jesus life is the most comprehensive of the accounts and contains twenty of Jesus’ miracles and twenty-three parables, most of which do not appear in other accounts. He also emphasized prayer and his account list eleven of the fifteen different times that Jesus is recorded as praying.

He was also a close associate of the Apostle Paul and probably traveled with him on one of his missionary journeys. He was also with Paul during his imprisonment in Rome and probably remained with him until his death. In Philemon 24, Paul refers to Luke as his “fellow-worker.” Luke probably wrote his gospel account between 56 and 58 CE after returning from a missionary tour with the Apostle Paul and when Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea while waiting to be taken to Rome.

 

 

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Book of John

 

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John’s account of Jesus’ life was written later than Matthew, Mark, and Luke and is unlike these books in that it differs in form and content from them. Most of the information presented in his writings is unique to his book and is not found in the other accounts. He includes none of Jesus’ parables and only seven of his miracles, five of which only he reports. The main emphasis of his writing is to prove that Jesus was the christ, the son of God. (John 20:31) At the time that John wrote his gospel, there were many false teachers who were teaching that Jesus was not the son of God but merely a human. He stressed the importance of belief in Jesus using the word ninety-eight times throughout his book.

John was a fisherman and became a disciple of Jesus along with his brother, James, the two of whom Jesus called the “sons of thunder.” (Mark 3:17) He was also known as the “disciple that Jesus loved.” He was included among the three disciples that Jesus took with him on the mountain when the transfiguration occurred. He was also the one to whom Jesus entrusted his mother when he was dying on the stake. John is thought to have been related to Jesus as their mothers may have been sisters.

John’s gospel account is unique also in the respect that the length of Jesus’ ministry can be determined because he shows that Jesus celebrated the Jewish Passover four times. John uses a very simple and forthright manner of writing that is easy to understand. He uses contrasts such as light and darkness, truth and falsehood, and good and bad. He also reports the fact that Jesus used many commons things from ordinary life such as water, bread, light, the vine and sheep to teach spiritual things. Many of the teachings of Jesus as reported by John were not intended for the crowds but for his disciples only.

 

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