How do the Gospels fit together? Which gospel is first and which next? Which one was the original? What are the distinctives?
Matthew, Mark & Luke) have more similarities and are called the synoptic gospels. Synoptic meaning seen together (syn – in sync) and seen, or viewed (optic). These three are the most in parallel. Many sections have the same wording. How is that possible? It comes from the shared oral tradition.
There are differences too. Take careful note of the differences for this is where each writer’s distinctives are found.
Matthew’s is a Jewish Gospel, focuses on Jesus as the King of Jews. He is concerned for new believers and orders the words of Jesus so we will know how to live as disciples.
Mark’s is the first and shortest Gospel and shows Jesus as Son of Man. He focuses on the miracles and things Jesus did. It’s the high action gospel to bring you to faith.
Luke’s is written for the Gentiles and depicts Jesus as Saviour of the World. His is the orderly, systematic and organized Gospel.
John writes the last gospel and sees Jesus as Son of God. He focuses on older believers and wants to encourage them to believe/trust in Jesus and find eternal life.
Matthew and John write for believers but also that unbelievers might believe. Mark and Luke write primarily for non-believers.
It helps to bear in mind who the person is writing each gospel. Their experience and background add much to the understanding of what they wrote and the perspective they gained. And of course their purpose for writing. Sometimes it is openly stated and sometimes it is for you work out.
Luke knew Mark in Rome (Col 4:10, Col 4:14; Phm 1:24). He may have met him in Palestine also. Most modern commentators conclude that both Matthew and Luke had Mark before them. Luke has followed the order of Mark very closely. But it cannot be said that Luke has slavishly stuck to Mark, if he had this Gospel before him. He gives his own touch to each incident and selects what best suits his purpose. The parallel between Luke and Mark in the narrative portion is easily seen in any Harmony of the Gospels.
Matthew and Luke have shared elements that are not found in Mark. Clearly they have derived them from a common source because there are word for word similarities in some cases. Is this source a written document called Q (Quelle) or is it reflective of the oral tradition behind the words? Mark has less of Jesus words, i.e. what He said. Mark does not cover the birth of Jesus or Jesus early years. Matthew and Luke make changes to Mark’s text and the order. There are a number of small elements that vary, one liner inclusions, frequency of quotes from the Old Testament, use of parables and sermons. Matthew and Luke use the extra material in different ways. Matthew disperses it through his gospel. Luke arranges it in two large chunks.
There are two large blocks of material from Lk 6:20 – 8:3 and then from 9:51 through 18:14 which are Luke’s alone. Experts call these blocks the greater (9:51-18:14) and the lesser interpolation (6:20 – 8:3). There are various theories concerning this feature of Luke. Some critics hold that Luke has here put a mass of material which he had left over, so to speak, and which he did not know where to locate, without any notion of order. Alternatively we have to accept Luke’s on comment that he wrote an ordered account. this section of Luke that the best parts of his Gospel are found (the parables of the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, the Pharisee and the Publican, etc.). “The more we consider this collection, the more we are entranced with it. It is the very cream of the Gospel, and yet (strange to say) it is peculiar to Luke”. These sections require focused attention.
God does not intend any sentence in the Gospels to be understood as though any other sentence in them were not true.John Piper
Sometimes what you DO NOT say has more impact than what you DO say.Jose Carol
We can’t watch TV for 3 hrs then read the Bible for 3 min & expect to grow spiritually.Rick Warren