The Four Gospels of the Bible (from the Greek for "good news") are the first four books of the New Testament. Two of the gospel accounts of Jesus are attributed to eyewitness accounts of two of His Apostles (Matthew and John) and two gospel accounts are attributed to disciples who did not know Jesus personally (Mark and Luke). There was no ambiguity among the early church fathers as to the authorship of the gospels, with their earliest writings attesting to our current titles. For additional information on each Gospel, see their individual entries.
The Gospels were originally written in Greek, the common lingua franca (common or commercial language among diverse peoples) of the Roman Orient. No original Gospels have been found in Aramaic; the only known Aramaic Gospels are translations from Greek versions. The general consensus is that the Gospel according to Matthew was written particularly for Jews; the Gospel according to Mark was written particularly for Romans; the Gospel according to Luke was written particularly for Greeks; and the Gospel according to John was written for everyone.
"Gospel" is derived from the Middle English word "godspel," in which "god" means "good" and "spel" means "news." Thus "Gospel" literally means "good news," and some denominations like to use the phrase "good news" because they feel it conveys the nature of the Gospel clearly. It is a translation of the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον (euangelion), which is also the root of the word "evangelist;" an evangelist is someone who spreads the good news. The "good news" here is, specifically, the news of Christ's redemption. The four Gospels offer different, yet complementary, accounts of the story of Jesus's life and teachings, and lay the foundation for the doctrine of Christ's redemption.
The relationship of the Gospels
Although Matthew comes first in Biblical order, since the nineteenth century the Gospel of Mark is widely agreed to be the oldest of the Gospels (see Bible: The Gospels). However, this view has more recently been disputed. The hypothesis of Marcan Priority holds that Matthew and Luke were probably compiled slightly later, drawing both from Mark, eyewitness accounts, and oral testimony. It is also possible that Matthew or Luke each used the other as a source as well, although which one would have come first is unknown. John is the last of the Gospels, the most theologically mature, and the strongest in its emphasis on God's loving sacrifice of his only son, Jesus, and the ways in which this sacrifice redeemed all mankind. The first three canonical Gospels are often called the "synoptic" (sighted with another) Gospels, as they tell slightly different versions of the same underlying story of Christ's life and ministry on earth.
Luke was said to have been a Greek physician (see Col 4:14) who accompanied Paul and also wrote the Acts of the Apostles describing the arrival of the Holy Spirit. Unlike the Gospels of Matthew and John, written as firsthand accounts, the Gospel of Luke records eyewitness accounts of others, much as a doctor asks a patient for his medical history and then writes it down in the medical file. Due to Luke's professional nature, his Gospel is very comprehensive about Jesus' life and resurrection, and it also conveys the great sense of joy that Jesus' family, friends and followers felt.
In addition to the four Canonical gospels, other texts claiming to record the accounts of Jesus's earthly ministry have survived in part or in whole. Most notable among these is the Gospel of Thomas, which contains additional sayings and teachings. Recently, a Gospel of Judas surfaced, but this text is decidedly a later one, and its claim for any original authority is very slim. These Gospels are considered apocryphal by modern Christianity, and therefore not authoritative texts.
A number of other "gospels" were written sometime between the second to the four centuries, most well after the dates when the disciples lived. They include: the Gospel of the Ebionites, Gospel of the Hebrews, Gospel of Marcion, Gospel of Mary, Gospel of Peter, Gospel of Thomas, Infancy Gospel of Thomas, and the Infancy Gospel of James.
Among fragments that still survive are the gospels according to the Hebrews (much prized by the early Jewish Church), according to the Egyptians, of the Ebionites, of Philip, of Matthias, of Peter, of Thomas (almost complete), of Nicodemus, of Bartholomew, of Pseudo-Melito, of Joseph of Arimathaea, of James, of Pseudo-Matthew, of Barnabas and a whole collection of infancy gospels.
Teachings of Jesus
The Teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ are found in the four Gospels and other holy documents. The New Testament Early Christian Writings.
- Gospel of Matthew - Book of Matthew Catholic version.
- Gospel of Mark - Book of Mark Catholic version.
- Gospel of Luke - Book of Luke Catholic version.
- Gospel of John - Book of John Catholic version.
- Sermon on the Mount
- Sermons of Jesus Christ
- Parables of Jesus Christ
- Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit
- The Twelve Apostles
- Symbols of the Holy Spirit
- Fruits of the Holy Spirit
- Aramaic Judaism, Jewish Aramaic Christianity, and John 1:1
- Essay: The superiority of the King James Bible: Looking through!
- Jewish Biblical way of interpretation: a solution for New Testament understanding
- First Century Aramaic Jewish Christian Gospel and poetry
- Introduction to the Gospels From Fausset's Bible Dictionary
- Introduction to the Gospels From New Testament Introduction by Louis Berkhof
- Introduction to the Gospels From New Testament Introduction by Louis Berkhof
- The Gospels on BibleStudyTools.com
- A Harmony of the Gospels
- The Life of Jesus Showing Coverage by All 4 Gospels
- The Life of Jesus Showing Coverage by Matthew
- The Life of Jesus Showing Coverage by Mark
- The Life of Jesus Showing Coverage by Luke
- The Life of Jesus Showing Coverage by John
- New Testament Time-line
- Jesus through the Fabric of our Lives
- Who can be saved? Who can not be saved?
- Eusebius relates the already-existing tradition in his day that Matthew wrote the first Gospel. In every manuscript of the New Testament, Matthew is always placed first, and for almost 1900 years the traditional view prevailed unchallenged that Matthew was the first Gospel written. This is called the Augustinian Hypothesis, which holds that Matthew was the first Gospel, written by Matthew the Evangelist. Mark, according to tradition a Roman, and a companion of Peter, was author of the second Gospel, but beginning in the 19th century Heinrich Julius Holtzmann together with other German scholars, abusing the literary tools of historical-critical methods in opposition to Christian tradition, declared on their authority as German scholars that Mark's gospel was the first to be written down, about A.D. 50. This theory is called "Marcan priority", and it was aggressively spread as part of Bismarck's anti-Catholic 'Kulturkampf' policy. See Kulturkampf and the Gospel, by John Beaumont
Church in History. The ChurchinHistory Information Centre. BISMARCK AND THE FOUR GOSPELS 1870 - 1914, by William R. Farmer (University of Dallas) Editor of A NEW CATHOLIC BIBLE COMMENTARY. The theory that Mark's Gospel was published before Matthew's is widely held in German and English speaking countries. This article shows how this theory, with little supporting evidence, came to be spread as part of Bismarck's anti-Catholic 'Kulturkampf' policy. BIBLIOTHECA EPHEMERIDUM THEOLOGICARUM LOVANIENSIUM. THE FOUR GOSPELS. 1992 (churchinhistory.org).
This view is widely held by liberal biblical scholars in German and English speaking countries. In the United States acceptance of Marcan Priority has often been a test of the "academic competency" of those faculty members who teach Biblical Studies.
See Mark's Gospel--Prior or Posterior?: A Reappraisal of the Phenomenon of Order, By David Neville
- Donald Harman Akenson, Surpassing Wonder: The Invention of the Bible and the Talmuds, 216.
- James. M.R, The Apocryphal New Testament (Clarendon, Oxford, 1924)