What is the redemptive value of the Gospels? How do they help us almost two thousand years after they were written? Are the Gospels even relevant for today’s readers?
While the Gospels and the rest of the Bible are considered ancient documents, the fact that the Bible is the perenial best-seller of all time conveys the fact that people are still reading them. There is no question as to the Gospels’ continued popularity. They are read every week in churches and homes all over the world, in almost every known language.
One of the ways in which the Gospels could be considered redemptive is that they provide the reader with a historical perspective on God and His plan of salvation. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are four historical accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus. They provide first-hand, and in some cases, eyewitness accounts of Jesus in action. Luke, for example, provides a glimpse of his research and writing methods. He mentions reports that were circulating among the early Church. These were likely both oral and written. Luke also refers to eyewitness accounts. Luke’s Gospel provides the longest and most detailed account of both John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ birth. The vivid details of these stories make many scholars believe that Luke obtained them by interviewing Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Luke was not one of Jesus’ Twelve Disciples and likely did not have any contact with Jesus during His earthly ministry. Mark was not one of the Twelve, either. Early Church tradition, though, links Mark very closely with the Apostles Peter and Paul. The Church Father Papias stated that Mark was Peter’s interpreter (translator?) and recorded his messages and sermons. These became the basis for his Gospel. If this is the case, the Gospel of Mark is based on the eyewitness accounts of Peter.
Both Matthew and John, however, were numbered with the Twelve. While there are many scholars who dispute the traditional authorship of the Gospels, there are many others that affirm it. While both of these men relied on their own memories of their time with Jesus, they both take vastly different approaches. Matthew and Luke both use almost all of Mark’s Gospel in their accounts. They then added supplemental material. John, however, uses a completely different template. John appears interested in telling stories that the other three writers did not.
While all four Gospels are unique and view Jesus’ life through the lens of their particular author, there are several things that are common to all of them. First of all, Jesus was a real man. Secondly, they all agree that He was also divine. Thirdly, they all convey some of His teaching and miracles. And lastly, all four Gospels agree that Jesus was crucified by the Romans and physically rose from the dead on the third day.
The historicity of the Gospels has been and will continue to be debated. Each person will have to examine the evidence and come to their own conclusions in this regard. The Gospels themselves portray God stepping into history in the Person of Jesus. Whether or not someone accepts that is a decision that can have far reaching consequences.
To be continued…
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