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Comparing the Gospels--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

Updated on January 6, 2017
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The word gospel means good news, and is a term used to define the written accounts of Jesus of Nazareth. The four widely known gospels are the canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. However the term can also refer to the apocryphal gospels, non-canonical gospels, the Jewish gospels, and the gnostic gospels. There are several accounts of Jesus that are not recognized or accepted by orthodox Christians, however the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are going to be my primary focus.

Despite the gospel of Matthew being the first book in the new testament, the majority view today is that Mark was actually the first gospel followed by Matthew and then Luke. It is believed that Matthew and Luke borrowed passages from Mark's gospel and one other source lost to history. This view is known as the two-source hypothesis.

Due to Matthew and Luke borrowing passages from Mark these three gospels are known as the synoptic gospels. Synoptic means having the same view, and if you read the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke you will understand why they are considered the synoptic gospels. John was the only author who actually knew Jesus and his gospel takes a different view than the first three. John's gospel follows a very different time line and does not share much content with the other gospels in general. The gospel of John uses different verbiage, and style of writing and was actually rejected by the orthodox Christians for a long time. Today, it is widely accepted and is the favorite gospel by most conservative Christians.

Below you will find a comparison table that helps to better visualize the differences and similarities between the four gospels.

 
Mark
Matthew
Luke
John
Writer
A second generation Christian, possibly a follower of Peter
An unknown Jewish Christian, traditionally the Apostle Matthew
A Gentile Christian, traditionally Luke the physician and Paul's traveling companion
The "beloved disciple" the Apostle John
Date Written
65-70 CE
75-80 CE
80-85 CE
90-110 CE
Who is Jesus?
Healer, Miracle Worker, Teacher, Misunderstood by those closest to Him
Promised Messiah of Jewish people, greatest prophet, teacher of the "new law" calling people to be faithful of the Old Testament covenant with God
Merciful, Compassionate, Prayerful teacher with special concern for women, the poor, and non-Jews (Gentiles)
Noble, Powerful divine--fully in control of His destiny
The Author's Community
A Gentile Christian community in Rome undergoing persecution
A Jewish Christian community
Written to "Theophilus"
Jews, Gentiles, and Samaritans
Hisotrical Situation
The Romans subdue armed Jewish rebellions. Christians experiencing persecution in Rome
Written after Romans had destroyed all of Jerusalem
Written when the persecution of Jews and Christians was intensifying
Jewish leaders banned Christians from the synagogues
Where the books were written
Rome
Most likely Antioch of Syria
Possibly Rome or Caesarea
Probably written in Ephesus


Definitions to Remember:

  • Covenant: Agreement between God and His people
  • Testament: Bears witness to
  • Canonical: Official 27 books of the New Testament
  • Non-Canonical: Books deemed unnecessary for New Testament; separate from the apocalypse
  • Apocalypse: Anonymous Jewish or Christian texts containing prophetic or symbolic visions that did not make it into the bible
  • Theophilus: Lover of God


This table is a great way to see the similarities between the three synoptic gospel authors, as well as see how they differ from each other and the apostle John. Learning about the authors can greatly help us understand how and why they wrote their gospels the way they did.

The gospel of John was the only gospel written by a follower of Jesus. The other three writers were followers of Jesus's apostles, and likely never met Jesus for themselves. Despite each gospel being written in different time periods and in completely different historical situations and locations, they have similar story lines and ideas of Jesus' life.

Below is a map that shows where each of the gospels was most likely written. Despite the time frame between each gospel and distance between each location the gospels are uniquely similar yet tell their own portrayal of Jesus and His story.

Locations where the gospels were written

show route and directions
A markerAntioch of Syria -
Lake Amik, Turkey
get directions

Location where the gospel of Matthew was written.

B markerRome -
Via Giovanni Amendola, 18-30, 00185 Rome, Italy
get directions

Location where the gospel of Mark was written

C markerCaesarea -
6511, Caesarea Maritima, Israel
get directions

Possibly the location where Luke wrote his gospel

D markerEphesus -
Efes Harabeleri, 35920 Izmir Province, Turkey
get directions

Location believed to be where the gospel of John was written.

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    • profile image

      Derian Llewelyn 5 years ago

      Nice. This is far better then mine on the subject :)

    • Shesabutterfly profile image
      Author

      Cholee Clay 5 years ago from Wisconsin

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting Derian Llewelyn.

    • KJhusak profile image

      KJhusak 5 years ago from Akron

      Very informative!(: Definitely learned something new!

    • Shesabutterfly profile image
      Author

      Cholee Clay 5 years ago from Wisconsin

      Glad you found new information KJhusak. I think the background of each gospel is a great way to help put the events in place.

    • FSlovenec profile image

      Frank Slovenec 4 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Well done..this gives a good view of the Gospels...thank you

    • savvydating profile image

      savvydating 3 years ago

      Nicely done. I would have liked for your article to have been a bit longer... simply because it was truly interesting. Nonetheless, your hub gives us a good overview of all gospels; it piques the attention so that we want to know more. I loved your graph! Voting Interesting.

    • Shesabutterfly profile image
      Author

      Cholee Clay 3 years ago from Wisconsin

      savvydating-Thanks for the comment and vote, they are greatly appreciated. I've been considering writing another hub about the gospel's, and connecting the thoughts and ideas to this hub :)

    • savvydating profile image

      savvydating 3 years ago

      You should, Sheabutterfly. But, I know it's a lot of work because the subject matter carries a lot of information, and it's sort of hard to pare it all down. Well, I should say... it's hard for me. You might find it easier.

    • profile image

      jay 3 years ago

      your sight helped me with my studies about the Bible and also helped me learn a lot more about the gosples… thank you!!!!

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