The 4 Gospels
The Four Gospels
The first time reading through the Gospels everything seems so simple, it is just a basic story of Jesus's life. But once you read through the first three gospels you will notice that they have a lot of overlap. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are known as the synoptic Gospels, because they share a lot of the same content, and some of the same style. John on the other hand is nothing like the other three. His syle of writing, and the events he portrays in the life of Christ have almost no overlap with the other three. Once you pick up on this you may find understanding Jesus's life story to be a bit trickier.
- Matthew: Written by one of the twelve disciples he was originally a tax collector before he started to follow Jesus. Matthew was written to a Jewish audience and has a lot of references to Jewish laws, and culture. One thing to keep in mind when reading Matthew is that it is not in chronological order. It is in more of a categorical order. So don't expect every event to literall follow one from the other.
- Mark: Written by John Mark who went on missionary journeys with Paul, and Barnabus it is beleived that he ended up in Rome with Peter. Mark is the shortest gospel and was written to the Roman people. It is in chronological order but has a bit of a "roadtrip" feel to it. It starts in Galilee works its way to Judea, and finishes in Jerusalem. This book focuses on what Jesus did (his miracles) more than what he said.
- Luke: Written by the physician Luke who was a companion of Paul on his missionary journeys. Luke was written for more of an educated Greek audience. It is written in topical order and has a large number of parables. An interesting thing about Luke is the fact that the book of Acts is a direct sequal to it. It can be more helpful to read Luke and then Acts then to go to the book of John. After all the author of Luke always assumed his sequel would be read next.
- John: Completely different from the other three. There are seven miracles each which is used to show that Jesus is in fact God. John is in chronological order centering around three passovers that Jesus attended, the final one being the famous Last Supper.
Harmonizing the Gospels
It can be difficult to figure out the chronological order of Jesus's ministry. Thankfully there are tools available to help piece it all together. The one I recommend is "A Harmony of the Gospels" by Thomas and Gundry. The book contains no author notes or commentary. Instead, it tries to put Jesus's ministry in chronological order and puts all the verses that tell the same or similar stories together. So for instance, if you are reading about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness it will put Matthew, Mark, and Luke's telling of the temptation together. This way you can easily compare and contrast what the three authors wrote about His temptation.
Reading each of the four gospels by themselves is indispensable to understanding Jesus's life and ministry. But reading a Harmony of the Gospels is like reading the Gospels for the first time all over again. Instead of focusing on a book at a time you can focus on one story with overlapping accounts, one at a time. So, once you read the 4 Gospels pick up A Harmony of the Gospels and reap the benefits of seeing the events of Jesus's life compared and contrasted.
The Last Supper
What About Contradictions?
If you peruse the web for a short amount of time you will probably find websites devoted to debunking the Bible. In fact, there are many Hubpages devoted to debunking it as well. One common method to debunk the Bible is to find contradictions, particularly in the 4 Gospels. There are many good books devoted to harmonizing the "contradictions". One is the New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. This book should help any student of the Bible clear up all sorts of "contradictions" that they may run into.