Why four Gospels? Why not just one?
In the Bible, we have four ancient forms of biographies of Jesus, otherwise known as the four Gospels. Why do we have four gospels? The four gospels are very similar in many ways, yet they are also very different. Wouldn't it have been better if we had just one biography to avoid any confusion about who Jesus was?
For example, Jesus dies on a different day in John's Gospel than in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Jesus actually eats a Passover meal before he dies in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but in John's gospel he doesn't. The Last Supper is actually eaten before the beginning of Passover.
And the famous Infancy Narratives that we hear so much about during Christmas are only found in Matthew and Luke, not in Mark and John. Why is that? Additionally, there are differences in the Infancy Narratives between Matthew and Luke.
The simple answer to all of these questions is that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were composed by different authors and for different original audiences. I'm not going to elaborate on that process in this blog post. I'll leave that discussion for one of our Faith Development sessions.
I highlight these differences in the four Gospels as a way to illustrate the values statement we uphold at Fairfield Glade Community Church: we are a welcoming and friendly Church for all people; accepting diverse beliefs, experiences, and backgrounds; watching over and affirming one another; reaching out to those in need; and encouraging spiritual growth.
Each of the authors of the four Gospels were originally writing for a different community. The four different communities didn't have the exact same set of beliefs, experiences, and backgrounds. For example, most biblical scholars think the Gospel of Matthew was written primarily for a community that had been Jewish. This helps explain why Matthew has many more quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) than the other Gospels, as the Jewish readers would be familiar with and understand Jesus in the context of their Jewish religion.
The Gospel of John, on the other hand, has many references to Greco-Roman religions and philosophies. Most scholars think this is in part because the primary original audience for the Gospel of John was non-Jewish, people who came from a Greco-Roman set of beliefs, experiences, and backgrounds.
At Fairfield Glade Community Church, we truly welcome all people of a diversity of beliefs, experiences, and backgrounds. We are not a conformist church. We love one another just as we are, which is how Jesus taught us to love one another.