(Study Outline sourced from “The System Bible Study” – “The Book of Life” [ Zondervan])
The authentic records of the life and work of our Lord Jesus Christ are contained in the four Gospels, four separate works, written at different times and in different locations, for different and distinct factions of the society. When first published they were read separately, and each volume was regarded by the readers and the writer as a record for the purpose of introducing Christ to a specific audience, as it is apparent that they were circulated independently in different parts of the Roman empire.
The Gospels do not claim to be exhaustive accounts of all that Jesus said and did . Although authored by four separate individuals, there are many similarities in order, content, and phraseology; this is so because each writer is dealing with the same Person, thus it is natural that there would be a substantial agreement on the choice and description of the main features of Jesus’ life.
It is believed by most scholars that the authors of the Gospels made use of oral tradition, written fragments, mutual dependence on each other, and the testimony of eyewitnesses.
AUTHORS AND DATES
AUTHOR: Matthew (9:9-13)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 50-70 A.D.
SUGGESTED PLACE OF WRITING: Palestine
AUTHOR: John Mark (accompanied Paul & Barnabas on first missionary journey; Acts 13:13)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 50-60 A.D.
SUGGESTED PLACE OF WRITING: Regions of Italy [by tradition] (2 Tim.4:11; 2 Pet.5:13)
AUTHOR: Luke – an “evangelist”; a physician (Col.4:14); travelling companion of Paul (Acts 16:10; 20:5; 28:30)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 59-70 A.D.
SUGGESTED PLACE OF WRITING: Rome [possibly Achaia, Ephesus, or Caesarea]
AUTHOR: John (13:23; 21:20, 24)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 50-140 A.D. [at a time when the Church had achieved a measure of maturity]
SUGGESTED PLACE OF WRITING: Asia Minor [possibly Ephesus]
PURPOSE OF THE GOSPELS
As has been stated previously, each writer’s purpose was to introduce the character and life of Christ to a specific audience. A careful comparison of the Gospels reveals that Matthew, Mark, and Luke are very similar in content and phraseology, while John is noticeably different, and in this we must understand that each writer was targeting a different audience. The following attempts to illustrate these differences.
AUDIENCE: Matthew’s audience was typically Jewish as many of the accounts point to Jewish readership. The theme is announced in the opening words – “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”. He was concerned with the fulfillment of the OT prophecies of the life of Messiah and there are more quotations from the OT than in any of the other Gospels. He traces the lineage of Christ beginning at Abraham, and shows that Christ, a descendant of David, was of royal blood.
MESSAGE: His main purpose was to prove to his Jewish readers that Jesus is their Messiah, by showing how Jesus fulfilled the OT prophecies in His life and work.
THEME: Jesus Christ the King of the Jews
AUDIENCE: Mark’s Gospel is traditionally associated with the Church in Rome, or at least to Gentile readers. He explains Jewish customs and translates Aramaic words. There are few quotations from the OT, and he gives more space to the miracles than any of the other Gospels.
MESSAGE: It is a historical narrative picturing the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It does not discuss the parentage, birth, or family of Christ, nor does mark attempt to provide any information about any particular phase of the life of Christ. The person and work of Christ dominates the Gospel and are the chief source of interest. It is a Gospel of action and personal reactions.
THEME: Jesus Christ the Servant (There is no genealogy given for a Servant/Slave
AUDIENCE: The Gospel is specifically directed to Theophilus (1:3) who was apparently a Roman official or a wealthy individual in high office. Luke follows the main sequence of events as recorded by Matthew and Mark, and is the most literary of the Gospels. The gospel is predominantly historical as no other writer dates his narrative as Luke does (1:5; 2:1; 3:1-2). Certain classes of people are given special attention by Luke – women, children, the poor and oppressed, and the rich. The Gospel was written to apply Christ to their needs.
MESSAGE: Luke portrays the Lord Jesus Christ through cosmopolitan eyes; he is impartial in his presentation. He emphasizes doctrine, no doubt being made aware of its importance by his association with Paul. Although it is not discussed topically, his writing reveals his knowledge and interest in doctrine. Christ, God’s Son is presented as both God and Man, and Salvation is a prominent teaching. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is also given special prominence with more references to the Holy Spirit than Matthew and Mark combined.
THEME:Jesus Christ, the Son of Man (Christ’s humanity)
AUDIENCE: John directed his Gospel to believers in Christ who were possibly being influenced by heretics. These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God…..”(20:31).
MESSAGE: In 20:30-31 three words are prominent – signs, believe, and life, and form the basic organization of the Gospel. Christ performed seven specific signs (miracles) illustrating different areas of His power in authentication of His deity – (2:1-11 Quality; 4:46-54 Space; 5:1-9 Time; 6:1-14 Quantity; 6:16-21 Natural Law; 9:1-12 Misfortune; 11:1-46 Death) – these indicated that man is unable to effect any change of laws or conditions that affect his life. Belief is the reaction to the signs, and Life is the result.
THEME:Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God. (There is no genealogy or family mentioned because God is eternal)
1. THE SOURCES AND CONTENT OF THE GOSPELS
“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”
“handed down to us by…. eyewitnesses”; Here, Luke gives his source, which is also no doubt the source for Mark’s Gospel, as both Matthew and John were part of the original twelve apostles
“I myself have carefully investigated everything”; Luke further states that he has carefully investigated each account that he has recorded
“so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”; he gives his reason for recording these accounts – the real reason for the entire New Testament account – that all future generations would have a written record of the events of the life and work of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the teachings of the apostles
“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.”; John states that there were other events and acts that are not recorded in the Gospels. The Holy Spirit has ensured that only the important acts and events were recorded
2. THE PRE-INCARNATE CHRIST
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”. In His pre-incarnation (before His appearance in human form), Christ – “the Word” – was with God the Father from the beginning of, and before time began Christ was in partnership with God His Father in the creation of the universe and all that the universe contains. There is nothing in this universe that was not created by Christ. “He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…”. God, the Son, became incarnate (He clothed Himself in humanity) and made His dwelling among mankind. Jesus the Christ, the promised Messiah, came to live among His people, but His people, and indeed the world, (other peoples) did not recognize Him for who He is and He was eventually rejected by all .
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
“Yet to all who received him..”; the “good news” or gospel is that all those who “received” Him, that is, accepted His offer of salvation from sin are “born of God”, becoming children of God, because we have “seen his glory” – our spiritual eyes have been opened
“No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” ; Jesus Christ the Son of God has revealed the Father and the heart of the Father to those who have seen His glory and have received Him
3. THE TWO GENEALOGIES OF CHRIST
(1) Of Joseph in Matthew (2) Of Mary in Luke
(1) “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” . Matthew begins by tracing Christ’s genealogy from Abraham to Joseph, the husband of Mary “of whom [Mary] was born Jesus, who is called Christ”; Matthew’s genealogy also establishes a legal claim of Christ to be the King of Israel, through the Davidic line. The genealogy is divided into three divisions each listing fourteen generations
(2) “Now Jesus ….. was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melki, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.”
“the son of Adam”; Luke’s genealogy establishes the fact that Christ was truly human, thus He is traced back to Adam (“Adam, the son of God” means simply that Adam was created by God). It should be noted that Luke does not state that Jesus was the son of Joseph, rather, “so it was thought” or, He was supposed to be. Since it was not Jewish custom to name women in their genealogies, it is thought that Heli is the father-in-law of Joseph, or Mary’s father; thus Mary’s name is omitted from the list.