We are in the midst of our final Gospel, John and we should have at least one post on the Gospels as a whole. The word Gospel ”Euaggelion” means “Good News,” or “Good Announcement,” This is a (mostly) unique type of literature to Christianity that is in no way our modern biography. We hear of the stories of Jesus Christ and it is of note, that all of our Gospels were written after his death, probably between 65-100 AD/CE.
The first three Gospels are called the Synoptic Gospels because they can be viewed in line or side by side. These three are so similar that there is likely a source connection between them. That is, one or more of the Gospels knew about the other and there maybe another source out there (another Gospel). Let’s look at a few theories about the authorship and sources of these first three Gospels.
The Griesbach Hypothesis has Matthew as the oldest with Luke uses Matthew to write that Gospel and Mark using both Luke and Matthew. But, Mark omits some of the stories that Matthew and Luke have in common… That makes it unlikely that this theory is correct.
The most agreed-upon theory for the origin of the Gospels authorship and composition is with the two-source hypothesis (also four source). This theory places Mark as the oldest Gospel and is likely the case. In this theory, Matthew uses Mark and an unknown source that we call Q. Luke uses Mark and unknown source Q as well. In this scenario, Luke and Matthew do not know about each other. This theory has the fewest unanswered questions.
Q? Yes, we think that there is another source or Gospel out there that Luke and Matthew used (but is not used by Mark). We call this document or source, Q. Only God knows if we will ever discover such a Gospel or source and it is likely destroyed centuries ago. I’m hoping Indiana Jones will uncover this for us in the next movie.
What about John? John’s narrative is poetic and theological. It is the most simple language and yet the most complex ideas. John likely knew of other Gospels as all four, for example, have the feeding of the multitudes. John also has unique material such as story about the adulterer about to be stoned…”you without sin may cast the first stone…”
This post touches on authorship and some theories and there are scholars who have dedicated their careers to such research. We read these Gospels as independent and yet symbiotic documents for our understanding of Jesus, the person, our God, and Savior. Holding such knowledge enables us to approach the documents in new ways. God did not write our Holy Scriptures but inspired such documents. The revelation of God as we experience it in Christianity is in the person of Jesus Christ which dwells in and with each of us today.
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