In this segment of “How to study the Bible”, I would like to discuss a topic that you will come across sooner or later. When you read the first four books of the New Testament, known as the gospels, you will notice that all four of them talk about the life and ministry of Jesus, upon this earth. Why do we have four gospels, why not two or just one, since all of them tell the story of the same person? Is there a divine purpose behind it? Let us find out!
Some scholars say that in the apostolic times (the first century) there were four representative classes—the Jews, the Romans, the Greeks, and the Church (a body of people from the first three groups). In their opinion, each writer wrote for these respective classes, and adapted himself to their character, needs, and ideals.
So, Matthew wrote to Jews presenting Jesus as the Messiah.
Luke wrote to the Greeks presenting the perfect Man.
Mark wrote to the Romans, a people whose ideal was power and service, presenting Jesus as the Mighty Conqueror.
John wrote to the Church or Christians, presenting Jesus’ deity.
(Source: Pentecostal Classics, through the Bible book by book, part 3).
Harmony of the Gospels
The first three Gospels have been called the Synoptic Gospels by most theologians and scholars. (From the Greek syn “together” and optanomai, “to see”).They try to see them together because of the similarities or the common view of the life of Christ that the three gospels present. Why do we want to see them together when God assigned three different writers to write three different gospels? However, there is another question that needs to be answered. If the Gospels are totally independent of each other in origin and development, why do they resemble so closely? In several places there are exact verbal agreement!
2 Timothy 3:16 Every Scripture passage is inspired by God. All of them are useful for teaching, pointing out errors, correcting people, and training them for a life that has God’s approval. GW
2 Peter 1:20-21 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. KJV
All Scriptures are inspired by God, or God-breathed! No Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.
We do not know if Matthew deliberately wrote to the Jews or John specifically wrote to Christians, as scholars have us believe. There is no doubt that the scholars have drawn their conclusions after careful consideration of all the available evidences. However, human viewpoints are devoid of any authority when interpreting the Bible.
What we know for sure is that Holy Spirit inspired four different men to write an account of the life and ministry of Jesus, and they wrote independently. We do know that God has a purpose for everything he does. Does He always tell us His purpose? The answer is in Deuteronomy 29:29. Please read it!
If God wanted us to know why He gave us four gospels, I am certain, He would have revealed it in the Scriptures! God has revealed so much about Jesus the Messiah, in the Old Testament. Let us have a look at some of the Old Testament passages about the Messiah!
In several passages in the OT Jesus Christ is referred to as the “Branch.”
In Jeremiah 23:5-6 and 33:15 Christ is presented as the “Righteous Branch,” the King raised to rule in righteousness. So, I would say Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to present Jesus as the Messiah and King. The Gospel begins with the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David. The fact that He is son of David, the first King is emphasized here. Saul should have been the first but, since he was removed from the throne, none of his offspring ever occupied the throne. The royal dynasty begins with David. Is He is the King of Jews only? That’s a tricky question! He is the King of the whole universe! Yet, he came to this earth primarily as the King of Jews. The Jews can understand and relate to the gospel of Matthew better that any other people group. Does that mean it was written to the Jews? Then why we Gentile Christians reading it or studying?
In Zechariah 3:8, Christ is presented as “The Branch” the Servant brought forth for Jehovah’s service. So God inspired Mark to present Jesus as Jehovah’s Servant. You don’t see any genealogy here. A servant doesn’t have and need a genealogy. We see Jesus straightaway entering into his ministry right in the first chapter.
In Zechariah 6:12, Christ is “The Branch,” the man growing up or branching out from his place. So Luke was inspired to present Jesus as the Son of Man. He gives details of his growing up and brings the perfections of Christ as “Perfect Man.” The genealogy is rather backward and traces back to Adam the son of God.
In Isaiah 4:2, Christ is “the Branch of Jehovah,” the one with all-intrinsic beauty and glory of Jehovah. So, we have John presenting Jesus Christ as the Son of God in his Gospel.
Would it be accurate to say that the four Gospels present the four characteristics of the branch, the Messiah?
Did God intend a harmony (an arrangement of parallel passages of different Gospels made so as to bring out corresponding ideas, qualities etc.) of the Gospels? For then He would have given us one Gospel. There has to be a reason for the four Gospels!
While considering this important question, I would like to draw your attention to another passage of Scripture.
Luke 1:3It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, KJV
The term, “the very first” in the Greek is anothen,and it means “from above.”
So, Luke tells us, right at the beginning of his gospel, that he was going to write what he received from above.
In conclusion, I would like to remind you, students of the Bible, to do your own study, before accepting and believing the hypothesis of renowned scholars!
For further study, you may consult The Companion Bible(E W Bullinger)
 This same word, anothen, is translated as “top” in Mathew 27:51