Welcome to The Gospels – Day 1 of our New Testament Overview
My Christian mentor recommended I begin studying the Bible by reading the Gospels first. At the time, I’d just experienced the death of my best friend and was desperate for answers on who Christ was and what that meant not just for me but for all my loved ones who had passed.
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She assured me the Gospels were easy to read and understand, and they would give me the best start to knowing Christ. As a child, I’d been active in church and youth group. I’d even read the Bible here and there, mostly just a few verses or a chapter at a time and never consistently.
Having a place to begin helped tremendously. If you’re new to reading the Bible, the Gospels are a wonderful place to start. Without a plan, you can easily get overwhelmed and miss the big picture.
I’d never been taught a basic overview of the Bible before and had no idea how it was put together. Because I’d always just read bits and pieces, my true knowledge lacked depth. It’s important to understand how all the parts intertwine as that is what gives the Bible full meaning.
That’s why this New Testament overview series will help you understand the overall purpose of the Bible plus know the best place to begin your reading (hint: it’s with the Gospels in case you missed that up there 🙂 ).
So then, let’s get started learning where the Gospels ‘come from’ so you’ll have a better understanding of where they’ll take you.
There are four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
It seems repetitive to have four books all covering the same story. It’s important to understand, though, that having four different points of view help us learn about Christ’s life through more perspectives which gives us a clearer picture overall.
There are differences in these four books, but these differences come together to give us a more complete picture of Jesus’ journey on Earth.
Most sources I’ve found agree that the Gospels were written during these years: Mark – around A.D. 60, Matthew and Luke – between A.D. 60-70, and John – between A.D. 90-100. I’ve found a few slight discrepancies in my research, but I feel these dates give the most accurate portrayal of the majority.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called Synoptic Gospels. This means that they have the same view. Many of the same parables and stories appear in all three of these books in a similar order and with similar wording. You can read more about that here.
Differences in the Gospel of John
While Matthew, Mark, and Luke follow Jesus’ journey geographically, John mostly talks about Jesus’ visits to Jerusalem.
John spends more time writing and describing Jesus’ interactions with people and really pours more description into the narrative. The other three Gospels cover more events and stories with less detail.
Intended Audiences for the Gospels
Matthew – Jewish audience
Matthew emphasizes Old Testament Scriptures and God’s prophecies. It was written for deeply religious people who needed to understand the connection to their religion and the Old Testament Scriptures. Without this religious language, they would not have listened.
Mark – Roman audience
The Romans cared about leadership and power and not religion at all. They didn’t know the Scriptures and weren’t interested in learning them. That’s why Mark writes frequently about the power of Christ. This captured the Romans attention; they wanted a God who could powerfully meet their needs.
Luke – Greek audience
The Greeks loved culture and beauty. They valued wisdom and truth, and that’s why Luke gives many examples of Jesus’ ministry and teachings.
John – Everyone
John wanted to show everyone the magnitude of God. He shared how they could know God only through Jesus. In John’s focus on writing about the details in several of Jesus’ encounters with others (woman at the well, Nicodemus, etc.), he gives examples of the intimate relationship people could have through knowing Jesus. The well-known verse, John 3:16, teaches us how much God loves His people.
You can read more about the Gospels intended audiences here.
Be sure to read Day 2 over the book of Acts and all the letters Paul wrote.
You might also want to go back and read the New Testament Overview introduction, too.
Read more here:
Revelation – Part 4 of The New Testament Overview
If you have any extra information about the Gospels to share or any questions to ask, please comment below.