|Writer||A second generation Christian, possibly a follower of Peter||An unknown Jewish Christian, traditionally the Apostle Matthew||A Gentile Christian, traditionally Luke the physician and Paul’s traveling companion||The “beloved disciple” the Apostle John|
|Date Written||65-70 CE||75-80 CE||80-85 CE||90-110 CE|
|Who is Jesus?||Healer, Miracle Worker, Teacher, Misunderstood by those closest to Him||Promised Messiah of Jewish people, greatest prophet, teacher of the “new law” calling people to be faithful of the Old Testament covenant with God||Merciful, Compassionate, Prayerful teacher with special concern for women, the poor, and non-Jews (Gentiles)||Noble, Powerful divine–fully in control of His destiny|
|The Author’s Community||A Gentile Christian community in Rome undergoing persecution||A Jewish Christian community||Written to “Theophilus”||Jews, Gentiles, and Samaritans|
|Hisotrical Situation||The Romans subdue armed Jewish rebellions. Christians experiencing persecution in Rome||Written after Romans had destroyed all of Jerusalem||Written when the persecution of Jews and Christians was intensifying||Jewish leaders banned Christians from the synagogues|
|Where the books were written||Rome||Most likely Antioch of Syria||Possibly Rome or Caesarea||Probably written in Ephesus|
This table is a great way to see the similarities between the three synoptic gospel authors, as well as see how they differ from each other and the apostle John. Learning about the authors can greatly help us understand how and why they wrote their gospels the way they did.
The Gospel of John:
The gospel of John was the only gospel written by a follower of Jesus. The other three writers were followers of Jesus’s apostles, and likely never met Jesus for themselves. John’s message was a personal account of his following closely with Jesus. Therefore, John’s message is for all ethnic groups and his whole purpose for writting is to bring evidence to prove that Jesus is Christ and truly the Son of God.
Throughout John’s work one will find that John’s focus is on emphasizing the divine status of Jesus. This can be seen through Jesus’ statements of “I am” that will be found in John’s gospel. From the very first verse to the end of the book John’s message of divinity is clear. In John 1:1 he lays the foundation for the entire gospel, and one will find that he continues to show how Jesus is the word made flesh; ” In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. In John 20:31 the message of his entire book is layed out in black in white; “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name”.
The Gospel of Matthew:
Matthew was writting to and for the Jews and focuses his work around the idea that Jesus is the King of the Jews; “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:2). There were two main reasons Matthew wrote his book. The gospel of Matthew was written as a message of encouragement and strength for Jewish Christians. Despite Jesus being killed by Jews, Matthew’s first message is to strengthen Jewish Christian’s faith in the knowledge that Jesus was the Messiah. To prove that Jesus was the promised Messiah of the Old Testament, Matthew quotes the Old Testament more than any other synoptic writer.
The second reason he writes his book is to show that Jesus was truly the Messiah. He shows this by recording Jesus’ geneology and quoting the old testament. “A record of the geneology of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:” (Matthew 1:1). This verse fulfills the prophecy from 2 Samuel 7:12-14 “When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son.”.
The Gospel of Mark:
Mark focuses on the idea that Jesus was a servant. This can be seen by his lack of geneology of Jesus throughout his gospel. Mark’s work is meant to encourage Christians throughout Rome, despite being persecuted for their faith. He goes on to say that persecution is the price that Christian’s must pay for following Jesus. In the book of Mark, Jesus says exactly that “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.'” (Mark 8:34-35).
The Gospel of Luke:
Luke was known to be an accurate historian, and as a result he carefully researched everything. Luke approaches his work by making Jesus the Son of man. He shows how Jesus was a real person and how He showed a genuine interest in people from all walks of life. Luke spends ample time focusing on Jesus’ birth and childhood as well as His human traits. The first two chapters are dedicated to the history and geneology of Jesus.
Many of Luke’s other versus portray a Jesus who was able to feel human emotions as well as express other human traits. “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry” (Luke 4:1-2). Jesus is portrayed to have feelings such as pain and sorrow. “He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:41-44).