The Gospels

Boyd’s Bible Dictionary:

(good tidings). The four initial books of N. T., containing the biographies of Christ.

Concise Bible Dictionary:

God having been pleased to give in His word four Gospels, it is manifest that He had a design and purpose in doing so, which it is well to endeavor to discover. If it is accepted that God is really the author of them all, it at once sweeps away all questions of anterior documents, from which one evangelist selected certain events, and another chose events somewhat different; and also the unworthy hypothesis that after the first, each writer had before him the gospel or gospels that had been previously written, and then sought to supply their deficiencies. Surely in all such thoughts God is forgotten.
It is surprising that the mass of modern commentators do not see any design in the differences in the gospels, and that each gospel has its own peculiar characteristics. As early as Irenaeus (A.D. 120-200) this was seen: he compared them with the four cherubim in the Revelation; and in several of the old books a man is portrayed with Matthew; a lion with Mark; an ox with Luke; and an eagle with John. Why they were put in this order is not easy to see, for in the Revelation the lion is mentioned first, and the calf second; though the above is the order of the faces in Ezekiel. The distinctions may be seen in many instances.
MATTHEW. The gospel opens with “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the son of Abraham.” And the genealogy goes no further than Abraham, whereas in Luke it ascends to Adam, agreeing with the scope of that gospel. In Matthew there are many more quotations from the Old Testament than in either of the others. All proving that this gospel was a testimony to Jesus as the true Messiah for Israel. Here the Magi come and inquire for “the king of the Jews.” On His entry into Jerusalem He was hailed with “Hosanna to the son of David,” which is not found in the other gospels: with many other designed differences. The ascension is not recorded: the record ends with the Lord in resurrection power on the earth, agreeing with the fact that the kingdom for Israel will be established on earth in the power of Him who is risen. In pointing out the characteristic features of this gospel, which represents Christ as the Messiah and Son of David, it is not meant that other characters of the Lord are not there in a subordinate degree. Indeed in this gospel the Person of the Lord is very prominent, for every promise depends on the truth and glory of His Person.
MARK. The opening words show that it is the Gospel rather than the history of Jesus Christ, Son of God, which gives character to this gospel. It opens with a short preface to prepare the way for the introduction of the gospel of the kingdom of God, quoting part of Malachi 3:11Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:1) and Isaiah 40:33The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3). Various details show that Christ is the faithful servant of this gospel: for instance, the word εὐθέως, translated immediately, “straightway,” “forthwith,” etc., occurs forty-two times; immediately one thing had been accomplished something else was to be done; and in Mark alone we read that they had no leisure to eat! The principles of the kingdom are not given here, nor the woes denounced, as in Matthew. In the passage “Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father:” the words “neither the Son” occur in this gospel only, agreeing with the passage that “the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth.” As Son of God of course He knew all things. In Mark the Lord does not address God as His Father except in the agony in the garden, when His path of service was ended; nor do His disciples ever address him as “Lord.” Surely all these things, and other differences that could be named, show the character of the gospel to be the Lord Jesus as the divine Servant.
LUKE. In this gospel Jesus is presented as Son of Man: as observed above, His genealogy is traced to Adam. The early incidents of His life are here stated, being subject to His parents, etc. In the quotation from Isaiah 40:3-53The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. (Isaiah 40:3‑5), Matthew stops at the words “make His paths straight”; but Luke continues the quotation to “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” So also when the Lord sends out His apostles to preach, in Matthew He charges them, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not”; but in Luke these words are omitted. The Lord is here the Son of Man for man. In this gospel only we have the parable of the good Samaritan, teaching that grace does not ask the question, “who is my neighbor?” for all men are neighbors; and here only we get the parable of the lost sheep, the lost piece of money, and the prodigal son: it is God seeking the lost. All this agrees with Christ being the Son of Man, seeking the blessing of man (compare Luke 2:1414Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:14)).
JOHN. The remarkable opening of this gospel gives its character. “The Word was with God, and the Word was God”; and near its close the object of its being written is stated to be that men might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. There is no genealogy in John: in the beginning He was with God, and the world was made by Him. In this gospel the raising of Lazarus is recorded, and the Lord declares Himself to be “the resurrection and the life.” Here alone is omitted the agony in the garden; and when they came to arrest Him, they all went backward and fell to the ground. In these and many other passages in this gospel we see the characteristic presentation of Jesus as the Son of God; though from the fifth chapter onwards, His perfect dependence upon the Father is fully presented.
Thus in the four gospels we have, as it were, four divine portraits of the Lord Jesus in the characters above named. It spoils their divine perfection if it is attempted to make them into one, often called a “harmony.” Let them stand in their integrity as drawn by the finger of God; admire their differences, and the Lord revealed therein will be the better learned. Each of the gospels is further considered under its respective name.
The distinctive features of the gospels may be further studied by observing the frequency of certain Greek words in each.
Believe, to πιστεύω 11 15 9 100
End of the world (age) 5 -
Father, The πατήρ 44 5 17 122
Glory, glorify δόξα, δοξάζω 12 4 22 42
Immediately εὐθέωζ, εὐθύς 18 42 8 7
Kingdom of God 5 15 33 2
Kingdom of the Heavens 32 — -
Know, to γιτώσκω 20 13 28 54
Life ζωή 7 4 6 36
Light φῶζ 7 1 6 23
Love ἀγαπάω, ἀγάπη 9 5 14 44
Love φιλέω 4 1 13
Parable παραωολή 17 13 18 -
People λαός 15 3 36 3
Power δύναμις 13 10 15 -
Preach, to κηρύσσω 9 14 9
Preach (the gospel), to εὐαφφελίζω 1 10 -
Scribe γραμματεύς 24 22 15 1
True ἀληθής 1 1 12
True ἀληθινός 1 8
Truly ἀληθῶς 3 2 3 10
Truth ἀλήθεια 1 3 3 25
Witness μαρτυρές, μαρτυρία 1 3 3 47
Woe οὐαί 13 2 14
Works ἔργον 5 2 2 27
World κόσμος 9 3 3 79
For the Chronology of the Gospel History see NEW TESTAMENT.