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The Four Gospels. Overview. A modern publisher would say ‘you’re fired’ to all four evangelists. The Gospels are not like modern biographies. They’re about the ‘good news’ of Jesus Ministry. The fragment beside is taken from his Letter to the Ephesians Ephesus – modern day Turkey.

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A modern publisher would say ‘you’re fired’ to all four evangelists.

The Gospels are not like modern biographies.

They’re about the ‘good news’ of Jesus Ministry.

the earliest nt writings
The fragment beside is taken from his Letter to the Ephesians

Ephesus – modern day Turkey

St Paul’s letters are among the earliest

Particularly his Letters to the Thessalonians

Northern Greece

C. 50 AD

The earliest NT writings
four canonical gospels
Fragment of St Matthew’s Gospel

Fragment of St Luke’s Gospel

Four Canonical Gospels

Fragment of St Johns’s Gospel

apocryphal writings
The fragment is of the so-called ‘gospel of Thomas’

Simon Peter said to them: Let Mary go forth from among us, for women are not worthy of the life. Jesus said: Behold, I shall lead her, that I may make her male, in order that she also may become a living spirit like you males. For every woman who makes herself male shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.

This fragment is from so-called ‘sayings of Jesus’

Egyptian papyri

Apocryphal Writings
Canonical = according to the rule of the Church

This means that they are accepted as authentic

Divinely inspired and therefore accepted as part of Holy Scripture

Apocryphal = not approved by the rule of the Church

This means that they are not accepted as wholly authentic

Not accepted as part of Holy Scripture


Christians accept the Torah, Wisdom, History and Prophecy of the OT as canonical

inspiration 2 understandings
Inspiration according to Islamic understanding

Muhammad’s receiving of the Qu’ran

Grace sidesteps nature?

Inspiration according to Judeo-Christian understanding

The various author’s talents, abilities and even limitations are engaged

Grace builds on nature

Inspiration – 2 understandings
gospel formation
Process by which the gospels came about …

Christian oral tradition

Eyewitness accounts

Use of written records now lost

Comparison of the above to correct distortions

Gospel formation
evangelists st matthew
St. Matthew's Gospel

The Apostle Matthew (Levi)

For people who were Jewish converts to Christianity.

Jesus' Jewish background and Jewish customs are explained.

Many quotations from the Jewish Scriptures to show that Jesus was the fulfilment of God's promise to the Jews about the Messiah.

Evangelists: St Matthew
evangelists st mark
St. Mark's Gospel

Short Gospel

Concentrates on the last week before Jesus died.

Shows how Jesus accepted suffering and won final victory.

To encourage the Church in Rome which was suffering persecution.

Message was to keep faith in Jesus in spite of troubles.

Evangelists: St Mark
evangelists st luke
St. Luke's Gospel

Gentile writer for a Gentile church.

Includes many stories to show that Jesus is the saviour of the whole world.

Shows how Jesus had time for the outsider, for people in society who were normally on the margins - women, the poor, foreigners, the sick and sinners.

Evangelists: St Luke
evangelists st john
St. John's Gospel

The Apostle John

Many differences between St. John's Gospel and the other three.

Only Gospel in which Jesus openly claims to be the Messiah.

‘I am the Light of the World’, ‘I am the Bread of Life’ are in this Gospel.

This Gospel has a very ‘spiritual’ feel.

Evangelists: St John
terminology check
Terminology check

Terminology check






Christian oral tradition





synoptic gospels
Synoptic Gospels

Mark's gospel - 676 verses (16 chapters)

Early records

Memories of Peter

Stories from first disciples

Written in Rome about A.D. 65

Luke's gospel - 1149 verses (24 chapters)

about 350 verses from Mark

about 600 verses from sources known to Luke

about 250 verses from a source known to

Luke and Matthew

Written in Syria (?) about A.D. 70-80?

Matthew's gospel - 1068 verses (28 chapters)

about 600 verses from Mark

about 218 from sources known to Matthew

about 250 verses from a source known to Luke and Matthew

Written in Antioch (?) about A.D. 70-80?

kingdom of god
The Synoptic Gospels are about a mysterious reality …

The Kingdom of God

The Reign of Darkness is on the way out

The miracles and the parables ‘unpack’ this reality for the people

Many of the parables of Jesus begin with:

‘The Kingdom of God (Heaven) is like this …’

Kingdom of God
why miracles
For the ordinary people, miracles show evil (sickness, death) being defeated

The back-up the claim the Jesus is the Messiah

Exorcisms (driving out demons) was a dramatic sign of defeat of the Evil One

Very important ministry in the early Church

Why miracles?
types of miracle
Some miracles are healing miracles

…demonstrating the Messiah’s power over sickness, evil & death

Some miracles are called nature miracles

… demonstrating the Messiah’s power of natural processes

Types of Miracle
Parables explain the unfolding reality of God’s Kingdom using simple comparison stories

Parabolos = throw alongside

Simple, everyday stories were thrown alongside …

the mysterious reality of the Kingdom of God

To help make sense of this mystery

parables continued
Some parables are allegorical

An allegory is a ‘coded message’ that relates through the code to reality

E.g. Parable of the Sower

Some parables are eschatological

This means they talk about the ‘end times’

E.g. The Parable of the Last Judgement

Parables continued …
summary so far
Summary so far …

St Luke’s G

St Matthew’s G

St Mark’s G

The Synoptic Gospels …

Are mainly about the Kingdom of God/Heaven

A mysterious reality unpacked through …



terminology check21
Terminology check

nature miracle




healing miracle



Kingdom of God




allegorical parable


Christian oral tradition

eschatological parable




Jesus was opposed by ‘the religious authorities’




Their main objections were about

Interpretation of the law especially about the Sabbath and work

Mixing with ‘outcasts’ (sinners, tax collectors, pagans, etc.)

Suspicions of blasphemy

Behaviour in Temple


Some points of agreement with Jesus


Not ‘full-time’ religious – had jobs

Clear differences, too

Very strict Jews – fasted twice a week, prayed regularly etc.

Ordinary Jews respected them


Some belonged to the Pharisee party

Literally means ‘writer’

A.k.a. ‘lawyers’ or ‘teachers of the law’

Made copies of the sacred Torah

Debated finer points of law – prone to legalism

Gradually came to be seen as experts in the Jewish Law


High Priest, chief priests were Sadducees

Wealthy priests who controlled the Jewish Temple

Doctrinal differences with Pharisees

Were on reasonably good terms with the Romans

Jesus clearing of the Temple a direct challenge to them

Not that well liked by many ordinary Jews

  • Samaritans lived in Samaria, a land between Galilee and Judea
  • Samaritans were seen as ‘half-breeds’ by other Jews
  • Samaritans considered themselves proper Jews
  • They had built a Temple in their lands
  • Samaritans and Jews avoided each other
  • Often, Jews would cross the Jordan rather than cross through Samaria
tax collectors publicani
Tax Collectors (Publicani)

These were also known as ‘publicans’

Sometimes worked on the Sabbath

They were seen as collaborators

Levi/Matthew & Zacchaeus

They were outcasts from respectable Jewish society

They earned their money by overcharging

zealots sicarii
Zealots (Sicarii)

These were freedom fighters or terrorists, depending on whose side you were on

A.k.a. daggermen

Simon the Zealot

Believed pagan Romans had to be driven out of the land, by force if necessary

Their motives were religious

Masada – the Zealots’ last stand

pontius pilate
Pontius Pilate
  • Pontius Pilate, Procurator
  • Seacoast town of Caesarea
  • Had military standards bearing the emperor’s image erected in Jerusalem
  • Robbed the Temple treasury to build an aqueduct
  • When the Jews protested, he disguised some of his men and had them infiltrate a protesting crowd
  • Slaughtered many of the Jews
  • Seemed to want to clear Jesus of the serious accusations brought by the Sanhedrin
  • Pressure from the chief priests and crowds made him cave in
new facts vocabulary
New facts & vocabulary







Herod the Great

Herod Antipas

Pontius Pilate








a wanted man
A Wanted Man
  • In that last week in Jerusalem …
  • Some of the Scribes and Pharisees had tried to trap Jesus …
  • As had the Sadducees …
  • Through dangerous questions
  • In the end, Jesus was betrayed by an insider
  • Judas Iscariot
  • Jesus could have escaped
last supper
Last Supper
  • The Passover meal commemorates the great way God liberated the Israelites from slavery in Egypt
  • The Last Supper was a Passover meal with a twist
  • Jesus said his own blood rather than a lamb’s blood would seal the New Covenant
covenant connection
Covenant Connection

Blood of the Lamb

Canaan via Red Sea

In Egypt


Promised Land

God’s People



Eternal Life via Baptism


Blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God

To sin

jewish trial
Jewish Trial

Various witnesses whose stories couldn’t agree

Mood to find guilty rather than give fair trial

A hasty gathering of the Sanhedrin

Torah ruled that false witnesses should receive the punishment of the accused

Jesus’ ‘I am’ secures the blasphemy charge

High Priest asks whether Jesus is the Messiah

roman trial
Roman Trial

They put it to him that Jesus was an unauthorised king

In this way a blasphemy charge could be switched to treason

Pilate had already been primed by the Chief Priests

Jesus is condemned to be crucified – but is first scourged, mocked and crowned with thorns

Pilate’s not convinced, he offers the people a deal

The people go for Barabbas

scourging crowning
Scourging & Crowning

Crown of Thorns

Replica made using local thorny shrubs

Might have been a ‘cap’


Small handle with leather or rope strands

Bits of metal or sharp bone tied in the strands

Suffering …
  • ‘Via Dolorosa’– the ‘sorrowful way’ through the Jerusalem streets to Golgotha (Calvary) just outside the city walls
  • According to St Mark, Jesus took six hours to die
  • The Gospels tell us that Jesus was buried in haste
  • The Passover was a approaching (sundown)
  • Touching a corpse would offend against ritual hygiene
  • So Jesus is wrapped in a shroud
  • And laid in a new tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathaea
  • Women made plans to return
new facts vocabulary43
New facts & vocabulary

Ritual hygiene






Joseph of Arimathaea




Via Dolorosa




Central doctrine of Christianity

Without it, Christianity is worthless, St Paul wrote

Easter is the greatest feast of the Church

Every Sunday = mini-Easter

All the gospels are clear on the fact of the bodily resurrection

Although none except St Matthew’s give us any clue as to how it happened

St Mark’s Gospel gives clues

First, the death must be real

Abuse, scourging, etc.

Simon of Cyrene

Pilate’s astonishment at early death

Gets confirmation

Details about the burial provide further clues …

No signs of life during deposition

New tomb

Large stone to cover the entrance

Evidence …
St Mark tells us that women watched the whole thing

Mary Magdalene, another Mary and Salome

St John tells us that Jesus’ mother Mary was by the cross

St Mark tells us that the women took note of where he had been buried (cf. 15:47)

They needed to return to anoint the body after the Sabbath

On that Sunday dawn they were worried about who would remove the stone

Witnesses …
what they saw
The stone had been rolled back

They saw a young man ‘dressed in white’– angelic presence

Tells them of the news of Jesus’ resurrection

St Mark tells us that the women ran away terrified

St Matthew tells of how Jesus spoke to them

St John gives details of two visits to the empty tomb

What they saw …
other evidence
Psychological state of the Eleven

Fear & disbelief

St Mark tells us that the risen Jesus told them off about this

St Mark (epilogue) tells us of the bodily Ascension of Jesus

Love is stronger than death

Preparation for the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost

Church = Christ’s bodily presence on earth

Other evidence