Skeptic Bible Study: The Four Gospels Part II

So in the previous study I mention the synoptic gospels and how similar and dis-similar they are.

I’d like to continue with the topic of the Synoptic gospels and see how things begin to change between Mark, Matthew and Luke. With Mark being the source text for Matthew and Luke. The differences between the gospels have come to be known as the “Synoptic Problem.” There are methodical differences in the type of Jesus that each gospel presents in their accounts.

So the type of Jesus that we read about in Mark, is completely different from the one we read in about Matt or Luke. The gospels disagree with the message he spoke, how he treated people, how he interacted with his disciples, etc. We also see differently how people see Jesus as well. In Mark, no one, not even his disciples quite understand his messianic nature. Where in Matt and Luke people tend to recognize more who Jesus is. It’s not like four eye witnesses seeing the same car accident. The accounts are different in many respects. As we will see the anti-semitisim begins to crop up in the later gospels. It is as if factions had a stake in who they needed Jesus to be portrayed as and the account in Mark simply won’t do.

The Jesus in Mark is more human and less powerful than the Jesus that is portrayed in Matt and Luke.

1. Only One Is Good: Mark 10:17-18 When asked by the rich man, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus replies “Why would you call me good? Only god is good.” But if some one didn’t want Jesus saying that only god is good, especially if Jesus himself is supposed to BE god, then that response would have to be changed. So Matthew changes Jesus’ words a bit to say “There is only one who is good.” Small words like this can leave it open for the reader to see Jesus as more powerful and as the same as god. Which is necessary if you want others to believe Jesus is who he says he is.

2. Birth Story: No birth story in Mark. Only in Matt and Luke. Being born of a virgin seems pretty significant, but no word of it in Mark, or John for that matter.

3. Messianic Secret: Mark 3:12 “But he gave them strict orders not to tell who he was.”
Mark 8:30 After Peter tells Jesus he believes he is the christ, Jesus warns them not to tell anyone about himself. He wants his messianic nature kept secret. This secret fits with the baptism that occurs in Mark. Remember the god voice that spoke directly to Jesus as he came up out of the water?

However in Matthew, his messiahship is public and out in the open. The wise men and astrologers can put things together about Jesus, by the stars in the sky. The disciples know more and understand who Jesus is by his miracles.

Also in Matthew, wouldn’t you know, the Pharisees and Sadducees are present around John the Baptist. John gives these “brood of vipers” fair warning that Jesus is about to make his great entrance onto the scene. So they are made aware of the coming messiah and are made accountable for knowing who Jesus is. They are also warned by John that just because they are Jew and descendants of Abraham, doesn’t mean they will automatically inherit the kingdom of god.

The Pharisees would have been major rivals of early christianity. In Matthew we see an advancement of language against the Pharisees.

Matthew 27:11-26 During the trial of Jesus, Pilate offers Jesus a pardon, finding no wrong doing and asking the people, “what crime has he committed?”. Even Pilate’s wife tells him to have nothing to do with “this innocent man.” He gives the Jewish people the choice of setting Jesus free or to execute him. They insist that he be crucified. Pilate then declares, “I am innocent of this mans blood. It is your responsibility.” With that the Jews respond, “Let his blood be on us and our children!”

Matthew wants the Jewish people to be on the hook for the death of Jesus and the true plan that god has. People in Matthew know about Jesus and there are no secrets as the book of Mark implies. Instead, Jesus has to be out in the open and the Jews have to know exactly what they are doing.

There is so much to look at between the four gospels. It is interesting to see how scholars speculate about how the gospels were pieced together. Again, I realize that believers might be critical of my post here. Denying that the writers intent was to make the jewish people look bad. But I tend to lean towards what biblical scholars have found and theorize. From how I read the text, this critical interpretation seems to make sense. It does appear that there was an agenda. Especially now seeing how history has unfolded between the christians and the jewish people.


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