The Shape of the Gospels

four creatures stripThere are no more-studied books from any period of history in any language than the first four books of the New Testament, the books we know as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Early Church saw the Biblical figures who carried these names as behind each and while for the last two hundred years modern thinkers dismissed the tradition, in recent years this claim has proven remarkably likely as eyewitness evidence emerges from the text with new archeological discoveries and computer analysis of the text undermines the theory of the texts evolving within a community before composition.

But each account of Jesus’ life throws up it’s challenges, ironically the differences and seeming contradictions between them is proving a rich source of historical corroboration as new discoveries resolves old problems.

So as a foundation to understanding how the four views of Jesus fit together, the table below highlights the agendas and unique flavours of each. Initially it is worth noting the tie in of flavour with the four faces of the angelic beings that carry the presence of God in the visions of Ezekiel. The connection has been made since the Early church, although at different periods the different faces have been assigned to different Evangelist. The assigments I’ve made reflect a contemporary analysis of the styles and agendas of each Gospel but they don’t match a lot of medieval Christian art that read them differently!


Jesus the KingMatt

Jesus the Servant/SacrificeMark

Jesus the ManLuke

Jesus as GodJohn

Author:- a civil servant/tax officer. One of the 12 disciples.- a levite & servant hearted, possibly one of the 70 disciples- a doctor, possibly one of the 70 disciples- a mystic, businessman and probably a levite. One of the 12 disciples
Presents:Jesus as KingJesus as Servant/SacrificeJesus the ManJesus as God
Face of the Cherubim
- see Ezekiel 1:10...
Jesus the King
A Lion
Jesus the Servant/Sacrifice
An Ox
Jesus the Man
A Man
Jesus as God
An Eagle
... associated with Jesus in the Gospel text:
"Jesus began to preach, and to say, 'Repent! For the KINGDOM of Heaven is at hand.'”
- Matthew 4:17
"For the Son of Man also came not to be served, but to SERVE, and to GIVE HIS LIFE as a ransom for many."
- Mark 10:45
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach..."
- Luke 4:18a
"but these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the SON OF GOD..."
- John 20:31
Highlighted prophetically:
1) --
"Behold the lion…the root of David has overcome"
- Revelation 5:5

"With the strength of an ox, he led them out of Egypt"
- Numbers 23:22

"I led them with cords of a man, with love"
- Hosea 11:4

"Like an eagle… he spread his wings and caught them and carried them…"
- Deuteronomy 32:11

2) -- marked by a "Behold" prophecy:
"BEHOLD, your KING comes to you. He is righteous and victorious, meek and riding on an ass, even on a colt, the son of an ass."
- Zechariah 9:9

"BEHOLD my SERVANT .. In whom my soul delights"
- Isaiah 42:1

"BEHOLD my SERVANT will prosper…
- Isaiah 52:13
"BEHOLD the MAN… he shall build the temple of the LORD"
- Zechariah 6:12

"BEHOLD the LORD GOD will come with might…. Like a shepherd he will tend his flock..."
- Isaiah 40:10-11

3) -- marked by a "Branch" (Nazar) prophecy:
"...I will raise to David a righteous BRANCH, and a KING shall reign and act wisely…"
- Jeremiah 23:5
"I will bring forth My SERVANT the BRANCH…"
- Zechariah 3:8
Behold the MAN who’s name is BRANCH..."
- Zechariah 6:12
"In that day shall the BRANCH of THE LORD be beautiful and glorious..”
- Isaiah 4:2
Begins in:Royal Lineage -
“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, Son of Abraham”
- Matthew 1:1
Obscurity -
"The voice of one crying in the wilderness...He was with the wild animals..."
- Mark 1:2,13
Family and Social History -
"In the days of Herod there was a certain priest names Zacharias...and he had a wife... Elizabeth..."
- Luke 1:5
In Eternity -
"In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God."
John 1:1
Gives focused ministry emphasis to: The Last Passover Week
From the entry into Jerusalem to the Last Supper
Matthew 21:1 25:46
The Early Phase.
From John the Baptist's death to Caesarea Philippi.
Mark 6:14-8:26
The Later Phase.
From Caesarea Philippi to the entry into Jerusalem.
Luke 9:51-19:28
The Last Hours Together
From the Last Supper to Gethsemane.
John 13:1-17:26
has at it's crux/climax:The Earth is torn
- Matthew 27:51-54

The temple curtain is torn
- Mark 15:38
Jesus' body is torn
- Luke 23:46

God is torn
- John 19:37
Ends:With a commission to be taken up.
Given on a Hillside in Galilee.
- Matthew 28:18
With and example and instruction to be followed(for both endings).
Given outside Jerusalem
- Mark 16:8 or 20
With a promise to wait for.
Given in Jerusalem.
- Luke 24:49
With a question and a challenge.
Given on a beach.
- John 19:37
Evangelism Style:Persuasion
Full of apologetic comment and reference to explain Jesus
A fast succession of detailed testimonies to confront you with the question "Who is Jesus?".
Immanuel, God walks with us plus most references to the Spirit of all gospels in preparation for part II, The book of Acts.
A clear statement of who Jesus is to be accepted or rejected.
Eyewitness SourcesPrimarily the Gospel writer himself, drawing in other disciples tesimony.Peter's recollections, secondarily the Gospel writer himself, who travels in the first missionary Journeys as a witness to some key events.Multiple: Mary the Mother of Jesus and other members of Jesus' family, Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Suzanna. Luke's highly personal account of the ministry of the 72 also raises the possibility that he was part of this group and so a witness himself. John the Disciple, Nicodemas.
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