devotional

07JUN
2014

Multiple Witnesses

 

The first four books in the New Testament (NT) are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They're called, "gospels." The word gospel means, "Good news." They were written in the same order as they appear in your Bible. The dates of their authorship are as follows: on or prior to A.D. 50, sometime in the 50s, 60-61, and 80-90, respectively. There is in fact only one gospel that Christians believe in which is chronicled by these four separate individuals.

            Jesus’ time on earth ended around A.D. 28-30. This means that a liberal estimate of the record of Matthew’s gospel was not until about 20 years after Jesus had ascended before his very eyes, Acts 1:9. John wrote his gospel roughly 50 or 60 years after. Each writer, it would seem by the evidence of investigation, had different recipients primarily in mind when he penned his letter. Matthew and John were eyewitnesses of Jesus as Apostles. Mark and Luke were not. Luke is the only Gentile writer of Scripture. Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience. Mark to a Gentile (likely Roman) audience. Luke wrote (as with Acts his sequel) to Theophilus, and a broader Gentile audience than Mark. John wrote to no one in particular. 

            There are a great many differences between the way each of these writers, under the same inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote their gospel letters, 2 Peter 1:20-21. One powerful apologetic for the veracity of Scripture is these variances. See, if you took any four people and asked them each to describe a life-changing incident they had all shared you would have differences. Get further into any one person’s precision in those details and you’ll see only more variation emerge. This is to be expected. A policeman can tell during an interrogation if the stories given are concocted or disingenuous if multiple witnesses all say the exact same thing. Minor variations in detail are expected. What’s also expected is that each witness, if telling the truth, will still tell the story rightly. Certain key elements will not differ. This is precisely what we see with the writers of the NT.

            Matthew, Mark and Luke are called the, “Synoptic gospels.” This means they look at the ministry of Jesus through a very similar lens. John’s gospel, however, even from the middle of the 2nd Century, has been called a, “Spiritual gospel” by men like Clement. The synoptics focus mainly on Jesus’ ministry in Galilee while John’s primary focus is on His Judean works. All focus mainly on Jesus’ work on the cross, but they each approach it in very different ways. John's, at least to me, reads a bit less like a biography. It appears like more of a theological treatise.

            There are no contradictions in anything they wrote. Their works are each inspired and perfect, and form a composite perfection as well. Each writer’s details weave together into a more intricate mosaic defining and illuminating complimentary facets of Jesus and His ministry. Matthew strives to reveal Jesus as the awaited King, the Messiah who was to come. Mark shows Jesus as the sufferer at the hand of the Father. Luke stresses Jesus’ humanity, and John stresses Jesus’ Deity. Each also provides information on all of this as well. Without each writer's vantage, The Gospel of Jesus Christ would not be what it is. We are privileged to have these multiple witnesses. Minor variations could easily have been altered throughout history, but the scribes and writers of holy writ knew better. At times it’s hard to build a proper bridge to Jews living 2,000 plus years ago in another country, but it is not impossible. Each gospel writer tells the story of Christ's life and work in his own way. The epistles then come along after Acts and help us interpret the life of Jesus more fully. This too contains the awesome reality of a multitude of witnesses. The Bible is not the proclivities of a man; it is the word of the only God delivered by roughly 40 different people over a 1,500 plus year time span.

It is a book like no other! All of its numerous witnesses testify to this. 

 

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