Why Four Gospel Accounts?

After reading the Gospel According to Matthew, then reading Mark and Luke’s accounts, it becomes readily apparent that all three are the same story of Jesus but repeated by different people. While John’s version is told in a slightly different manner, it still covers many of the same events and things that Matthew, Mark and Luke did. So why do we need four different accounts of the same story? Why didn’t the people who organized the Bible just pick one and leave it at that? The answer to these questions are important points for good Bible students to understand.

First, we need to understand that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God … ”  (2 Timothy 3: 16) and that “prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). This simply means that everything in the Bible is there for a reason, mainly because God intended for it to be that way (cf Rom 15:4; 2 Pet 1:3). He is the One Who provided the source and then moved those men to gather these letters and manuscripts together in the order in which we have today. It could have been just two accounts, or ten accounts.

It was God’s decision to have four accounts included in the New Testament.

Secondly, each account speaks to or resonates more with particular groups than others. For example, Matthew was a Jew, so he wrote and made points that would appeal to the Jews. He covers the many prophecies that Jesus fulfilled (which the Jews would know about from the prophet’s writings). He lists Jesus’ genealogy and specific details that would help Jewish readers identify Jesus as the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. Throughout the account, Jesus is presented as the Anointed One and King. On the other hand, Mark had Roman ancestry, and his account was written more rapidly, concisely, and pragmatically. His style would appeal more to Roman Gentile readers as Jesus is presented with power and strength. Yet, as great as Jesus was, He was also a servant.

Mark’s target audience was to the Romans.

Luke was a Greek Gentile, so his writing style reflects that particular worldview and presents Jesus as the “perfect man.” Greeks were attracted to philosophy and physical perfection. Luke provides details that would appeal to those of that mindset. 

John’s Gospel account is geared more toward Christians, in general. He focuses more on the personal characteristics of Jesus and that He is the Son of God. His style is quite different than the other three. So, each Gospel account has a specific, intended audience, teaching, and style.

Lastly, I believe it’s helpful to use the analogy of an “Accident in an Intersection” to explain the purpose and scope of the four Gospel accounts. Imagine there was an accident in the middle of an intersection. Also, suppose a student was standing on one corner, a doctor on another, a lawyer on the third, and a policeman on the other corner. Each one would have a completely different view of the accident. What one might not be able to see from one angle could be viewed from another. For example, the student may have noticed that the light was red, while the doctor might not be able to discern if there were any injuries. The same is true for the Gospel writers. Each of them would have a completely different viewpoint of the Messiah. Thus, they write from what they have personally seen.

Even the witness testimonies of the accident will differ because of their backgrounds. The doctor will be mostly concerned about the well-being of those involved. The lawyer will be primarily concerned about who was at fault for the accident, while the police officer probably just wanted to secure the scene and alert emergency services. Meanwhile, the student saw the whole thing perfectly and gave a lot of detail that the others didn’t provide. Such is the case of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John’s writings. They each bring a different mindset to their inspired pen, giving us a beautiful, amplified, and more complete picture of the most important person ever to walk the earth!