The Gospel is any of four biblical narratives covering the life, the person, departure and the teachings of Jesus, as he was remembered by the Christian community. According to traditions their authorship (though disputed) is attributed, respectively to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (the four evangelists), they are placed at the beginning of the New Testament and make up about half the total text. The word ‘gospel’ is derived from the Anglo-Saxon term ‘god-spell’, meaning ‘good story’, a rendering of the Latin evangelium and the Greek euangelion (Arabic; Injil), meaning ‘good news’ or “good telling“. Since the late 18th century the first three gospels (Matthew, Mark & Luke) have been called the Synoptic Gospels, because the texts, set side by side, show a similar treatment of the life and end of Jesus Christ.
The four New Testament Gospels compiled as a single narrative by Tatian about C.E 150 is called Diatessaron. It was the standard Gospel text in the Syrian Middle East until about C.E 400, when it was replaced by the four separated Gospels. Quotations from the Diatessaron appear in ancient Syriac literature, but no ancient Syriac manuscript now exists. A 3rd-century Greek papyrus fragment was discovered in 1933 at Doura-Europus, northwest of Baghdad, Iraq. Whether the original writing was done in Greek or Syriac is unknown. There are also manuscripts in Arabian and Persian and translations into European languages made during the middle Ages. The ‘Gospel of Jesus’, written by a Barnabas, a disciple of Jesus, was discovered from a cave in Oloderay, a village of Turkey as well as a copy was obtained by Fra Marino from the Vatican’s library of Pope Sixtus (1585-90). It has been repeatedly prohibited by the church, since 325 C.E because it is against the doctrine of Paulian Christianity in contradiction to the teachings of Jesus and the prophecies also mentioned in this Gospel regarding the advent of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
In Islamic perspective, the Gospel (Injeel) is the name given to those revealed discourses and sayings of Jesus during the last two and half or three years as prophet of God. There is no authentic information available about their recording and compilation before his accession. May be some people had noted them down or some devotees memorized them, however when after some time while his life and history was written, his sayings and discourses conveyed through written and verbal memoir were also written along with historic account of his life.
The Gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John are not actually Gospels but Gospel is the sayings and discourses of Jesus recorded in these books. The only method to distinguish them from other narratives, comments and exegesis is that wherever the author writes, “Jesus said…” or “Jesus taught..” may be considered as part of Gospel i.e. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”(Matthew;22:37); “Think not that I (Jesus) have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. . . . Whoever thenrelaxes one of the least of these Commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven;” (Gospel-Mathew;5:17-20). Qur’an calls them as Gospel (Injeel) and confirms it: “And We caused Jesus, son of Mary, to follow in their footsteps, confirming that which was (revealed) before him, and We bestowed on him the Gospel wherein is guidance and a light, confirming that which was (revealed) before it in the Torah a guidance and an admonition unto those who ward off (evil).” (Qur’an;5:46). If some one compiles these scattered parts and compares them with Qur’an, very little difference could be noticed. Whatever the apparent differences are noticed, they can be resolved through unbiased dialogue and thought process.
Gospel According to Matthew:
Matthew is the first in order of the four canonical Gospels and is often called the “ecclesiastical” Gospel, both because it was much used for selections for periscopes for the church year and because it deals to a great extent with the life and conduct of the church and its members. Although there is a Matthew named among the various lists of Jesus’ disciples, more telling is the fact that the name of Levi, the tax collector who in Mark became a follower of Jesus, in Matthew is changed to Matthew. It would appear from this that Matthew was claiming apostolic authority for his Gospel through this device but that the writer of Matthew is probably anonymous. Matthew gave the frame, the basic shape and colour, to the early church’s picture of Jesus. Matthew used almost all of Mark, upon which it is to a large extent structured, some material peculiar only to Matthew, and independent sayings as they serve the needs of the church. This Gospel expands and enhances the stark description of Jesus from Mark. The fall of Jerusalem (70 C.E) had occurred, and this dates Matthew later than Mark, 70-80 C.E. The Gospel grew out of a “school” led by a man with considerable knowledge of Jewish ways of teaching and interpretation. This is suggested by the many ways in which Matthew is related to Judaism. It is in some ways the most “Jewish” Gospel. Striking are 11 “formula quotations” (“This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet . . .”) claiming the fulfillment of Old Testament messianic prophecies.
The Outstanding Feature of Matthew is its division into five discourses, or sermons, following narrative sections with episodes and vignettes that precede and feed into them:
(1) Chapters 5-7: The Sermon on the Mount; a sharpened ethic for the Kingdom and a higher righteousness than that of the Pharisees.
(2) Chapter 10: A discourse on mission, witness, and martyrological potential for disciples with an eschatological context (including material from Mark 13).
(3) Chapter 13: Parables about the coming of the Kingdom.
(4) Chapter 18: On church discipline, harshness toward leaders who lead their flock astray and more gentleness toward sinning members.
(5) Chapters 23-25: Concerned with the end time (the Parousia) and watchful waiting for it, and firmness in faith in God and his Holy Spirit.
According to Matthew, the “professionally” pious were blind and unhearing, and these traits led to their replacement by those who are called in Matthew the “little ones”; in Final Judgment the King-Messiah will judge according to their response to him who is himself represented as one of “the least of these.” The depiction of Jesus as Lord, King, Judge, Saviour, Messiah, Son of man, and Son of God (all messianic titles) is made in a highly pitched eschatological tone. The Lord’s Prayer is presented in this context, and, for example, the “temptation” (trial, test) of “Lead us not into temptation” is no ordinary sin but the ordeal before the end time, the coming of the Kingdom for which the Matthean church prays. Martyrdom, though not to be pursued, can be endured through the help of the Spirit and the example of Jesus.
The Passion narrative is forceful and direct. Pilate’s part in sentencing Jesus to be crucified is somewhat modified, and the guilt of the Jews increased in comparison with the Marcan account. In Matthew the Resurrection is properly witnessed by more than one male witness so that there can be no ambiguity as to the meaning of the empty tomb. The risen ‘Lord’ (?) directs his disciples to go to Galilee, and the Gospel According to Matthew ends with a glorious epiphany there and with Jesus’ commission to the disciples, the church, to go to the Gentiles, because the risen Jesus is considered as the Lord of heaven and earth for all time.
Gospel According to Mark:
The Gospel According to Mark is the second in canonical order of the Gospels and is both the earliest gospel that survived and the shortest. Though the author of Mark is probably unknown, authority is traditionally derived from a supposed connection with the Apostle Peter, who had transmitted the traditions before his martyr death under Nero’s persecution (64-65 C.E). Mark is written in rather crude and plain Greek, with great realism. Mark has a unique structure, the organization and schematizing of Mark reveals its special thrust. It may be roughly divided into three parts:
- The Galilean ministry; an account of mighty deeds (an aretalogy) [1:1-8:26].
- Discussions with his disciples centered on suffering[8:27-10:52].
- Controversies, passion, death, the empty tomb, and the expected Parousia in Galilee. [11:1-16:8].
The Passion narrative comprises 40 percent of Mark, and, from chapter 8, verse 27, onward, there is heavy reference forward to the Passion. The setting is a Gentile church. There is no special interest in problems with Jews and little precision in stating Jewish views, arguments, or terminology. Full validity is given the worship of the Gentiles. In further support of a Gentile setting and Roman provenance is the argument that Mark uses a high percentage of so-called Latinisms–i.e., Latin loanwords in Greek for military officers, money, and other such terms.
The Cross is both the high point of the Gospel and its lowest level of abject humiliation and suffering. A cry of dereliction and agony and the cosmic sign of the rending of the Temple veil bring from a Gentile centurion acknowledgment of Jesus as Son of God. The disciples reacted to the scandal of the Cross with discouragement, although already the scene is set for a meeting in Galilee. There are no visions of the risen Lord, however, in the best manuscripts (chapter verses 9-20 are commonly held to be later additions), and Mark thus remains an open-ended Gospel.
The Resurrection is neither described nor interpreted. Not exultation but rather involvement in the battle with Satan is the inheritance until the victorious coming in glory of the Lord; a continual process with the empty tomb pointing to hope of the final victory and glory, the Parousia in Galilee. The Gospel ends on the note of expectation. The mood from the last words of Jesus to the disciples remains: “What I say to you, I say to all”.
Gospel According to Luke:
Luke is the third in order of the canonical gospels, which, together with ‘Acts’, its continuation, is dedicated by ‘Luke’ to the same patron, “most excellent” Theophilus. Theophilus may have been a Roman called by a title of high degree because he is an official or out of respect; or he may have been an exemplification of the Gentile Christian addressees of the Lucan Gospel. The author has been identified with Luke, “the beloved physician,” Paul’s companion on his journeys, presumably a Gentile (Colossians;4:14 and 11; II Timothy;4:11, Philem:24). There is no Papias fragment concerning Luke, and only late-2nd-century traditions claim (somewhat ambiguously) that Paul was the guarantor of Luke’s Gospel traditions. Of more import is the fact that in the writings of Luke specifically Pauline ideas are significantly missing; while Paul speaks of the death of Christ, Luke speaks rather of the suffering, and there are other differing and discrepant ideas on Law and eschatology. In short, the author of this gospel remains unknown. Luke can be dated round 80 C.E. There is no conjecture about its place of writing, except that it probably was outside of Palestine because the writer had no accurate idea of its geography.
Though on the whole Matthew is the Gospel most used for the lectionaries, the Christmas story comes from Luke. All the material about John the Baptist, however, is deliberately placed prior to that of Jesus. The account in ‘Luke-Acts’ is for the purpose of instruction and for establishing reliability by going back to the apostolic age. The very style of this preface follows the pattern of Greek historiography, and thus Luke is called the “historical” Gospel.
Historically reliable information cannot be expected, however, because Luke’s sources were not historical; they rather were embedded in tradition and proclamation. The sources of the Gospel are arranged in the service of its theological thrust with definite periodization of the narrative. Luke divides history into three periods:
- The end of the prophetic era of Israel as a preparation for revelation, with John the Baptist as the end of the old dispensation;
- The revelation of Jesus’ ministry as the centre of time; with Satan having departed after the temptation and, until he once again appears, entering into Judas to betray Jesus;
- The beginning of the period of the church after Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection.
Approximately one third of Gospel of Luke is from Gospel of Mark (about 60 percent of Mark). Of more import is the fact that in the writings of Luke specifically Pauline ideas are significantly missing; while Paul speaks of the death of Christ, Luke speaks rather of the suffering, and there are other differing and discrepant ideas on Law and eschatology. In short, the author of this gospel remains unknown. Luke “civilizes” the more stark eschatological emphasis of Mark (and Matthew), leading the way, perhaps, to a lessening of eschatological hopes in a time in which the imminent Parousia was not expected but pushed into the distant future. Luke’s account of the Crucifixion heightens the guilt of the Jews, adding a trial and mockery by Herod Antipas. The Crucifixion in Luke is interpreted as an anticipatory event: that the Christ must suffer by means of death before entering into glory. Jesus’ death, therefore, is not interpreted in terms of an expiatory redemptive act. The centurion who saw the event praised God and called Jesus a righteous man, thus describing his fate as that of a martyr, but with no special meaning for salvation. The link between past salvation history and the period of the church is through the Spirit; salvation history continues in Acts.
Gospel According to John:
Irenaeus, the leading Christian theologian of the 2nd century calls John as the beloved disciple who wrote the Gospel in Ephesus. Papias mentions John the son of Zebedee, the disciple, as well as another John, the presbyter, who might have been at Ephesus. From internal evidence, the Gospel was written by a beloved disciple whose name is unknown. Because both external and internal evidence are doubtful, a working hypothesis is that John and the Johannine letters were written and edited somewhere in the East (perhaps Ephesus) as the product of a “school,” or Johannine circle, at the end of the 1st century. The addressees were Gentile Christians, but there is accurate knowledge and much reference to Palestine, which might be a reflection of early Gospel tradition. The Jews are equated with the opponents of Jesus, and the separation of church and synagogue is complete. Gospel of John is a significant source of Jesus’ life and ministry, and it does not stand as a “foreign body” among the Gospels.
John is the last Gospel and, in many ways, different from the Synoptic Gospels. The question in the Synoptic Gospels concerns the extent to which the divine reality broke into history in Jesus’ coming, and the answers are given in terms of the closeness of the new age. John, from the very beginning, presents Jesus in terms of glory: the Christ, the exalted ‘Lord’, mighty from the beginning and throughout his ministry, pointing to the Cross as his glorification and a revelation of the glory of the Father. The Resurrection, together with Jesus’ promise to send the Paraclete (the Holy Spirit) as witness, spokesman, and helper for the church, is a continuation of the glorious revelation and manifestation (Greek epiphaneia). The Jews are equated with the opponents of Jesus, and the separation of church and synagogue is complete, John is a significant source of Jesus’ life and ministry, and it does not stand as a “foreign body” among the Gospels. Various backgrounds for John have been suggested: Greek philosophy (especially the Stoic concept of the logos, or “word,” as immanent reason); the works of Philo of Alexandria, in which there is an impersonal logos concept that can not be the object of faith and love; The Logos (Word) took on new meaning in Christ. The Creator of the world entered anew with creative power. But history and interpretation are always so inextricably bound together that one cannot be separated from the other.
John depended on a distinct source for his seven miracles (the sign [Semeia] source):
(1) Turning water to wine at the marriage at Cana (John;2:3-11).
(2) The healing of an official’s son;
(3) The healing of a paralytic at the pool at Bethzatha.
(4) The feeding of the multitude;
(5) Jesus walking on water;
(6) The cure of one blind from birth; and
(7) The raising of Lazarus from the dead.
In chapter 20, verse 30, the purpose of the signs is stated: “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.”
A major part of John is in the form of self-revelatory discourses by Jesus. In John, Christ is depicted as belonging to a higher world, and his kingship is not of this world. He is said to have come into this world to his own people, and they rejected him, but this is but another example of the church’s mission having passed both historically and theologically to the Gentile milieu.
The Christology in John Heightened: Though the Synoptics have Jesus speaking about the Kingdom, in John, Jesus speaks about himself. This heightened Christology can be seen in many of the “I am” sayings of Jesus. These sayings are self-revelatory pronouncements: (1) bread of life, (2) light of the world, (3) door of the sheepfold, (4) good shepherd, (5) resurrection and life, (6) way, truth, and life, and (7) true vine. Such theophanic (visible manifestation of a deity) expressions are heightened (metaphorically) in other sayings: “I and the Father are one”; “Before Abraham was, I am”; “He who has seen me has seen the Father”; and Thomas’ cry after the Resurrection “My Lord and my God !.”
The contrast between Paul and John is even more striking if one accepts the most plausible theory that John as we have it includes passages (added later) by which the realized eschatology has been corrected so as to fit better into the more futuristic eschatology that was stressed in defense against the Gnostics. John;5:25-28 is such a striking correction. Each of the four Gospels presents a different facet of the picture, a different theology. Although in all the Gospels there is warning about persecution and the danger of discipleship, each has [been perverted] the retrospective comfort of having knowledge of the risen ‘Lord’ who will send the Spirit [comforter]. In John, however, there is a triumphant, glorious confidence: “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Some scholars consider Barnabas as the author of Epistle to Hebrews, Epistle of Barnabas; His Acts and His Gospel. All the Gospels except four were ordered to be destroyed in 325. The ‘Gospel of Jesus’ according to Barnabas has been again prohibited by the Pope in 496 C.E, because it is against the doctrine of Paulian Christianity in contradiction to the teachings of Jesus. The main reasons of immense opposition to the ‘Gospel of Barnabas’ and rejection by the Church are:
- In this Gospel Jesus is more unambiguously presented as a human and prophet of God.(though other Gospels also mention the same).
- Jesus was not crucified but ascended to heaven.
- It is mentioned that Abraham offered Ishmael to sacrifice.
- The clear prophesy of advent of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) is also mentioned more obviously. [More details about this gospel have been explained in the next chapter]
Gospel According to Thomas:
The Gospel of Thomas surfaced in the archaeological discovery at the Nag Hammadi Library around 1945. Unlike the Gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke, John, and Barnabas, it does not narrate Jesus’ life but is solely a collection of one hundreds and fourteen of his sayings. Many echo the canonical Gospels, but some don not. Some sayings have mystical flavor.
· Bible: A Short History: http://t.co/H5QjqWm
· Bible: Questionable Precepts: http://t.co/jO5UfC6
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