Lesson 1: Introduction to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

Mt. 1:1, Mk. 1:1, Lk. 1:1-4, Jn. 1:1-18; 20:30-31

A Blending of the four Gospel records. Hello! My name is Bernard Horsley. Welcome to our Bible Study. We're going to study Matthew, Mark, Luke and John: the first four books of the N.T. We're going to study all four books at the same time. These books are biographies of Jesus. These four books contain ESSENTIALLY the same in­formation. There is a good bit of repetition in the four books; but, each book contains some inform­ation NOT FOUND in the other three. Each book is unique in its own way. Some of these books cover the birth and ancestry of Jesus Christ with a good bit of detail. Another book may omit that alto­gether, but contain many facts about the last week of Jesus' life and death, not covered any place else. These four books, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John make up 46 or 47% of N.T's volume. Understand­ing these four books is absolutely basic to the Christian religion. This is God's inspired word.
These lessons are a companion study to one previously done on the book of Acts, the fifth book of the N.T. May I encourage you, as a student of God's word, to approach this study with eagerness. Let's play detective! We want to see every verse in proper perspective. We want to understand the message to us, AND for us, in its proper context. Let's keep this study as basic and non-sophisticated as possible. Yet, we want to be thorough.
We're going to use the King James translation in this study. It is very IMPORTANT that YOU use the King James text. I do not say THAT because I believe the KJV to be superior to every other translation. I don't! But, it's a good translation. We want to communicate smoothly. If we use the same text book, it eliminates a lot of distraction. So, get a copy of the KJV in your hand right now. If you have other translations available, that's fine. Use them! for comparison. But, in this study, we're going to read together. When I read, you read. It's a must! Please don't just sit back and listen. Participate! Be a real detective! Check everything I say. This is NOT an exercise in listening! This is a BIBLE study! You will also need a pencil, a note pad, and a common English dictionary at your fingertips. I suggest you use FOUR book-markers. Three by five cards make good book-markers. Envelopes do pretty well. Identify your markers so you can flip from book to book rapidly. Turn the tape-player off long enough to get organized. Do it now! That's one of the advantages of studying by cassette tape as you are doing. Learn that technique.
O.K., let's study! Look at the title of each book. The title of the first book in my Bible reads: "The Gospel According; to St. Matthew." Now, it MAY or MAY NOT be the same in your Bible, titles vary. Some simply say, "Matthew." if it says: "St. Matthew" (as my Bible does) it's a pretty good bet the book was printed under Catholic influence. But, the point you want to understand is this: titles were NOT part of the original writing. So, our text is the same, even if the titles vary. The word "gospel" means: good news or good tidings. So, the gospel according to Matthew means: the good news by Matthew's account. Matthew was the writer of this first book. Mark the writer of the second book. Luke the third and John the fourth. Thus, these books bear the name of the penman who wrote that book. But, you must keep in mind: the author of all N.T. books was the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost) is a person of the Godhead, very much like Jesus. The Holy Spirit did not come in a human body, like Jesus did. But the Holy Spirit is the author of these books. That person (the Holy Spirit) used men to write these books. He preserved the style and vocabulary of these men: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Now, who were these men? The first and last, Matthew and John, were apostles of Jesus Christ. And, these two apostles, Matthew and John, occur as characters or participants in these narratives, that we are about to launch upon. Thus, you will learn most of what is known about these two men during this study. This John was NOT John the Baptist. This was John the apostle, a fisherman by occupation. Matthew was a tax collector. Mark and Luke were younger men than Matthew and John. They were NOT apostles. They were inspired men, but NOT apostles. So, their names DO NOT occur within the pages of these four books. Mark was an associate of the apostle Peter. In Acts 12:12 he is referred to as John Mark. I Pet. 5:13 is usually interpreted to mean that John Mark was taught and baptized by Peter. John Mark's mother lived in a commodious home in Jerusalem and it is at least conceivable that John Mark MAY have seen Jesus. Luke, on the other hand, was an associate of the apostle Paul.. In Col. 4:14, Luke is referred to as a physician. It is deducted from the three verses preceding that, that Luke was a Gentile, i.e. a non-Jew. This same Luke was also THE writer of the book of Acts. Luke was the only Gentile writer of the N.T. and the largest single contributor to the N.T. He was the second largest contributor if Paul wrote Hebrews. But, these biographies of Jesus were apparently written about a generation after Jesus died on the cross of Calvary. You should note, these four gospel records were NOT the first books of the N.T. to be written. They record the BEGINNING of the gospel; thus, they are logically placed first in the N.T.
Now, much has been made out of the fact that the first three of these books (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are very similar in outline, approach and content. Sometimes referred to as the "synoptic", simply meaning "similar." But John's book is different. Thus, many so-called studies in theological circles center around the question: Who copied from who? But, we shall leave all such questions to the doctors of divinity; and make NO ACCUSATIONS that anyone copied from anyone. If these writers -were inspired of God, as they claim to be, and as 1 believe they were, and as the book (itself) demonstrates; then such questions become moot, i.e. they argue against themselves. But, why four books? Now, I can't answer that! This was done by the wisdom of God's Holy Spirit. And, that's all I need to know. But, I'll say this: the more you study these books, the more you'll be impressed that this duplicity actually attests to the truthfulness of the accounts.
We could study book by book. We could organize our study by chronology, i.e. by order of time, or use some other approach(es). But, because I'm the teacher and because this is a companion study to the acts study already mentioned; this is the approach I am going to use. We'll follow the book of Luke as our main outline. Then, we shall try to relate and fit in the information in the other three books. Hopefully, at the end of our study, we will have covered EVERY PASSAGE in all four books. O.K., that's our plan of attack. I will read ALMOST every verse. You should read EVERY verse. We'll try to be practical, so we may deviate from this once in a while. Now, before we get started, here's one more detail. You'll need to keep up with what we HAVE COVERED and what we have NOT covered some way or another. One way is to use  high-lighting pen. Another way is to underline every verse as we cover it. You see, we'll be flipping from book to book and duplicate materials (sometimes called parallel passages) do not necessarily occur in the same sequence in any two books. So, you will need to mark each passage as we cover it. This may seem a little wild or extravagant, at first, but as our study progresses, you'll be amazed how this helps to locate and relocate passages. I simply box in the verses and assign that block a number (I mark right in my Bible) so that I can review and see quickly the sequence in which we covered the passage. But, you need to decide NOW how you are going to keep-up with this, and then KEEP-UP! I'll try to remember to help-you-along with this at first.
 O.K., let's study! Turn to Luke 1:1. I'm going to read the first sentence, (four verses). Remember now, you read as I read. Look at the words and say the words, either silently or aloud. O.K. get your eyes on the text. Let's read! "Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; it seemed good to me also, having perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou has been instructed." Alright, you should mark those verses in. your bible NOW. O.K. let's discuss. Back to v.1, Luke said HE was NOT the first to write or declare these things. MANY, he said, had take in hand to set forth or report THESE THINGS. Now, that could include Matthew, Mark and John; we don't know (all of them, part of them or none of them). We don't know. It very well might have included some writings we don’t have today: possiblyuninspired writings. But, we’ learn, Luke was NOT the first. Now, what did THOSE THINGS include? He said, (v.1) "those things which are most surely believed among us..." O.K., in what manner did they declare THOSE THINGS, Luke? "in order" Alright Luke, in what order? "as they delivered them unto us" (v.2). Now, who was it that delivered these things to you, Luke? Two categories: (1)eyewitnesses, and (2) ministers of the word. From the beginning, they were eyewitnesses. Now you can't get much further back than that. Who did the eyewitnesses deliver THOSE THING to, Luke? Notice the pronoun "us" (v.2). Now notice something here. Not only was Luke inspired, (that is). had perfect understanding (v.3). Luke had access to eyewitness accounts. O.K., in v.3 Luke said "it seemed good to me..." What seemed good to you Luke? "to write unto thee." How Luke? "in order." Alright, WHO are you writing this to Luke? "most excellent Theophilus." O.K., what do you plan to tell Theophilus, Luke? "That thou mightest know the certainty of THOSE THINGS..." (v.4). What things, Luke? "THOSE THINGS, wherein thou [(that is). Theophilus] hast been instructed." Did you catch on, that Luke here substitutes the words "THOSE THINGS" for the word "gospel", (that is). the good news of Jesus Christ? That substitution is used in v.1, and again in v.4. Now, I know you're wondering: Who was Theophilus? All we learn about Theophilus is He was MOST EXCELLENT. And, he was instructed in the gospel (that is). he was a Christian. And, he either got a letter from Luke -or- Luke dedicated this writing (called The Gospel of Luke) to Theophilus. It might interest you, that this same Luke, addressed the book of Acts to Theophilus, also (Acts 1:1). These two times are the only two times in the Bible where the word "Theophilus" occurs. Was Theophilus a man? Or could this be a personification? The word Theophilus literally means: "lover of God." Did Luke mean all "lovers of God"? Or was Luke writing to a man, named Theophilus? I wish I could answer that, but I can't. The fact that Luke used the title "most excellent" in v.3 is said by some to PROVE that Theophilus was a man of high rank in government. I'm not convinced of that; but, let's be honest detectives and admit: We don't Know!
These four verses make up what we would call the "preface" to Luke's book. That is, it's an introductory explanation of Luke's writing. Matthew and Mark do not preface their writings. Mark simply starts off (Mark 1:1) "In the beginning Of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." That's Mark's first sentence. May I pause here, to tell you, you should have flipped to Mark 1:1 and read Mark 1:1 as Iread it and marked that verse. If you need to turn the tape-player off a minute, TURN IT OFF! You might notice in Mark's statement, he used the word "gospel", (that is). the good news or good tidings of Jesus Christ. He also acknowledged Jesus Christ as God's Son in the very first verse. And, he calls your attention to the beginning of that. Then in v.2, Mark begins to relate THOSE THINGS to the O.T. prophets.
Matthew's approach is very much like Mark's. Matthew's starts off like this: "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." (Matt. 1:1). Thus, Matthew's book is about the GENERATION of Jesus Christ. From there, Matthew begins to connect the genealogy of Jesus Christ to Jesus' ancestors mentioned and portrayed in the O.T. We won't cover all of that now; but that's Matthew's approach. Neither Matthew nor Mark pause again to give an explanation for their writing. John, on the other hand, starts off altogether different. John begins with a PROLOGUE. That big word simply means: a beginning speech. That is, John substitutes a theological treatise for the preface. In other words, he begins with a formal, systematic STATEMENT about God. I'm told that in ancient times many poems, novels and plays began with such a similar literary device. John's prologue is 18 verses long. As we bring this first lesson to a close, let's read John's prologue. Are you ready? Are your book markers working? Here we go, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John bears witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me; for he was before me. And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." O.K., that's John's prologue. Astounding thought! Simple, yet very profound. Now get this! After John had written 20 chapters, John paused and told us the purpose of his book. That's John 20:30-31. Let's read it! Are you ready? "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these were written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.  Now, that was the purpose of John's book: "that ye might believe." When we have completed this study, I trust you will say it was the same purpose Matthew, Mark, and Luke had in mind also. These books were written to produce faith; and they'll do it, if you study them.
     This concludes lesson # 1. There are four lessons on each cassette. Each lessons is about 21 minutes, You should schedule your sessions to fit one or more lessons. The lessons are separated by. singing. So long until lesson # 2. Thanks for coming and have a good day.

A Blending Of The
4 Gospel Records
By Bernard Horsley

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