Fr John Macauley continues his six-part bible study series with an interpretation of the gospel message
THE GOSPELS are the heart of the Bible, the Old Testament looks towards them, he rest of the New Testament looks back to the gospels.
The word comes from the Anglo-Saxon Godspel meaning the Good News. They were written between 60-100 AD. They set out to give the teaching of Christ, not to write his life.
Their brilliance and clarity stand out each Sunday in comparison to the readings and 'Epistles from the Old Testament. They avoid local detail, so they are timeless literature applying as directly to us as to the crowds in Palestine.
They are written to involve us. Involvement is the key to all great story telling. It is done by economy of detail, we are left to fill in the details, so our imagination is active. What did Our Lord write in the sand? John 8:7.
The gospels contain two of the greatest stories ever told: the woman taken in adultery John 8:1-// and the man born blind 9:1-41. The teaching of the gospels in concrete, down to earth, with plenty of examples. Two thousand years ago it was using the technique now used by television. shown the pictures of the event narrated. In the case of the gospels we have to supply the pictures, thus involving our imagination.
The four gospels give the same message, but each explain it in the way that reflects the character of the author. The easiest way to see how they are related is to borrow a harmony of the gospels where the four gospels are set out in parallel.
It shows immediately where the texts differ and correspond. They are called the synoptics. The word means seeing together. Only one twelfth of Mark is proper to him, a quarter of Luke and Matthew are proper to them, but nine tenths of John is found only in his gospel.
Gosepi of Luke
He was a convert Gentile, a man of letters and a doctor. He is the only non-Jew author in the Bible. He wrote for Gentile converts. His gospel has the fullest account of the infancy.
It is the gospel of songs: the Benedictus; Gloria; Nunc dimittis and the Magnificat. It has been called the gospel of prayer. Luke records Christ praying at his baptism, before he chose the apostles, before the transfiguration, in the garden, on the Cross, three times Christ withdrew to pray.
Luke alone records Jesus before Herod, the prodigal son, the Pharisee and the publican, the disciples on the way to Emmaus.
Gospel of Mark
In St Peter's first Epistle he refers to Mark, T Peter 5:13. This is probably the same mark who went with Paul and Barnabus on the first missionary journey.
Mark later accompanied Peter on his journeys and recorded his
preaching. The gospel begins:
"The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." This is the core of Mark and is the message preached by the early church e.g., the Kerigima as recorded in the Acts by St. Peter and Paul.
Jesus worked miracles, was crucified and is now risen from the dead. This is the message
and what wc need to do is repent and believe the Good News Mark 1:15. Mark has nothing about the infancy, no sermon on the Mount and a little of the teaching of Christ. It is very factual but he often gives more detail than the other synoptics.
Very little is unique in Mark. It is Mark who gives that beautiful detail about men walking like trees 8:22-26.
Gospel of Matthew
Matthew was a Jew employed by the Romans for collecting taxes. He was an accountant and so wrote his gospel in order.
The order is logical not chronological. He was a Jew, writing for Jews. He assumes his readers know the Old Testament
which he quotes seventy times.
He preaches Christ as the Messiah and calls him this seventeen times.
Matthew alone records the coming of the three wise men. He grouped together Our Lord's teachings, on the Sermon on the Mount, on several occasions. The order of this gospel made it the choice for the Sunday
Gospels for thousands of years.
With the new arrangement a different synoptic is used each year, in the three year cycle. John is used at special times each year — especially round Holy Week and Easter.
Matthew was fond of the sacred number seven. There are seven parables, woes, demons, loaves and baskets and we must forgive seventy times seven.
Gospel of John
His gospel is very different. John was a special friend of. Christ, the only one of the apostles who came anyway near to understanding the Master.
The beginning of his gospel, which used to be the last gospel before the changes in the Mass, is a marvel. The word was made flesh and dwelt among us, that is how St John portrays what happened the first Christmas.
There are no parables in this
gospel. John alone gives the long discourse at the Last Supper. It is the whole of chapter 13 to the end of chapter 17.
John alone reports Cana, Nichodemus, the woman taken in adultery, the man born blind, the good shepherd, Lazarus. For St John the Passion is the triumph of Christ the King.