The Bible contains four accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ – the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Each Gospel provides a unique perspective on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, together presenting a complete picture of who He is and what He came to accomplish. But why did God see fit to give us four Gospels instead of just one? Here are some key reasons:
To Give a Complete Portrait of Jesus
While the Gospels have much in common and tell the same overarching story, each emphasizes different aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry. For example, Matthew highlights Jesus as the promised Messiah and King of the Jews, tracing his royal genealogy back to King David (Matthew 1:1-17). Mark shows Jesus as the suffering servant who came to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Luke portrays Jesus as the compassionate Savior of all people, emphasizing his concern for outcasts and sinners (Luke 19:10). And John focuses on Jesus’ divine identity as the incarnate Son of God (John 20:31). Together the four Gospels present a multidimensional portrait of Christ.
To Reach Different Audiences
The four Gospels were written by different authors to different audiences, and their content was tailored accordingly. Matthew’s Gospel was directed toward a Jewish audience, opening with a genealogy that traced Jesus’ lineage back through King David to Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation (Matthew 1:1-17). Mark wrote to Gentile believers in Rome, explaining Jewish customs and translating Aramaic phrases. Luke wrote to Theophilus and a broader Gentile audience, emphasizing Jesus’ universal concern for all people. And John wrote later to Christians throughout the Roman Empire, articulating deep theology about Christ’s divine and human natures.
To Provide Corroborating Witness Testimonies
The accounts of Matthew and John were written by Christ’s original disciples who accompanied him during his earthly ministry. Mark derived his account from the apostle Peter, and Luke interviewed eyewitnesses and compiled his history based on careful research (Luke 1:1-4). Having four Gospels allows for cross-checking between accounts and provides corroborating testimonies about the events and teachings of Jesus’ life. This strengthens the historical credibility and truthfulness of the Gospel narratives.
To Show Historical Continuity with the Old Testament
Each of the four Gospels demonstrates continuity between Jesus’ coming and God’s revelation in the Old Testament. Matthew opens with a genealogy that connects Jesus to Israel’s history. Mark introduces Jesus as the prophet foretold by Isaiah. Luke sets Jesus’ birth against the backdrop of the Roman Empire. And John introduces Jesus as the Word who was with God and was God from the beginning. The fourfold Gospel account anchors the story of redemption in Jesus within Israel’s unfolding history and God’s eternal plan.
To Convey the Richness and Complexity of Jesus’ Life
No one Gospel could adequately convey the richness, depth and complexity of Jesus’ life and words. The four Gospels together capture different facets of who Jesus is. For example, over 90% of Mark’s content is also found in Matthew and Luke, but Mark alone includes vivid details like Jesus “looking around at them with anger” (Mark 3:5) and “warning them that they should tell no one” about his miracles (Mark 7:36). The fourfold Gospel witness preserves nuances and textures in Jesus’ life that a single account would not.
To Reach People with Different Learning Styles
People learn in different ways – some through facts and logic, others through stories and emotions. Matthew presents a logical, systematic account of Jesus’ teaching. Mark tells stories that grab the reader and highlight Jesus’ authority and power. Luke provides an orderly, historical narrative appealing to reason. And John uses vivid imagery and metaphorical language. Together the Gospels can reach a variety of learning styles, providing something for every type of reader.
To Inspire Belief in Jesus as the Christ
John stated his purpose explicitly – “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). The fourfold Gospel inspires belief by providing corroborating testimonies, demonstrating Jesus’ continuity with the Old Testament, conveying the richness of his life, and reaching people with different learning styles. Each Gospel writer crafted his account to inspire faith in Christ.
To Transmit the Full Ministry and Message of Jesus
No one Gospel contains all that Jesus taught and did in his three-year ministry (John 21:25). The four Gospels together provide a composite narrative that conveys the full scope of his ministry – his miracles, parables, interactions, sayings, sermons, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension. As a fourfold witness, they transmit a complete account of the most significant life and message in all history.
To Reach the Four Corners of the World with the Gospel
In a vision, Ezekiel saw four living creatures with four faces – a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle (Ezekiel 1:10). Likewise, the four Gospels portray the divine Son of God as King (Matthew), Servant (Mark), the perfect Man (Luke) and the eternal Word made flesh (John). This fourfold presentation of Christ speaks to people everywhere, showing Jesus’ universal relevance and appeal.
To Provide Four Perspectives that Together Reveal Christ in Full
Matthew casts Christ as King, Mark as Servant, Luke as Savior, and John as God incarnate – complementary perspectives that complete the picture. Jesus is King over all creation, but became a servant to ransom sinners. He is the compassionate Savior who died to redeem the lost. And he is the eternal divine Son who became flesh to make God known. Just as different gems together adorn a crown, so the four Gospels adorn Christ in His fullness.
To Manifest the Fullness of God’s Revelation in Christ
The Gospels provide four unique windows into the inexhaustible richness of the divine Son of God. As John said, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book” (John 20:30). The fourfold Gospel finitely manifests the infinite glories of the Word made flesh. Like sunlight refracted into its primary colors, the four Gospels shine forth the manifold splendor of the Light of the World.
To Anchor the Testimony of Christ in History
The events of the Gospels did not happen in a corner (Acts 26:26). The four evangelists rooted the story of Jesus within recognizable historical settings in Judea and Galilee under Roman rule.exact places like Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Capernaum, and Galilee. They also included precise chronological references connecting Jesus to rulers like Caesar Augustus and Herod (Luke 2:1, 3:1-2). Such historical particularity anchors the Gospel narratives in real events.
To Provide an Authoritative Canon Regarding Jesus
Early Christians recognized the unique inspiration and authority of the four Gospel accounts as part of the formation of the New Testament canon. Irenaeus argued in the 2nd century that there could only be four authentic Gospels just as there are four winds and four corners of the earth. The church concurred, embracing Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as providing the fully authoritative witness about Jesus Christ.
To Prepare the Way for the Rest of the New Testament
As the four pillars of the New Testament, the Gospels provide the necessary foundation for the rest of the New Testament. The Gospels recount the events of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection which stand at the heart of the apostolic preaching found in Acts and the New Testament epistles. The theology and ethics of the epistles grows directly out of the life and teachings of Jesus recorded in the fourfold Gospel account.
To Accurately Preserve Jesus’ Teaching for the Church
Jesus’ teachings were not written down during his earthly ministry but were preserved orally by his disciples until they wrote the Gospels decades later. Having four written accounts cross-checking each other helped accurately transmit the substance of Jesus’ teaching. By God’s design, the four Gospels have preserved the priceless treasure of the Lord Jesus’ words for believers in every age.
To Show Agreement Between Independent Witnesses
If the four Gospels had exactly the same content, that could open charges of collusion or copying. The differences between the Gospels show they are independent accounts not dependent on each other. Yet they show agreement on the core truths about Jesus, underscoring the reliability of their witness regarding him. As independent witnesses they corroborate each other’s testimony.
To Equip Disciples throughout the Church Age
For 2,000 years, the four Gospels have instructed countless believers with their vivid accounts of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Their four unique perspectives on Christ equip pastors and teachers to make disciples in all nations (Matthew 28:19). The fourfold Gospel will continue instructing disciples until Jesus returns in glory.
Far from being redundant or contradictory, the four Gospels together provide a sweeping portrait of Jesus Christ in all his offices as King, Servant, Savior and Son of God. Their unity in diversity demonstrates the harmonious inspiration of the Holy Spirit. God purposed the fourfold Gospel witness to ground the church through the ages on the authoritative foundation of Christ himself – the cornerstone of our faith.