There are various approaches to the New Testament, much as there are
differing views on the content of the whole Bible. One idea is
called “Higher Biblical Criticism” which, as the name suggests, is a
critical view of Scripture, much like a movie critic attends a movie
and then criticizes the show as to what he saw for a newspaper. A
“Lower Biblical Critic” is someone who writes about Scripture,
emphasizing an analysis of the original languages involved.
Most of the New Testament was written in a common form of the Greek
language of the time. For years, many scholars thought New Testament
Greek was a “special” language, created only for the Bible, but that
idea was subsequently found to be untrue. The Bible was written in
the common languages of the people, so that it might be open to as
many people as possible. There are two places in the New Testament
that were written in Classical Greek, and words from other languages
are sometimes inserted, most often from the Aramaic.
This study takes the position that “All
Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for
doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for Instruction in
(2 Timothy 3:16). In other words, God gave His Word to
people, and they wrote as He led them, or gave the information to
secretaries, who in turn, wrote the words that God would have us
learn from and understand today. The One who inspired
Scripture was the Holy Spirit of God, who “whispered” into the
hearts of the human authors involved.
You are encouraged to test yourself after the
completion of “The Synoptic Gospels”, using an essay (written)
format. The next section is entitled “Questions” and it is
suggested that you may 1) answer one or more of the questions in
that section, and 2) send your answers to
Ron@FridayStudy.org. If you would like, your
answers will be “graded” and responses given.
You are encouraged to take an approach to the
Scriptures that is unique to your understanding. You will not
be “graded down” if you choose to include an approach to Scripture
that is from a “critical” perspective. However, you are
encouraged to “be diligent to present yourself
approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly
dividing the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The
people you will eventually reach, as ministers of the Gospel (we all
become His ministers, in the Body of Christ), do not need your
clever arguments any more than they need mine. They need the
Lord, as we do.
The Bible stands on its own, or rather, the
written Word of God is supported by the Holy Spirit of God, and
really does not need inventive arguments in relation to it. It
is suggested that you take the time God has allotted to you in this
study, and learn the New Testament, preparing yourself to present
the simple and wholesome Word of God, which has saved and served so
many throughout history.
By the way, there are excellent websites where
you may visit and copy or print the writings of some truly
remarkable theologians from past centuries. A good, simple to
use “search engine” for that purpose is called “Google,” where you
can enter words like “Bible Commentaries” and “Search” for some
really great Bible commentaries from the past, including the
following suggested locations:
Matthew Henry, who wrote about 250 years ago (“Matthew Henry’s
Commentary”), is strongly recommended, along with others of that
time, such as John Calvin, John Wesley, and John Gill. You
will find wonderful material in those writings. Also
recommended is Dr. J. Vernon McGee (but there will be a small charge
for his materials).
This study operates from the perspective that you, the student of
the Bible, already have some understanding, or at least an awareness
of the Books of the New Testament. In the “Synoptic Gospels”,
we will take a solid look at the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
The following are questions you might ask yourself when reading the
Gospels themselves, along with the supporting materials in relation
to them (such as Bible commentaries). In writing your answers
to some or all of these questions, defend your answers with
Scriptures in every instance, and commit those Scriptures to memory,
In the light of the first three Gospels, who
is Jesus Christ? Why do you believe that way about Him?
Are you surprised by who He is? In what way?
Why did God the Father select Jesus Christ
to come to this earth?
Why are His genealogies (in Matthew and
Luke) important? In what way are the two genealogies
different from one another? WHY are they different?
Why do YOU think Mark not use a genealogy?
Are there names in the genealogies that
surprise you? Why do they surprise you?
Is the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1 and
forward) and/or the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:17 & forward) a
“law” for the Church today? If not, why not?
Why did Christ speak so much in parables?
Do you sometimes understand BETTER because He spoke in parables?
How? What parables are meaningful to you? Why?
Why were the religious leaders of the time
opposed to Jesus? Are such religious leaders in the world
What miracles do you find in these Gospels?
What is the important of them? Are there miracles today?
Do you believe in miracles? If not, why not?
In what ways does Jesus Christ fulfill Old
What is the significance of the death of
Christ for you? What is the importance of His resurrection?
Do you believe in the resurrection of
Christ? Why? Why not?
Is His death more important than the
resurrection? Or the other way around? Why?
- Why are there four Gospels? Why are the first three so
much alike? Or, ARE they alike to you? In what way?
As stated before the
Questions section, the preceding are some of the
questions you might consider in relation to this preliminary study
of the first three Gospels. You should always ask questions
and not simply agree with everything you hear from people. If
you are in Christ, the Holy Spirit of God is speaking to your heart
and mind constantly. By learning to ask, you are learning to
ask HIM. You are “fearfully and
wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) just as you are, and the
questions you ask honestly will be answered, for that is His plan
Don’t be afraid to ask HIM – anything!
Actually, He ENCOURAGES you in this manner: “Until
now, you have asked nothing in My Name. Ask, and you will
receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24).
Your assignment in the Synoptic Gospels is to
read each of those Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), with the above
Questions in mind.
Go into the Internet at the places cited, and read the theologians
you can find his excellent writings as “freeware” on the Internet.
The next New Believers Study will be in the
Book of John.
the Gospel written by a Jew to Jews about a Jew. It was
written by Matthew, who was also called “Levi,” the former tax
collector, and he emphasizes Jesus as King of the Jews, the
long-awaited Messiah (Christ). At an early date, this Gospel was
called “Kata Matthaion” (“According to Matthew”). There was an
early tradition that Matthew was written in Hebrew (probably a form
of Aramaic) but no "original" Hebrew or Aramaic Gospel of Matthew has yet been
Matthew, as a tax collector, had been unpopular
with his countrymen, and he quickly responded to Jesus, indicating
he may well have already been stirred by Jesus’ teaching. He
gave a large reception for Jesus in his ample home and then left it
all to follow Jesus. He was chosen as one of the twelve
Apostles and he last appears in Scripture in Acts 1:13.
Scholars have dated the writing of Matthew from
A.D. 40 to A.D. 140. The two expressions “to this day” (27:8)
and “until this day” suggest that considerable time had passed
before the words were written down, but they also point to a date
before the destruction of Jerusalem, in A.D. 70. Jesus’ sermon
on the Mount of Olives (24 and 25) also anticipates this event.
The Book has a strong Jewish flavor and was in truth, likely written between
A.D. 58 and A.D. 68.
Matthew presents Jesus as Israel’s promised
Messianic King. The phrase “kingdom of heaven” appears 32
times in Matthew, but nowhere else in the New Testament.
Matthew uses approximately 130 allusions to the Old Testament – more
than any other New Testament Book.
This Book presents Jesus as our Servant: “For
even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to
give His life a ransom for many” (10:45). The ancient title
for this Book was “Kata Markon” or “According to Mark.” His
Latin name was “Marcus,” but to the Jews he was known by his Hebrew
name “John” (Acts 12:12, 25, and 15:37 – “John, whose surname was
Acts 12:12 states that Mark’s mother Mary had a
large house which was used as a meeting place for believers in
Jerusalem. We know Peter went there often, because the servant girl
recognized his voice at the gate (Acts 12:13-16). It has been
suggested that Mark was “a certain young man” in Gethsemane
(14:51-52). Since all the disciples had abandoned Jesus
(14:50), this may have been a firsthand account.
Many scholars believe Mark was the first Gospel
written, but it is not really known. The Gospel of Mark should
be dated before A.D. 70 because of the prophesy about the
destruction of the Temple in 13:2. Early traditions are that
this Gospel includes events told to Mark by Peter, and that it was
directed to a Roman world. If that was the intended audience,
it would explain why Mark does not include a genealogy, and why he
has remarkably fewer references to fulfilled prophesy, references to
the Law, and certain Jewish customs.
Dr. Luke was a physician who accompanied Paul
the Apostle and who also wrote the Book of Acts. Paul referred
to him as “Luke the beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14).
“Kata Loukon” or “According to Luke” was added to the Gospel at an
early date. Both his books (Luke and Acts) were dedicated to
“Theophilus” as a two-volume work, and both start out with a few
verses written in Classical Greek. In Acts, all but two of
Paul’s associates are named in the third person, and the two are
Luke and Titus. Titus has never been regarded as the author
and Luke fits all the requirements for authorship.
Luke was in prison with Paul, who said of him,
while he was in prison, “only Luke is with me” (2 Timothy 4:11).
Luke may have been a Hellenistic Jew, but it is more likely he was a
Gentile (a non-Jew), making him the only Gentile author in the New
Testament. Luke has obvious skill with the Greek language and
his phrase “their own language” in Acts 1:19, strongly suggests he
was not Jewish.
Luke was not an eye witness to the Gospel
events, like Matthew and John, but instead was like an
“investigative reporter,” who went and asked questions of the actual
people involved, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, during the
time of Paul’s two-year imprisonment in Caesarea. This Book
was written prior to Acts and was probably completed in the early 60’s
A.D., certainly before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and
both books (Luke and Acts) were completed before the killing of Paul
in A.D. 66, or those events would have been included in Acts.
humanity and compassion of Jesus is repeatedly stressed in Luke’s
Gospel. This was to be an accurate, chronological account of
the unique life of Jesus the Christ, to strengthen the saving faith
of Gentile believers. Luke not only shows Jesus as divine, but
he also emphasizes His humanity, revealing more of Christ’s feelings
and humanity than any of the other Gospels.
Read the Word of God.
Matthew Henry’s Commentary
Pray about what you are studying
Write with any questions:
Pastor Ron Beckham