Do the Gospels Reliably Portray Jesus?

by Sheri Bell

Can We Trust these Ancient Storytellers?

Christians view the Bible as the true and inspired word of God, which it is. In the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—we learn details of the incredible ministry of Jesus. Not intended to be strict biographies, these detail-rich texts are interpretations by four individual authors, which they penned for specific audiences, to evoke specific images of Jesus.

The Zondervan Academic blog puts it this way:

“The Bible’s four Gospels paint four portraits of Jesus. While each gospel follows Him on the same journey, they recount it a little differently. They had their own methods, styles, purposes, audiences, and (probably) sources—making each portrait of Jesus uniquely valuable.”

How fortunate are we, as modern Christians, to be able to read all four perspectives together! Let’s take a closer look at the Gospels, to see where they are similar and where they differ, as we answer a common question asked by Christians: “Can I trust what the Gospel writers tell us about Jesus?”

~ What Are “Synoptic Gospels”? ~

The Gospels narrate the life history of Jesus. The first three Gospels are referred to as the “Synoptic Gospels.” The word “synoptic” comes from the Greek word synoptikos, which means “able to be seen together.” These Gospels share similarities in how they tell the story of Jesus—often shared in the same order, and even with the same wording. Yet it’s clear that the Book of Matthew was written to a Jewish audience, Mark to a Roman audience, and Luke to a Gentile audience.

John, the last Gospel to be written, offers more symbolism than the synoptics, as well as a more reflective perspective. John adopts a “post-resurrection” point of view, for example…

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Do the Gospels Reliably Portray Jesus?