THE gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus, Son of God. The gospels are the core texts of the Bible and of Christianity. The Old Testament foretells of the events of the gospels and texts written later explain them. The gospels are the core of Christianity.
All the different dogmas, denominations and traditions of Christianity have evolved on and around these texts during many centuries. The texts are an essential part of western cultural inheritance.
The gospels have sometimes been thought to contradict each other. However, if four people were asked to describe something that happened a few decades ago, all narrators would emphasise different things and they wouldn’t remember things exactly the same way. The gospels are, however, strikingly similar.
The teachings of Jesus create the moral foundation and backbone of the western culture. It is true that they have not always been observed, but the spiritual state of an individual or a society can be weighed against them. The biggest influence of the gospels on Christianity is likely how they tell how Jesus overcame death. He was executed in a cruel fashion by crucifixion, the common Roman punishment of the time. It is said that after three days he rose from the dead and appeared in front of his followers. This leads to the idea that death is not final.
Death is one of the few things that all people agree on – we will all die. It is nice to think that maybe your whole life isn’t over after all. It will continue and maybe take another form. A person is ultimately powerless before these Matters, but thinking that life goes on is nicer than the idea of a final death. Even if one’s religion is irreligiousness, there is only room for belief and hope and nothing is for certain.
The gospels are fine stories and there is every reason to respect them as a part of the western cultural inheritance. Religious they become only if the reader believes them to be true.
A reasonable person will not question the basic teachings of the gospels that encourage people to love all others, be truthful, be unselfish, be humble, forgive others and to repent.
Without these teachings life would be loveless and false, selfish and proud and would be based more on revenge and bitterness than on forgiveness and thus people would not learn anything. This is often unfortunately true but humankind still has a long way to go. These are the things that determine the quality of life.
I have read the gospels with interest but it has always bothered me that it is difficult to keep in mind the other gospels when reading one. They tell about the same events, but because they’re written by different people in different words, it is difficult to comprehend the big picture.
I noted that often different narrators tell about the same things in an amazingly similar way. This led to the idea of combining the texts into one coherent story.
The time-line for the narrative comes from Matthew. Some parts of the gospel of Matthew have been replaced by stories from the other gospels and some parts have been added to the gospel. The principle was that the text that gives the most insight to a specific topic was chosen but so that the writers together tell what happened.
- Kari Lilja, September 2012
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