Friday, June 02, 2006

Why Only Four Gospels?

In Christianity, gospel means "good news". It’s generally thought that the word gospel derives from the Old English god "good", and spell "news", a translation of the Greek word ευαγγέλιον (evangelion) eu (good) angelon (message). This is also the Greek word from which we get the term evangelist.

The Good Message regards the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to our planet earth. He willingly took on a body of flesh and blood so that he could dwell among us and accomplish the will of the Father who sent Him. (John 1:1-14) His mission was to demonstrate a holy life without sin and then to allow His life to be sacrificed to deal with the sins of those that will put their trust in Him to rescue them from the consequences of their sins.

The Good News of the Old Testament
The Holy Bible is a collection of 66 books written over a period of time spanning 1500 years. The Old Testament (Testimony concerning Christ) contains 39 of these books that were written before the coming of the Lord Jesus to our planet. The Old Testament explains how man first fell into sin and it defines for us what sin is and the inescapable penalty for those that chose to die without dealing with it in God’s prescribed manner.

The concept that innocent blood of animals must be shed to cover man’s sin was first introduced in the Old Testament. [1] The prediction was made that some day God would send the Anointed One [2] who would be the great prophet who will know no sin and in fact will deal with the question of mans sin. [3]

The Good News of the New Testament
The New Testament was written after the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One fulfilled the Old Testament Predictions. It explains why Jesus came. It explains the meaning of the Cross and how that affects you and I personally.

The exactly four gospels of the New Testament [4]
In AD 185, Irenaeus of Lyons wrote an apologetic work he entitled “Adversu Haereses Irenaus”. In his apologetic he argued against some late dated gospels which had already shown up which dated to after AD 70. He specifically argued against the altered version of the gospel of Luke which Marcion had produced. Irenaus drew a conclusion from a vision given to Ezekiel of a creature with four faces that this must mean four views of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ezekiel 1 - 10 As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle.

And Iranaeus argued that there was a distinct purpose for each of the original four gospels as follows;
· Gospel according to Matthew-written by or to Jewish Christians
· Gospel according to Mark-written to a Roman audience
· Gospel according to Luke-written to "most excellent Theophilus" (Greek)
· Gospel according to John-written to non-Jews

Early dating of the four gospels
Early Christian writers always understood the order of the writing of the Gospels to be Matthew, followed by Luke, followed by Mark then followed by John. But in the 1800’s skeptics attempted to discredit the gospels as original accounts claiming a different order for the books and claiming a mysterious original gospel they call “Q”. “Q” has never been found. In order to believe there is a “Q” gospel there is a tendency by the same skeptics to claim a late dating of the original Gospels writing. By claiming this late dating they are also attempt to bring parity to other late dated heretical “gnostic” gospels. They are called “gnostic” gospels because the early church correctly understood that these were largely written by a cult that predated Christianity which believes in goddess worship and attempts to hi-jack Christianity to discredit Christ as being a member of the triune Godhead. [5]

Unfortunately many mainstream Christians today have bought this lie regarding the “Q” manuscript and many have bought into the second lie regarding the late dating of the writing of the New Testament. The range of consensus is as follows;
· Mark: c. 68 (minority) vs 73
· Matthew: c. pre 70 (minority) vs 70 to 100
· Luke: c. pre 70 (minority) vs 80–100 most argue for 85
· John: c. Pre 70 (minority) vs 90–110. many skeptics argue for 2 stages with no stated date of completion. [6]

Although the early dating of scripture is held today by only a minority of Christians we see no evidence other than human deductive reasoning which we believe has led the majority of Christians in the wrong direction to support anything other than the “Minority” view of when the Gospel accounts were written.

Consider the following reasons to consider the early dating of Scripture;
1. The witness of the Spirit - The Bible Tells Christians to become born anew. (John 3:3). When they do so it tells them that the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within them forever (John 14:16). We are told clearly that our spirit witnesses with God’s Spirit, placed within us that these things are true. (1 John 5:6)
2. The promises to preserve the gospel message regarding our Lord Jesus - The gates of hell will not prevail against it. (Matt 16:18)
3. The eyewitness claims made - We are told that the scripture was written by eye witnesses (Luke 1:2; 2 Pet 1:16)
4. The fulfilled prophecy of the destruction of the temple - The great Prophecy of the Lord Jesus that the Temple would soon be destroyed came true in AD 70 along with the genocide of 2 Million Jews and Christians, yet nothing of this is mentioned in the New Testament.
The Bible tells us that skeptics will come which we must guard against regarding the accuracy of the word of God. (1 Tim 3:16, Rev 22:18-19) It tells us to defend it and to exhort and convict those who contradict it.

Titus 1 - 9 holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.

It is our hope that this tract will help you to defend the Good News of Jesus Christ as it is explained in the Bible. Please visit our website and listen to the Audio Bible broadcast from there or read it from one of our many links. Let us know where you are at in your spiritual journey. We would be glad to correspond with you.

You may contact the person who handed you this tract or the author.
Bible Door Tracts,
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Copyright 2006 © Bible Door Tracts.
This tracts author is Ray Luff of Bible Door Tracts. The opinions contained in this tract do not necessarily represent the opinions of Riverdrive Park Bible Chapel where Ray is in fellowship. All Bible references are from The New King James Version. 1996, c1982. Nashville: Thomas Nelson unless otherwise noted

--- Footnotes ---
[1] Lev 6:6-16
[2] “Hamashiak” in Hebrew translated in BCE 250 as “Christos” in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament.
[3] Ps 22, Isa 52-53
[4] Wikipedia topic “Gospel”, the free encyclopedia.
[6] John while written last has the earliest manuscript fragments found to support it, dating to 115 AD.

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