How the Gospels Came to Be 

The evolution of each of the Gospels, and by that I mean the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John we have in our Bibles, are fascinating stories by themselves. But none of the Gospel writers planned for the story of  their story to be the focus, nor for themselves to be the subject of endless books and debate. They wanted themselves, the authors, and the process of writing to slip into the background. Jesus was to be the center.  Nevertheless, modern readers of these 2000 year-old texts are interested, and scholars have made the question of the Gospels’ origins the occupation of their lives and work, and that work has filled libraries and is beyond the ability of the average reader to access or read with understanding. My hope is that the small contribution I may make, as a reader of the texts over my lifetime and as a reader of the scholars for three decades, will make the story of the Gospels simple and incredibly interesting . 

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The Distinctive Features of Each Gospel 

Two of the Gospels begin with a narrative about the birth of Jesus. Matthew begins that narrative with a genealogy of Jesus that ties Jesus to the line of kings that stretched back to David. That connection with David placed Jesus on the short list of men who could be the king who was predicted and who would follow David and be the greater and ultimate and eternal King, 

Luke, though he too begins with a narrative about the birth of Jesus, actually begins with the birth of John, who became the forerunner of Jesus declaring him to be the long-awaited Messiah. It is not until chapter 3 that Luke provides a genealogy of Jesus. But when he does it connects Jesus to Adam. 

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The Nitty Gritty of the Collection of the Episodes of Jesus' Life 

When Jesus rose from the dead he gave the disciples and especially the Apostles the mission of making disciples wherever they went and to teach those disciples to obey everything he [Jesus] had commanded them (Matthew 28:19-20). 

In response to that command, they immediately began to tell new converts all that they had heard from Jesus. We see that in Acts 2:42. 

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What Happened to the gospel in the first century  

Between the oral gospel, which had been proclaimed by the Apostles, and the earliest written Gospels of the four Evangelists there were about thirty years. Between the oral gospel and the last of the four written Gospels, about sixty years passed. But the written Gospels did not immediately replace the oral gospel. There was a period of transition. 

That transition period covered the time between the first written Gospel in the early 60s and the death of John, the last Apostle, and the men who had known him and learned the gospel from him personally in the early decades of the second century. Polycarp, who had been a disciple of John was perhaps the last of these.  He died in the mid-second century. 

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