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The Gospels

A Brief Historical Background


As an overall background of our two part document on Biblical Literalism or Symbolism (2) we are publishing below a concise but clear history about by whom, where , when and under what conditions the Four Gospels were written. This will will serve to further cement the Faith in God and His Word as transmitted to and through man.

INDEX of Introductory Notes

Gospel of Matthew

Gospel of Mark

Gospel of Luke

Gospel of John

Gospel of Matthew (Written ca. 40-50 A.D.)

Little is know about the life of Matthew, known earlier as Levi. He was a publican, that is, a tax collector for the Roman Empire at Capernaum until the day Jesus called him to the discipleship, by simply saying to him: "'Follow Me.' So he arose and followed Him." [Matthew 9:9]

His apostolic life started in Palestine, with the other Apostles; later on he may have preached in Ethiopia, where there is indication that he suffered martyrdom. His body is venerated in the Salermo Cathedral (Italy); his feast day is celebrated on September 21st.

Matthew was the first one to write the Good News in book form, somewhere between the years 40-50 A.D.. He wrote it in aramaic for the Jews in Palestine who used that language. Later on this Gospel, whose original text in aramaic was lost, was translated to Greek.

Matthew's objective was to demonstrate that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah because in Him all the prophecies of the old Prophets had been fulfilled. For his particular audience this was the best proof. Even today one can still feel the overwhelming power of such confirmation as we read Matthew's Gospel.

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Return to World English Bible: Matthew

Index of Introductory Notes

Gospel of Mark (Written ca. 50-60 A.D.)

Mark, surnamed John, was the son of that Mary in whose house the Lord's Disciples used to meet [Acts 12:12]. It is quite probable that the same house also served as the setting for other Sacred Events such as the last Passover Meal and Pentecost.

With his cousin Barnabas, Mark accompanied Paul in his first Apostolic Journey as far as the city of Perga in Pamphylia [Acts 13:13]. Later on, somewhere between the years 61-63 A.D., we find him again with Paul during his captivity in Rome.

Peter calls Mark "my son" [1 Peter 5:13], which leads us to believe that he was baptized by Peter himself. The earliest tradition unanimously confirms that in Rome Mark transmitted to others what his spiritual father (Peter) taught him, thus, writing in the years 50-60 A.D. his Gospel; a Gospel which would be more accurately called the Gospel of ' Peter and Recorded by Mark'.

The purpose that the second Evangelist tried to fulfill was to demonstrate that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that everything in nature - even demons - are subjected to Him. Therefore, he makes a point of reporting about the miracles as well as the exorcisms performed by Jesus.

The Gospel of Mark, the briefest of the four Gospels, presents in synthesis and in his own style, many of the same events that appear in the other Gospels as well as reports events which are missing from them. This allows a better and deeper understanding of the other Gospels.

Mark died in Alexandria - the seat of the Patriarchate which he headed. The city of Venice claim him as its Patron and his body is venerated in its cathedral.

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Index of Introductory Notes

Gospel of Luke (Written ca. 62-63 A.D.)

"Luke, the beloved physician" [Col. 4: 14] was as Syrian born in Antioch in a pagan family. He had the fortune of conversion to Christianity and to meet Paul, becoming his loyal companion and disciple for many years - even sharing prison with him in Rome.

According to his own testimony [Lk 1:3], Luke "having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first" recorded it to leave behind a written record of the oral tradition "that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed" [Lk 1:4]. Without a doubt, one of his main sources was Paul himself and is very probable that he also received information directly from Mary, Jesus Most Holy Mother; especially regarding the childhood of our Lord since it is only Luke who gives certain details about it.

Because of his news about the Child and His Mother, he was called the Evangelist of the Virgin. It is because of this that legend has it that Luke "painted" the first portrait of Mary. He obviously did, but with words and not brushes.

Luke is also called the Evangelist of Mercy since the parables of the Prodigal Son, the Lost Drachma, the Good Samaritan, and others related only appear in his Gospel.

This third Gospel was written in Rome towards the last captivity of Paul - that is - somewhere between the years 62 and 63 A.D. His Gospel was addressed to the Christians of the churches founded by the Apostle of the Gentiles - Paul. This is why the Gospel of Luke contains a more accurate and complete portrait of the life of Jesus and directed at us, Christians of Gentile roots.

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Index of Introductory Notes

Gospel of John (Written ca. 95-100 A.D.)

John, a native of Bethsaida of Galilee, was the brother of James the Great, both children of Zebedee and Salome, sister of the Virgin Mary. Having been first a disciple of John the Baptizer and looking with all his heart for the Kingdom of God, he followed Jesus; later on becoming His favorite disciple. From the Cross, the Lord entrusted His Most Holy Mother to him, who, henceforth took care of as if She were his own mother.

John was that disciple "whom Jesus loved" and who in the last Passover Meal "was leaning on Jesus' bosom" [John 13:23], as a friend of His Heart and intimate witness of His Love and Sorrows.

After the Resurrection, John stayed in Jerusalem as one of the "pillars" of the Church [Gal 2:9], and later on went to Ephesus (in today's Turkey). Banished by Emperor Domician (81-95 A.D.) to the island of Patmos, he wrote then the Book of Revelations. At Domician's death he was able to return to Ephesus. The date and details of his death are unknown in the West although some details have been handed down throughout the centuries in Ephesus and surrounding communities [John 21:23].

In addition to the Book of Revelations and the three Epistles, that is, about thirty years after the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, John wrote this Gospel with the intent of strengthening the faith in the Messiahnism and Divinity of Jesus, while, at the same time, complements the earlier Gospels - most specially from the spiritual point of view. He has been called the Evangelist of Love.

His language is the most sublime found in the Holy Scriptures, as the prologue clearly shows - a supernatural sublimity that has no equal in human literature.

Return to King James Bible: John

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Return to World English Bible: John

Index of Introductory Notes

(1) Main source: El Nuevo Testamento - Mons. Dr. Juan Straubinger - Doctor Honoris Causa por la Universidad de Müenster (Alemania) - 1969
(2) Biblical Literalism - Part I  and  Biblical Literalism - Part II

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Originally Published on January 4, 2006

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