As followers of Jesus, we are used to the attacks against the book we trust in, the Holy Scriptures. Agnostics and unbelievers sow doubt with their claims that the material in the four Gospels is unreliable. They claim that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John clash if you compare them. In their book ‘The Four Faces of God,’ J Bickersteth and T Pain 1 address this criticism:
# The right question
According to them the right question is not, ‘Why are there differences between the Gospels?’ but ‘What can we learn about Jesus from the differences between the Gospels?’ 2
- The differences should not embarrass us. They are vital to the revelation of Jesus and important aspects of the good news. 3
- To try and harmonise the Gospels detracts from God’s purpose to highlight four different ways to look at Jesus. 4
- Don’t be distressed about the differences, but encouraged by the Holy Spirit’s revelation. 5
# Four faces of Jesus
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Gospels present four ‘faces’ or aspects of Jesus. Each one is distinct and emphasises a different facet of His Person (there is always some overlap).
- Matthew: Jesus is the King who came to establish His Kingdom. So the genealogy of Jesus focusses on Abraham and David. God made promises to Abraham and David about a permanent country and an everlasting kingdom. So Matthew’s genealogy differs from Luke’s.
- Mark: Jesus is the Suffering Servant who came to serve and to offer Himself as a sacrifice. A servant’s genealogy is not important, so it is absent in Mark. 6
- Luke: Jesus is the Perfect Man, the sympathetic friend of sinners and a man to follow. Therefore the genealogy of Jesus is traced back to Adam, to show that He is the friend of humanity. 7
- John: Jesus is the glorious Son of God worthy to be worshipped. The Holy Spirit presents the ‘heavenly genealogy’ of Jesus. The focus is on Jesus’ close, intimate, loving relationship with His Father, which makes it different from the other three Gospels. 8
We as followers of Jesus must always remember: Scripture is flawless. ‘Flawless’ is the word the Bible uses in Psalm 12:6 and Proverbs 30:6 (so don’t use ‘infallible’ or ‘inerrant’). The devil thought the differences between the Gospels is a ‘foolproof’ method to steal the faith of the followers of Jesus, but it turns out to be a powerful weapon to understand more about our wonderful Saviour.
1. J Bickersteth and T Pain, The Four Faces of God, Kingsway Publications Ltd, 1992, reprinted 1993, 1994
2. Ditto, p 15
3. Ditto, p 22
4. Ditto, p 22
5. Ditto, p 25
6. Ditto, p 41
7. Ditto, p 55-56
8. Ditto, p 70-73