Why Four Gospel Accounts?
When we look at Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, these are called the Gospel accounts. And, for those who study the Bible, we can find synoptic problems and other things that people come up with to discredit two or three of the books. Yet, in the confusion among scholars, have you yourself ever wandered why there are four Gospel accounts instead of just one? Well, I would like to state that each account is necessary.
I mean, take Matthew’s account. He is a Galilean Jew (Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:13-14; Luke 5:27,29) who wrote primarily to the Jewish people. In fact, he quotes many Old Testament prophecies Jesus fulfilled which declare Him King. And so, Jesus is not only the Messiah of Old Testament prophecy, but He is the King who came through the royal line of David to sit upon his throne forever (2 Samuel 7:12-17; Psalm 132:11; cf. Luke 1:31-32; Acts 2:22-36). Furthermore, the terms “king” and “kingdom” appear more in this account than the other accounts and Jesus is beautifully portrayed as King (Matthew 16:13-20; Matthew 28:17-18; cf. Isaiah 9:6-7).
But with Mark’s account, he wrote considering Gentiles (primarily the Romans) because he explained Jewish cultural considerations (cf. Mark 7:1-8). Mark also emphasizes Jesus’ actions and servant spirit and so, Mark records more about what Jesus did than what He said. Also, one of the key words in Mark’s account is the word, “immediately” or “straightway” (used 36 times), which emphasizes action, moving swiftly from one event to another. So, in this account, Jesus was not just King, but he was also a Man of the people and demonstrated the servant spirit all true disciples will display (Mark 10:43-45).
As for Luke’s account, he wrote with the Greek community in mind. Luke emphasizes Jesus as the perfect Son of man (Luke 19:10). And, while other gospel writers speak of Jesus’ prayer life, Luke shows us more of Jesus’ teaching regarding the frequency of our praying (cf. Luke 18:1; Luke 21:36; Luke 22:40,46). Luke also shows that Jesus relied on His Father in prayer and models how we should rely on God (Luke 11:1-4). And, while he records many miracles, there is more emphasis on what Jesus said than what he did. Here we see Jesus as the Master Teacher.
For John’s account, the primary scope of John’s account is to declare to all men that Jesus is the Son of God (John 3:16-17). And, not only does John declare Christ as having human attributes, but declares Him having divine attributes as well (John 1:1,14; cf. Hebrews 4:14-15). Thus, Jesus is the Son of God by nature; that is, the Father and the Son both possess the qualities of being God (Philippians 2:5-6) and his miracles, recorded by John, is evidence of this (John 20:30-31).
Now, without all four Gospel accounts, we would not be able to see the complete portrait of our Savior; His words, His life, and His mission. The Jews needed to know that Jesus fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies of Messiah and King (cf. Luke 24:44). The Gentiles needed some Jewish cultural concepts explained (Mark 7:3-4). And, we must see Jesus as King (Matthew), the perfect Man of action (Mark), the Master Teacher (Luke), and God (John). That is why we have four Gospel accounts.