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Chris wrote:

Hi, guys —

My father-in-law recently attended a Bible study at his Catholic Church.

The study topic was the history of the endings of the first four Gospels and he said something rather disturbing to me.

Firstly, there were alteration of the endings to target and achieve objectives with specific audiences of the time (Jews, Gentiles, Romans, etc.)

For example, the book of Mark, the oldest written, albeit not the first listed, added Christ rising years after the original rendition.

  • Can someone please provide objective written clarification to what he may have been talking about?

I plan on asking him for more insight from the discussion and would appreciate your help.

Chris

  { Can you tell me what this group was discussing on the changes to the original Gospel rendition? }

John replied:

Chris,

Each Gospel was indeed written to target audiences but that doesn't mean they were altered. They simply used language and literary constructs that would be understood by the those audiences.

Matthew was written to Jews and indeed contains more references to Messianic Prophesies. The original source for this account was more than likely the Apostle Matthew

Mark is the shortest Gospel and was written to a Roman audience. Looking at the style, it doesn't have a lot of the same details found in (Matthew and Luke — the two other synoptic Gospels that appear to have a common source.) That's the way Roman society was structured — not a lot fluff, but quick paced, efficient and to the point.

Mark eventually became a traveling companion of Peter (although he originally worked with Paul and Barnabas) He founded the Church in Alexandria, whose Liturgy influenced the Liturgy and Canon (Eucharistic prayer) of the Church in Rome.

Luke was written to a Greek audience as he was Greek himself and understood the Greek mind. Luke being a physician wrote about more healing miracles than the other Gospel writers. The Greeks themselves were also fascinated by the human body. Luke was a companion of St Paul, so that was his influence in terms of the things he reported but we see similarities along with embellishments and twists to the events recorded in Matthew. For instance, compare the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in Matthew 5 and 6 and there about with the Sermon on the Plain found in Luke around chapter 10 and 11 or so.

Finally, John wrote to more mature Christian audiences that were also heavily influenced by Greek Philosophy. He recorded miracles but spoke of them as signs. We see the philosophical influence from the very beginning starting with Genesis, chapter 1 . . . In the beginning was the Word (Logos in the Greek) and the Word (Logos) was with God. In addition, the Word (Logos) God is a very rich word. It is the root word for Logic, it also has many nuanced meanings, such as reason, purpose, and mind or will.

Now there are various ancient manuscripts to all these Gospels. Some of them are dated earlier that others. Some scholars believe that oldest manuscripts available to the Gospel of Mark is the one that doesn't contain either Resurrection or Ascension account. Now it could be that way. It could also be because these are older they are missing that section and, yes, it is possible that things were added both in Mark and other Gospels. For instance, if you read the Gospel of John, it appears to be ending with at the end of Chapter 20 as it reads:

"30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

John 20:30-31

Then all of a sudden it picks up the story again in chapter 21.Well, those verses in Chapter 20 very much appear to be an ending. Now it's possible that chapter 21 was an after thought.

When you look carefully at this Gospel and compare it to the other three, the chronology of events differs greatly and it contains no end time discourse from Jesus such as is found in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and I believe Luke 24 yet, John (if indeed it's the same John that wrote Revelation) then turns around a dedicates an entire book with 22 chapters to the subject so assuming this was the same author or at least the same source (meaning disciples of John) one could say that the book of Revelation is indeed a adjunct to the Gospel.

But none of this implies a nefarious motive. All Scripture is Inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is the Word of God in the words of men. It contains facts and history but it's not a history or science textbook. Each author used:

  • literary forms
  • constructs
  • expressions, and
  • methods of communicating that were his own and relevant to the audience.

Luke, for example, is the kind of guy that organizing his account by grouping:

  • all the miracles together
  • all the sermons together, and
  • all healings together.

John emphasized signs and symbols. He begins the Gospel account by playing on Genesis 1, not only by stating In the Beginning and giving a philosophical account of creation but reading carefully through the first three chapters, there are seven days which parallel the seven days of Genesis 1 and while in Genesis 1 ends with the establishment of the Sabbath, the sign of God’s covenant with man and creation, in John we get the Wedding of Cana . . . a Covenant of Marriage which is sign of God's Covenant with man and is meant to mimic the love expressed within the Trinity, which begets the Son. Followed by the cleansing of the Temple, and right after that, we see Jesus talking about being Born Again.

Now notice that in this account, it appears Jesus cleansing the Temple before his ministry begins but right after His Baptism yet in the other three Gospels we see Jesus’ Baptism, followed by his ministry, and he cleanses the Temple, the week of His Crucifixion, at the end of His earthly ministry.

One Gospel has Jesus Ministry lasting three years, another has it lasting only one.

  • Are these contradictions? <No!>

They are simply different ways of presenting the story of Christ. If we get caught up in worrying about reconciling the history then we are asking the wrong questions. Rather, we need to ask why is the author presenting it in this way, what message is he trying to convey: choosing the words he chose to use.

All Scripture is Inspired, but no dictated hence the Revelation is found in the meaning of the text.

I hope this helps.

John

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