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History of Truth, The Truth about God and Religions



Dr. Adel Elsaie

Source: History of Truth



6.2 The Gospels

Gospel According to Matthew

Gospel According to Mark

Gospel According to Luke

Gospel According to John

The four Gospels are the heart of the New Testament. The first three Gospels are called synoptic because they generally correspond to each other. Yet, the origin of these Gospels is the greatest mystery of Christianity. There are so many mysteries relating to the Gospels. Who did actually write them? When and where were they written? These Gospels are full of contradictions. Apologists through complex and elusive interpretation might handle some contradictions. Others are shy of explanation or outright unacceptable.

The careful reader that is interested in reading the titles of each chapter in the Bible may ask why the titles of all four Gospels have the word "according to", like the Gospel according to Saint Matthew. Why "according to"? Why did the authors not identify themselves first? In the Gospel according to Matthew 9:9:

"And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew"

Why did Matthew not say, "he saw me" instead of "he saw a man, named Matthew"?

In John 21:24 "This is the disciple which testify of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true."

Who are "we"? And why did John talk about himself as third person "his"? And why in the following verse, he referred to himself as "I"? Was verse 21:24 written by someone else and verse 21:25 written by John?

Gospel According to Matthew

Matthew was one of the apostles of Jesus, although not a distinguished one. According to tradition, he was the author of the first Gospel and therefore one of the four evangelists. However, little is known about Matthew. The first three Gospels state that he was a tax collector who would have been a man of some education, skilled in arithmetic and able to speak both Aramaic and Greek. Some scholars suggest that he left to Ethiopia for preaching Christianity where he died there at 63 or 70 AD.

There are evidences to indicate that this Gospel was written for the Jews, because the Gospel includes many references to Jewish scripture. The Gospel was written in Hebrew, then an unknown person translated it to Greek, and the original Hebrew manuscript has perished. This raises a serious question about the knowledge and intention of the translator. Was he knowledgeable enough in the two languages? What was his background? Was he a Jew or a Gentile? Did he try to push certain concepts in the Gospel? Early Christian writers suggested that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Palestine; others favored the city of Antioch in Syria. The date of writing, as frequently suggested, was around the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, perhaps from 65 to 80 AD. The date of writing the original manuscripts is unknown. Why did Matthew wait 40 years after Jesus to write his Gospel? Was it really written by Matthew or someone from the second generation, perhaps one of his students? The author of Matthew used Mark and "Q" as his two major sources.

Matthew emphasizes that Jesus is the promised Messiah of the Jews. Jesus states that he did not come to destroy the Law of Moses, but to fulfill (5:17). Also, Jesus commands his disciples to preach "to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (10:6). The influence of this Gospel on Christianity has been authoritarian ever since its writing. This is because the Gospel was used in the formulation of doctrine and the divine nature of Jesus, an importance shared only by the Gospel of John.

Matthew includes some exclusive stories: the visit of the wise men from the East (2:1); the travel of Jesus’ family to Egypt to escape the slaughter of male children by Herod the Great; and their return from Egypt after Herod's death. The death of Jesus' betrayer, Judas Iscariot (27:3-10), the dream of Pontius Pilate's wife (27:19), Pilate's washing his hands of liability for Jesus' death (27:24-25), the earthquake following Jesus' death (27:51-53), the guard at the tomb (27:62-66), the earthquake at the time of Jesus' resurrection (28:2-4), and the appearances of the risen Christ to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (28:9-10) and to his disciples in Galilee (28:16-20). Matthew (1:18-2:23) shows similarities between Moses and Jesus to appeal to the Jews. Both were hidden from an evil king that massacred children, and both lived in Egypt in their childhood.

Many scholars regard Matthew as a writer with wild imagination. He includes stories in his Gospel that are unbelievable. An example, of his outrageous imagination, is the description of the events relating to the crucifixion of Jesus. The whole country became dark for three hours, the temple was torn into two pieces, the tears started at the top and tore all the way to the bottom, an earthquake happened, and many dead people were resurrected and went to Jerusalem, and were seen by many (27:51-53). This is a big story. It should have been reported in the other Gospels. Did these stories convert a large number of people to Christianity? These stories have no correspondence in the other three Gospels.

The most debatable story in the Gospel of Matthew concerns Jonas’ sign (12:38:40). When the Pharisees ask Jesus for a proof, Jesus replies that the son of man will give the miracle that happened to Jonas. Luke has the same story, but Mark is in contradiction with Matthew and Luke with regards to the sign of Jonas.

Matthew reports the saying of Jesus on the Cross: "Eli, Eli, lama sabachtani?" This means My God, my God, why did you abandon me? (Matthew 27:46), which is identical to Mark 15:34.

The conclusion is that the author of this Gospel is unknown, the place of writing this Gospel is unknown, the time of writing this Gospel is unknown, and the Gospel contains stories that contradict other Gospels. Yet the Church wants us to believe that the Almighty inspired the whole Bible, word for word.

Gospel According to Mark

The Gospel begins with "The Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God..." The Easy to Read Bible has a footnote stating that some Greek copies omit the "Son of God" from this verse. Taking into consideration that "the son of god" is the most important statement in Christianity, how can it be added or omitted from the Gospel of Mark? Did Mark or did he not write this statement? Is it possible that the statement "the son of god", in this verse is a Hebrew expression that meant intimacy with God? There are many references in the Old Testament about prophets being called Son of God.

The Gospel of Mark is the shortest of the four Gospels. In the third century the Christian historian Eusebius of Caesarea, relates this Gospel to Mark, using a statement from an earlier writer named Papias (60? -125?). Papias suggested that Mark was John Mark, cousin of Barnabas, mentioned in Acts 15:37-39, in several letters of Paul, (Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24), and in 1 Peter 5:13. It is extremely difficult to confirm that Mark was actually John Mark. Some Christian scholars think that an unknown Christian named Mark wrote this Gospel.

In chapter 13, Mark refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, which makes the writing of this Gospel to be around 70 AD. Clement of Alexandria stated that Rome was the place of writing, while other scholars suggested that it might have been written in Galilee or Syria.

This Gospel does not include any information about Jesus’ childhood. It starts with his baptism by John the Baptist. The story goes on until his arrest, crucifixion, and burial. Mark (8:11-13) is in contradiction with Matthew and Luke with regards to the sign of Jonas. In Mark, Jesus says that there will be no sign without any exception. Mark states that during crucifixion at noon the whole land became dark (15:33). Mark reports the saying of Jesus on the Cross as follows:

"Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani?" (Mark 15:34), which is identical to Matthew 27:46.

There are two versions for ending of this Gospel. Most of the Greek manuscripts have the "long ending," closing at 16:20. The second version with the "short ending" extends only through 16:8. Most scholars believe that the short version is the correct one. Verses 16:9-20 are not included in the two oldest manuscripts of the Gospels, Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus. There was a sudden and improper ending of the Gospel of Mark. Verses 16:9-20 are added from the Gospel of Luke to have a reasonable ending! What a blunt admission is provided for us here? Human manipulation of the texts of the holy inspired Scriptures is just outrageous!

The conclusion is that the author of this Gospel is unknown, the place of writing this Gospel is unknown, the time of writing this Gospel is unknown, and the Gospel contains stories that contradict other Gospels. Yet the Church wants us to believe that the Almighty inspired the whole Bible, word for word.

Gospel According to Luke

Christian tradition suggests that this Gospel is attributed to "Luke, the beloved physician" (Colossians 4:14), who is one of the "fellow laborer" (Philemon 1:24) mentioned by Paul. Also, the Acts of the Apostles is credited to Luke. Most Christian scholars accept Luke's authorship of both works. Some scholars suggest that Luke was one of Paul’s disciples. Others doubt that Luke and Paul were closely associated during Paul's missionary work, because of contradiction between Paul's letters and the stories of Paul in Acts.

Many scholars suggest that this Gospel was written for the Gentiles, while others imply that it was written for the Greeks or the Egyptians. Most scholars agree that the writing of this Gospel is from 70 to 80 AD. Other possible dates might be 53, or 63, or 65, or the end of the first century. It is also unknown whether the Gospel was written in Rome, Asia Minor, or Greece.

This Gospel is an expanded version of the Gospel of Mark. Most scholars agree that Luke used the source "Q" as well as an oral tradition, sometimes known as "L" collected by or known only to Luke. Luke has some exclusive stories that include the annunciation (1:26-38); the visit of Mary, the mother of Jesus, to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist (1:39-56); the birth of John the Baptist (1:57-80); Jesus' circumcision and presentation in the Temple (2:21-40); Jesus' appearance in the Temple at 12 years of age (2:41-52); Jesus' last words to his disciples (22:21-38), his words on the way to the cross (23:28-31), the words of the two crucified criminals (23:39-43), the appearances of the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus and in Jerusalem (24:13-49), and Jesus' ascension (24:50-53).

Luke introduces a genealogy of Jesus that is different from that of Matthew. Luke locates the place of Jesus' Great Sermon on a flat place (6:17), while Mark states a hilltop (6:20-49). Luke attributed different last words of Jesus on the cross from those of Matthew or Mark (23:46).

The conclusion is that the author of this Gospel is unknown, the place of writing this Gospel is unknown, the time of writing this Gospel is unknown, and the Gospel contains stories that contradict other Gospels. Yet the Church wants us to believe that the Almighty inspired the whole Bible, word for word.

Gospel According to John

The Gospel according to John is another story. The author explains his reason of writing this Gospel, 20:30-31: he states many miracles of Jesus for the reader to believe that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God. John did not introduce the trinity, but confirms the "duality of God." Both father and son are gods. This Gospel was not included in the acceptable documents of the Fathers of the Church in the second and third century.

Scholars suggest that this Gospel is written in the latter part of the second century, possibly in the ancient Greek city of Ephesus. There are many serious questions about this Gospel. Why did the author of this Gospel choose completely different direction from the synoptic Gospels? Why did he emphasize the divinity of Jesus? It is a fact that this Gospel was written after the synoptic Gospels. This indicates that many Christians did not believe in the divinity of Jesus, before writing this Gospel. Some scholars suggest that bishops that believed in the divinity of Jesus asked the author of John to write a Gospel that states clearly that Jesus is divine. Other suggests that the author was a philosophy student in Alexandria, who had been asked to write a Gospel that brings Greek philosophy and Christianity closer together. We may never know the truth about this Gospel, but the fact is this is very different from the rest of the New Testament.

The author establishes from the start that he follows the Greek philosophy and the concept of the Logos (1:1-18). Jesus Christ is the incarnation of "the Word" who has a pre-existent life before his mother and anyone else for that matter. Jesus’ death is the return of the incarnate Son to the Father. The Gospel tells a story of a woman caught in adultery (7:53-8:11). The Easy to Read Bible has a footnote stating that this incident is not included in the best Greek copies. Again, the question is: why then were these words added?

To establish that Jesus is the Logos, the author states many miracles: the changing of water into wine for the wedding at Cana (2:1-11); the healing of an official's son (4:46-54); the healing of a man who had been sick for 38 years (5:1-9); the feeding of about 5000 men (6:1-15), the only miracle recorded in each of the four Gospels; the healing of a man who had been blind from birth (9:1-7); and the raising of Jesus' friend Lazarus from the dead (11:1-46); Jesus walking on the sea (6:16-21); his death (19:30) and appearances as the risen Christ (20:1-29).

The conclusion is that the author of this Gospel is unknown, the place of writing this Gospel is unknown, the time of writing this Gospel is unknown. The Gospel focuses on the duality rather than the oneness of God, and the Gospel follows the Greek polytheistic philosophy to introduce a monotheistic religion. Yet the Church wants us to believe that the Almighty inspires the whole Bible, word for word.



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