The Synoptic Gospels

The Synoptic Gospels
The Synoptic Gospels

This post is basically on the Life and Teachings of Christ according to the Synoptic Gospels.

However, introductory material on the background to the Synoptic Gospels is both necessary and essential for a fuller understanding of the Gospels story. we shall therefore proceed to examine the important features of the introduction relevant to our purpose. These include the oral period, the writing of the Gospels, the characteristics, purpose, date, and authorship of the Synoptic Gospels; Matthew, Mark, and Luke. We shall end with a discussion of the Synoptic problem. The narratives of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are similar enough that scholars have grouped them under the title of “Synoptic Gospels.” We also encounter a “Synoptic Problem.” This is the crux of the Synoptic Problem. Why do we have such similarities between these three books? When reading over the materials found in the first three gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), you may have noticed that the authors have included several similar stories in their narratives. For instance, Matthew, Mark, and Luke all include Christ calming the storm (Matthew 8:18-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25). The article linked shows other ways we see a common thread in all three of these books. Their narratives are similar enough that scholars have grouped them under the title of “Synoptic Gospels.” In essence, the word synoptic conveys a harmonious or similar feel. Here we encounter a “Synoptic Problem.”Did these three writers have an issue with plagiarism? Did they have the same source material (such as notes taken during Jesus’ ministry) that they all referred to? Or did divine intervention play a role in all of their texts? And why is John’s gospel so different from the three of these?


The first three gospels we have examined above are generally referred to as the Synoptic Gospels. To show how this description, we have to define the term synopsis and then apply it to these three books and then discuss the problems raised by such n application i.e. the Synoptic problem.

The term synopsis is a combination of two Greek words -sun (to see or view) and opals (together) – meaning seeing: or. viewing together. As applied to the first three gospels the term is to be understood in three main senses first, the three gospels view together or present us with a similar account of the events in the life of Jesus. In other words, they contain parts that when compared, are virtually identical. Second, the term is used to differentiate these books from the fourth gospel (i.e. the gospel of John). The gospel of John differs in chronology, in the presentation of the events narrated, in the style and matter of Jesus’ teaching, and the place of most of his public works. In John’s gospel, Jesus’ ministry concentrates on visits to Jerusalem, while in the synoptic it is largely devoted to Galilee. John records three Passover events while the synoptic record only one. The time of the cleansing of the temple is early in John but late in the synoptic.


The word ‘GOSPEL Re comes from two Anglo—Saxon words ‘god (i.e. good) and spell” (i.e. news). Originally the gospel was the reward in kind given to the person who brought good news (as news of victory in battle). Later the word came to stand for the good news itself. The good news according to the gospel writer is that the expected Jewish Saviour and Messiah had come in the person of Jesus. But before the gospels were written there existed the oral period in which the material on the Life and Teaching of Jesus circulated within Christian circles in a fragmentary form. In other words, there was no connected gospel story as we see in the written gospels.


There was considerable delay in the writing of the gospel and the reasons are not far-fetched. Most of the early Christians were non-literary people who wore more familiar with oral methods of preserving facts. The immediate concern of the early Christians was preaching the gospel and living it rather than writing it down. This was probably linked with the speedy expectation of the second coming of Christ which would mean the end of the present order of things. One might also mention the financial resources of the early Christians at this time as well as the expensive nature of writing materials.

Despite all these obstacles, the gospel story was at last written down. What reasons then motivated the writing of the gospel? Towards the end of the first century A.D), it was realized ‘that the original disciples wore dying and if nothing was put on record then all eye-witness account would be lost.

Various persecutions deprived the church of its dedicated loaders which also necessitated the Writing of the gospels. Moreover, those Christians undergoing persecution and their sympathizers would need written records telling them of the historical origins of their faith. To this must be added the liturgical and catechetical needs of the church. At worship, there is the need to supplement the reading from the Old Testament with an account of the ministry of Jesus. Similarly, new converts had to be instructed in the nis f Jesus and an itten a, the account would simplify issues. There was also the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in A.D. 70 which found the Jewish Christians detached from the scene of the last days of Jesus. The story must be preserved if it was not to be taken as a legend with no historical or geographical location. Finally, we may also mention the delayed second coming Christ. This meant that the early Christians were uncertain of the return of Christ and the end of the world and so the records must be set straight in the interim period.


The main features of Matthews’s gospel are his particularism (Jewish flavour); emphasis on eschatology, ecclesiastical interest and his emphasis on the miraculous.

particularism! Apart from the comprehensive range of the book with its methodical treatment of events and incidents,

the most outstanding characteristic of Matthew’s gospel is particularism of the Jewish flavour of the book, The Jewish elements book include his treatment of the genealogy of Jesus, use of Old Testament quotations, the preoccupation of the law, the limitation of Jesus’ ministry to the Jews and traces of Jewish language and ideas.

Genealogy, Matthew begins his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus. These are arranged in three groups of fourteen names corresponding to some Old Testament writings. The descent of Jesus is traced from the royal line of David and then to Abraham, the father of the Hebrew race. All this is to that Jesus was first and foremost a true Jew.

Old Testament references Matthew’s Gospel has some lines been described as the Gospel of fulfilment and this is not surprising since the writer sees the Christian message as the fulfilment of the Old Testament. Christianity is seen as the fulfilment of Judaism, and this accounts for the frequency of Old Testament passages supposedly concerning the Messiah which are seen as being fulfilled in Jesus. The Old Testament is quoted eleven times with some such formula as

“Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by the prophet.. “or says that something happened so that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet. For example Matthew 1:22. “All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet.

“Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his the name shall be called Emmanuel”. Others are Bethlehem in the land of Judah (Matt. 2:6), out of Egypt (Matt. 2:15); He shall be called a Nazarene (Matt.2:23), land of Zebulun (matt. 4:14-16)j He took our infirmities (Matt. 8: 1 7 ) Behold my servant (Matt. 12:13-21); I will open my mouth in parables (Matt. 13:35). Tell ye daughters of Zion (Matt. 21:5) and the Thirty pieces of silver (Matt. 27:9)

The prophecies indicate that Jesus is the Messiah promised

by God in the Old Testament, ie., the Old Testament quotations show that the various events in the life of Jesus did not happen by chance but occurred to fulfil predictions about the coming of the Messiah, Nevertheless, it appears that some of these passages have been forced into the narratives (i.e., they have been given meanings which they did not originally bear and treated as if they referred to events in Jesus’ time (for details, see the comments on the Matthews infancy narrative. The Law, Another aspect of the particularism in Matthew’s gospel is the greater emphasis on the Jewish law. The law is stated as eternally valid Matt, 5:18-19; therefore the teachings of the Jewish teachers must be observed Matt 23:2-3. The disciples are to observe Jewish religious practices such as almsgiving, fasting, prayers, gift offering, etc. Jesus improved the law by fulfilling it. In the sermon on the Mount, Jesus five times repeats an old law to expound the now and deeper meaning which he gives to it.

Limitation of Jesus work: The Jewish element in the book of Matthew is again seen in the way in which the work of the disciples and Jesus himself are limited to the Jews. in the charge to the twelve on their mission they were not to be among the Gentiles or the Samaritans but rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 10:5-6). Jesus himself is “sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 15:24).

Jewish language and ideas: The word ‘righteousness’ which was at the root of Jewish life and conduct is found on the lips of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel: For I tell you unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes mid the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom, of heaven (Matt. 5:20; see also 6:1), The Jewish Messianic idea of a Son of David occurs frequently in this book, sometimes in strange places (as on the lips of a Gentile Matt, 15:22). The writer also uses the phrase “kingdom of heaven” instead of “kingdom of God” by the Jewish reluctance to mention God.


Matthew has multiple purses in writing his book. His primary aim was to show that Jesus was the Messiah promised by God in the Old Testament. Thus the various events in the life of Jesus are seen as the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies (see O.T. references under Matthew’s particularism).

Matthew also wished to demonstrate the relationship between Jesus ‘ ministry and the Jewish religion. The Old Testament passages which he considered fulfilled in the event he narrated and the instances in which His aim hero was to encourage Jewish Christians to believe that in accepting Jesus as Messiah they were not being disloyal to their old faith, for the church which they had now joined was the ideal and new Israel. This new Israel is unrestricted and open to all believers.

Another aim was to satisfy the need; of the church at worship, in matters of discipline and ethics, and her missionary work (for details of the Ecclesiastical features of the book).


As in the case of Mark, no name was appended to this Gospel and so we have to depend on early Christian tradition to assert; the authorship of this book. Tradition in the early Christian circle says that the book was written by apostle Matthew and that it was written in Hebrew. According to Eusebius (in his Church History) Papias recorded a statement of the Elder that” Matthew composed (or arranged) the oracles (Greek logia) in the Hebrew language and each one interpreted them as he was able.” This is has been variously interpreted to mean:

a) An Aramean gospel, now lost guesswork work for no trace of such a book has been found);

b) The present gospel of Matthew (unlikely because the gospel does not show any sign of being a translation from Aramaic

c) A collection of Old Testament texts applied to the Sayings of Jesus (inadmissible since the sayings of Jesus were known among the early Christians as Logoi (his words) not Logia (oracles). The truth appears to be that we do not know for sure what papists meant. The internal evidence is inconsistent with the tradition that the apostle Matthew wrote in this book. There are no signs which suggest that the work was produced by an apostle. For example, his treatment of Mark’s gospel (e.g. abbreviating Mar can narratives) shows at once that at one stage he is removed from the eye witness account. The narratives peculiar to this gospel are legendary and on the whole the least reliable (e.g. the heightening of the miraculous elements as noted above). It is unthinkable that an apostle would reject eye witness account and emphasize dubious material.

A critical study of the book itself indicated that the writer was a Jewish Christian, perhaps a scribe who sought to encourage these fellow believers by presenting Jesus as Messiah and Son of David, who fulfilled the law and the prophets. Thus the writer of this gospel remains anonymous.


If Matthew used Mark in composing his Gospel, then the book was written after A.D.65-70, probably between A.D.80-100. ; parts of the parable of the marriage feast (Matt 22:2) suggests that the writer knew of an occasion when the master did destroy those who ill-treat his servants and burned their country. This may be an allusion to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D.70. The lack of any clear distinction between the

opposing Jewish religious parties (the Pharisees and the Sadducees are put together for instance in Matt.3:7) would imply that it was no longer valid when he wrote this book (the Sadducee party ceased to exist with the destruction of the Temple in A.D, 79) Teachings about false prophets suggests dangers within the church which became prominent towards the end of the first century. The injunction to baptize people in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (an early practice among the Christians in Acts 2:38) is also indicative of a late date. So also the legendary nature of some of the narratives would support a late date.



There are four main features of this gospel that are peculiar to the author — the racy nature of the narratives (i.e. Gospel of action), Gentile flavour, his candour, and his portrait of Jesus.

i. Gospel of Action- Mark’s gospel gives an impression of speed and a sense of urgency. Speed is provided in the racy nature of the narratives (e.g. the healing of the paralytic man, the stilling of the storm, and the cure of the deaf man and the blind man) and also by the use of editorial links like” straightway”, “immediately” in the account of Jesus’ ministry (e.g. after the baptism, Mark says Jesus was immediately driven by the devil into the wilderness). A sense of urgency is noticeable in the abrupt opening of the book (without any introduction) with an abrupt statement about John the Baptist with a kind of heading! “The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”. The book ends as suddenly as it began. “They said nothing to anyone for they were afraid”.

ii. Gentile Flavouri There is an element of universalism in Mark’s gospel, especially when compared to Matthew’s gospel. In the story of the Syrophoenician woman, Mark does not refer to “the lost sheep of, the house of Israel” as in Matthew (suggesting a limitation of Jesus’ work to the Jews). Similarly in the charge to the twelve, Mark omits Matthew’s reference to the limitation of Jesus’ ministry to the Jews. There is no fundamental discussion about the law in Mark’s gospel. The author of Mark stresses that all people must hear the gospel before the end comes. Mark also explains the Palestinian customs (e.g. ceremonial hand washing and the ‘general tradition regarding purification) for the benefit of his Gentile readers, For the same reasons Aramaic expressions such as ‘Talithacump, Elphatha, Abba,’ etc., are explained.

iii. Mark’s Candour: Mark frankly records adverse comments about the disciples where Matthew and Luke are alien on these issues. Instances are the ignorance of the disciples – their lack of understanding about the parables and the resurrection from the dead. The disciples’ unfriendly remarks about Jesus are faithfully recorded by Mark as an expression of his candidness. As the storm raged on the lake, the disciples woke Jesus up with a caustic remark “Teacher., do you not care if we perish?”

(cf. Matthew’s “Save lord we are perishing” and Luke’s “master, Master, we are perishing”). The disciples, James and John, are portrayed as shameless opportunists when they demanded from Jesus the chief places- of Honour by his aide, Matthew spares them by saying that their mother came with the request.

iv. Mark’s Portrait of Jesus: Mark gives an unbiased account of the attitude of Jesus’ relatives and friends towards him. At Nazareth, his family and friends thought he was “beside himself” i.e. they thought him mad. This is omitted by Matthew. Above all, human reactions of Jesus like anger, severity, compassion, love, tenderness, and lack of confidence in himself, emotions of reactions which bring into sharp focus the true humanness of Jesus are all omitted by both Matthew and Luke (for details, see the chapter on-the person of Jesus).

It is possible that being the first gospel to be written, the true character of the disciples and Jesus not been coloured by later reflections when they had been glorified and deified.


A critical examination of Mark’s Gospel shows that the aim of the writer is not biographical for no account is given of the birth and childhood of Jesus and only a brief account historical sequence of events are merely connected by Loose linkages And Things in those days. There is also a lack of clear geographical connection. Mark is vague about, the geography of Northern Palestine. He does not state which part of Palestine he is referring to. The disciples start from an unknown destination to go to Bethsaida in Mark 6:5 but they arrive at Gennesaret in Mark 6:53 a different district;

they arrive at Bethsaida later in Mark 7:2 and journey to Decapolis (Mark 7:31) A look at the map of Palestine will show that it is impossible to make a coherent account of* these travels.

The aim of Mark appears to be theological. He sees Galilos as the place of Jesus’ eschatological activity and the starting point of his mission to the Gentiles, which in turn is guided on its way by the risen Lord. Mention is made

of preaching visits to Gentile districts (e.g. Tyre and Sidon) and of the necessity of preaching the gospel to all nations J. (Mark 13:1-10) There is a promise to return to Galilee after the resurrection (Mark 1:28), Thus Jesus cornea out of Galilee, begins his preaching there, announces his passion there and promises to return to Galilee when risen. Similarly, Jerusalem is seen as the place of Jewish hardness

of heart. Scribes from Jerusalem are seen to oppose Jesus even in Galilee (Mark 3:22; 7:1). In Jerusalem, the Jewish authorities seek to destroy him. But Jerusalem is also the scene of his death.

He went there purposely to die; “Behold we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes and they will condemn him to death, and seller him to the Gentiles (Mark 10:33). put then Jesus

foretells the Instruction of Jerusalem. The destruction of Jerusalem is seen by Mark, not as a historical event but it’s an eschatological event (Mark I3:1).

Apart from the theological significance attached to Galileo to reveal to the non-Jewish world that Jesus was the Son of God, that is, the Messiah. The very heading of the gospel suggests that ‘this is the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God”. At the death of Jesus on the cross the centurion on guard is made to confess: “Truly, this man was the Son of God”, The Messiahship of Jesus is best e seen in his mighty works and deeds which occupy a greater proportion of this book in contrast to his teachings.

At the Messiah, Mark sought to clarify fundamental conceptions about the nature of Jesus’ mission. The popular Jewish Eidea about the Messiah was that of a conquering hero, who would restore the Davidic kingdom, The element of suffering was not associated with the Messiah. Mark”, therefore, In Witting his gospel attempts to correct this false notion of a non-suffering Messiah by stressing that suffering is part of God’s plan for the Messiah and a prelude to his glory: “The Son of man must suffer many things and be rejected by the ciders and chief priests and the scribes and be killed and after three days rise again.

“This was after Peter had confessed Jesus as the Christ. When Peter suggested that death should not come to Jesus, the latter is reported to have referred to him as Satan. By suggesting that death should not come to Jesus, the Messiah, Peter was playing the role of the great adversary, Satan, (in Jewish mythology, the attorney general of God who ‘later became his great adversary). Later Jesus speaks of a disciple taking up his cross and following him.


External evidence supported by internal evidence from the book itself attributes this gospel to John Mark of Jerusalem. Early Christian tradition in the form of statements by some of the elders of the church (e.g. Irenaeus, Comment of Alexandria) connects Peter with Mark in the production of this book Of particular interest is the statement by Papias. This also the elder said, “Mark, who is the interpreter of Peter,-wrote accurately not in order, all that he remembered of the things said or done by the Lord.” This Mark is identified by New Testament scholars with John Mark mentioned in some of the New Testament books (e.g. Acts 12:13; 1 peter 5:13). Certain features of the book, especially its rough and ready ”character, and its grammatical mistakes would seem to suggest that the writer was not a polished Greek scholar.


If, as suggested above, John Mark depended on Peter from the profanation of the Temple would take, simply wrote of the abomination of desolation standing where it ought not (a reference to the Roman Standard in the Temple). A date before A.D. 70 is further provided by the reference to suffering ‘and persecution in the book (Mark 8:34-38, 10:38, 13:9-13 )•

These are seen as allusions to the Neronian persecution of Christians in Home. Christians undergoing persecution at this time would find some comfort in these words that they had to suffer because Christ Himself suffered



The important features of Luke’s gospels are its universalism and the special interest in ‘underdogs women, publicans and sinners, Sumerians and (Gentiles (all expressive of the universalistic tendencies that the hook) and the special – emphasis on the Holy Spirit, joyfulness and prayer.

Universalism: The gospel of Luke is presented as a message of salvation for both Jews and Gentiles. The good goodwill for all men “And on earth peace among them whom he is well pleased” (Luke 2: 11). During the presentation of Jesus in the Jerusalem Temple, Simeon for that Jesus is to be a light to the Gentiles and glory to Israel. A light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to thy people Israel” (Luke 2:32) in the description of -John the Baptist as a voice crying in the wilderness, Luke continues the quotation to include “All flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 5:6).

The good news was, therefore, universal. The genealogical table in Luke is traced: to Adam, the father of the human race. This indicates the universal theme of the book in contrast to Matthew stopped with Abraham, the founder of the Jewish race to that Jesus was a Jew who came for Jews. An aspect of the universalism of Luke is the strong emphasis on outcasts and the fortunate. This has earned the book the title “Gospel for the underdogs”.

The emphasis on the outcast and the loss of fortune was a marked departure from Jewish orthodox belief for Jews only. Luke focuses attention on the publicans and sinners, Samaritans and Gentiles. The poor Luke stresses that divine merry favours the poor, and the humble, in the Magnificat, mention is made those of low degree – the hungry are filled while the rich are sent away empty (Luke l:53). In the Beatitudes, Luke hails poverty when he wrote, “Blessed are the poor”, left out ‘poor in spirit’ as recorded in Matthew, special parables in Luke deal with money matters, parables of the “Rich man and Lazarus’ and that of the Rich fool, favour the poor, while at the same time stressing the dangers of wealth. Men are advised to give to the poor and also not to recover stolen property! “Give to everyone begs from you, and from him who takes away your goods do aI I ask for them again “(Luke 6:30)» In his preaching visit. Swings to the poor “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, became he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor”. Elizabeth, Jesus among other things, proclaimed well. John the Baptist warns tax collectors against extortion, a veiled reference to cheating the poor (Luke 3:13).

Women were considered as second” class citizens in Jewish society, but Luke gives special prominence to women to show that Jesus came for both sexes.

Thirteen women are mentioned In this gospel which is not found in Mark and Matthew. The women are mentioned with special tenderness and interest. In (infancy narratives, ‘ and Elizabeth are the central figures. This contrasts ‘M with Matthew’s where Joseph is the chief character. Several of the Jewish women followed Jesus as disciples. Some of them supported Jesus and the disciples materially, for their resources! “They provided for them out of their years” (Luke 3:1-3). Jesus is entertained not only by men

but also by women. Thus Like records the warm reception to Jesus by the two sisters Mary and Martha. Jesus had; .sympathy for women. At Nain lie had sympathy for their own and raised her only son from the dead (Luke 7:2), He was kind to the immoral woman at the house Of Simon, the Pharisee, and forgave his sins (Luke 7:36). I.e bad sympathy for the weeping women of Jerusalem, telling them not to weep (Luke 23:27-28). Women also feature in the resurrection at the cross Luke 23:49, and at the tomb Luke 23:55; 2′, also feature prominently in some of the parables of the Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10) and the Unjust Judge (Luke 13:1-3), Publicans and Sinners: Luke portrays NiOre than the other Synoptics Jesus’ deep concern for the socially outcast. Especially the publicans and the sinners. Apart from the story of the call of Levi (which Luke shares with Mark and Matthew), Luke records the transformation of Zacchaeus.

Luke records Jesus befriending a sinful woman (Luke 7:36) and also records the repentance of a criminal, whom Jesus befriends (Luke 23:40-43). Three parables illustrating Jesus’ deep concern for the lost and the outcast are found only in Luke’s gospel. These are the prodigal son (Luke 15:11), the two debtors Luke 7:41ff; and the Pharisee and the publican who went to the temple to pray Luke 18:9.


The author of Luke has as his primary purpose to produce a historical document that traces the beginnings of Christianity from Jerusalem to the heart of the Imperial City, Rome (as seen in Acts). His objective for doing this was to correct the wrong- impression in the Roman world that Christianity was a dangerous and subversive movement. Before then Christianity was regarded as a sect within Judaism and was accorded the same privileges extended to the Jews by the Roman administration. Notably among those was the freedom of worship and by implication exemption from obligations to Emperor worship (the Emperor was regarded as divine and for political reasons subjected nations to pay homage to him). But there came a time when relations between the Jews and the Christians were strained; when riots broke out between the two sects in places like Antioch of Pisidia and Lystra. The Jews then disowned the Christians and impressed upon the Roman authorities

that they wore distinct from the Christian. Henceforth the Romans revoked the religious privileges enjoyed by the Christians and were made to worship the emperor, which they rightly refused. In consequence of the political implications of emperor worship, the Christians were hated and considered as dangerous and subversive elements. The Christians were also detested for their secret meetings, where rumour had it they engaged in outrageous practices such as orgies and cannibalism. In 64 A.D., the emperor Nero capitalizing on the unpopularity of the Christian movement set Rome on fire and blame it on the Christians. Mass persecution followed as Christians were unjustly sentenced to imprisonment and death. Amid this unprecedented attempt to liquidate Christianity, Luke researched the true origins of Christianity. After examining all his documents at his disposal he came concluded far from being a dangerous and subversive movement, Christianity is a religion of world salvation and that it has something good to offer mankind. Therefore, beginning with the third gospel and then acts, he traced the history of Christianity from Jerusalem to Rome in the hope of convincing high officials in the Roman administration like Theophilus, before whom as a magistrate, the unlucky Christians were brought to answer charges made against them. His works were thus a defence of Christianity which he sees as a respectable religion containing the seed of world salvation.

Thus throughout the book, Christianity is presented as non-political and therefore not opposed, to the Roman government Romans are presented as favourable to Jesus. Luke records the healing of a centurion’s servant to show that Roman officials were friendly to Jesus and benefited from his mission and therefore Jesus’ salvation is for all men (LK. 7: 1-10) The nonpolitical nature of Christianity is seen especially in Luke’s account of the trial of Jesus. Here Luke gives the

the impression that Jesus, the Savior was the victim of injustice. Thus he omits the night trial in Mark possibly because of its illegality according to the legal rides of the procedure. He corrects Marks’s impression that the mocking was done by members of rho Sanhedrin and assigns it to the irresponsible ^attendants. Before Pilate, the Roman representative, he records ‘the actual charges made against Jesus vizi: disturbance the people, resistance to Roman taxation and claiming to be a King.

this is to be seen against the background of the religious charge of blasphemy preferred against Jesus by the Sanhedrin.

Luke alone records palate’s verdict of acquittal whereas Mark says that Pilate wondered. He was anxious to snow in what sense I; ‘1. Jesus was a King and his claim was non-political. Luke also records a trial before Herod Antipas, which is to be seen as

La further opportunity of exonerating Pilate This he does by transferring the mocking of the soldiers from the Romans to Herod’s men. In the final trial before dilate, Luke changes mark the insurrection” to ‘man insurrection” in connection With the charge made against Barabbas. Luke may be toning down mark’s mention of the incident for political reasons. In the final acquittal, Luke expands the Marcan passage, bridging out the full guilt of the Jewish leaders, not Pilate nor Herod. One he had shown that Christ, the founder, and leader of the Christian movement was; of the charges made against him and that the trial was a miscarriage of justice and also Roman representative, Pilate, was an unwilling accomplice, Luke believed that the Roman government would change its hostile attitude towards the Christians. Instead of branding the movement as dangerous and subversive, it would be persuaded to be tolerable to it and accord it the same protection

As given to the Jews.

Aside from the historical motive, Luke also has a theological purpose in writing his gospel. he brings out the theological significance of history. The whole movement of events in the ministry of Jesus had a special meaning for him – Jesus was moving from Galilee to Jerusalem to die so that through his death mankind would be saved, Thus at the transfiguration Luke alone records that Moses and Elijah spoke of Jesus’ departure (i.e. Death) which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). In Luke 9:51 he also says, “When the days drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. “He makes it clear to the Pharisees who warned him about Herod’s murderous intentions that, “A prophet not perish away from Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33).


A clue to the authorship of the third. the gosmaybey be a glimpse from the preface of the book (Luke 1:1-4). From this prologue, we can legitimately make the following deductions: that the writer was not an eye-witness to the ministry of Jesus; that he received information from eye-witnesses and ministers of the word that he had access to other narratives which tie found unsatisfactory and after thorough investigations claimed to write an orderly account. The natural implication is that the writer was a cultured and critical second-generation Christian.

Early Christian tradition says that both the third gospel and Acts of the Apostles were written by the same person. This author is said to be Luke (Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Tertullian).

Internal evidence testifies to the unity of authorship of the third gospel and Acts: a) both books are dedicated to the same person, Theophilus; b) Acts refers to the first treatise which is seen as the third gospe1. Acts are therefore a continuation of the third gospel. The third gospel traces the story of Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem and Acts traces the spread of Christianity from Jerusalem to Rome; c) both, contain strong similarities of language and style – sometimes formal, classic rose, sometimes a racy narrative, style, d) both contain common universal interests – the third gospel shows Jesus’ contact with Gentiles and Samaritans and ills social intercourse with outcasts and sinners.

In Acts, the writer shows the development of Christianity from a Jewish sect to a worldwide movement. There is also s common interest in women, prayer, and the Holy Spirit. the trial of Jesus before Herod Antipas is mentioned in both books but nowhere else in the New Testament. In both also the resurrection appearance of Jesus is restricted to Judea.

Evidence from Acts suggests that the author was Yelling companion of Paul. There are three sections where the writer uses the first person plural instead of the third person plural. These are known as the “we passages” (Acts 16:10-17; 20: 6-21, 28:1-16). This indicates that the writer himself was present on the occasions described and seems to be reproducing matter from a diary.

Since Acts of the Apostles end with Paul’s imprisonment: in Rome, it is highly probable that the author was one of those companions of Paul mentioned in the captivity Epistles but not mentioned, Paul himself describes. he as “ise beloved physician’ and this description accords with the author’s ‘medical. interests displayed in both books. From the third gospel, we have expressions like ‘.high fever’ (Luke 4:38); full of leprosy (Luke 5:12), describing advanced stages of the disease. Similarly from Acts medical ‘terms such as this feet and ankles received strength’ (Luke 3:7); ‘mist and darkness fell on his eyes’ (graphic description of the stages of blindness (Luke 13:11), Unkind words about doctors (Mark 5: 26) are modified in .’Luke (8:43). Thus Luke, the companion fried .and personal physician of Paul wrote


The date of the third gospel is tied up with the date of Acts. If Marcan priority is accepted as seems to be the case, then the book is later than Mark (6 5-70) and later than the siege of Jerusalem. if time is allowed for Mark to have been copied and circulated generally for Luke to have made the date around A.D . 75 – 85 is more probable.

The Synoptic problem

The first three gospels we have examined above arc generally referred to as the Synoptic Gospels. To show why this description, we have to define the term synopsis and then apply it to these three books and then discuss the I problems raised by such an application i.e. the Synoptic problem.

The term synopsis is a combination of two Greek words -sun (to see or view) and opsis (together) – meaning seeing or viewing together. As applied to the first three gospels the term is to be understood in three main senses: first, the three gospels view together or present us with a similar account of the events in the life of Jesus. In other words, they contain parts which when compared, are virtually identical second, the term is used to differentiate these books from the fourth gospel (i.e. the gospel of John). The gospel el John differs in chronology, in the presentation, of the events narrated, in the style and matter of Jesus’ teaching, and the place of most of his pubic works. In John’s Jesus’

Ministry centres around several visits to Jerusalem, while in the

Synoptic is largely devoted to Galilee. John records three Passover events while the synoptic record one only

The time of the cleansing of the temple is early in John but late in the Synoptics •

The Baptism of Jesus

(Mark 1:9- 11, Matt. 3:13-I7; Luke 3:21-22)

The narrative framework of the baptism of Jesus is that of Mark’s gospel. Having heard about John’s ministry, Jesus at about the age of thirty, came down from Nazareth in Galilee to be baptized by John in the River Jordan, John baptized him. Matthew alone narrates John’s hesitation to baptize Jesus, insisting that Jesus should rather baptize him (Matt. 3: 14-15) • Jesus overcame John’s reluctance by saying that he should be baptized so that all righteousness might be fulfilled. It is possible that John recognized Jesus as someone greater than himself, hence he was hesitant. Jesus’ answer would then mean that his baptism was in, obedience to the divine will. He also thereby supported John’s message of divine judgment, However, it appears that the story of John’s hesitation was to justify Jesus’ submission to a rite reserved for sinners when he was regarded as sinless. In that case, the righteousness referred to is uncertain because Jews practised baptism on foreigners and not among themselves.

After the baptism,m it is recorded that the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus. The opening of that heavens may be an allusion to Isaiah 64:11, where the opening of the heavens heralds the coming of God to judge men. Thus in the baptism of Jesus, God was confronting men, Luke has a particular note that the holy spirit comes upon Jesus in a bodily form so that others could see it (Luke 22′). ThisMaybee due to Luke’s method of explaining everything in concrete terms descent of the Spirit upon Jesus signifies his anointing as a man of God and Messiah.

The voice from above: “thou art my beloved Son, with thee I am well pleased”, summoned Jesus to his task, like. the other messengers of God. First,t it came in the form of psalm 2: 7 – “thou art my beloved Son.”This was a Coro-nation psalm which was used at the anointing of the priests and kings of and thus conferred upon Jesus the tile king or Messiah. The second part of the voice “with thee I am well pleased ”came from Deutero, Isaiah 42:1, words spoken of the suffering servant of God. As the Messiah Jesus had to do God’s will in service and suffering. That is to say, Jesus was to be a suffering Messiah.

Before his baptism,m Jesus was a private individual. His baptism by John was to transform him from a private person into a Public figure and to prepare him for his ministry. This is because it was at his baptism that he received his call to his future work as the Messiah and suffering servant of God. If Jesus had previously entertained any doubts as to his real status as Messiah, the voice from above would have cleared all such doubts. In short, Jesus at his baptism had a unique consciousness of his sonship and his Messiahship.

The Temptation of Jesus

(Mark 1:12-13; Matt. 4:1-11 Luke 4:1-3). Mark gives a brief statement about the story of the temptation of Jesus while Matthew and Luke draw their account from the “Q” material. Mark’s brief reference presupposes his readers to be familiar with a fuller account of the temptation story•

The forty days of fasting might indicate a round number, It reminds one of Moses at Sinai and also recalls Elijah at Horeb.

It is not to be supposed that the devil confronted

Jesus in person and tempted him. The native as it stands depicts the struggle that went on in the mind of Jesus as he meditated on the meaning of the nature and work of the Messiah.

The temptation was a follow-up to his decision to be baptized. As already observed, before his baptism Jesus lived as a private individual and his baptism by John was the first important step towards his public ministry.

The descent of the Holy Spirit, as well as the voice from above,e confirmed him as the Messiah and the suffering servant of God. Jesus had the fullest realization that he was to be the Messiah through service, suffering,g a, and obedience to God. In short, he received his call to the Messianic office.

Having received this unique consciousness of his sonship to God and his messiahship, Jesus spent a period of quiet preparation in a secluded spot for the public ministry. This retreat became necessary because there were other ideas about the nature of the Messiah and his work abroad in the time of Jesus. T there were three such current notions about the Messiah and his work. Some of the Jew thought of the Messiah as one who brought economic prosperity (an economic Messiah), who would satisfy the physical and material needs of men; others thought of him as a wonder-worker (a sign-giving Messiah), who would baffle the people with his supernatural powers. The majority hoped for a political leader, who would restore the nation to its former glory and set it up: an earthly kingdom. He was to be a soldier-statesman, Occupying the throne of David and concerned with raising an army to overthrow the enemies of Israel (ie. The restoration of the Davidic kingdom, Only a few people spoke

of the Messiah as a spiritual and religious figure who would recall the Jews to repentance.

In temptation, Jesus wrestled with the wrong ways of fulfilling his Messianic call. He examined the popular nations about the Messiah and his work and rejected all of them as being unsatisfactory. The first temptation to transform stone into bread was to make him appear as an economic Messiah and to ignore his main task as a religious Messiah. in his reply,y Jesus showed that he would not use his powers to satisfy bodily needs and the material needs of men only, but would rather wait to be directed by God.


In this chapter, we shall consider most. of the important teaching of Jesus. Since the Old Testament formed the background, his teachings shall look at the Old Testament basis for particular teaching before discussing Jesus’ view on the subject. First, we shall look at the teachings of Jesus about the Mosaic Law.


The Law of Moses is frequently referred to in the synoptic gospels especially the gospel of Matthew. Some of the Old Testament commandments and rules can probably be traced to the time of Moses, but certainly many were added later in the course of Jewish history. Moses’ name became attached to all the regulations of the Jews and it was believed that he

the one who wrote the Pentateuch, the first five books of the old testament,

Jesus’s attitude towards the law was a mixed one. He affirmed his respect for the law; he condemned some interpretations; given to the law by the religious leaders; finally,y he improved upon the law to make its observance possible for all.

Jesus’s respect for the law is first Of all seen in the statement, which he made that be had not come to destroy the law but to fulfil it. He then enforced the keeping; of the law, in the very detail “not an iota will pass from the law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:17-18). ‘Iota’ is the smallest letter in Greek- .alphabet Just as- ‘it’ is in the Hebrews. He obeyed the law -when he asked the leper who had been cleansed to go and show himself to the priest and to offer for his Moses had commanded (Mark 1,40-45:Luke 1: 11-14). He enjoined the fulfilment of the commandments. When someone asked what good he must do to inherit eternal life Jesus reply if you will enter life, keep the commandments” (Matt.19:17ff).

He asked his disciples to follow the teachings of the law and not what was practised by the religious leaders: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe; whatever they tell you. ,” Matt. 23; 2-3′). Religious duties such as almsgiving, fasting, prayers, and gift offering were to be observed by his followers. But these were to be done in private and with the right, a motive so that only God would know their righteousness (Matt, 6).

Jesus did condemn, however, some interpretations given to the law by the religious leaders, A classical example. the sabbath law (see the section on the sabbath controversy in the last chapter), Jesus condemned the narrow legalism about the sabbath and declared that activities of kindness and necessity should take precedence over the observance of the sabbath. He also attacked the tradition of the elders with special reference to ceremonial washing of hands before eating and the practice of Corban (Mark 7:1-23). The Old Testament commandments were nullified by such tradition “practices as corban Jesus made positive contributions to the law by improving upon it. He said, “Think that 1hase come to abolish I the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them, but to fulfil them (Matt. 5:17)- He did not seek to overthrow the authority of Moses. To him the general scope of the law and its authority as an expression of God’s will is paramount. He had come to fulfil the intention of the law so that its observance would be made possible for all, Jesus realized that

The keeping of the law had proved difficult for many people because all emphasis was placed on outward conduct, not the miner’s motive and mental attitude provoked people to disobey the law. In the sermon on the Mount,| he gave five illustrations of this principle of fulfilment. In each case, he went beyond the mere outward commandment that one should not do this or that and dwelt on the reasons which motivated people to break the law and called upon ail to discover these underlinings eliminate them.

Murder: (Matt. 5:21-26).

The Mosaic law says, “Ton shall not kill and whoever shall:’ ill shall be liable to judgment,” Jesus went behind the outward act of murder to the inner motives which provoked people to kill, However e anger and insult; remove the causes of murder, Jesus says and the law in this respect is fulfilled. But I say to you that everyone angry with his brother’s tail is liable to judgment; whoever says, ‘You fool’ shall be liable to hellfire “As a practical step in getting rid of the root causes of murder, Jesus taught reconciliation. He said if a person brought his gift to the altar and remembered that he had a grudge against his neighbour, he should first go and be reconciled with him before coming back to offer his gift. (e also said one should come to terms with one’s accuser before I was brought before the authorities, else he would be imprisoned until he had paid the last amount. Thus on murder, Jesus broadened the law to include prohibitions of anger and abusive words (the root causes of murder). Anger is as grave a sin as murder precisely because it may lead to murder and its elimination through reconciliation should be the concern of all.

Adultery;(Matt. 5:27-30)

The old law says, “you shall not commit adultery .” Thus the

flaw stressed on the outward act of adultery. Jesus traced the cause of adultery to lustful looks “But I say to you that every pile who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart, “Carnal desire is as sinful as the deed. Itself since if not checked it leads to the act of adultery. Lust is to be eliminated through sell’-control and the injunction on adultery is then fulfilled. Jesus advised; “if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body is thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lost one of your limbs than that your whole body goes to hell,” Lust, therefore, should be tamed and sanctified in marriage.

Oaths: (Matt. 5:33-37).

The law on prophets said, “you shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn, “.This means W] that one has to swear an oath ( establish his or her honesty and integrity. Such means of validating- the truth does not raj always fulfil the law, for many people swear to tell the truth *| and then proceed to tell lies. Swearing- is no proof of honesty and Jesus advised against it saying-, “Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth

for it is a footstool, or by Jerusalem for it is the city of the great king. And do not swear by your head for you cannot make one hair white or black.” Solemn affirmation of honesty rather •than appeal to God is all that matters. “Let what you say be simply Yes’ or ‘ No anything more than this comes from evil.” This is the same thing- saying that men should fulfil their moral obligations rather than swear.

Retaliation (Matt. 5:38-42)

The law states, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

Thus according to the law, retaliation is the only means of ensuring peace and social justice.’ Undoubtedly this injunction creates more problems than it solves for it can and does lead to further retaliation with its consequent loss of life and property. Jesus taught non-retaliation as a means of fulfilling the law on retaliation; “Do not resist one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if anyone would sue you and take away your coat, let him have your cloak as well j and if anyone forces you to go a mile, go with him two miles.” God relation is established’ when friendship is promoted through helping anyone in need of help whether he is an enemy or not and irrespective of his race, tribe, political affiliation, sex or creed; “Give to him who begs from you, arid do not refuse him who would borrow from you”.

Love of Enemies (Matt. 5:43-48).

The law stipulates that “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy”, ‘This was to ensure peace of mind, but I this undoubtedly creates problems in a situation where we: have to depend on each other for survival and happiness. Instead by so doing- one would share in the character of God, who is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be the sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes he, sunrise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the just and the unjust. “Christians achieve nothing if they love those who love them and hate those who,-hate them because non-Christians also do the same: “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing- than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same j “Men are to love without any selfish motive in imitation of God’s character “you, therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Love without discrimination is what Jesus advocates. If one has this kind of love, one would love his neighbour irrespective of whether friend or foe. The Greek word for this kind of love is agape. It is attracted to a person

Person precisely because he is unworthy of being loved. The opposite of agape is errored, which is discriminative and attracts for Selfish reasons, like loving a friend and breaking off with him or her when there is a dispute or misunderstanding.

The Fatherhood Of God

The ‘concept of God as Father is one of the attributes of Yahweh in the Old Testament. God is Father in the sense that He created the nation of Israel and he made the Israelites his sons when he delivered them from slavery in Egypt; Out of Egypt have I called my son (Hosea I 1: 1; see Deut. 32:6).

This historical deliverance of Israel by God is like the watchful care of a father. But He is the Father of the God-/fearing and the righteous rather than Israel as a whole. As, a father pities his children, so; the Lord pities those who fear Him (psalm 103:13). The father-son analogy continued to be a common way of referring to God’s relation to Israel. In the period after the close of the Old Testament Canon. Thus the idea of the Fatherhood of God had been part of the teachings of the prophets, psalmists, and Rabbis centuries

In Jewish tradition, God as Father is usually referred to as ABINU (Our Father) and it is often accompanied by some epithet as “Our Father, our King”. This customary usage is seen as a sign of respect. By saying that God is -leather, Jesus does not mean ABINU, he rather meant ABBA (Mark 14:36). ABBA is the Aramaic word for father and it is the familiar form of address to one’s earthly father. This is the loaning of the term as used by Jesus in the synoptic gospels:

Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) on the cross he prayed, “Father forgive them” (Luke 23:34) in the Lord-s prayer, he taught his disciples to say “Our Father (Matt, 6:9). By addressing God as Father (ABBA). Jesus revolutionalized the concept of the Fatherhood by giving it an idea of an intimate and a personal God with whom men can enter into intimate and personal relations, But focus stands in a unique relationship with the Father. He is mentioned next to the Father (Mark 13:32). Significant for this also is the fact that he never says “Our Father” in a way that

includes himself; he speaks rather of ‘Your Father’ and My father’. He was referring to his special relation to the Father this reflects deep awareness of his unique relation to the father and his unique task in God’s plan/ Men can claim their relationship only through their relationship with him.

As a Father, God loves us all because we are all his children He is kind and merciful to the unthankful and the unthankful and the selfish’.”He is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish”(Luke 6:35). He is indiscriminate in his love towards us “He makes his sun rise on the evil and the good,- and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matt, 5:45). Men are to follow the Father’s example by loving their enemies and praying for them Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matt, 5:44). Men must accept every single human being like a brother and sister.

Our neighbour is anyone in need of our help irrespective of his or her race, tribe, colour, sex, or religion. This is the theme of the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37).

Our heavenly Father in His love for us cares for and provides for our needs. If an earthly father knows how to give good things to his children, then how much more will the heavenly Fattier provide for us (Matt. 7: 11). In consequence of the Father’s readiness to provide for our material needs, we are to pray to him for our requirements “Give us each day our daily bread” (Luke 11: 3). Therefore there is no need to be anxious about life. “Do not be anxious about your life what you shall eat or what you shall drink nor about your body; what you shall put on (Matt 6:25). We are more -precious to God than birds who are looked after by Him. “Look at the birds of the air, they neither sow nor reap :|; nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”. (Matt. 6:26),

“An expression of the Father” s love is His readiness to forgive any sinner who repents. His love, kindness, and forgiveness are the subject matter of the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15 j 11-32). He receives sinful men as a father receives a scapegoat son. and as Jesus himself received tax collectors and sinners. Two other parables in the same chapter in Luke- the lost sheep and the lost coin – present the same theme, for each of them ends with the refrains. like There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:7,10). The Fatherhood of God is seen in the fact .’) that He hates sin but loves the sinner and therefore goes after the lost until he finds him. In the eyes of Jesus, God’s Fatherhood is most evident in His eagerness to forgive the debt which men incurred. He forgives us as royally as a magnanimous King’ remits a debt to a man who cannot pay it- the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matt.18:23-30), see’ also the parable of the two debtors (Luke 7:41-43).

But if men are so readily pardoned by the Father, they too have a heavy obligation to forgive their fellow men. And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6: 12). The parable of the unmerciful servant ends with the statement that our heavenly Father will deal most sternly with us if we refuse to forgive our fellowmen from the bottom of our hearts. Since God is the Father of us all because he is the Father of Jesus, then it follows that we are reproduce the character and activity of God in our daily lives and actions. The unqualified benevolence and beneficence of the heavenly Father towards all His children are to be imitated by all .”You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt. 5:48), or “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful” (Luke 6:30). Men are to be peacemakers and they will be called the sons of God “(Matt. 5:9). They are to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them so as | to be sons of the Father (Luke 6:27). Thus the Fatherhood

Of God implies moral responsibility which His children have to perform. Jesus summed it up in this way: “Whoever does the Will of my Father in heaven is my brother and my sister and my mother” (Matt.12:50)

God is Father and men are His true aeons only as they respond to Him in trusting obedience. The terms ‘trust’ and ‘obedience both describe the human .response in which the Fatherhood of God is both known and acknowledged, and in which, sonship is realized and affirmed. Fatherhood of God is a personal relationship that must be entered through obedient trust. Jesus’ resolute obedience to God and his inexhaustible trust in God inevitably points” of the One obeyed and trusted. The trustor faith may be described as receiving, the kingdom of God with childlike receptivity and simplicity whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” “(Mark 10:15), Life is to be lived in complete trust in God, whose merciful providence supports all His creation.

To live in such trust is to know. the meaning of God as Father. But Jesus does not suggest that to know God as Father is to f, escape hardship or deprivation fox he promised his disciples suffering and trouble. Instead, bears concerned to lead men to trust that whatever circumstances befall thorn they, are under the care of a loving Father who knows their needs If; better than they. Jesus carried out the moral implications of the Fatherhood of God in his mission of salvation. His whole life expresses God’s loving care for men as a Father. He moved freely with outcasts and sinners to show Gad’s intimate care for the underdogs, Through his acts of healing, he freedmen from physical ailments and also from the bondage of Satan. In demonstrating the Father’s providential care for the material well-being of men he fed the five thousand and later the four ..thousand, who had followed him all day without food, on the cross he forgave his enemies to show that the Fatherhood of God finds its favour ultimate fulfilment in forgiveness.


In the old Testament, f forgive means to pardon, to remit cancel, to blot out, or to forget. All these phrases |suggest a condition whereby the barrier that exists between the injured, party, and the offender is removed and the latter is •restored to his former state of favour and blessing. In the .context of men’s relation to God, any offence against a fellow human being is directed against God, the Creator and Author of life, before Him we are all equal. Thus David’s sin against Uriah was directed against God (who thus became displeased with David’s action) because all men are equal in his sight no matter their material situation in life (2 Sam. 11:27). Men can only claim forgiveness from God because He is the architect of the moral and ethical law.

As the vice-gerent of God, Jesus claimed to have power on earth to exercise the divine prerogative to forgive sins. He told the paralyzed man who was let down the roof of a house by his friends that his sins were forgiven.

When the Pharisees and the scribes complained about this statement Jesus told the man to walk – implying that He was proof that his sins had been forgiven (Mark 2 :1 – 72). Here Jesus seems to be teaching; that a person has the authority to fox-give a ins if he were in right relations with God. In f his encounter with the woman of bad character Jesus taught in

the parable of the two debtors that the real basis of forgiveness is love and the spring of love should be a sense of forgiveness. He then said to the sinful woman “your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:36′-50).

But the real author of forgiveness is God. He loves

us and is ever ready to forgive us our sins. The parables of the ‘lost in Luke 15 illustrate the forgiveness of God. He receives sinners as an earthly father receives a wayward son. The parable of the unmerciful servant stresses that the gross sinfulness of man only underlines the abundance of God’s forgiveness. The sum of money owed by the servant to the King is ten thousand talents (i.e. one hundred million denarii)*

When it is considered that the talent was the highest unit of currency known, and ten thousand the highest number used then, Jesus is saying” that the debt is quite unpayable by any private individual. The servant asked for time to repay, ” but the king- knew that he would never be able to find the

money. The lesson taught in this parable is that men can never pay their ‘debts to God by their efforts. All they can do is ask God for forgiveness.


Prayer may be defined as an act of communion and communication between man and God. It is an act of trust and dependence on God and in the process, it establishes an intimate personal relationship between the believer and his Creator, the Old Testament prayer was a central spiexercis exercise is in Jewthe ish religion. The Jews prayed constantly to God, especially nationals o national calamity. In New Testament .:;v times, pray *• either in private or in the fellowship of others ”In public had become one of the religious duties of the Jews. Both the temple and the synagogue were places of prayer.

Jesus was a man of prayer. Early: in the morning he • would go out in solitude and pray (Mark 1:35) • The gospel of Luke especially tells us that on all the important occasions |-in his life Jesus turned to God in prayer for strength and guidance. He prayed at his baptism (Luke 3:21 ) before his temptation he lasted and prayed for forty days and nights |(3Luke 4:1-2), before and after the feeding of the five ^thousand Jesus prayed (Mark 6: 4 I, 46); before selecting the: twelve disciples he spent the whole night in prayer (Luke 6:12). Luke also says that Jesus was praying’ alone at Caesarea Philippi when he/asked the disciples the question which led to Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ (Luke 9s 18), thee prayed at the transfiguration (Luke 9:28, 29) and before; his teaching about prayer (Luke 11;1). Jesus also prayed at the last supper (Mark 14:22-24); in the Garden of Gethsemane |;(Mark l4:32ff) and finally, on the cross, he prayed to God “(Luke 23:34,46).

The prayer life of Jesus teaches that men should; communicate frequently with God, especially on all Important occasions in their lives. He admonished his disciples that ought always to pray (Luke 18:1). Men should not give up in prayer but persist till their supplications are answered. ‘”To this effect he says” “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you, will find it; knock and it will be opened to you. Or everyone who asks receives and he who seeks finds, and >to him who knocks ft will be opened” (Luke11: 9—10)• To buttress

His teaching on persistency and importunity in prayer Jesus illustrated it with two parables on prayer: “The Friend at f; midnight” where he says, “I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him, whatever he needs” (Luke 11:5-8). The next is the parable of “The unjust judge” where the same point is also made in the reaction of the Judge to the continual coming of the widow: “Though I neither fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow bothers me, $’.I, Will vindicate hear, or she Will wear me out with her continual coming •• (Luke 18:1-8).


Humility denotes a mode, humble condition, or state of mind. it expresses modesty, self-abasement, respect for authority as opposed to pride and arrogance, and insubordination. Jesus in his teachings stressed the need for a humble disposition in our behaviour and in all that we say and do. He was an example of humility. He refused to be called good by the rich young ruler in search of eternal life; “Why do you call me good? no one is good but God alone” (Mark 70:17-18).

The statement might mean that either Jesus was conscious, his sinful state and therefore in humility, he refused to be called good, or that in humility, glory, and honour must be given to God, the some of all goodness. His ability to mix freely with all sections of the society, high and low, but more especially with outcasts and sinners earned him the honourable title of “Friend of tax collectors and sinners”, the condemned the arrogant attitude of the disciples towards children and welcomed them in humility saying- “Let the ” children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belong the kingdom of God” (Mark 10;13-14)• He. also said unless men receive the Kingdom of God like a child, they will never enter (Mark 10:15-16). While this implies receptivity it also connotes the idea of humility and simplicity.

Jesus told a parable on humility against those who were invited to a feast in the house of a ruler who belonged to •the Pharisees when he observed how some of the guests struggled for places of honour. He said, t “everyone who exalts himself will be -humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 1417-11)- That is to say that men should endeavour to display a humble disposition in all aspects of their relives• On his teaching about greatness in the. The Kingdom of God. He stressed service in humility as the clue to true greatness saying, “Let the greatest among you become as the youngest and the leader as one who serves-. I an in among you as one -who

serves” (Luke 22:26-27).

The Family

The family was the centre of the Jewish s o c I e t y and ties weary strong- as in some societies. Jesus spoke of this social institution with positive approval since lie conceived the true relation of men as that of brothers and sisters in the family of God, He held the family in high esteem when he condemned (the disciples for their attitude towards children who had been brought by their parents for blessing. He went ahead to welcome them and bless them. To him, children were pleasing to God and already have a place in the; world to come (Mark 10;13-“16). Jesus was full of praise for the rich young man, who in answer to a question on how to die kept the commandments ‘replied that he had kept all the commandments from his youth, Jesus we are told, looked upon him and loved him (Mark 10:19-20).

Jesus put his weight behind the basic Old estimate of the family by emphasizing and caring for parents. He thus condemned the abuse of the law by which the natural duty of children to (their parents was evaded. According to Jewish law, a man showed his obedience and honour, and respect to his parents, among other things by supporting them financially, especially in their old age. But one of the traditions of the elders (the practice of corban) was used to renounce this final obligation. If a man swore the oath of Corban before the parents to the effect that as far as he was; concerned the money which “he should have given for their support was to be considered as a gift to the temple, then his parents had no share in his property. More often than not, such an oath was made without actually giving the money to the temple but then, it was to be regarded as so given, yet the law-said, it was his duty to help his parents., Jesus showed his disapproval for this tradition when he said” that the practice of Corban nullified the fifth commandment to honour one’s parents (Mark 7: 9-13 ).

Marriage and Divorce,

Among the Jews marriage was an honoured institution and every man was expected to marry, The preservation and the ‘ stability of marriage was the main Be declared marriage to, be part of the divine original purpose or man.” For this reason, a man shall ‘leave his father and mother ‘and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one. They are no longer two but one; what ‘therefore-, God has joined: together, let not man put asunder” (Mark 10:6). Thus marriage in principle is a lifelong union between a man and woman and by implication divorce is ruled out. The Old Testament permitted divorce but the question of the grounds for divorce was not settled in the first century ad), it was agreed that adultery was a valid reason; the law indeed required a man to divorce his wife in this case. Rabbi Shammai taught that only for this cause was a divorce legal, but the Hillel and” his followers held that there were other grounds,

“When Jesus was asked of his opinion on divorce by the Pharisees Preferred them back to the creation of man and woman, The two me one and should not be separated, He added “that permission divorce was a concession to weak human nature. Thus in return to the original purpose of marriage, Jesus repudiated divorce was a concession to human weakness (Mark 10: 1—9) •

Mark followed by Luke says that Jesus forbade all divorce and remarriage. Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery and if she divorces her husband or marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10: “I 1 – I 2 ); see also Lake 16J18), but in Matthew Jesus is made to say that divorce is permissible in the case of unfaithfulness on the part of the wife. “Whoever divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9, also Matt. 5:32).


In the Old Testament, the possession of wealth is regarded as a sign of God’s blessing and so of righteousness. This implies that the mere possession of wealth is not evil in itself. Mut rich men have been condemned again and again as bad men (Amos’ 2:6ff; Isaiah 1) Psalm 3, The point of the condemnation this at cupidity, greed and the desire to become rich are sources of spiritual danger and social misery.

Worldly success leads to pride, self-esteem, and contempt for the unsuccessful as well as a lust for even greater riches and power. As a result of this, the expression ‘poor’ acquired a sort of religious significance and was often equated with the godly and the humble as contrasted with the arrogant rich; those who trust in their material wealth. Thus the words poor and ‘rich’ have in many contexts a religious and Ethical content rather than an economic one.

The religious interpretation of poor and rich is carried over into the New Testament and is seen in the teachings of Jesus when he extolled poverty saying “Blessed are the poor”, Luke 6:20, which Matthew tingly paraphrases as poor in spirit ; (Matt’ 5 :3 ) • Jesus means the poor In the sense in which the } terra is used to denote the class of pious of hardworking, humble people who look to God for redemption, and who do not put their trust in political ‘schemes and material prosperity,” theirs, Jesus says, is the kingdom of God. The rich would be represented by the wealthy Sadducean high priestly families, a worldly set of men who made a splendid profit out of their control of the temple.

The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit can be defined as the power and activity of God. In the Old Testament, the terms “Spirit of Yahweh, of God” and even the Holy Spirit occur. One essential aspect of the Hebrew thought of God was that he was Spiritual in contrast to the physical attributes of pagan deities. His ‘was spoken of as the agent of creation (Gen. 1t2). Spirit was the source of supernatural strength in an individual; as with Samson (judges 15) and Saul (1 Samuel 11:6). was-, also the source of energy and new life for the nation Ezekiel. 37:14) It was the inspiration of prophetic ecstasy as with Saul ‘among the prophets’ (1 Samuel 10:10). A later prophet could declare more soberly that the Spirit of the Lord was: upon him because he had become appointed to preach (Isaiah 6:1). Thus. the Israelites were quite familiar with the idea of good a Spirit. All the above Jewish ideas are reflected in the references to the ‘Spirit in the synoptic gospels. Jesus is said to have endowed with the Spirit, coming to him ‘like a dove, his baptism, peacefully in contrast to the violence sometimes associated with the ‘Spirit in the Old Testament. It is over or activity of God was .with him to guide and teach him throughout his ministry (Mark 1:10). Immediately after his baptism he was ‘led’ (Mark says driven) by the Spirit into the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil. Mere the Holy Spirit guided him in, making the right choice of a suffering servant of God and rejecting the current notions about the Messiah: and his work. Luke says that after the temptation Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee to commence his preaching (Luke 4:14).

In his first preaching visit to Nazareth, Jesus read in

synagogue a passage from Isaiah 61:1-2, which spoke of the spirit as the prophetic source of inspiration. In applying the passage to himself Jesus declared that as the Messiah he id, his source of inspiration from (the Spirit of God. Jesus promised to give the Holy Spirit to his followers, which would be their source of inspiration arid help them in their missionary life and work. He told the disciples that the Spirit would help them in times of trial; they were anxious when brought before the authorities in the Synagogues, the Sanhedrin, and the Roman government, for the Spirit would inspire them and they would know what to say lark 13:9-n). Luke writes that after the resurrection Jesus commanded the apostles to remain in Jerusalem until they received 2 “the promise of the Father – the power from above” Luke..: 24- 49). This is explained in Acts 1 f and 2 to mean baptism. with the Holy Spirit – an endowment to enable them to the work assigned to them which Luke saw as a continuation of the activity of Jesus himself. Jesus also promised that the Father would give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. He said if an earthly father with all his shortcomings would give good things to his children, how much more would the Father above give the Holy Spirit to those of his children

The State

‘He backgrounds to Jesus1 teaching about the state-is first of all the story of his encounter with the Pharisees and the Herodians over the issue of paying to Caesar. (Mark 12:.13-17, Matt. 22:15-22; Luke 20:20-26), (‘satisfied with his activities in the Jerusalem temple to destroy him, the Sanhedrin sent the. Pharisees and the Herodians entrap Jesus in. his talk so that they report him to the Roman authorities, They flattered him as a good teacher and then hoping that lie would readily answer- their question said: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? should we pay them or should we not?” But as knowing: their intentions forced them to answer the question ‘or themselves. He demanded a coin and asked them to indicate whose likeness and inscription was on the coin and .they answered Caesar’s Jesus then said to them, “Render to Caesar’s the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s”. •’,

The Romans were the overlords of the Jews and in the time ‘Jesus there were varying shades of opinion in Jewry About their attitude towards the Roman government, The hated Roman rule because Israel was a

theocratic state and therefore should be. Independent of any earthly authority, The Pharisees were in this group; they Would not take up and against their oppressors with the understanding that God Himself would overthrow the Roman, one faithfully kept the law. Then we have the Zealots, in .their uncompromising attitude towards foreign rule were .prepared to join forces with any revolutionary leader group to liquidate the Romans. At the other extreme we the Sadducees and the Herodians who collaborated with torn-out of political expediency (the Sadducees especially God their position and authority to Rome),

Righteousness and Goodness

In the old Testament righteousness which is akin to goodness is not a narrow religious or legalistic concept, in the teaching of Amos, righteousness is that aspect of Yahweh’s nature . by which men. are led into a fuller understanding of whole nature. Thus righteousness expresses not only, the essential nature of Yahweh himself but also represents the total character of God in his dealings with men description. the moral demands of Yahweh. In this sense, righteousness is similar to Isaiah’s concept of Yahweh’s holiness (i.e. goodness) — the essential being of Yahweh which demands purity of heart from his people* Therefore, bath, righteousness, and goodness express not only the unique

Yahweh, but also of the unique characteristics of the ethical demands which he lays upon all those who are his nature. The ethical demands of Yahweh are explicitly outlined in the Decalogue, Yahweh’s righteousness arid goodness also demands that He who are close to Hi in .without fear or favour. Jesus’ understanding of righteousness end goodness is similar to the teachings of Amos and Isaiah. Righteousness

Is goodness which expresses the essential character of God. is good but God alone (Mark 10:18). God’s righteousness and goodness demand that those who are His children must pass these moral qualities in their everyday lives and actions “You, therefore, must be perfect as your Heavenly nature, is perfect (Matt. 5*48). The righteousness of God means God’s moral perfection and right conduct is a manifestation of goodness.


In the Old Testament, violence is’ prohibited by the commandment on murder, though Moses’ injunction on retaliation, eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” implicitly supports violence.

Jesus was opposed to violence in all its manifestations is seen not only in his support for the commandment against murder but also in his broadening of the law on murder including prohibitions of anger and abusive words; “But say to you that everyone angry with his brother shall

liable to judgments whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, whoever says, »You fool shall be liable to the hell of

fire’ (Matt. 5:22). Thus one must not encourage violence by being angry with his neighbour and by saying racca or- foo1 to anyone.

As an expression of his hatred for violence, Jesus condemned the law on retaliation as enjoined by Moses, Instead of retaliation he advocated -for non-retaliation or non-violence. “Do not resist one who is evil (Matt. 5:39) • He required that men* resist evil with lore instead of retaliation.) when struck they are to turn to another cheek; when a ^ah. is-sued for one garment9 he must surrender another../too; the man who comes born, lug must not be refused In pursuance of the policy of non-retaliation he. advised that we love our pray for those who persecute us so that we? become true children of the Father (Matt. 5:43-48)

Human suffering

  1. The Jewish people believe that human suffering is caused by inhumanity to man. Thus the prophets especially Amos I,-Isaiah condemned the rich for exploiting and oppressing the suffering. They also believe that human suffering–‘ is also caused by sin. The consequences of sin are two it separates man from God (which can be reconciled through repentance! and forgiveness ) it has cosmic dimensions (bringing suffering sometimes on innocent people (2 Sam. 12:13-14). In times of election, human suffering is seen as the normal experience ^believers in an evil society and the faithful are called not to apostatize but to endure for God’s sake. There promise of better times ahead for those who would epidural lepers cut ion to the very end. There is also divine purpose suffering as in the case of the experiences of the Jews in exile in Babylon and individual cases like Job.


Types of Miracles

In the biblical sense, a miracle is an event that happens in a manner contrary to the observed process of nature. It is a lithe fe result of the operation of the power of God, who is the source of all power and with who all things are possible.

thanks for joining this intense study. I shall stop here for now till the next update.

From this part of the world, It is all thanks and be rupturable, from pastor Godstrong.



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6 thoughts on “The Synoptic Gospels”

  1. Hi thank you for sharing this amasing knowledge. I have all the respect and belief for Bible teaching. By now I have no ideea that the life and teaching of Christ was in according to the synoptic Gospels. I am really humble and astonished of how much information you are giving, so well explained for everyone understanding, so amasing, thank you for this fantastic knowledge .

    Unfortunately I have no experience related with this topic. Thank you and many blessings to you 🙏.

    • Angelo you are welcome and I appreciate you honest comment. You see, the life and events of Jesus was deeply written by many, but Matthew, Mark and Luke wrote similar accounts to compare with apostle John and so the name ‘Synoptic gospels’, showing the similarities of the three accounts.

  2. Thank you for the wealth of information that you have shared . There is so much depth in what you have compiled here, it demands I come back to re read . I have always asked myself also why does the books of Matthew , Mark, Luke and John cover similar stories,. My question is answered here. I still have much to understand about the synoptic gospel and this gave me a great base.

  3. Hi,

    Thanks again for a great and interesting read–I’ve visited your website before and wanted to return for more information. You delve deep into the Synoptic Gospels topic. It’s clear you have a passion for teaching Christianity. 

    I personally believe there are multiple accounts of specific events (i.e., Jesus’ birth, life ministry, death, and resurrection) to serve as a witness to the world, that in fact, Jesus is real, He is the Son of God, He taught His gospel to the people in His homeland, He was crucified and resurrected, and He lives. 

    Each of us, when sharing information, talk in our own unique voice–we give many of the same facts, but from a personal perspective. I might notice and recite details someone else would not. But variations don’t make the story false. Jesus is not a fictitious character or a mere man. Prophets from Adam on prophesied Jesus would come to earth and die for all mankind. He came. He is the Son of God. 

    I love that we can learn from each other. And be better followers of Jesus Christ. 



  4. Hi lovely Tamara. I love just the way you shine more light on the synoptic gospels. The similar accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke on the life and ministry of Our lord Jesus and that of John all speaks the same thing no matter the different accounts. Thanks for your comments.


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