Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
– Luke 1:1-3
I get a lot of questions, and one question I get often is: Why four gospels? The ever present follow up question is: Why are they (seemingly) different? We, in our 21st century Western mindset have lost a great deal of framework in understanding what type of writing the “gospels” are. I recently in an oversimplified fashion answered this question in a sermon and hope it may be found helpful.
If we can think of the gospel writers kind of like photographers, we may think about them this way:
Today we live in a crazy day where people have cameras on their phones already in their hands or in their pockets and they can take a quick snap shot. If you want to think about one of the gospel writers as one of these guys with one of these phones who wants to take a quick snap shot, and he may then tweet the picture, email it, put it on his blog or facebook for quick distribution, then that guy would be Mark.
If you are thinking about a family portrait, by a person who takes the picture so it can be placed on a mantel so everybody can see, and he helps us to know who these people are, who they were, what they were doing, and why grandma and grandpa did what they did and why they were there then that would be Matthew.
And then, you have John. John comes way out of left field, and he wants you to feel what you are looking at, he doesn’t even bother to take out his camera; he paints a picture in beautiful broad strokes and colors, and includes details that nobody else does so you can really get the story from the point of view that John is trying to paint.
And then there is Luke, and Luke when he takes a picture, he does it with precision, he has come to study, he has brought his biggest camera with his biggest telephoto lense. He takes this panoramic picture, he wants you to take it all in and get this complete composite you are viewing.
Another thing about photographers is that they do not all take pictures of the same things. This is also true for the gospel writers.
Each gospel photo-album, though different is still an accurate and true representation of the whole picture.