You may have wondered why God inspired four accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings.
There are benefits to having these separate accounts of what Jesus said and did. To illustrate, imagine that four men are standing near a famous teacher. The man standing in front of the teacher has a tax office. The one on the right is a physician. The man listening from the left side is a fisherman and is the teacher’s very close friend. And the fourth man, located at the back, is an observer who is younger than the others. All four are honest men, and each has a distinct interest or focus. If each writes an account of the teacher’s sayings and activities, the four records would likely feature different details or events. By considering all four accounts, bearing in mind the varying perspectives or objectives, we could get a complete picture of what the teacher said and did. This illustrates how we can benefit from having four separate accounts of the life of the Great Teacher, Jesus.
Continuing the illustration, the tax man wants to appeal to people of a Jewish background, so he groups some teachings or events in a way to help that primary audience. The physician highlights the healing of the sick or crippled, so he omits some things that the tax man recorded or presents them in a different order. The close friend emphasizes the teacher’s feelings and qualities. The younger man’s account is briefer, more succinct. Still, each man’s account is accurate. This well illustrates how having all four accounts of Jesus’ life enriches our understanding of his activities, teachings, and personality.
People may speak of ‘the Gospel of Matthew’ or ‘John’s Gospel.’ That is not inaccurate, for each contains “good news about Jesus Christ.” (Mark 1:1) However, in a larger sense, there is but one overall gospel, or good news, about Jesus—available to us in the four records.
Many students of God’s Word have compared and harmonized the events and facts found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. About 170 C.E., the Syrian writer Tatian endeavored to do so. He recognized these four books as accurate and inspired, and he compiled the Diatessaron, a harmonized account of Jesus’ life and ministry.
Jesus—The Way, the Truth, the Life does similarly, but it is more accurate and complete. That is possible because we now better understand the fulfillment of many of Jesus’ prophecies and illustrations. This understanding clarifies the things he said and did, as well as the order in which events occurred. Archaeological discoveries have also shed light on certain details and on the writers’ perspectives. Of course, no one can be dogmatic about the sequence of every event. But Jesus—The Way, the Truth, the Life presents what is reasonable and logical.