21 April 2016

Guide to the Bible (7) The Gospels & Acts - By Jack Lewis

Q. In my "Guide to the Bible" series, what is one thing all the books covered so far have in common? A. They are all building up to four books, known as the gospels. These four books, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are the basis on which the whole Bible revolves around. 

Imagine when there is a big news story/event, things like an election or a world cup. For ages before, all you hear is the "build up," and for a while afterwards, the news is dominated by the "fall-out", or post-event analysis. The Bible's format is actually very similar to this. For ages, the Old Testament, especially the books of prophecy, were written as a build up to Jesus. For example, the place where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac, is the exact same hill that Jesus was crucified on. Then, after Jesus' ascension, the New Testament is written (in a much shorter space of time) as letters about "what happened next." So here is my guide to where we meet Jesus! (Plus a little fall out!) 

It's interesting how, despite the fact they all have the same subject, the Gospel writers personality really comes through in their books. Firstly, Matthew is very methodical and precise, and his gospel has many things like genealogies in them that you would not find in more fast paced books. Matthew's gospel is also famous for the "Great commission" in chapter 28. Perhaps it is the gospel that you would read last, when you've read the others, and then want to read in more detail some of the stories in the others or read the exclusive content in Matthew. We may find it best to read Matthew last, but Mark surely has to be the first destination for anyone not yet familiar with the stories of Jesus. Completely different in style to Matthew, it's fast paced, and easy to read/understand. It's just a shame that it doesn't include the story of Jesus birth. It's a good read though because it has many interesting miracles and parables in it. I know that it's technically in the wrong order, but the next book to be looked at, is John. It's very different to the other three gospels, as it was written last and the author wanted to avoid repeating what the others had already said. In fact the other three are known as the "synoptics." Perhaps after reading Mark, John would be next as you will learn stuff that you wouldn't elsewhere. Another interesting thing is that it's the only Gospel not to contain any parables. Finally, there's a real two-part-set. Luke and Acts are both written by the same author, so obviously they are very similar in writing style. They are also both addressed to the same person, and the end of Mark fits like a jigsaw puzzle piece into the start of Acts. In fact, they could quite easily be made into one book, and it's definitely worth reading both together. To take them separately, Luke is a bit like a hybrid between Matthew and Mark. It contains all the interesting stories that are in Matthew, but without the "boring" bits like genealogies! The book ends with Jesus' ascension, and that's also the subject of the first chapter of Acts. Acts is perhaps a little like the history books, as it tells many interesting stories about what the apostles did after Jesus' death. (Hence the name, "Acts of the Apostles") The book covers in depth the first church and also the first missionaries. 

Thanks for reading :-)