Jesus and the Synoptic Gospels Term Paper

Pages: 30 (8212 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 14  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion


The Bible is probably the most read and most controversial book in the history of humanity. Much of this controversy can be attributed to the first four books of the New Testament, which are referred to as the four gospels. The four gospels chronicle the life of Jesus Christ including his birth, ministry, death and resurrection. The purpose of this discussion is to examine these books of the bible. The discussion will aim to solidify the idea that the gospels are eyewitness testimonies whose differences and similarities are valuable in exploring and proving the historical life of Jesus Christ the Lord God on earth.

Brief overview of history related to the intertestamental period

There is a significant period of time, which separates the last of the Old Testament writings and the first of the New Testament writings. This time is referred to as the intertestamental period. During this time, there are other accounts of Judaism, which were never accepted, by Judaism or Christianity as canonical or God inspired. There are two main accounts that fit this description, the apocrypha and the pseudepigrapha. Although these accounts are not viewed as canonical many historians have used them to evaluate the Jewish faith during the time the books were written.

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An evaluation of the Jewish faith during this tome period is required to garner a full understanding of the gospels. Such evaluation gives insight into the socioeconomic and political climate that was present prior to the birth and ministry of Christ. Bloomberg further explains that understanding this period "religiously, Judaism was transformed into a set of beliefs and practices often quite different from Old Testament Religion. And for those inclined to see the hand of providence in history, numerous events occurred that prepared the way for the first-century world to be more receptive to the message of the gospel than in many other periods of history (Bloomberg)."

TOPIC: Term Paper on Jesus and the Synoptic Gospels Assignment

It is clear that the events that took place during the 400 years or so between the last book of the Old Testament and the first book of the New Testament, which helped to shape the environment in the region before the arrival of Christ (Bloomberg). This environment was conducive with allowing some to accept Jesus Christ as Messiah while others rejected him and the message that he brought to earth (Bloomberg). Bloomberg writes that very little changed in Jerusalem after the death of Araxerxes (Bloomberg). The author explains that the Persian rulers continued allowing exiled Jews to return to Israel; a policy created by Cyrus in 539 B.C.(Bloomberg). The author contends that during this time the Jews became preoccupied with the law with the belief that obedience to the law would prevent further exile and lead to complete freedom (Bloomberg).

According to Bloomberg, there were three major events that occurred during the Persian period, which took place right after the last of the Old Testament was written (Bloomberg).

The first two events were the formation of the synagogue and the beginning of oral law (Bloomberg). The author explains that the exiles did not have access to a temple to worship and offer sacrifices. This meant that they had to congregate in local places, thus the formation of synagogues (Bloomberg). In addition, the Jewish people would substitute prayers of repentance and good deeds as a means of atonement for iniquity. Bloomberg insists that "They sought to apply the Torah (Law) to every area of life, so that a body of oral tradition -- interpretation and application -- began to grow up around the written law of Moses to explain how to implement its commandments in new times and places. Both the synagogue and the oral law featured prominently in Jesus interaction with Judaism centuries Later (Bloomberg)."

The third significant event during this time was the establishment of Aramaic as the language used in international dealings and commerce (Bloomberg). Bloomberg points out that by the time that Jesus walked the earth it is likely that few Jews spoke Hebrew fluently because it had become limited to the reading of scripture (Bloomberg). Eventually during the Hellenistic period the Persian were defeated by the Greeks. During this period, 5 to 7% of the population was considered wealthy (Bloomberg). Nearly 15% of the population was considered middle class and the rest of the population was composed of struggling anglers and laborers (Bloomberg).

Finally, the Roman Empire reigned from 63 B.C. And throughout the New Testament. Although the other periods created a certain structure and environment in the region, this period set for the stage for accounts of Jesus given by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Roman Empire was remarkable in that it spanned across vast geographical areas including portions of Britain, Spain and France. Bloomberg explains that during this time, King Herod had transformed the region and his rule was marked by building projects; the most notable building project being the building of the temple, which was later destroyed by the Roman Armies after the death of Christ. A book entitled the Synoptic Gospels: Conflict and Consensus explains that Pontius Pilate was the Roman procurator of Judea from 26-36, C.E., during the earthly ministry of Jesus (Nickle).

Duling and Perrin point out that this period was also marked by a vast business system dominated by international trade, an enforced tax system and slave labor (Duling and Perrin). In addition, the region was "a pluralistic assortment of ethnic peoples, high government officials, merchants, small business people, slaves and minorities (Duling and Perrin).

All of these events and circumstances enveloped the climate of the region. At the arrival of Christ and during his earthly ministry these events and circumstances made the people of the region more inclined to the message of Christ. In addition, it is the environment in which, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were subject to when they encountered Christ and witnessed his earthly ministry.

History of the Gospels and critical assessments

The gospels are accounts of the life of Christ given by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It is believed that Matthew was a tax collector and one of the twelve disciples; Mark was an assistant to Peter; Luke was a friend of Paul; and John, was the son of Zebedee and one of the twelve disciples (Nickle).

Much of the controversy about the gospels has been attributed to the fact that the gospels vary somewhat in their account of the life of Christ. However, historians have noted that these differences do not make the gospels fraudulent. Instead, the differences are simply accounts of Jesus seen through the eyes of four different men (Bloomberg).

This is referred to as theological distinctiveness. The author explains that Matthew wrote of Christ humanity, Mark wrote of Christ as prophet, Luke wrote of Christ as priest and John wrote of Christ as the divine word of God (Bloomberg). According to Bloomberg, theologians have historically attempted to harmonize the gospels. Bloomberg explains.." The most common way of approaching the phenomenon of having four gospels was that of producing a harmony of the four. In other words, a life of Christ was restructured with every text from each gospel fitted into a possible place in one, larger composite whole (Bloomberg)."

Initially the church fathers believed that the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke were written in that specific order (Bloomberg). They believed that Mark and Luke borrowed from Matthews account and thus the accounts are similar. Others simply believed that the gospels were part fact and part fiction (Bloomberg). Scholars such as Paulas developed a rationalists approach to understanding the miracles that are described in the gospel (Bloomberg). For instance, they asserted that the feeding of the five thousand occurred as a result of rich people in the crowd observing the generosity of Jesus and the boy and began to share there lunches (Bloomberg).

Indeed throughout the 1800's many sought to decipher the gospels in this same manner. Many of these scholars believed in the existence of Jesus but they also believed that the miracles written of in the gospels were fabricated and that Jesus was simply a "historical figure" (Bloomberg). By the twentieth century, scholars took a redaction approach to understanding the gospels (Bloomberg). They asserted that the authors of the gospels were merely editors who omitted and included things at will (Bloomberg). In the latter part of the twentieth century, the gospels began to be viewed as a literary work; complete with a plot, characters and a setting (Bloomberg). Such literary criticism of the gospels asserts that reading the gospels as literature can prove quite valuable. We recognize their artistic merit -- their ability to affect our emotions as well as our intellects -- as they captivate, encourage and convict us. We are more sensitive to what is more central and what is more peripheral in individual stories. We understand how they function to create multiple levels of meaning -- main themes, subordinate motifs, and elusive echoes to other well-known traditions, not least in the Old Testament.

But we run across… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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