The birth of the gospels

Nowhere in classic literature do we find anything remotely like the four Christian gospels. They originate from diverse communities scattered widely across Asia Minor and Europe. The bond holding each group together was a belief that God had entered the world in the person of Jesus, someone they loved and worshipped. His life was celebrated in stories and memories cherished by his first followers, and these were recorded and shaped by the gospel writers.

The diversities and similarities

At the heart of each gospel is the story of the death and rising of Jesus. Though details differ, each gospel captures the image of a man convinced that it is God’s will that he be betrayed, abandoned by his followers, crucified, and resurrected.

To flesh out this central witness, each gospel writer strove to put together a picture of his life and preaching. Each portrays a man convinced that he was the one chosen and anointed by God to fulfil all the promises made to the Jewish people. His task was to bring to birth the kingdom of justice, service and integrity promised by the prophets.

All stories talk of Jesus preaching, working miracles of healing, and urging his closest followers to take over his mission after his death. They tell of him reaching out, particularly to the marginal people – to the poor, those outside the law, publicans and prostitutes. And they explain how this led to a deepening feud with the jealous protectors of law and tradition, and eventually to Jesus’s death.

Each gospel in its own way tries to capture the wisdom, the compassion, the humanity and divinity of this man who has indelibly stamped his mark on human history.

Father Neil Vaney

Next steps

This writing is based on the content of ‘What Catholics Believe’, Booklet 2, ‘God Speaks To Us’ referencing page 17. Should you like to read more just click either of the links below to download ‘Booklet 2’ or the complete set of ‘What Catholics Believe’.