Why Are There 4 Gospels?

The New Testament begins with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These four books, commonly called “the Gospels” serve as biographies on the life and ministry of Jesus.

In New Testament study, the word “gospel” is used frequently. It means “good news.”

When speaking of the message of the gospel, it will most often be written with a lowercase “g.”

When speaking of the actual books containing the message of the gospels, it will be most often written with an uppercase “G.”

The Gospels contain the gospel.

Beginner students of the New Testament can often be confused by the fact that the first four books essentially tell the same story.

While the four Gospels are united in the overall narrative, they highlight different emphases based upon the audience to which they are writing.


  • Matthew
    • Intention – presents Jesus as Israel’s Messiah
    • Primary Audience – Jewish people
    • Source – firsthand witness as one of the Twelve
    • Occupation – tax collector
    • Date – 50s or 60s
  • Mark
    • Intention – emphasizes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God
    • Primary Audience – Roman Empire
    • Source – disciple of Jesus (not one of the Twelve), colleague of Peter
    • Occupation – ?
    • Date – 50s or 60s
  • Luke
    • Intention – written to a Gentile man named Theophilus and carefully investigated facts about Christ
    • Primary Audience – Gentiles
    • Source – colleague of Paul; interviewed many sources
    • Occupation – physician
    • Date – early 60s
  • John
    • Intention – theologically persuade people to believe in Jesus
    • Primary Audience – non-Christians (call for response in light of this provided information)
    • Source – firsthand witness as one of the Twelve
    • Occupation – fisherman
    • Date – @ AD 85

When I decided to study their differences, it has allowed me to read all 4 differently.  I pick up on unique things that didn’t stand out before.  If you really get to know the style, you can start to hear certain passages or emphases and guess which author penned it.

Here’s a quiz to make you think.


  1. Large number of healings
  2. More parables on money
  3. Less amount of teaching material
  4. Prefers to say “Kingdom of Heaven rather than “Kingdom of God”
  5. Starts Jesus’ family tree with Adam
  6. Roughest on Peter’s character
  7. “I AM” statements
  8. Starts Jesus’ family tree with Abraham
  9. Most descriptive of the virgin birth
  10. Plenty of fishing stories
  11. Most Old Testament quotations
  12. Very detailed in retelling facts
  13. Uses the word “immediately” 41 times