We have Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – four accounts of the life of Christ. But why wouldn’t just one suffice? Why are there four?
1. Multiple eyewitnesses
Christianity is a faith based on historical facts, and God has given us valuable eyewitness testimony on which to base our faith (cf. Acts 2:32; 10:40-41). One Biblical law requires “two or three witnesses” to verify a fact (Heb. 10:28). A sole eyewitness to an event can be dishonest, mistaken, or otherwise wrong. Multiple eyewitnesses make a case much stronger. The life of our Savior was so momentous that the Holy Spirit preserved four accounts of it.
2. Three independent cultures
The world of first-century Palestine was dominated by three cultures. The Romans were the masters of the known world and had built a great empire. The Greeks preceded the Romans as world dominators, but the Romans took over and spread the Greek language and culture wherever they went. Finally, there was the local Jewish influence. The three cultures converged in many ways. The “crime” posted on Jesus’ cross was written in three languages: Latin (the Roman language), Greek, and Jewish Aramaic. The place of execution is known as Calvary (Latin), Kranion (Greek), and Golgotha (Aramaic). Translation: the Skull (Lk. 23:33). Matthew is addressed to the Jewish mind and is the most Messianic of the Gospels. Mark, though written in Greek, is Latin in form and content. Luke is the most Hellenistic (Greek) in style and approach.
3. Four camera angles
In momentous events – such as the shooting of J.F.K. or a controversial call by a sports official – multiple camera angles provide additional insights which enable people to form stronger personal convictions about exactly what happened. The same principle underlies the most important life ever lived. New Testament scholar Tom Wright says Luke’s Gospel “is meant to make you sit up and think hard about Jesus as Lord of the whole world. Matthew’s is alike a beautifully bound book which the Christian must study and ponder at leisure, steadily reordering one’s life in the process. Mark’s is like a hastily printed revolutionary tract, stuffed into a back pocket, and frequently pulled out, read by torchlight, and whispered to one’s co-conspirators.” He adds, “Mark takes you by the scruff of the neck and tells you, breathlessly, that this is urgent and important and you’d better listen carefully.” On the other hand, he says, “John’s Gospel is designed to bring you to your knees in wonder, love and praise.” (The Original Jesus, p. 142-144).