Understanding The Bible
BY THE AUTHOR
Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible
Dr. Josiah Blake Tidwell
About the Gospel Writers
Sources of Information
There are several sources from which we may learn something of Jesus. He is mentioned by such writers as Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny and Suetonius. Even the - Talmud, the great Jewish law book, refers to him. The epistles of Paul, and other New Testament epistles, give us some knowledge. The information of these epistles is very important when it is remembered that much of this was written before the Gospels. Our chief sources, however, are the four Gospels, and they will be followed almost entirely.
These four Gospels do not each, or all together, furnish us with a complete life of Christ. Neither writer attempted to write such a life. This is clear when we remember how much was left out. They barely touched the first thirty years of his life, gave little of the ordinary, but dealt especially with the supernatural in his life. They are clearly telling only the story of his redemptive work wrought out in his life and death and resurrection. Nor were the several Gospels written to supplement each other. If so, one would not have repeated what others had in them. They do, however, supplement in that each has in it something that others do not have. Each Gospel has its own purpose, and was written to accomplish that purpose, and differs from the others accordingly.
Properly there is no such thing as a Gospel BY Matthew or Luke or John. There is only one Gospel. Various aspects of that Gospel, as embodied in the Lord Jesus, are portrayed in the writings of the Evangelists. So actually we have before us what might be described as the Spirit-breathed Gospel THROUGH Matthew.
Old Testament prophecies pointed toward a Coming One. There were innumerable prophecies made as to what He would be and do, but all of these come under the general heads of: Christ as a King, a Servant, a Man, and God. This is the purpose of Evangelists (as the writers of the four gospel narratives are called). They present Christ in these aspects of His life and death and subsequent events. For this reason seeming discrepancies disturb people who look at the Gospels as merely four Lives of Christ.
But this same situation would be presented if one read books about Dwight Eisenhower in the aspects of Statesman, Traveler, Soldier, and Golfer. There would be seemingly glaring contradictions between the view of him as the dignified statesman in full dress and as a rough and ready infantry major, etc. Or take, for instance, our main College building. If a different man were to describe its appearance from each of four positions--front, back, east, and west sides--when these descriptions were compared, there would seem to be ample ground for concluding that they did not refer to the same building, although there would be some points in common. So it is with the Gospels. These books give us the complete view of Christ that the Holy Spirit intended. We therefore need no Apocrypha.
So, they do present us with a single and harmonious picture, and in some sense, we feel that it is the same picture, of Jesus as the Christ. The first three are quite alike in plan, and are called Synoptic Gospels, which means "seeing together." They have to do with the more external matters connected with Jesus, and deal largely with his Galilean ministry. On the other hand,. John almost exclusively with the Judean ministry, and puts special emphasis on the more deeply spiritual things. The first three are alive with action, while the last is a contemplation of a great theme.
But to think of them a little more in detail and in the order in which they seem to have been written, the following discussion should be helpful:
(1) Mark - to the Romans, Jesus as Servant
Prophetic Reference: Isaiah 42:1
The author was not an apostle of Jesus. He was the son of Mary of Jerusalem (Acts 12:12) and was probably converted under the leadership of Peter (1 Peter 5:13). He was a companion of Paul (Acts 13:5; 12:25; 2 Tim. 4:11) and was with Peter when he wrote his first Epistle (1 Peter 5:13). He attended Paul and Barnabas part of the way on their first missionary journey, but Paul refused to take him on the second journey. Later he was very useful to Paul (Col. 4:10; Philemon 24;2 Tim. 4:11). Early Christian writers say he was the interpreter of Peter, and that his gospel is based on information gained from him.
His gospel puts great emphasis upon the energy and activity of Jesus. His descriptions are very forceful, and are characterized by their vividness and by the way he introduced many details. He rushes along like a racer, introducing one wonderful scene after another, and furnishes us a breathless narrative. He magnifies Christ's power over devils, who are shown acknowledging him as "Son of God" and pleading with him as to what he shall do with them (5:7-12). He describes Jesus as a wonder worker who creates awe, terror, and wonder in the hearts of those who see and hear him. He evidently wrote to non-Jewish readers, and seems to have made special appeal to the Romans who, when they saw this wonderful picture would exclaim with the awe-struck centurion, "Truly this was the Son of God."
He made little effort to connect the story of Jesus with Old Testament prophecy, but undertook to prove that he had power to control in all realms, even in the world of spirits. This would win the Romans.
(2) Matthew - to the Jew, "Behold, Jesus as King"
Prophetic Reference: Zechariah 9:8
The author always speaks of himself as "the Publican." He was the son of Alpheus (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27) and was called Levi until Jesus changed his name to Matthew, which means "Gift of God." This name seems fitting when we remember that he was raised from the low and despised position of publican, or tax-gatherer, to the exalted position of an apostle of Jesus. When he gave up his position to become associated with Jesus, he made a farewell feast to his friends, and invited Jesus and his disciples. After this, we know little of him, except that he was present on the day of Pentecost. His business career had fitted him to write this wonderful Gospel.
The material he uses to make up his book is put down in a very systematic way, with no attempt to follow chronological order. He groups seven parables together, and in another place studies ten miracles together, though they were performed at different times and places. He puts stress on the teachings of Jesus, rather than on his miracles. This is noticed when we consider the long sections of teachings and addresses, such as the Sermon on the Mount. He lays great stress on the kingdom of Christ. This is seen in the parables of the Kingdom, the Gospel of the Kingdom, and the keys of the Kingdom, referred to by Jesus, and in the official and organic matters referred to in the discussions. As King, Jesus rejected the Jews, and organized his own movement. An outstanding characteristic feature of the book is the way he links it up with Old Testament prophecy. He quotes sixty-five such prophesies, and shows how they are fulfilled in Christ, and what is transpiring in his life and work. He clearly wrote this Gospel to the Jews. He shows the absurdity of their rejection of Christ by portraying to them their absurd criticisms of him. He also used terms that were dear to them, such as the "Holy City," "Son of David," and "City of the Great King." He tried to win his own people.
(3) Luke - to the Greeks, "Behold, Jesus the Man"
Prophetic Reference: Zechariah 6:12
The author of this book was not an apostle -- not even a disciple while Jesus was still on the earth. He was a beloved physician (Col. 4:14) and first appears as a companion of Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:10), where we first meet the "we" sections, which indicate his presence with Paul on different occasions. Paul calls him his "fellow laborer." From his preface (1:1) we learn that he was not an eye witness to what he wrote. He is thought to be "the brother" whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches (2 Cor. 8:18). Tradition makes him a Gentile proselyte, and as is indicated by the gospel, is the most cultured of the Gospel writers.
His Gospel was written sometime before A.D. 70, since the Temple was still standing. It was intended for the Gentiles and especially for the Greeks, and was written in a way that would appeal to them. They adored man with his thought and beauty and speech, and in that made their nearest approach to God. They worshiped as their gods some form of perfect humanity. The gospel for the Greeks must, therefore, present a perfect divine man as Savior of all men. Luke showed how Jesus was that world Savior, because he touched man at every point of need. As Jesus is seen here, he is near enough to them to meet the longings of the Greek soul.
In this effort to win the Greeks, Luke gives a large place to prayer and song and praise. Example of these are found in every section of the book (1:46-55; 2:20; 3:21; 9:28; and many others). He gives so large a place to woman that it has been called a gospel of womanhood (1:3; 1:42-55, and so forth). Along with this fine concern for woman is his special attention to the poor and outcast. He gives much consideration to the way in which Jesus blessed the poor, the neglected, and the vicious classes. This is seen in the case of publicans, sinners, beggars, harlots, poor, maimed, halt, and blind. Here also is a worldwide purpose and universal view not found in the other evangelists (2:10, 32). By all of these means, and because of the delicacy, accuracy, picturesqueness, and precision of the beautiful Greek he used, Luke has presented us with a book the beauty of which cannot be surpassed, one that would appeal to Greeks.
(4) John - to All, "Behold, Jesus your God"
Prophetic Reference: Isaiah 40:9
The writer of this book was one of the first five disciples of Jesus. A study of the book shows that he was a Jew, who was an eye-witness to most of what he writes. It also indicates that he was the apostle, John. We know that John was the son of Zebedee and one of the three most honored and prominent of the apostles. (Mark 1:19-20; Matt. 17:1-3.) He also wrote three epistles and Revelation, and outlived all of the other apostles. He died as an exile on the Isle of Patmos about the year 100 A.D.
His gospel is probably the last of the New Testament writings except Revelation. He seems to have written to all nationalities, and portrays the eternal incarnate Word. His writing is characterized by simplicity, being composed of the simplest Greek; by parallelisms, seen in the way he says the same thing in similar, but different, words; by repetition, in which words or phrases are repeated for emphasis; by contrasts, as when he places over against each other such terms as light and darkness, belief and unbelief, good and evil, or God and Satan. This he does as a method of teaching. The book as a whole has been characterized as a book of feasts, nearly all of the contents being in some way related to one of the six Jewish feasts mentioned. It is a book of testimony. His purpose is to secure a verdict -- to get man to believe in Jesus. He declares that he has other testimony, not given, but gives seven lines of testimony: that of certain individuals, that of John the Baptist, that of the works of Jesus, that of Jesus himself, that of the Scriptures, that of the Father and of the Holy Spirit. Since he is trying to produce belief in Jesus, he presents cases of belief and unbelief with the cause leading to it, and the result of it. The word belief occurs about one hundred times. It is a gospel of symbolism, setting forth the profoundest truth by such symbols as light, darkness, Good Shepherd, sheepfold, vine, the way and the Bread from heaven, and the water of life. & 
Teaching Notes from Clarence Mason on the
Some peculiarities of each Gospel may be noted:
MATTHEW - King - Jews - (Key question: Who are His ancestors?)
Genealogy; Abraham - David
Jews were not interested in anything beyond that.
In Abraham, they have the land; in David, the throne.
"Kingdom of Heaven.": phrase peculiar to
Matthew, (cp. Addendum IV)
Used here32 times and nowhere else in the New Testament.
It is not a Kingdom in heaven, but the Kingdom of heaven ON the earth with One as King who is Himself ruled by heaven.
3. "City of Great King," 5:35.
As King He asserts authority.
Our Lord says: "Ye have heard … but I say unto you." He does not abrogate what has gone before, but assumes higher authority.
As King He exercises His authority.
Sending forth disciples; performing miracles.
He was "born King of the Jews," 2:2.
Herod was not; he was only an Idumean.
7. In Matthew He is recorded to have been crucified because He said He was King of the Jews, whereas, e.g., in John, because He said He was the Son of God.
MARK - Servant - Romans - (Key question; What can the man DO?)
"I don't care who my servant's grandfather was."
Forty of the eighty times the word is used in the NT are in Mark. No record of His birth.
No record of His birth.
Would be out of place in Mark; nor is childhood recorded.
Each is a parable of SERVICE.
He is not called "Lord" in Mark until after resurrection.
(Once in AV (9:24) but RV omits.)
All chapters begin with “And” except 7 and 8, which tell of rejection BY Israel, and 14, which tells of His rejection OF Israel. He was always on the go!
No Sermon on the Mount.
"A servant has no business telling people what to do.
No "Our Father" in Mark.
LUKE - Man - Greeks - (Key question: What is the IDEAL MAN?)
Genealogy -- goes back to Adam, the first
man, head of race.
He is our Kinsman-Redeemer.
2. Dependent -- prayer prominent; sign of TRUE humanity.
"Everywhere" (9:6). The Twelve and the
Seventy are not sent to Jews only.
Contrast Matthew 10:5-6.
Parables -- no need of thinking Christ
spoke them only once.
Parables similar to Matthew, but adapted to the object of this book.
The "king" in Matthew is made "a certain man" in Luke.
Humanity -- here dominant.
"Weeps" over Jerusalem; heals Malchus's ear. There is the tender incident of the repentant thief on the cross. There is more emphasis on women in Luke than in the other three Gospels.
6. Sermon on the Mount (Plateau). No allusion to old times, prophets, laws, etc.; these things were peculiarly Jewish and did not belong to whole race.
Garden of Gethsemane -- unique experience
JOHN - God - Church - (Key question: What is His nature?)
No human genealogy. Deity BECAME flesh when
He came into world.
Not “made” flesh.
2. Garden (John 18) – no bloody sweat here; when He says "I am, " they fall back.
3. All shows deity!
a. Unique signs -- heals at a distance; heals eyes of man BORN blind; raises man four days dead; etc.
Unique words -- "you must be born again," chapter 3;
"I that speak unto thee am He," chapter 4;
His address on His own deity, chapter 5.
c. Unique claims --
· 3:13 Equality of place with the Father
· 5:18 Equality of nature with the Father
· 8:58 Equality of existence with the Father
· 10:30 Equality of essence with the Father
ONLY here is life. See 20:31.
The way of LIFE is made clear. We don't get eternal life by obeying the King, nor serving after the manner of the Servant, nor by following in the footsteps of the perfect Man, but by believing and receiving the Son of God.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW
Matthew was led by the Holy Spirit to reveal our Lord Jesus as the long-promised Messiah-King. This aspect of our Savior's ministry was especially aimed at meeting the — need of the Jewish people. Jesus Christ's right to be king is asserted in many different ways in 1:1-11:1.
Philadelphia College of Bible teaches that our Lord was first of all "a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the (Jewish) fathers" (Rom. 15:8). These promises included the land (through Abraham) and a kingly house and throne in perpetuity (through David). So in Matthew our Lord’s genealogy is not traced to Adam (as in Luke's gospel -- 3:38), but to Abraham and David,
Our Lord Jesus was "born king of the Jews". (2:2) and came into the human family with the throne rights of His father David (Lk. 1:32-33). His herald and forerunner, John announced the imminence of the setting up of that kingdom (promised to Israel in numerous Old Testament prophecies) and conditioned it only upon the repentance of a covenant people who had drifted far from God (3:1-2). Our Lord Jesus took up this message when John was cast into prison (4:12, 17) and .later selected apostles to go over all Israel bearing that message (to Israelites ONLY, 10:5-7). Our Lord announced the principles upon which He would rule when that kingdom is established (The Manifesto of the Kingdom, 5-7). Both John and He warned Israel of the judgment that would follow if repentance was not forthcoming (3:9-10, 12; 10:13-15).
Thus the long-promised Messianic kingdom was offered Israel, but the growing opposition (9:34) of Israel's religious leaders led them to blaspheme the Holy Ghost (12:24), which moral rejection our Lord recognized and responded to with solemn warnings of judgment (12:31-45: 11:20-24). Our Lord anticipated the nation's formal rejection of Him which would lead to the cross (16:21; 27:22, 25), and prophesied a form of the kingdom of heaven (called "the mysteries of the kingdom") which would run its course between the time of His rejection and that of His coming again (13:11,16-17, 34-35). A "mystery" means literally a secret, thus something in relation to the kingdom which had been unrevealed previously.
We are now living in this intervening period between the King's rejection and the King's return. As a result of Israel’s rejection of Christ as King, the nation has been set aside by God in age-long discipline, and the kingdom has been put in abeyance (until the time of its manifestation), until the seed sowing of wheat and tares has produced a harvest (13:36-43). Our Lord pre-announced and identified the Church as His instrument of witness during the period of the setting aside of Israel (16:18-19).
Israel will not "see Him again" until a substantial portion of them repent (23:39) in response to the re-announced message of the coming King and kingdom, which ministry will be interrupted by Christ's return (10:23). At the close of that period of Tribulation, climaxed by Christ's return to earth, the hearers of that message of a returning King will be judged on the basis of their attitude of faith or disobedience toward the bearers of the message (25:31-46). This is more properly called the Judgment of the Gentiles.
The book closes with the great facts of our Lord's death and resurrection, 26-28.
Here is a chart of major Bible events, showing the relation of the book of Matthew to them:
Here is a bird's-eye view of the main transitions of the book of Matthew which you should learn before memorizing the fuller outline on page 7
I. The Kingdom OFFERED 1:1-11:1 (and His rights DISPLAYED)
II. The Kingdom REJECTED 11:2-12:45 (and Israel DISQUALIFIED)
III. The Kingdom POSTPONED 12:46-28:20 ( and the Church DISCLOSED)
THE KINGDOM OFFERED 1:1-11:1 (and His rights DISPLAYED)
His LEGAL right to be King 1-2 ("born King of the Jews" 2:2)
His PERSONAL right to be King 3 ("my beloved Son" 3:17)
His MORAL right to be King 4:1-22 ("get thee hence" 4:10-11)
His JUDICIAL right to be King 4:23-7:29 ("authority" 7:29)
right to be King 8:1-11:1 (He did what the prophets said He would do
REJECTED 11:2-12:45 (and Israel DISQUALIFIED)
THE KINGDOM POSTPONED 12:46-28:20 (and the Church DISCLOSED)
From the King's rejection to the King's return to earth 12:46-13:52
The Church anticipated 13:53-16:20
The way to the cross 16:21-23:39
The King answers questions concerning His coming 24-25 (The Olivet Discourse)
The King's trial, death, and resurrection 26-2
"Mason's Notes" Study materials on this website are made available here free, through the generosity of Philadelphia Biblical University, and may be copied for use in Bible study groups, in limited numbers, providing that no charge is made for them. No further distribution or use of these materials is allowable under U.S. or International Copyright Law without the express permission of Philadelphia Biblical University.
 Tidwell, D.D, LL.D., The Bible Period by Period, Broadman, Nashville, 1923
 Mason, Clarence B., Th.M., D.D., Former Dean and first occupant of the C. I. Scofield Chair of Bible Exposition, Philadelphia College of Bible.
 Mason, Clarence: Mark - "Behold MY Servant." God is speaking. Christ is not man's servant but god's. He served FOR God at HIS bidding. Christ could have healed all at the pool of Bethesda, but He healed only one; for some inscrutable reason God gave orders that way; He was not the servant of man. That's where these humanitarians go wrong; they think Christ served man primarily. He served God primarily; man incidentally and secondarily.
 Mason, Clarence: Matthew - the Zechariah passage does not say "Behold THE king, or the king of the ROMANS" or anything of the kind, because He is King of the Jews, to whom the passage was spoken: "Behold THY King" Matthew is not writing a life of Christ. He is merely setting down those things which set forth Christ as Israel's long-promised Messiah King.
 Mason, Clarence: Luke - "Behold THE Man." Christ is THE second MAN; He has no connection with the FIRST man. His supernatural birth affirms this. He is the Head of a new creation of men. It is the only way He could redeem man.
 Tidwell, D.D, LL.D., The Bible Period by Period, Broadman, Nashville, 1923
 Mason, Clarence: John - "Behold YOUR God." His deity is emphasized throughout.