When it comes to materials available to study and delve into the Bible, there is no shortage of resources in the form of books, online videos, courses and more. The depth of study ranges from Children’s books to doctoral level studies. This Bible Study Plan for the Gospels is at an introductory level and meant to be approachable and easily understood. The Plan emphasizes the Gospels are part of an overall integrated story that begins in the Old Testament, points to the New Testament and finds its fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ. Watch this introductory video that highlights the narrative unity of the Bible.
Bible Project New Testament Overview: New Testament
With that understanding, you are ready to begin your journey into the Gospels.
Lesson 1The Gospel
Lesson 6...So, what's next?
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—known as the Gospel accounts—contain some of the most familiar stories in the Bible. The Gospel narratives are carefully designed theological biographies of Jesus that focus on his announcement of the Gospel, that is, the “good news” of his royal arrival. They are based on the eyewitness testimonies of the apostles. However, they are not merely historical records. These accounts are designed to advance a claim that will challenge the reader’s thinking and behavior.
The Gospel narratives have two main goals:
- To faithfully represent the story of Jesus—that the crucified and risen Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah of Israel and the true King of the world.
- To persuade the reader to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and become his disciple.
The four authors frame Jesus’ story in a unique way for distinct purposes. Each author has carefully edited, arranged, and designed the core stories about Jesus to emphasize unique facets of Jesus’ character. So what do each of the accounts emphasize?
Matthew portrays Jesus as a greater-than-Moses figure who fulfills the promises of the ancient Scriptures and whose resurrection has enthroned him as the King of Heaven and Earth.
Mark emphasizes the mystery and misunderstanding caused by Jesus’ announcement of the Kingdom of God. He shows Jesus as the unexpected Messiah and highlights the paradox of how the exalted Messiah can only be recognized in the humbled, crucified Jesus.
Luke highlights how Jesus brings the Gospel to the nations. He shows that Jesus is empowered by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the Old Testament promise that God’s salvation would reach beyond Israel to include all nations.
John introduces Jesus as Israel’s God become human, presenting signs that demonstrate the truth of his messianic claim and his offer of eternal life for any that will trust in him.
The Gospel authors deeply believed that Jesus rose after death and fulfilled the ancient story told in the Hebrew Scriptures. And they proclaimed that joining in this belief and following his teachings would change our lives forever! The Gospel accounts are persuasive texts that invite the reader to consider their own relationship to Jesus the Messiah.
The Gospel narratives offer the earliest accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings, but how often do we really take in their literary artistry from beginning to end? How can we reconcile the fact that there are four accounts with differing stories? Today’s video is all about learning to understand and respond to these unique books!
The Gospel (General Introduction from Bible Project)
If you are interested in a more detailed introduction
Four Portraits, One Jesus Video Lectures, Chapter 1 – What Are the Gospels? (More detailed introduction from Dr. Mark Strauss, Zondervan Publications)
The Gospel according to Matthew
The Gospel of Matthew has always occupied the place at the beginning of the New Testament. Although modern scholarship believes The Gospel of Mark is older and preceded Matthew, it is this “first” gospel that has the strongest connections to the writings of the Old Testament.
There are two videos that comprise this first lesson, both are from “The Bible Project” and present the gospel as a narrative story told out of the early community of first century Jewish-Christians
If you would like to read more details about the Gospel of Matthew, the US Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) has a general introduction that considers more technical details of the first gospel. You can find the introduction here:
USCCB Introduction to the Gospel of Matthew
Next: The Gospel according to Mark
The Gospel according to Mark
The Gospel of Mark is thought to be the first of the four canonical gospels to be written. This shortest of all the gospels tells of Jesus’ ministry in more detail than either Matthew or Luke. It tells the story in a rapid-fire style as one story follows directly upon another. Mark stresses Jesus’ message about the kingdom of God now breaking into human life as good news and Jesus himself as the Son whom God has sent to rescue humanity by serving and by sacrificing his life.
If you would like to read more details about the Gospel of Mark, the US Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) has a general introduction that considers more technical details of the oldest gospel. You can find the introduction here:
USCCB Introduction to the Gospel of Mark
Next: the Gospel according to Luke
The Gospel according to Luke
The Gospel according to Luke is the first part of a two-volume work that continues the biblical history of God’s dealings with humanity found in the Old Testament, showing how God’s promises to Israel have been fulfilled in Jesus and how the salvation promised to Israel and accomplished by Jesus has been extended to the Gentiles. Luke shows that the preaching and teaching of the representatives of the early church are grounded in the preaching and teaching of Jesus, who during his historical ministry. This continuity between the historical ministry of Jesus and the ministry of the apostles is Luke’s way of guaranteeing the fidelity of the Church’s teaching to the teaching of Jesus.
If you would like to read more details about the Gospel of Luke, the US Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) has a general introduction that considers more technical details of the oldest gospel. You can find the introduction here:
USCCB Introduction to the Gospel of Luke
Next: the Gospel according to John
The Gospel according to John
The Gospel according to John is quite different in character from the other three gospels. It is highly literary and symbolic. It does not follow the same order or reproduce the same stories as the synoptic gospels. To a much greater degree, it is the product of a developed theological reflection and grows out of a different circle and tradition. Where the other gospels are account of the ministry of Jesus, with seven “signs” culminating in the raising of Lazarus (foreshadowing the resurrection of Jesus) and seven “I am” discourses, culminating in Thomas’ proclamation of the risen Jesus as “my Lord and my God”. The gospel’s concluding verses set out its purpose, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.”
If you would like to read more details about the Gospel of John, the US Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) has a general introduction that considers more technical details of the oldest gospel. You can find the introduction here:
What’s next in your journey into the Bible?
…. that’s up to you! This plan was but an introduction. There are lots of resources available online. Here are a few recommendations:
Fr. Felix Just, SJ – Catholic Resources. A treasure trove of information on the Bible and the Catholic Lectionary.
Agape Bible Study – an extensive, accessible collection of Catholic studies for each Book of the Bible.
Friarmusings – with detailed commentaries on many of the Sunday gospels following the Lectionary cycle of the Catholic Church
Gospel of Matthew
Gospel of Mark
Gospel of Luke
You will find commentaries on passages from the Gospel of John in the above three listings, especially the Gospel of Mark.
CrossMarks – detailed commentaries on the Sunday gospels of the Reformed Lectionary. The notes are from Rev. Brian Stoffergen, a Lutheran pastor.