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The Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke


New Believers Study
An Overview of the New Testament
by Pastor Ron Beckham

First Study:
The Synoptic Gospels - Matthew, Mark and Luke

There are various approaches to the New Testament, much as there are differing views on the content of the whole Bible. One idea is called “Higher Biblical Criticism” which, as the name suggests, is a critical view of Scripture, much like a movie critic attends a movie and then criticizes the show as to what he saw for a newspaper. A “Lower Biblical Critic” is someone who writes about Scripture, emphasizing an analysis of the original languages involved.

Most of the New Testament was written in a common form of the Greek language of the time. For years, many scholars thought New Testament Greek was a “special” language, created only for the Bible, but that idea was subsequently found to be untrue. The Bible was written in the common languages of the people, so that it might be open to as many people as possible. There are two places in the New Testament that were written in Classical Greek, and words from other languages are sometimes inserted, most often from the Aramaic.

This study takes the position that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for Instruction in righteousness(2 Timothy 3:16).  In other words, God gave His Word to people, and they wrote as He led them, or gave the information to secretaries, who in turn, wrote the words that God would have us learn from and understand today.  The One who inspired Scripture was the Holy Spirit of God, who “whispered” into the hearts of the human authors involved.

You are encouraged to test yourself after the completion of “The Synoptic Gospels”, using an essay (written) format.  The next section is entitled “Questions” and it is suggested that you may 1) answer one or more of the questions in that section, and 2) send your answers to Ron@FridayStudy.orgIf you would like, your answers will be “graded” and responses given.

You are encouraged to take an approach to the Scriptures that is unique to your understanding.  You will not be “graded down” if you choose to include an approach to Scripture that is from a “critical” perspective.  However, you are encouraged to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).  The people you will eventually reach, as ministers of the Gospel (we all become His ministers, in the Body of Christ), do not need your clever arguments any more than they need mine.  They need the Lord, as we do.

The Bible stands on its own, or rather, the written Word of God is supported by the Holy Spirit of God, and really does not need inventive arguments in relation to it.  It is suggested that you take the time God has allotted to you in this study, and learn the New Testament, preparing yourself to present the simple and wholesome Word of God, which has saved and served so many throughout history.

By the way, there are excellent websites where you may visit and copy or print the writings of some truly remarkable theologians from past centuries.  A good, simple to use “search engine” for that purpose is called “Google,” where you can enter words like “Bible Commentaries” and “Search” for some really great Bible commentaries from the past, including the following suggested locations:

bullet Link to the Gospel of Luke at Friday Study Ministries
bullet Link to Matthew by an updated Matthew Henry at
Friday Study Ministries
bullet A suggested address is
bullet Another is
bullet And
bullet And
You might try our Bible Studies at

Matthew Henry, who wrote about 250 years ago (“Matthew Henry’s Commentary”), is strongly recommended, along with others of that time, such as John Calvin, John Wesley, and John Gill.  You will find wonderful material in those writings.  Also recommended is Dr. J. Vernon McGee (but there will be a small charge for his materials).

This study operates from the perspective that you, the student of the Bible, already have some understanding, or at least an awareness of the Books of the New Testament.  In the “Synoptic Gospels”, we will take a solid look at the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  The following are questions you might ask yourself when reading the Gospels themselves, along with the supporting materials in relation to them (such as Bible commentaries).  In writing your answers to some or all of these questions, defend your answers with Scriptures in every instance, and commit those Scriptures to memory, whenever possible.


  1. In the light of the first three Gospels, who is Jesus Christ?  Why do you believe that way about Him?  Are you surprised by who He is?  In what way?
  2. Why did God the Father select Jesus Christ to come to this earth?
  3. Why are His genealogies (in Matthew and Luke) important?  In what way are the two genealogies different from one another?  WHY are they different?
  4. Why do YOU think Mark not use a genealogy?
  5. Are there names in the genealogies that surprise you?  Why do they surprise you?
  6. Is the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1 and forward) and/or the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:17 & forward) a “law” for the Church today?  If not, why not?
  7. Why did Christ speak so much in parables?  Do you sometimes understand BETTER because He spoke in parables?  How?  What parables are meaningful to you?  Why?
  8. Why were the religious leaders of the time opposed to Jesus?  Are such religious leaders in the world today?
  9. What miracles do you find in these Gospels?  What is the important of them?  Are there miracles today?  Do you believe in miracles?  If not, why not?
  10. In what ways does Jesus Christ fulfill Old Testament prophesy?
  11. What is the significance of the death of Christ for you?  What is the importance of His resurrection?
  12. Do you believe in the resurrection of Christ?  Why?  Why not?
  13. Is His death more important than the resurrection?  Or the other way around?  Why?
  14. Why are there four Gospels?  Why are the first three so much alike?  Or, ARE they alike to you?  In what way?

As stated before the Questions section, the preceding are some of the questions you might consider in relation to this preliminary study of the first three Gospels.  You should always ask questions and not simply agree with everything you hear from people.  If you are in Christ, the Holy Spirit of God is speaking to your heart and mind constantly.  By learning to ask, you are learning to ask HIM.  You are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) just as you are, and the questions you ask honestly will be answered, for that is His plan for you.

Don’t be afraid to ask HIM – anything!  Actually, He ENCOURAGES you in this manner: “Until now, you have asked nothing in My Name.  Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24).

Your assignment in the Synoptic Gospels is to read each of those Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), with the above Questions in mind.  Go into the Internet at the places cited, and read the theologians offered, especially Matthew Henry-and you can find his excellent writings as “freeware” on the Internet.

The next New Believers Study will be in the Book of John.


This is the Gospel written by a Jew to Jews about a Jew.  It was written by Matthew, who was also called “Levi,” the former tax collector, and he emphasizes Jesus as King of the Jews, the long-awaited Messiah (Christ).  At an early date, this Gospel was called “Kata Matthaion” (“According to Matthew”).  There was an early tradition that Matthew was written in Hebrew (probably a form of Aramaic) but no "original" Hebrew or Aramaic Gospel of Matthew has yet been found.

Matthew, as a tax collector, had been unpopular with his countrymen, and he quickly responded to Jesus, indicating he may well have already been stirred by Jesus’ teaching.  He gave a large reception for Jesus in his ample home and then left it all to follow Jesus.  He was chosen as one of the twelve Apostles and he last appears in Scripture in Acts 1:13.

Scholars have dated the writing of Matthew from A.D. 40 to A.D. 140.  The two expressions “to this day” (27:8) and “until this day” suggest that considerable time had passed before the words were written down, but they also point to a date before the destruction of Jerusalem, in A.D. 70.  Jesus’ sermon on the Mount of Olives (24 and 25) also anticipates this event.  The Book has a strong Jewish flavor and was in truth, likely written between A.D. 58 and A.D. 68.

Matthew presents Jesus as Israel’s promised Messianic King.  The phrase “kingdom of heaven” appears 32 times in Matthew, but nowhere else in the New Testament.  Matthew uses approximately 130 allusions to the Old Testament – more than any other New Testament Book.



This Book presents Jesus as our Servant: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (10:45).  The ancient title for this Book was “Kata Markon” or “According to Mark.”  His Latin name was “Marcus,” but to the Jews he was known by his Hebrew name “John” (Acts 12:12, 25, and 15:37 – “John, whose surname was Mark”).

Acts 12:12 states that Mark’s mother Mary had a large house which was used as a meeting place for believers in Jerusalem.  We know Peter went there often, because the servant girl recognized his voice at the gate (Acts 12:13-16).  It has been suggested that Mark was “a certain young man” in Gethsemane (14:51-52).  Since all the disciples had abandoned Jesus (14:50), this may have been a firsthand account.

Many scholars believe Mark was the first Gospel written, but it is not really known.  The Gospel of Mark should be dated before A.D. 70 because of the prophesy about the destruction of the Temple in 13:2.  Early traditions are that this Gospel includes events told to Mark by Peter, and that it was directed to a Roman world.  If that was the intended audience, it would explain why Mark does not include a genealogy, and why he has remarkably fewer references to fulfilled prophesy, references to the Law, and certain Jewish customs.



Dr. Luke was a physician who accompanied Paul the Apostle and who also wrote the Book of Acts.  Paul referred to him as “Luke the beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14).  “Kata Loukon” or “According to Luke” was added to the Gospel at an early date.  Both his books (Luke and Acts) were dedicated to “Theophilus” as a two-volume work, and both start out with a few verses written in Classical Greek.  In Acts, all but two of Paul’s associates are named in the third person, and the two are Luke and Titus.  Titus has never been regarded as the author and Luke fits all the requirements for authorship.

Luke was in prison with Paul, who said of him, while he was in prison, “only Luke is with me” (2 Timothy 4:11).  Luke may have been a Hellenistic Jew, but it is more likely he was a Gentile (a non-Jew), making him the only Gentile author in the New Testament.  Luke has obvious skill with the Greek language and his phrase “their own language” in Acts 1:19, strongly suggests he was not Jewish.

Luke was not an eye witness to the Gospel events, like Matthew and John, but instead was like an “investigative reporter,” who went and asked questions of the actual people involved, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, during the time of Paul’s two-year imprisonment in Caesarea.  This Book was written prior to Acts and was probably completed in the early 60’s A.D., certainly before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and both books (Luke and Acts) were completed before the killing of Paul in A.D. 66, or those events would have been included in Acts.

The humanity and compassion of Jesus is repeatedly stressed in Luke’s Gospel.  This was to be an accurate, chronological account of the unique life of Jesus the Christ, to strengthen the saving faith of Gentile believers.  Luke not only shows Jesus as divine, but he also emphasizes His humanity, revealing more of Christ’s feelings and humanity than any of the other Gospels.

Read the Word of God.

Study Matthew Henry’s Commentary
Pray about what you are studying

Write with any questions: 
Pastor Ron Beckham


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