At the very center of our faith stands a person—Jesus Christ. He performed miracles and spoke the very “words of eternal life” (John 6:68). One thing Jesus never did was publish his autobiography. Without a book from Jesus himself, how do we know anything about him?
We certainly have enough information about Jesus from sources outside the New Testament to know that he really existed, but our most direct witness to Jesus comes from the four canonical Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These four books comprise almost half of the New Testament in terms of percentage. In them the first followers of Jesus give us something similar to a biography of Jesus. The four Gospels are significant because they tell us the story of Jesus, the unique Son of God.
In this unit you can expect to learn two main things. First, we will answer the question, “What are the Gospels?” Specifically, what kind of story did the Gospel writers intend to tell? Are they like modern biographies? If so, why do they not tell us everything we want to know about Jesus, such as what happened during his teenage years? Why do these four books not always follow the same chronological sequence? We need to understand as much as possible about the genre of gospel in order to read the Gospels as intended.
Once we understand the nature of the Gospels, we can move on to our second concern: how to interpret the Gospels. Is there a way to approach the Gospels so that we can draw out the intended meaning of the text and apply it to our lives? We suggest that there is an appropriate way to read the story of Jesus. Let’s begin by taking up our first concern, the genre of gospel.