Have you ever wondered why each writer of the Gospels chose to begin their respective versions as they did? Also, as they develop the story, each one takes on a different method of telling the most important story ever told. Take Matthew and Luke, for example. In some ways, both accounts are similar, but in other ways they are different, such as the different genealogies used to arrive at the same conclusion—Jewish royalty and promised Messiah. Let’s take a closer look.
The beginnings of the Gospels vary in focus, even though they all tell a similar story. Matthew begins with a genealogical depiction of Jesus, thus establishing His lineage to David. This seems to be a logical beginning of this Gospel given Matthew’s former profession and his legalistic training as a tax collector. In his eyes, establishing the royal lineage of Jesus was important, since genealogical records were important to the Jewish way of life.
Mark begins with the ministry of John the Baptist, and establishes the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy through Jesus. To him, the fulfillment of this prophecy was an obvious place to begin his account of Jesus’ life. The beginning of Luke states a clear purpose and source in order to establish the legitimacy of his Gospel. He was tasked by an influential leader to document/investigate the life of Jesus, so he wanted to ensure this was clear from the beginning. John begins at the beginning of the world, and establishes the fact that Jesus technically existed prior to creation. He then lays out the significant phases of Jesus’ mortal life so the reader could follow each phase through the reading. John documented both the physical and spiritual journey of Jesus, as well as explained what each phase of His life means to us.
Both Matthew and Luke cover Jesus’ birth and childhood, but from two different viewpoints. Luke told the story of His birth from Mary’s point-of-view, while Matthew told it from Joseph’s. One of the reasons Luke may have chosen Mary’s point-of-view is the fact that her role in the birth of Jesus was more dramatic. Her role was so important, God chose to send His chief messenger, Gabriel, to notify her of His plan. In addition, even though she risked death due to being pregnant out of wedlock, she accepted God’s plan for her life. Matthew, on the other hand, wanted to tell the story from Joseph’s point-of-view in order to validate Jesus’ genealogical link to David, as well as link Jesus’ birth to Old Testament prophesies. Regardless, the two narratives were according to God’s divine plan to be included in the canonical scriptures.
Furthermore, upon closer examination, the genealogies of Jesus presented by Luke and Matthew both share one distinct difference: They each use a different son of David to trace the linkage between Jesus and David. However, even though they branch their respective genealogies on different sons, they both reach the same conclusion. To me, that further demonstrates the divine inspiration of Scripture and God’s plan for this world.
1 Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament: Its Background and Message, (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), 173.
2 Finis Jennings Dake, Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible, (Lawrenceville: Dake Publishing, Inc., 2001), 62.
3 Lea and Black, 172.
5 Ibid., 175-176.
6 Ibid., 176-177.
7 Ibid., 174.