Intriguing Conclusions from the Genre and Prologue of Luke (Luke 1:1-4)
The Anatomy of the Gospels and their Purpose Communicated by that Form
The genre and content of the Gospels’ confirms that they have a similar overlapping purpose to confirm the Jesus proclaimed by the church. Only two Gospels have explicit purpose statements, but all have the same purpose, namely confirmation of the Gospel for the encouragement of faith the Church.
Luk 1:1-4 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, (2) just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, (3) it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; (4) so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.
Joh 20:30-31 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; (31) but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
The purpose of the Gospels of Mark and Matthew are difficult to discern from the text since they do not state their purpose. This should not lead to consternation, since Luke and John do state their purposes. The similarity of genre in all four gospels is that they are narratives with discourses. These similarities in form and content imply that the explicit purpose statements fit all four gospels, not just John and Luke. This is because all four Gospels assume these purposes, even if they do not state it explicitly. These purposes are subsidiary in Mark and Matthew. They assume the purpose of confirming the preaching of the church about Christ when they record the information about Christ.
The evidence for this thesis is that all four Gospels have the same Old Testament historiography genre and content of the teaching, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. One can also confirm the simple truth of this thesis when he think about the dire straits in which the church would be without the Gospels to confirm the epistles! Where would Paul or John studies be without the Gospel of John, or Luke/Acts! 1 John said, “that which was from the beginning, that which we have heard… see… touched… we proclaim…” What could this mean the Christian church without the context of the Gospels? Without Luke/Acts, how could one make sense of the Paul’s ministry to the gentiles other than from the snippets of information from Romans 1, 15 and 2Corinthians? The Gospels serve a function so fundamental to the New Testament canon that to think of not having them is almost impossible. If one were to constrain himself to reconstruct the life of Jesus and the significance of this man, without the Gospels, he would be hard-pressed not to fall back upon what he already knows in the Gospels.
The Gospels’ similarity in content is that they all portray historical events of Christ’s work. The similarity in genre and content should lead to the simple conclusion, all four gospels communicate the life of Christ to confirm the Churches’ proclamation, in order that the church would have faith in the Gospel events, and to move them to be doers and not mere hearers of the Gospel. All of the Gospel writers seem conscious of their task to confirm the proclamation in the simple fact that they wrote historical accounts of the teaching, life, and work of Christ and his relationship to the Old Testament.
Further, the Epistles confirm this relationship to the Gospels. For example, Jude 3 says, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Luke mentioned that he was merely recording that which was “accomplished” and “handed down.” The deposit of historical information was thus confirmed and communicated to the church to confirm the one faith. First John has already been mentioned above. However, his dependence upon the Gospels is clear,
1Jn 2:21-23 “I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. (22) Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. (23) Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. “
Paul’s association with the Church is confirmed by the work of Luke/Acts. Further, Paul’s Gospel has its origins in the life and work of Jesus also.
1Ti 1:15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.
1Ti 4:9-10 It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. (10) For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.
Col 1:15-20 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (16) For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him. (17) He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (18) He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. (19) For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, (20) and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
1Co 15:3-6 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (4) and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (5) and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (6) After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep;
2Th 2:15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.
2Ti 2:13-15 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. (14) Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. (15) Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
Gal 1:8-9 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! (9) As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
Further, still, Carson and Moo, Introduction, 193, demonstrates the similarity between Peter’s proclamation and the Gospel of Mark. Mark has emphasis on two aspects of Jesus’ life, his identity (1:14-9:1), and his mission (9:1-short ending, emphasis on resurrection, which was predicted). The end result for the church is confession of the Gospel, 8:27-30. This is similar to Matthew 16, which also deals with this confession. Matthew added another result, being doers, not mere dull-hearers of the Word’s of Jesus (he has others, but this is important for our purpose here). This historiography then assumes the relationship between the events and the proclamation and adherence to the Gospel by the church. Though, Matthew’s specific purpose of the book has been debated inconclusively (Carson and Moo, 157-159), the general purpose is clear, to write a history about Jesus, which would serve the proclamation of the church. This is further explicated by the use of Matthaen terms in the Epistle of James.
There is a symbiotic relationship between the Epistles, the proclamation to the church and the Gospels. A much overlooked, and clear, piece of evidence for this is that the Gospels simply record history and discourse, and two Gospels make this purpose explicit. Their purpose was simply to write history, which served the church in “confirming,” “convincing of the truth” of, and “leading to be doers, not dull hearers” of the Gospel they proclaimed.