The Gospels and Modern News

By Kersley Fitzgerald

When I'm researching for a current events article, I'll often pull up information on the event from several different news sources. A lot of times, the articles will be very similar, down to identical paragraphs. That's because of the way news gets to us.

First the event must happen. People must be involved. Witnesses must witness.

Then the news agencies come in. You've probably heard of the Associated Press (AP), United Press International (UPI), and Reuters. New agencies send journalists, photographers, and editors into the world to witness events if they can and interview witnesses if they can't.

After the journalists and editors have written a news story, the account can be purchased by news organizations, such as papers, magazines, radio, TV, and internet news sites. Sometimes, especially for local stories, the news organization sends out its own journalists to write original articles.

News organizations customize the articles from the news agencies for their purposes. They need to present news that is applicable to their worldview and that will be relevant to their audience.
  • First, they choose the stories that they need. It's amazing how little mainland news is reported in the Honolulu Advertiser and how little Hawaiian news is reported in Colorado.
  • Second, they edit the article a bit. If the story is from inside the state, the entire article may run. If it's from outside the country, the paragraphs may be cut until only a couple of inches are printed.
  • Finally, the local reporters may dig up background information if the subject is particularly relevant. This may appear in a separate but related column.
For instance, as this article is being written, the siege at the mall in Nairobi, Kenya, is just ending. Most local American markets will not carry too much news about it. A city with a large Kenyan immigrant population will carry more. England, who once colonized Kenya, will print even more, and even have eye-witness accounts.

What does this have to do with the Gospels? The Gospels are articles from local news organizations.

First the event occurred — perhaps, Jesus fed the 4000.

"News agencies" came in. Witnesses talked, some journalists were there, others heard second-hand. The story spread. Accounts were relayed.

Later, news organizations (namely Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) published the stories. But not every news organization published the same information. They had to think about the purpose of their account as well as the readers. For instance:

Gospel of Matthew
Matthew was a Jew who wrote to Jews. His goal was to prove to the Jews that Jesus Christ was the Messiah they'd long looked for. Because of this goal, he talked more about the Old Testament prophecies and how Jesus fulfilled them. His book would be like an in-depth expose in a Sunday insert.

Gospel of Mark
It's believed that Mark wasn't present for most of Jesus' ministry; instead, he got much of his information from the eye-witness Peter. Mark is a short synopsis written for Roman believers. These believers understood the Gospel, but they didn't have background information on Who Jesus was. Mark's book is like the human interest videos they do on Olympic athletes in between swimming and gymnastics.

Gospel of Luke
Luke probably didn't ever meet Jesus. It's thought he got much of his information from Jesus' mother, Mary. He wrote to Gentiles who wanted a more in-depth look at the person and personality of Jesus. His account is very meticulous, but very current. It's like he published the original AP article without adding any background information.

Gospel of John
John witnessed almost all of Jesus' ministry. John's audience was wide-open. His subject was the identity of Jesus. Because of this focus, he was less concerned with a chronological narrative, and more concerned with Who Jesus is and how He fits into history. His account is like an old journalist giving his memoir about the most fascinating person he ever interviewed.

Seen in this light, it's easy to understand why we have four Gospel accounts and why they are all different. They do not contradict; they just have a different focus for a different audience and purpose. It's very similar to how we get news stories today.

Photo Credits: puuikibeach; Some rights reserved

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Published 9-26-13