journey through the bible
new testament readings
January and Februrary, 2022- In December, we celebrated Advent and Christmas in which we read about the coming of the Messiah and the birth of Jesus. This transitioned us from the Old to the New Testament, which we will now explore in the second half of our journey through the Bible. Our next readings will focus on the first four books of the New Testament: the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The word Gospel means “good news.”
Read at your own pace in whatever Bible edition you choose. Here’s a suggested reading (and viewing) list for the four Gospels. The video references are to The Bible Project (www.bibleproject.com). We suggest watching the book overview before doing the readings for each book listed here.
As you read, consider the following:
Although the four gospels cover many of the same stories and much of the same material, how are they the same and how are they different? How does each author craft his message for the intended audience?
Who is Jesus, according to Matthew?
Who is Jesus, according to Mark?
Who is Jesus, according to Luke?
Who is Jesus, according to John?
Which gospel speaks to you?
The Gospel According to Matthew was written at approximately AD 70 by an unknown author, thought traditionally to be Matthew, a tax collector. It was written primarily for a Jewish audience, tying Jesus to the OT prophecies of a Messiah and to the genealogy of Abraham and David. Matthew makes lots of references to the OT, emphasizing how Jesus’ life and ministry were foretold in the Hebrew scriptures.
Here’s an overview of Matthew:
Notice (scan) the genealogy in Ch. 1 which traces Jesus’ lineage from Abraham to Jesus.
In Ch. 2, notice (scan) that Matthew includes the stories of the Magi’s visit to Jesus and of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus’ flight into Egypt. These are not included in any of the other Gospels.
Read Chs. 5,6, and 7, which recount Jesus’ longest speech, the “Sermon on the Mount.”
Read Chs. 8 and 9, which include a series of healing stories
Read Ch. 13, which introduces more of Jesus’ teachings in the form of parables.
In Chs. 14-25, scan the stories of Jesus interacting with people and teaching through parables and dialogue, and we see how he is received by them (some positive, some neutral, and some negative)
The book ends with Chs. 26-28 with a detailed account of Jesus’ final days, his crucifixion, and resurrection. (We will look at these in more detail during Lent).
The Gospel according to Mark is believed to be the oldest Gospel, written at approximately AD 60. It is also the shortest and most active. Mark is believed to have been a scribe who interpreted Peter’s firsthand accounts, making this the closest to the historical Jesus. This gospel is a fast-paced, vivid, and somewhat bare-bones account of Jesus’ life and teachings. Mark portrays Jesus as the Suffering Servant, and presents Jesus’ story to a non-Jewish audience, probably the Romans.
Mark is so concise and fast-paced, that you can easily read the whole book. Here’s an overview:
Ch. 1 Jesus’ baptism, temptation, beginning of ministry in Galilee with a variety of healing stories. Notice that there is NO birth narrative in Mark.
Ch. 2 Scenes from Jesus life in Galilee
Ch. 3 Jesus calls his 12 disciples
Ch. 4 Jesus tells parables and calms the storm.
Ch. 5 More healing stories
Ch. 6 Miracle stories and John the Baptist’s beheading
Ch. 7 The Pharisees opposition to Jesus begins to mount
Ch. 8 Jesus’ popularity increases with some, and tensions with others increase too
Ch. 9 Jesus’ transfiguration
Ch. 10 Jesus’ teachings on divorce, humility, and wealth
Ch. 11 Jesus’ entry into Jerusulem
Ch. 12 Jesus’ teachings on a variety of topics
Ch. 13-15 Jesus’ final days, crucifixion, and resurrection (we’ll look at these more closely in March/Lent)
The Gospel according to Luke was written in approximately 80 AD by a missionary companion of the Apostle Paul—a physician named Luke. Luke’s gospel is the first of two books by him; the second being the Acts of the Apostles. Luke portrays Jesus as a man with compassion for all people, especially the poor and marginalized. The beginning of his gospel traces Jesus’ lineage back to Adam, emphasizing his connection to all humanity.
There is a lot of repetition in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but there are also a number of differences. Let’s look at some of the material that is only found in Luke’s Gospel:
Chs. 1-2 The familiar account (the most detailed and joyous one) of Jesus’ birth
Ch 10 The parable of the Good Samaritan (vs 25-37)
Ch. 12 Stories about the contrasts between the rich and the poor
Ch. 15 The parable of the Prodigal Son
Ch. 16 The parable of the Dishonest Manager and the Rich Man and Lazarus
The Gospel According to John is believed to be the last one written, probably around 90 AD. Its author is unknown. It is very different from Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which are referred to as the synoptic gospels because they cover so much of the same material. John is often called the “spiritual Gospel” because it contains more theological reflections and far fewer stories of Jesus’ life or teachings. The Gospel of John is also known for its variety of names for Jesus, and also the many metaphorical “I am” statements. It also is unique in describing seven signs or miracles (five of which do not appear in the other gospels) that Jesus performed to convince people that he is the Messiah. Almost half the book focuses on the Passion narrative, Jesus’s arrest, trials, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection appearances.
You’ll immediately see how unique the Gospel of John is by reading a few representative passages:
Ch. 1 The familiar “In the beginning was the Word…” passage
Ch. 2 Jesus turns water into wine at the wedding at Cana
Ch. 5-6 These chapters include Jesus’ explaining who he was and why he came to earth. He describes two miracles and the crowd’s reactions.
Ch. 10 The Good Shepherd
Ch. 11 The death of Lazarus
Chs. 12-20 recount the Passion, crucifixion, and resurrection. Scan these chapters. (We will look at these readings more closely in March, when we study the Holy Week passages throughout Lent.)
During Lent, we’ll look at the Holy Week passages from all four Gospels in more detail.
In April, we’ll study the Acts of the Apostles.
In May, we’ll read some representative passages from the Epistles.
In June, we’ll take a look at the Book of Revelation.