April 24, 2017

Favorite Gospel Writer


Be cool if there was a book or article on the favorite gospel writer of various saints and historical personages.  A google search revealed the following: 

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On a Catholic web forum:

Many of us have a favorite Gospel writer—wouldn’t it be interesting if that Gospel is the one that relates most closely to our own temperament? In fact, many Christian writers have speculated about the temperaments of the Gospel writers, as each seem to reflect a unique–and slightly different–perspective. To the extent that each of the Gospels offers a slightly different perspective on the Paschal mystery, it may be possible to characterize each one’s “temperament.”

Matthew demonstrates definitively that Christ is the Messiah, the fulfillment of all the prophecies of the Old Testament and emphasizes the Kingdom of God. St. Luke highlights Jesus’ relationship with the Father, especially through prayer, as well as the poor, women (especially Blessed Mother), the lowly and the suppressed. Mark is the least “scholarly” and tells a straightforward fast-paced story; he shows Christ’s urgency and his conquering action. John is the most mystical, poetic, and theoretical of all the four. To hazard a guess, we would propose that St. Matthew is choleric, St. Luke the relationship-oriented sanguine, St. Mark the straight story, simple and unadorned (phlegmatic), and St. John (the truth will set you free; the only Gospel where Christ carries the cross alone, the most poetic and mystical of all four gospels) –idealistic, melancholic.

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Father James McIlhone, priest-scholar, professor at Mundelein Seminary for 23 years, author, recipient of academic honors, and the director of biblical formation for the archdiocese:

 “I think it’s a toss up between Mark and John. Mark gets a bum rap. I try to show people he’s not this little school kid who doesn’t know what he’s talking about and had to be corrected by Matthew and Luke, but rather a prominent theologian in his own right.  And of course, John is just spectacular. The depths and wonder of what he says. The line we say over and over again, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” When you read that in Greek, “The Word became flesh” -- in a definite moment of time God became one of us. ‘Dwelt among us’ isn’t a good translation. ‘Pitched his tent among us’ is the meaning of the Greek. And of course the tent is the dwelling place of God.  The tent ultimately becomes the temple of God, and then the next line is, ‘We have seen his glory,’ and the glory is the presence of God. So Jesus in becoming one of us, becomes for us what the temple was for Judaism, and then that just develops throughout John’s Gospel.”


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Ordinary Christian commenters:
  
My favorite is Mark. He writes and shows us “Jesus as an Action Hero.” When I finish mark I always sit back and think, “Wow, Jesus was amazing.”

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I’ll take Luke. Hasn’t always been, but right now … Luke. The prominence of women, the poor, and the forgotten make me want to learn from the parts of Jesus’ teachings I ignored for most of my life.

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John has a sense of the mystical and talks a lot about love. With John, I get the feel that he writes with a sense that this is only the tip of the iceberg.

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I’m with Fajita— John’s my man. I like the thought of him being the “best friend”. I know if someone was going to write my story, I’d want it to be my best friend.

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I’ll put my vote in for John too! I fell in love with this Gospel in Ross Cochran’s class at Harding and it has been at the top of my list since then!

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I have to go with Luke on this one. Jesus gets his hands really dirty in Luke’s gospel. At times I am a Matthew guy, but I love Luke’s storytelling.

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I’m a big fan of John. I like knowing it was written by Jesus’ best friend. I really love hearing Jesus share his insights into why he came and what his mission was all about.

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I like Matthew’s geneology of Jesus showing God uses both men and women who have made mistakes to bring about a perfect messiah.

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I’ve been hanging out in Matthew for so long these days, and love his rich Jewish slant. So, for now he’s my favorite. I sat at the feet of a good friend years ago as she taught through Mark, and at the time that was my favorite.

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John… or Luke… I could go with either, but I think I’ll stay with John because of all the poignant teaching from Jesus during the last supper.

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The Book of Mark is underlined & scribbled with more notes in my Bible than the other Gospels, with Matthew marked up as a close second. I’m not sure that means I like Mark the best, but maybe his telling of “The Story” speaks to me more plainly.

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Luke, hands down.

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John.  He brings me to my knees in worship of the King like few others

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I would pick John. I love the fact that John is more theological than historical.

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Gospel of Luke. For two reasons.
Reason #1: The parable of the Good Samaritan
The single best articulation of the Christian ethic.
Reason #2: The parable of the Prodigal Son
The single best articulation of the Heart of God.
Within those two stories is the whole of the Christian story.

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I am addicted to Matthew right now because it lays out most clearly to me what a disciple of Jesus would do. It is a story that you appreciate much more clearly if you understand the back story and the things going on in the first century. I love the time dedicated to the question, “If Jesus is the Messiah, why are things going so bad right now?”

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I like how Matthew grounds me and Luke provokes me.  Matthew drives me back to the OT to find the Kingdom of Heaven there. In that way, for me, it serves as a recommendation of the radical behavior of Jesus in Luke. It’s as if Matthew says “Jesus is a totally legit prophet, because he preaches the word of God as faithfully as anyone before.” Then Luke comes along and says “‘Totally legit’ will blow your mind.”

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I don’t know if I have a “favorite”, because I appreciate them all so very much……..BUT, if I was pushed to the wall at gun point, I think I would have to go with John. It’s an adventure every time I read it!

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JOHN.  I’ve always loved the amazing ‘little’ details he throws in to flesh the stories out. (NT Wright is brilliant in ‘John for Everyone’, Parts I and 2)

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I mostly relate to John. In the synoptic gospels, Jesus is teaching things and everyone seems to nod their heads and say, “Oh, now I get it.” But in John, everytime Jesus teaches something, people walk away confused or angry. The message seems to be this, now that you are thoroughly confused by Jesus, you have a question to ask yourself, “Am I going to follow Jesus because I understand him or am I going to follow him because I trust him?” That’s not an easy answer. If we follow because he makes sense to us, then we are really worshiping our ability to figure it out.

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Calvin Coolidge:  “John was a particular favorite of Coolidge's, and he took the oath with the Bible open to the gospel of John.”

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Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat (1779-1865): John

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John Bunyan, author of “Pilgrim’s Progress”:  John

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Fr. Stephen Salocks, Dean of Faculty at Boston Seminary: 

“Fr Stephen answered that his favorite is St John, the fourth Gospel – a very rich Gospel, plus it’s a bit of a luxury to have a full course to teach about that Gospel! Scot asked Fr Salocks to explain what the difference between the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John are. Fr Salocks began by saying that he always says the biggest problem with studying the Synoptic Gospels is that they have already read John’s Gospel. In the 21st century we have a defined portrayal of Jesus, a Christology – in the 1st century coming out of the life, teaching, suffering death and resurrection of Jesus, the Apostles go out and proclaim. Towards the end of the 1st century, the original eyewitnesses start to die out – Jerusalem is destroyed by the Romans, there is a breach between Christianity and Judaism; all this created a need for a concrete way to preserve the Tradition. Fr Salocks noted that are always called a people of Scripture and Tradition because of this. From this desire to record the tradition, a disciple of St Peter in Rome writes down everything he knows and has heard about Jesus – this is the first Gospel, Mark, written from Rome to try to help Christians in Rome understand who Jesus is. This isn’t a bed of roses either – it’s suffering, serving, being a disciple. Within the next ten or fifteen years, that Gospel and other sources of Tradition are present perhaps in Antioch where Matthew likely wrote his Gospel. Matthew is addressing a different situation than Mark – how do we understand Jesus as God with us? The end of Matthew, Chapter 28, encapsulates the entire theme of the Gospel – “I am with you to the end of the age.” But Jesus now is emphasized as the authoritative interpreter of the Scripture – this is a reaction to the dialogue between the Christian and Jewish faiths about who the authentic interpreter of the Tradition is. Roughly the same time, in a place that is a bit more fuzzy, Fr Salocks continued, Luke is writing a Gospel. But right from the start, Luke emphasizes that he is not an eyewitness but rather is drawing on the experiences of others (Luke 1-4). He also has a copy of Mark’s Gospel and some resources from Matthew. Luke’s focus is Jesus as the Savior, and how Salvation becomes known through the peace and forgiveness that Jesus brings. Luke believes that the message to “take up the Cross daily and follow” Jesus is so important that he writes a second volume – what we know as the Acts of the Apostles, Fr Salocks concluded.


It’s fascinating to see how well all three Gospels tie together, Fr Salocks noted – even the spelling is coherent in many ways, not just the phrasing and wording. They are truly of the “same eye” – “Synoptic.” It wasn’t until the 18th century that someone drawing up columns to study the Scripture put all three Gospels side by side and saw the incredible similarities between the three. John, of course, is the non-Synoptic Gospel, called by one scholar the “maverick.” John is the spiritual Gospel, one that delves more deeply – miracles are fewer, and not even called that – they’re “signs,” emphasizing John’s focus on Revelation throughout his Gospel. Fr Salocks said he likes that idea, as he feels that Scripture itself is incarnational, the Word of God and the human words about the Word. Scot emphasized that most people think “synoptic” is more related to “synopsis” – to think that all three Gospels were written from the “same eye” is a great way to explain the similarities and emphasize the reality of Inspiration. Scot asked Fr Salocks to explain a bit more about the Inspiration in the Catechism. Fr Salocks explained that the phrase “Word of God” in Greek or Hebrew – the whole sense of “word” is more than a verbal sense, it is the reality of God, the experience of God. When a prophet said “the Word of God came to me thus,” they were saying that the reality of God had touched them. We can imagine, Fr Salocks continued, a prophet being overwhelmed, or the people of Israel escaping slavery, and the reality of God overwhelms them as much as the Red Sea overwhelmed chariots. Inspiration is a heavy theology course in and of itself, Fr Salocks commented, but the Scriptures are the object of God’s Inspiration and not a “divine download” from God to the evangelist or to a prophet, where the bars go to 100% the Gospel is complete! No, it is rather a process whereby a people together with a gifted individual in their midst collaborate to record how God has revealed Himself to them, and how do we understand that. As soon as a person or a people being to think about and talk about their experience of God, they are interpreting it, Fr Salocks said – we look at the Scripture and we understand that this is a record of our ancestors in the faith interpreting their experience of God, putting it into words in their time. Because it is the Word of God, we approach it with faith in the context of the Church. There is an allegorical sense to Scripture – how does each passage help us understand Jesus or help us to know how to act?”

2 comments:

Steven said...

Hi Tom,

My favorite varies with the season and my mood. For Christmas, it is most definitely Luke, for Easter it is Matthew and John, for Summer it is Mark (most of the time, with Luke tossed in) and for fall and winter it is Luke. John is my mainstay because his words resonate far beyond anything I experience elsewhere, but each assumes, in a kind of scriptural dance, their period of "leading the dance" and then falls back into the line. Think of it as a scriptural Virginia Reel.

Steven

TS said...

Yeah I can see where it might be seasonally dependent, especially Christmas. I much like what you say about John in the last two lines.