Introduction to the New Testament: Gospel and Acts - Lesson 10

Illustrations and Applications

The gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke have so many similarities that they are referred to as the "Synoptic Gospels." There is also material in each of these Gospels that make it distinctive from the other two.

Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Gospel and Acts
Lesson 10
Watching Now
Illustrations and Applications


Part 2

II. Illustrations and Applications

A. Consult Synopsis or Harmony of the Synoptic Gospels

B. Study Similarities Between:

1. Mark 2:1-2

2. Matthew 9:1-8

3. Luke 5:17-26

C. Source Criticism

D. Potential Contributions of Oral Position

E. Discuss the Distinctives of Each Synoptic Gospel

1. Distinctives of Matthew

2. Distinctives of Mark

3. Distinctives of Luke

Class Resources
  • Overview of the influences of the Persian, Greek and Roman Empires on the Jewish nation. 

  • A summary of the Jewish political and religious rulers and movements, and the tensions that arose between the Jews and the occupying Roman authorities.

  • Ancient philosophies and religious movements had a significant influence on peoples' beliefs and behavior in the first century. The influence of Rome and Greece was evident throughout the world. 

  • Religious groups like the Pharisees and Sadducees, and teachings of contemporary Judaism about the Messiah affected Jesus' teaching and ministry.


  • One of the major influences in the social structure in Israel during the first century was the relationship and interaction between Jews and Gentiles. Various Jewish groups had differing views on how they should interact among themselves and with Gentiles. (Dr. Blomberg did not provide us with the PowerPoint slides for this lecture.)

  • One of the major influences in the social structure in Israel during the first century was the relationship and interaction between Jews and Gentiles. Various Jewish groups had differing views on how they should interact among themselves and with Gentiles. (Dr. Blomberg did not provide us with the PowerPoint slides for this lecture.)

  • The Gospels are historically reliable documents. Some of the main arguments and pieces of evidence pointing to the historical reliability of the Gospels are given in this lecture.

  • Form criticism, or form history examines how tradition has changed and how it has stayed the same. 

  • The gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke have so many similarities that they are referred to as the "Synoptic Gospels." There is also material in each of these Gospels that make it distinctive from the other two.

  • It can be helpful to examine, from a literary perspective, the passages that record the encounters that Jesus had with Nicodemus, and the Samaritan woman.

  • In order to understand the message of the Gospel of Mark, it is helpful to understand who the author is, the approximate date it was written, the audience to whom it was written, and the major themes of the book. The content of the book can be divided into the first 8 chapters that focus on the life and ministry of Jesus and the last 8 chapters that focus on His death and resurrection.

  • In order to understand the message of the Gospel of Matthew, it is helpful to understand who the author is, the approximate date it was written, the audience to whom it was written, and the possible sources on which Matthew relied when he was writing. Matthew begins by recording genealogy of Jesus and some of the events surrounding his infancy. Jesus' public ministry began with HIs baptism by John the Baptist, temptation in the wilderness and calling of the disciples. His preaching included the Sermon on the Mount and parables which Matthew grouped together in the Gospel.

  • Examining the outline and structure of the Gospel of Luke reveals the main points and the focus of Luke's Gospel and the book of Acts. Luke and Matthew have some similarities as well as some elements that are distinctive.

  • Much of the material of the Gospel of John is unique, compared to the other 3 Gospel accounts. Some of John's account alternates between recording a sign that Jesus performs with a discourse about a certain subject. Chapter 12 to the end of the Gospel covers the final days of Jesus' life on earth.

  • Some scholars belief that historical evidence supports the Gospel accounts of Jesus' life, some think the historical evidence supports the inauthenticity of the Gospel accounts, and some think that the historical evidence is irrelevant. The different conclusions are due mainly to different presuppositions. It is possible to propose a probable time line of Jesus' life.

  • The Gospel accounts of Jesus' birth and early years of life show how He accurately fulfilled specific OT prophecies made hundreds of years earlier, and how His life was intertwined with that of John the Baptist. The beginning of John's Gospel is a testimony to Jesus' nature as being both fully God and fully human.

  • Locations in present day Israel that are related to Jesus' infancy and the beginning of His public ministry.

  • John the Baptist began his ministry before Jesus's public ministry. For a while their public ministries overlapped, then Jesus conducted the remainder of His public ministry without John the Baptist on the scene.

  • Turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana was one of the first miracles Jesus performed in His public ministry. He also had conversations with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman, and healed the nobleman's son.

  • The Sermon on the Mount is one of the main passages showing how Jesus defines the "Kingdom of God." He also calls the disciples, redefines the family, performs healings and exorcisms, and uses parables and pronouncements to teach about who God is and how He relates to humans.

  • Images of locations in present day Israel related to Jesus' early Galilean ministry.

  • The Sermon on the Mount shows how the teachings of the Kingdom of God relate to the OT Law. It also includes additional NT teachings and a model prayer.

  • Pictures of places in present day Israel related to Jesus' early Galilean ministry.

  • Understanding parables as a literary form helps us interpret them accurately. Jesus performed miracles in various contexts for specific purposes.

  • Locations in present day Israel related to parables Jesus said and places He performed miracles.

  • Jesus' ministry in Galilee took place in locations like Nazareth, Cana, the Sea of Galilee and other nearby towns and areas. As Jesus was departing from Galilee, he performed miracles and taught at specific places along the way.

  • One of the themes in John chapters 5-11 is how Jesus fulfills the Jewish festivals. He also uses metaphors, saying that he is the, “bread of life,” “light of the world,” “gate for the sheep” and others.

  • In Matthew chapter 18, Jesus gives a sermon on forgiveness and humility. 

  • Locations in present day Israel related to Jesus' ministry.

  • Does the Bible teach that we are to marry or that we are not to marry?

  • Passion Week in the life of Jesus includes his anointing in Bethany, triumphal entry into Jerusalem, cleansing of the temple, celebrating Passover, prayer and arrest in Gethsemane, crucifixion and resurrection.

  • Chronological order of the events of the Passion week of the ministry of Jesus.

  • The death and resurrection of Jesus are significant both historically and theologically.

  • Narration describing slide photographs of locations of events that took place during Passion Week.

  • Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Jewish Messiah. He was both fully God and fully man. Jesus taught about the kingdom of God and showed compassion to the people who were outcasts in society.

  • Acts was written as a continuation of the Gospel of Luke to record what the Holy Spirit was doing through the lives of followers of Christ in the early church. The gospel spread ethnically from Jews to Gentiles, and geographically from Jerusalem to the rest of the world.

  • Stephen challenged the Jewish leaders to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. Paul's conversion was a key event in the history of the early church.

  • The discussion in the Jerusalem council in Acts chapter 15 was how Jews and gentiles could function together as the body of Christ.

  • Narrative describing pictures relating to places that were significant in the early church.

  • The book of Acts records events that happened during Paul's travels as he preached the gospel and established churches throughout Asia Minor and Europe.

This class studies issues of introduction for the four Gospels and Acts, and, using the English New Testament, provides a harmonistic study of the life of Christ with a focus on his essential teachings, the theology of evangelism, and the planting of the church as recorded in Acts.


Dr. Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Gospel and Acts
Illustrations and Applications
Lesson Transcript


This is the tenth lecture in the online series of lectures for understanding the Gospels and Acts, in complement with the textbook by Craig Blomberg’s Jesus and The Gospels: an Introduction and Survey


Now, we will make some illustrations and applications before going on to the next lecture. In the case of the two historical criticisms that we have introduced in detail, namely source and form criticism. The student will need to consult a synopsis or harmony of the synoptic Gospels, turning to the passages that represent the three synoptic accounts of the healing of the paralytic. However, we will not be considering the somewhat similar verses in John’s Gospel in the opening of John 5. The context in John 5 shows it to be a different episode and different occasion in the life of Christ; most striking is the words of healing of a crippled man. But if the student takes some time, even pausing the sound file at appropriate places to study the similarities and differences between Mark 2:1-12, Matthew 9:1-8 and Luke 5:17-26, then he or she should be able to compare and contrast their findings with the points that will be highlighted in the following text. As you read and compare these three parallel accounts, look for anything that might appear to you to illustrate either the principals we have discussed and which the textbook introduced with respect to source criticism to the synoptic problem and the Markan priority as its most common solution. But also look for possible illustrations of form criticism. Although we have not done anything yet with the character distinctive of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, basic graphs of which are prerequisites for our use of redaction criticism; it certainly cannot hurt to ask yourself what distinctive in any or all of the synoptics Gospels of this passage might seem to represent a theological emphasis. This is as oppose to simply demonstrating a particular use of the source or direction of dependence among the Gospels as source criticism or the kinds of changes or lack of changes that one could attribute to the oral tradition which form critics study. We will allow some time now for student to pause if they would like and consider these passages before continuing.


There are many kinds of comments which could be made now. Now if I don’t comment on a particular phenomenon in comparing the text, doesn’t mean you’ve not made a significant observation. Of the kinds of things source and form critics often point out, you might consider illustrations of the following: source criticism, supporting Markan priority because it has the longest and most detailed account though Luke is only shorter by just a few words. Matthew, however, is the most drastically abbreviated of the three Gospels; it makes more sense that the earliest Gospel would have preserved the greatest amount of detail. Some of these details seems to be theological un-motivated, perhaps reflecting an eye-witness touch or at least a proximity to the original event lacking in other versions. An example of this appears in Mark 2:3 where the paralytic was carried by the four men. Luke 5:16 doesn’t give a number, only that men carried the paralytic. In Matthew, it simply says, ‘they’, which insinuates that more knowledge was available but an abbreviation was chosen instead. The antecedent to the ‘they’ drops out. There are a couple of places where Matthew and Luke differ from Mark. The kind of coincidence when it happens often enough calls the Marken priority into question or leads some scholars to think a different version of the passage existed. We see an example in 9:2 and Luke 5:18 showing the addition of the word, ‘behold’. Matthew reads, ‘and behold, they brought him a paralytic.’ In Luke, ‘and behold’. In Mark 2:3, there isn’t any ‘behold’. On the other hand, this was a very common word in the Gospels, ‘edu’, reflecting in translation the ‘vockeyinae’ of so much Hebrew narrative, a kind of summatized style of Greek, imitating Old Testament stories and coming at a key juncture when the recipient of the healing is introduced into Jesus presence; we should not be too surprised when two writers independently make such a minor change to their source. If you look further down the passage, there is a slight minor disagreement of Matthew and Luke against Mark appears: Matthew 9:7, the once crippled person, now healed, rose and went home. Luke uses the identical language near the end of Luke 5:25, ‘he went home glorifying God,’ where as in Mark 2:12, it says that, ‘he went out before them all.’ If it was understood from the earliest days of telling this story that the man went out and went home; the smoother account with full and distinct closer is the form that has him simply going home. The difference is minor enough that you shouldn’t be too surprised that the two writers might independently arrive at the same perceived narrative improvement. Supporting Marken priority, much more dramatically as pointed out in the textbook, is the agreement which comes in all three versions in the context of the climactic saying of Jesus, ‘that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins.’ Then at the identical place, right in the middle of Jesus’ story, each Gospel writer breaks away from his representation of Jesus’ words and adds as narrator, ‘he said to the paralytic or to the man who was paralyzed’ but then immediately resumed the quotation in Mark and Luke, ‘I said to you, rise, take up your bed or pallet and go home.’  The chances of three writers independently, interrupting the identical climactic statement of Jesus in exactly the same place for this kind of narrative and resuming it in the same place are almost nil and once one allows as we saw from Luke 1:1-4 that God did not just choose supernaturally to dictate every word to the Gospel writers, but superintended their work so that the very words they would pen was the word God wanted penned, but not apart from their ordinary mental processes or function as histories or biographers. So we have here almost incontrovertible proof that there is literary dependence among the three versions. 


Turning to the potential contributions of the oral tradition and thus applying form criticism, Matthew drastically abbreviated text fits here also. It was more common for lengthier detailed stories like the miracle account in Mark 2:1-12 to be abbreviated as the tradition developed. We also see representing a point of agreement with the early form critics that the most stable form of this kind of an account which is not merely the account of a miraculous healing but also the form of a pronouncement story which is also known as conflict and controversy stories as seen here with the Pharisees. But the pronouncement story may be the more helpful and descriptive title because these come to a climax in one key statement. When one mixes the two forms, it is less clear, should one call the statement, ‘my son, your sins are forgiven’ as the climax or the actual miracle itself, but intriguingly, the miracle though the more difficult act to perform is within the narrative logic of the passage becomes subordinate to and in service of the greater spiritual claim that Jesus can speak directly on behalf of God with an authority and the immediacy of that authority not held by priests or other Jewish leaders to speak to the forgiveness of sins of this particular individual. At any rate, it is precisely where these two themes are in Mark 2:10 and in the parallel verses in Matthew and Luke, you have the greatest amount of verbatim wording in all three Gospels. This is precisely what form critics have taught to expect in pronouncement stories. Much like a punch line of a joke, it all hinges on this climatic saying. You must know that there are a variety of ways one can build up to the climax and be true to it in what one includes or omits, in how literal it is in reporting another’s wording. The most stable part of the pronouncement story in the oral tradition is the climatic pronouncement, itself.   


Finally, we may anticipate the discussion of the distinctive of the four evangelists and of redaction criticism by noting a few small touches here. Matthew, perhaps, most noteworthy, grouped his healing in chapters 8 and 9, out of sequence from where Mark and Luke placed the same account. However, Matthew 8 and 9 are a collection of ten miracles, mostly of healings that demonstrate Jesus’ authority just as Matthew 5 to 7 formed a collection of Jesus’ teachings on the Sermon on the Mound, which likewise demonstrated Jesus’ authority. There is also the very interesting little difference at the end of Matthew’s account when only Matthew in 9:8 has the crowds marveling specifically in glorifying God for having given such authority to men. The other Gospels at this point do not include this kind of language because the miracle, first of all, glorifies Jesus and the reference to giving such authority to men could potentially mislead the audience either into thinking that Jesus was simply one of many individuals who had been given this identical miracle working ability or that he was in no supernatural way any different from other human beings. Yet, interestingly, one of the recurring and somewhat distinctive themes of Matthew’s Gospel is Jesus as the representative man for rest of human kind, particularly for Israel, doing right what both Adam and Eve representing the human race and later the children of Israel at the time of the rebellion in the wilderness did wrong so that even if this is a kind of generalizing, it would be Matthew’s Gospel to use such wording. Mark 2:8 adds his characteristics, immediately occurring more than twice in other Gospel writer’s narratives. Sometimes for events that literally did happen, one right on top of the other, but in other cases, seemingly more for some dramatic effect. We see this immediately reported again in Mark 2:12 where Luke’s account does have a parallel, but neither Luke nor Matthew have a parallel to that in Mark 2:8. A reminder that redaction critics can focus on what at times seems more stylistic than theological in motivation. And it’s interesting to see in Luke’s account an extra reference to the Pharisees. Luke has the more variegated picture of Pharisees and Jewish leaders more generally throughout his Gospel and his acts. A reference to the power of the Lord is a characteristic and distinctive expression with in Luke’s account of Jesus’ miracles. And perhaps the most fascinating difference, even though a very small one, has to do with his description of the men carrying the paralytic, managing to get from the rooftop down into the room where Jesus was with the crowded gathering. We read in the RSV in Luke 5:19 that they went onto the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst of Jesus. Mark, on the other hand, in 2:4, the RSV simply has, ‘when they had made an opening.’ Perhaps not to call attention to what could be perceived as contradiction where the Greek more literally reads that they dug through the roof. Quite probably, Mark reflexed a more literal rendering. The thatch roof top with dirt, held together with mixed straw was common place in the villages of Galilee, but Luke as the one gentile Gospel writers writing to a more urban Hellenistic environment most probably, uses what scholars have called a more contemporary or representational change. Still being true to the theme of going through the roof, but instead of using a verb that would have been unintelligent; how would you dig through tiles in a community that has the classic Mediterranean tiled roofs, simply uses the language that they would have known best for the nature of a house top? If we add up all of these different changes whether in source or redaction critical categories, certainly there is nothing to suggest that anyone of these three accounts is a different event from the other. The theology that is taught, even the subordinate points that are made are consistent from one account to the next. Many of the other minor differences are simply different writer’s ways of saying the same thing or the choice to omit or include certain details that is relatively tangential to the central plot and message of the story. Among the passages of the triple tradition of the synoptics, that is to say, those that appear in all three synoptic Gospels and where it is usually assumed that Matthew and Luke have followed Mark to one degree or another. This particular passage on the healing of the paralytic is very typical. It was deliberately chosen as an illustration because it does not contain any dramatic differences that do appear occasionally. Neither is it word for word, the same through large portions of parallels. It represents a fairly typical middle of the road passages that one sees. It is an excellent illustration of the kinds of similarities and differences that one finds in many similar parallel passages throughout the synoptics that demonstrate that each writer does have his own style, choices, themes, emphasis and courses.