What are the major differences between the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John’s portrayal of Jesus’ character in their respective books?
Many people highlight the differences between the Gospels to claim that there are many contradictions in the Bible. Each of the Gospels tells the same story, but in different ways. Each evangelist has his own stamp on his gospel, his own perspective of the same story.
All four Gospels describe the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. All four Gospels highlight his death, burial, and resurrection. They all talk about how he taught and the miracles he did. And they all talk about a Divine Savior who came to die in our place so that we might be saved from sin.
But because there are four different people offering four different perspectives on the same person in history, there are differences in the Gospels. I will highlight a few of them but there are more than can be given for the small space in this question.
Matthew (Levi) was a tax collector, and so his gospel is one of the most orderly. He puts the gospel into five sections. He begins with the early life and ministry of Jesus, followed by his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Next are his healing miracles and then his parables. The gospel finishes with the crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
Matthew focuses on the prophecies Jesus fulfilled throughout his life and ministry. He quotes from the Old Testament more than most. And most of his quotes have to do with how Jesus fulfilled the messianic prophecies to prove that he is the Messiah.
John Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark to the Romans and other Gentiles. The Romans highlighted the hero of the story and showed how mighty and almost divine that hero was. So when John Mark talks about Jesus in his gospel, he shows Jesus as this mighty Messiah who can do anything.
Mark’s gospel is the shortest and may have been the first written of the four. Everything that Jesus does is over-the-top, a mighty miracle. He doesn’t just heal people, but he delivers from demons and is king over the spiritual realm.
Luke was a doctor who followed Paul in the book of Acts. As a physician, his book focuses on the miracles of Jesus. He painstakingly tries to give an accurate historical record of everything that happened in Jesus’ life and ministry.
He also concentrates on women in Christianity, the Holy Spirit, and his most specific about the types of diseases people had that were healed miraculously. The Gospel of Luke is the only gospel with a follow-up volume, the book of Acts. Luke probably wrote to Gentiles, describing Jesus’ life and ministry to those who weren’t from a Jewish background.
John probably wrote his gospel last out of the four. Unlike the other three, John makes his own path in describing Jesus’ life and ministry. He focuses on 2-5 sections. Most people separate the gospel into two sections. The first is the book of signs and the second describes Jesus’ discourse in the upper room and Mount of Olives, his death and resurrection.
John’s Gospel is all about showing us that Jesus is the divine Messiah. His book engenders belief in Christ from all disciples. It shows the difference between true disciples and secret disciples that are afraid to follow Christ publicly. His book was written that we might believe in Jesus (John 20:30-31).