Four Unique Voices

The Gospel Authors and their Personalities

Four Unique Authors, Four Unique Perspectives

As you read through the gospels, have you ever stopped to think about the authors of these books? Who were these men? What were their personalities like? What drove them to write?


Indeed, we know that the Holy Spirit inspired them to write what they wrote, but we also know that they were “inspired,” not dictated to! There’s a difference! Inspiration means that the Holy Spirit allowed their writing to be affected by the people they were, the experiences they had, and the way they saw the world and experienced Jesus. This is different from dictation because it brings to the forefront the author’s personality. Understanding this when reading the gospels gives us a richer and more beautiful understanding of why each of the authors wrote what they wrote and why God used them to write Scripture.


Much has been written about the gospel authors that I could never improve upon. Those who have come before me have laid a foundation far more sound than anything I could ever produce. However, my goal is not to rewrite the scholarly volumes that have been produced in centuries past. My goal is to approach the scribes of the Gospels as ordinary men who we might, if not separated by time, converse with over lunch or coffee. My goal is to take these giants of the Christian faith and consider them for you, my modern-day reader, in a way that makes them approachable and familiar. 


I have often found, in speaking with those whom I have discipled, that the thirst for knowledge is often just as strong outside the marble halls of seminary buildings as within them. However, rarely do those possessing the greatest knowledge make what they have learned comprehendible for the masses. This is the driving force behind all I write and say; to make a deep knowledge and understanding of Scripture and God accessible to anyone and everyone. With this in mind, let’s talk about these men God used to inscribe the story of Jesus.


Multiple Personalities

While reading the gospels, it is so easy to forget that the people behind the pen were real. They were common everyday people like you and me. They ate. They slept. They worked. They had good days and bad days. They had family, friends, and communities. They traveled, taught, met new people, and suffered persecution. They experienced victory, defeat, encouragement, and discouragement. In every sense of the word, they lived lives that were not very different from you and me. However, God used them in mighty ways because they were humble, obedient, and filled with the Holy Spirit. Striving to understand who they were gives us a more robust comprehension of their writings, which, in turn, gives us a better understanding of who Jesus is.


The Tax Collector

The personality of the first gospel author shines through his writing in such a beautiful way. When considering who Matthew was, it is important to consider his beginnings. One should never approach the writings of Matthew without understanding the fact that Matthew was, above everything else, an outcast! Pause for a moment and let that sink into your mind. Matthew, the man who would ultimately write the first book of the New Testament, was an outcast from his own people! He was, essentially, a thief, a traitor to his countrymen by taking up a profession as a Roman tax collector. He was hated by his own, yet this was the man God would call to write a convincing argument about the Messiah to the Jewish people. 


Throughout the pages of his gospel, the exactness of Matthew’s accounting background is clearly felt. More than any other gospel writer, Matthew would reach back into the Old Testament repeatedly to bring the fulfillment of prophecy to the forefront. If we were to imagine ourselves as flies on the wall of Matthew’s house, it is plausible to see this man diligently hunched over his desk writing, only to sit back in awe and cry out, “Why God!?! Why would you choose someone like me to write an argument for the truth of Jesus as the Messiah to the nation of Israel?” God had been preparing Matthew through his career in tax-collecting to gain the skills he would need to write a convincing argument of Jesus’ Divinity to Israel. 


The “ledger” style of Matthew’s argument becomes clearer with each chapter as we see Matthew layering argument upon argument, Scripture upon Scripture, prophecy upon prophecy, like the tally column of a balance sheet, until the final verse of the book. The mounting tide of evidence that Matthew presents to his readers with crystal clear organization allows us to hear him saying to his audience, “There is no question! Jesus is the Messiah of Israel! This has been proven! All that remains is for you to obey.” 


This man, who, in another life, tallied up profits for the Roman government, now tallied up the evidence of the prophets to show that Jesus is the Messiah. God used this broken, sinful, self-centered tax collector, with all his meticulous accounting and documentation skills, to lay out the most brilliant case for why trillions of people to follow in the centuries to come could know that Jesus is the Messiah.


The Go-Getter

The gospel of Mark, so named for the scribe who recorded it, is believed to reflect the memoirs of the Apostle Peter’s time as a disciple of Jesus. Reading through the pages of Mark’s gospel, it is immediately evident that “action” is the central theme of the author. The pace with which Jesus moves from great work to great work can be dizzying, almost exhausting at times. Like the personality of its author, the brash and direct style agrees distinctly with the man the Scriptures reveal as the leader of Jesus’ disciples.


It is not hard to envision Peter: bold, loud, brash, quick to speak, opinionated, passionate, rash, all-in, unapologetic, fierce in conviction, steadfast in loyalty, and always unabashed. However, it would be wrong of us to judge him as a shallow man. His initial response to Jesus’ display of power in his boat was one of profound acknowledgment. The words of Peter, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8), clearly show that Peter was a man of deep thought and understanding; one who knew the depths to which his flaws had scarred him. 


It is clear to see, both from the accounts of him in Scripture and the nature of his account inscribed by Mark, that Peter was the genuine article. There was no pretense with this man. If you had been in that group with the disciples, you would have known exactly where you stood with Peter at all times. We would say today that he wore his heart on his sleeve. 


People like Peter, those with extreme type A personalities, are often leaders. When they win, they win big. When they fail, it is an utter catastrophe. The details are meaningless for people like Peter.  There will always be a Mathew or a Luke to worry about the details. What is really important is ACTION!!! One does not have to imagine very hard to envision the kind of response that Mark would have received from Peter if he had asked for more details while scribing an anecdote into the book. It probably would have sounded something like, “Why do you need more details!?! The point is that Jesus healed the man!” Such an imagining, though purely conjectural, cannot help but bring a smile to my face as I read through the never-ending action of the gospel of Mark.


Despite all of Peter’s flaws and shortcomings, God raised Him up to found the church, and in founding the church to write, through Mark’s hand, the collection of the remembrances of his walk with Jesus. In no other person in Scripture can we see such a journey of transformation. From the bottom of a filthy fishing boat where Peter knelt in the muck and fish slime, pleading with Jesus to leave him, sinful man that he was; to the bold and unashamed pillar of the first church, to the wise and obedient old man who wrote, “I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.” (2 Peter 1:13-15); the fire of Peter’s personality shines throughout his entire life and writings. God did not snuff out Peter’s flame. Instead, He redirected it to shine to its maximum brightness and bring glory to Himself. 


The Doctor

The journal of the facts of Jesus’ life and ministry, dutifully research, verified, categorized, and arranged for reading, flowed from the pen of none other than the doctor, Luke. A read through the books of Luke and Acts reveals to us the meticulous nature of the author. Different from the carefully crafted and ever-growing “balance book” of evidence presented by Matthew or the hard-hitting, action-packed journal of Peter and Mark, Luke compiled his research into a meticulous document of historical facts. As opposed to the memoirs of one who lived it, his work bears the marks of one who came after and, driven by a deep desire to know the truth and verify the events of the past, invested the time to research, authenticate, and verify the story. 


Luke’s deep education and intelligence are clearly seen in his writings. In addition, his passion for the message of the gospel (certainly influenced by his many travels with the Apostle Paul) is unmistakably present in the careful organization of His material. There are two ways in which we, as modern readers, can gain an understanding of who Luke was. First, through his vocation as a physician. This profession would have tuned Luke’s brain to be one that never stopped asking questions like “Why?” “How?” “In what way?” or “How do you know for sure?” This kind of thinking is evident through his attention to detail, often expounding on details far beyond the accounts of the first two gospel authors. 


The other way in which we can gain some understanding of Luke is through his association with the Apostle Paul. What kind of person would be a traveling companion to a man like the Apostle Paul? More than that, what kind of person would undertake such a massive job as researching the history of the ministry of Jesus under the eye of the man who wrote nearly half of the New Testament?  Luke’s attachment to the Apostle Paul speaks volumes about his commitment to following God and spreading the gospel. His relentless pursuit of truth in researching and recording his findings, for a man whom Luke identifies as Theophilus, shows that Luke was not doing this research simply for himself but for the purpose of furthering God’s Kingdom.


It can also be inferred that, since Luke and Acts make up two parts of one work, and a major subject of Acts is the Apostle Paul, Paul himself was almost certainly aware of and part of Luke’s work. Luke would most definitely have been concerned with gaining the stamp of approval from his mentor, and so the shadow of the Apostle Paul covers the work of Luke and underscores the studious nature of this gospel author. 


Beyond this, Luke’s position as a gentile also speaks volumes about the man. Unlike the other three gospel authors, Luke was writing about the Messiah from outside of the promises of Abraham. As a gentile and as one who was a “fellow laborer” for the gospel with Paul, the apostle to the gentiles, Luke would have been acutely aware of his position outside the Old Testament covenant. This unique perspective impacted his writings since he was on the outside looking in, having gained a place in the family of God through the mercy of God to the Gentiles. The understanding that he would have gained from his time with the Apostle Paul must have given him an immensely deep and profound gratitude for his inclusion in the salvation work of Jesus Christ.


The Best Friend

When reading through the gospels, it is impossible to miss the shocking difference between the first three gospels and the gospel of John. The entire book of John seems to be delivered by a speaker whose breath is being continually taken away by the splendor and majesty of the God/Man, Jesus; and yet, at the same time, bears a distinct feeling of deep relationship between the gospel author and Jesus. It is as if this author is recalling the stories of some unfathomably close friendship in the decades gone by in light of his now more complete understanding of the true nature of his dear old friend. 


The Scriptures tell us some of who John was. A fisherman and contemporary of Peter, he shared some of the same boldness, unabashedness, and impulsiveness that Peter displayed. We also learn that John was “the disciple that Jesus loved.” This small fact alone should stop us as readers in our tracks and force us to ponder this statement. This author, John, a simple fisherman from Israel, was none other than the earthly best friend of the Son of God. The words of John in his first letter bring a new depth of understanding to who this man was and the relationship that he had with Jesus. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands,” (1 John 1:1). 


John’s gospel puts this dichotomy on full display. The man Jesus, John’s beloved earthly friend, is also the Divine Messiah, John’s eternal king! It is impossible for us who read his words today to fully comprehend the complexity of relationship that must have overwhelmed the mind of John. On one hand, Jesus was John’s friend, his buddy, his pal; yet at the same time, Jesus was God, fully Divine and the King of all the universe. It was from this perspective that John wrote, introducing his readers to his friend, his Savior, and his God. 


The simplicity of the man John shines through his writing. No detailed argument of carefully layered evidence giving rise to an overwhelming conclusion of truth. No hard-hitting, action-packed summary of the works of Jesus. No carefully collected and thoroughly researched journal of facts and histories. John’s gospel is a love story written by a best friend about his best friend who had come to do the unthinkable; to die for John and the rest of humankind. This was John’s remembrance and realization. His gospel is the personal story of the Savior that came and interrupted John’s life, forever changing its course and the course of the world. 


The intensely personal nature of John’s writings clearly indicates the closeness of his relationship with Jesus. John’s gospel, more than any other, was written from the inside of Jesus’ inner circle and focused on the incredible love that drove the Messiah to sacrifice Himself for His people. For John, the ministry of Jesus was defined by love, and he would open up his heart and personality to his readers for all time by writing these words, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 John 3:16)” John’s love for Jesus and Jesus’ love for John during His earthly ministry forever altered the life of John in a way that allowed him to write a gospel account like no one else. This man, who once had asked Jesus to burn up an entire town with fire from heaven for rejecting Him as Messiah, would be the one who would write down the greatest account of God’s love in the history of the world. 


We Need Them All

So why four gospel writers? Why tell the same story over again four separate times? For the simple fact that it would be impossible to gain a deep understanding of the Messiah without each account. The breadth and scope of Jesus and His work far exceeded the ability of any one witness to chronicle. Such love, such mercy, such majesty, such holiness could not be captured by a sterile, emotionless fact-filled document. Jesus came to earth to change lives, to save sinners, and to build for Himself a people, and the Holy Spirit guided the hands of four of these men, who had their lives radically changed by Jesus in different ways, some at different times, to write, from their own perspectives and through the lenses of their own personalities, their personal experiences of being interrupted by the Savior and forever changed. We, all of us who have come after, are blessed because they were humble and obedient to write what God inspired them to write so that we could know Jesus.

Written by Timothy Andre

Founder, Another12 Ministries

September 21, 2022