Why Are There Four Gospels?
Gospel is an old English word meaning “good news.” It's a translation of a Greek word, euanggelion, from which later came the Arabic word Injil. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the four Gospel accounts of the life of Isa al-Masih. They are collected together at the beginning of the Injil, itself the final volume of the Holy Scriptures.
Isa's emissaries Matthew and John witnessed his ministry from its inception through his death and resurrection. Mark, a younger man present at least during the later events of Isa's life, was taught by Isa's emissary and eyewitness Peter. The Good News According to Luke, written under the inspiration of Allah's Holy Spirit, is a report by a meticulous historian who claimed to have “carefully investigated everything from the beginning” (Luke 1:3). Luke no doubt learned from many of the other eyewitnesses, among them Maryam, the mother of Isa.
But why, we might ask, are four accounts necessary? Furthermore, given differences among them, doesn't their very multiplicity imply that they negate one another?
The following is an important truth given to us by Prophet Musa. It was quoted or referred to numerous times throughout the Holy Scriptures, and even by Isa himself (Matthew 18:16).
A claim must be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses. (Deuteronomy 19:15)
The four different accounts of the good news first of all show us how Allah keeps his own word. When it comes to his most important revelation—that about Isa al-Masih—Allah didn't give us one account from an isolated individual. Instead, the Most High teaches us about the vast richness of Isa's life through multiple prophet-witnesses. Furthermore, Allah works through well-documented and verifiable history, not merely through private revelations to a single person. The prophetic witnesses of the Gospels uphold the truth that Allah himself is speaking. Each account of the good news confirms and supports the others. As we learned in the discussion about the death of Isa, additional people who lived during his life and soon thereafter also wrote about him. Statements by individuals born centuries later cannot negate established testimony concerning what these earlier people saw, learned, and passed on. For those reasons, the four Gospels should be seen as a strong confirmation from Allah. Given the instructions above from the law of Musa, they make the “claim” about Isa thoroughly “confirmed.”
Second, the four accounts of the good news in no way contradict each other. They simply tell from different perspectives the facts about the world's most incredible person. In a courtroom, if the testimonies of two or more people are identical, a good judge will accuse the speakers of collusion and throw them all out. A strong case is established only when two or more clearly independent witnesses swear to the truth of their distinct, non-contradictory, but parallel statements. Remember the blind men describing an elephant? “A rope!” said one feeling the tail. “A tree trunk!” said another of the leg. “Spears!” said yet another about the tusks. The Gospels go beyond that, for they describe numerous events in Isa's life, and each from a different vantage point. Followers of Isa do not shrink from four Gospel accounts; they rejoice in them. Through the combined witness of the four we see Isa more clearly.
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