I am sitting in my Christ in the New Testament class at the Reformed Presbyterian Seminary in Pittsburgh. I must say that the class has already taken my breath away! I had forgotten how meaningful it is to study the Word in the Greek. We got such tremendous insights yesterday from Matthew, Mark and Luke that I wanted to jump up and shout at one point.
Our professor makes a strong case for the early existence of the first three gospels, all three in existence within 20 years of Jesus' ascension. He further points out that the variations in each gospel were not because each one edited the previous one, but because each gospel was written to a different audience. Thus, each writer would have tailored their material to meet the needs of their readers. I don't have time to develop this, but it is significant to refute many who say that the gospels are full of errors and contradictions. They are not.
Matthew wrote his gospel first to believing Jews and probably wrote first in Hebrew or Aramaic. Mark wrote in Rome to believing Jews and God-fearing Gentiles, probably basing his narrative on Peter's stories and narrative. Luke wrote his gospel to Gentiles who had little or no contact with Jewish culture. Luke's gospel probably also had the approval of Paul, his traveling companion.
Right now we are studying Matthew's gospel and how his accounts, which can also be found in Luke, are adapted for the Jewish reader, emphasizing how the kingdom was being taken from Jews and given to Gentiles. This would have been significant and even scandalous to a Jewish reader. Luke does not include that insight because it would have been insignificant to his Gentile readers.
I have to get back to my studies, but suffice it to say that I am privileged to have the chance to sit and study with a scholar like this for two whole weeks.