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About the Book

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

     

Part II: The Necessity of the Four Gospels

Chapter 3

The Basis of a "True" Harmony

     THAT THE three Synoptic Gospels were divinely inspired to appeal uniquely to three different classes of readers has been recognized from the earliest Christian times. Many are the clues to be found in each Gospel which reveal to the eye of faith the particular group of people for whom the record is specially intended.
     It is usually held that Matthew wrote for the Jewish people, Mark for the Romans, and Luke for the Greeks. John wrote for all men. I am sure this is an essential part of the truth. But I believe there is an even more distinct and special kind of directive in each of the three Synoptic Gospels which I want to explore briefly now
     According to Genesis 9 and 10, Noah had three sons. The first, Shem, was the father of the Semitic people of whom the Arabs and the Hebrew people of the Old Testament formed the most permanent part, although the Assyrians and Babylonians and some others had their roots here also. Shem was also the father, therefore, of the Jewish nation in the time of our Lord's earthly ministry. Ham was the second son, according to Genesis 9:18, and he became the father of a very widely dispersed and diversified segment of the world's population who, for one reason or another, are considered to be distinct from both Semites and Indo-Europeans. It is not customary today to group them together in the way Indo-Europeans are, but I am persuaded that Scripture views them all as representatives of the family of Ham.
(15) The third son listed was Japheth, and I do not think that anyone is likely to quarrel with the statement that his descendants are today essentially represented by the Indo-European people.

15. "A study of the Names in Genesis 10," Part II in Noah's Three Sons, vol.1 in The Doorway Papers Series, Zondervan Publishing Company.

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     These three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, are listed in this order in Genesis 10:1, where their descendants are shown, and these three families of descendants seem to have been preserved as distinct entities in the purposes of God throughout history in several unique ways. For example, we know that Abraham had three wives. The first of these was Sarah, a daughter of Shem: the second was Hagar, a daughter of Ham (being an Egyptian): and the third was Keturah, who according to Jewish tradition was a daughter of Japheth. (16)
     Three groups of people came specifically looking for the Lord. The first group comprised the shepherds, who obviously represented the family of Shem. The third group are introduced into the Gospel story rather unexpectedly: they were Greeks who said, "Sir, we would see Jesus" (John 12:21). They represented the family of Japheth with particular appropriateness, since the Greeks traditionally trace themselves back to an ancestor whom they called "Japetos." There is no question that Japetos and Japheth are the same individual. One other group came looking for Jesus, and this group comprised the wise men. That these wise men were of the family of Ham can be demonstrated, I believe, with a measure of certainty. This is done in Volume I of the Doorway Papers, Part I, entitled, "The Part Played by Shem, Ham, and Japheth in Subsequent World History." As in every other instance where this trilogy is found, the order is always the same -- Shem, Ham, Japheth.
     Each branch of the race took a specific part in the Crucifixion. The moral responsibility was accepted by Israel (Matthew 27:25); the physical burden of carrying the cross was imposed upon a Cyrenian, a child of Ham (Luke 23:26); the executive responsibility was assumed by Japheth, who was represented by the Romans since they alone could perform it (Matthew 27:26). There is substantial evidence that Simon of Cyrene was the same individual referred to in Acts 13:1 as bearing the same name "Niger," i.e., "black man." F. F. Bruce considers that in this passage in Acts both Lucius and Simon Niger are intended to be of Cyrene.
(17) As a black, Simon or Simeon of Cyrene belongs within the family of Ham.
     And finally, the Gospel was preached first to Shem, then to Ham, and lastly to Japheth: to Shem in Acts 2:22 ("Ye men

16. Keturah a Japhethite: see Reubeni Jalkut, remarking upon Genesis 26:2 and 36, quoting a Midrash to the effect that Keturah was a daughter of Japheth (see Louis Ginsberg, The Legends of the Jews, Jewish Publ. Soc. of Amer., Philadelphia, Vol. 5, 1955, p. 265, note 309).
17. Bruce, F. F., The Spreading Flame, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1953, p.102.

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of Israel"), to an Ethiopian of the family of Ham in Acts 8:35, and to the centurion Cornelius of the family of Japheth in Acts 10.
     History shows that from within the family of Shem has sprung the world's spiritual and religious insight, both true and false. From the Hamites have sprung the great civilizations which formed the foundation of the modern world, as well as its basic technology in every field of human endeavor. From the Japhethites the world has received its great philosophical systems. The contribution of Shem combined with that of Japheth led to theology, and the contribution of Ham combined with that of Japheth led to the development of science, for the first results when philosophy is applied to religious truth and the second when philosophy is applied to technology. In Volume I, Part V, "The Framework of History" explores the concrete evidence for these things as they have slowly become apparent from the study of a very substantial body of historical data. Part IV of Volume I, combined with Part V, traces back to their Hamitic origin some three hundred basic technological processes or techniques or inventions upon which our modern civilization rests. There is no field of technology that cannot ultimately be traced back to this extraordinary watershed.
     I believe that the three Synoptic Gospels were written in a special way for these three families: Matthew for the family of Shem, Mark for the family of Ham, and Luke for the family of Japheth. Let us look at the evidence for this. As we do so, it will help to bear in mind that the family of Ham has served mankind in an essentially practical manner, just as Shem has served in a spiritual capacity and Japheth in a philosophical or intellectual capacity. Shem has cared for the needs of man's spirit, Ham for the needs of his body, and Japheth for the needs of his intellect.

     We have already seen something of the evidence that Matthew wrote for the Jewish people. We do not know for certain that the author was Matthew, but tradition is strongly in favor of this view and there is also internal evidence which seems to support it. It is virtually certain that the Levi of Mark 2:14f. and Luke 5:29 is none other than Matthew. This man invited the Lord to a meal, as Matthew himself records (Matt. 9:9,10). Now, when recording this incident, both Mark and Luke state that Levi invited the Lord to his house; but Matthew, in his account of Levi's invitation, does not say that Jesus came to his house but simply to the house. In other words, the writer, Matthew, invited the Lord "home." It is generally felt that this simple but important little clue confirms the tradition that

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Matthew and Levi are one and the same person, the author of the Gospel which bears Matthew's name.
     Tradition also tells us, as we have already noted in chapter I of this paper, that Matthew wrote his Gospel first for the Hebrew Christians who were scattered abroad, many of whom had been saved at the time of Pentecost and many more probably by the testimony of those who first came thus to know the Lord in Jerusalem. Subsequently Matthew rewrote his Gospel, still under inspiration as I believe, in Greek. Both these editions are known in one way or another, the Greek being of course the one which we have recognized in the Western world.
     Because Matthew was directing his words primarily to Israel, his Gospel is characterized by many observations of special interest to that people. To begin with, Matthew traces the genealogy of Jesus Christ back to Abraham, and no further. Moreover, he traces the line through Joseph because it was through Joseph that the legal status of Jesus as the Promised Seed, the Son of David, and the coming King was established. Although Jesus was not the son of Joseph strictly speaking, yet Joseph fulfilled according to the law the two essential requirements for the establishment of his legal paternity by giving to Jesus His name and by teaching Him a trade.
     This aspect of Matthew's Gospel contrasts notably with the genealogy given by Luke, for Luke does not stop at Abraham but traces the line right back to Adam--the father equally of Jew and Gentile. (
18) Again, both these Gospels contrast with Mark, who gives no genealogy whatever and does not even provide his readers with any information as to Jesus' birth and family origin. Remembering that Mark was writing with the object of presenting a picture of Jesus as the "Servant par excellence" it is only in keeping with this object that he passed over any detail which did not contribute directly to that role. It is not important to know the genealogy of a servant....
     Mark plays a significant part in the events of those days and is mentioned on a number of occasions in Acts and in Paul's Epistles. It would appear that Mark himself -- called "John Mark" -- became a servant to the leaders of the early church (Acts 13:5 and II Tim. 4:11), and as though he felt this to be his special calling, he alone (Mark 1:20) of the Gospel writers mentions that there were also servants in the little ship from which James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were called to follow the Lord. Similarly, as though it was from this word of the Lord that he received his commission, it is he

18. "The Genealogies of the Bible," Part VI in Hidden Things of God's Revelation, vol 7, The Doorway Papers Series, Zondervan Publishing Company.

 

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alone (Mark 9:35) who adds the phrase, "and servant of all" to the Lord's rebuke of the disciples who were disputing who should be greatest when the Lord came into His own. In his Gospel, unlike the other Gospels, Mark records only twice that Jesus was directly addressed as Lord, and even one of these (Mark 9:24) is considered of doubtful authenticity
     Again, in Mark 13:32, after the statement of Jesus, "...no man knoweth," he adds the words, "not even the Son." Perhaps this addition struck a chord in Mark's mind because though He were a Son, yet He is here being presented as a Servant, and elsewhere this Servant had said, "The servant knoweth not what his lord doeth" (John 15:15). Mark contains no arraignment of the nations, no woes pronounced with the authority of a judge, no simple parable where Jesus' lordship is revealed, and no saying about the twelve legions of angels which the Lord might have commanded by His authority to come to His assistance. These examples of omissions are every bit as significant as those statements which are uniquely included. And just before His ascension into heaven, where Matthew has recorded the words "All power is given unto Me," Mark simply says, "Go ye into all the world." Even here he is not satisfied until he has completed the picture of this One who fulfilled the role of the perfect Servant by noting that they went forth and preached everywhere "the Lord working with them" (Mark 16:20).
     Matthew's Gospel is filled with back references to fulfilled prophecies that validate the claims of Jesus as the promised Messiah of Israel. The number of such prophecies to which reference is made has been estimated as anywhere from forty to sixty, depending on how one makes the count.
(19) Certainly there are far more such fulfillments to which the reader's attention is drawn here than in the other Gospels. And Matthew alone uses a unique phrase in this connection, namely, "that it might be fulfilled which was written. . . ."
     Similarly Matthew refers to the Holy City and the Holy Place, whereas Luke refers only to Jerusalem or the temple. Interestingly enough, not only in view of Matthew's profession as a tax gatherer but in view also of the subsequent history of the Jewish people down through the centuries, Matthew goes out of his way to deal with matters of money or of precious stones or treasures hid in a field or pearls of great price (13:44-46), all of them forms of portable wealth. Matthew alone refers to the story of the tribute money found in

19. McIntyre, D. M., ref. 8, p.123.

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the fish's mouth (17:24-27). Matthew alone supplies details of the financial resources which the Lord assured the disciples they need not concern themselves about (10:9). And it seems that even in the matter of loans, he had a special interest, for only he records the parable of the unforgiving servant (18:23-34).
     Luke's Gospel contrasts with the other two in a number of striking ways. At the beginning he gives us the three Songs of Praise at the time of Jesus' presentation, and all three refer to blessing to come to Gentiles as well as to Jews. Even in recording the song of the angelic hosts, Luke gives a more complete account of their words: "Unto you [Israel]...and to all people..." (2:10,11). Again, in reporting John the Baptist's call to repentance, Luke alone adds John's words, "All flesh shall see the salvation of God" (3:6). At the close of his account, only Luke records the circumstance of the penitent thief. Perhaps Matthew could not appropriately record this, because to the Jewish mind anyone who was crucified was condemned eternally without hope.
     Both Matthew and Luke record the circumstances relating to the virgin birth of Christ. The records differ in a significant way. It is generally held that Matthew records the course of events from Joseph's point of view, whereas Luke records the course of events from Mary's point of view. This seems completely appropriate, since Matthew, being a tax collector, by traditional training would also be a lawyer. In fact, his other name, "Levi," may simply have been his title, "Lawyer." Perhaps Matthew was the legal member of the "team" as Judas was the financial one. Thus it would not be unnatural for Joseph, who was more concerned with the legal aspects of Jesus' birth, to have discussed his own experiences with Matthew.
     It is sometimes argued that Joseph was dead before Matthew had become a disciple, and on this account it is felt unlikely that Joseph would have spoken to Matthew about the matter at all.
(20) I am inclined to think that the opposite is more likely to be true: namely, that Joseph might very well have discussed the matter with Matthew as one not belonging to the circle of believers. In matters of this kind, Matthew might well have given Joseph a much more patient and understanding hearing, and have been far less ready to judge or condemn than some of the other disciples. The non-Christian

20. Matthew's pre-Christian experience: the incident of the healing of the paralytic (Matt 9:1-8) took place before his call, as all three Synoptic Gospels agree, in Capernaum where Matthew's home and business were, and there were many people present. Perhaps he shared the emotions of the crowd who were very much moved by the incident (v. 8). At any rate, it was an event that immediately preceded his call.

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non-Christian lawyer sometimes proves to be wiser in his judgments upon moral issues that touch Christian life than the Christian lawyer is. At any rate, there is no reason at all why Joseph may not have gone to Matthew as a man to his friend, regardless of religious convictions: and it is not impossible that Matthew's knowledge of the circumstances may actually have prepared his mind, as he saw the Lord's wonderful work, to accept the Lord's call the moment it came to him and apparently without question.
     By contrast, since Mary was naturally more concerned from a woman's point of view, she would be more likely to share her experience with a physician, namely, Luke. Moreover, because Luke is writing for the Gentiles by contrast with Matthew writing for the descendants of Shem, it was not unnatural for him to place the emphasis upon those circumstances which showed that Jesus was the Son of man by His birth in a unique way rather than the Son of Abraham in a legal sense. Although the title "Son of man" is by no means unique with Luke, it is certainly a summary of his emphasis just as the title "Son of God" summarizes the emphasis in John's Gospel, and "Son of David" in Matthew's Gospel. In Mark the emphasis is not upon the Son, but upon the Servant.
     In keeping with John's portrayal of Jesus in His divine nature, it is appropriate that we do not have a genealogy comparable to that of either Matthew or Luke but neither is a genealogy entirely lacking as it is in Mark. John takes us back into eternity and traces the Lord Jesus in His divine preexistence with the Father.
     Thus we have Jesus presented to us in four distinct portraits: as the Promised King, as the Servant of the Lord, as the Son of man, and as God Incarnate. In the symbolism of the Old Testament we meet these four figures under the guise of the cherubim. These "living ones" are described in Ezekiel 1:10 as having four faces. the face of a man, the face of a lion, the face of an ox, and the face of an eagle. The first of these symbols is clearly the picture that Luke provides, the lion is the King of Matthew's Gospel, the ox is the servant of Mark, and the eagle is the One from heaven of John's Gospel. There are four interesting exclamations, as it were, in the Old Testament that bear out this same fourfold portraiture: "Behold thy King" (Zechariah 9:9); "Behold My servant" (Isaiah 42:1) "Behold the man" (Zechariah 6:12); and "Behold your God" (Isaiah 10:9). The context of each exclamation underscores the significance of the wording used.
     Considered in this light the Gospels portray in one person four completely contradictory types, as contradictory as one could possibly imagine. On the one hand we have a conquering King whose

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presence is so overpowering that His bitterest enemies were afraid to lay their hands on Him. His most devoted followers cast themselves at His feet with a sense of utter unworthiness. And even a condemned criminal in the agonies of his dying turned to Him--marred almost beyond recognition by all that He had suffered in the preceding hours and acknowledged Him as Lord. Yet this same King is presented to us as a Servant without pedigree. Nowhere is He said to have assumed a superior position. Everything He did was a service, and Mark's record is characterized as are none of the others by a certain sense of immediacy. Again and again Mark uses the words straightway, immediately, forthwith, at once--terms that must have been drilled into the mind of every slave. How extraordinary to portray One who was "every inch" a King as One who at the same time was the perfect Servant, and do so without apparent contradiction!
     But perhaps the greatest mystery of all is how in one person could be combined both man and God. Logically it is impossible. Man is not God by reason of his very limitations: and God is not man because there are no limitations with God. How, then, can they be combined? Yet they were. Many books have been written on this tremendous problem, and it does not appear to me that it is possible to produce a logical reconciliation. One volume which comes to mind that seems to approach as nearly as we may hope is titled One Christ. In this work by Frank Weston,
(21) the basic solution which the author seeks to explore in depth may be summed up, perhaps, as follows: The Lord Jesus Christ, being God made Man, had infinite power. He never surrendered this power while He walked on earth. Rather, He used that infinite power to suppress the very use of it wherever its use would have been inappropriate to the assumption of perfect manhood.
     One thing is certain, and this is that the figure who appears before us in Luke's Gospel is the perfect man: not man made God, but man as God intended man to be. The wonder is that in John's Gospel we are clearly in the presence of the very One who, having already been set forth successively as King and Servant and perfect Man, now is preeminently set forth as God Himself.
     Even the order in which these records have been preserved for us seems to have been appropriately arranged, so that opposites come together. The King is followed by the Servant; Man is followed by God. One might suppose it would be more appropriate for literary

21. Weston, Frank, One Christ, Longmans Green, New York, 1907.

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balance, since the King precedes the Servant, to have God precede Man. But the three Synoptic Gospels appear together in the order in which they do, seemingly to reflect the fact that the human race has been viewed throughout Scripture as constituted of three families derived respectively from the sons of Noah in the order in which they were born.
     It seems to me that when we contemplate such a revelation as the Incarnation, our comprehension is so limited, so circumscribed, that it could only be presented to us in contradictory terms. Because of our very limitations, contradictions became a necessary element of revelation.

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  Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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