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What are the similarities between the Gospels of Matthew Mark and Luke?

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All four New Testament gospels were written anonymously in Greek Koine, and only attributed to the apostles whose names they now bear later in the second century. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke are known as the synoptic gospels because they agree moderately well on the life and mission of Jesus.

Scholars now know that the authors of Matthew and Luke used Mark's Gospel as their principal source. Whenever they agree with Mark, the text is identical in Greek - something that could not have happened unless one gospel was being copied. Luke differs in that it has a 'Missing Block' a sequence of probably thirteen pages that were missing from the copy of Mark that its author was using as his source.

Scholars have also identified a hypothetical document, now known as the Q document as the source of additional sayings attributed to Jesus by both Matthew and Luke. Whenever the two evangelists used a saying from the Q document, they provided the same text for the saying itself, but described a completely different context in which Jesus spoke. However the Q material does not appear in Mark's Gospel.

In a few cases, the authors of Matthew and Luke appear to have corrected what they saw as errors in Mark's Gospel. In Mark, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee to the land of the Gerasenes*, a town far away from the Sea and across a river, and healed the demon-possessed man. The story remains much the same in Matthew but the location was changed to 'Gadarenes', a more geographically realistic location. In another passage, Mark's Gospel has the storm whipping up waves that threatened to sink the fishing boat. Matthew and Luke, possibly more familiar with Palestine, remove the references to the storm waves that threatened to sink the fishing boat.

The similarities also flow from Matthew and Luke to Mark. Mark's Gospel originally ended at verse 16:8, with the young man telling the women that Jesus was risen, and they fled in terror telling no one - thus no resurrection appearances. With no guidance from Mark, each of the later gospel authors had to create his own resurrection appearances, to prove to the readers that Jesus really had risen from the dead. In Matthew's case, Jesus first appeared to the two women as they walked back to tell the disciples; in Luke's case, Jesus appeared to the two men as they walked on the road to Emmaeus. When the 'Long Ending' was eventually added to Mark, it included a passage in which Jeus appeared to "the two of them", thus harmonising with both Matthew and Luke.

Footnote
*The KJV Bible has changed the text in Mark to 'Gadarenes' in conformance with Matthew, but some other English translations, such as the New American Bible (NAB), have kept the original text.
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