The Four Evangelists

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The Four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - by JORDAENS, Jacob - from Musée du Louvre, Paris

Mark is depicted as a Youth in a white sheet. "A certain young man, dressed only in a linen cloth, was following Jesus. They tried to arrest him, but he ran away naked, leaving the cloth behind", (Mark 14:51-52).


The Four Evangelists

from various sources

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The Writer of any One of the Four Gospels is referred to as an Evangelist. Below are portrayed Symbols for the Four Evangelists: St Matthew, St Mark, St Luke, and St John. Still further below, are the more universally used Winged representations of these Writers of the Four Gospels.


ST MATTHEW, as an Evangelist is Symbolized by Three Purses to indicate his Occupation as a Tax Gatherer prior to his call to Apostleship. (The Battle Axe is used as with other Apostles to indicate Martyrdom.) ST MARK, the Writer of the Second Gospel, can be thought of in connection with the Scroll which commonly stands for the Holy Scriptures. This Emblem, used with the Branch bearing Figs, suggests this Evangelist’s Fruitfulness and Fidelity both as a Writer and as a Man of Missionary Spirit as he accompanied St Paul. ST LUKE - The Three Open Books may well signify the most learned of the Evangelist, St Luke. He was a Physician and was the Author of the Third Gospel as well as the Book of Acts. The Battle Axe reminds us that he, too, because of his Faith, suffered Death by Martyrdom. ST JOHN, as an Apostle is represented often by a Serpent emerging from a Chalice to indicate an attempt made to poison him. The Serpent entwined about a Sword indicates Justice, Power, and Authority. The Serpent refers to the Wisdom and Power of John.



The Writers of the Four Gospels are more often represented by the Winged Creatures shown in the design at the right.

The Winged Man represents St Matthew because his Gospel lays stress upon the Incarnation of the Son of God. In his Writings he traces the Human Lineage of Jesus.

The Winged Lion symbolizes Saint Mark, for he opened his inspiring Gospel by describing Saint John the Baptist as "a voice of one crying in the wilderness"

The Winged Ox is chosen to represent Saint Luke who gives a full account of the Sacrificial Death of Our Lord.

The Winged Eagle signifies the Heavenly Nature of Christ, embodied in the Inspiration of Saint John.

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Who were the Gospels for?

Did you know that the Gospels of St Matthew and St Mark were written with a completely different type of reader in mind? St Matthew's Gospel was written primarily for Jewish Converts, while St Mark's was written for Romans. This simple fact is a strong hint to us that it's important to be careful to avoid approaching each of the Four Gospels in the same way.


The Gospel of Mark

There is an early Christian Tradition that Mark was a follower of St Peter in Rome. His Gospel was probably written there shortly before or after the death of Peter. It is thought that Mark's was the First of the Gospels to be written (about 64-67AD). Mark never saw Jesus, so it is likely that he used Peter's Accounts of the Words of Jesus in his Gospel.

This Gospel was written primarily for Roman Converts who wanted a permanent record of the Life of Jesus as it had been taught to them by St Peter. Because it was for Romans, Mark's Gospel contains many Explanations of Jewish Customs. It also explains the meaning of Aramaic Words and Expressions. The Old Testament is hardly ever quoted. Mark concentrates on Jesus as the Son of God rather than as the Savior promised in the Old Testament.

Mark's Gospel is noted for the Miracles it records. It is more a Gospel of Action than of Words. It is the Shortest of the four and can be read at one sitting.


The Gospel of Matthew

This Gospel has been described as the Greatest Book ever Written. It is certainly the most familiar and the most popular of the Four Gospels. Written with a fine sense of Order and Balance, it presents Jesus as a great Teacher Who fulfills the Old Testament Prophecies; the promised Messiah Who completes God's Plan. It was written primarily for Jewish Converts and therefore contains many references to the Old Testament. It was probably composed about 70AD.

This Gospel has been called the most important single document of the Christian Faith because it contains the Fullest Account of the Life and Teaching of Jesus. It is also the most frequently used in the Teaching of Jesus. It is also the most frequently used in the Teaching and Worship of the Church. Matthew was a painstaking teacher. Unlike Mark, who was often content to state bold facts about Jesus, Matthew explains at length the Significance of Jesus and His Teaching. Because he is speaking with a Jewish Audience in mind, he plans his writing around Five Great Discourses of Christ which are seen as the equivalent of the Five Books of the Old Law.


The Gospel of Luke

As well as a Gospel, Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles, making him the Author of just over a Quarter of the entire New Testament. His writings of Christianity from the earliest moments of Christ's Life to His Ascension and beyond to the years when the Community of the Church was growing and spreading. Luke is the only Gentile to write in the New Testament and it may be that this explains his interest and concern for the Outsider and the care with which he records Christ's Dealings with all those who were in some way Outside the Community.

Luke presents a picture of Christ and His Teaching which has immediate appeal even on the Human Level alone. His Gospel was primarily intended for Christians already familiar with the Gospel Teaching, but it also seeks to attract non-Christians. It was written in Greek and has an Educated Style. It emphasizes that Jesus is the Savior of all Women and Men, and stresses the Compassion of Jesus for the Poor and the Outcast. It has been called the Gospel of Social Justice.


The Gospel of John

The Gospel of John shows a marked difference from the other Three Gospels. All Four Evangelists select their material to suit their purpose, but this selection is most evident in John. John's Gospel was written in Greek about 90AD and bears the characteristics of an Old Man's Reflections on Past Events, delving into their Deeper Meaning. The purpose of this Gospel is, "that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God . . ."

Although John's Gospel carefully places events in correct Chronological Order it would be a mistake to think of it as Straight Reporting. With this Gospel more than the others we have to read Between the Lines for the Full Meaning. This is one of the most inspiring parts of the New Testament and one of the best loved. This is partly due to the fact that it is a very Personal Statement of Faith in Christ. John the Evangelist knew how to transmit his own living memories and his Love for Christ is obvious on every page.

The Church has always Reverenced this document as the Work of John the Apostle, although the Gospel as we have it would appear to be the Work of his Disciples who actually wrote down what John had taught and dictated.