Four Voices, Four Gospels | Atalk by Gavin Brown

Four Voices, Four Gospels | Atalk by Gavin Brown

Un article rédigé par Gavin BROWN - RCF Poitou Vienne,  -  Modifié le 28 février 2021
Perspectives - Espace spirituel anglophone Four Voices, Four Gospels | Atalk by Gavin Brown
All those who love the Gospels realize that they are different from one another. And those who are wise realize that this is no bad thing, because different versions of the Gospel Story bring out elements which the others maybe missed. Writing comes in many forms and many genres, and, indeed, so do seekers of the Word. Because the Gospel message is for everyone. And to tell it in all its fulness, different voices are needed.
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Mark is reckoned to have been the first to get words written down, which is appropriate because Mark writes like a journalist who has got hold of a scoop. As secretary to Peter on his way to Rome and afterwards in that holy city, Mark jotted down notes as Peter spoke, and the result was concise, vivid and full of punchy headlines. Like Peter he was a country boy, not an academic or an aesthete. But he was simply bowled over by the story as Peter told it : he had to get it in shape for early publication. All the essentials of the gospel message are there – in a nutshell. But people wanted more, and there was more to tell.

In contrast with down-to-earth Mark is the more humanly imaginative, reflective Luke.
Here is a medical scientist, a Greek and so a rational thinker, someone also very aware of women as real human beings. But, above all, he is a storyteller; Luke has the novelist's ear for conversation, for the human interest of background and origins, for the what-happened-next and the how-did-that-come-about. And his is the only Gospel with a second volume: Acts of the Apostles was required to answer questions the same audience wanted to hear, as the aftermath of the astonishing tale which all the Gospels relate. In a similar way, Luke is the first and often the only source for the early life of Christ, giving us his family background and the amazing circumstances surrounding his birth. He tells us he tried to collect all the relevant information so as to give an authentic account of these things; and tradition attributes to Luke the privilege of having drawn the first actual portrait of the holy Virgin Mother of our Saviour, a live record.

The third of the synoptic gospel writers, that is to say those who followed the same overall story outline set out by Mark, is Matthew, the tax collector from Jerusalem, a true Hebrew among Hebrews, aware of the Jewish content of the story, the one whose conventional style of writing has made him sound most like the official archivist, the magisterial voice of authority. With Mattthew the underlying theology of the synoptic structure becomes more evident. The Church has always seen his account as a just balance between the enthusiasm of Mark and the soft touch of Luke - no excesses.

But to do full justice to the message, excess was needed: poetry, mysticism, symbolic meaning, unfathomable depth. Only John gives us those in full measure. His unique style gives voice to what is mythical and archetypal in the Gospel story, inspiring his symphonic anthem of praise to the Almighty; without this contribution we would not be so overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the Gospel narrative. John's carefully crafted, composed design includes the famous chiastic structure, where like in music, beginnings and ends are linked in reversible patterns, permitting the phrases to be read forwards or backwards, exposing a fullness of a meaning which cannot be carried in a one-way sequence. Even the chapters of the book have inclusions and conclusions so complex and elaborate that we end with two alternative « last » chapters to accommodate all the possible outcomes of a story, which will never be truly accomplished before the Second Coming.

Are our heads reeling? It just goes to show: you need many styles of writing to get the Gospel across to its ultimate readership, such a diverse audience variously seeking sensational miracles or human stories, poetical depths or sober prose. Four Gospels , four different kinds of writers - journalist, novelist, spokesperson, mystic: four contrasting genres; but all with one message: Good News!
Thanks be to God!

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