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The evolution and change of Jesus from Gospel to Gospel

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If one were to read the 4 Gospels in order, as in from the earliest written Gospel, to the latest written Gospel, i.e. starting from Mark, going to Matthew, going to Luke, and finally ending with John. One would notice a clear evolution regarding Jesus, what this means is that from one Gospel to another, incidents about Jesus, and Jesus himself are being modified and changed to make him look better or increase his stature. So what we’re basically seeing is an evolution in the character of Jesus by the Gospel authors, the later the Gospel, the more evolved Jesus becomes.

In this article we shall bring up clear examples of this evolution taking place, so you can witness and see it for yourself. The first example we bring is the baptism of Jesus.

Here is Marks account of the Baptism:

Mark 1:9-13

And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And immediately the spirit driveth him into the wilderness. And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him. 




So Marks account is fairly simple, Jesus comes to get baptized by John the Baptist, and during this baptism the skies open up and a spirit like a dove descends unto Jesus with a voice saying that he is his beloved son and that he pleased with him, the presumed voiced speaking from the sky is God.

Now let’s read Matthews account of the same incident:

Matthew 3:13-17

Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. 16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Notice the difference between that of Mark, the earlier version, and Matthew the later version. In the earlier account of Mark, Jesus simply comes to get baptized and does it. In Matthew's version we see Jesus coming to get baptized yet this time John protests against it, because he thinks that Jesus does not need to be baptized, and that not only is Jesus not in need of any baptism, it should be Jesus doing the baptizing of John.  All of this was absent from Mark’s version, there was no protest by John, nor any statements by John saying Jesus should be the one to baptize him.

The evolution and modification of this story is clear as daylight, it’s quite obvious that the author of Matthew purposely modifided the story to put Jesus in a better light, how could Jesus come to get baptized? So the author fixed that issue by putting up John’s protest, Jesus didn’t actually need to get baptized. The second problem, how could John baptize Jesus if Jesus was so special? Well the author fixed this by having John say Jesus should baptize John, and so instead now Jesus is turned into a humble figure by allowing John to baptize him when it should be the other way round.

So this is the first example.

We now move to the second example of a change and evolution in the story regarding Jesus.

In each Gospel account we first see John the Baptist speaking about Jesus, the one to come after him, but when we read each account, each one is different and each one is changing to make Jesus look more special.  

Here’s Marks account:

Mark 1:5-8

And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey; And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.

Now let’s read what John’s Gospel has to say about this, remember, John’s Gospels is the latest, written decades after Mark’s Gospel.

John 1:15-35

John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.  For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?  He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God. Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!



Notice the major differences in both accounts. In the Gospel of John, John the Baptist now calls Jesus a lamb of God, the man to take the sin of the world, and the only man to have seen God. The praise that John the Baptist is giving to Jesus is on a whole other level than the praise we see given in Mark’s account, in Mark’s account John the Baptist simply talks about how Jesus is a greater man than he is, nothing about him being the only man to have seen God, or being the lamb of God sent to save all of humanity from their sins. The Gospel writer of John has obviously modified and added to the praise to make Jesus look more special, and not just to make Jesus look more special, but to also fit in with the theology of the Gospel of John.

Now we go to the third example, which was Jesus’ death on the cross, here is a great example of changes, modifications, and evolution in the story.

Here is Mark’s account:

Mark 15:33-41

And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, he calleth Elias. And one ran and filled a spunge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take him down. And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.

There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; (Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem.



So in Marks version, when Jesus is dying on the cross, he cries out to God asking why God has forsaken him, he then let out another loud cry and died.

Here is Matthew’s version:

Matthew 27:45-56

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias. And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.

Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.  And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God. And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedees children.

 

So notice the clear difference between Mark’s version and Matthews. Matthew has greatly modified the story to add far more significance to the death of Jesus, according to Matthew, when Jesus died, the dead of Jerusalem rose from their graves and walked into Jerusalem appearing to many people. This was also followed by a major earthquake in Jerusalem, which caused great fear to the people who wanted Jesus dead, and this made them realize that Jesus was well and truly the Son of God.

All of these incredible details are absent from Mark, there’s nothing about dead people walking through Jerusalem, or Jesus’ enemies coming to realize he was the Son of God, Matthew obviously made these things up to carry more significance to the death of Jesus.

The next example is concerning the other men beside Jesus on the cross, according to Mark:

Mark 15:25-32

And it was the third hour, and they crucified him. And the superscription of his accusation was written over, THE KING OF THE JEWS. And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.  And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors. And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, 30 Save thyself, and come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save. Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.

So according to Mark’s version, the other men beside Jesus reviled him alongside the people who were mocking him and telling him to save himself.

Let’s read Luke’s account of the same incident:

Luke 23:32-43

And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God. And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself. 38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord,remember me when thou comestinto thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shaltthou be with me in paradise.

So according to Luke’s account, one of the men on the crosses actually began to defend Jesus, and started calling Jesus lord and telling Jesus to remember him when Jesus enters his kingdom, and Jesus tells the man that he will be alongside Jesus in paradise today. This is a fantastic evolution of the story, where Jesus is made to look powerful and assured of what’s going to happen, that he can promise the man paradise, and there’s some more dignity for Jesus on the cross now, compared with the earlier accounts where he’s being mocked and reviled and being challenged to save himself.

That’s no longer the case in Luke’s account.

The last example we produce is a modification of a very simple event, you probably wouldn’t even notice it if you read both accounts. Here is how Mark records the incident:

Mark 5:28-34

For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole. And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Whotouched my clothes? And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Whotouched me? And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing. But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.

And Matthew’s version:

Matthew 9:20-22

And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.

Notice the difference between Mark and Matthew? In Mark’s account, Jesus is asking who touched him; not knowing whom it was, until the lady revealed that it was she who touched Jesus. So how does Matthew change this story? Well in his account, Jesus never asks who touched him, he immediately knew who touched him. Matthew has purposely removed the part about Jesus asking who touched him, he made the story slightly better because in his account, Jesus isn’t unaware about the situation, unlike in Mark where he is unaware about who touched him, having to ask two times before the lady reveals that it was her who did the act.

So these are just but a few of the clear examples of how stories about Jesus in the Gospels are being changed, modified, and evolving over time. The stories in the later Gospels are always changing the incidents to portray Jesus in a better light, and this opens up a whole load of issues, for if they changed and modified these stories, what other stories did they change, alter, and modify? Heck, what stories did they completely make up to make Jesus look more special than he was?

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