Podcast Episode

The Obvious and Extravagant Claim of the Gospel

All four gospels are pointing toward the same simple yet profound claim. As we read the Gospels, how should we understand discrepancies and variations to see the point of it all?

Episode 40
Sep 30, 2019
Play Episode
Show Notes

Key Takeaways:

  • All the gospels are essentially saying the same thing. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and his life, death, and resurrection fulfills the Hebrew Scriptures.
  • All four gospels climax with a detailed recounting of Jesus' death and resurrection. While this may seem like an obvious point to modern readers, this is not necessarily true for ancient readers when the Scriptures were formed.
  • Modern readers of the gospels should make an effort to familiarize themselves with how ancient Greco-Roman biography and literature worked. The four gospels are not modern texts; therefore, readers should be sympathetic and strive to view them not through a modern lens, but in light of their historic context.


“The main mode that many Christians, especially Protestants, read the Bible in is the ‘lessons for my life’ approach to the Bible. The deeply held assumption is, ‘the Bible is a moral handbook and each story is giving me a life application lesson that I can apply to my life.’ And I don’t think that’s what the Gospel authors are trying to do.”

"(The gospels are) tying in Jesus’ story as the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scripture storyline which is the story of Israel and all humanity. And then all of them are saying the story leads up to the moment of a Jewish wonder-worker’s execution. It’s a simple point. But that is their main point."


In part 1 (0-11:30), Tim and Jon briefly recap the series so far. They discuss the earlier tips for reading the gospels more effectively and deeply. Tim says readers should always remember that the gospels are meant to be stories about Jesus, but they have been specifically selected to be persuasive stories about Jesus. The Gospel authors want the reader to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Sometimes they make this intent obvious and explicit, but other times, they make the claims indirectly. Tim says this method of indirect communication and indirect claims about Jesus is the primary way that Gospel authors design their portraits of Jesus.

In part 2 (11:30-22:00), Tim notes that many of the stories about Jesus, including the stories of miracles, sound unbelievable to many modern Western audiences. Whereas in other cultures, healings and miracles and those who performed them were considered an integral part of life and evidence of God or the gods’ work. Tim shares a helpful resource called The Lost Letters of Pergamum, which is a short historical novel set in ancient Roman culture during the early days of Christianity. The novel helps readers more accurately picture what the original claims of the gospel would have meant to the first followers of Christ.

Tim then says most Western Protestants read these accounts through asking, “What’s the application of this gospel story to my life and how will it improve my life?” Tim says he doesn’t think this is the best way to read the gospels. Instead, readers should learn to read the gospels as intricate and complete portraits of Jesus Christ of Nazareth that are claiming that Jesus is the promised Jewish Messiah.

In part 3 (22:00-32:00), Tim notes that every Gospel climaxes with Jesus’ death and resurrection. Tim then contrasts this with the Gospel of Thomas, which does not include Jesus’ death and resurrection narrative. To the gnostics who used the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus was a wise, divine teacher who dispensed knowledge to humanity to help them learn to be wise.

Tim then says that a good example of the gospels climaxing with Jesus’ death and resurrection would be the Gospel of Mark. Most of the book highlights the final week of Jesus’ life and does a fast fly-by of Jesus’ earlier life leading up to the week of the Passover and crucifixion.

Most stories, Tim observes, end with the good guy defeating the bad guy, thereby using force and violence to triumph. The Jesus story claims that Jesus triumphed by allowing himself to be killed by his enemies. He then was raised from the dead and gives his enemies an opportunity to enter into new life by believing in him.

In part 5 (32:00-end), Tim and Jon discuss the differences between the gospels. Tim says that some of the variances between the stories in the gospels used to bother him. Why couldn’t all the stories be the same? Aren’t the discrepancies evidence that these stories and authors might be unreliable?

However, Tim continues by sharing that over time, his perspective has changed. Now, he realizes that the Gospel authors are advancing a claim about Jesus, not recounting security camera footage of his life. The authors want the reader to understand that Jesus had a totally different way of seeing the world, so they highlight this in their own style. Tim says he would actually be highly suspicious if all the gospels’ stories are exactly identical. That would imply that the Jesus story was not authentic. It also should be taken into consideration that what many modern Christians may perceive to be untruths or discrepancies in the Bible were much more accepted by early Christians. Modern readers should attempt to understand the context and culture of how the gospels were formed instead of importing our own modern view of a biography onto an ancient text.

Show Music:

“Defender” instrumental by Tents “Nostalgic” by junior state “lacuna” by leavv “Beautiful Eulogy” by Beautiful Eulogy Show Resources:

The Lost Letters of Pergamum: A Story from the New Testament World by Bruce Longenecker

Show Produced by:

Dan Gummel

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Scripture References
Mark 1:1
1 Corinthians 1:27
John 2:19
Matthew 27:54
Mark 2:7
Romans 1:2-4
Matthew 11-12
John 20:30-31
Matthew 8:28
Matthew 13:55
Matthew 15:21-28
Matthew 16:13-20
Matthew 26:63
Matthew 27:11
John 1:5-11
Luke 1:2
John 21:25
Matthew 14:22-32
Mark 6:45-52

40 Episodes

Episode 40
The Obvious and Extravagant Claim of the Gospel
All four gospels are pointing toward the same simple yet profound claim. As we read the Gospels, how should we understand discrepancies and variations to see the point of it all?
52m • Sep 30, 2019
Episode 39
Why Are There Four Accounts of the Gospel?
Each of the four gospels begin differently—and for a reason. Learn more about the unique opening chapters of each gospel and discover new ways to read these accounts and understand their claims.
1hr 8m • Sep 23, 2019
Episode 38
The Gospel Is More Than You Think
Where does the word "gospel" come from, and are we using it right? Learn the history of this word and dive into how the biblical authors talked about the Gospel.
55m • Sep 16, 2019
Episode 37
What Does the Word "Gospel" Mean?
Explore the history of the word, "gospel," how modern Western Christians often use the word different than the biblical authors. What is the gospel? The answer is far more exciting and complex than we've been led to believe.
1hr 11m • Sep 9, 2019
Episode 36
Wisdom Q+R
Enjoy our Q+R episode on the wisdom literature in the Bible.
1hr 12m • Jul 29, 2019
Episode 35
Solomon the Cynic and the Job You Never Knew
Welcome to our final episode discussing wisdom literature in the Bible. In this episode, Tim and Jon cover two books, Ecclesiastes and Job.
1hr 5m • Jul 15, 2019
Episode 34
Song of Songs: Semi-Erotic Love Poetry
Welcome to episode 5 in our series on How to Read Biblical Wisdom Literature! In this episode, Tim and Jon discuss Song of Songs.
1hr 4m • Jul 8, 2019
Episode 33
Proverbs: Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly
Welcome to episode four in our series on how to read the wisdom literature of the Bible. Today, Tim and Jon dive into the book of Proverbs.
45m • Jul 1, 2019
Episode 32
Solomon: The Wisest of the Fools
Welcome to our third episode discussing the theme of Wisdom in the Bible.
1hr • Jun 24, 2019
Episode 31
The Quest for Wisdom
Welcome to our new series on how to read the wisdom books in biblical literature!
46m • Jun 10, 2019
Episode 30
Law Q+R
Listen to our audience's questions about how to read biblical law.
56m • Jun 3, 2019
Episode 29
Jesus Fulfills the Law
Welcome to another episode exploring how to read biblical law. This is the final part of this discussion before our Q+R episode for this series.
48m • May 27, 2019
Episode 28
God's Wisdom in the Law
Welcome to our fourth episode on how to read biblical law!
51m • May 20, 2019
Episode 27
The Law as a Revolution
Welcome to our third episode on how to read biblical law!
1hr 2m • May 13, 2019
Episode 26
The Law as a Covenantal Partnership
Welcome to our second episode on how to read biblical law!
1hr 13m • May 6, 2019
Episode 25
The Purpose of the Law
Listen in as we begin our disccusion on the laws in the Bible.
1hr 13m • Apr 29, 2019
Episode 24
Prophets as Provokers
Welcome to episode two in our series on How to Read the Prophets.
56m • Apr 22, 2019
Episode 23
What Prophecy Is for
Welcome to episode one in our miniseries on how to read the Prophets.
58m • Apr 15, 2019
Episode 22
Poetry Q+R
Here is our question and response episode where we answer our listeners' questions about poetry and metaphor in the Bible.
48m • Jul 2, 2018
Episode 21
Chaotic Waters
In the last episode of our Metaphor series, Jon and Tim discuss how water is often displayed as rambunctious and dangerous in the Bible.
1hr 11m • Jun 25, 2018
Episode 20
The Mountain Garden and the Human Ideal
This is our second episode in our series on metaphors in the Bible.
46m • Jun 18, 2018
Episode 19
Metaphor and Our Imagination
This is our first episode in our three-part series on the use of metaphor in the Bible.
59m • Jun 12, 2018
Episode 18
God Speaks in Poetry
This is the 2nd episode in our Art of Biblical Poetry podcast where we explore how God speaks in poetic language.
44m • Jun 4, 2018
Episode 17
The Thunder of God
This is episode 1 in our series on Biblical Poetry!
1hr 18m • May 28, 2018
Episode 16
Chaotic Waters and Baptism
Tim and Jon continue to recap key stories in Genesis and the Old Testament. The key themes in these stories are the chaotic waters and salvation through them.
1hr 2m • Apr 23, 2018
Episode 15
Crossing the Chaotic Waters
Tim and Jon discuss literary design patterns in the Bible.
51m • Apr 16, 2018
Episode 14
Live from Milpitas! Part 2
This is part 2 in our live conversation from Milpitas California! Tim and Jon continue their discussion on design patterns in the Bible.
1hr 18m • Apr 9, 2018
Episode 13
Live from Milpitas! Part 1
Tim and Jon discuss literature design patterns in the Bible to a live audience and answer questions from the audience.
1hr 16m • Apr 2, 2018
Episode 12
Setting in Biblical Narrative
Tim and Jon discuss the importance of understanding “Setting” in Bible stories.
35m • Mar 25, 2018
Episode 11
Character in Biblical Narrative
In this episode Tim and Jon discuss character design in the Bible.
49m • Jan 15, 2018
Episode 10
Plot in Biblical Narrative
Tim and Jon discuss how understanding the unique ways plot and narrative are used by the Hebrew authors to write Bible stories can impact how we read the Bible.
51m • Oct 2, 2017
Episode 9
The Bible as Jewish Meditation Literature: Jewish Scripture Meditation vs. Modern Meditation
In this episode, Tim and Jon continue their conversation about Cain and Abel and why it is a good example of Jewish meditation literature.
40m • Aug 11, 2017
Episode 8
Why Isn't There More Detail in Bible Stories?
Maybe, like us, you've asked yourself this questions or found yourself confused while reading the Bible. We don't know why a character did what they did, or what they looked like, or even what the moral of the story is. How do we make sense of this?
44m • Aug 4, 2017
Episode 7
Poetry, Narrative, and Prose Discourse
Jon and Tim discuss the different literary styles used in the Bible.
45m • Jun 23, 2017
Episode 6
Literary Genres and the Stories We Tell Ourselves
Tim and Jon discuss the three literary styles used in the Bible: narrative, poetry, and prose discourse.
1hr 1m • Jun 19, 2017
Episode 5
Is Reading the Bible Together Just a Form of Groupthink?
A jam-packed episode where Tim and Jon discuss the ancient Hebrew practice of reading the Bible aloud, the sociology of both creating environments and being created by environments in Christianity, and the different kind of power between stories and facts.
48m • Jun 9, 2017
Episode 4
Ancient vs. Modern Ways of Reading Scripture
Tim and Jon discuss the differences in ancient and modern ways of reading scripture, including why the Hebrew people would read scripture together as a group. The guys also talk about how challenging it can be to read the Bible by yourself.
59m • Jun 2, 2017
Episode 3
What Is the Story of the Bible?
In this episode Tim and Jon discuss the big narrative arcs of the Bible. What is the Bible really talking about?
59m • May 26, 2017
Episode 2
What's in Your Bible?
In this episode, Tim and Jon give an overview of the entire Bible with a focus on the Hebrew Scriptures.
1hr 10m • Feb 14, 2017
Episode 1
The Bible as Divine Literary Art
Why are the books of the Bible ordered the way they are? Is there a value in reading the Bible in any other order?
1hr 3m • Feb 8, 2017
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