The Reading of the Scriptures by Fr Felix, O.F.M.Cap. part 8.
THE WRITTEN GOSPELS.
To resume our theme, we can now understand the meaning of the title "according to" given to the written Gospels. "The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to St. Matthew" means the record of the life and teaching of Our Divine Lord while on earth, written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost by St. Matthew. And so for SS. Mark, Luke and John, respectively. This we understand always, when for brevity we speak of "the Gospel of St. Matthew," or simply (as in references) "St. Matthew." Strictly speaking it would be more correct to say the four books of the one Gospel than the four Gospels, as St. Augustine observes. (in ioannem, tractatus 36, 1). Also this form of title indicates the fact that the Gospels are not merely historical books, but in addition, doctrinal, and primarily doctrinal. (Rudolf Comely, S.J. Compendium Introduction-is in U.T. libros. 8 ed. Paris, 1914 p. 474). The first three Gospels (SS. Matthew, Mark, Luke) are called the Synoptic Gospels, or the Synoptics simply. This term has a history. From the time of St. Augustine at least, Scriptural scholars had been impressed by the many resemblances in the matter, order and style of the first three Gospels, whereas St. John is in complete contrast on all three points. For one thing, St. John treats almost exclusively of Our Lord's ministry in Judea, while they treat mainly of His ministry in Galilee. The question becomes the more complicated by reason of many points of difference which exist between the said three Gospels mutually. The better to study this question, a German biblical critic named Johann Jacob Griesbach (1745-1812) had the text of the first three Gospels printed in parallel columns. This was called a synopsis, because all three could be seen simultaneously; this is the etymological meaning of the word, which has now come to denote an epitome. From that arose the terms Synoptic Gospels and Synoptic Problem. Granted the synoptic problem, however, the four evangelists are at one in giving a detailed history of the Passion and Crucifixion of Our Divine Lord. This agrees in turn with St. Paul : "We preach Christ crucified. . . " (I Corinthians I, 23). The Gospels are particularly dear to us, for they are the Word of God in a twofold sense. They are written under divine inspiration, and have God for their author. In addition they record the acts and words of the Incarnate Son of God during His glorious life on earth. If this record had been written by an ordinary historian who was a contemporary and an eye-witness it would still be very valuable indeed; but written as it is by the inspired evangelists it is of transcendent value.