The Feeding of Multitudes and the Walking on the Water are the gospels where the four disciples of Jesus tell about the trial of their belief and beliefs of 5 000 other people that Jesus put them through. Although the events that are described are absolutely the same, there are certain differences in how Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John describe them.
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There are some peculiarities to the general style of all four gospels that indicate the differences in how Evangelists expressed themselves. Comparing the writing of Mark with three other authors, it is clear that his style of writing is more simple, more colloquial, and informal than that of others, especially Luke whose style is very eloquent and literary. Mark’s gospels also indicate that there was a difference in what Jesus said in public, and what he said privately to his disciples, his is also the shortest gospel of all. The peculiarity of Matthew’s writing is that he often refers to the Old Testament and the fulfillment of the prophecy in his writings. John, in his turn, uses a lot of rather long sentences, often in passive voice.
The text of the gospels displays additional detailed differences in how the Evangelists depict the events of feeding the five thousand and walking on water. The gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke indicate that the events took place at a location nearby Bethsaida, while John does not point out the exact location; he only mentions that Jesus invited all people to sit down on the grass before having food. John’s writing states that the food came from a boy in the crowd of people, but the other three gospels do not support that.
When Jesus and his disciples departed, and crowds of people followed them, Matthew mentions that Jesus healed those among people who were sick, while Mark mentions that Jesus was teaching them many things, Luke says both and John does not mention either (most of the miracles the John describes in his gospel are nature miracles, very few are actually miracles performed by Jesus).
Then, when the evening came and it was time to eat, Matt, Mark, and Luke describe the moment where Jesus’s disciples came to him asking to send people away to get food and shelter, and John says nothing about this fact. Neither does John mention how Jesus challenges his disciples and their belief by saying “You give them food”.
During the feeding itself, Matt, Mark, and Luke point out that Jesus distributed bread and fish through his disciples, while John states that Jesus did so himself, and only John indicates that after the food was finished, the people celebrated Jesus acknowledging he was the prophet, and that Jesus upon hearing it and realizing that they were about to pronounce him as a king retired to a mountain, more likely to pray.
The act of feeding the five thousand has received different interpretations throughout history. In the early days, it was believed that five thousand exemplified five books of Torah that “fed” the Jews, and 12 scraps referred to 12 disciples of Jesus.
The description given by Mark also can be compared to the story of King David and a small group of his followers who shared five loaves of bread given by the priest.
The departure to the sea and going through the storm is also described differently by all Evangelists, and is completely omitted by Luke as well as the events that followed. Matthew and Mark say that Jesus went to the mountain to pray, but John does not include this part.
Further, during the walking on the water, this fact is described by Mark, Matthew, and John, but not Luke. Also, Matthew indicates that Peter can walk on the water as well, asking Jesus if he can join him and eventually starting to go under the water, which Jesus comments as the lack of Peter’s belief, while Luke, John, and Mark say nothing about this fact.
When Jesus gets into the boat, only Matthew says that the disciples stated in awe that he was truly the son of God, while Mark only says they were astonished and did not understand the implications of miracles with bread, fish, and walking on the water.
It is believed that the main reason for the differences among the four gospels, and the reason why Luke and Matthew revised Mark’s gospels was that they taught to different communities: Mark taught in the mixed community of Jews and Gentile Christians, Matthew taught in the community of Jews where his main task was to teach about new transforming Christian community, Luke taught at a new Christian community of converted Gentiles. This also partially explains why there are four gospels and not more or less.
Thus, the image of Jesus that each of the Evangelists had in their minds was somewhat different and responded to the needs of the corresponding community: Mark represented Jesus as Messiah who opened new perspectives of relating to God, Matthew’s Jesus is a teacher presenting lessons of life and service to God, and Luke concentrates on the healing activities of Jesus.
Additionally, Matthew and Luke wanted to supplement Mark’s gospel with Jesus’s sayings that they had collected, and thus their gospels are more descriptive and filled with various details that Mark’s gospel does not have.
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The most independent gospel is that of John – he uses different structures and different perspectives of the same events than the other three. At some editions of the Bible, his gospel is the one that is printed first for its originality and articulacy.
There exist several opinions on why the wording in the four gospels is different, and yet in many ways remarkable the same: the four Evangelists had access to one or more documents that allowed them to change some of the details, but still keep up with the general structure, they were guided by the Holy Spirit in their writing, so it is not merely their thoughts or impressions, and finally, they all might have worked on creating a single document.
At the same time, it would be wrong to say that any of the four gospels is more accurate than the other three. All four gospels provide truthful information and presentation of Jesus, and none of them contradicts the other three.