An Introduction to
The Gospels and Acts
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This is my own personal rendering or paraphrase of (and commentary on) the Tanakh and Apostolic Writings. It should not be considered in any way authoritative. It is based on The World English Bible: Messianic Edition, also known as the Hebrew Names Version, which is in the Public Domain.

About This Version

For a glossary of unfamiliar terms, CLICK HERE.
For assistance in pronouncing Hebrew terms, a pronunciation guide is located HERE.
My short comments on the text are notated in “maroon pop-up text tips” which are accessed by “hovering” your mouse over the text. [Some short comments look like this.] Longer comments are included in footnotes. I have added emphasis to some phrases simply to call them to your attention.
Tanakh Scroll
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An Introduction to the Gospels and Acts
[See also “The True Gospel”]

Why is so much Hebrew vocabulary necessary? Read About This Version.
Please be sure to read the Introduction to the Gospels and Acts.

The Greek word translated as “gospel” is euaggelion (euangelion)[1] and literally means “good news.” Thayer and Smith include the following definition in The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon (1999):

The glad tidings of the kingdom of God soon to be set up, and subsequently also of Jesus the Messiah, the founder of this kingdom. After the death of Christ, the term comprises also the preaching of (concerning) Jesus Christ as having suffered death on the cross to procure eternal salvation for the men in the kingdom of God, but as restored to life and exalted to the right hand of God in heaven, thence to return in majesty to consummate the kingdom of God.

The Church has largely lost the original meaning as intended by the four Evangelists. Notice that Mattityahu (Matthew) uses the word in the phrase “Good News of (or about) the Kingdom” (Matthew 4:23, Matthew 9:35, Matthew 24:14), while Marcus (Mark) uses “Good News of Yeshua the Messiah” (Mark 1:1) and “Good News from God” (Mark 1:14). In Mark 1:15 Marcus uses the word in the context of the Kingdom: “The time has come, God's Kingdom is near! Turn to God from your sins and believe the Good News!” In Mark 10:24-34 Yeshua Himself uses it in the context of the Kingdom and the 'olam haba[2]:

The talmidim were astounded at these words; but Yeshua said to them again, “My friends, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God! It's easier for a camel to pass through a needle's eye than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.” … Kefa began saying to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Yeshua said, “Yes! I tell you that there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, who will not receive a hundred times over, now, in the `olam hazeh, homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and lands — with persecutions! — and in the `olam haba, eternal life.

Lucas also refers to it as “the Good News of the Kingdom of God” (Luke 16:16). In Acts 20:24 he speaks of “the Good News of God’s love and kindness” through which even the Gentiles may become citizens of the Kingdom of God, as does Rav Sha'ul[3] in Romans 1:1-6. In Romans 2:11-21 Rav Sha'ul suggests very strongly that “the Good News as I proclaim it” refers to the time when God, through the Messiah, will judge all mankind will be judged by the Torah.

Yochanan the Immerser’s message was “Repent (turn away from sin and turn to God), because the Kingdom of God is very near.” What is “the Kingdom of God?”

The Kingdom of Israel reached its pinnacle under Kings David and Solomon (ca. 1000-930 BCE). Under their leadership, Israel became a “world leader” in technology and commerce. National leaders came from far and wide to visit with David And Solomon and learn their secrets of successful governance. After the death of Solomon in about 928-930 BCE, the kingdom was divided into two nations: Israel in the north and Judah in the south.[4] Approximately 184 years later (740 BCE) the Assyrian empire invaded the northern kingdom of Israel and forcibly removed the people and scattered them throughout their empire.[5] In 597 BCE Judah was invaded by the Babylonian empire, lived in captivity in Babylon for 60 years, and were allowed to return to their land, but under Babylonian rule. From 597 BCE until 1948 CE Israel lived continually under foreign rule.[6]

The prophets had promised that in their future a great leader would arise who would free the people of Israel from the oppression of their overseers and restore the Kingdom of David to its former glory as the leader among nations. The prophets called him by several names, but mostly referred to him as the Mashiach (Messiah, the Anointed One) or the Son of Man. Since the prophets said that Mashiach would be a glorious King, ruling Israel from the throne of His ancestor David, and that He would also suffer and die for His people, the people of Israel assumed there would be two different Messiahs. The one that was to suffer and die for His people they called the Suffering Servant (based primarily on Isaiah 53), or Mashiach ben Yosef (Messiah, son of Joseph); the one that was to free Israel and rule over them in a theocratic kingdom they called Mashiach ben David (Messiah, Son of David).

By the time of Yeshua, no prophet had spoken or written in Israel since the death of Mal'akhi (Malachi) between approximately 445 and 432 BCE. Now Yochanan the Baptizer was out in the wilderness near the Jordan river proclaiming that “the Kingdom of God is at hand;” that is, the theocratic kingdom promised by the prophets in which they would be totally free to worship and serve their God free from foreign interference was about to be established. Mal'akhi had promised, “Look, I will send to you Eliyahu [Elijah] the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible Day of ADONAI.” So many people assumed that Yochanan was Elijah resurrected, and that he was announcing the long-awaited arrival of Mashiach ben David to overthrow the Romans and restore the Kingdom of David.

The “Good News of the Kingdom,” however, has a down side. Part and parcel of the establishment of the Kingdom is “the great and terrible Day of ADONAI,” when those outside the covenant would be severely judged. Thus the urgency with which the Kingdom message of repentance was being preached: “Repent! For the Kingdom is at hand!” Those who repented and got into a right relationship with HaShem would reap the benefits of the Kingdom; those who failed to repent would face the severest of possible judgments! Had Israel corporately accepted Yeshua as their Messiah-King, the kingdom would have been established then and there, and all those who failed to do so would face the judgment of “the Day of ADONAI.” Thus, within the lifetime of those who failed to acknowledge Him as King Messiah, Israel was overrun and destroyed by the Gentiles, the Temple was destroyed, and Israel was forcibly deported from The Land to dwell for a time out among the Nations (Gentiles).

With the restoration of Israel as a sovereign nation in 1948, it appears that the time of the Gentiles is nearing an end and finally the Kingdom is truly at hand!

So the Biblical Gospel, or Good News of the Kingdom, that was taught by Yeshua and His Apostles was that Messiah Yeshua has come to redeem His people from bondage to foreign governments and to re-establish the theocratic Kingdom of David here on earth. After the decision of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, Rav Sha'ul taught that part of the Good News of the Kingdom is that Gentiles do not have to follow the rabbinical process of formally converting to Judaism in order to partake fully in the citizenship of that Kingdom.

It is a great tragedy of history that the Church has chosen to discard the “Good News of the Kingdom” and has drastically changed the Apostolic message. Many Christians have been taught to begin their presentation of the Church’s message (which they erroneously call “the gospel”) with the question: “If you were to die tonight, do you know where you would be when you woke up?” They then lead their listener down “Romans Road” to tell them how if they simply acknowledge the historical fact that “Jesus” died for their sins and was resurrected on the third day, and ask Him to come into their heart, they will “go to heaven” when they die.

While that may (or may not) be true[7], it is not the “Gospel” of the Apostles; it is “another Gospel” that Rav Sha'ul warned about.

“I fear that somehow your minds may be seduced away from simple and pure devotion to the Messiah, just as Havah [Eve[ was deceived by the serpent and his craftiness. For if someone comes and tells you about some other Yeshua than the one we told you about, or if you receive a spirit different from the one you received or accept some so-called ‘good news’ different from the Good News you already accepted, you bear with him well enough!” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4)

“I am astounded that you are so quick to remove yourselves from me, the one who called you by the Messiah’s grace, and turn to some other supposedly ‘Good News,’ which is not good news at all! What is really happening is that certain people are pestering you and trying to pervert the genuine Good News of the Messiah. But even if we — or, for that matter, an angel from heaven! — were to announce to you some so-called ‘Good News’ contrary to the Good News we did announce to you, let him be under a curse forever!” (Galatians 1:6-8)

The Church has seriously compounded their problem of “another Gospel” by presenting to the world “another Jesus” than the one presented in either the Prophets or the Apostolic Writings. For nearly 1700 years the Church has blasphemed the integrity of the Biblical Yeshua, besmirched His character as a faithful, Torah-observant Jew, and distorted His teaching to provide a non-Biblical religion of a false “redemption without responsibility” and a false “salvation without sacrifice.”

The “Jesus” of the Church The Historical Yeshua of the Bible
Came to end Judaism and replace it with Christianity Came to redeem His people Israel, restore the Kingdom of God on earth, and “repair” Judaism
Came to abolish the oppression of the Torah and “nailed it to His cross” Carefully observed the smallest commandment of Torah that pertained to Him and soundly rebuked anyone who disobeys even “the least mitzvot” or teaches others to do so
Came to destroy the Holy Temple Regularly worshipped in the Temple and clearly respected those traditions which were not in conflict with the Torah
Came to cancel the Levitical worship system Augmented the Levitical system with the Priesthood of all believers; the Temple and the Levitical system are to be restored when He reigns physically on earth
Canceled the dietary laws of Torah Carefully observed the dietary laws and soundly rebuked anyone who disobeys even “the least mitzvot” or teaches others to do so
Canceled the commandment of circumcision Upheld circumcision as the sign of God’s eternal covenant with Abraham
Canceled the Sabbath and replaced it with “the Lord’s Day” Confirmed the Sabbath and clearly declared that He is “Lord of the Sabbath,” making the seventh day of the week, not the first, the true Lord’s Day
Canceled the Jewish people and their place as the people of God and replaced them with “the Church, which is the Bride of Christ” Affirmed God’s “everlasting covenant” with Israel, confirmed the Jewish people as His bride, and invited Gentiles to become part of His Bride through joining themselves to Israel


While this distortion of the “Gospel” didn’t reach maturity until shortly after the establishment of the Roman State Religion (the Roman Catholic Church) by Constantine in about 325 CE, the trend began in the late first century. In fact, the entire letter to the Galatians[8] is a condemnation of those who had already began to distort the true message of the Good News of the Kingdom (see particularly Galatians 1:6-8, cited above). See more HERE.

Why Are There Four Gospel Accounts?

The four Gospel accounts are intended to be read as theological treatises, not biographies. Only Dr. Luke makes any effort at all to present a chronological or “orderly” account (Luke 1:3) of the life of Yeshua. But why has Ruach HaKodesh chosen to provide us with four versions, and not three or five (or more)? The answer, I believe, lies in the representation of the Deity as revealed to the prophets Ezekiel and Yochanan (my emphasis added).

In the thirtieth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, while I was among the exiles by the K'var River, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. On the fifth day of the month, which was during the fifth year of King Y'hoyakhin's exile, the word of ADONAI came to the cohen Yechezk'el son of Buzi, in the land of the Kasdim by the K'var River; there the hand of ADONAI was on him. I looked and saw a windy storm approaching from the north and a huge cloud with flashing fire, glowing brightly all around with the color of gleaming amber from within the fire. Inside, there appeared to be four living creatures that looked like human beings; but each one had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight, with feet like calves' hoofs. They glittered like burnished bronze. Beneath their wings they had human hands on their four sides. The four of them had faces and wings as follows: they touched one another with their wings; they did not turn when they moved, but each one moved straight forward; as for the appearance of their faces, they had human faces [in front], each of the four had a lion's face on the right, each of the four had a bull's face on the left, and each of the four had an eagle's face [toward the rear] - (Ezekiel 1:1-10)

Every one [of the k'ruvim] had four faces: the first face was the face of a keruv [cherub], the second face was the face of a man, the third the face of a lion and the fourth the face of an eagle.  (Ezekiel 10:14)

From the throne came forth lightnings, voices and thunderings; and before the throne were seven flaming torches, which are the sevenfold Spirit of God. In front of the throne was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living beings covered with eyes in front and behind. The first living being was like a lion, the second living being was like an ox, the third living being had a face that looked human, and the fourth living being was like a flying eagle.  (Revelation 4:5-7)

Just as the prophets observed the visual representation of HaShem having four aspects, each of the four Gospel writers presents a different theological aspect of the Person and work of Yeshua HaMashiach.

  a. Matthew presents Yeshua’s Kingship as the promised Messiah (the Lion of Judah). While Rav Sha'ul was commissioned by Yeshua to be the Emissary to the gentiles, Matthew was commissioned to be an Emissary to the Jews. His letter is specifically directed to Jewish people living in the diaspora to convince them that Yeshua is their King Messiah.

  b. Mark presents Yeshua’s servanthood (cp. Isaiah 53) (the patient, plodding ox or bull). Mark’s letter was specifically written to the Romans, who enjoyed a really good action-adventure story. Thus Mark’s letter is replete with action scenes and written in a very exciting format. In fact, the entire letter was originally written almost as one single sentence. The action of each sentence is dynamically connected to the next.

  c. Luke presents Yeshua’s complete humanity (the face of a man). Dr. Luke was an intellectual's intellectual, a highly-trained scientist, steeped in the “scientific method” of his day. His letter was probably a private letter written to a highly-educated Greek Believer, His Excellency Theophilus [Greek for God-lover], but Ruach HaKodesh has used it mightily as a letter to all Greek-speaking Lovers of God throughout the diaspora.

  d. John’s letter is often referred to as “the Universal Gospel” for all people everywhere, and presents Yeshua in His absolute Deity (the majestic eagle, soaring above His creation).

The Synoptic Gospels

The Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the synoptic Gospels. Synoptic literally means “with the same eyes” — from the same viewpoint or perspective. Many scholars believe that all three writers relied heavily on the same, now unknown, source document. While that may or may not be true, I prefer to believe that Ruach HaKodesh verbally inspired all three men to compose their accounts of Messiah’s life and ministry. So it may very well be that that unknown “source document” was not a document at all, but the Person of Ruach HaKodesh.

… To be continued …

____________

  1. The Greek work euangelion is the word from which English derives evangelist, one who delivers good news. [RETURN]

  2. `Olam hazeh = the world which is; `olam haba = the world to come. [RETURN]

  3. Rabbi Sha'ul of Tarsus, a.k.a the Apostle Paul. [RETURN]

  4. GO HERE for a summary and timeline. [RETURN]

  5. Only since the last quarter of the 20th century have the northern tribes begun to be identified and returned to the renewed independent nation of Israel. Officials in Israel now confirm that the remnant of all 12 tribes have been identified, and many members of each tribe now are living in Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel]. [RETURN]

  6. Empires who have ruled the Lands of Israel and Judah since the fall of Judah to Babylon [SOURCE]

  7. I have searched diligently for years, and I was truly surprised and somewhat disappointed to discover that I cannot find anywhere in the Bible where it is clearly taught that anyone “goes to heaven” when they die. Yes, Yeshua said He was going to prepare a place for His redeemed so they may be with Him. Yes, Yeshua told the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” But Yeshua spoke Hebrew, not Greek, and what He literally told the thief was that he would be in “Gan Eden,” which literally translates from Hebrew as “Garden of Eden.” In Hebrew theology Gan Eden is also known as “Abraham’s Bosom” and refers to that area of Sheol [the Land of the Dead, not “hell” as commonly interpreted] where the righteous dead await their bodily resurrection into `olam haba.  “Gan Eden” is generally translated into English as “Paradise.” (See Luke 16:19-31 for Yeshua’s teaching on this subject.) I don’t know for certain if He was speaking literally or figuratively, but under the circumstances I must assume He was speaking literally. He did not say the thief would be with Him in “heaven.”

Yes, Rav Sha'ul taught that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord,” but he doesn’t say where that is and he doesn’t call that place “heaven.” What Yeshua did clearly teach, however, was that the redeemed could have eternal life in the Kingdom, and He will soon establish that Kingdom here on earth. Having spent the first 55 or so years of my life in the Gentile Church, it has always been my distinct impression that most of the Church teaches that heaven is a purely spiritual realm somewhere “in the sweet bye-and-bye.” If the eternal state — whether called Gan Eden, Paradise, Heaven, or the 'Olam Habah — is a spiritual realm, what is the point of a bodily resurrection? [RETURN]

  8. All the time I was growing up in the Gentile Church I was taught that the letter to the Galatians was a scathing rebuke of those terrible “Judaizers” who were trying to coerce liberated Christians to return to the oppression of “the Law” which, as everyone plainly knows, was “abolished by Jesus and nailed to His cross.” When I spent seven years in Seminary earning a master's degree and two doctorates, that concept was strongly reinforced. It is by far the prevalent concept throughout Christianity. But, it is wrong! When correctly interpreted, the letter to the Galatians is a reprimand directed against those who would force the Goyim (Gentiles) who were coming to follow Messiah to undergo circumcision and formal conversion to Judaism in order to be “saved.” Rav Shaul’s (Paul’s) primary argument is absolutely not that one should reject Torah, but rather only the issue of “circumcision for salvation.” If you have forgotten what Yeshua actually taught about the mitzvot (commandments) of Torah, read Matthew 5:19. [RETURN]

  9.  [RETURN]

 10.  [RETURN]

Revised on Wednesday, 06 January 2016
Revised on Friday, 18 September 2015

Page last updated on Wednesday, 03 August 2016 11:26 AM
(Updates are generally minor formatting or editorial changes.
Major content changes after May 3, 2015 are identified as "Revisions”)