The Preaching that Preceded the Writing
i) Long before the Evangelists became writers, they were preachers
ii) The Master’s last command was that they should preach the Gospel (Mark 16:15)
iii) Mark relates that they went forth and preached everywhere while the Lord worked with them confirming the message with signs (Mark 16:20)
iv) It is not difficult to discover the kind of preaching the people heard. Primarily, the apostles were witnesses of the resurrection (Acts 1:21-22; 4:33)
v) The apostles felt constrained to choose a successor for Judas – someone who was with Jesus from the baptism of john until Jesus’ ascension
vi) Therefore, the preaching included first hand accounts of the public ministry of Jesus
We have two examples of detailed preaching in Acts 10:34-43 – Peter preaching in Cornelius’ house and Acts 13:23-31 – Paul’s preaching
i) In the course of preaching, the Gospel became crystallised (formed) into a well defined and commonly received manner
ii) John Explains that many of Jesus’ words were omitted JHohn 20:30 but the main facts of our Lord’s life, death, miracles and parables, were moulded into a traditional form in the daily instructions given by the apostolic teachers.
There would therefore arise a hard core of tradition assocated with catechetical teachings; and also a more loose tradition consisting of those personal apostolic memories which found their way into popular preaching
At this point it is necessary for us to remember the first use and meaning of the word ‘gospel’.
i) It means ‘glad tidings’ and in early times it was confined to the message of salvation which was proclaimed by our Lord and the apostles.
ii) The earliest use of the term was for the substance of the life of Christ, not for the record of it.
iii) What Christ was and did, or rather what Christ is and does, is the Gospel
iv) When Mark opens his record with the words ‘The Beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, he is not referring to the beginning of his book, but to the beginning of the events themselves.
v) In this way, the Gospel was on the lips of every believer and known in every church long before any authoritative written account appeared. Irenaeus speaks of it as a tradition manifested in the whole world and kept in several churches through the succession of the presbyters (Against Heresies, 111 quoted by Wescott, Introduction to the Study of the Gospels p173)
THE WRITING OF THE RECORDS
Leaving aside the attempts to which Luke refers, of many who had undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us and confining ourselves to the records which we posses, we may enquire whether there is any evidence for a direct connection between the well established oral tradition and the records that have come down to us.
We have already observed that the general shaped of the written account bears close similarity to what we have gleaned (gathered) of the preaching of the apostles.
i) apart from introductory matters in Matthew and Luke, their main story proceeds from our Lord’s baptism by John to His resurrection and ascension. It is clear, too, that the emphasis is the same.
ii) The central fact of the preaching was the cross and the resurrection. This is precisely the case with the records, and any casual reader can observe the proportionately overwhelming amount of space which is given to the events of the Passion.
We are not dependent, however, on this internal evidence alone. There is also plain external evidence which justifies our linking the written Gospels with the earlier oral traditions.