Third Friday of Denha: The Four Evangelists

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Today the Church commemorates the Four Evangelists. It is because of them that we possess the accounts of the Good News proclaimed by Jesus. According to the Nazrani tradition the Good News or Gospel attributed to each Evangelist is proclamation (Karozutha) by that Evangelist rather than writing by him. Modern Biblical scholars are thinking on this line. The Gospel brought to the world by Jesus Christ is one. What the Evangelists did was to give expression to the Gospel in four ways having in view the religious and cultural background of their listeners. Thus we see that St. Matthew had in his view those who were converted to Christianity from the Jewish religion. Therefore he stresses the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies regarding the future Redeemer in the case of Jesus Christ. Hence he presents many Old Testament quotations to assert their fulfilment. The Apostolic Fathers St. Papias and St. Irenaeus state that St. Matthew wrote the Gospel in Aramaic. Some say that what St. Matthew did was to record a collection of the sayings of Jesus in Aramaic. Whatever be it, many Biblical scholars say that such an Aramaic writing was lost in the early centuries and that somebody else substituted it by writing a Gospel account in Greek incorporating the ideas and outlook of Matthew as well as drawing from other sources. But there is a possibility that the Old Syriac Version of the New Testament contained this Gospel in an enhanced form of the original Aramaic and that the present Peshitta Version is a re-writing of it. The many Aramaisms in this account may be pointed out as a proof for this opinion. It is interesting to mention here the tradition that the Alexandrian scholar Panthaenus who visited India in 190 A.D. found the Gospel according to St. Matthew in Aramaic with the Syriac Christian Community of India. What happened to this text later is not known. With regard to the other three Gospel accounts, all agree that they were originally written in Greek in order to get wider readership outside Palestine where Aramaic was the spoken language which later developed into classical East Syriac language. By this time Greek had become the lingua franca of the Middle East as well as of Europe.

 

 

St. Mark was the secretary to St. Peter, the head of the Apostles, and the Gospel he recorded was according to the preaching of St. Peter. As St. Peter had established his seat in Rome, the Romans with their pagan religion and culture were in his view when he preached the Gospel. It is the briefest of the Gospel accounts and contains explanation of Jewish practices since the listeners were non-Jews.

 

St Luke was of Greek origin and was not a Jew. He was a physician by profession. As he was not associated with Jesus during His life-time, Luke, who embraced Christianity, took utmost care to present the Gospel to all the Greek speaking people in an elegant language and in a systematic way. It is believed that he contacted people and centres connected with the birth, growth and public ministry of Jesus. He addresses a certain Theophilus, a high-ranking person, at the beginning of the account and says that he writes an orderly account for him so that he may know the full truth of everything about the Christian Faith. St. Luke presents Jesus as the Saviour of Israel as well as of the whole world. The beginning and end of the Gospel are mentioning Jerusalem as the focal point. The beginning is depicted as the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist, the fore-runner of Jesus. At the end Jesus takes the disciples to Bethany near Jerusalem and ascends into heaven. Before ascending, He instructs the disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit .We know that after receiving the power of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost they went into the wider world to spread the Gospel.


According to St. John, the disciple of Jesus as well as Evangelist, Jesus is eternal and the promised Messiah, the Son of God, through whom everybody has to be saved. St. John is different in many aspects from the previous three accounts which are called Synoptic Gospels because of their general similarity although they have got their own particular points of divergence. St. John mainly deals with events which are not mentioned in the other accounts, although the Passion Narratives are common to all. The dialogues in this account are calculated to reveal some important truths at their end. St. John’s account of the Gospel begins with a hymn-like description of Jesus as theWord (Logos) pre-existing with God the Father from eternity. The same Word was made flesh and dwelt among us and after having wrought our Redemption ascended into heaven. The aim of the Gospel is to make men believe this fact and attain their salvation.

 

Today the church is fortunate to possess these four accounts of the Gospel by the Evangelists. They are gratefully remembered today as their recording is the written form of Jesus’ Denha, the manifestation.


Coming to today’s Bible readings, we come first to 1 Kings 18:30-39. It depicts the scene at Mount Carmel where the prophets of Baal fail and Elijah becomes successful in the offering of sacrifices. Baal’s prophets offer a sacrifice but their god does not answer from heaven. But Elijah’s sacrifice is consumed by fire from heaven showing that his sacrifice is acceptable to the true and only God whom Israel had to worship. This shows that our prayers and sacrifices are acceptable to God if we are sincere and remain in moral rectitude, a Divine Denha in the OT.

 

The second reading is from the Acts of the Apostles 5:12-32. At first it is said that the Apostles worked many miracles to help the people so much so that they brought sick people to the roadside and laid them there so that at least the shadow of Peter might fall on them when he came by. Seeing that the followers of Jesus increased, the Jewish religious authorities arrested the Apostles and put them in prison. But by night an Angel of the Lord brought them out of the prison. The next day they began to preach in the Jerusalem Temple from where they were arrested and brought before the Jewish Council. When they were commanded not to preach in the name of Jesus, they boldly stated before the Council: We must obey God rather than men. Here we should remember that the Four Evangelists, whom we commemorate today, are empowering us to do God’s will. Again a remarkable Denha of Jesus’ Power!

 

The third reading is from St. Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians – 1Cor. 4:9-16. This depicts the hardships of the Apostles in preaching the Word of God and in making a living. At the same time, St. Paul expresses his happiness for having given the Corinthian Christians a new life in this new Faith, a witnessing to the Person of Jesus.

 

The Gospel reading prescribed for today is Mt. 9:35-10:15. Here at first we see Jesus going about preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God and healing the sick. He tells the disciples: The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. After this He is sending His twelve disciples to different places to preach the Good News and to heal the sick. We should know that this ministry is continued today through the Church. The four Evangelists have recorded the instructions of Christ to the believers to continue the ministry of announcing the Good News. This is being done through the Church. Let us be faithful to this duty as Christians and bear witness to Jesus’ Denha in all possible ways.

 

Credits: Father Thomas Kalayil, CMI <thomas 'dot' kalayil 'at' cmi 'dot' in>

 

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