Evolution of the Salvation Doctrine in the Four Gospels
The four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are regarded by Christians as historical accurate accounts of the life of Jesus. But what I'm about to show you will shock you, because there is a serious difference between them that the Church either doesn’t know about or won't tell you about, otherwise its Gospel theology would crumble to dust! What I am going to show you is that the first three Gospels - Matthew, Mark and Luke have a different Jesus and a different Salvation theology than the Gospel of John does. This logically indicates that the Salvation concept we have today, central to Christianity, evolved through mankind after Jesus supposedly left Earth. Therefore, it is a human concept, rather than a divine one, which is very bad news for fundamentalist churches that like to preach about sin, salvation, and redemption.
The first three Gospels Matthew, Mark and Luke are termed the Synoptic Gospels and are regarded by Biblical scholars, both Christian and secular, to be older than John. (The dating of the Gospels is not known, and estimates vary among scholars, with Christian scholars posing earlier estimates than secular scholars, not surprisingly. Secular scholars tend to place the dating of the Gospels after 70 AD though. See Dating of the Synoptics) Mark is regarded as the oldest, followed by Matthew and Luke, then by John. Now the central theology doctrine of Christianity today teaches a salvation by faith through grace, by believing that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and rose from the grave. This doctrine is central and fundamental to the Christian Gospel. However, this form of salvation is NOT taught in Matthew, Mark and Luke, which are the oldest of the Gospels! The basis for the Christian Gospel of salvation by faith and the atonement comes from the book of John, which is the newest of the Gospels! Fascinating isn't it?
In the Gospel of Matthew, there is NOT ONE WORD about having to believe on Jesus in order to go to heaven. In fact, there is not one word about having to "believe" in anything at all to get to heaven! There is no mention of the atonement or of salvation by faith. In fact, Jesus says that all you have to do for God to forgive your sins is this:
"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:" (Matthew )
Later in that Gospel, when someone asked Jesus directly what he had to do to be saved and have eternal life, Matthew clearly records a salvation by works:
Matt. 19:16-21: "And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me."
Jesus in this
said here that you have to believe that he died on the cross for your
God to forgive you! In the same Gospel of Matthew, Jesus also
the famous beatitudes which emphasize that those with good hearts,
and character will inherit the
5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Matthew 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
That's it! He didn't say that you had to believe that Jesus died for your sins in order for you to be forgiven. The verses that say that are in the book of John, which came about 50 years after Matthew.
Now take a look at the book of Mark. He doesn't mention that you have to believe in Jesus to be saved either, except for a verse in the last chapter of Mark: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark ). However, most scholars believe that that verse is an interpolation, or a forgery, since many of the earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark do not contain that verse, and furthermore it does not fit into Mark since the rest of it doesn’t teach a salvation by faith. Therefore, Mark probably never wrote anything about having to believe that Jesus died for you, in a salvation by faith, or the atonement concept. Likewise, the Gospel of Luke is also like Matthew and Mark in that it doesn't mention belief in the atonement or in salvation by faith either! Therefore, it is likely that the original Jesus, if he existed, probably never preached such a doctrine either!
Next comes the Gospel of John, and we have verses that require you to "believe" in Jesus to be saved, such as:
John “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
John “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
John “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
John “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.”
John “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:”
Of course, some Christians will respond by saying that you have to add up all the Gospels together to get the complete story. However, the key point here is that if Jesus actually said that you had to believe in him in order to be saved, then Matthew, Mark and Luke would have at least mentioned something about that somewhere! If it was central to Jesus' teachings that you need salvation by faith, then why didn't they mention it at all in the first three Gospels? The logical reason is that they never heard of nor supported that idea, because it didn’t evolve until later when the early Christians decided to add that doctrine, as in the Gospel of John. So we can logically conclude that if Matthew, Mark and Luke were with Jesus when he was on earth (assuming they are even eyewitnesses which isn’t even claimed), then Christ probably never said anything about faith, belief, or the atonement either!
Since the atonement and salvation by faith concept isn’t taught until the Gospel of John, therefore it is logical to conclude the following. About 50 years after the first three Gospels, the Church decided that a Gospel based on simple good works and kindness was not enough. They needed more power over people. And they needed a way for people to feel totally powerless in their own works so that they could be completely dependent on the church and its salvation sacraments. They needed the belief from their followers that they alone were the only way and religion. So they added the salvation by atonement doctrine to Christianity, in order to justify the church’s sacraments that were required for the salvation of souls, which in turn gave them power over people. That's why the newest Gospel, John came into play. The Gospel of John was a result of the developing theology of the Church at that time. That book is where the verses about salvation by faith, being "born again", the atonement, and having to believe that Jesus died for your sins came from. On many pages in it, you will find Jesus saying something about having to believe in him. When Christian cite Gospel verses about being saved, they always refer to John. (No wonder many Christians say the book of John is their favorite book.) Just take a look at a Christian pamphlet or tract, and you'll see that the verses they mention about faith and believing on Jesus are from the book of John, such as John 3:16 and John 14:6. When they quote Jesus, they usually refer to this book. Yet this book did not come for at least 50 years after the first three Gospels. Therefore, logically whatever Jesus actually said would have been recorded more accurately in the earlier Gospels, which emphasize good works and charity instead.
From this it is apparent as to how the Salvation theology evolved in the Church while the New Testament books and letters were still being written. Another fact that indicates this as well is that according to Mark, Christ was a man. But according to Matthew and Luke, he was a demigod, while John insists that he was God himself. That also shows an evolution of the concept of Jesus from a man gradually to a deity status. This is common with religious founders throughout history, because no matter what they claim themselves, their followers eventually try to deify them and make them into a God to worship.
Of course, Christians also quote verses to support their Salvation by atonement theology from the epistles of Paul too. However, man Paul never even met Jesus Christ (at least not physically)! He never wrote anything about what Jesus did either. And since he was not with the historical Christ, he obviously doesn't know nor is he qualified to tell us what the historical Christ had taught when he was on earth. In fact, there are many discrepancies between Paul’s idea of Salvation and Jesus’. For examples and details of this, see Paul vs. Jesus by David D. Danizier.
There you have it, THREE Gospels of good works being enough to satisfy God, versus ONE Gospel of faith and atonement. Three against one! Again the central doctrine of the Evangelical Christian Gospel loses by the numbers (as the doctrine of infallibility did in Argument # 1). Case closed.
This is in fact good news for people, because it means that Jesus probably never preached that you had to believe that he died for you to be saved, which means that billions of people now and throughout history who didn’t convert to the Christian Gospel won’t spend eternity in hell after all, like Evangelicals warn. Therefore, for those worried about either themselves or their unsaved loved ones, this takes a huge burden off their shoulder. Now they can rejoice, celebrate, and yell “Hallelujah!” (See also Evolution of heaven and hell in the Bible from Zoroastrianism – Good news for the fearful)
For more on this subject, see What Must We Do To Be Saved by Robert Ingersoll, on Infidels.org. Ingersoll’s mock dialogue with a minister, The Talmagian Catechism on Infidels.org, also addresses this issue as well (see below). Also see Salvation by Dennis McKinsey, which lists contradictions in regard to obtaining salvation.
Here is a revealing excerpt from Ingersoll’s mock dialogue The Talmagian Catechism that addresses these discrepancies.
QUESTION. How is it that Matthew says nothing about "salvation
by faith," but simply says that God will be merciful to the
merciful, that he will forgive the forgiving, and says not one word
about the necessity of believing anything?
ANSWER. But you will remember that Mark says, in the last
chapter of his gospel, that "whoso believeth not shall be damned."
QUESTION. Do you admit that Matthew says nothing on the
ANSWER. yes, I suppose I must.
QUESTION. Is not that passage in Mark generally admitted to be
ANSWER. Some biblical scholars say that it is.
QUESTION. Is that portion of the last chapter of Mark found in
the Syriac version of the Bible?
ANSWER. It is not.
QUESTION. If it was necessary to believe on Jesus Christ, in
order to be saved, how is it that Matthew failed to say so?
ANSWER. "There are more copies of the Bible printed to-day,
than of any other book in the world, and it is printed in more
languages than any other book."
QUESTION. Do you consider it necessary to be "regenerated" --
to be "born again" -- in order to be saved?
QUESTION. Did Matthew say anything on the subject of
QUESTION. Did Mark?
QUESTION. Did Luke?
QUESTION. Is Saint John the only one who speaks of the
necessity of being "born again"?
ANSWER. He is.
QUESTION. Do you think that Matthew, Mark and Luke knew
anything about the necessity of "regeneration"?
ANSWER. Of course they did.
QUESTION. Why did they fail to speak of it?
ANSWER. There is no civilization without the Bible. The moment
you throw away the sacred Scriptures, you are all at sea -- you are
without an anchor and without a compass.
QUESTION. You will remember that, according to Mark, Christ
said to his disciples: "Go ye into all the world. and preach the
gospel to every creature." Did he refer to the gospel set forth by
ANSWER. Of course he did.
QUESTION. Well, in the gospel set forth by Mark, there is not
a word about "regeneration," and no word about the necessity of
believing anything -- except in an interpolated passage. Would it
not seem from this, that "regeneration" and a "belief in the Lord
Jesus Christ," are no part of the gospel?
ANSWER. Nothing can exceed in horror the last moments of the
infidel; nothing can he more terrible than the death of the
doubter. When the glories of this world fade from the vision; when
ambition becomes an empty name; when wealth turns to dust in the
palsied hand of death, of what use is philosophy then? Who cares
then for the pride of intellect? In that dread moment, man needs
something to rely on, whether it is true or not.
QUESTION. Would it not have been more convincing if Christ,
after his resurrection, had shown himself to his enemies as well as
to his friends? Would it not have greatly strengthened the evidence
in the case, if he had visited Pilate; had presented himself before
Caiaphas, the high priest; if he had again entered the temple, and
again walked the streets of Jerusalem?
ANSWER. If the evidence had been complete and overwhelming,
there would have been no praiseworthiness in belief; even publicans
and sinners would have believed, if the evidence had been
sufficient. The amount of evidence required is the test of the true
QUESTION. Would it not also have been better had the ascension
taken place in the presence of unbelieving thousands; it seems such
a pity to have wasted such a demonstration upon those already
ANSWER. These questions are the natural fruit of the carnal
mind, and can be accounted for only by the doctrine of total
depravity. Nothing has given the church more trouble than just such
questions. Unholy curiosity, a disposition to pry into the divine
mysteries, a desire to know, to investigate, to explain -- in
short, to understand, are all evidences of a reprobate mind.