Literature / The Four Gospels

"'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Jesus, Matthew 22:37-40

The first four books of the New Testament, chronicling the life of one Jesus of Nazareth. Their name means "Good News"; the idea behind the Gospels is that they exist as "good news" to be spread by Christians to the world. As a result, each of the four has a slightly different tone and target.

  • Matthew - Compares Old Testament scripture with Jesus’ deeds, to appeal to Jews.
  • Mark - Estimated to be the oldest Gospel, written for the Romans, and portrays Jesus as a miracle worker.
  • Luke - Written for Gentiles, and emphasizes Jesus as a Nice Guy who preached kindness and charity. Has the most in-depth look into his origin story and contains the most parables.
  • John - The most introspective Gospel, written for Christians. The film called The Gospel of John recreates the account word-for-word from the Good News Translation.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the "Synoptic Gospels" (from Greek syn=together, opsis=seeing) because they tell largely the same story. It's generally accepted in modern Biblical scholarship that Mark was written first, and that Matthew and Lukenote  copied off of Mark and got their info from other sources that no longer exists (called "Q", from German "Quelle", meaning "Source") containing Jesus' sayings and parables. They were also relying on oral traditions as well.

John is substantially different from the other three, and may have been included in the canon primarily because of its depth of theology despite the fact that it contradicts the Synoptics on the details of Jesus' life at certain points. Again, we must emphasize: the Gospels are supposed to be "good news", not "modern historiography"; the contradictions aren't meaningful in the face of the overall message.

For the many, many works based off of the Gospels and the Jesus story, see the Useful Note page, Jesus, and the trope Passion Play.

There exists also a non-canonic Gospel of Thomas, which is not a Gospel in the same sense as the four canonized gospels, but rather a collection of Jesus's sayings (logoms). Most researchers today assume it is genuine, but not part of New Testament canon because it contains only Jesus's words, not narration.

Tropes found in the Gospels:

  • Actually, I Am Him: Jesus did this from time to time. One example comes from John chapter 9, after curing a man of his blindness:
    Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
    “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
    Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
    Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and worshiped him.
  • Alternate Ending: In the earliest manuscripts of Mark's gospel, the story ends abruptly after the women discover Jesus' empty tomb, "and they were greatly afraid." Later versions, found in most Bibles today, expand the story with more details about His post-resurrection appearances. Compare them here.
  • Always with You: The last words of the Gospel of Mathew is the Trope Maker:
    Jesus:"Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."
  • An Aesop: The point of most of Jesus' parables.
  • An Arm and a Leg/Eye Scream:
    • How Jesus (satirically) suggests people should deal with sin, from Matthew 5:29,30:
    If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
    • Mark 9:45,46 adds this:
    And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched; where 'Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.'
  • Ancient Rome: Judea (now part of modern-day Israel) was a Roman province during the time of Jesus.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: C. S. Lewis argued the story of Thomas doubting Jesus had risen was this. When Jesus told him "You have believed because you have seen. Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed." this was not, in Lewis's view, endorsing a blind faith. Rather, because Thomas had already seen Jesus perform many miracles (including another resurrection) and heard him predict his own, refusal to believe without seeing him was unreasonable. For someone else, Lewis agreed it would be reasonable wanting to see Jesus personally before they believed.
  • As the Good Book Says:
    • Jesus quotes the traditional interpretation of the Old Testament quite a few times to make a point and contrast his new Christian ethics against the old Jewish ones.
    • Jesus and the Devil tossed references to scripture back and forth in the desert after Jesus's baptism.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The Gospels of Mark and Luke end with Jesus ascending to Heaven.
  • Author Appeal:
    • Luke, who was a doctor, notes several medical details in his accounts that the other authors glossed over, such as that the girl who Jesus brought back from the dead died of a high fever, or that Christ was sweating blood at Gethsemane.
    • Ex-tax collector Matthew focuses on money. Example: He was the only one to say how much Judas was paid for his betrayal.
  • Away in a Manger: Luke is the Trope Maker.
  • Back from the Dead: Famously, Lazarus—and Jesus. Other examples include a girl in Mark 5.
  • Badass Pacifist: The only time Jesus gets violent is when the Merchants are defiling the temple, and he doesn't even directly attack them, just does the most epic series of flipping the tables ever. Otherwise, he acts as a benign mentor. He also deliberately avoids using his Godly powers in any context besides making a point to his disciples, to set an example that you can follow his teachings, even if you don't have his abilities.
  • Berserk Button: When some people decided to turn God's temple into a marketplace (twice), Jesus was not amused.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: For an Incorruptible Pure Pureness who preaches love, kindness, and forgiveness, this wasn't the case when Jesus finds the merchants making His father's house into a den of robbers instead of a house of prayer. There's also His warnings about eternal damnation in Hell if people don't repent.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Jesus is gone from the earthly realm but the apostles vow to spread his message to the rest of the world.
  • Big Bad Friend: According to popular legend, Judas was Jesus' best friend.
  • Bigger Than Jesus: Ironically enough, Jesus himself invokes this trope, mentioning that he's "greater than Solomon" and "greater than Jonah" in a third-person kind of way.
  • Bookends: In the Gospel of Mark, when Jesus is baptized, the heavens split in half and God announces that Jesus is His son. At the crucifixion, a curtain depicting the heavens in the temple tears in half and exposes the Ark of the Covenant (figuratively God's presence).
  • Break the Haughty: The prodigal son.
  • Celibate Hero: Jesus, and possibly others we forget. Some people think that Jesus was married, but that His wife was not mentioned in the Bible (there are also a lot of speculations about why this is). Other people see this idea as heresy. Also, throughout New Testament Scripture, Jesus is spoken of as being the Bridegroom waiting to be united with His bride, which most if not all Christians interpret as being the church.
  • Child Prodigy: Jesus is depicting discussing the Torah with much older and better learned men to their astonishment when he's only a preteen.
  • Churchgoing Villain: Jesus frequently lambasted people (especially the Pharisees, who He believed should have known better) for acting religious while oppressing others.
  • Consummate Liar: Satan, as explained by Jesus in John 8:44.
    You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.
  • Contemplate Our Navels: John.
  • Corrupt Church: The Pharisees (the forerunners of rabbinical Judaism) don't get the most flattering depiction, since they were the chief philosophical opponents of Jesus.
  • Deal with the Devil: Satan tempts Jesus by offering him all the kingdoms of the world in exchange for just a little worship. Of course, Jesus didn't bite the bait.
  • Death Equals Redemption: One of the two other criminals Jesus is crucified along with asks for forgiveness before he dies, and Jesus grants it to him. (The other one, though, is Defiant to the End.)
  • Decapitation Presentation: John the Baptist's head is put on a platter and delivered to Herod's wife.
  • Deceptive Disciple: Judas Iscariot.
  • Demonic Possession: Jesus encounters several possessed people and successfully exorcises the demons every time. This occurs frequently enough that it's lumped together with all the other diseases and mental disorders Jesus cures. One notable example: the truly unfortunate man possessed by one thousand demons that called themselves "Legion". Jesus, being well, Jesus, cured the man and spared the demons when they begged for mercy, who he then let flee into a herd of pigs. Which then ran off a cliff in terror.
  • Depending on the Writer: Jesus' character tends to vary quite a bit depending on who's describing him. The Jesus of Matthew and Mark is notably more short-tempered; the Jesus of John more mystical.
  • Disease By Any Other Name: Some commentators have speculated that cases of demonic possession dealt with by Jesus show symptoms we would recognize today as epilepsy or mental disorders.
  • Driven to Suicide: Judas Iscariot, after feeling so remorseful of betraying the Messiah that he returned the money he was given for it to the high priests.
  • The Dutiful Son
    • First appeared as the counterpart to the title character in Jesus' parable of the Prodigal Son. Jesus makes the point that he's not really morally superior to his wayward brother because his dutifulness is not out of love for his father.
    • Jesus also told a parable about a father who told his two sons to work in his vineyard. The first one said no, but later went and worked, while the second one said yes, but didn't go. Jesus asked his listeners which son did his father's will, and the answer was the first son, of course.
  • Easy Evangelism: Deconstructed by Jesus himself in the Parable of the Sower. Some people just won't hear the message, while others accept the word with joy right away, but then give up just as quickly as soon as the going gets tough. Real faith requires depth and time to grow.
  • Empathic Environment: When Jesus is crucified, the sky turns dark (even though it's three in the afternoon), the curtain in the Temple (before the Holy of Holies) is torn apart and the dead rise again and start walking around. See Total Eclipse of the Plot.
  • Enemies Equals Greatness: Some verses such as Matthew 5:11-12 and John 15:18-20 deal with this as far as following Jesus is concerned. The former assures that being hated and persecuted for the sake of following God's righteousness leads to great rewards, whereas the latter assures that it's better to have human enemies than to be God's enemy.
  • Evil Gloating: The Romans mock Jesus heavily while torturing him before finally killing him, asking him if he's really the King of the Jews. They even put up a sign above his head on the cross reading Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews). note 
  • Exact Words: Pilate insisted the sign on Jesus' cross should read "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." When the Pharisees asked him to make it say "This man said he is the king of the Jews," Pilate retorted, "What I have written, I have written."
  • Expensive Glass of Crap: Referenced in the story of the wedding at Cana. It was customary to bring out lower-quality wine after the guests were tipsy, but when Jesus turned water into wine, he turned it into the good stuff and people could tell the difference.
  • Faith–Heel Turn: There were a group of disciples in John chapter 6 who decided to turn away from Jesus after hearing the rather hard-to-hear speech about "eating the flesh" and "drinking the blood" of the Son Of Man.
  • Famous Last Words: Even these are in "Rashomon"-Style: all of the Gospels have Jesus saying different things on the cross. (It's possible he said all of them, just at different times, or maybe it's just artistic license.) These are actually traditionally sermonized as the "Seven Last Sayings of Christ", usually during Holy Friday.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Hell. When the collective of demons who self-identify as Legion are about to be exorcised, they break down and beg Jesus to send them anywhere but Hell.
  • Faux Empowering Entity: Satan arguably fills this role as he's tempting Jesus with empty/meaningless promises in the desert.
  • First Law of Resurrection: Jesus returns three earthly episodes after his demise.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Not quite atheists per se, but some people denied Jesus' divinity even immediately after watching Him perform real-life miracles.
  • Flipping the Table: Jesus does this with the moneychangers in the Temple.
  • Food End: Jesus and the Disciples have breakfast in the last chapter of the Gospel of John.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The gospel writers have a tendency to introduce Judas Iscariot as "the one who would betray Him." Jesus also prophesies His death and resurrection on multiple occasions.
  • Forgiveness: A major concept in Jesus' teachings. Also part of his own Dying Moment of Awesome, when he prayed "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do."
  • Friendship Denial: Peter does this to Jesus three times. Then the rooster crows, Jesus looks at him, and Peter becomes remorseful.
  • Friend to All Children: Jesus. He got quite annoyed with His disciples when they tried to stop children from "bothering" Him, explaining that little children had exemplary faith in the Kingdom of Heaven.
  • Get Out
    • The message given to Jesus by the people in the region where He commanded demons that were tormenting a man to enter a herd of swine, after they found out what had happened.
    • Some Pharisees in Luke 13:31 warned Jesus to get out because King Herod wanted to kill Him.
  • Giving Them the Strip: Mark 14:51-52 tells of a young man who witnessed the arrest of Christ. They grabbed him, but they only caught his garment and he fled naked. Some theorize that the young man was Mark himself (because he's the only one who mentions the incident in his gospel).
  • Go and Sin No More: Another Trope Namer, from Jesus' response to a woman caught in adultery (John 8).
  • God is Good: He'll forgive you if you repent.
  • A God Am I: Jesus claiming divinity by saying "before Abraham was, I AM."
  • God Test
    • Satan tries to invoke this by suggesting Jesus prove he was the son of God by turning stones into bread. Jesus refused, saying "It is written; Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from Godʼs mouth." Not to be put off, Satan told him to jump from the roof of the temple, saying "If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone." Jesus refuses again, saying "Again it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.'"
    • King Herod (Antipas) tested Jesus on the day of His crucifixion to see if He would do all the miraculous things he had heard about. Jesus did nothing.
    • When Jesus is on the cross the authorities challenge him, "If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross."
    • Played straight by Jesus and Thomas. When Thomas hears of the resurrection, he refuses to believe the story, thinking it incredible. It is not until Jesus shows Thomas his crucifixion wounds that Thomas believes. Jesus then says that it would have been better for Thomas to have believed without seeing his wounds.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Jesus says "I come not to bring peace but a sword." (Though considering the pacifistic inclination of Jesus' other teachings, many Christians interpret this as a metaphorical sword.)
  • Good Is Not Soft: Jesus, although this is mainly aimed at Satan, the Pharisees, and the merchants who defiled the temple.
  • Good Shepherd: Jesus, of course, claims this title for Himself.
  • Gratuitous Aramaic: The New Testament was largely written Koine Greek, except for the occasional Aramaic phrase (translated into Greek for convenience). The most famous of these is Jesus' cry from the cross:
    "Eloi eloi lama sabachthani - [My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?]"
  • Healing Hands: Jesus spent a great deal of time healing sick people.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: After betraying Jesus and regretting it, Judas tried to get the Sanhedrin to reverse the transaction, but they would have none of it. He was Driven to Suicide as a result.
  • Heel–Face Turn / Heel–Faith Turn: Many examples of people who repent and decide to follow Christ.
  • The Hero Dies: Warning: it's Jesus.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The point of Jesus's death.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Jesus.
  • Holier Than Thou: Jesus thoroughly berated the religious leaders of his time for being like this. Needless to say, they didn't take it well.
  • Hope Spot: Pilate tries to have Jesus released, but the mob insists on his crucifixion. Although Pilate was a jerk, depending on who you talk to. In other branches, he's a saint. Literally.
  • Hypocrite: A kind of person Jesus really dislikes, especially religious hypocrites.
  • I Am the Noun: Jesus uses this statement repeatedly throughout the gospel of John. "I am the resurrection and the life," "I am the true vine," "I am the bread from heaven," "I am the way, and the truth, and the life..."
  • I Kiss Your Foot: The sinful woman in the gospel of Luke, who pays a visit to Jesus during a supper he has with a Pharisee, cries tears on His feet, wipes them clean with her hair, kisses the feet, and anoints them with oil. Jesus Himself goes to the trouble of washing His disciples' feet in the gospel of John, showing the example of humility that they must follow.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Jesus tells His followers in John chapter 6 that unless they "eat His flesh" and "drink His blood", they will have no life in Him. This was assumed to mean some form of cannibalism among the Jews, which caused many to walk away from Him. Catholic interpretations take this to mean transubstantiation, which is what was assumed to take place at the Last Supper when Jesus blessed the bread and the wine, saying "This is My body" and "This is the cup of the new covenant in My blood."
  • Implausible Deniability: After Jesus' Resurrection, the Jewish leaders bribed the guards to say they were asleep and the disciples stole His body. However, this alibi leaves the little questions of why they were asleep at their post, and how they knew exactly what was going on while they were asleep!
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Jesus is not only the son of God, but the only man who has never sinned a single time in his life. It is important to notice that while he never sinned, theologians and religious folk will point out that he faced every temptation known to man, but rejected all of them without using his godly powers, in order to set an example for mankind.
  • Insignia Ripoff Ritual: The "rip up the check" variation appears here, with Judas Iscariot throwing the 30 pieces of silver he was paid to betray Jesus back at the feet of the high priests before hanging himself in shame.
  • Intimidating Revenue Service: Whenever Jesus needs an example of a profession that everyone will instantly recognize as corrupt and sinful, he mentions... Prostitutes? Pharisees? Torturers?... Tax collectors. Justified, since in Ancient Rome tax collectors were pretty universally reviled for extorting money from their countrymen while being on the take.note  Also averted, in that some tax collectors such as Matthew and Zacchaeus are shown to be redeemed.
  • Jacob Marley Warning: Invoked in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. After his death, the Rich Man in hell asks Abraham to send Lazarus back with warning to his surviving brothers so they can repent and avoid his fate. Abraham subverts the trope, however, explaining that if they didn't believe Moses and the prophets, they wouldn't believe a ghostly messenger either.
  • Jesus: The Early Years: Except for His birth and a brief (but important) story that takes place when He was twelve, the Gospels are pretty much silent on this; we just get a Time Skip to His early thirties when He took up the preaching gig. Speculation abounds. The most likely but boring explanation is that He just spent His time working for His dad's carpentry business, which wasn't exciting enough to write about.
  • Jesus Was Crazy
    • In one of the gospels, Jesus' mother and His brothers tried to intervene on His behalf for they were hearing that "He is beside Himself." And frequently, His hearers say things like "He has a demon", an idiomatic way of saying "He's crazy" (since demonic possession was believed to cause insanity).
    • And as Jesus notes, they said similar things about His immediate predecessor:
      For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ note 
  • Jesus Was Way Cool:
    • In terms of how the Gospels themselves portray him, Played Straight. He survived an attempted stoning, and when he found out about the moneychangers' tables in the temple he sat down for a good hour and braided himself a whip which he then used to chase them out. He apparently kept it with him after that because he broke it out again later to do the exact same thing. He told a storm to shut the hell up because he was trying to sleep and it listened, brought multiple people back from the dead simply by asking then nicely (and sometimes not so nicely), cured a blind man with spit and dirt, and his mere presence was enough to cast out demons and cure mental illnesses. Not to mention the fact that most victims of crucifixion are tied to the cross, Jesus was nailed.
    • In terms of how cool people thought He was, Zig-Zagged, perhaps on account of being an Unbuilt Trope. There are many moments when people regard Jesus as totally awesome, but just as many moments when He's abandoned, misunderstood, hated, and finally executed— sometimes by the very same people who thought He was so cool a few chapters before.
  • Jews Love to Argue: A large part of the action involves Jesus arguing with the Pharisees, or with His own disciples, about the right interpretation of the Laws of Moses. (Note that Jesus Himself was Jewish too, of course.)
  • Jumped at the Call: This happened with most of the apostles, because any Jewish person would've jumped at the chance of being a disciple to a rabbi. Jesus would simply say "Follow me," and they would drop everything they were doing and follow Him. Only the Gospel of Luke among the Synoptics has Peter hesitate to follow the call because he is a "sinful man". In the Gospels of Mark and Matthew he just follows without comment.
  • Kangaroo Court: The Sandhedrin (high court of ancient Judea) that tries Jesus. Not only do the judges violate every single Jewish law governing trials, but they put on clearly perjured witnesses to convict him. The conduct of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who approves his death sentence (the Romans required it) also counts here, as even he acknowledges that no Roman (or Jewish) laws were broken by Jesus. Roman magistrates had the power to have non-Romans crucified at will, however, making the whole Roman "justice" system essentially this for them. Even trials of Roman citizens often went this way, as the magistrate was free to admit or ignore any evidence they pleased. Later on Paul, a Roman citizen, was given a trial, but the outcome was never in doubt. The only real privilege they had was that citizens could not be crucified. Thus in Acts Paul is beheaded, while Peter gets crucified (upside down, as he doesn't want it to resemble Jesus' death).
  • Kneel Before Zod: The Devil tries to tempt Jesus into doing this, but he refuses and tells him off.
  • Love Redeems: Very, very much the theme of Jesus' teachings, as exemplified in John 3:16:
    "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
  • Manly Tears: "Jesus wept."
  • Many Spirits Inside of One:
    • Jesus exorcises a demon-possessed man who identifies himself as "Legion, because we are many." If taken at face value that would indicate about a thousand demons. The demons are cast into a herd of swine, which they destroy.
    • Mary Magdalene, in one of the few definite statements about her in Scripture, is said to have have had seven demons cast out of her.
  • Meaningful Name: Jesus' Hebrew name, Yeshua, means "He saves". ("Jesus" is the Latin version)
    • A direct translation from Hebrew to Modern English would be "Joshua". We get "Jesus" through the Greek translation of the hebrew to Iesous (prounounced roughly "yayzous"), through the greek to Latin "Iesus", finally to the English "Jesus" after English writers started converting Random I's to the newfangled J's.
  • Meaningful Rename: Jesus gives Simon the new name "Peter", which means "rock", because of his declaration that Jesus is the Messiah who will be the rock on which Jesus will build His church. (Which makes sense since God is constantly referred to by the Jews as "the Rock.") Or Peter himself as the rock, according to Catholic interpretations.
  • Meekness Is Weakness: Jesus preached that the meek are blessed and said "I am meek and humble of heart." However, the "weakness" part is pretty thoroughly defied by Jesus' Badass Pacifist tendencies.
  • Messianic Archetype: At least the Trope Codifier if not the Trope Maker.
  • Mistaken for Cheating:
    • Joseph not unnaturally assumes that Mary's virgin pregnancy is the result of her sleeping with another man, until the Archangel Gabriel appears to him in a dream and assures him that she is telling the truth.
    • Reading between the lines, Jesus' "uncertain" (to the rest of the world) parentage seems to be a matter of gossip well into his adulthood—when he goes to his hometown claiming to be The Chosen One, his old neighbors (depending on the gospel) refer to him as "Mary's son" but not Joseph's; the Pharisees once sneer that at least they know who their father is.
  • Moral Event Horizon: In-universe. Matthew 12:31-32, Mark 3:29, and Luke 12:10 mentions the "unforgivable sin" of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
  • Musical Episode - Luke is chock full of moments where people just burst into song.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg:
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
  • Narrator All Along: "John" is written in a third-person omniscient voice, but at the end, the author confirms that the unnamed "disciple whom Jesus loved" was in fact John himself.
  • Never Accepted in His Hometown:
    • In Matthew, Jesus goes back to Nazareth, where he grew up. His frigid reception causes him to Lampshade this trope. But Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor." Things don't go so well, because, honestly, how seriously would you take your old neighbor if he suddenly showed up after years of living out of town, going on about how he's the son of God and the new age is at hand?
    • In the gospel of Luke, Jesus says this after He stands up in the synagogue in Nazareth to read Isaiah 61:1,2 (stopping short of adding "and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn") and then declares “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Herod!: Matthew's account of Herod's attempted murder of the infant Messiah is the Trope Maker.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: John's gospel says that Satan entered into Judas to make him betray Jesus, leading to Jesus' death— which directly brought about the forgiveness of sins, the Resurrection, and the founding of the Christian faith.
  • No Ending: The Gospel According to Mark has Mary Madgalene, Mary, Mother of Jesus and the other Mary turn up to the cave where Jesus is interred only to find it re-opened and a man dressed in white telling them that Jesus is gone. The three Marys flee in fear...and that's it. No resurrection, no reappearance. Several other verses were tacked on at the end to overcome this, and this version is known as the "Longer Ending".
  • No Sympathy for Grudgeholders: Jesus states in Matthew 6:15 that God won't forgive those who aren't willing to forgive others.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: John 20:30. 'Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.'
  • Omniglot: One of the powers of true believers, according to Fanon, along with the ability to drink anything poisonous, exorcise demons, heal the sick, and for truest of true believers Nigh-Invulnerability against demons and evil spirits! A few American groups interpret the source for this one (speaking in tongues) to mean a language absolutely nobody on Earth understands. No one seems to know why.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted.
    • Given the political climate of the time, lots of people were named Jesus, hence him always being referred to as "Jesus of Nazareth". Tradition states that Barabbas, the man released in Jesus' place, was also named Jesus note 
    • Among Jesus' disciples, there were two men named Jacob, two named Judas, and two named Simon (one had to be nicknamed "Peter"). On one occasion, John has to introduce dialogue by saying, "Judas, not Iscariot, said..."
      • "Judas who is not called Iscariot" is now known as St. Jude, patron of lost causes, because so few people would pray to him on account of the similarity.
      • What makes even less sense is that he was only called Judas in Luke and John, while Matthew and Mark call him Thaddeus. Why he's called St. Jude instead of St. Thaddeus, making Jesus' brother the only "Jude" (which would be far less confusing), is still a mystery.
    • The Book of John, written by John the Apostle, opens up by introducing another John, John the Baptist.
    • Also, depending how you count, there may be as many as four women (and definitely at least two) named Mary, apart from Jesus' Mother.
    • There are two kings called Herod—Herod the Great and Herod Antipas.
  • Open Mouth, Insert Foot: Peter does this a few times—it's almost his defining characteristic.
  • Out, Damned Spot!: Pontius Pilate washes his hands after sentencing Jesus to death, to assuage his guilt. Church tradition claims that after he was exiled from his post, he spent his retirement ritually cleaning his hands in the snow over and over and over again.
  • Pals with Jesus: Trope Maker.
  • Passion Play: Ur-Example, as the Gospels are the source for future tellings of the Passion of Christ. Each of the four Gospels gives an account of how Christ was betrayed by Judas, arrested by the Romans, tried by Pontius Pilate, sent to carry his cross to Golgotha, and crucified until he died alongside two thieves.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Inverted by Jesus, who tells people to Turn the Other Cheek, instead.
  • Phosphor-Essence / Power Glows / Holy Backlight: Jesus, during the Transfiguration.
  • Positive Discrimination: The Samaritans are depicted in a positive light several times, most famously in the story of the Good Samaritan. This is because they were Acceptable Ethnic Targets at the time and there was a lot of mutual enmity between them and the Jews.
  • Public Execution: Jesus' crucifixion alongside two criminals, as told in all four Gospels.
  • Pyrrhic Villainy: Judas Iscariot may have gotten a "tidy sum" of thirty pieces of silver for betraying Jesus, but according to Matthew, he was so overcome with guilt that he hung himself. Apparently waiting to receive the inheritance that God promised to those who believe in Him through His Son, plus the honor his fellow apostles would have of sitting on twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel, was not enough to persuade Judas from settling for a mere pittance of earthly treasure.
  • Quote-to-Quote Combat: In Luke 4 Satan tries to tempt Jesus into throwing himself from the highest point in the temple and quotes from the Psalms out of context to suggest that God will prevent Jesus from falling to his death. Jesus shoots back with "you shall not tempt the Lord your God" from the book of Deuteronomy.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: When Jesus chose his twelve Apostles, he didn't pick scholars educated in religious law to help spread his message. (Well, actually, he did, when Paul was converted, but that didn't happen until Acts.) Instead, he picked a tax collector, a terrorist (possibly), a thief (and ultimately, traitor) who stole from the disciples' treasury, and a handful of fishermen.
  • Rasputinian Death: Crucifixion is a horrible way to die, no doubt about it. It could take days before the victim died of blood loss, dehydration and exposure to the elements, which is why the victims' legs were broken on the day after to speed up the process note . When they go to do this to Jesus, though, they find he's already dead. (Note that he was also tortured severely for hours before being put on the cross and forced to carry the big heavy thing most of the way to the execution site.)
  • Real Men Love Jesus: Oh yes. Most of the disciples qualify, for a start.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: There's a reason this page isn't called "The One Gospel." The four different versions of the story mostly serve to complement and expand on each other, though a few points are harder to reconcile. For example, the Synoptic Gospels do not all include the same events, nor do they record them in the same sequence. Among scholars, this is known as the "Harmony of the Gospels"; you can even buy editions of The Bible that lay out the four accounts side by side for easy comparison.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Matthew 23 was this from Jesus against the Pharisees.
    Jesus: How terrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of dead people's bones and every kind of impurity.
  • Redemption Rejection: "Blasphemy against The Holy Spirit", which is the only sin God will not forgive.
  • Rule of Three: Peter's denials, and in the book of John, Jesus asking Peter if he loved Him.
  • Serial Spouse: The Samaritan woman in John 4 had been married five times and was currently living with a boyfriend she wasn't married to. When Jesus knew about this without having been told, she took that as evidence He was a prophet.
  • Set the World on Fire: Jesus himself says in Luke 12:49, "I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!" Whether this is metaphorical or not is uncertain.
  • Shaming the Mob: "Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone."
  • Shrug of God: In-Universe; Jesus warns against believing rumors that The End Is Nigh, because not even He as the Son of God knows when the end of the world is.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Jesus refuting all of Satan's temptations in the desert.
  • Sin Invites Possession: Matthew 12 43:45 suggests that a demon, once expelled, may return to the person it possessed:
    When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, "I will return to my house from which I came." And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.
    • Theologians and Christian thinkers have extrapolated from this that being the mere passive recipient of an exorcism is not enough: the subject needs, metaphorically, to install better locks on doors and windows and an adequate burglar alarm system (i.e. to accept the Christian message and actively reform their life so as to prevent re-occupation by demonic forces).
  • Smash the Symbol: Jesus tells His disciples that both Jerusalem and the Jewish temple will be destroyed. At His trial before the Jewish leaders, some of His accusers claim that He said that He will destroy the temple and build a new one without hands in three days.
  • The Soulsaver: Jesus dying on the cross saved the souls of all who believe in Him, both those who had died before Him like Abraham and people who came after Him. (Some interpretations have him literally going To Hell and Back to retrieve the righteous dead.)
  • Spell My Name with an "S": The name "Jesus" is an Anglicized rendering of the Latin "Iesus", from the Greek "Iesous" in the oldest manuscripts, from an Aramaic original most often given as "Yeshua" (in turn a shortened form of the Hebrew "Yehoshua", i.e. "Joshua" in the Old Testament.)
  • The Speechless: Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, was unable to speak for a time because he did not believe the angel Gabriel when he said that he would have a son.
  • Star of Bethlehem: Matthew provides the Ur-Example.
  • Stealing from the Till:
    • One of Judas' character flaws, brought up when he is among one of the disciples to complain when Mary the sister of Martha anoints Jesus, saying that the perfume could've been sold and the proceeds used to feed the poor...
    "He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it."
    • Jesus also used the Parable of the Shrewd Manager (in which an unethical housekeeper fired from his job for his dishonesty uses his own commission to pay off his soon-to-be-former master's debtors in order to have friends once he's unemployed) to illustrate that if godless heathens are willing to go to such lengths for temporary gains, then the disciples should be all the more wise when it comes to eternal glory.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Post resurrection, Jesus makes sudden appearances even in locked rooms, and then disappears just as suddenly.
  • Streaking: Possibly an Ur-Example in Mark, where a young man wearing a sheet drops it when a guard tries to capture him and runs away in the buff.
  • Suddenly Significant City:
    • "'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'" (Matthew 2:6, citing Micah 5:2)
    • Also, Nazareth was just a tiny town of probably less than 500 people of dubious reputation until one former local started a movement that grew into one of the world's largest religions. When first told about a new prophet named Jesus of Nazareth, Nathanael scoffs, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"
  • Sympathy for the Hero: Many versions of Pontius Pilate's story show him having this for Jesus, and admitting that Jesus broke no Roman law.
  • Take a Third Option: (Matthew 22) Are we answerable to God or to earthly powers such as the Romans? note  (John 7-8) Will Jesus say that a woman caught in the act of adultery should be stoned or not? note  Both times, the Pharisees were attempting a Morton's Fork, but Jesus succeeded in Cutting the Knot.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Pilate has Jesus scourged in an attempt to placate the mob that's calling for Jesus' crucifixion. They still want him dead.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Jesus' plan involved being tortured to death and taking all the sin in the world onto himself, going to Hell, kicking Satan's ass and taking his house key, and coming back to tell the tale (whew). It takes him three days.
  • They Just Dont Get It: Happened often with Jesus' disciples. At one point, Jesus even exclaimed in frustration, "Don't you understand even yet?" They didn't even get it after meeting the resurrected Jesus in person until He explained the Bible to them.
  • The Three Wise Men: They make their first appearance here, though Matthew doesn't specify that there were three exactly (that's a later tradition due to them bringing three gifts).
  • Time-Travel Tense Trouble: In the Gospel of John, Jesus claims divinity by saying, "Before Abraham was, I am!" It seems that omnipresence involves just as much verb confusion as time travel does. (Jesus is also giving a Continuity Nod to the name of God revealed to Moses in the Old Testament, "I Am that I Am.")
  • To Be Lawful or Good: The Rules Lawyer Pharisees frequently try to entrap Jesus with this dilemma. Jesus rebutted them by arguing that to do good is to follow what the Law intends. On one occasion, Jesus is presented with the chance to heal a man on the Sabbath, which they believed would violate the Laws of Moses.note  Jesus countered, "It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath!" and proceeds to heal the man right in front of them. They don't take this very well at all. In modern times, Judaism also accepts this idea, saying no law takes precedence over human life.
  • Total Eclipse of the Plot: According to Mark, Luke and Matthew, a period of darkness occurred during Jesus' crucifixion, lasting from noon to 3 o'clock in the afternoon. It couldn't have been a solar eclipse — not only because it lasted three hours, but also because the crucifixion took place on the first day of Passover, which is held at full moon when solar eclipses cannot occur. Nevertheless, the evangelists probably imagined it as a total solar eclipse.
  • Trash the Set
    • A lucrative business of changing "unclean" foreign currency to "proper" Temple shekels and selling animals "acceptable" for sacrifice had sprung up in the Court of Gentiles (and it was very likely that the priests were in on this business, so guess what they always said was unacceptable?). Jesus was having none of it because Jewish people who wanted to worship God were being gouged and Gentiles who wanted to worship God had to put up with the noise and smell of a marketplace. So he turned the money changers' tables over and drove out both the animals and unscrupulous businessmen. Then he sat down to teach.
    • Jesus in the Olivet Discourse predicts the destruction of the Temple, which in extra-Biblical accounts took place in 70 AD.
  • Turn the Other Cheek: Trope Namer.
  • Two First Names: John Mark and Simon Peter. Although Simon Peter was originally Simon bar-Jonah (or Simon son-of-Jonah). Jesus later gave him the name Peter, which means "rock". He then went by Simon Peter before just sticking with Peter.
  • Ungrateful Bastards:
    • Jesus healed ten lepers, and only one of them, a Samaritan, bothered to thank Him.
    • Jesus also told the parable of a man who, after having his debts forgiven by his master, went after and bullied a fellow servant who owed him a mere pittance in comparison.
  • Urban Legend: Discussed Trope In-Universe.
    • Rumors were flying all over the place about Jesus' true identity, and only Peter (via divine intervention) gets it right.
    • In the Gospel of John the author dismisses a rumor that "the disciple Jesus loved" wouldn't die—no, Jesus only said "if I wanted him to live until I came, what's that to you?"
      • The Mormons still took it literally, and Joseph Smith even claimed to have met John.
      • Others have used this to explain how Jesus' claim that there were some standing with him would be alive at the end of time could be true. In their view, John is around here somewhere, waiting, even now.
  • Voice of the Legion: A demon-possessed man named the trope, identifying himself by saying, "My name is Legion, for we are many."
  • Walk on Water: Jesus did this, on the Sea of Galilee. So did Peter, briefly.
  • We Can Rule Together: Occurs quite famously in both Matthew and Luke, where Satan tempts Jesus with control over the entire Earth. Jesus' choice is fairly obvious. This has interesting theological implications: Jesus rejects the offer, but never implies that Satan couldn't deliver. Therefore, Satan apparently has some degree of authority over the kingdoms of Earth.
    • In fact, John 12:31 describes Satan as the "ruler of this world."
  • Weirdness Censor: In John 12, a voice speaks from heaven, and many people in the crowd think it's just thunder.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Jesus encourages His followers to invoke this if other followers do something wrong in Luke 17:3:
    Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.
  • Who Will Bell the Cat?: "Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone."
  • With Us or Against Us: Jesus states in passages such as Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23 that if you're not for Him, then you're against Him. In other words, neutrality in Him doesn't exist, and the person will either accept Him as savior or not.
  • Working-Class Hero: Jesus is the only major religious figure who is explicitly defined as either a carpenter/itinerant laborer challenging the more aristocratic gods of classical religions and the more intellectual scholar-based tradition of Jewish priests. He also identified with the outcasts of society (the vagabonds, the prostitutes) and affirmed that rich people have a hard time getting to heaven and his only significant violent action was removing the money changers from the temple. His Apostles are also largely workers, especially Peter, who meets Jesus after coming back from a fishing job.
  • You Fool!: Jesus warns in His Sermon On The Mount that calling somebody a "fool" out of malicious anger would make that person likely to be punished with hellfire.note 
  • You Never Did That for Me: Happens at the end of the parable of The Prodigal Son, where the brother who didn't leave home and waste all his money wonders why he doesn't get a fatted calf.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Matthew 27:52-53:
    The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.

Alternative Title(s): The Gospels