I had never noticed this about the feeding of the 5,000! Why do we have four Gospels?

Watch this study instead of reading it.

Every disciple at one point asks the question, “Why do we have four gospel accounts?” Why not just one? In the previous article, we saw one benefit to having multiple accounts of Jesus’ ministry, death, burial, and resurrection. Let’s explore two more.

In Matthew 11:21, Jesus condemns Bethsaida—a city on the northern side of the Sea of Galilee—for not repenting after seeing Jesus’ miracles. However, Matthew does not describe any of Jesus’ miracles as taking place in Bethsaida. That’s not a big deal. Even John reminds us that Jesus performed many more signs and did many other things than were recorded for us. But I’m still curious. What’s at least one miracle Jesus performed in Bethsaida?

Puzzle number two is introduced in John 6:5. Before feeding the 5,000, Jesus asks Philip where they could buy bread. Out of all the apostles, why does Jesus ask Philip? Why not someone more prominent among the disciples, like John or Peter? 

  • Puzzle 1: What miracles were performed in Bethsaida?
  • Puzzle 2: Why ask Philip where they could buy bread?

And the apostles, when they had returned, told Him all that they had done. Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. But when the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing. When the day began to wear away, the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the multitude away, that they may go into the surrounding towns and country, and lodge and get provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.” But He said to them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men. Then He said to His disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of fifty.” And they did so, and made them all sit down. Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude. So they all ate and were filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them.

Luke 9:10–17

Did you catch it? All four gospel accounts include the feeding of the 5,000. But only Luke records where it took place—Bethsaida. 

Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

John 12:21

When they came to Bethsaida, why did Jesus ask Philip where to buy bread? It was Philip’s hometown (see also John 1:44)! As a local, he was the perfect person to ask where to buy food in Bethsaida.

Using Matthew, Luke, and John, we’ve been able to put these puzzles together. What’s at least one sign Jesus performed in Bethsaida? The feeding of the 5,000. Why did Jesus ask Philip where to buy bread in Bethsaida? That’s where he was from. 

Once again, we see corroborative evidence of the historicity of Jesus and the reliability of the New Testament in the four gospel accounts. Just like Bethsaida, however, don’t just witness the signs of Jesus and remain unchanged. Repent, and be like Greeks in Judea who said to Philip, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”