Read the four gospels and you will see the distinctive expressions of the personalities of each writer—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. For evangelical Christians, God inspired the words to be written in their respective sections of what became part of the Bible, but God’s inspiration did not diminish the individual personalities of the writers. This article seeks to identify the personality or behavior styles of the four gospel writers using the widely accepted DISC system that is simplified for easy understanding.
A SIMPLIFIED DISC SYSTEM
The DISC is widely accepted in the human resources and professional life, work, and leadership coaching fields. Each letter in the DISC illustrates a personality or behavior style of about a quarter of the population. Respectively the letters stand for D- dominating, I- inspiring, S- steadying, and C- calculating. The words representative of each group illustrate the behavior characteristics of each style. A simplified system (underlined) that is also easier to remember is illustrated in the list and in the article graphic:
- D – Dominating – Assertive – Momentous Mark
- I – Inspiring – Animated – Jubilant John
- S – Steadying – Amiable – Likable Luke
- C – Calculating – Analytical – Methodical Matthew
As the reader may note, the primary behavior type of each gospel writer is included. Note that Analyticals and Amiables are generally slow-paced while Assertives and Animates are generally fast-paced. Also, Amiables and Animateds tend to be people-oriented while Analyticals and Assertives tend to be task oriented. Now let’s formulate this in the lives of the gospel writers.
The Apostle Matthew’s behavior style is easy to recognize by his precise records and lists. C-Analyticals are list-makers and tend to like systematic thinking. True to his character, Matthew ties the past to his present day where nine times he uses the phrase: “that it might be fulfilled.” Matthew’s gospel consists of 1071 verses and 165 times or in 15% of his verses he uses the phrase formula “when a, then b” which is consistent with how an analytical style person would write. Analyticals tend to define the present and future by past historical events. Matthew was Jewish and throughout his gospel account he connects Old Testament prophecies with the events in Jesus’ life that fulfill the respective prophecies. Matthew wrote his accord as a chronological record of events and fulfilled prophecies based around the life of Jesus to show the Jews and us that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ. Indeed, God used a methodical tax-collector accountant to be the historian who may have written the Q-documents on which the Gospel of Matthew and other gospels may have been based. For the graphic the color blue is used to illustrate the personality of the analytical as they are often moody and sometimes “blue.”
Mark was likely a D-Assertive as his is the shortest of the four gospels with only 678 verses in the KJV and is 37% shorter than Matthew’s gospel. It is as if he wrote an account of Jesus’ life for other assertive readers. Some have called his account “a gospel tract” because of its brevity. As assertive people do, Mark got right to the point. He skipped the birth narrative as well as much of the narrative of Matthew’s account. The pace of Mark’s gospel is rapid as he used the word “immediately” thirty-six times. Assertives tend to focus on tasks or events rather than people and relationships. They don’t like to waste time, resources, or in the case of Mark, ink and papyrus. For the graphic the color green is used to illustrate the personality of the assertive as they are often driven to “go” at full speed and evangelism or transforming the behavior of others is often their modus operandi.
The Gospel of Luke seems to be almost conversational as he moves from one section to the next. Thirteen times Luke begins verses with the phrase “so it was,” which sounds like another way of saying “once upon a time.” He began his account by addressing the person to whom he was writing named Theophilus, an indication of Luke’s amiable personality style which is people oriented. By his greeting, it appears that it was important to Luke that Theophilus like him and feel that he respected him, which is also classic behavior for amiables. Luke’s account is the longest of the synoptic gospels with 1151 verses and the chronology differs from that of Matthew. Amiable people tend to focus of relationships rather than things like chronological order and logic. This is not to say that Luke thought chronology or logic to be unimportant but those things were not natural for him to consider paramount. Like Matthew, Luke’s account includes a birth narrative but the genealogy appears in chapter three. For an analytical the genealogy may appear out of place but it is simply reflective of the personality of an amiable person. Luke included many names in his account but it may have been more to show relationships between the characters rather than to simply be historically accurate. The color yellow is used to depict the amiable because it is represents “peace” which is often a high priority for amiables.
There are 4146 verses in John’s gospel which is almost three times longer than the accounts of Matthew or Luke. Of course The Gospel of John is not one of the synoptic gospels as he is all over the chronological time-line. In classic I-Animated style, John jumps all the way back to the beginning of time in his introductory prologue. Animated people are more emotionally expressive and John certainly includes more emotive content than the other gospels. The word “love” appears twenty-seven times in John’s account, twelve in Matthew, five in Mark, and thirteen times in Luke, but the focus of the word is also different. John’s focus on the subject of love includes the aspect of love from people to people but also that of God’s love for people while the other gospel writers focused on the love of people for other people. The synoptic gospel writers never seemed to refer to themselves directly but John may have done so. Animated people are natural “selfies” as they generally find a way to include themselves in the story and John stated four times “the disciple whom Jesus loved” which is likely a way he included himself in his gospel account. The color red is used to illustrate the animated style because it is bold, bright, and joyful which are common for animateds.
Why did God tell the story of Jesus through four people representative of the four primary personality styles? Perhaps it was to relate to each of the four primary personality styles of readers of the Bible. Preachers and teachers should pay attention to the preparation and delivery of their messages and lessons. There is the natural style of the one delivering the preaching and teaching and then there are also the varying styles of the people in the audience. It is imperative that the preacher and teacher deliver the message in a way that uses a variety of styles so that nobody is left out of the message. General observations and guidelines include:
- Analyticals want logic and structure in the message which may be boring to an Assertive and especially an Animated.
- Assertives want to know “why this is important” right up front at the beginning.
- Amiables and Animateds love stories and illustrations in the message.
- Analyticals and Assertives are often turned off by jokes while Animates are turned on and excited by jokes.
- Amiables and Animateds are more interested in “what does this mean to me” aspects of the message while Analyticals and Assertives are more interested in “what am I supposed to do” aspects of the message.
The implications of the personality styles as related to discipleship are included in one of my publications: The Disciple-Maker’s Toolkit.
The observations about the four personalities or behavior styles are generalities since everybody sometimes acts outside of their usual pattern. Please offer your comments to this article. What do you think were the personality styles of other Bible characters or writers?
Dr. Tom Cocklereece is CEO of RENOVA Coaching and Consulting, LLC. He has 20 years experience as a pastor, and is an author, certified professional coach and coach trainer, leadership specialist, and a member Coach/Teacher/Speaker for the John Maxwell Team
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