Who Wrote Each of the Four Gospels 1 – Introduction

On the most important level the answer to this question is both simple and profound:

 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.       2 Timothy 3:16 NIV

While this verse was originally referring to the Tanakh (OT Scriptures), it is also applicable to all the NT Scriptures.  That is what the whole process of canonisation was about – determining which texts were undeniably God-breathed.   That is why the other ancient texts that claim to be a gospel according to Thomas, or Judas, or Mary or whomever, were never included in the Bible – in their earliest years they were found to have false stories included in them and so were not accepted by the early church as having been God-breathed.

On the human level it is more difficult to determine conclusively who God used to write each of the four Gospels for us, despite the names attached to their titles.   This is not a questioning of the authority or historic reliability of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life.  In keeping with the practices of their Jewish culture, Jesus’ disciples took great care to memorise His teachings and deeds so as to pass these on faithfully to others and correct any misunderstandings.  During their lifetimes these accounts were written down, meticulously copied and circulated to the groups of believers in every city, where they were read as part of the worship services.  All the evidence supports the view that the four Gospels were based on high quality eye witness testimony with incredible accuracy of detail, and these have been reliably preserved for us.  This is in stark contrast to the other “gospels” which were written later and rejected by the early church as lacking authenticity and accuracy, and can even now be shown to lack the historical details inherent in accurate accounts of Jewish life during the time of Christ.   From a purely historical point of view we can have confidence in the accuracy of what we read about Jesus’ life and words in the four Gospels.  Regardless of who the human authors of each of these four accounts are, they provide us with verifiable eye-witness testimony.     (1) (2) (3) (4)

So, what does it matter who wrote each account of Jesus’ life?   God used each author’s individual personality and life experience in His inspiration of the scriptures.   With the Gospels, He used four different authors to give us four different perspectives.  The more we learn about each author the more we can understand their perspective and the richer picture we get of those aspects of our Lord’s life and ministry.   The scriptures are like a very detailed and multifaceted ancient treasure, the more different angles we view them from the more we see the richness of their beauty.

The original texts were written on scrolls without titles, verse/chapter numbers, or footnotes.  As we saw when looking at the development of the Tanakh (OT), the Hebrew titles that have been added to the first 5 books of the Bible (“In the beginning”, “Names”, “And he called”, “In the desert” and “Words”) are totally different to the titles for these books which were added in our Bibles (which come from the Septuagint – first Greek translation), but the inspired scriptures are the same in both.  It is not the titles that are inspired, but the text of the books.  Unlike most of the other books in the New Testament, which included the author’s name in the text of the book (most often in the prologue), none of the authors of the four Gospel accounts penned their name in what they wrote.   Each one chose to give an anonymous account of the life of Jesus.  To them the important thing was not that they had been the one to write this account of the earthly life of Jesus but that the focus be on Jesus whose life they were recounting for us. (5)

With this apparent early anonymity there has been much conjecture among Biblical scholars as to who wrote each Gospel.  The importance of this is that it affects the lens we view the Gospels through and how we understand the relationships portrayed in them. 

We have two main sources of information that we can examine in attempting to determine who authored the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life: Church Tradition and the Scriptures. 

Reference List

1. Moreland, JP. Scaling the Secular City. s.l. : Baker and Baker Academic division of Baker Publishig Group, 2007.
2. Williams, Peter J. New Evidence the Gospels were Based on Eyewitness Accounts. Be Thinking. [Online] [Cited: 2019 Sept 2019.] https://www.bethinking.org/is-the-bible-reliable/new-evidence-the-gospels-were-based-on-eyewitness-accounts.
3. Knowing God. Why You Can Believe the Bible. Every Student. [Online] [Cited: 4th Sept 2019.] https://www.everystudent.com/features/bible.html.
4. Pitre, Brant. The Case fo Jesus: The biblical and Historical Evidence for Christ. New York : Crown Publishing, 2016. 9780770435486.
5. Ehrman, Bart. Why Are the Gospels Anonymous? The Bart Ehrman Blog. [Online] [Cited: 4th Sept 2019.] https://ehrmanblog.org/why-are-the-gospels-anonymous/.

Author: Anita

"For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption." 1 Cor. 1:26-30 ESV These verses are the story of my life. A shy, introverted woman who didn't know how to relate to others and had a fear of anyone in authority - foolish, weak, low and despised. The most unlikely candidate for any position of leadership. But God delights to choose such, to take those who are not and make them something in Christ, to do the impossible through the unlikely. In 2006 Jesus sent me to the nations with His glorious gospel to set the captives free and prepare His bride for the wedding of the Lamb.

2 thoughts on “Who Wrote Each of the Four Gospels 1 – Introduction”

  1. Christianity is a movement owes its origin to the person and work of Jesus christ,its Founder and Head
    Except for a few fragmented statements,the authentic records of his life are contained in the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which the christian church has regarded as canonical from the earliest period of history.
    Although numerous other gospels purported to recount facts oncerning his life that were not recorded in the famous four,the apocryphal Gospel,as they are called,are generally of later date and of doubtful reliability.
    They contain little information that is not duplication of what the canonical Gospels impart and much of what they add is obviously fanciful and legendary.
    Furthermore,they often betray by language that they were written to bolster the views of some particular sect that did not represent the mainstream of historic Christianity,
    but that was really a divergence from it or a rebellion against it.
    It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are.For since there are four zones of the world in which we live,and four principal winds,while the church is scattered throughout all the world,and the “pillar and ground ” of the church is the Gospel and the spirit of life.

  2. This is my first encounter with this history of the gospels like Thomas, Judas, and Mary, were these three gospels were inspired our founding fathers through the help of the Holy Spirit would have included as one the gospels, however, we are grateful that the four inspired and the Holy Spirit approved gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John gave us more details about the origin of the Jews and subsequently the birth, life, death, resurrection and accession of Jesus. The four gospels are so rich that if one wholeheartedly reads with an open mind, will have life everlasting. The Church tradition and Scripture give us clear understanding of the authors of the four gospels.

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