My name is Matthew. I’m a speaker and author with Josh McDowell Ministry. After you watch this video, feel free to leave a comment here or via my social channels, listed below. I’d love to hear from you and be a small part of your wrestling with these important questions about Jesus. I also invite you to subscribe to my channel!
Are the Gospels Reliable? Who Wrote The Gospels?
From a historical perspective, it doesn’t quite matter who wrote the Gospels. What matters is whether the Gospels are true. However, if we know the authors, when they lived, and how closely they associated with Jesus, we will be in a better position to determine whether their writings can be trusted.
The four Gospels are named after their traditional authors: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Matthew was a tax collector and disciple of Jesus. Mark was an associate of Peter, a disciple of Jesus. Luke was a traveling companion with Paul, one of the first missionaries who claimed to have encountered Jesus. John was also a disciple of Jesus, and one of the closest to Him among the twelve. This puts all of these men in a good position to write about Jesus.
> GOOD REASONS FOR AUTHORSHIP
You may have heard people say that the four Gospels are anonymous. This, I believe, is an oversimplification of the issue.
Our earliest copies of these manuscripts include descriptions at the start which say “The Gospel according to Matthew” or “Mark” or “Luke” or “John.” From a literary perspective, scholars consider this to be unusual, and so they suggest that these words were added when the gospels started to circulate together, maybe sooner. Whatever the case, we don’t need to have names explicitly written down. There are other reasons for believing the Gospels were written by these four men.
For instance, there is no competing tradition for the authors. The only exception I’m aware of would be a small group who denied the authorship of John near the end of the 2nd century, but that didn’t last. The ancient writer Irenaeus is one important author who gave us the authors of the four Gospels. He personally knew Polycarp, who knew John. This puts him in a great position to know who wrote the four gospels, especially John. They write about the authors as if there is no doubt, probably because there was no doubt. As far as we can tell, the whole Church knew the authorship of the Gospels. It appears these writings always had a name associated with them, even if the name wasn’t written down. In that sense, they weren’t anonymous.
> SKEPTIC ARGUMENTS AGAINST AUTHORSHIP
Some modern scholars have denied one or more of the authors, although it’s usually after ignoring the early Church writings or dismissing them quickly. For instance, some would say that Matthew is not the author of the first Gospel, because Matthew was an eye-witnesses disciple of Jesus and yet he appears to have drawn from Mark. So they ask: “Why would an eyewitness need to use a source?” Well, perhaps the Gospel of Mark had so much acceptance by the early Church that Matthew knew it would be good to use it in his material, and he didn’t want to reinvent the wheel.
Others point out that the first Gospel comes from a perspective that shows a deeper relationship with the Jews than one would expect to find in Matthew. But who’s to say Matthew didn’t know how to speak to his audience? It seems to me that the modern scholars who write against the traditional authors of the Gospels are speculating a lot. I think we would be justified to push against them because of the unanimous understanding from all the writers who lived within the first few hundred years of Jesus.
These early authors would have had many more resources than we have today. They would have had more connections with other people who knew about the Gospels. They would have been in a much better position to know who wrote the Gospels than those of us living nearly two thousand years later.
Another reason skeptics reject the traditional authors is that writings exist from early Christians who falsely attributed their writings to well-known people. For example, the Gospel of Peter was not written by Peter. And the Gospel of Thomas was not written by Thomas. The early church rejected the authorship of these books. We should trust that they had good reasons.
Some deny the traditional authorship of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John because they think the books were written after the supposed authors lived. This depends on how you date the Gospels. This will be the subject of our next video. I’ll see you then!