Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – Authors of the Gospels?

Truly, the knowledge of the authors of the documents of the Holy Bible, especially those of the four Gospels in the New Testament, has been included in some of the most important discussions and debates involving the historicity of the New Testament documents in recent centuries. Christian Scholars, Bible Scholars and Historians have gone back and forth on this issue, coming to the four proposed authors for the Gospels in the Holy Bible, being Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. If the four Gospels are not ascribed to these four men, then the Gospels are anonymous. Now, we shall begin examining the extensive historical record and much evidence confirming the authors of the Gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

To begin with, one must note that the Holy Bible says absolutely nothing about who wrote the four Gospels. From the beginning to the end, there is not a single verse throughout the entire Holy Bible that says anything about Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John writing any of our Gospels. This claim is not a religious belief, it is not a Christian belief, it is not a doctrine of Christianity by the slightest conceptual idea, it is a claim of antiquity, one of history. In knowledge of this, any claim that these people wrote the Gospels is a historical claim, not a theological one. Secondly, we shall also define who these figures are, before establishing their authorship of the Gospels.

Historically speaking, Matthew was a tax collector, meaning he was both literate in the Greek and Hebrew languages, and he is also the only author we are talking about who is actually mentioned in his own Gospel, in Matthew 9:9. He was also of the twelve disciples. Mark was the interpreter of Peter. Luke was both a historian and physician, and John, as far as we know of, was just a disciple whom Jesus loved. To note, only Matthew and John knew and saw Jesus, whilst Luke and Mark are not eyewitnesses, but were merely historically associated with the twelve disciples to some degree, such as Peter and Paul (although Paul himself wasn’t a disciple either). Now, let us begin with the evidence. To confirm the authorship of these men, we shall behold both external and internal evidence.


External Evidence

Throughout the early ages of the expansion of Christianity, the ancient authors who confirmed the historicity of Matthew’s writing of a Gospel, and thus establish much sources and records showing Matthew wrote the Gospel attributed to him, are very great. We will now document them.

Papias, writing from 95-110 AD, says this:

“Matthew compiled the sayings in the Hebrew language and each interpreted them as best he could”

-preserved in Church History, Book 3, Chapter 39, Verse 16

Papias tells us about his reliability as well in the following manner;

“But I shall not hesitate also to put down for you along with my interpretations whatsoever things I have at any time learned carefully from the elders and carefully remembered, guaranteeing their truth. For I did not, like the multitude, take pleasure in those that speak much, but in those that teach the truth; not in those that relate strange commandments, but in those that deliver the commandments given by the Lord to faith, and springing from the truth itself.”

-preserved in Church History, Book 3, Chapter 39, Verse 3

Irenaeus, writing in 180 AD, whom knew a student of the disciples named Polycarp, writes;

“Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter.”

Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 1

Tertullian, in 200 AD, writes about how the Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote the Gospels and the variation of the order of the narratives of the Gospels by these men;

“Of the apostles, therefore, John and Matthew first instill faith into us; while of apostolic men, Luke and Mark renew it afterwards. These all start with the same principles of the faith, so far as relates to the one only God the Creator and His Christ, how that He was born of the Virgin, and came to fulfill the law and the prophets. Never mind if there does occur some variation in the order of their narratives, provided that there be agreement in the essential matter of the faith, in which there is disagreement with Marcion…

… Inasmuch, therefore, as the enlightener of St.Luke himself desired the authority of his predecessors for both his own faith and preaching, how much more may not I require for Luke’s Gospel that which was necessary for the Gospel of his master.”

Against Marcion, Book 4, Chapter 2

Origen, writing from 185-254 AD, writes;

“In his first book on Matthew’s Gospel, maintaining the Canon of the Church, he testifies that he knows only four Gospels, writing as follows: Among the four Gospels, which are the only indisputable ones in the Church of God under heaven, I have learned by tradition that the first was written by Matthew, who was once a publican, but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, and it was prepared for the converts from Judaism, and published in the Hebrew language.”

preserved in Church History, Book 6, Chapter 25, Verses 3-4

Internal Evidence

Now, we shall attest to the great internal evidence confirming this. To note, Matthew is this mans Greek name, whilst his Hebrew name was Levi, and so he is also mentioned and historically confirmed as a tax collector in passages that you may not have known of, such as Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27. Matthew was also a Palestinian Jew, and as a tax collector, would have known both Hebrew and Greek (for to maintain this occupation, he would need to be working for Greek-speaking Romans and collecting taxes from Hebrew-speaking Jews). We have attested this, as it is important information for showing the internal evidence that proves Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew.

For one, is the fact that in Matthew’s own Gospel in verses we have already shown, such as Matthew 9:9 and Matthew 10:2-4, he used the name for himself Matthew, whilst outside his Gospel in Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27, the name Levi was used. This is because Matthew believed his apostolic name was nobler than his other name, Levi, and so it was common for authors to use their nobler names in their own writings. For example, in Paul’s epistles, he always refers to himself as Paul, even though his previous name was Saul [of Tarsus]. Paul viewed his apostolic name as nobler, and thus he used it. Another example is Peter, in 1 Peter 1:1, Peter uses his apostolic name (Peter), instead of his common name which was Simeon (or Simon), even though outside of Peter’s writings, he was referred to as Simeon, such as in Luke 7:43 or Acts 15:14 (although at times ‘Peter’ was also used). Likewise, the fact that in the Gospel of Matthew, the apostolic name for Matthew is used, whilst the other Gospels use his apostolic name as well as his common name when referencing him, shows Matthew was composing this document and attributing to himself what he viewed as his nobler name.

Furthermore, as Matthew is a tax collector, we would expect him to be very knowledgeable  and interested in financial manners. Indeed, we see in numerous Matthean passages (17:24-27; 18:23-35, 20:1-16, 26:15, 27:3-10, 28:11-15) the discussion financial manners, which attests to Matthew being the author of the Gospel of Matthew. Furthermore in regards to financial manners, let us read another of Matthew’s passages on this, not mentioned above.

[Matthew 22:19]  Show Me the coin used for the tax.” So they brought Him a denarius.

Now, what is interesting about this verse? When the term ‘coin’ comes up, we do not see the simple Greek word used for this, being δηνάριον (dēnarion), but rather a more precise term,  νόμισμα (state coin). In contrast, the other Gospels, such as in Mark 12:15 and Luke 20:24 when they describe this same event, they never use the more advanced financial term νόμισμα, rather they only use δηνάριον. This provides further confirmation of Matthew, as a tax collector, being the author of the Gospel of Matthew, because as as Keith Thompson notes;

“This lends more evidence towards the position that we are dealing with Matthew the tax collector who was familiar with and concerned about accuracy regarding financial terminology”

Moving forth, as Thompson continues to note, Matthew’s Gospel is the only one to mention Jesus saying ““give no offense to them [tax collectors]”, and also to pay the temple tax in the region of Capernaum when they are asked to. This phrase concerns tax collectors, so Matthew himself being a tax collector would feel the need to mention this saying of Jesus. Matthew’s Gospel is also the only Gospel to refer to gold, silver, and copper (such as in Matthew 10:9).

Moving forth, let us re-note that the historical Matthew was a Palestinian Jew. As David Malick notes, whom has a Masters in Bible Exposition and has received honors from Dallas Theological Seminary, Matthew’s Gospel bears great knowledge in Palestinian geography  (Matthew 2:1,23; 3:1,5,13; 4:12,13,23-25; 8:5,23,28; 14:34; 15:32,39; 16:13; 17:1; 19:1; 20:29; 21:1,17; 26:6), Matthew’s Gospel is very familiar with Jewish tradition, customs, and classes of people (Matthew 1:18-19; 2:1,4,22; 14:1; 26:3,57,59; 27:2,11,13), is familiar with Old Testament scriptures (Matthew 1:2-16,22-23; 2:6,15,17-18,23; 4:14-16; 8:17; 12:17-21; 13:35; 21:4-5; 27:9), and even his terminology is Jewish (Matthew 2:20,21; 4:5; 5:35,47; 6:7,32; 10:6; 15:24; 17:24-27; 18:17; 27:53). David Malick has thus provided us with great substantiation that the author of the Gospel of Matthew is indeed Matthew.

Donald Guthrie concludes;

“there is no conclusive reason for rejecting the strong external testimony regarding the authorship of Matthew”

-Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, [InterVarsity Press, 1990], p. 53

Matt Slick, whom has a Masters in Divinity, notes the following

“The early church unanimously held that the gospel of Matthew was the first written gospel and was penned by the apostle of the same name”


External Evidence

Moving forwards, we shall now list the documentation of the authorship of the Gospel of Mark, showing that Mark is indeed the man who wrote the Gospel of Mark.

Papias writes, in 95-110 AD;

This also the presbyter said: Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not in order, whatsoever he remembered of the things said or done by Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterward, as I said, he followed Peter, who adapted his teaching to the needs of his hearers, but with no intention of giving a connected account of the Lord’s discourses, so that Mark committed no errorwhile he thus wrote some things as he remembered them. For he was careful of one thing, not to omit any of the things which he had heard, and not to state any of them falsely.

-preserved in Church History, Book 3, Chapter 39, Verse 15

Irenaeus, writing in 180 AD, states;

“After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter.”

Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 1

Tertullian, writing in 200 AD states;

“that which Mark published may be affirmed to be Peter’s whose interpreter Mark was.”

Against Marcion, Book 4, Chapter 5

Clement of Alexandria, writing in 180 AD, states;

“The Gospel according to Mark had this occasion. As Peter had preached the Word publicly at Rome, and declared the Gospel by the Spirit, many who were present requested that Mark, who had followed him for a long time and remembered his sayings, should write them out. And having composed the Gospel he gave it to those who had requested it.”

-preserved in Church History, Book 6, Chapter 14, Verse 6

Origen, writing from 185-254 AD writes;

” The second is by Mark, who composed it according to the instructions of Peter, who in his Catholic epistle acknowledges him as a son, saying, ‘The church that is at Babylon elected together with you, salutes you, and so does Marcus, my son.’ ”

-preserved in Church History, Book 6, Chapter 25, Verse 5

According to an anti-Marcionite Prologue from 160-180 AD;

“Mark declared, who is called ‘stump-fingered’ because he had short fingers in comparison with the size of the rest of his body. He was Peter’s interpreter. After the departure of Peter himself, he wrote down this same gospel in the regions of Italy.”

-Anti-Marcionite Prologue to Mark quoted in Adam Winn, The purpose of Mark’s Gospel: An Early Christian Response to Roman Imperial Propaganda, [Mohr Siebeck, 2008], p. 47

David Malick writes;

“EXTERNAL EVIDENCE strongly supports John Mark as the author of the Gospel of Mark in association with the Apostle Peter”

Justin Martyr, writing in 150 AD, affirms Mark’s writing based on Peter’s memoir;

And when it is said that He changed the name of one of the apostles to Peter; and when it is written in the memoirs of Him that this so happened, as well as that He changed the names of other two brothers, the sons of Zebedee, to Boanerges, which means sons of thunder; this was an announcement of the fact that it was He by whom Jacob was called Israel, and Oshea called Jesus (Joshua), under whose name the people who survived of those that came from Egypt were conducted into the land promised to the patriarchs.

Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 106

Internal Evidence

According to Philemon 1:24, the actual Mark was placed to be residing in Rome, and we know this is where Peter lived during the latter of his life [1], meaning that Mark was in the correct location to receive the Christian traditions from Peter in order to write a biography. Furthermore, in 1 Peter 5:13, Peter refers to Mark as his son (Keith Thompson notes this likely is meant to be taken in a ministerial sense, not biologically).

This is confirmation that Mark was associated with Peter, and evidence that the author of the Gospel of Mark utilized Peter as an authority is very strong, especially because of the fact that the author of the Gospel of Mark utilizes inclusio in regards to Peter. What inclusio is, is a literary device, in this case, where someone would reference the inspiration of their work in the beginning and ending of the document. We do indeed see Peter (or as we noted earlier, his other name being Simeon/Simon) being mentioned in the Gospel of Mark around the beginning of this Gospel (Mark 1:16) and around the ending of it (Mark 16:7), showing that Peter was the authority witness that was used by the author of the Gospel of Mark, which perfectly fits with the extensive historical records that confirm above that Mark was the interpreter of Peter, and transcribed his Gospel by Peter’s sayings to him.

Further confirming Peter as the authority behind the Gospel of Mark, F.F. Bruce says this in his book The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable;

“Further confirmation of the Petrine authority behind Mark was supplied in a series of acute linguistic studies by C.H. Turner, entitled ‘Marcan Usage’, in the Journal of Theological Studies for 1924 and 1925, showing, among other things, how Mark’s use of pronouns in narratives involving Peter seems time after time to reflect a reminiscence by that apostle in the first person. The reader can receive from such passages ‘a vivid impression of the testimony that lies behind the Gospel: thus in 1:29, “we came into our house with James and John: and my wife’s mother was ill in bed with a fever and at once we tell him about her” ”

In consideration of all this information, it is greatly evident that the author of the Gospel of Mark, is indeed Mark.


External Evidence

We shall now see the lengthy historical records affirming that Luke has indeed authored the Gospel of Luke.

Irenaeus, writing in 180 AD states;

“Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him.”

Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 1

An early canon written in 170 AD documents;

“The third book of the gospel is according to Luke. This Luke was a physician who Paul had taken after the ascension of the Christ to be a legal expert. Yet he had not seen the Lord in the flesh. So, as far as he could, he begins his story with the birth of John.”

The Muratorian Canon

According to an anti-Marcionite Prologue written in 160-180 AD;

“Luke, a Syrian of Antioch, doctor by profession… Luke, under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, wrote his gospel in the region of Achaia.”

-Anti-Marcionite Prologue to Luke quoted in Vincent P. Branick, Understanding the New Testament and its Message: An Introduction, [Paulist Press, 1998], p. 138

Tertullian, writing in 200 AD states;

“the evangelical Testament has apostles for its authors, to whom was assigned by the Lord Himself this office of publishing the gospel… therefore, John and Matthew first instill faith into us; while of apostolic men, Luke and Mark renew is afterward… Now, of the authors whom we possess, Marcion seems to have singled out Luke for his mutilating process.”

Against Marcion, Book 4, Chapter 2

Origen, in 185-254 AD states;

“And the third by Luke, the Gospel commended by Paul, and composed for Gentile converts. Last of all that by John.”

Church History, Book 6, Chapter 25, Verse 6

Internal Evidence

As we shall see, the internal evidence is also greatly favoring Luke as the man who transcribed the Gospel of Luke.

First of all, it is important to note that the author of the Gospel of Luke is also the same man who is the author of the Book of Acts. Scholars entirely agree on this, as there the confirmation is simply undoubtable, as we can see when we contrast Luke 1:1-4 with Acts 1:1-3. Moving on, Paul makes it clear to us that he is with Luke, in various places, including  very notably Colossians 4:14Philemon 1:24 and 2 Timothy 4:11. Allow us to quote just one of these passages;

[2 Timothy 4:11] Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you, for he is useful to me in the ministry.

Paul claims only Luke is with him here, thus we can know that Paul associated himself with Luke.

Now, there is something very interesting about the Book of Acts. Michael A. Reynolds says the following about what are called the ‘we’ passages in the Book of Acts;

The “we” passages are found in the second half of Acts in 16:10-17, 20:5-15, 21:1-18,and 27:1-28:16As introduced above, these passages are ones in which Luke uses the first-person plural pronouns “we” and “us” unexpectedly and without explanation. They all take place in the context of a voyage (especially 27:1-28:16) or a travel narrative, and all include sea travel in particular.

Biblical Scholars and Historians of the New Testament have recognized a set of passages in the context of a voyage in the work of the Book of Acts, in which the author employs the term “we”, in which he is suddenly accompanied by an un-identified traveler on his voyage. One must simply ask, who is this traveler, accompanying the author of the Gospel of Luke and Book of Acts? We know the author of Luke-Acts is one of the men on this voyage, but just who is this other figure with him? The answer is… Paul.

 [Acts 16:10-17] After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to evangelize them. Then, setting sail from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, the next day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, a Roman colony, which is a leading city of that district of Macedonia. We stayed in that city for a number of days. On the Sabbath day we went outside the city gate by the river, where we thought there was a place of prayer. We sat down and spoke to the women gathered there. A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God, was listening. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was spoken by Paul. After she and her household were baptized, she urged us, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.  Once, as we were on our way to prayer, a slave girl met us who had a spirit of prediction. She made a large profit for her owners by fortune-telling. As she followed Paul and us she cried out, “These men, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation, are the slaves of the Most High God.”

In this passage, the author of Luke-Acts identifies himself as on part of the trip with several uses of the word ‘we’, and we are also made abundantly clear that Paul was also on this trip. So, the author of Luke-Acts was travelling with Paul, according to the author of Luke-Acts, and Paul was travelling with Luke, according to Paul as we have seen. The other we passages that confirm Paul being associated with the author of Luke-Acts in the Book of Luke including Acts 20:5-15Acts 20:1-18 and Acts 27Acts 28:16, giving us astonishing confirmation of this. Thus, to sum up, Paul claims to be travelling with Luke, the author of the Gospel of Luke claims to be travelling with Paul. This is unambiguous confirmation of Luke having authored the Gospel of Luke. In fact, Irenaeus in 180 AD, whom we have already quoted several times so far, has called Luke and Paul “inseparable companions” [2]. Michael A. Reynolds thus concludes;

“The conclusion that Luke was present in the “we” passages and was writing as an eyewitness to the events at hand is the most reasonable conclusion to arrive at in the midst of the current arguments.”


External Evidence

Irenaeus, writing in 180 AD, states;

“John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia… those who were conversant in Asia with John, the disciple of the Lord, [affirming] that John conveyed to them that information. And he remained among them up to the times of Trajan… Then, again, the Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles.”

Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 1, Verse 1

Tertullian, writing in 200 AD writes;

“The same authority of the apostolic churches will afford evidence to the other Gospels also, which we possess equally through their means, and according to their usage — I mean the Gospels of John and Matthew…”

Against Marcion, Book 4, Chapter 5

Clement of Alexandria, writing from 180 AD says;

“John, perceiving that the external facts had been made plain in the Gospel, being urged by his friends, and inspired by the Spirit, composed a spiritual Gospel.”

-preserved in Church History, Book 6, Chapter 14, Verse 7

Origen, from 185-254 AD writes;

“Last of all that by John”

-preserved in Church History, Book 6, Chapter 25, Verse 6

An anti-Marcionite Prologue from 160-180 AD writes;

“John the apostle, whom the Lord Jesus loved very much, last of all wrote this gospel, the bishops of Asia having entreated him, against Cerinthus and other heretics…”

Anti-Marcionite Prologue to John quoted in Ben C. Smith, The Latin Prologues (

Theophilus of Antioch affirms John as the author of the Gospel of John when he writes the following;

“And hence the holy writings teach us, and all the spirit-bearing [inspired] men, one of whom, John, says, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, showing that at first God was alone, and the Word in Him.”

Tu Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter 22

An early canon from 170 AD writes;

“John, one of the disciples, wrote the Fourth Gospel. When his fellow disciples and the bishops urged him to do so, he said, ‘Join me in fasting for three days, and then let us relate to one another what shall be revealed to each.’ The same night it was revealed to Andrew, one of the apostles, that John should write down everything in his own name, and they should all revise it.”

The Muratorian Canon

Internal Evidence

In the Gospel of John, the author identifies himself as the “disciple whom Jesus loved”.

 [John 21:20-24] Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.

So, can it be shown that “the disciple whom Jesus loved” was John? Before this is done, we must first note that in this passage, John 21:20-24, the author identifies himself as an eyewitness either way. However, can it be shown that this is John in specific? F.F. Bruce argues for this very fact, in the following manner;

“… of the twelve, there were three who were on occasion admitted to more intimate fellowship with the Master – Peter, James and John. It was these three, for example, whom he took to keep watch with Him during His vigil in Gethsemane after the Last Supper (Mk 14:33). We should naturally expect that the beloved disciple would be one of the number. He was not Peter, from whom he is explicitly distinguished in John 13:24, 20:2, and 21:20. There remain two sons of Zebedee, James and John, who were included in the seven of chapter 21. But James was martyred not later than AD 44 (Acts 12:2), and therefore there was little likelihood that the saying should go abroad about him which went abroad about the beloved disciple, that he would not die. So we are left with John.”

-F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, [Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1981], p. 45

Bruce seems to provide us with very good evidence and argumentation that this eyewitness who wrote the Gospel of John, is in fact John. Thus, it may seem that we have thoroughly shown that true authors of the four Gospels, are the traditional authors that we hold to today — that being Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Indeed, we have endless early attestation of the original authors of these four writings. Furthermore, there exists no competing tradition on who truly wrote these documents, meaning that as any Scholar would admit, the entire early Church was in complete agreement that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote these four Gospels. Thus, Christians can understand that our scriptures are written by eyewitnesses to the events that they write of, whom are Matthew and John, and that one of the other authors of our Gospels is both a Historian and physician, being Luke, whom was greatly associated with Paul, and the last of our authors of scripture was a student and interpreter of Peter, whom himself was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, our God, Lord, and Savior. Concluding, our scriptures are very reliable, and are in fact evidence for Christianity, for the Gospels were written by those who were directly associated of the Christian miracles, such as the Resurrection. Just to note, John was John the Elder, not John son of Zebedee. John son of Zebedee was one of the actual twelve disciples of Jesus, whereas John the Elder was a different John but still knew Jesus. John the Elder wrote the Gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John and 3 John, whereas John son of Zebedee wrote Revelation. This thesis, that the Gospels can be traced to eyewitness testimony, is supported by the book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, a book published in 2006 by the world-class scholar Richard Bauckham, described by academics in the field as the most important contribution to the entirety of New Testament scholarship in perhaps the last century.

Note : Good credit to Keith Thompson,  whoms work greatly helped me find many sources in which I used to produce this blog from this link that I cited earlier.

  1. Keith Thompson writes; “Writing to the Christians in Rome in the 1st century Ignatius of Antioch states “I do not command you, as Peter and Paul did” (Ignatius, Letter to the Romans, Ch. 4). In the 2nd century Irenaeus reports that “…the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul…” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies Book 3 Ch. 3). Eusebius reports a tradition provided by Dionysius (A.D. ? – 171) bishop of Corinth: “And that they both suffered martyrdom at the same time is stated by Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, in his epistle to the Romans, in the following words: You have thus by such an admonition bound together the planting of Peter and of Paul at Rome and Corinth. For both of them planted and likewise taught us in our Corinth. And they taught together in like manner in Italy, and suffered martyrdom at the same time” (Eusebius, Church History, II.25.8).”



Historical Evidence for the Exodus


God and Pharaoh’s Free Will




40 thoughts on “Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – Authors of the Gospels?

  1. Here is my more-complete case for the traditional authorship of the Gospels.


    1) Written early, within Mark’s lifetime.
    2) Most manuscripts attribute themselves to Mark.
    3) No manuscipt attributed it to anyone other than Mark.
    4) No person attributed it to anyone other than Mark
    5) Unlikely nomination, since Mark was not part of Jesus’ inner-circle of three, one of the 12 disciples, nor was he even an eyewitness to Jesus’ life that we know of.

    1. The author centralises slightly more on Peter than the other two Gospels.
    2. The author minimizes or omits several details and passages that might portray Peter in an embarrassing light.

    1) Luke (55-75 AD) uses Mark as a source and thus indirectly associates it with eyewitness testimony, see Luke 1:1-3.
    2) Papias (100-117 AD) – or perhaps rather “the Elder”, possibly St. John – attritutes it to Mark.
    3) Justin Martyr (150-155 AD) attributes it to a follower of an apostle and also calls it Peter’s memoirs.
    4) The Anti-Marcionite Prologue to Mark (160-180 AD) attributes it to Mark.
    5) The Anti-Marcionite Prologue to Luke (160-180 AD) attributes it to Mark.
    6) The Muratorian Canon (~170 AD) most probably attributes it to Mark and also asscociates it with the apostles.
    7) Irenaeus (180 AD) attributes it to Mark.
    8) Clement of Alexandria (~195 AD) attributes it to Mark.
    9) Tertullian (207 AD) attributes it to Mark.
    10) Hippolytus (~225 AD) attributes it to Mark.
    11) Origen (~240 AD) attributes it to Mark.
    12) Cyprian of Carthage (~250 AD) attributes it to Mark.
    13) Treatise on Rebaptism (~255 AD) attributes it to Mark.
    14) Dionysius of Alexandria (~255 AD) attributes it to Mark.
    15) Authoritative citations, references, quotes, allusions or traces of Mark’s Gospel can be found in:
    – Matthew (50-80 AD)
    – Clement of Rome (95-97 AD)
    – Ignatius (107 AD)
    – Polycarp (110-140 AD)
    – Epistle of Barnabas (130 AD)
    – etc. …


    1) Written early, probably 60-65 AD, within Matthew’s lifetime.
    2) Most manuscripts attribute themselves to Matthew.
    3) No manuscipt attributed it to anyone other than Matthew.
    4) No person attributed it to anyone other than Matthew.
    5) Unlikely nomination, since although he was part of the 12 disciples, Matthew was not part of the inner-circle of three, and he was a publican / tax collector, someone often detested by the Jewish folk.

    1. The author is most likely a Palestinian Jew.
    – He is well acquainted with the geography of Palestine.
    – He is familiar with Jewish history, customs, ideas and classes of people.
    – He is familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures.
    2. Matthew could communicate in Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek.
    – Matthew was a publican – a Jew hired by Rome to impose Roman taxes upon his own people.
    3. The terminology used fits well with that of a tax collector.
    – The author uses several sophisticated terminology and terms for money which occur nowhere else in the Gospels.
    – Matthew is the only synoptic Gospel that speaks of gold, silver and brass.
    – There are more money-related issues present in Matthew than in any of the other Gospels.
    4. The ‘call of Matthew’.
    – Only in the Gospel according to Matthew in ‘the call of Matthew’ is Matthew referred to as “Matthew”. In the parallel passages found in the other Gospels, that of Mark and Luke, he is simply named “Levi”.

    1) Papias (100-117 AD) may attribute it to Matthew.
    2) The Epistula Apostolorum (~140 AD) indirectly attributes it to a disciple.
    3) Justin Martyr (150-155 AD) attributes it to an apostle.
    4) Theodotus (160-170 AD) attributes it to an apostle.
    5) Claudias Apollinaris (160-180 AD) attributes it to Matthew.
    6) The Anti-Marcionite Prologue to Luke (160-180 AD) attributes it to Matthew.
    7) The Muratorian Canon (~170 AD) indirectly attributes it to an apostle.
    8) Celsus (177 AD) indirectly attributes it to a disciple.
    9) Irenaeus (180 AD) attributes it to Matthew.
    10) Clement of Alexandria (~195 AD) attributes it to Matthew.
    11) Tertullian (207 AD) attributes it to Matthew.
    12) Sextus Julius Africanus (220-240 AD) attributes it to Matthew.
    13) Origen (~240 AD) attributes it to Matthew.
    14) Cyprian of Carthage (~250 AD) attributes it to Matthew.
    15) Dionysius of Alexandria (~255 AD) attributes it to Matthew.
    16) Authoritative references, quotes, allusions or traces of Matthew’s Gospel can be found in:
    – Clement of Rome (95-97 AD)
    – Ignatius (107 AD)
    – Polycarp (110-140 AD)
    – Didache (80-150 AD)
    – Epistle of Barnabas (130 AD)
    – Epistle to Diognetus (130 AD)
    – Hermas (140 AD)
    – 2 Clement (150 AD)
    – etc. …


    1) Written early, probably ~60 AD, within Luke’s lifetime.
    2) Most manuscripts attribute themselves to Luke.
    3) No manuscipt attributed it to anyone other than Luke.
    4) No person attributed it to anyone other than Luke.
    5) Unlikely nomination, since Luke was not part of the 12 disciples or the inner-3, nor was Luke thought to be a direct eyewitness to Jesus’ life.

    1. The author had access to eyewitnesses and eyewitness accounts (Luke 1:1-3).
    2. The author was a companion of Paul.
    The “we”-passages in Acts. The author presents himself as a companion of Paul, by switching to the 1st person on some of Paul’s travels/journeys using pronouns such as “us” and “we”.
    3. The author is most probably either: Mark, Jesus, Justus, Epaphras, Demas, Luke, or Epaphroditus.
    In Paul’s prison epistles, there are a number of people who were with Paul while he was in a Roman prison. There is a definite probability that the author of Luke-Acts was one of them. Excluding the people already named in the “we”-sections, these people are named.
    4. Luke’s absence in the 2nd and 3rd journeys.
    Luke isn’t in the epistles of Thessalonians, Galatians, Corinthians and Romans. But since none of them were written during a period covered by a “we”-section, this corroborates the tradition.
    5. The author’s use of medical terminology.
    – The author uses more sophisticated medical terminology.
    – The author includes and focuses more on medical-related instances than any of the other Gospels.
    This is especially complimentary to the fact that Luke was a physician.

    1) Marcion (130-140 AD) [most probably] associates it with Paul.
    2) Justin Martyr (150-155 AD) attributes it to a follower of an apostle.
    3) Theodotus (160-170 AD) links it to an apostle.
    4) Anti-Marcionite Prologue to Luke (160-180 AD) attributes it to Luke.
    5) Muratorian Canon (~170 AD) attributes it to Luke.
    6) Celsus (177 AD) indirectly associates it with a disciple.
    7) Irenaeus (180 AD) attributes it to Luke.
    8) Clement of Alexandria (~195 AD) attributes it to Luke.
    9) Tertullian (207 AD) attributes it to Luke.
    10) Julius Africanus (220-240 AD) attributes it to Luke.
    11) Origen (~240 AD) attributes it to Luke.
    12) Novatian (250-257 AD) attributes it to Luke.
    13) Cyprian of Carthage (~250 AD) attributes it to Luke.
    14) Treatise on Rebaptism (~255 AD) attributes it to Luke.
    15) Dionysius of Alexandria (~255 AD) attributes it to Luke.
    16) Authoritative references, quotes, allusions or traces of Luke-Acts can be found in:
    – Clement of Rome (96 AD)
    – Didache (80-150 AD)
    – Polycarp (110-140 AD)
    – Hermas (140 AD)
    – 2 Clement (150 AD)
    – etc. …


    1) Written early, within John’s lifetime.
    2) Most manuscripts attribute it to John.
    3) No manuscripts attribute it to anyone other than John, so there’s near unanimous agreement that John is the author.

    1. The author is most probably a Palestinian Jew.
    2. The author is an eyewitness and disciple of Jesus (John 1:14, 19:35, 21:24).
    3. The author is St. John the Evangelist.
    – The author never mentions John the Evangelist by name, instead referring to him[self] as “the beloved disciple”.
    – The author uncharacteristically identifies John the Baptist only as “John”, which may indicate that his audience knows how to differentiate the two Johns.
    – The author identifies himself as ‘the beloved disciple’ who is one of the inner-3. Peter is mentioned and eliminated, and James died too early to be the author, so through the process of elimination, John is the only candidate. Parallel passages from the Synoptic Gospels would reach the same conclusion.
    4. It should be noted that the Gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John and 3 John share striking similarities, especially in style of writing, phrasing, vocabulary, grammatical forms, themes and outlooks.

    1. Ptolemy (140-150 AD)
    2. Epistula Apostolorum (~140 AD)
    3. Justin Martyr (150-155 AD)
    4. Theodotus (160-170 AD)
    5. Heracloen (~170 AD)
    6. The Anti-Marcionite Prologue to John (160-180 AD)
    7. The Anti-Marcionite Prologue to Luke (160-180 AD)
    8. The Muratorian Canon (~170 AD)
    9. Celsus (177 AD)
    10. Theophilus of Antioch (180 AD)
    11. Irenaeus (180 AD)
    12. Clement of Alexandria (~195 AD)
    13. Tertullian (207 AD)
    14. Hippolytus (~225 AD)
    15. Origen (~240 AD)
    16. Cyprian of Carthage (~250 AD)
    17. Novatian (250-257 AD)
    18. Treatise against Novation (255 AD)
    19. Dionysius of Alexandria (~255 AD)
    20. Authoritative references, quotes, allusions or traces of John’s Gospel can be found in:
    – Ignatius (107 AD)
    – Papias (100-117 AD)
    – Epistle to Diognetus (130 AD)
    – Epistle of Barnabas (130 AD)
    Etc. …
    20.1) In addition, references to 1 John not found above are also in:
    – Polycarp (110-140 AD)
    – Didache (80-150 AD)
    – Hermas (140 AD)
    – etc. …


  2. Hi! I’ve been following your site for a long time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you
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    • How is that relevant to this blog? 95-99% of all writings of ancient antiquity have been lost, and so it is not at all problematic that there are no corroborating accounts, as we have perhaps the writings of one single historian during that time period to even write about this, being Philo of Alexandria. Actually, we have TWO historians, Philo as well as LUKE, the author of the Gospel of Luke who DOES record the risen saints.


      • Well, it is such a major event – all those resurrected saints climbing out of their graves and going walkabout in Jerusalem.
        And not a single mention of this event?
        Even the other gospel writers failed to mention it.
        Why do you think this is?


      • I just told you that 95-99% of all writings of ancient antiquity have been lost. Meaning that, if 20 sources recorded the saints, by probability alone only 1 source would remain.

        I’m not saying there were 20 sources that record this of course. The fact is, 90-95% of all people at that time were illiterate. Secondly, of those who WERE literate, writing is VERY expensive. I can give you a reference about this if you want. There are two historians from this time frame we have the work of; Philo of Alexandria, and Luke. Luke mentions it, Philo doesn’t. What are you looking for here? Josephus records an event where one of the emperors cancelled a massive Jewish pilgrimage, affecting hundreds of thousands of Jews. Guess what, Josephus is the only text in history we have that mentions it. This event was MUCH larger than the rising of the saints, and we know it happened, yet it has as many references. What about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius? We KNOW it happened because of volcanology and other unequivocal sciences, we KNOW it affected hundreds of thousands, and killed tens of thousands in the 1st century. So, how many records do we have of it? Just 1, and it comes 30 years after the event. Yet we know for a fact it happened.

        The fact I’m trying to convey to you here is — there was no encyclopedia of information in ancient times. Our records are very scarce. Most historical facts are established by a single source. Two is fantastic. But one establishes most of the history that we can be very sure happened. The very first historian we have the work for in all of history comes in 400 BC. Before that, we have records, but not a single historian. Do you get this?

        Last point to make is — your entire claim against the rising of the saints is in effect, an argument from silence. This is a form of a logical fallacy. Your objection would in fact work if we had NO sources, but we DO have a source. Thus, your entire argument here is an argument from silence fallacy, which is a form of argument from ignorance.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The point is, it is a miraculous event that would have been witnessed by thousand of people. Surely we are in agreement, yes?
        So why do you think that it is not mentioned anywhere by anyone outside of a single gospel written at least 50 years after the event?
        Josephus wrote tons of stuff on a great many trivial matters. Why not a mention of all these dead saints climbing 0urt of their graves and walking about in downtown Jerusalem?

        Mike Licona believed this story not to be a literal event, why do you think it was?


      • Well — it is possible, as some people believe, that this was not a literal narrative. Indeed, some Christians interpret it as an end-times event, corroborating the resurrection of the faithful. I do not hold this view, I think the Bible is literal on this issue. That is my view, not to be conflated with the opinions of other respectable Christians.

        I have now explained this numerous times to you, and you yet do not understand why your argument is irrelevant. Let me number the points for you.

        1. 95-99% of all writings of ancient antiquity have been lost. If any person DID write of this event, it’s almost certain that their writings would have been lost.
        2. 90%+ of people were illiterate, and writing was extremely expensive even for the illiterate, so the probability of someone writing this down in the first place is very low
        3. Most events of history are established by just one source. There are events much bigger than the rising of the saints, like what the emperor did to the Jewish pilgrimage, affecting hundreds of thousands, or the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, affecting hundreds of thousands, witnessed by MUCH more people, affecting MUCH more people, yet still have just 1 source confirming them. We have the same amount of historical confirmation for the raising of the saints.
        4. Your entire objection, is in effect, an argument from silence.


      • I think the Bible is literal on this issue. That is my view, not to be conflated with the opinions of other respectable Christians.

        It is rejected by all respected biblical scholars other than strict literalists like Geisler
        Even Craig would be hard pushed to state it actually happened.
        So, can you cite any corroborating evidence to back your claim?


      • “by all respected biblical scholars”

        Citation needed. Most of your claims on the several posts you’re commenting under is more opinionated than actually factual.

        As I’ve shown, if you compare the evidence for the risen saints, it is just as good for the evidence for other major events we know happened, like the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the cancelling of the Jewish pilgrimage. Thus, there is no reason to deny it of its historicity. There is nothing more on this issue I will point out. If you actually decided to read my comments, you would have understood this, but you are greatly ignorant.


      • Matthew is a historical source confirming the rising of the saints. Matthew was there during the events, as Matthew was one of Jesus’ disciples, and this blog establishes that Matthew wrote the actual gospel of Matthew (which is something MANY Scholars and Historians accept).

        Your claims are obviously not to be taken seriously. You clearly have no ability to judge the history as it is, indeed for a fact your mind simply operates on “Christianity is wrong”, without any more whatsoever. So far, I have not actually written any blogs proving God’s existence — but when I DO start writing about this, which will be EXTRAORDINARILY extensive, you will definitely be crying. I have already documented great evidence. By the way, do you live in South Africa?


      • You are an fundamentalist Christian, yes?
        No historian claims that the writer of the gospel of Matthew was someone called Mathew.

        The account is simply hearsay, and is not even corroborated by any other gospel writer.


      • “fundamentalist”

        Define “FUNDAMENTALIST”. There are simply countless Historians who hold to the traditional authorship of the Gospels, precisely because there is overwhelming evidence. A very large proportion of the Scholars accept the traditional authors.

        As we have observed, there is simply overwhelming both internal and external evidence verifying Matthean authorship for the Gospel of Matthew. Denying this is brainless ignorance, the argument “the other gospel authors didn’t write about it” is merely an Argument from Silence Fallacy. If ALL the authors wrote about it, I bet you’d be claiming that they copied off of each other, you disingenuous twat.


      • Wrong. There is not a single genuine historian who holds that the gospels were authored by anyone called Mark, Matt, Luke or John.

        I don’t think you are a real christian but a bot or a fraud.
        No one could be as ignorant as you come across without it being a piss-take.
        Gig’s up. Time t ‘fess up, as they say.
        You almost had me fooled for a while.


      • “not a single genuine historian”

        Considering you know absolutely nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing about New Testament Scholarship, I will actually put some of my time to educate you on this issue. Here are some names;

        Keith Thompson
        Peter Williams
        David Wood
        Donald Guhrie
        David Malick
        Nabeel Qureshi
        Matt Slick
        Michael A. Reynolds

        Do you want more? These are some of the ones I was able to get out for you in one minute. You are a joke. Do you understand this? Some of the guys I just named were Biblical Scholars and Historians I had outright quoted in my blog, but you are so delusional as to think this position is not taken seriously in the academic community of history.

        This is how it will work. I have presented overwhelming evidence in this blog for the authorship of the Gospels. There is a part 2 coming eventually as well noting more overwhelming evidence. You will write your own blog, presenting a rebuttal against the evidence I have given. Any further comments from you on this thread that do not introduce new information to this will be deleted, as all you’re doing is regurgitating the same debunked garbage I have addressed numerous times.

        Unless I have not made it clear yet, allow me to do so now;

        What will happen is you will write a blog rebutting this one. I have named Historians and overwhelming evidence that agrees with me, and you have done nothing. All further comments from you on this blog, regarding the authorship of the Gospels will in fact be deleted if it contains the same nonsense as you’ve been putting out for a while now. If you present evidence in your next comment, I will allow your comment to remain. If you simply indulge in the repetition of utter nonsense, it will be deleted. I cannot tolerate trolls like you. Have I made myself clear? Good.


      • Turns out you’re right, he simply has a PhD in Religion, although that of course still gives him historical authority and he has in fact published extensively on the history of Christianity, especially rebutting jokers like Dan Barker and Richard Carrier. David has stated this dad-killing thing was when he was an Atheist, and after becoming a Christian, he no longer had any pscyhopathic intent. You’re unquestionably fooling yourself on these issues, I’ve posted a large number of names of Historians that accept the traditional authorship. With so much evidence that I have posted, and you have been unable to rebut, there’s no question that this has become a major position in Scholarship.


      • No, irt does not give him historicsal authority as his pov is basd upon presupposition, as you wold know if you have ever read anything or watched any of is rather off-putting videos.
        What s disconcerting is you immediately posted his as an historian without fact checking beforehand.
        Psychopaths need life long medical attention.
        I would not trust this man as far as could spit.

        What you are posting is not evidence and you obviously do not understand the Historical Method.

        What verifiable evidence have you posted?

        When have called you out you suddenly realise that what you have posted is simply fallacious.

        Why would you believe anything you have posted so far is any different?


      • “upon presupposition”

        On David Wood’s site,, he has Keith Thompson post an extraordinarily lengthy writing of enormous swathes of evidence verifying the historicity of the traditional authorship of the Gospels. I in fact cited it a few times in this blog on the authorship of the Gospels, and you can read it here:

        You are obviously just a liar. You cannot answer my evidence, you cannot answer David’s, nor can you answer Thompson’s. The evidence I have posted is so overwhelming, extensively citing both external records from various early writers to extraordinarily internal evidence situating the authors in commonplace with the traditional authorship throughout my blog. You obviously have not read it, for if you had, you would not even think of writing something so evidently stupid.

        Again, you cannot rebut my overwhelming evidence because you have gotten nothing except dishonesty and presuppositions.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The church fathers had a vested interest in claiming that the canon was apostolic in origin, whereas the non-canonical (heretical) documents were not. For me, this weakens the value of their testimony. I find Bruce’s argument, that “We should naturally expect that the beloved disciple would be one of [Peter, James, or John]” to beg the question. Why should we expect this? On the other hand, there is compelling evidence that the author of John was not John the Son of Zebedee. For one, assuming John was at least 15 when he met Jesus (he was a fisherman, which requires a mature body), since the earliest date for the writing of the gospel is 90AD, this would make John at least 75 years old when he wrote it. According to Roman census data, this would put him in the longest living 1% of men. Moreover, John, being a Galilean fisherman’s son, would have likely been illiterate. Does any of this mean John was not the other of the gospel? No. It merely argues against the historical accuracy of the claim that he was. Personally, I don’t think it matters much. Who wrote the book is far less important than whether it contains true insights into the nature of spiritual reality.


    • John wrote anywhere between 70-96 AD, there is no evidence indicating anything else. As early as 70 AD, as late as 96 AD. Furthermore, the only reason the average life expectancy was so low, was because half of people died by 15. However, if you lived past 15, you had the opportunity to life a longer life. We are told by extra-Biblical documents that John did in fact live a very long life, and in fact there are people like Polycarp, whom knew John, who himself lived to his very late 80’s to early 90’s. The reason why the author was either James, John, or Peter has been explained by Scholars and in fact on one of my blogs by quoting a Scholar on the issue of the authorship of the Gospels.

      I gave very strong evidence for the authorship of the Gospel of John, both from external evidence and internal evidence, without a doubt. Edit the Wikipedia page? Well, I’ll try that right now. Link me the wikipedia page in your next comment in case I don’t find it.


    • The earliest manuscript of John was found in Egypt and dates to ~125 AD (AD. 100-150). Considering how John’s Gospel must be allowed some time to be copied and circulated in & around Africa, it’d wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that John was probably originally composed before 105 AD.

      Polycarp, a pupil of John, was born in about 69 AD, so assuming that he must’ve been at least 16 or so (and that’s stretching it) to have learned from St. John, John would have to be alive until after 85 AD… which is very close to the proposed date of John’s Gospel of 85-96 AD.

      John was said to have lived to 98 AD.


  4. Pingback: Jesus Claimed To Be God – Faith, Philosophy, and Science

  5. Another great article. A nice and to the point summary of the arguments for traditional authorship. I am wondering what your opinion is regarding the authorship of Hebrews, and inerrancy (i.e. Chicago Statement)?


    • Considering you read and like my posts, you should probably follow my blog. That way, you’ll be notified when I post a new blog (you probably missed the one I posted yesterday).

      The Book of Hebrews is anonymous. There is one possibility, being Barnabas, but the evidence for Barnabas being the author is one mention in about 180 AD. I have thought about posting a blog in the future refuting objections to the traditional authorship of the Gospels, and in it I will likely touch up on the Book of Hebrews (but probably not the way you expect me to). The Holy Bible is in fact completely inerrant, without any fault whatsoever. Perfect in all its sayings.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’d just like to add to your case of Gospel authorship.

        The traditional authorship of the four Gospels is further supported by:
        – Tatian (~170 AD) wrote ” the four Gospels of the holy Apostles, the excellent Evangelists “, as does
        – Justin Martyr (150 AD) when he assigns the “Gospels” as “Memoirs of the apostles”,
        all which certainly does narrow down the range of possible authorship to someone at least associated with the apostles.

        With regards to Mark:
        – Note that since Luke (61 AD) uses Mark as a source, Luke is indirectly confirming / linking the Gospel of Mark with some eyewitness testimony (Luke 1:1-4).

        With regards to John:
        – The Epistula Apostolorum / Epistle of the Apostles (~140 AD) also seems to imply John’s Gospel to be authored by one of the disciples.



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