A Critique of Richard C. Miller and Mark’s Empty Tomb

A popular theory that some hold to is that Christians invented Jesus based off of earlier pagan deities such as Osiris, Horus, Mithras, Romulus, and many others in the seemingly endless list of gods these people produce. Almost all of them having been refuted by now, and so the pool of available options to produce a predecessor to Jesus has become strikingly small. Any reader of the four Gospels and epistles of Paul will clearly realize that the primary literary source of information and inspiration for the accounts of the Christians were obviously the texts of the Old Testament, not the Iliad or the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Nevertheless, many persist. Recently, in academia, two such claims have arisen. The first is from the scholar Dennis R. MacDonald, who has extensively written arguing for the claim that Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad formed the hypotext, the key to the composition of Mark’s Gospel on the basis of the application of methodologies he formulates like mimesis and transvaluations (his first book on this was published in 2000). Shortly after the publication of MacDonald’s works, he was refuted by a number of scholars, including the scathing critiques of scholars like Margaret Mitchell and Karl Olav Sandnes. Recently, Daniel Gullotta has also demonstrated numerous problems everywhere throughout MacDonald’s thesis (see pp. 336-340 of his paper).

Even more recently, however, another position has risen up to replace this one. In 2010, the scholar Richard C. Miller published a paper titled Mark’s Empty Tomb and Other Translation Fables in Classical Antiquity in 2010 to the Journal of Biblical Literature, arguing that the entombment and resurrection narrative in the Gospel of Mark (Mark 16:1-8) was ultimately based off of the legendary Roman deity Romulus, acclaimed to have been the founder of Rome who was subsequently translated into heaven. Miller argues that the widespread influence of Hellenism and Greco-Roman culture on the authors who composed the Gospel accounts would have allowed them to be familiar with these myths. I have to applaud Miller on the point that his work presents the most well-argued case for pagan influence on the Gospels yet available, including his dense collection of the relevant material that he is working with and his cogent research into the Greco-Roman world throughout the centuries. Miller’s work has not changed the nature of scholarship on the Gospel of Mark or the historical Jesus. As early as 1993, Craig Evans wrote in a paper titled Life-of-Jesus Research and the Eclipse of Mythology that “the New Testament Gospels are now viewed as useful, if not essentially reliable, historical sources. Gone is the extreme skepticism that for so many years dominated gospel research” (pg. 14). So, while Miller’s thesis must be judged on its merits (just like MacDonald’s work was), the merits of his thesis, to be successful, would require a significant reworking of all the data that has lead to this conclusion. Greco-Roman influence undoubtedly influenced the Gospels, and to importantly note for the ongoing discussion, the standard work in the field on the genre of the Gospels is Richard Burridge’s What Are the Gospels? (Eerdmans, 2nd ed. 2004) which argues that the Gospels were written under the genre of Greco-Roman biography, such as Plutarch’s Lives, which contrasts to Miller’s position which states that they were written and received as fiction.

Miller begins by outlining a widespread pattern, or topus of elements that belonged to pagan deities by which he later seeks to impute onto the picture of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. By adducing numerous examples throughout Greco-Roman literature, he successfully establishes that many deities were regularly thought to have (1) suddenly vanished and then (2) get translated into heaven where they (3)  undergo deification (become a god) and (4) are worshipped. They vanish immediately before or right after their death because “the body must not see decay, lest the remains demonstrate in perpetuity the mortal status of the hero” (pg. 764). Miller then starts providing numerous sources where this occurs in pagan literature;

The ubiquity of this topos, as Pease did aver, persists, yielding a robust array of literary instances throughout the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Once Herakles had ascended his martyr’s pyre, as Diodorus Siculus and Lucian attest, Zeus sent his mighty thunderbolt consuming Herakles, wood, and all in conflagration. The bystanders afterward, being unable to find Herakles’ charred bone remains amid the ash, declare that he had been translated and had achieved the rank of the demigods (Diodorus Siculus 4.38.14; Lucian, Cyn. 13). Statius and Herodianus tell of the body of Homer’s deceased Ganymedes having disappeared at Zeus’s decree that he be deified so as to become his heavenly court cupbearer (Statius, Silvae 3.4.12–18; Herodianus Historicus 1.11.2). Pindar tells of Amphiarus having disappeared along with his horses and chariot within an opened fissure in the earth, having achieved heroic status (Nem. 10.14). Dionysius of Halicarnassus, likewise, records the disappearance of Aeneas, the epic hero of Virgil’s Aeneid, while in battle near Lavanium; the Latins built a “hero shrine” to him there with the inscription “To the father and god of this place, who presides over the waters of the river Numicius.” Because of his disappearance, they said that Aeneas had been “translated to the gods” (Ant. rom. 1.64.4–5). (pg. 764)

And Miller goes on and on and on. He also produces a lengthy citation of Plutarch’s Life of Romulus which contains the myths of Romulus that he posits that Mark directly borrowed from (Plutarch himself does not consider these myths to be true). However, from the outset, Miller’s thesis encounters a significant obstacle: the primary literary source for Mark and the other Evangelists, including Paul and every other Christian writer of the first century, was the works of the Old Testament, not any classical pagan/Greco-Roman mythology or writings. In fact, this is how the Gospel of Mark begins:

Mark 1:1-3: The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”

The opening/editorial of the Gospel of Mark immediately begins with an overt citation of the Old Testament scriptures. As the scholar Rikke E. Watts writes, “In keeping with the role of the opening sentence in literary antiquity, Mark’s sole explicit editorial citation of the OT should be expected to convey the main concerns of the prologue and, therefore, his Gospel” (pg. 90, Isaiah’s New Exodus and Mark). In other words, Mark explicitly tells us that it is the scriptures of Israel that is his main source and concern. This is why scholars are incredibly skeptical of the postulation of pagan sources, rather than Jewish sources, as the basis of any literary story in the New Testament. Of course, Miller knows about this fact and responds;

Several factors, in my view, conspire, prohibiting a clear understanding of how such a text would have likely performed in the ancient Mediterranean world. First, scholars tend to subsume Mark under a Judaic literary domain, thus seeking its primary semiotic indices and cultural conventions within early Jewish literature. There appears, however, to be little basis for this appetence, except a rather non-scholarly insistence on a “pristine,” “non-pagan” well from which the academy ought to draw nearly all cultural, literary, and ideological antecedents. (pg. 1)

Little basis? Actually, there is an overwhelming basis for why scholars do such a thing. Mark cites and alludes to numerous events, narratives, and people of the Old Testament, and forms a prophetic basis for a number of the things he reports about Jesus. Not only did Mark do this, however, but all the Evangelists, including Paul, did. This reflects the clear Jewish paradigm under which the life of Jesus proliferates by, which we see develops all throughout his ministry. Paul Eddy writes that “one of the most characteristic forms of Jesus’ teaching style-the parable-has no real Cynic parallels and is a fundamentally Jewish form” (pg. 461, Jesus as Diogenes? Reflections on the Cynic Jesus Thesis, italics not mine). There are literally hundreds of citations and allusions in the New Testament to the Old Testament, and not a single quotation, citation, allusion or reference in the New Testament to a single work of pagan mythology or pagan hero.

When producing many of the deities and examples Miller outlines to establish his topus, he refers to the authors that write about these pagan myths. These writers include Diodorus Siculus, Lucian, Plutarch, Statius, Herodianus, Pindar, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Vergil, Strabo, Sophocles, Aelian, Pausanius, Eusebius, and others. A problem to note here is that, while acknowledging the early existence of this topus, many of these authors couldn’t have been a source or influence of Mark since they were written decades or even centuries after Mark. Lucian, Aelian, Pausanius, Eusebius, Statius, Herodianus and many other sources Miller cites all wrote in the 2nd century and later, and Statius wrote in 80’s or 90’s, and therefore could not have been a source for Mark. Even Plutarch’s Life of Romulus, which is supposed to contain the primary myths that Mark supposedly drew from was written about half a century after Mark himself!

Finally, we must take a look at Miller’s putative parallels. The legible features of pagan mythology Miller cites are, as I shall argue, either not legible, and if they are, can be traced to either the Old Testament or Greco-Roman biographical accounts rather than the writings regarding pagan mythology. One of the primary tenets of the myth pattern Miller adduces is that the hero becomes a god after they vanish at the end of their earthly lives and are translated into heaven. In Mark however, Jesus possesses divine status before his death throughout the course of the Gospel. When the High Priest asks Jesus “Are you the Messiah, Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus responds “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:60-62), for which Jesus is condemned to death on the charges of blasphemy. In Mark 1:9-11 God appears from heaven and declares “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.” In Mark 6, we’re told that Jesus sees his people as “sheep without a shepherd”, which is a major intertextual echo to Ezekiel 34, a passage where Israel is portrayed as a scattered flock where the Lord God Himself looks on them and seeks to become their shepherd. Once Jesus finally dies after the crucifixion, the centurion confesses that “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (15:39) all along. So Jesus never becomes a god after His death, Jesus already was one.

Also troubling is that Jesus is also never translated into heaven in the Gospel of Mark. After the women find Jesus’ tomb empty, the angels tell them that Jesus is risen and going ahead to Galilee! Miller also tries to draw a parallel from Romulus and other deities suddenly vanishing and the women finding Jesus’ tomb empty. However, this parallel too is superficial. In Plutarch’s Life of Romulus, Romulus’s body “disappeared suddenly, and no portion of his body or fragment of his clothing remained to be seen” (Plutarch, Rom. 27.4.5). On the other hand to Romulus’s sudden disappearance, Jesus is captured by the authorities, tortured, and crucified for all to see. After his death, Joseph of Arimathea eventually requests and receives permission from Pilate to bury Jesus’ body, and after he is buried, the women come a few days later to find the tomb empty. In contrast to Romulus’s sudden vanishment, Jesus’ disappearance from the tomb is a clearly gradual process. Furthermore, the function of the disappearance of the body is also different in Mark than in Plutarch’s work. In Plutarch, Romulus disappears for no apparent reason, whereas in Mark, Jesus’ body disappears because Jesus has been resurrected from the dead, and the empty tomb plays a function to indicate to the women that Jesus is no longer dead and is resurrected. Is this a parallel?

Earlier, we’ve seen one part of Miller’s topus according to Miller is that “the body must not see decay, lest the remains demonstrate in perpetuity the mortal status of the hero”. This is exactly the opposite of what happens with Jesus. Not only does Jesus fail to suddenly disappear when he is threatened with death, but Jesus is interrogated, beaten and tortured, mocked, and crucified in front of entire crowds, where Jesus body remains there for hours until he finally dies. Additionally, Jesus constantly predicts his imminent death (8:31; 9:31; 10:34; 14:27-28) and even his resurrection (14:28) so much so that this is one of the primary themes of the Gospel of Mark. Yet, this is the opposite of what we would expect if Mark was basing his account off of a myth where one of the primary patterns is that the “mortal status of the hero” is not demonstrated. If Mark were trying to make it appear as if Jesus wasn’t mortal, he has done a terrible job. Every single major theme in Mark’s Gospel is nowhere to be found in Romulus or other Greco-Roman deities, and every major theme of the stories of Greco-Roman deities is nowhere to be found in Mark. Miller’s entire arguments rest on parallels that seem to be, at times, indistinguishable from non-existence (for example, see pp. 772-3 where he lists parallels like “taken away in a cloud” which appears a single time in Acts 1:9, and anyways, this likely parallels the OT, cf. Exodus 16:10, 13:21-22; Leviticus 16:2; 1 Kings 8:10-12, Nahum 1:3, etc, and especially 2 Kings 2:11 where a whirlwind takes Elijah away to heaven). Miller claims that the account of the earthquake and darkness over the earth after Jesus dies reflects pagan sources (Ovid, Metam. 14.816–22; Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Ant. rom. 2.56.2–6; Plutarch, Rom. 27.6–7), resulting in him missing the real intertextual echo for this account, namely where the Old Testament prophecies an earthquake and darkness over the earth in the days of King Uzziah:

Amos 8:8-9: Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who lives in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt? On that day, says the Lord God, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight.

Miller also posits that the claim that a work that claims to be the derivative of eyewitness testimony also constitutes evidence that it borrows from pagan mythology since apparently, pagan mythology claims that the information it contains has been transmitted through eyewitnesses, and thus the claim of eyewitness testimony is included in Miller’s topus of elements. Miller, however, cannot maintain this since works of Greco-Roman historiography and biography stress eyewitness accounts far more greatly than those of mythology do, which is reflected across many ancient historians, including Thucydides, Polybius, Josephus, etc. According to William Campbell, “Thucydides … establishes strict criteria for the historical reliability of the events of the war to be included, claiming a preference for those that he observed personally or that were reported by eyewitnesses” (pg. 391, The Narrator as “He,” “Me,” and “We”: Grammatical Person in Ancient Histories and in the Acts of the Apostles). Polybius himself writes in his works “… because of the significance of events . . . but most of all because I have been not only an eyewitness to most of them, but of some a participant and of others even an administrator, I was persuaded to write” (3.4.13). One of Miller’s references to where the New Testament proclaims eyewitness testimony is in 1 Corinthians 15:3-11, however in this Pauline passage, scholars have long noted his use of the words “received” (greek parelabon) and “delivered” (Greek paredoka) are the equivalent to the rabbinic terms for the passing on of tradition (which further shows this passage draws from Jewish rather than pagan thought). A powerful alternative to Miller’s thesis, as reflected extensively in our ancient Greco-Roman biographies (the primary genre historians consider the Gospels to reflect), is that the Gospels incorporated claims of eyewitness testimony as this was considered a reliable medium by the ancients to transmit information.

Towards the end of his paper, Miller produces a citation from the works of Justin Martyr (c. 150 AD), an early Christian who wrote that what the Christians proclaimed about Jesus, such as his virgin birth and death, is no different from what the pagans believed in their own deities, and so Miller takes this as a prima facie admission from Justin that the earliest Christians patterned their beliefs off of the Greco-Roman accounts. Of course, there are several historical and critical problems that disallow any such conclusion. To begin with, Justin’s account is evidently wrong when he says that “we are conveying nothing new”. By actually comparing any of the accounts of any of the legends Justin compared to Jesus, numerous dissimilarities quickly proliferate. Secondly, Justin, who wrote long after the doctrines of the New Testament had been written, simply didn’t know how the origins of these doctrines had ever came about, and so he is too unreliable when it comes to determining the origins of the belief in the virgin birth, crucifixion, etc. In some cases, we know some of the things Justin cites have no derivative from pagan ideologies, such as the virgin birth, which actually came from the Old Testament prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 (LXX). Finally, Justin had a clear apologetical agenda by trying to make the Christian beliefs sound similar to the Greco-Roman beliefs — his entire argument is dependent on the fact that the Christians are very similar to the pagans, and therefore the pagans should not oppress or persecute them (1 Apol. 24), something that commonly occurred throughout the 2nd century AD (e.g. Pliny’s letter to Trajan). Miller also claims that Origen, Tertullian, Minucius Felix and Arnobius made similar admissions, however reviewing the citations he gives to these writers, they simply make no such comment, and at best say that there are some commonalities in the general ideology between Christians and pagan religion. Sometimes, these writers actually even rebuke supposed similarities (Justin Martyr, 1 Apol. 55; Tertullian, Apol. 21; Origen, Cels. 3.23, 25). And to add on, Justin Martyr even said that while the demons tried to imitate the prophecies of Jesus Christ, they ultimately failed and thus did not actually replicate Jesus.

When they [wicked demons] heard it predicted through the prophets that Christ was to come, and that impious men would be punished by fire, they put forward a number of so-called sons of Zeus, thinking that they could thus make men suppose that what was said about Christ was a mere tale of wonders like the stories told by the poets… But, as I will make clear, though they heard the words of the prophets they did not understand them accurately, but made mistakes in imitating what was told about our Christ. (1 Apol. 54)

These are some of the problems I have with Miller’s thesis. I recommend everyone evaluates Miller’s arguments themselves, including reading his article and recent book Resurrection and Reception in Early Christianity (Routledge 2015). Wherever we are today, the evidence will unequivocally lead the future.


UPDATE: Richard C. Miller has responded to this post here on his Facebook page by accusing me of lunacy and delusion. He says during our email exchange I “eventually disclosed” that I was the author of the blog — in fact, I did so almost right away. He misclaims I see myself as “distinctly gifted” and “adopted the role of the Christian Defender of the Galaxy.” I tried engaging with this post and a few of the comments by requesting that everyone reads Miller’s arguments and my arguments for themselves and come to their own conclusions, although Miller just deleted all my comments and then blocked me.

In our email interactions, he accused me of deliberately maligning him and misrepresenting his arguments literally everywhere (and eventually swore at me). When I asked him to clarify, he just sent more of said emails. So I invited him to personally rewrite any sections of my portrayals of his arguments he thought was inaccurate, but I was just accused again of maligning his character (I made over a dozen edits to try helping this out, including adding positive comments about his work, distancing his work from fringe theories, and removing any comments he might have taken as offensive, but I couldn’t do any more after this point).

Miller did not try to address any of my arguments or requests for thoughts, instead saying he would rather see me look like a fool. He also likens my response to him responding to a member of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, although I have published in a professional historical encyclopedia before and so this would not be the most apt analogy. I can say nothing more since my arguments were not addressed, this update simply reflects my thoughts on his harsh-toned (one may borrow Miller’s words, maligning) post on what I wrote.

UPDATE 2: After further conversation and debate regarding specific arguments and elements on the nature of this discussion, me and Dr. Miller seem to have agreed to disagree (the conversation eventually included too many points at once) and, in the way I see it, let the evidence speak for itself once it has been unbiasedly reviewed from both viewpoints. To that, I say Amen.

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Jesus Claimed To Be God… Again

Since some time ago, one of my first posts on this blog was titled Jesus Claimed To Be God — where I provided a very lengthy post to show that Jesus did in fact put the claim of God upon Himself. However, upon further research, I realized that the debate on this issue was a lot deeper, and a lot further than my initial blog on this topic had entailed to discuss.  For example, I read Tim O’Neill’s objections to this idea (Tim is an atheist historian) as well as watched the debate between Bart Ehrman and Justin Bass (both have a PhD). I’ve already posted a full rebuttal to Tim’s post (and it can be found by scrolling under Tim’s answer), however it’s time for me to fully update this on my blog. This new post will serve as a further defending the claim that Jesus claimed to be God. We will respond to both the arguments of those who deny that Jesus claimed to be God.

Jesus as God in Paul’s epistles?

Believe it or not, some people actually believe Paul did not view Jesus as God. Scholars and textual critics only view seven of Paul’s letters as definitely authentic and were certainly written by Paul — the book of Romans, Galatians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians, Philemon and Phillipians. Although the other six contain obvious references of Jesus as being divine (Titus 2:13, Colossians 2:9), they are argued to be pseudonymous by the majority of Scholars and thus not authentic to Paul’s name and thereby do not reflect Paul’s views. Although I disagree that they are pseudonymous, I will not reference them in discussion of Paul’s views. Here, we will see that Paul obviously viewed Jesus as God.

Let us see that Paul’s texts that clearly establish Jesus as God, and how those who deny this wish to respond are able to respond.

Phillipians 2:5–7: Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

A very obvious reference to Jesus as God, correct? The dissidents argue otherwise. Here, they say that the Greek word for the word ‘nature’ is μορφῇ (which is correct) — but they also claim that this Greek term does not mean ‘nature’, it merely means ‘shape’. Thus, Paul says the following:

Phillipians 2:5-7: Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, being in the very shape of God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage, rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

Then, the claim is put forth that this does not mean Jesus is God, it really (somehow) means that Jesus is taking on human likeness in some pre-existing celestial form. Unfortunately for these people, although they wish to pertain to this rather fanciful interpretation of this obvious verse, they are wrong. The Greek word μορφῇ does not only mean shape, μορφῇ can mean both shape and form. 3444. μορφή (morphé) — form, shape — in other words, translations like the HCSB are correct when they translate Phillipians 2:5-7 to say the following:

Phillipians 2:5–7 Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form,

Saying that the phrase “Jesus existed in the form of God” doesn’t actually mean “Jesus existed in the form of God” will always be a rather simple attempt to explain away this clear-cut phrase from Paul here. Paul here very clearly places Jesus as God. It only gets worse from here though. These people that attempt to completely re-interpret these straight forward statements will not like the fact that the Greek word μορφῇ is exercised elsewhere in the Biblical Greek literature, such as Mark 16:12.

Mark 16:12: After this, Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them as they walked along in the country.

The Greek word μορφῇ here is used very obviously, and we can see that this Greek word means taking on a physical form, so when Paul says “Jesus exists in the form of God”, he means that “Jesus literally exists in the physical form of God”. So it seems to me there is no possible way to put forth a plausible view where the text in Phillipians 2:5-7 does not amazingly clearly interpret Jesus as God. This itself can drive the position of these dissidents into the ground, but there is more.

[Romans 9:5] The ancestors are theirs, and from them, by physical descent, came the Christ, who is God over all, praised forever. Amen.

Another very clear verse, right? It says the Christ (Jesus) is “God over all”, right? Not to the deniers. The deniers rightfully point out that there is great debate over how this verse is to be translated and where the punctuation goes, as punctuation didn’t exist in the first century when Paul wrote Romans. Thus, it is up the modern Greek scholars to determine where the puncutation in Biblical verses are to be placed in light of the verses context. So these are the contending translations of the verse:

” … from their race… is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever”

” … from their race… is the Christ, who is over all. God forever be blessed!”

” … from their race… is the Christ. God who is over all be forever blessed!”

The deniers will tell you that only the first one views Jesus as God, but this is again false. As you can see, the second translation says “Christ, who is over all”. If Paul views Jesus as being over all things, or as being the highest being, then Paul views Jesus as God. So, two translations put Jesus as God and one doesn’t. But is the third translation really plausible? Notice, the translation has the unbearably long phrase “God who is over all be forever blessed!” — is this an accurate translation? No where else in Paul’s literature is such phraseology used, giving us good reason to believe that such a translation is false, it is in error. Therefore, all viable translations clearly put forth that Jesus is God.

Now, we will see other Pauline verses that make it extraordinarily obvious that Jesus is God. Firstly, we see Paul recording that people pray to Jesus.

[1 Corinthians 1:2] To God’s church at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called as saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord—both their Lord and ours.

I didn’t know Paul thought people could pray to someone other then God? Now, take a look at this verse which is an elephant in the room to anyone claiming Jesus isn’t viewed as God by Paul:

[Phillipians 2:10–11] so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—
of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Paul tells us that at the return of Jesus, ALL PEOPLES IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH AND UNDER THE Earth will BOW down to Jesus, and will CONFESS that Jesus is Lord. It gets amazingly worse for these people when the word translated as ‘Lord’ is κύριος, which means one who exercises absolute ownership. 2962. κύριος (kurios) — lord, master — if Jesus wasn’t God, then why does the entire world bow down on the mark of His name? This becomes increasingly more troublesome when we see this phrase in Phillipians 2:10-11 correlate with the following Old Testament text.

[Isaiah 45:23-25] By Myself I have sworn; Truth has gone from My mouth, a word that will not be revoked: Every knee will bow to Me, every tongue will swear allegiance. It will be said to Me: Righteousness and strength is only in the Lord.” All who are enraged against Him will come to Him and be put to shame. All the descendants of Israel
will be justified and find glory through the Lord.

We now see that what Paul is actually doing in Phillipians 2 is literally correlating an Old Testament text on the almighty Yahweh where Yahweh receives divine homage DIRECTLY with Jesus. This is a type of evidence in the Pauline epistles for the defenders of the idea that Paul portrays Jesus as God fascinates even myself. Seriously. But the problems get much more enormous for anyone continuously denying this. Paul views Jesus and God as the same person. For example, did Paul preach the Gospel of God?

[Romans 15:16] “to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”

Or did Paul preach the gospel of Christ?

[Galatians 1:6–7] I am astonished how quickly you are deserting the One who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is not even a gospel. Evidently some people are troubling you and trying to distort the gospel of Christ.

I can give many more examples, such as when Paul first says the churches belong to God (1 Corinthians 11:16) and then says the churches belong to Christ (Romans 16:16), or when Paul says the Spirit is of God in Romans 8:9 but then says the Spirit is of Christ in the exact same verse Romans 8:9. Paul even tells us the only way to be saved is to call on Jesus name (Romans 10:13) and to say that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9) ! The Greek word used for ‘Lord’ is κύριος which is used multiple times to reference God the Father. The evidence shows it is amazingly obvious that Paul viewed Jesus is God. There is more to go through, but this should be pretty clear by now. The Pauline epistles do in fact portray Jesus as God, as this is what Paul believed as well as Jesus and the early Christians. Because Paul is the earliest author of any Christian writings we have, his view that Jesus is God says quite an enormous amount regarding the earliest belief of Christians and the earliest theology of Christianity.

Christ, Son of Man, Son of God, divine phrase or Messianic phrase?

Some of these people like Tim O’Neill argue that the phrases Christ, Son of God, and Son of Man being titles of Jesus does not make Jesus as God in any way. Tim says this in his answer:

“Christ”, “Son of God” and “Son of Man” are all titles of the Jewish Messiah and the Messiah was not considered to be God.

Though he is right about ‘Christ’, which simply means the ‘Messiah’ in Hebrew or ‘the anointed one’ in English, he is dead wrong about the other two. There is no evidence found in the Old Testament that the phrase Son of God or Son of Man are mere terms used upon the Messiah that do not invoke divinity or being God in any way. Both terms are used on Jesus, such as Jesus being called the Son of God in Mark 1:1 or being called the Son of Man in Matthew 20:28. Although there is no evidence these terms only refer to a being aside from God, there is undeniable evidence that the phrase Son of Man in the Old Testament refers to God.

[Daniel 7:13-14] I continued watching in the night visions, and I saw One like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before Him. He was given authority to rule, and glory, and a kingdom; so that those of every people, nation, and language should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will not be destroyed.

The Son of Man is a figure authority over all peoples of all nations of all languages, whom is forever served by all the world, and possesses an everlasting kingdom in His dominion that will never cease. This figure is obviously God. I have a feeling Tim might go wild about the verses saying that He is given this authority, but this is because God is the Father and Jesus is the Son, and thus authority belongs to the Father by nature. Since when does a regular human control absolute authority over all humanity for eternity? I can find no place in the Old Testament where this is said to be due to anyone but God Himself — but I did find Zechariah 14:9, which tells us that it is Yahweh that is king over all the Earth — so it seems that the Son of Man is… Yahweh? Jesus proclaimed to be the Son of Man, therefore Jesus proclaimed to be Yahweh?

The funny thing that I’ve come to notice is that Tim O’Neill is one of the very only people who seriously believe that the phrase Son of Man does not refer to God. Others like Bart Ehrman fully accept it — but now you may be asking yourself, if Bart Ehrman himself viewed Jesus as not claiming to be God, what does Bart Ehrman do with Jesus’ claims to be the Son of Man if he views it is a term for God? Well, easy! He simply says that the Gospel authors made up every single phrase in the New Testament of Jesus (more than 80) where Jesus calls Himself the Son of Man. More on this later. In fact, if anyone is still denying that Jesus clearly claimed to be God such as in the Synoptic Gospels, perhaps they can take a look at the following few verses:

[Mark 14:60–64] Then the high priest stood up before them all and questioned Jesus, “Don’t You have an answer to what these men are testifying against You?” But He kept silent and did not answer anything. Again the high priest questioned Him, “Are You the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus, “and all of you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What is your decision?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.

Jesus affirms He is the Messiah, Son of the Blessed One and the Son of Man all at once, and in response the High Priest rips off his robes and declares that Jesus must be put to death because He committed blasphemy. In Jewish Law, you can only commit blasphemy in this context by claiming to be God.

Let’s go back to the term Christ — Jesus claimed to be the Christ, or the Messiah. These people will sometimes say that the Messiah was never to be a God figure according to the Old Testament… But the Old Testament will now challenge them on this.

[Isaiah 9:6–7] For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us, And the government will rest on his shoulders; And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this.

The Old Testament tells us that the figure who reigns on the throne of David, a son that will be persecuted and will establish an eternal kingdom (this sounds frighteningly like the Messiah) will also be called Mighty God and Eternal Father. So Jesus claiming to be the Messiah is Jesus claiming to be the one who is called Mighty God and Eternal Father, correct? It seems so. Thus, all three terms — Christ, Son of God and Son of Man establish that Jesus claimed to be God.

Jesus as God in the Synoptic Gospels of Luke, Mark, and Matthew

Remember, in the view of those who claim Jesus did not claim to be God, John’s Gospel when saying Jesus is God doesn’t count because it was written too late! Let’s ignore the fact that John the Elder wrote the Gospel of John, a man who directly knew Jesus. Let’s also ignore all the times Jesus calls Himself the Son of Man in the Synoptic Gospels as well, as well as Mark 14:60-64 in which we’ve already made note of. Let’s also put aside Paul’s letters for now. Even aside from all this, Jesus is still clearly shown as God and declares to be God in all the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus says He will literally judge the world on His throne.

[Matthew 25:31–32] “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

Who, aside from God alone, is going to sit on their throne and judge the world? We also see the very nice term ‘Son of Man’ appear again. Needless to say, the Old Testament obviously says God judges the world (Amos 5:18–20, Psalm 9:7–8). Anyways, Jesus calls Himself the Lord of the Sabbath.

[Mark 2:27–28] Then Jesus told them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Therefore, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Needless to say, the Old Testament proclaims that the Sabbath belongs to God only (Ezekiel 31:13, Ezekiel 20:12). Jesus says that He is the Lord of David.

[Matthew 22:41–45] While the Pharisees were together, Jesus questioned them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose Son is He?” “David’s,” they told Him. He asked them, “How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls Him ‘Lord’: The Lord declared to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand until I put Your enemies under Your feet’? “If David calls Him ‘Lord,’ how then can the Messiah be his Son?”

Jesus tells us only the Father knows Him, and only He knows the Father and to whom anyone Jesus wishes to reveal the Father to.

Matthew 11:27: All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal Him.

Jesus tells us He is wherever His followers gather, basically saying He can exist anywhere He pleases.

[Matthew 18:20] For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.”

Peter tells Jesus He is literally God’s Son, and Jesus blessed him for it.

[Matthew 16:13-17] When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But you,” He asked them, “who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” And Jesus responded, “Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven.

Jesus is declared to be the “Holy One”, that is called Son of God.

[Luke 1:35] The angel replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.

We can go forwards — Jesus further declares the Father hands Him authority over earth and heaven and so forth. The Gospels contain tens of references to Jesus as the Son of Man in all the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). Jesus is obviously portrayed as God. All this and all these verses together make an overwhelmingly compelling case to Jesus being God as portrayed in the Synoptics. These are not the claims of a mere human being, a human Messiah, or even the mightiest prophet. These are the claims to be put forth onto God and God alone.

Book of Hebrews says Jesus is God?

In discussion on Jesus claim to be God, the Book of Hebrews always seems to be ignored. The Book of Hebrews is an amazingly early text of the New Testament (written 64 AD). This is a very great document in order to understand the earliest interpretation of Jesus amongst the Christians, and lo’ and behold, it says Jesus is God.

[Hebrews 1:7-8] And about the angels He says: He makes His angels winds, and His servants a fiery flame but to the Son: Your throne, God, is forever and ever, and the scepter of Your kingdom is a scepter of justice.

Finally.. Let’s discuss the Son of Man again.

You’ll recall I said earlier that some people who deny Jesus claimed to be God simply think that Jesus proclaiming Himself to be the Son of Man was ‘made up’ by the Gospel authors. Not only is this the obvious dying breath of someone whom has a failing argument and has to come to terms with the facts that all the Gospels, Pauline letters and earliest Christian texts like the Book of Hebrews and the writings of Ignatius portray Jesus is God — also has absolutely no evidence in support of it. In fact, all the evidence seems to support that Jesus did claim to be the Son of Man based on these sayings. The idea that Jesus historically claimed this passes many historical criterions. For example, it passes the criterion of multiple attestation (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John say Jesus said Himself as the Son of Man), it passes the criterion of early attestation, and it also passes the criterion of dissimilarity. You’ll realize the term ‘Son of Man’ appears almost absolutely nowhere in the New testament apart from the sayings of Jesus — perhaps twice at best. This shows that it is not being made up, as the criterion of dissimilarity shows that this saying of Jesus is unique to Jesus’ quotations, and thus Jesus’ quotations are more likely to be His own (as a fictional quote from John would sound a lot like John’s own writing). All the historical evidence seems to clearly favor the authenticity of this saying, and thus we can have no doubt that Jesus claimed to be God.

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.

Matthew

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”

Mark

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.

Luke

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.”

John

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 (textexcavation.com/latinprologues.html)

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).”
  2. https://books.google.ca/books?id=xHU93Uevss4C&pg=PA8&lpg=PA8&dq=irenaeus+says+luke+and+paul+were+inseparable+companions&source=bl&ots=7XJlv_LOe4&sig=NxIDzQ4MPkbhhltg5Qzqv-jxses&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiR-7L_0ODPAhVDw4MKHRdcBlgQ6AEIJTAB#v=onepage&q=irenaeus%20says%20luke%20and%20paul%20were%20inseparable%20companions&f=false

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