Who Wrote Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?

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There is much debate concerning who wrote Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Many argue that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written after all of the apostles had already died.

However, there is strong evidence that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the authors of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Who Wrote the Gospel of Matthew?

Papias (AD 95–120) – Who Wrote the Gospel of Matthew?

Matthew composed the logia in the Hebrew tongue and everyone interpreted them as he was able.

Papias. Cited by Eusebius, HE, iii. 39. 16.

The Elder used to say: Mark, in his capacity as Peter’s interpreter, wrote down accurately as many things as he recalled from memory—though not in an ordered form—of the things either said or done by the Lord. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied him, but later, as I said, Peter, who used to give his teachings in the form of chreiai, but had no intention of providing an ordered arrangement of the logia of the Lord. Consequently Mark did nothing wrong when he wrote down some individual items just as he related them from memory. For he made it his one concern not to omit anything he had heard or to falsify anything.

Papias. Cited by Eusebius.

What is Papias referring to when he says logia here? In the New Testament, logia refers to an oracular utterance that descriibes the Old Testament (e.g., Romans 3:2Hebrews 5:12). Could Papias be referring to the Gospel of Matthew with the word logia, or is Papias referring to a writing that only records the oracles of Jesus?

Arguments that Logia Refers to the Gospel of Matthew

  1. It is likely that the title of Matthew given to this Gospel would have existed during Papias’s time and that Papias would have known about it. If Papias knew about this title, then he surely would have made a note in the quote above if he was referring to anything else. Kilpatrick thinks that the form of the notices in Papias suggests that Papias knew about the titles to Matthew and Mark2.
  2. Papias wrote a series of books titled Interpretation of the Lord’s Logia. This suggests that when he says that Matthew composed the logia, he is basically saying that Matthew composed an interpretation of Jesus’ logia.
  3. Papias’ parallel statements concerning Mark’s Gospel say that Mark recorded both the words and deeds of Jesus, which strongly suggests that Papias is saying the same thing about Matthew’s Gospel.
  4. Papias cites “the Elder” as his authority that Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark, but he does not cite this authority for Matthew. This is likely because the authorship of Matthew was unquestioned, since it was written by an apostle.

The points above strongly suggest that Papias believed that Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew.

Was Matthew Written in Hebrew?

Papias says that Matthew was written in Hebrew, although he probably meant Aramaic. However, essentially every scholar agrees that Matthew’s Gospel was written in Greek. There are several possible explanations concerning this:

  • Perhaps it was known that Matthew wrote something in Hebrew first, and this knowledge was carried over into Matthew’ Greek Gospel
  • It is possible that Papias was simply wrong concerning what language Matthew wrote in
  • Perhaps Papias meant that Matthew was writing in a Hebrew literary style, rather than the language.

In any case, Papias’s testimony is not the only evidence we have concerning Matthew’s authorship.

Irenaeus (AD 130–202) – Who Wrote the Gospel of Matthew?

Now Matthew published also a book of the Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching the gospel in Rome and founding the Church.

Adv. Haer. iii. I. I, cited by Eusebius. HE, v. 8.2. The translation. cited is that of D. THeron’s Evidence of. Tradition (1957), p. 43.

It is likely that here, Irenaeus is using and interpreting Papias’s statement. Since Irenaeus does not mention anyone who disagrees, it can be assumed that there was unanimous agreement concerning Matthew’s author of this Gospel at this time.

Pantaenus and Eusebius

Eusebius says that Pantaenus discovered that Matthew’s Gospel was already in India when he arrived.3 Although there are doubts concerning this story, it contributes to the tradition that Papias is referring to Matthew’s Gospel when he uses the word logia.

Origin

Origin also says that Matthew wrote a Gospel in Hebrew. Munck says that Origin’s testimony is significant because Origin knew both Greek and Hebrew, yet did not question Papias’s statement.

Who Wrote the Gospel of Mark?

Papias (AD 95–120) – Who Wrote the Gospel of Mark?

The Elder used to say: Mark, in his capacity as Peter’s interpreter, wrote down accurately as many things as he recalled from memory—though not in an ordered form—of the things either said or done by the Lord. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied him, but later, as I said, Peter, who used to give his teachings in the form of chreiai, but had no intention of providing an ordered arrangement of the logia of the Lord. Consequently Mark did nothing wrong when he wrote down some individual items just as he related them from memory. For he made it his one concern not to omit anything he had heard or to falsify anything.

Papias. Cited by Eusebius.

Papias is very early evidence that Mark is the author of the Gospel of Mark. Here, Papias says that “Mark… wrote down accurately as many things as he recalled from memory.”

Irenaeus (AD 130–202) – Who Wrote the Gospel of Mark?

Wherefore also Mark, the interpreter and follower of Peter, does thus commence his Gospel narrative:  ‘The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who shall prepare your way.  The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord; make the paths straight before our God.’  Plainly does the commencement of the Gospel quote the words of the holy prophets, and point out Him at once, whom they confessed as God and Lord, Him, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who had also made promise to Him, that He would send His messenger before His face, who was John, crying in the wilderness, in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord; make straight paths before our God.’

Irernaeus, Against Heresies 3:10:5

Here, Irenaeus says that Mark, who is “the interpreter and follower of Peter,” is the author of “his Gospel narrative.” Irenaeus is another early source that says that Mark is the author of the Gospel of Mark.

The Muratorian Canon (about AD 170)

. . . at which nevertheless he was present, and so he placed. The third book of the Gospel is that according to Luke. Luke, the well-known physician, after the ascension of Christ, when Paul had taken with him as one zealous for the law, composed it in his own name, according to belief. Yet he himself had not seen the Lord in the flesh; and therefore, as he was able to ascertain events, so indeed he begins to tell the story from the birth of John. The fourth of the Gospels is that of John, of the disciples. 

The Muratorian Fragment

The Muratorian Canon refers to the Gospel of Luke as being the “third” book and the Gospel of John as being the “fourth of the Gospels.” This certainly implies that the sentence at the beginning that is cut off refers to Mark, the second Gospel.

The Muratorian Canon is another piece of early evidence that Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark.

Who Wrote the Gospel of Luke?

Origen (c. AD 184 – 253) – Who Wrote the Gospel of Luke?

Concerning the four Gospels which alone are uncontroverted in the Church of God under heaven, I have learned by tradition that the Gospel according to Matthew, who was at one time a tax collector and afterwards an Apostle of Jesus Christ, was written first and that he composed it in the Hebrew tongue and published it for the converts from Judaism. The second written was that according to Mark, who wrote it according to the instruction of Peter, who, in his General Epistle, acknowledged him as a son, saying, ‘The church that is in Babylon, chosen together with you, greets you and so does Mark my son.’ And third, was that according to Luke, the Gospel commended by Paul, which he composed for the converts from the Gentiles. Last of all, that according to John.

Origin, Commentary on Matthew 1

Here, Irenaeus says that Mark, who is “the interpreter and follower of Peter,” is the author of “his Gospel narrative.” Irenaeus is another early source that says that Mark is the author of the Gospel of Mark.

The Muratorian Canon (about AD 170)

. . . at which nevertheless he was present, and so he placed. The third book of the Gospel is that according to Luke. Luke, the well-known physician, after the ascension of Christ, when Paul had taken with him as one zealous for the law, composed it in his own name, according to belief. Yet he himself had not seen the Lord in the flesh; and therefore, as he was able to ascertain events, so indeed he begins to tell the story from the birth of John. The fourth of the Gospels is that of John, of the disciples. 

The Muratorian Fragment

The Muratorian Canon refers to the Gospel of Luke as being the “third” book and the Gospel of John as being the “fourth of the Gospels.”

The Muratorian Canon is another piece of early evidence that Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke.

Who Wrote the Gospel of John?

Irenaeus (AD 130–202) – Who Wrote the Gospel of John?

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

Irernaeus, Against Heresies 3:1:1

Here, Irenaeus says that Mark, who is “the interpreter and follower of Peter,” is the author of “his Gospel narrative.” Irenaeus is another early source that says that Mark is the author of the Gospel of Mark.

The Muratorian Canon (about AD 170)

. . . at which nevertheless he was present, and so he placed. The third book of the Gospel is that according to Luke. Luke, the well-known physician, after the ascension of Christ, when Paul had taken with him as one zealous for the law, composed it in his own name, according to belief. Yet he himself had not seen the Lord in the flesh; and therefore, as he was able to ascertain events, so indeed he begins to tell the story from the birth of John. The fourth of the Gospels is that of John, of the disciples. 

The Muratorian Fragment

The Muratorian Canon refers to the Gospel of Luke as being the “third” book and the Gospel of John as being the “fourth of the Gospels.”

The Muratorian Canon is another piece of early evidence that John wrote the Gospel of John.

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