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The First Step of Bible Study How to Start Reading the Bible

The Great Debate About The Real Authors Of The Gospels
June 28th, 2016

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In the New Testament the “gospels” refers to the good news preached by Jesus that the Kingdom of God is at hand and the good news of what God has done on behalf of humanity in Jesus. The gospels are commonly associated with the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. There is much debate in regard to the authors of each of these gospels.

The Gospel of Matthew: There are two possibilities for the authorship of the book of Matthew. Many scholars believe that Matthew wrote the book himself. He was a record keeper for Jesus and thus would have been able to keep records of events and other happenings that would allow him to write about it. Another theory is that the gospel was written by an unknown Christian who was most probably at home in a church located in or near Antioch of Syria. There is some speculation that Matthew wrote the book but solicited the help of this other person and that is why some of the writings appear to be written by someone else.

The Gospel of Mark: The author of Mark is not mentioned in the gospel itself but early tradition assigned the authorship to Mark. As a companion of the disciple Peter, he reportedly wrote down, in Rome, what he had heard Peter preach. The nature of the material in Mark, however, points to a period when it was circulated in oral form before the author collected it and wrote it down, so it is doubtful to some that Mark simply wrote down what he had heard Peter preach.

The Gospel of Luke: Although the author is not identified in the text of the gospel, Irenaeus, a Christian bishop who lived and wrote near the end of the second century, claimed that the author was a companion of Paul. Presumably, Irenaeus was thinking of the Luke who is mentioned in Colossians and Timothy. Most scholars agree that the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts were both written by the same person because the writings themselves are the same and the style of writing is also so much the same that it cannot be disputed. It is known that Luke wrote the book of Acts in the New Testament.

The Gospel of John: The authorship of John has traditionally been attributed to John, the son of Zebedee, who was an apostle of Jesus. However, most modern scholars do not think that the gospel is apostolic in origin. The book of John, while it tells many of the same stories and messages as the other gospels, the writing style and tone is very different from the other gospels which leads scholars to think that is was not written by an apostle but there are no other possibilities that anyone knows of except for John. John is attributed the works of the book of John but simply by default.

The formations of the gospels encompassed three stages. The first is the life and the teaching of Jesus. During this period Jesus gathered disciples who heard his teaching and witnessed his deeds. The second was that of the oral tradition, the time between the death o Jesus and the first written Gospel. In this period the church assembled collections of Jesus’ words and deeds, his sayings, parables, miracles, and the passion narrative. In the third stage the Evangelists gathered these diverse collections to form their gospels. The first to do so was probably Mark and about fifteen to twenty years later Matthew and Luke followed. Because the first three gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) are so similar and their authorship was apocalyptic, they are now referred to as the “Synoptic Gospels”.

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