The Gospel of Matthew:
An early church father, Papias (circa 130 CE), named Matthew as the author of this gospel. He is identified as a tax collector in a list of the twelve disciples in Matthew 10:3. He is probably the Levi, son of Alphaeus, referred to in Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27. Papias also believed that the gospel was originally written in Hebrew. This belief has little support today.
|Conservative Christians generally assert that the gospel was written by the disciple Matthew, perhaps 45 CE or earlier. The Scofield Bible states that the traditionally accepted date is 37 CE, only 4 to 7 years after Jesus’ execution. 11,12,13,16|
|Liberals believe that the name of the author is unknown. It was written after the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 CE, because it describes the event in Matthew 24. Various authorities date Matthew about 85 CE. 6,7,10,19
The Gospel of Mark:
Many Christian writers of the 2nd century CE identified the author as the John-Marcus who was mentioned in Acts 12:12. Mark was a helper who went with Paul and Barnabas on Paul’s first missionary journey. Liberal theologians generally believe that the identity of the author is unknown. Conservatives follow the church tradition that the author was Mark. 11,12,13,16 Fundamentalists within the Southern Baptist Convention felt quite strongly about this. When they obtained control of the denomination, they required their employees to subscribe to a loyalty oath in which they swore that they believe in Mark’s authorship of this Gospel.
Various sources estimate that this gospel was written sometime from 57 to 75 CE. Conservative theologians tend to estimate a much earlier date than do liberals:
|Rev. C.I. Scofield, editor of the Scofield Reference Bible gives a range of 57 to 63 CE. 11|
|H.H. Halley, author of Halley’s Bible Handbook estimates 60 to 70 CE. 12|
|H.L. Wilmington, author of Wilmington’s Bible Handbook estimates 57-59 CE. 13|
|J.D. Douglas, general editor of the New Commentary on the Whole Bible estimates the late 50’s. 14|
|L.P. Pherigo, author of an article about the gospel in the The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary on the Bible, estimates 64 to 75 CE. 15|
|P.N. Benware, author of “Survey of the New Testament” estimates 64 to 68 CE. 16|
|R. Shorto, author of “Gospel Truth” states that “Scholars believe that Mark was written about 70 CE.” 17|
The Gospel of Luke:
“Luke” was motivated to write the gospel and its sequel, the book of Acts, because he felt that previous gospels written by eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry lacked accuracy. Most of the gospel was copied from Mark and Q; about one third of the passages came from another source unique to Luke, often called “L”. This special material includes some of the most important passages: the parables of the Good Samaritan, of the Prodigal Son, and of Lazarus, as well as the story of Martha and Mary. Luke is also the only synoptic gospel to present Jesus as a savior (Luke 2:11). The gospel is aimed at an international audience of Greco-Roman readers. Luke is commonly believed to have been a physician. But recent analysis of his writings indicates that his knowledge of medicine was no greater than that of a typical educated person at the time. One interesting feature of the gospel is the use of duplicate parables: one involving a man and another woman. This, the emphasis on Mary in the first two chapters of the gospel, and other internal evidence, has led one theologian to suggest that the author of Luke was a woman.
Estimates of the date of writing range from the late 50’s to the 90’s. A date closer to 90 CE is likely, because the author comments on the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, and because of its dependence on Mark. Most conservative Christians believe that Luke was a doctor who accompanied Paul on his missionary journeys. Most liberal Christians believe that Luke was an educated person whose identity is unknown.
The purpose of Luke appears to be the promotion of Pauline Christianity among the Gentiles.
The Gospel of John:
The early church father, Irenaeus, recorded the church tradition that this gospel was written by John, son of Zebedee. Others claimed that the author was an Elder John from Ephesus. Still others attributed it to John, the “beloved disciple.” Throughout most of the history of the church, the Gospel of John was believed to have been written by Jesus’ disciple. Most liberal scholars today believe that it was written by a group of authors. 6,7,10,19 There is speculation that much of the gospel was written by a single, unknown writer, and that a second, later individual reworked the text in order to make it conform to contemporary church teaching. “John” contains a great deal of anti-Jewish sentiment. It holds the Jews and their descendants responsible for the execution of Jesus. It has largely responsible for inspiring Christians to violent anti-Semitic acts in the centuries since it was written.
Because of its theological principles and the emphasis on Jesus as the Son of God, it rapidly became the favorite gospel. It has remained the favorite today, particularly among conservative Christians. It was probably written between 85 and 100 CE, after believers in Jesus were expelled from Jewish synagogues. Chapter 20 appears to be the original ending of the gospel. Chapter 21 describes the miraculous catch of fish, and the reinstatement of Peter, appears to be a later addition.
|Conservative Christians typically believe that the entire gospel, including the addition, was made by John, the disciple.|
|Liberal Christians typically believe that it was written by a group of authors, and that Chapter 21 was added by a later editor of the gospel.|
THE BOOK OF ACTS
The book has had various titles, none of which are inspired. It is often spoken of as “The Acts of the Apostles.” Some of the other titles used include; “The Acts of the Holy Apostles, The Book of Acts”, “The Acts”, and “Acts of Apostles.” The use of the word apostle is accurate in that the work of the apostles are charted. It might be more accurately styled “Some of the Acts of some of the Apostles” since not all of them are mentioned.
Luke wrote the book of Acts sometime in the early 60’s a.d. This seems certain from the fact that Paul is imprisoned at the close of Acts awaiting the judgment of Caesar. We know that this took place about 63 a.d., shortly before Nero’s persecution of Christians. History tells us that both Paul and Peter were executed during the great Neroan persecutions of about 64 a.d.. If Paul and Peter had already been executed, why wouldn’t Luke have told about it, since he went into such detail concerning these two great men.
It is likely that Luke wrote the book while accompanying Paul in Rome awaiting Paul’s first trial. Luke, the beloved physician was at his side.