18th century icon of Luke (Wikimedia Commons)
The question, “Who wrote the gospels?” is an important one. Church history and tradition—and many modern scholars—assert that the four gospels were written by eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection (Matthew and John) or by individuals with direct access to eyewitnesses (Mark and Luke). If they are correct, then the gospels are eyewitness testimony, and the idea that they transmit accurate historical accounts is strengthened.
Many critics, however, dispute the traditional authorship of the gospels. They cite a number of reasons for this, which we have been addressing through a series of articles on gospel authorship. Continue reading
St. Mark Writes his Evangelium at the Dictation of St. Peter, Pasquale Ottino, 17th Century
The Christian church teaches that the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are accurate historical accounts of the teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus. According to the church, these documents were written by direct eyewitnesses to the events recorded, or by people who captured the first-hand testimony of eyewitnesses.
Some argue that the gospels are not eyewitness accounts, but were instead compiled by anonymous editors several generations after the fact. However, significant evidence favors the church’s point of view. In this article, we explore the evidence for Mark’s gospel.
Who Was Mark and When Did He Write?
Scrolls with title tags
The Christian church teaches that the four canonical gospels—the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ birth, teachings, death, and resurrection—were written by eyewitnesses to the events they describe, or by persons with access to eyewitness testimony. Church history tells us that the gospels of John and Matthew, for example, were written by two of Jesus’ original twelve disciples. The Gospel According to Mark was written, we are told, by a follower of Peter, another disciple. Finally, The Gospel According to Luke was apparently written by a companion of Paul who interviewed disciples and other eyewitnesses. As a result, the church argues that these documents reflect direct, eyewitness testimony, and are reliable historical documents. Continue reading
This is the last in our series of posts sharing Ben Witherington’s critiques of Bart Ehrman’s work. Today, we share a critique of Misquoting Jesus: The Story of Who Changed the Bible and Why.
I have to ask the question: Does Bart Ehrman have any original thoughts? This book, like his others, contains many criticisms that are old, as well as busted. Misquoting Jesus asserts that belief in the divinity of Christ, as well as many other core tenets of Christianity, are basically the result of scribes altering the original texts over the centuries, either intentionally or unintentionally. Continue reading
Dr. Ben Witherington
Below is the description from Amazon.com of Bart Ehrman’s book, Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them):
The problems with the Bible that New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman discussed in his bestseller Misquoting Jesus—and on The Daily Show with John Stewart, NPR, and Dateline NBC, among others—are expanded upon exponentially in his latest book: Jesus, Interrupted. This New York Times bestseller reveals how books in the Bible were actually forged by later authors, and that the New Testament itself is riddled with contradictory claims about Jesus—information that scholars know… but the general public does not. If you enjoy the work of Elaine Pagels, Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, and John Shelby Spong, you’ll find much to ponder in Jesus, Interrupted.
Dr. Bart Ehrman
Bart Ehrman is the man that gives Christians more heartburn than any other academic these days. Erhman is a well-known Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a specialist in New Testament textual criticism, and he has written a wide range of books that are, in my opinion, damaging the Christian faith by repeating and amplifying various false theories.
Ehrman is an agnostic, but he didn’t start out that way. Raised with a fundamentalist background, he seems to have “rebelled” against that during his time as an academic, and now works to deconstruct the Christian faith. Continue reading
The Evangelist Matthew Inspired by an Angel, by Rembrandt
Of the four gospels, critics direct most of their fire at those of Matthew and John. This is, in part, because Matthew and John are the only two gospels that tradition says are direct, eyewitness accounts, written by original disciples of Jesus. If Matthew and John are eyewitness accounts, then they greatly strengthen the case that the gospels are historically accurate documents…and some skeptics do not want that. Critics also challenge the authorship of these gospels because the evidence regarding them is sometimes confusing, making it more difficult to discern who actually wrote what. Continue reading
Sculpture of Jesus and the “Beloved Disciple,” John, early 14th century
Of all the gospel accounts, the Gospel According to John is the most controversial. It stands apart from the three “synoptic” gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. John is more sophisticated theologically and contains some of the most beautifully-written verses in the New Testament. It was, according to Christian tradition, written by the Apostle, John. John was one of Jesus’ 12 original disciples, and is referred to as the “Beloved Disciple” of Christ. This work is important not only because of its theological insights, but also because it supposedly reflects an eyewitness account of Jesus’ ministry and teachings. Continue reading
In a recent post, we explored the origins of the gospels. These books outlining Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection, were written relatively soon after his crucifixion and, evidence indicates, are basically first- and second-hand accounts. The gospels of Matthew and John were written by two of Jesus’ original disciples, at least according to tradition and to early church historians.
Recently, while on a trip across the country, I was reading a book that repeated a common argument against the gospels being eyewitness accounts. Continue reading
The Apostle John the Theologian on the Island of Patmos, by A.N. Mironov
The main historical sources we have regarding Jesus’ life and ministry are the gospels (the first four books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and the Book of Acts, the fifth book of the New Testament. As we’ll cover in this and other posts, these sources
- Were written shortly after Jesus’ ministry, not hundreds of years later, as some have argued
- Are basically reliable from a historical standpoint
- Largely contain first- and second-hand accounts, and are not the products of centuries of legend, as some have argued
- Have come down to us reliably over the centuries, with their original meanings intact and without significant modification