Who wrote Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?

Who wrote the four Gospels? From a historical perspective, it doesn’t quite  matter who wrote the Gospels. What matters is   whether the Gospels are true.  However, if we know the authors,   when they lived, and how closely  they associated with Jesus,   we will be in a better position to determine  whether their writings can be trusted. The four Gospels are named after their traditional  authors, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Matthew   was a tax collector and disciple of Jesus. Mark  was an associate of Peter, a disciple of Jesus.   Luke was a traveling companion with Paul, one  of the first missionaries who claimed to have   encountered Jesus. John was also a disciple of  Jesus, and one of the closest among the twelve.   This puts all four of these men in a  good position to write about Jesus. 

You may have heard people say that  the four Gospels are anonymous.   This, I believe, is an oversimplification of the  issue. Our earliest copies include descriptions   at the start which say “The Gospel according  to Matthew” or “Mark” or “Luke” or “John.”   From a literary perspective, scholars  consider this to be unusual, and so they   suggest that these words were added when the  four gospels started to circulate together,   maybe sooner. Whatever the case, we don’t  need to have names explicitly written down.   There’s other reasons for believing the Gospels  were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. For instance, there is no competing tradition  for the four authors. The only exception I’m   aware of would be a small group who denied the  authorship of John near the end of the second   century, but that didn’t last. The ancient writer  Irenaeus is one important author who gave us the   authors of the four Gospels. He personally knew  Polycarp who knew John, the disciple of Jesus.   This puts him in a great position to know who  wrote the four gospels, especially John. Many   other names could be given, and they write  about the authors as if there is no doubt,   probably because there’s wasn’t any doubt. As  far as we can tell, the whole church knew the   authorship of these Gospels. It appears these  writings always had a name associated with them,   even if the name wasn’t written down. In  that sense, they really weren’t anonymous. 

Some modern scholarship has denied one or more of  the authors, although it’s usually after ignoring   the early church writings or dismissing them far  too quickly. For instance, some would say that   Matthew is not the author of the first gospel,  because Matthew was an eye-witnesses disciple of   Jesus and yet he appears to have drawn from Mark.  So they ask: why would an eyewitness need to use   a source? Well, maybe the Gospel of Mark had so  much acceptance by the early church that Matthew   knew it would be good to use in his material, and  he didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. Others point   out that the first gospel comes from a perspective  that shows a deeper relationship with the Jews   than one would expect to find in Matthew.  But who’s to say Matthew didn’t know how to   speak to his audience? Others look to Papias  who said Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew,   and they think Papias was wrong about Matthew  because he was wrong about Hebrew. But everyone   is wrong about some stuff and right about other  stuff. It seems to me that the modern scholars   who write against the traditional authors of  the Gospels are speculating far too much. I   think we would be justified to push against  them because of the unanimous understanding   from all the writers who lived within the first  few hundred years of Jesus. These early authors   would have had many more resources that we don’t  have today. They would have had more connections   with other people who knew about the Gospels.  They would have been in a much better position   to know who wrote the Gospels than those of  us living nearly two thousand years later. 

Another reason for rejecting the traditional  authors is that we have writings of Jesus from   early Christians who falsely attributed names to  their writings. They say that Matthew, Mark, Luke,   and John might be similar. For instance, the  Gospel of Peter was not written by Peter. The   Gospel of Thomas was not written by Thomas. For  these books, we have good reasons to deny their   authorship, and it’s no surprise that the early  church rejected these books because they knew   it just as well as we do. But it doesn’t follow  that we would deny Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.   You have to evaluate these books on a case-by-case  basis, and that’s what I’ve been doing. In fact,   you look at the Gospel of Peter or Thomas, those are exciting names to have as Gospel!   Gosh, wouldn’t it be cool if we had a Gospel  of Jesus written by the legend Peter himself?   Certainly! That’s why his name was  falsely attributed to the Gospel of Peter.   It adds credibility. It draws interest. Same with  Thomas, Philip, and others. Matthew, on the other   hand, yes, he was a disciple of Jesus. But he was  a tax collector. Jews did not like tax collectors.   If you wanted to falsely attribute a name to  the first Gospel, you wouldn’t use Matthew. Mark   and Luke were not disciples at all, so their  names were unlikely to have been fabricated.   John would have been a compelling name to use  if somebody wanted to, but based on everything   else I’ve shared earlier in this video, I don’t  think there’s good evidence for us to go there.