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Matthew [c. 45-50 C.E.], Mark [c. 60–65 C.E.], and John [c. 98 C.E.] were eyewitnesses. Luke [c. 56–58 C.E.] made a scholarly study of documents as well as firsthand testimony of eyewitnesses. Moreover, the Gospel authors were inspired by God and moved along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21) In addition, the Gospels exhibit the signs of being honest, accurate, and trustworthy historical records.
Throughout the first 17 centuries of Christianity, the reliability of the Gospels was never really questioned in any serious way. However, especially from the 19th century forward, a number of scholars have viewed the Gospels, not as the inspired, inerrant Word God, but as being invented by men. Also, they have rejected that the Gospel writers had firsthand knowledge about Jesus Christ. Therefore, they have maintained that such men were incapable of recording a reliable history. Furthermore, they have concluded that the similarities in the structure and the content in the first three Gospels sometimes called synoptic (like view), suggest that Matthew, Mark, and Luke had copied extensively from one another. Critics have also denied Jesus’ miracles and his resurrection as they are reported in the Gospels. Some have likewise insisted that Jesus was not a historical person!
In their selective skepticism, hyper speculations, and unfounded hypotheses, critical scholars have prevented many receptive ones from examining the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry, which are, in fact, very reliable, accurate historical accounts. These Gospels unquestionably confirm that early Christians did not see the events of Jesus’ life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension as mere myths. There were literally hundreds of eyewitnesses who could verify the truthfulness of these historical facts. These early Christians were willing to face severe persecution and even the possibility of death to be a follower of Jesus, completely understood that being a Christian would be pointless even foolish if Jesus’ ministry and resurrection were mere fantasy. – 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, 17, 19; 2 Timothy 2:2.
The Four Gospels Authors Were Qualified
All of the four Gospel authors had unique qualifications in their effort to inform us in writing about the life and Jesus’ ministry, which they accurately and correctly recorded.
Matthew the Tax Collector
Levi (Adherence; Joined) also known as Matthew, probably a shortened form of Heb. Mattithiah, which means “Gift of Jehovah” was the first to author a Gospel [c. 45-50 A.D.]. He was the son of a certain Alphaeus.
And after these things, he went out and saw a tax collector named[a] Levi sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me!” (Luke 5:27).
“This may have been not a tax office per se, but a toll booth, where customs would be collected on goods in transit. As a tax collector (telōnēs), Levi is probably an agent of a “chief tax collector” (architelōnēs), such as Zacchaeus (19:2).” Matthew’s job as a tax collector would have made him an excellent choice for writing the Gospel of Matthew:
As a Jewish tax collector, he would have known both Hebrew and Greek. Full Literacy: Matthew would have been a highly skilled expert, who can understand spoken words, an advanced level grasp of written words. He has the professional ability to prepare long texts for daily living and employment tasks that require reading skills at the advanced level. He is a fully literate writer who is professionally trained in writing and can take on jobs, such as a copyist or scribe, a tax collector, teacher, lawyer, or a clerk to high-ranking positions like Senators.
Mark the Travelling Companion
Mark traveled with the apostle Paul extensively. John Mark also connected with Peter in Babylon. Mark early on caused some difficulty but eventually gained the approval and trust of leading servants of God and experienced the yet greater opportunity of being inspired to write an account of Jesus’ life and ministry.
It was the apostle Peter who provided the essential information for the Gospel of Mark. This is in harmony with the fact that Mark was connected with Peter in Babylon. (1 Peter 5:13) According to Origen, Mark wrote his Gospel “in accordance with Peter’s instructions.” (The Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius, VI, XXV, 3-7) In his work, “Against Marcion” (IV, V), Tertullian says that the Gospel of Mark “may be affirmed to be Peter’s, whose interpreter Mark was.” (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III, p. 350) Eusebius gives us the statement of “John the presbyter” as it was quoted by Papias (c. 140 C.E.): “And the Presbyter used to say this, ‘Mark became Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not, indeed, in order, of the things said or done by the Lord. . . . Mark did nothing wrong in thus writing down single points as he remembered them. For to one thing he gave attention, to leave out nothing of what he had heard and to make no false statements in them.’”—The Ecclesiastical History, III, XXXIX, 12-16.
John Mark obviously also had access to other sources of information. The early disciples of Jesus met in the home of Mark’s mother. Acts 12:12 tells us “the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.” Mark surely must have been familiarized with persons other than the apostle Peter who had personally known Jesus Christ very well. These ones would have seen Jesus caring out his work as he preached and taught. He was likely the young man mentioned at Mark 14:51-52, “And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.” Mark himself clearly had personal contact with Jesus. – Mark 14:51-52.
Luke the Physician
The Gospel of Luke was written by a man, who was a physician, who had a sharp mind and who was also guided by the Holy Spirit, which produced an account that is both accurate and full of emotion and feeling. Luke like Matthew would have been fully literate and would have been a highly skilled expert, who can understand spoken words, an advanced level grasp of written words. He would have had the professional ability to prepare long texts and reading skills at the advanced level. The vocabulary in the Gospel of Luke is more extensive than that of the other three Gospels joined together. Luke was a fully literate writer who was professionally trained in writing.
1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things accurately from the beginning, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know fully the certainty of the things that you have been taught orally. – Luke 1:1-4
What do we learn from Luke 1:1-4:
Luke had traveled with Paul to Jerusalem at the end of the apostle’s third missionary journey. (Ac 21:15-17) This would have put him in a great situation to “followed all things accurately from the beginning, to write an orderly account” concerning Jesus Christ in the very land where he had carried out his preaching and teaching activity. After Paul had been arrested in Jerusalem, as well as during Paul’s later imprisonment in Caesarea, Luke would have seized on many occasions to question eyewitnesses and to look through any written records. (Acts 21:30-33; 23:26-35; 24:27) Luke got his information from the eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Luke followed all things accurately from the beginning. Luke wrote an orderly account.
John, the Apostle
The apostle John was one of the twelve and moreover he was one of the three most intimate and close apostles in Jesus’ inner circle of trust (John, Peter, James). John was one of the few eyewitnesses to most of the events in Jesus’ life. John closes out his Gospel with these words.
This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. – John 21:24.
(1) The writer of the book was obviously a Jew, as is shown by his knowledge with Jewish opinions. (John 1:21; 6:14; 7:40; 12:34) (2) He was a local resident in the land of Palestine, which is shown by his accurate, meticulous familiarity with the country. The details discussed concerning places named evidence that he had personal knowledge of them. (3) The writer’s own statement and accurate, genuine evidence show that he was an eyewitness. John names people who said or did certain things (John 1:40; 6:5, 7; 12:21; 14:5, 8, 22; 18:10); he is specific about the exact time when events took place (4:6, 52; 6:16; 13:30; 18:28; 19:14; 20:1; 21:4); he with regard to what is actually the case; in relation to facts designates numbers in his descriptions, doing so in a manner that is not trying to impress people. (1:35; 2:6; 4:18; 5:5; 6:9, 19; 19:23; 21:8, 11) (4) The author of the Gospel was an apostle. This fits the details because no one but an apostle could have been an intimate eyewitness to so many situations connected with Jesus’ ministry; also his private knowledge of Jesus’ thinking, attitude, sentiments, beliefs, feelings, and reasons for specific actions shows that he was one of the twelve apostles who accompanied Jesus throughout his 3.5-year ministry. (5) Additionally, the author is spoken of as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” (John 21:20, 24) He was obviously one of the three most trusted, close, esteemed apostles that Jesus had in his inner circle on several occasions, such as the transfiguration (Mark 9:2) and the time when he began to be sorrowful and troubled in the garden of Gethsemane. (Matt. 26:36-37) When we consider these three apostles, we have to remove James as the potential author as he was put to death by about 44 C.E. by Herod Agrippa I. The Gospel was written about 98 C.E. Peter is also out of contention because of having his name mentioned alongside John, “Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them.” – John 21:20-21.
The Apostles Wrote the Gospels as Eyewitness Accounts
The skeptics and Bible critics abound who argue tirelessly that the Gospels were not written as eyewitness accounts. The Gospels are historical narratives but the authors never write them as first-person narratives. Moreover, unlike Paul’s letters, where he begins with, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus,” or Peter, who writes, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,” there are no such direct statement in the Gospels. When Luke is writing the book of Acts, he actually will shift into a first-person narrative for certain portions, so why doesn’t Matthew and John do the same? It is quite common in ancient literature to be slow in revealing themselves, being humble in their approach to identifying themselves within their own narrative.
Clear and Convincing
The authors of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John frequently tell us that they are themselves, eyewitnesses. John closes his Gospel with, “This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.” (John 21:24) Then, when we look at 1 John and 2 Peter, we get more details. The apostle John declares, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.” (1 John 1:1) “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3) Peter states, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” (2 Peter 1:16) Again, Luke tells us, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things accurately from the beginning, to write an orderly account for you …” (Luke 1:1-4) These collective remarks are compatible with the idea the authors of the Gospels viewed themselves as eyewitnesses who were giving future generations a historical narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Throughout the Book of Acts, the apostles named themselves as eyewitnesses, made known the truth as eyewitnesses, and so, they wrote their Gospels as eyewitnesses.
NORMAN L. GEISLER
What do we discover when we look at manuscripts of both secular codices and The Greek New Testament Gospels codices? What we find is that be it secular or Gospels, the author’s names appear at the beginning of the text and at the end of the text. This holds true if a text has more than one work in it.
The Greek New Testament manuscripts during this period conform to this method. In the Codex Sinaiticus (330-360 C.E.), the Codex Vaticanus (300-330 C.E.), two of our earliest and most trusted codices, and the Codex Alexandrinus (400-440 C.E.), the name Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are found at the beginning and at the end of their particular gospels precisely as one would expect them to be according to the custom of the time. Moreover, we find exactly the same with two of our earliest Greek New Testament papyri manuscripts, P75 (175-225 C.E.) and P66 (110-150 C.E.).
So, our earliest and most trusted manuscripts of the Gospels have only these names on them. In other words, there is no discrepancy in finding any other names. From the second century, we have manuscripts with names of the evangelists on them, which were copied only decades after the author’s had penned their perspective Gospels. There is no secular writing that is dated even remotely this close to their perspective originals, as the secular sources are centuries removed. So, once again for emphasis, the earliest Greek New Testament manuscripts with the Gospel author’s name on it are Luke on P75 (175-225 C.E.) and John on P66 (110-150 C.E.).
Michael Kruger talks about the widespread nature of this evidence, “What we find is incredible uniformity across the board for the titles of these gospels, Matthew’s Gospel is called ‘Matthew’; Mark’s is called ‘Mark’. It is amazingly consistent, something we would not expect if the titles were added later.”
Lastly, there are no manuscripts of the Greek New Testament manuscripts from the early historical period or any historical period that have names on them other than Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. This is precisely what should be expected if the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John had no dispute about them.
 Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 372.
 Metzger, Bruce M., Ehrman, Bart D., The Text of the New Testament, 4th ed., Oxford University Press, NY, 2005, 56, 58
 Michael Kruger, “Who Wrote the Gospels?” video, EhrmanProject.com on YouTube, 10/1/2010
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