Matt, Mark, Luke and John


Was just reading the local Sunday newspaper and a columnist was talking about John, the writer of the John in the Bible being the closest disciple of Jesus. I was always taught that the writers of the Bible, New Testament, who went by the names Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are not really known. However, the belief is that they started writing their stories about 80 years after Christ was crucified, came back and then left the disciples to go do their work. The thought process was that the first disciples of Jesus thought that the second coming of Jesus was close at hand, like within a year of so after he ascended into heaven. So they were fulfilling his task to them to go out and be fishers of men. They were spreading the word to anyone who would listen. But then many years later, like around 80 years, when some Christians realized that it had been a long time since Jesus had departed, 4 writers decided, (through the Holy Ghost) that they better put the word into writing or it might be forgotten or lost from word of mouth to mouth. These writers penned with the names Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But their real names are not known and none of them were around when Jesus was on the earth.
So if this is true, why do Protestants believe that these writers were actually the first disciples of Jesus? Sometimes, when I talk to a friend of mine, he is adamant that these writers were the ones walking and talking with Jesus. I normally tell him that the demise of the first apostles is documented by their death, usually by torture for their beliefs. So when did they have time to write? Most of them could not read or write, having no formal education. But it was around the time Saul, or Paul, the man who persecuted the Christians and then was converted and started spreading the good news with writings to various groups of people that the writers Matt., Mark, Luke and John penned the stories of Jesus from their divine inspiration and from what they were taught by word of mouth. So is
this still the prevailing Catholic belief? Or has it changed?


Mark was a disciple of St Peter
Luke was a disciple of St Paul
Matthew was a disciple of Jesus
John was a disciple of Jesus


Here, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is what the Church teaches:
76. In keeping with the Lord’s command, the Gospel was handed on in two ways:

-* orally *"by the apostles who handed on, by the spoken word of their…

  • in writing “by those apostles and other men associated with the apostles who, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing”.
Matthew and John were apostles; Mark and Luke were “other men…”.


At the website below you have What Does The Church Really Say About The Bible, by Edith Myers, The Wanderer Press, 1979

“…the Pontifical Biblical Commission was formally established by Pope Leo XIII in 1902, and in 1907, in Praestantia Sacrae Scripturae, Pope Pius X declared its decisions to be binding.”

4) On the Author and the Historical Truth of the Fourth Gospel, 1907.
There is sufficient evidence that John the Apostle wrote the Fourth Gospel, the Commission stated, to uphold this opinion against adverse critics. We may not say that the discourses of Our Lord that are reported therein are not really the words of Jesus but theological compositions of the authors.

**8) On the Author, Date of Composition, and Historical Truth of the Gospel According to St. Matthew, 1911. **
Matthew, the Commission said, is in truth the author of the Gospel published under his name. The Gospel was originally written in Hebrew, sometime before the destruction of Jerusalem. We cannot accept the idea that the book was merely a collection of sayings compiled by an anonymous author. While the book was first written in Hebrew, the Greek is regarded as canonical, and is to be regarded as historically true, including the infancy narratives, and passages relating to the primacy of Peter (Mt: 16:17-19) and to the Apostles’ profession of faith in the divinity of Christ (Mt: 14:33).


Thanks for this insight. I had never thought of it this way.

The Credo Bible Study is excellent. :slight_smile:


These conclusions about the authorship of John and Matthew are a minority view among bible scholars.

Although some notable New Testament scholars affirm traditional Johannine scholarship,[20][21] the majority do not believe that John or one of the Apostles wrote it,[22][23][24][25][26][27] and trace it instead to a “Johannine community” which traced its traditions to John; the gospel itself shows signs of having been composed in three “layers”, reaching its final form about 90–100 AD.

Most scholars believe the Gospel of Matthew was composed between 80 and 90;[2] a pre-70 date remains a minority view.[3]

[2]This view is based on three arguments: (a) the setting reflects the final separation of Church and Synagogue, about 85 CE; (b) it reflects the capture of Rome and destruction of the Temple by the Romas in 70 CE; © it uses Mark, usually dated around 70 CE, as a source. (See R.T France (2007), “The Gospel of Matthew”, p. 18.) France himself is not convinced by the majority – see his Commentary, pages 18-19.


Why is it so hard to accept that the gospels could certainly have been written by the men to whom they’re attributed?

Scholars, God bless them, are not infallible.

Matthew, as a tax collector, would have been literate. Luke, a physician, also. John, who was ‘known to the high priest’ could well have been known because he was also literate. Mark may not have been but could have used scribes.

So all of these people would have either been personally capable of writing, or had ‘scribes’ available to them.

Doesn’t it seem rather silly to think that they or their ‘communities’ waited 30, 40, or 50 years to start writing things down?

Sure, there was oral teaching as the norm, but the teaching rested on epistles if you will. The ‘preacher’ on a subject usually started from a written basis --the Torah, a rabbinical screed, etc., and then ‘preached on it’.

Wouldn’t it have made a lot of sense for the four men listed as writers to start ‘jotting down’ notes or dictating them RIGHT FROM THE START? And that as the years went by and it was seen how much material was available, to ‘gather it all in’ then, 30, 40 years later? So that the words could have been started right after Jesus’ resurrection, and added to over the course of months and years (which would explain some of the references of ‘later events’) and yet still allow the actual work to be done by the noted authors?

Sheesh. What is it about scholarship that it tends to make people ignore the most likely theory and try to ‘reach’ for less and less likely ones?

I can just see archeologists 400 years from now solemnly explaining that, after having explored the fragments of documents that exist after the nuclear wars of the 2100s, even though there is an ‘oral tradition’ of a charismatic leader named Martin Luther King who fought for ‘civil rights’, and even scant evidence of a ‘holiday’ in his name, that SCHOLARS are convinced based on the name and what is known of the period, that he is really a ‘composite’ of several ‘leaders’ and there actually WAS no such person. . . .:smiley:


And honestly, though it seemed to matter to the early Church, does it really matter whether the Gospels were written by the people they are attributed to or not? They are all Scripture and divinely inspired. Part of the beef some have with the NAB is its introductions to the books of the Bible, which often rely heavily on so-called modern biblical scholarship instead of traditional attributions. But even so, it does not dispute the authenticity of the divine inspiration of the books of the Bible.

BTW, to the above poster, Mark would have also been literate. Tradition holds that he was Peter’s personal scribe.


One of the reasons for putting the Gospel of Matthew at a later date is that parts of it are derived from the Gospel of Mark. So it cannot have predated the Gospel of Mark. Also, the author of the Gospel of Matthew is not named in the text itself and the attribution to Matthew was not added until sometime in the 2nd century.


Most “scholars” can be, and are, often wrong on this vital subject.

Apart from wikipedia being open to any and every assumption, the overriding fact is that because the authority of the original PBC has been ignored here, it should be noted that Pope St. Pius X made the rulings of the Commission a part of the Magisterium, the supreme teaching authority of the Church. This extension of the Magisterium was later removed after the Second Vatican Council. Cardinal Ratzinger writes: “The Pontifical Biblical Commission, in its new form after the Second Vatican Council, is not an organ of the teaching office, but rather a commission of scholars …” (5) Its promulgated decrees were and remain to this day ordinary Magisterial teaching. But after Vatican II the PBC no longer enjoyed this authority.
5. Preface to The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, Pontifical Biblical Commission, 1993.


Because they share text does not say which one came first. So you cant say one was derived from the other based only on that. The “hard saying” arguments which try to give order to the shared text don’t hold any water when examined closely.


Oddly enough, Early Church evidence points to a young dating of the Gospels with Matthew coming first. Scholarly opinion is only based on theory.

Take the ‘Q’ document for example. There is not, nor has there ever been evidence or mention of such an early document; and yet most scholars believe it existed.

So some scholars base their belief on unproven theory, while some Christians trust what the earliest Christians say.


If you want to read about really far-out theories, go to the forum on

Most “modern” scholarship is composed of thinly-disguised anti-Christians whose sole purpose is to discredit Christian origins any way they can.

But the site is a valuable resource on all of the early Christian writings and other ancients texts. All of them can be downloaded.


If you’re being serious, what makes you say this? Just out of curiosity; how do you know this?


Well, one tip-off is if they dismiss the sections of Josephus and Tacitus that deal with Jesus, and argue that the entire NT is a myth created decades after the events described.

Little things like that.


All of the internal evidence points to MUCH earlier dating that this.

The Book of Acts, which was written after the Gospel of Luke, ends very abruptly, with St. Paul in prison. Nothing at all is written of his martyrdom in the mid-60’s, how he died, when or anything else. Nothing is noted about the martyrdom of Peter either, also in the mid-60’s. Another HUGE event that wasn’t written of was the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD by the Romans, and the destruction of the Temple, which ended the sacrifices of the Old Covenant.

These bits of information would NEVER have been left out of the Book of Acts if it was written after 70 AD.

So the evidence points to the Book of Acts being written before any of these events. So at latest Acts was written in the early to mid-60’s, and the Gospel of Luke would have been written earlier (late 50’s to early 60’s). They could have been written even earlier.

And the same goes for the other Gospels. None mention anything about the Temple destruction.

I would be very wary of anyone proposing a dating of the Gospels being written in the early 100’s. It’s just not supported by the evidence.


If you are interested in solid dates for NT events, I would recommend Hagan’s “Year of the Passover” and “Fires of Rome”.

Hagan follows the characters mentioned in the NT through the secular historians of the time to come up a very interesting and consistent time line.


In the case of the synoptics, there are far too many similarities for me to believe that the apostles wrote those gospels which carry their names, unless they were shameless plagiarisers.

There was some sort of document or documents involved, from which the Gospel writers copied or borrowed at least some of the text.

We had a teaching session back in July presented by our Archbishop, which is rare, as he’s normally too busy for day and a half seminars. He also has a doctorate in Luke.

He made the comment that no-one knows who wrote Luke, and that scholars have spilled oceans of ink trying to pin him down. In his opinion, God doesn’t want us getting all tied up in the authorship as He wants our attention on Christ, not a bunfight about who wrote what.

He also pointed out that at least one (if not more) of the Gospels was written in what might be called “Schoolboy Greek”. Luke is not, being written in more advanced Greek. He gave us a personal example, stating that he himself spoke fluent Italian (and then burst into a couple of Italian sentences to prove the point), saying he had lived in Rome for a few years.

But he said he wrote in schoolboy Italian, never having had the formal training to write more cultured Italian. In a similar way, the author of Mark (and probably Matthew) also wrote in what might be called “Schoolboy” Greek. Which indicates that Greek was probably not the first language of those two Gospel writes, but quite possibly was for the author of Luke (and Acts).

I’ve long accepted the Gospels as coming with the designation (“according to” - Mark, Matthew or whoever), but not necessarily having been written by those Apostles, or apostolic groupies, if you’ll pardon the term.

The trouble for Protestants is that they have to prove everything fits into the “Bible”. Well, it doesn’t. God’s bigger than that.


I don’t disagree with you because I’m a Protestant; quite the opposite actually. I have a hard time believing that the ECF’s were incompetent morons who got caught up in a silly trick that these four random men wrote these Gospels.

Why choose Mark? Why Luke? Why not call the Gospels, “Peter, John, James and Thomas?” What about Papias? What about Irenaeus? What about Eusebius? The prevailing belief that not only did Luke write Luke, but also the Acts?


Sharing excerpts about an historical event with the same words is not plagiarism, it is reasserting the truth about what happened. These are not ideas to be plagiarized, they are historical realities that resided in the public domain.

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