Who Wrote the Four Gospels?

I recently read in another thread that we don’t really know who wrote the four Gospels (not referring to the non-canonical gospels). I guess I have always taken it for granted that there was ample evidence to support the namesakes of the Gospels, at a minimum Luke and John.

Who do the folks here believe wrote the four Gospels and can you support your position with evidence?

Last I checked, it was still Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Although, there may be some additions to the Gospel of John that were written afterwards… most assume its by one of his disciples. There was probably an addition to Mark, but I don’t know if its considered Markan or someone else.

The authorship of all NT book has been defined by the magisterium infallibly, see here:thumbsup:

According to your link, I come to the conclusion that the Canon of Scripture was authoritatively defined; not authorship.

Matthew: The Apostle Matthew, formerly Levi the Publican.
Mark: Mark, son of the Apostle Peter; Peter preached the gospel and his son wrote it down by request of those whom he preached to.
Luke: Luke, companion of the Apostle Paul.
John: The Apostle John; in his old age John dictated the gospel to a disciple, also named John.

A canon wouldn’t be improperly defined with books of unknown authorship. Just as a series of essasys by different writers isn’t organized without proper authorship.

If you read through the thread that adriancombe linked to, there was a very heated debate about the issue of whether or not authorship was established along with the canon. To me it seemed that everyone with one primary exception agreed that authorship was not authoritatively declared at any of the councils (forgive my verbiage - I am not presently a Catholic). I was personally more impressed with the arguments against a declaration on the authorship. One point made on that side of the issue was why the current Pope would leave the authorship in doubt when it came to who wrote the book of Hebrews.

I do appreciate your brief commentary on the background of the authors though. I was not familiar with who Mark was, nor had I heard that the Apostle John dictated to a disciple named John. Thanks. Just wondering if the Catholic Church has established that the authorship of the Gospels is not in doubt.

If you read carefully, every time the canon was defined, some of the authors were specified. Between the various councils & papal statements, the authors for all NT books were specified. Of course, anyone can insert into those statements supposition that authorship was not intended by those statements, but that is an unsubstantiated supposition based on modern prejudices.
It is like when the bible says Moses wrote about Jesus, and modern scholars try to come back and say Moses did not write the Pentateuch. When you insert all these modern suppositions into ancient texts, you really leave no room for them to say what they were trying to say. You cannot really expect them to have had the foresight to say, e.g., ‘The letters of Paul - even though we know someone later on will deny he wrote them!’ Maybe they should also have included a just-in-case clause for those who deny Paul existed, and one for those who deny John wrote Revelation etc. There are a lot of suppositions we have that they did not.

I think that the Pauline Epistles and other texts that atribute authors are likely by them, but with say the Gospels, we have no atribution. There’s just no evidence other than tradition that the Apostles wrote them. While they could have been, I don’t think that the authorship really matters anyhow. It’s what they contain that we care about.


The link you provided sent me to another forum discussion here, not to anything from the Magisterium.

Can you provide any evidence from the Magisterium to support your claim?


The Catholic Church does not teach that Catholics have to believe a certain individual actually wrote a given Gospel. We are free to believe, for instance, that Matthew wrote Matthew…or one of Matthew’s disciples did. That’s why the Catechism refers to the “sacred authors” without further specification (e.g. para 126).

For those who say the Church defined all the authors of the Bible, it’s my understanding that not all authors of the NT are specified. Particulary the Letter to the Hebrews, for example, is not identitified. Also, I believe the OT has several books that don’t specify the human author. Of course, ultimatley, the Holy Spirit inspired the human authors to write the Sacred Scriptures, no matter who they were.

I referred to Inside the Bible, a book by Fr. Kenneth Baker, SJ. This is an excellent guide to each of the 73 books of the bible. It includes descriptions of each book’s place in the bible; its date and author, its theme; a summary of its contents and each book’s theology. Per Fr. Baker:

  1. Matthew is attributed to Mathew/Levi by Church tradition.
  2. Mark is attributed by ancient witnesses to John Mark, a cousin of Barnabas and companion of St. Paul.
  3. Luke is attributed by the ancient tradition going back to Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius and Jerome, to Luke, a gentile Christian and companion of St. Paul.
  4. John is almost unanimously attributed to the Apostle John (the beloved disciple), brother of James.

Check again. One of the posters in that thread cites the Councils of Carthage & Hippo as well as Pope Innocent. That is definitely magisterial. In fact without those councils we wouldn’t even have a canon, at least not as we know it. So you would need to throw the baby out with the bathwater to question authorship.

That is an overarching and non sequitur conclusion. The term “sacred authors” is used of the whole Bible. You would be requiring the CCC to list all the authors every time they are referred to. Otherwise you invalidly infer they are nullifying the defined authorship of the previous 1K+ years, simply because there is no litany of authors each time.

Carthage and Hippo name Paul as the author of the letter to the Hebrews.

That is interesting but hardly conclusive. Those statements by the current Pope are not ex cathedra - but conciliar definitions are.

Mark was not the literal son of Peter. In his epistle, Peter calls Mark his son in the figurative sense, a son in the Faith, not a biological son.

John did not dictate the Gospel to another person named John.

These above two claims are not tenable theological opinions.

The early Church Fathers believed that the Gospels were largely written by
Matthew the Apostle, a tax collector (Levi),
Mark, a young man who was a disciple of Peter (also called John Mark),
Luke, a physician and associate of Paul, and
John the Apostle and son of Zebedee

St. Jerome and Bishop Eusebius and others assert this authorship.

The early Church Fathers did not agree on the authorship of the NT letters, especially the letters of John, and the letter to the Hebrews. These questions are still open questions in Biblical scholarship, which have not been settled by the Magisterium.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.