Are the Gospels Eyewitnesses Accounts?
Christians believe that the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) were written by those whose names appear in the title of the books. Most also believe that they were written in the same order as they appear in the Bible.
The truth is, all of the author’s names are sheer guesswork, or pious fraud. The titles “According to Matthew,” etc., were not added until late in the second century. All four Gospels were originally anonymous, none claim to be written by eyewitnesses, and all contain giveaways that they were written generations later, by well-educated Greek-speaking theologians, not illiterate Aramaic speakers.
There are extant writings accredited to the Apostolic Fathers, Clement of Rome, Barnabas, Hermas, Ignatius, and Polycarp; written, for the most part, early in the second century. These writings contain no mention of the Four Gospels. This also is admitted by early Christian scholars.
One of whom is Dr. Henry Dodwell who wrote:
“We have at this day certain most authentic ecclesiastical writers of the times, as Clemens Romanus, Barnabas, Hermas, Ignatius, and Polycarp, who wrote in the order wherein I have named them, and after all the writers of the New Testament. But in Hermas you will not find one passage or any mention of the New Testament, nor in all the rest is any one of the Evangelists named
(Dissertations upon Irenaeus, Henry Bodwell, 1689).
In other words, the four gospels were unknown to the early Christian Fathers. Justin Martyr, the most eminent of the early Fathers, wrote about the middle of the second century. His writings in proof of the divinity of Christ would have demanded the use of these Gospels, had they existed in his time. He makes more than three hundred quotations from the books of the Old Testament, and nearly one hundred from the Apocryphal books of the New Testament: but none from the Four Gospels.
The Rev. Dr. Giles says:
“The very names of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are never mentioned by him [Justin] — do not occur once in all his writings” (Christian Records, p. 71).
Even though the Gospels go under the names of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, they were, in fact, written anonymously. These names first appeared in the second century and were assigned to the anonymous writings to give the writings apostolic authority. The Gospel of Mark was written before any of the other canonical gospels and was written after the fall of the second temple which occurred in 70 CE.
They do not purport to have been written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Their titles do not affirm it. They simply imply that they are “according” to the supposed teachings of these Evangelists.
As Renan says, “They merely signify that these were the traditions proceeding from each of these Apostles and claiming their authority.”
Concerning their authorship, the Rev. Dr. Hooykaas says: “They appeared anonymously. The titles placed above them in our Bibles owe their origin to a later ecclesiastical tradition which deserves no confidence whatever” (Bible for Learners, Vol. III, p. 24).
Theophilus, who wrote after the middle of the latter half of the second century, mentions the Gospel of John. Irenaeus, who wrote a little later, mentions all of the Gospels, and makes numerous quotations from them. In the latter half of the second century, then, between the time of Justin and Papias, and the time of Theophilus and Irenaeus, the Four Gospels were undoubtedly written or compiled.
Allah Knows Best
Prepared by Mohamad Mostafa Nassar- Australia.
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