Sunday, October 4, 2015

Who Really Wrote The Four Gospels of Jesus Christ?

John 1:17-18 “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God, but the one and only son, who himself is God and is in closet relationship with the Father, has made him known.”

This topic deals with the details and analysis of the four gospels of Jesus life, death, crucifixion and resurrection as the different visits to his tomb.  These four gospels consists of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John with each giving slightly different accounts on certain details especially his resurrection and how many witnesses \who saw this miracle .  Because of this, there had been many speculations about the historical accuracy surrounding these events leaving some scholars confused.  Some scholars question who actually wrote these gospels, was it the name of the titles mentioned or was these gospels written some time later by other sources. 

The majority acknowledge that the gospels are not written in chronically order and because they’re written by different authors, that could play a role in why some of the accounts are different. The origins of the four gospels begin with 2nd century early church father and apologist Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul(now Lyon, France) who was a hearer of Polycarp, an actual disciple of the Apostle John.  According to Irenaeus, Papias of Hierapolis, another early church father and author who was also a companion of Polycarp and hearer of two of Jesus disciples, John the Presbyter and Ariston wrote down five books called “Expositions of the Oracles of the Lord”. 

These books contain reports on people he encountered who had known some of the members of the twelve apostles and of elders John the Presbyter and Ariston. The five books no longer exist but there are fragments preserved by Irenaneus and Eusebius, a Roman historian with citations taken by Eusebius on Papias’ report on what John the Presbyter recalled on both Matthew and Mark’s works.  First, Matthew, one of the twelve apostles had written a logia on Jesus’ teachings that Eusebius stated was written in a Hebrew dialect known as Aramaic. Eusesbius quoted “But concerning Matthew, he writes as follows ‘So then Matthew wrote the oracles in the Hebrew language, and everyone interpreted them as he was able”.  Some scholars believe Papias was claiming Matthew wrote two gospels the first one in Aramaic and the later one he translated in Greek since the Gospel of Matthew was written in the Greek language. Others believe Papias was referring to another author used some sources from Matthew’s logia and authorize the Gospel of Matthew. 

Eusebius also mentions Pantaenus, a 2nd century Greek theologian and leader of the Catechetical School of Alexandria who traveled to India as a missionary and found the Gospel of Matthew written in the Aramaic language which was left by Saint Bartholomew, another one of the twelve apostles who was also a missionary in India.  However, some scholars believe that Pantaenus had difficulty with the translation of the Saint Thomas Christians, a Christian community in India and confused the reference Mar Thoma(Bishop Thomas) with Bar Tolmai, which was the Hebrew name for Bartholomew.  It is believed that the Apostle Thomas traveled to India and was the one to spread the Christian faith there. Other scholars believe that Eusebius simply confused India with Arabia or Persia, however there is no clear certainly to that fact.  Regarding, Mark’s writings, it is claimed that he was a interpreter and traveling companion of Apostle Peter, who wrote down what he remembered about Peter’s teachings, although not necessary in order.

Ireneanus and other early Christian theologians and apologists including Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria also clamed Mark wrote down Peter’s teachings.  Mark is identified as Mark the Evangelist, who founded the Church of Alexandria, whom he became bishop, Coptic Orthodox Church and the Church of Africa.  Early Greek priest, theologian and historian St. Jerome also claimed he founded the Catechetical School.  Other sources identify Mark the Evangelist as also both John Mark who also traveled with Apostles Paul and Barnabas and assisted in their works and is mentioned several times in Acts of the Apostles, Acts 12:12, Acts 12:25, Acts 13:5, Acts 13:13-14 and Acts 15:37-40, and Mark cousin or nephew of Barnabas who is mentioned in Col. 4:10 and Philomon 24.  Mark is also mentioned in 1 Peter 5:13 as his son although more likely his spiritual son and 2 Timothy 4:11.  This is does become unclear as some sources also identify Mark cousin or nephew of Barnabas also as Mark of the Apollonias a Bishop of Apollonia. 

Furthur sources claim that Mark the Evangelist was also the naked man who ran during Jesus arrest mentioned in Mark 14:51-52, although other theories is he was Lazarus or Joseph of Arimathea.  He has also been claimed to be the man who carried water to where the Last Supper was taking place in Mark 14:13.  He is also thought to be one of the servants at the Wedding of Cana where Jesus transformed water into wine.  Another claim was that he was one of Jesus 70 disciples mentioned in the Gospel of Luke.  In fact, in 1854, two writings of Hippolytus of Rome a 3rd century theologian was discovered in the monastery in Mount Athos in Greece called “On The Twelve Apostles” and “On the 70 Disciples of Christ”.  The latter lists all the names of the 70 disciples including, Barnabas and Mark and the Evangelist, John Mark and Mark cousin or nephew of Barnabas.  

The problem with these theories, is that it would also contradict Papias’s report that Mark never heard or followed Jesus himself. They also list the three Marks as separate people.  These findings however, have been regarded as false and unreliable. There is no real evidence that Mark the Evangelist ever knew Jesus himself.  What is really interesting is the ending of the Gospel of Mark, Mark 16:9-16 wasn’t in the earlier manuscripts of the text and seemed to be added much later which would mean Mark the Evangelist didn’t write it. It isn’t known who wrote the longer version of the Gospel but its speculated the author/authors got there sources from the three other Gospels.  Regarding the Gospel of Luke, it is claimed the author is Luke the Evangelist, a Hellenistic gentile from the city of Antioch of Syria and the only gentile to have written one of the four gospels.  He was also physician as well as Paul’s disciple and companion who traveled with him on his missions.  He is also believed to have written the Acts of Apostles as well since in both these books, the author mentions Theophilus whom he’s writing the stories to.  

Irenaeus and Justin Martyr mentioned him in “The Apostolic Fathers” as a follower of Paul.  Others including Eusebius and St. Jerome also believe him to be the gospel’s author.  According to Epiphanus, a 4th century Bishop of Salamis, Cyprus, he was also one of Jesus 70 disciples.  Theophylact, a 11th century Greek Archbishop of Ohrid, named him one of the two disciples who meet a resurrected Jesus while traveling to Emmaus while 14th century Greek historian Nicephorus Kallistus claims him to be a painter who painted Jesus and his mother. Of course, there isn’t any evidence that any of these claims are true and in fact, it is very unlikely Luke ever met Jesus Christ himself.  It is claimed that he wrote down the gospel and the book of Acts from accounts of many eyewitnesses to Jesus ministry and from other documents including the gospel of Mark. 

The fourth gospel known as the Gospel of John, according to Irenaeus it is written by the Apostle John himself. It is also reported that the Apostle John wrote the gospel while he was in Ephesus some time after Paul’s death.  In his book “Against Hearsies”, Irenaeus refers to John as the disciple whom Jesus loved and also the disciple who leaned on Jesus breast.  This phrase is also mentioned in the Gospel of John in few verses, John 13:23, John 13:25 and John 21:20.  Irenaeus sends two letters one to the Florinus and another Victor the Bishop of Rome where he mentions Polycarp who knew John the Apostle and interacted with the other Apostles too and to whom Irenaeus received his sources.  Eusebius quotes passages from Irenaeus letters mentioning Polycarp.

However, there are some scholars who believe Irenaeus confused John the Apostle with John the Presbyter who was the true author of the Gospel of John but there isn’t any real evidence of this theory and many evidences point to the Apostle John. It also opens to debate by numerous scholars if the Apostle John also wrote the Epistles of John and the Book of Revelations.  Further discoveries of the four gospels lies within the reports of findings of ancient papyruses throughout history.   There was the discovery in 1901 in Luxor, Egypt of what is known as the Magdelen Papyrus three fragments of papyrus believed to be portions of the Gospel of Matthew, were written on both sides indicating they were written on codex rather than on scroll.  These fragments were purchased by a Rev. Charles Bousfield Huleatt who brought them to the Magdalen College Library, Oxford in England and classified as Papyrus 64.  In 1953, author Colin H. Roberts published the fragments.

Some years later, Roberts and other scholars discovered that these fragments were part of the same manuscripts of Papyrus 67, another fragment of the Gospel of Matthew located in Barcelona, Spain and Papyrus 4 a fragment that’s part of the Gospel of Luke located in Paris, France.  Another discovery was when a team of researchers found a papyrus wrapped as a mummy mask in Egypt though to a fragment of the Gospel of Mark made around 90 AD which will eventually be published. Then in 1952, was the discovery of an ancient Greek papyrus in Egypt at the headquarters of the Pachomian order of Monks known as the papyrus 75.  These writings were codex that consisted of part of the Gospel of Luke(Bodmer Papyri X1V) and the Gospel of John(Bodmer Papyri XV) possibly 3rd century old.  These writings were purchased by a Swiss Scholar Martin Bodmer and later sent to the Bodmer Foundation in Cologny, Switzerland and later published in 1954. 

Other ancient papyrus consists of the Rylands Papyri, a collection of thousands of Greek and North African fragments and documents in which includes the Rylands Papyrus 52 also known as the St. John’s fragment.  This first or second century fragment is a codex which contains small portions of the Gospel of John which is now located at the John Rylands University Library in Manchester, England.  This fragment was purchased in Egypt in 1920, and in 1934 it was translated by Colin H. Roberts.  Despite variations of the authors of the gospels, there are some who don’t believe that neither of the gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.  In fact, some debate that true authors were anonymous who wrote them some time in the second century. Their evidence, they claim is due to the fact that the Apostolic fathers including Clement of Rome, Barnabas, Hermas, Ignatius and Polycarp who wrote early Christian writings don’t mention any of the Four Gospels. 

Another evidence, is the claim that Justin Martyr who made 300 quotations from the books of the Old Testament and 100 from the Apocryphal books but he doesn’t mention any quotes from any of the Four Gospels, although other scholars have contradicted this.  They also believe the Gospel of Mark received its main sources from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and the fact that neither of Gospels were mentioned until the later part of the second Century.  Despite these claims, there isn’t any real basis for these speculations, and there is plenty of sources and documents to support the true authorship of the Four Gospels that I’ve mentioned. 

The fact remains is that the Four Gospels all varying accounts of Jesus life from his birth, his ministry, crucifixion and resurrection in which we Christians are familiar with throughout tradition.  What really matters is that we use these Gospels as our source about Jesus teachings, follow his example to grow more Christ-like and show honor the man who gave up his life for our sins.

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