Archive for July 18th, 2012

Some Muslim writers assert that no one really knows if Matthew, Luke, Mark and John are the actual authors of the Gospels.  They claim that the traditional understanding or the orthodox understanding is not maintainable.  Because it is not maintainable, these writers will often cite liberal scholars, who are notoriously known to implement the higher-critical methodology to the Bible.[1]  To make matters worse, in order to justify their reasoning against traditional authorship of the Gospels, some Muslim apologists will go so far by using quotes from conservative scholars.[2]  For example, whenever a conservative scholar is seen quoting that  Matthew, Luke, etc. does not identify themselves as the author clearly, the Muslim apologist will use that snippet of information as a weapon against orthodoxy, while ignoring the positive arguments (internal and external) from the conservative scholar who argues in favor of traditional authorship.[3]

Before we get into the details concerning arguments against traditional authorship, I think it would be beneficial to first go through some Scriptures and what the early church fathers say regarding traditional authorship of the Gospels.  It is my prayer that Muslim apologists or even rationalists who implement the higher-critical methodology will see that God authorized Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to write the Gospels.  Let us now move in to some Scripture references that supports traditional authorship.

Scripture References for Traditional Authorship

The traditional authorship reveals that Matthew, who is a tax collector that went by the name of Levi and also Matthew, is the author of the Gospel of Matthew.  The following passages that speak of Matthew or Levi are: Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27-29; Matthew 9:9 and 12:3.  This disciple who is described as a tax-collector appears in all the lists of the twelve apostles (Matthew appears in all the lists of the twelve apostles (Mt. 10:3; Mk. 3:18; Lk. 6:15; Acts 1:13).[4] As an apostle, Matthew witnessed Christ and His resurrection.

Traditional authorship of the Gospel, reveals Mark as the interpreter/secretary and companion of Peter.[5]  He could be found in passages such as Acts 12:12, 25, and 15:37.

The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts reveals that Luke the physician and the companion of Paul is the author.  Luke was clearly one of the companions of Paul who sent his greetings in Paul’s letter to Colossae  (Col. 4:14).[6]  He could also be found in the following passages such as Philemon 1:24.

The fourth Gospel, which is the Gospel of John, reveals that John the son of Zebedee who was one of the twelve disciples, who can be found in passages such as Matthew 4:21; 17:1; Mark 3:17; 9:2; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13; and Galatians 2:9.[7]  John was not only an apostle and the only one who was not martyred, but He, including James and Simon Peter—the privileged three, were able to witness the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:37), the glorious transfiguration (Mark 9:2); and they were there with Christ at the garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33). According to the New Bible Dictionary, although the name John was not mentioned in the fourth Gospel, he is mentioned as the son of Zebedee in John 21:2 and he is clearly the disciple whom Jesus loved, and the one whom lay close to the breast of Jesus at the Last Supper as stated in John 13:23.[8]

Hence it is clear, that I will be arguing for the traditional authorship of the Gospels—by affirming that the Gospels were written by disciples in the case of Matthew and John; and based on the testimony of the disciples by those who knew them – in the case of Mark and Luke.[9]  Before I cover Matthew, I think it is important to first address the apologetical methods concerning the traditional authorship of the Gospels so that Christians will have a good understanding concerning the opponents they face.

Apologetical Methods for Traditional Authorship of the Gospels

When it comes to arguments surrounding the traditional or biblical authorship of the Gospels, I think that it is vital to presuppose the truth of Christianity as the proper starting point for discussing the traditional authorship of the Gospels.[10]  When debating a depraved person who does not respond to divine stimuli, but the stimuli of rationalism, the Christian must assume the truth of the Bible and the Christian worldview regarding the traditional authorship of the Gospels; and must not concede ground to neutral assumptions with a unregenerate person.[11]  Here is what Apostle Paul says about the unregenerate person in 1 Corinthians 2:14,

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”[12]

If Apostle Paul’s writings were inspired in 1 Corinthians concerning the condition of the unregenerate regarding the notion of the spiritual topics, how much more careful should we be when dealing with the unbeliever.

As Christians, we must be committed to the lordship of Christ as stated in Rom 10:9 and 1 Cor 12:3.[13]  For the purpose of this context, that means being committed to the Lordship of Christ in all areas of life and reality because there are no areas in this universe that should be interpreted outside the knowledge of God’s Word and sovereignty.[14]

In regards to commitment to and the use of the Word of God as our ultimate authority, here is what Pastor Greg Bahnsen said,

God’s word has been seen to be foundational to all knowledge. It has absolute epistemic authority and it is the necessary presupposition of all knowledge which man possesses.”[15]

If one does not embrace the biblical truths of Christianity as Pastor Bahnsen had stated, then one will open up the floodgates for “reason” to be placed on neutral ground.  If this is allowed, then epistemic bias will creep into the debate concerning traditional authorship of the Gospels; and the unbeliever will use his polluted epistemic authority to decide whether he or she should believe in the God of the Bible who authenticated the authorship of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John’s Gospels.[16]  However, this epistemic authority is never granted to the unbeliever.[17]  If the Christian does not presuppose truth in the area traditional authorship of the Gospels, then I believe what Eta Linnemann said should be taken to heart.  Here is what she says,

The concept of Holy Scripture is relativized so that the Bible’s is nothing more than a religious writing like all other religious writings.  Since other religions have their holy scriptures, one cannot assume that the Bible is somehow unique and superior to them.  This is why it gets treated like any other book.  There comes to be no distinction between how the Bible is regarded and how the Odyssey is read, even though it is clear enough upon careful study that there are differences between them.”[18]

I really believe what Eta Linneman says, hits the nail on the head.  By implication, it hits the nail on the head because if the Bible is not superior to other religions or humanistic, or uninspired books like the Qur’an, then the Bible will be treated just like any other book and everything will be relativized.  If that is the case, then no one has the epistemic fiat to dictate who is the real author of the Gospels and other books of the Bible.  There needs to be a standard in order to account for truth and reality when it comes to traditional authorship.  Otherwise, there will circular reasoning without ever coming to the truth.  As a result, as Christians, we must presuppose that the Bible accounts for truth and reality in terms of traditional authorship and humans must abide by them.  We must not concede ground to the Muslim apologists.  We have an inspired book – they do not!

Stay tune for the next installment.  I will be covering arguments for traditional authorship of Matthew.

[1] Keith Thompson, “Who Wrote the Gospels? Internal and External Arguments For Traditional Authorship,” Answering Islam: A Christian-Muslim Dialog, http://answering-islam.org/authors/thompson/gospel_authorship.html (accessed May 31, 2012), 1

[2] Ibid, 1.

[3] Ibid, 1.

[4] D. R. W. Wood and I. Howard Marshall, New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 739.

[5] Keith Thompson, “Who Wrote the Gospels? Internal and External Arguments For Traditional Authorship,” Answering Islam: A Christian-Muslim Dialog, http://answering-islam.org/authors/thompson/gospel_authorship.html (accessed May 31, 2012), 1.

[6] D. R. W. Wood and I. Howard Marshall, New Bible Dictionary, 703.

[7] Keith Thompson, “Who Wrote the Gospels? Internal and External Arguments For Traditional Authorship,” Answering Islam: A Christian-Muslim Dialog, 1.

[8] D. R. W. Wood and I. Howard Marshall, New Bible Dictionary, 592.

[9] Keith Thompson, “Who Wrote the Gospels? Internal and External Arguments For Traditional Authorship,” Answering Islam: A Christian-Muslim Dialog, 2.

[10] Michael Vlach, “Apologetic Systems,” (unpublished syllabus, The Master’s Seminary, 2011), 26.

[11] Michael Vlach,”What is Presuppositional Apologetics,” (unpublished syllabus, The Master’s Seminary, 2011), 30.

[12] All Scripture is quoted from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update.

[13] Michael Vlach, “What is Presuppositional Apologetics,” (unpublished syllabus, The Master’s Seminary, 2011), 32.

[14] Ibid, 32.

[15] Ibid, 32.

[16] Ibid, 32.

[17] Ibid, 32.

[18] Eta Linnemann, Historical Criticism of the Bible Reflections of a Bultmannian Turned Evangelical: Methodology or Ideology (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001), 84-85.


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