The Four Gospels Were Not Written Anonymously

The Four Faces of The Four Gospels

If you read the comments of liberal New Testament scholars, you will notice that they often say the four Gospels were written anonymously. These scholars often state many reasons for why they think this is true, while never offering any evidence to prove their assertions. The reason most often given is that there are no names attached to these surviving manuscripts.

Most people are not aware that many of the 150 Psalms of the Old Testament, also did not likely have the authors names attached when they were originally written. It was not until later when the Psalms were assembled as one book, that the authors names were attached by those who knew their identity. Clearly, no one today thinks that the Psalms are invalid simply because the authors chose not to include their names in the text.

Papias knew who the writers were. So also did Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Clement, Eusebius, Tertullian, Origen, and the writers of the Muratorian fragment. The early church had no doubts about the identity of the Gospel writers and they were in a position to know who these writers really were. Any scholar today who claims that they know the Gospels were written anonymously is being disingenuous. No modern critic could know for certain that the original autographs did not have the names of the authors attached to those documents.

Papias said: “Matthew gathered the sayings of Jesus in the Hebrew tongue, and each person translated them as he was able.” This means that the early Christian church knew that the Gospel writers had written their original autographs in the Hebrew and likely with their names affixed. The Greek manuscript copies we have today don’t have their names, but this does not mean that they were not attached to the original Hebrew autographs, as Papias states.

The assertion made by critics, is that the four Gospels were written anonymously and the church leaders later added the names, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In the minds of liberal scholars, this later addition, calls into question the reliability of these narratives.

The fact that the writers of the four Gospels did not place their names on their Gospels about Jesus, is forensic evidence of truth. Only a humble, honest person does not seek recognition.

This process should not seem odd to us today when we understand that the writers of the New Testament believed that Jesus was the focus of their words and they did not consider themselves important enough to mention. John does not refer to himself by name in his gospel, but simply calls himself, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23, 20:2, 21:7, 21:20).

Even if anonymity was true concerning the four Gospels, it does not mean they were not written by the men who saw the events described in these narratives. To assert this is a fact is merely conjecture. It is far more likely that these men wanted to call the reader’s attention to Jesus and not to themselves. One of the reasons for anonymity is humility, particularly when writing about another person’s exemplary life. There is no logical argument that the omission of the writers name on the Gospels, proves they are not true. In fact, it proves just the opposite. A person seeking to deceive would have included the names of the men who are listed as Apostles so the story would be more believable. Only a humble, honest witness would leave out his name.

Just as with the Psalms, which originally did not contain the authors names, the early leaders of the Christian church, knew the identity of the writers of the four Gospels and these names were later accurately attributed to each Gospel. When we examine the extensive work of early Christian Apologist, Origen, he knew the identity of each author for all 27 books of the New Testament, by 240 A.D. The oldest known list of New Testament books is called the “Muratorian Fragment.” Dated near 170 A.D., it contains all the same authors names for each New Testament book that we have today in our modern New Testament. The authors of the four Gospels were never in doubt during the entire history of the Christian church.

The Original Autographs

We should also understand that there are no original autographs for the four Gospels or any other ancient works of literature from that period, secular or religious. Time and decay have eliminated these original documents from the historical record. All that we have today to validate an event of antiquity are surviving manuscript copies.

Because we do not have these first autographs of the four Gospels, we cannot say for certain that they were not originally written in either Hebrew or Aramaic, and did have the authors names attached. The manuscript copies of the Gospels that have survived time and decay are Greek Manuscripts without names associated with the texts. This does not mean that the writers were unknown, only that they authors either did not want their names to be recognized, or they were omitted in later copies.

Anonymity Does Not Determine Unreliability

It is important to understand that there are 97 unnamed works of literature, from before Christ, all the way up to the twenty-first century.[9] No serious historian has ever doubted the identity of these secular writings, or considered these works of literature invalid because the authors names were not attached. Only in the case of the four Gospels has this unmerited requirement been demanded of the text. If we used the same criteria demanded for the four Gospels, many other ancient works of literature would also fail to be validated as authentic. There is tremendous scrutiny applied to the surviving New Testament manuscripts that is not applied to any other ancient works of literature.

There are no secular events of antiquity which have survived with their original autographs. All that we have today to validate ancient events are manuscript copies. In this regard the New Testament has presented us with greater surviving manuscript copies, written close to the time the events took place, than any secular event of antiquity. If the New Testament is invalidated because extant manuscript copies were written too late to be considered valid, then so also is every other secular event because their copies come to us from much later dates.

Since we do not have the original autographs of the four Gospels, it is impossible to prove that the author’s did not attach their names to them. To state with certainty that this is true is simply a misrepresentation of the facts.

Understanding that the New Testament and the Gospels of Jesus Christ were written and distributed so many times over the past 2,000 years it is not surprising that many did not have the author’s names. We see several cases of copyist errors in spelling, punctuation, and incomplete words in the copies that have survived. It is highly likely that in an attempt to distribute copies to other readers, the names of the Gospel authors were omitted as an oversight. If this happened only once, each subsequent copy afterwards would not have the author’s name.

This is the likely reason that manuscript copies we have in later versions did not have the author’s name.

According to Dr. Bart Ehrman, he writes with confidence that the original writers did not place their names on the four Gospels. It is for this reason that Dr. Ehrman states that we cannot know for sure who wrote them and therefore they are not reliable.

At the same time, Ehrman asserts that much of the text in the four Gospels came from an unknown “Q” document that also has no name attached and there has never been any evidence that this document actually exists. How is it that Ehrman can place such confidence in the Q document and derive such authority from it with no proof of its existence or knowledge of who wrote it, but also assert that we cannot trust the four Gospels because there are no names attached to them?

You will find that the assertions of Bart Ehrman are often in contradiction to the facts.

It is a far leap from the author’s did not include their names, to we cannot rely upon them, particularly since Dr. Ehrman does not know whether the original autographs had the authors names. Until we find the original autographs, we cannot state with certainty that the four gospels were written anonymously.

We can say that the early Church father’s believed that the four Gospels we have in our possession, were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Origen quoted from all four Gospels in his extensive writings from 230-250 A.D. Origen seldom wrote a commentary without the inclusion of a Bible text to support his commentary. We have nearly all of the four Gospels in fragments, within Origen’s writings. The eventual canonization of the New Testament came about, largely due to the scholarly work of Origen in using all 27 of our current New Testament books, by 250 A.D.

The Purpose Of Four Gospels

The reason that God gave the world four Gospels is understood by their precise construction.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke are focussed primarily on the events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. John’s Gospel is different in that it is clearly written to explain the meaning of the events described by the other Gospel writers. John explains all of the things that Jesus said and did in the context of His power as God.

  1. Matthew writes to reveal Jesus as the promised King, the Messiah. He records twenty five Hebrew prophecies from the Old Testament that are fulfilled by Jesus as the Messiah. This would be extremely important to the Jewish audience that Matthew was seeking to reach.
  2. Mark presents Jesus to us as a servant who came to die for the sins of the world. For this reason, Mark leaves out many of the details of the other gospels in seeking to narrow the information to its basic content necessary to reach the simplest person, particularly the slave or uneducated.
  3. Luke writes from the perspective of a medical doctor and presents Jesus to us as a human being. Luke describes Jesus with great technical prowess, including tremendous details that are not present in the other gospels, while describing the very same events.
  4. John begins his Gospel of Jesus by informing us that Jesus did not have a beginning. He has always existed as the Eternal God (John 1:1). John’s genealogy of Jesus is simply, “In the beginning was the Word.” It is John’s intent to present Jesus to us as the Eternal God who came to offer salvation to the world. For this reason, he included the miracles that Jesus performed to validate His claim that He is God and the only One qualified to save the world.

We have the internal evidence of the four Gospels which presents us with sufficient evidence to prove authorship without a name being attached.

Evidence That Matthew Is The Author Of The Gospels That Bears His Name

Although no autograph is attached to the Gospel of Matthew, there is tremendous internal and historical evidence to prove he is the genuine author.

  • Matthew is is referred to by name on fourteen occasions throughout the history of the church as the author, from 70 A.D to 400 A.D.
  • The earliest copy of this Gospel was ascribed to Matthew in 125 A.D.
  • Papias describes the “logia,” the words or oracles, which Matthew had collected.
  • In the Didache, Ignatius, and the Shepherd of Hermas  describe a Greek Matthew
  • The style of writing that is presented to us in this Gospel is unmistakably the style of a Palestinian Jew like Matthew:

In the text we see that the writer is well acquainted with the geography of Palestine, which Matthew would have been,  (Matthew 2:1,23; 3:1,5,13; 4:12,13,23-25; 8:5,23,28; 14:34; 15:32,39; 16:13; 17:1; 19:1; 20:29; 21:1,17; 26:6)

The writer is familiar with Jewish history, the customs, ideas, and classes of people (Matthew 1:18-19; 2:1,4,22; 14:1; 26:3,57,59; 27:2,11,13)

The writer is familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures and consistently seeks to attribute twenty five Old Testament prophecies to Jesus as the Messiah.  (Matthew 1:2-16,22-23; 2:6,15,17-18,23; 4:14-16; 8:17; 12:17-21; 13:35; 21:4-5; 27:9)

The writer uses terminology is disctinctly Jewish (Matthew 2:20,21; 4:5; 5:35,47; 6:7,32; 10:6; 15:24; 17:24-27; 18:17; 27:53)

There are many early Christian writers who refer to Matthew as the author of this Gospel in their writing. Matthew was either cited or named as the true author during the first four centuries by the following:

  1. Pseudo-Barnabas (c. 70-130)
  2. Clement of Rome (c. 95-97)
  3. Polycarp (c. 110-150)
  4. Hermas (c. 115-140)
  5. Didache (c. 120-150)
  6. Irenaeus (c. 130-202)
  7. Justin Martyr (c. 185-255)
  8. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215)
  9. Tertullian (c. 150-220)
  10. Origen (c. 185-254)
  11. Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 315-386)
  12. Eusebius (c. 325-340)
  13. Jerome (c. 340-420)
  14. Augustine (c. 400)

The writing style of the gospel attributed to Matthew was either a tax collector or one who was intimately knowledgable of the job of a tax collector.

Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.  ~Matthew 10:2-4

Matthew writes in the style of the tax collectors of that day. He uses terms for accounting that indicate the author of this Gospel was well acquainted with the procedures for accounting. We see an example of this in Matthew 18.

Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. Matthew 18:23-24

In describing the parable of the Talents, Matthew distinctly uses terminology that allows us to see his identity as Levi the tax collector. We see this in the text of Matthew 25:14-15.

For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.  ~Matthew 25:14-15

Although the entire body of the New Testament is described as the inspired word of God (1 Thess. 2:13), we should remember that inspired does not mean dictated word for word in every instance. We consistently see that God uses men to record the principles and precepts of His word by using their own particular writing style. The Lord does not disengage us from who we are as the person He made us, from the work He calls us to do.

As a tax collector for the Roman government, Matthew would need to have certain skills that would permit him the ability to do his job well. We see in Matthew’s Gospel that the narrative is very concise and orderly. The Romans insisted on precise accounts in their ledgers and in order to accomplish this, Matthew would need the ability to write in shorthand. This would allow Matthew the ability record the precise words of a person as they spoke to him. In essence, for we who read Matthew’s narrative, we understand that this writer is telling us the specific words Jesus said.

There is no doubt that Jesus chose Matthew for his ability to hear, remember, and record exactly what He said. We see this demonstrated in Matthew’ Gospel as His writing is quite precise and to the point. This is of particular importance when we read the Sermon on the Mount, where in chapters 5 thru 7, we have the literal words of Jesus as He spoke them. Without Matthew’s background as a Tax Collector this would not have been possible. We must remember that the illiteracy rate at that time was near 95 percent. For this reason, Matthew education and writing abilities are extremely important to his authorship. There was likely no other person at that time who was better equipped to write this Gospel that is addressed to a Jewish audience, more than Levi, know to us as Matthew.

Matthew’s Writing Style Is Specifically To The Jews

As is evident with each of the four Gospel writers, they are addressing a specific audience. Matthew was seeking to present Jesus to the Jews. It was his goal to prove from the Old Testament scriptures that Jesus had fulfilled all of the Messianic Prophecies of the Messiah.

Matthew is unique amongst the other Gospel writers in that he distinctly presents twenty five prophecies from the Old Testament where Jesus fulfilled the literal words of the prophets. It is impossible to read Matthew’s Gospel without coming away with the idea that Jesus is the true Messiah. This becomes an empirical evidence for us in determining who the real author of this narrative is.

Ten times, after Jesus fulfilled a particular prophecy from the Old Testament, Matthew said: “This was done so that the words of the prophet might be fulfilled.”

  1. Born of a Virgin: Matthew 1:22-23, Predicted in Isaiah 7:14
  2. Out of Egypt: Matthew 2:15, Predicted in Hosea 11:1
  3. Messiah will be a Nazarene: Matthew 2:23, Predicted in Isaiah 11:1
  4. Coming First to the Gentiles: Matthew 4:14-16, Predicted in Isaiah 9:1
  5. Taking Our Sickness: Matthew 8:17, Predicted in Isaiah 53:4
  6. He Will Be Gentle: Matthew 12:17-21, Predicted in Isaiah 42:1
  7. Teaching By Parables: Matthew 13:35,  Predicted in Psalm 78:2
  8. On the Foal of a Donkey: Matthew 21:4-5, Predicted in Zechariah 9:9
  9. Disciples Forsake Him: Matthew 26:56, Predicted in Zechariah 13:7
  10. Clothing Gambled For: Matthew 27:35, Predicted in Psalm 22:18

Matthew presents a clear Jewish genealogy for Jesus that was required for anyone asserting their identity as the Messiah. We know that Matthew must have written his Gospel before 70 A.D., because when the Temple was destroyed by fire under the siege of Titus, all of the genealogical records were destroyed. Matthew’s Genealogy proves that Jesus is descended from both David, and Abraham, necessary for the Messiah.

Matthew Presents Jesus To Us As A Messiah With Authority

The Jesus that Matthew presents, is clearly one who fulfills the Hebrew scriptures as a Messiah with the authority to explain the true meaning of all God’s word.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  ~Matthew 5:17

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  ~Matthew 5:43-44

The prophet Isaiah said that when Messiah comes He will correctly interpret God’s law and make it honorable.

The LORD is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake; He will exalt the law and make it honorable.  ~Isaiah 42:21

The fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy is found in Matthew 5:17-48. As Jesus takes the leaders of Israel through a list of 7 points in the Law of God, He tells them:

You have heard that it was said… But I say to You…

The Pharisees had developed their own interpretation of the law of God, which was described as their traditions. Jesus informs the leaders of Israel that their understanding of the law was not correct. In saying this, He was elevating His authority above all other authority. Only God has the right to make laws and the ability to correctly interpret those laws.

This is all empirical, internal evidence from the narrative of Matthew’s Gospel that he is the true author.

Evidence That Mark Is The Author Of The Gospels That Bears His Name

It is understood that Peter was uniquely called by Jesus to make a testimony of His life, death, and resurrection. It is certain that Jesus chose Peter for his passion and ability to understand that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. It is also assured that Peter was not adept at writing his narrative as a simple fisherman and likely chose a scribe to assist Him.

We can understand who this scribe would have been by reading text in other places of the New Testament where Peter refers to Mark as his son (1 Peter 5:13). By this term of endearment, Peter meant that he was responsible for leading young Mark to Jesus for his salvation. We know that Mark was the traveling companion of Peter and that he had some difficulties with Paul when he went with him on his first journey into Asia Minor (Acts 15:37-38).

It is for this reason that we can logically conclude that Mark is the certain author of the Gospel which bears his name today. Mark’s testimony of Jesus came directly from the eyewitness testimony of Peter. In this, we have confidence that what Mark recorded is accurate and reliable.

In the book of Acts, we see that Peter went to the home of Mark to see him immediately after he was released from prison by the angel who removed his chains.

So, when Peter had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying.  ~Acts 12:5-12

Here, we see that Mark was known at that time as John Mark. His mother, Mary, was a wealthy and prominent Christian in the Jerusalem church.

The Gospel of Mark was probably one of the first books written in the New Testament, likely near 55-59 A.D.

Papias Describes Mark As The Scribe Of Peter

Papias wrote that Mark was the scribe of Peter in the Gospel of Mark while in Rome. In a five volume work called, ““Interpretation of the Oracles of the Lord,” Papias describes the Apostle John telling him that Peter dictated the words of Mark’s Gospel:

“And the elder used to say this, Mark became Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not, indeed, in order, of the things said and done by the Lord. For he had not heard the Lord, nor had followed him, but later on, followed Peter, who used to give teaching as necessity demanded but not making, as it were, an arrangement of the Lord’s oracles, so that Mark did nothing wrong in thus writing down single points as he remembered them. For to one thing he gave attention, to leave out nothing of what he had heard and to make no false statements in them.”[10]

Irenaeus Stated that Mark Obtained His Text From Peter’s Teaching

Irenaeus stated  also reported Mark penned his Gospel as a scribe for Peter, adding the following detail:

“Matthew composed his gospel among the Hebrews in their own language, while Peter and Paul proclaimed the gospel in Rome and founded the community. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, handed on his preaching to us in written form”[11]

Justin Martyr Said Mark’s Gospel Came From Peter

One of the first Christian apologists, Justin Martyr, wrote:

“It is said that he [Jesus] changed the name of one of the apostles to Peter; and it is written in his memoirs that he changed the names of others, two brothers, the sons of Zebedee, to Boanerges, which means ‘sons of thunder’….”[12]

Justin Martyr said that Mark’s Gospel was really just the “memoir” of Peter, which describes the sons of Zebedee as  “Sons of Thunder.” Mark is the only Gospel that uses this term, describing James and John and James in this way.

Clement Wrote That Mark Recorded Peter’s Words

In his book, “Hypotyposeis,” Clement describes a tradition of the elders regarding the Gospel of Mark:

“And so great a joy of light shone upon the minds of the hearers of Peter that they were not satisfied with merely a single hearing or with the unwritten teaching of the divine gospel, but with all sorts of entreaties they besought Mark, who was a follower of Peter and whose gospel is extant, to leave behind with them in writing a record of the teaching passed on to them orally; and they did not cease until they had prevailed upon the man and so became responsible for the Scripture for reading in the churches.”[13]

Eusebius Said That Mark’s Gospel Came From Peter

Clement wrote that the actual words for Mark’s Gospel were written down from what Peter had said while he was in Rome. Clement was not simply repeating what Papias had already stated, but is writing as an independent source to validate Mark’s Gospel as coming from Peter directly.

“The Gospel according to Mark had this occasion. As Peter had preached the Word publicly at Rome, and declared the Gospel by the Spirit, many who were present requested that Mark, who had followed him for a long time and remembered his sayings, should write them out. And having composed the Gospel he gave it to those who had requested it. When Peter learned of this, he neither directly forbade nor encouraged it.”[14]

This text is extremely important because it tells us that Peter was well aware of what Mark wrote concerning his words, and approved of these texts.

Tertullian Confirms Peter’s Words As Recorded In The Gospel Of Mark

One of the early Christian Apologist, Tertullian refuted the assertions of Marcion, in his book, “Against Marcion.” In this book Tertullian describes Peter as the true author of Marks’s Gospel.

“While that [gospel] which Mark published may be affirmed to be Peter’s whose interpreter Mark was.”[15]

The Muratorian Fragment

The oldest known list of New Testament books is called the “Muratorian Fragment.” Dated near 170 A.D., it contains text that describes the facts of Jesus, as witnessed by Peter, are in Mark’s Gospel.

But he (Peter) was present among them, and so he put [the facts down in his Gospel]”


This text is a reference to Mark’s presence at Peter’s sermons when he was in Rome with Peter and recorded these messages which later became the Gospel of Mark.

The Muratorian Canon or Canon Muratori, is a copy of the oldest known list of  books for the New Testament. This fragment consisting of 85 lines bound in a 7th or 8th century codex from the library of Columbanus’s monastery at Bobbio Abbey, a translation from the original Greek texts.

This fragment contains a list of all the New Testament books that were accepted as canonical by the Christian churches, and known by the original assemblers. This Fragment was discovered in the Ambrosian Library at Milan, Italy by Father Ludovico Antonio Muratori (1672–1750), who is the most famous of Italian historians of that generation, published in 1740.[16]

The actual formation of the New Testament canon did not take place until 367 A.D., when Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria, in his annual Easter letter, composed the list of 27 books that is still recognized today as the canon of the New Testament.

Origen Stated That Mark’s Gospel Was Authored By Peter

In one of his commentaries from near 240 A.D., Origen describes the foundation of the four Gospels. As a part of this text, Origen attributes the Gospel of Mark to Peter:

In his first book on Matthew’s Gospel, Origen  states that:

“He knows only four Gospels, writing as follows: Among the four Gospels, which are the only indisputable ones in the Church of God under heaven, I have learned by tradition that the first was written by Matthew, who was once a publican, but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, and it was prepared for the converts from Judaism, and published in the Hebrew language. The second is by Mark, who composed it according to the instructions of Peter, who in his Catholic epistle acknowledges him as a son, saying, ‘The church that is at Babylon elected together with you, salutes you, and so does Marcus, my son.’ 1 Peter 5:13 And the third by Luke, the Gospel commended by Paul, and composed for Gentile converts. Last of all that by John.” [17]

Internal Evidence Of Mark’s Gospel

A stark difference is observed in Mark’s narrative. Omitting a genealogy, this is a sign of things to come later. Mark is focussed on the more common citizen readers of his narrative as he is presenting Jesus as a servant who comes as God, in the form of a man, to give His life for the sins of the world. Since many of Mark’s readers were likely Gentiles or slaves, Mark takes a different approach from the other Gospel writers. No slave would have a genealogy, and no Gentile would care about such things. For this reason, Mark omits a genealogy from his testimony so that the readers can identify with a Savior who is coming to them in deep humility.

Mark is also unique in that he presents Jesus to us by His actions instead of what He taught. Much shorter, easier to follow and understand, Mark is clearly seeking to reach the common man.

When we study these four Gospels we see that they are not written for the purpose of creating a religion or as an attempt to establish a legend or mythological figure. It is clear from the manner in which the text is assembled that we are reading the testimony of someone who was at the scene of these events and is telling us what he heard and saw. Although Mark is recording these words for Peter, it is Peter’s recollection and presence during the time these things took place, that Marks places on the record of history. Make no mistake, all four of the Gospels are written to preserve historical events which were understood at that time, to be of incredible importance. this is the manner in which these narratives were written and it is clear when any person of reasonable disposition reads these texts, that they are genuine accounts.

Evidence That Luke Is The Author Of The Gospels That Bears His Name

The Gospel of Luke is the most unique of the four narratives of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. At the beginning of Luke’s account for Jesus, he tells us that he has examined the other accounts of Jesus and has a “perfect understanding of all things from the very first.”

Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.  ~Luke 1:1-4

Luke makes it clear that his narrative of Jesus came from those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning. We know this because of the construction of the original Greek text. Here, Luke uses ἄνωθεν anōthen, to describe how he came by the information he is compiling for us in his Gospel.

The idea behind the Greek,  anothen, is that he went back to the very beginning in discovering the precise events of Jesus life, death, and resurrection, so that he might assemble a reliable and accurate account for us. When we study the precise details of Luke’s writing in describing specific people, places, and events, we find that he is an extraordinary historian who is without equal.

The Precision Of Luke Validates His Narrative

Perhaps it is due to the profession of Luke as a medical doctor that has contributed to his incredible diligence in recording detailed facts that are a part of the New Testament. It may be that Luke was so overwhelmed by the perfection of Jesus humanity that he determined to write such a thorough account of all that Jesus had said and did. In any event, historians, archeologists, and literary experts, who have closely examined the statements of Luke in his gospel and the book of Acts, have been positively impressed with His trustworthy accounts.

One of the world’s greatest archeologists and historians is Sir William Ramsey. Notice how Dr. Ramsey describes the accuracy and detail of Luke’s historical references, as existing without a single error.

“I began with a mind unfavorable to (the accuracy of the New Testament) but more recently I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.”[1]

Dr. Ramsey believed, at the onset, that the accounts which are described in the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts were inaccurate. Over 100 years ago, he undertook an expedition to Asia to try and refute the New Testament, only to become so overwhelmed by the evidence that he became a follower of Jesus Christ.

“Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy…this author should be placed along with the very greatest historians.”[2]

Archeological Accuracy Confirms Literary Accuracy

Since Luke’s description of cities, names, places, and customs are perfect in their historical accuracy, it is certain that the accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are also accurate and reliable.

The fact that Luke has been confirmed as a scholarly historian of specific details regarding the history of the first century, it is certain that he also recorded the specific events of Jesus ministry with the same precision. Luke’s integrity as a historical scholar demands that we accept, with confidence, his testimony of Jesus’ resurrection, which is the foundation of the entire Christian church.

One of the criticism’s of Luke’s account of Jesus’ life is found in his description of the census that he says was ordered by Caesar Agustus.

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Luke 2:1-3

Because no previous archeological discovery had ever verified that such a census took place, Luke was regarded as having embellished this story. A later discovery regarding the taxes of the kingdom of the Roman government revealed that the tax payers were enrolled every 14 years by the use of a census. Archeology has uncovered facts which verify that Caesar Agustus did conduct the precise census described, during the period of time Luke specified—near the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.[3]

Further, an inscription discovered in Antioch describes Quirinius in 7 B.C., who was the governor of Syria, on two occasions—7 B.C. and 6 A.D.—a fact that is confirmed by the Jewish historian Josephus.[4]

An archeological discovery in Egypt, uncovered a Papyrus which specifically describes the details of this census spoken of by Luke, under Caesar Agustus:

“Because of the approaching census it is necessary that all those residing for any cause away from their homes should at once prepare to return to their own governments in order that they may complete the family registration of the enrollment and that the tilled lands may retain those belonging to them.”[5]

In his book, Archeological Confirmation of the New Testament,” Dr. F. F. Bruce describes a problem that was present in Luke’s description of the Tetrarch of Abilene in Luke 3:1.

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of AbileneLuke 3:1

Previously, there was no record of anyone called “Lysanias” as the tetrarch of Abilene during the time that Luke specified that he was there. In recent history, an archeological discovery made in Damascus, Syria, describes a person called the “Freedman of Lysanias the Tetrarch.” Scholars date this inscription between 14 A.D and 29 A.D.[6] This is the same period of time in which Luke had written in his gospel, describing Lysanias.

An interesting discovery in 1910, by Sir William Ramsey, debunked the secular record of Cicero of the Romans who described Iconium as being in Lycaonia. Luke describes Lystra and Derbe as being in Lycaonia.

…they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region. ~Acts 14:6

This secular record was erroneously held as more reliable and accurate than the Biblical record in past history. Today, we know that the Bible was correct all-along. This continues to be a common error that is frequently repeated today. The facts bearing witness—the Bible is always right in matters of history and the secular record is consistently wrong. This truth has been confirmed by archeological discoveries over the entire course of human history—all over the world.

Other noted scholars such as Dr. Adrian Nicholas Sherwin-White, a British historian and scholar—regarding Ancient Rome, wrote his doctoral thesis on the treatment of the New Testament from the point of view of Roman law and society.

Dr. Sherwin-White said this regarding the work of Dr. Ramsey’s conclusions on the book of Acts:

“Any attempt to reject its (the New Testament’s) basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted.”[7]

Dr. Sherwin-White examined the records of Rome and concluded that their own history proved the narrative of the New Testament scriptures regarding the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.[8]

Of all four gospel writers, Luke exhibits the greatest precision in recording specific details. This has allowed for the verification of every statement that Luke has made in his account of Jesus. As a result of Luke’s meticulous record and the verification of his writing as accurate and reliable, we have great confidence—as the readers of this gospel—that it is true. When a man takes the time to ensure that everything he writes, is accurate, we can be certain that even events that seem unlikely to us, are truthful. Because Luke is classified as a scholarly historian, by accomplished experts, we can have great confidence that his accounts of Jesus resurrection are also truthful.

In the case of Luke, we find that every word that he recorded for us about the specific events of the period that he was writing about, are true. Integrity is a quality that a person either has, or they don’t have. Luke’s integrity as a historian, is unparalleled amongst the writers of the New Testament. Although all the men who penned the pages of scripture that are in our Bible today, were men of honor, integrity, and honesty, Luke exceeds every standard of excellence.

If a man tells the truth about the smallest details, he can be relied upon when he describes magnificent details. If Luke exercised such honesty in preserving the details of his gospel, we can also trust that what he said about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, is also a true account.

Evidence That John Is The Author Of The Gospels That Bears His Name

The Gospel of John is perhaps the easiest to validate for authorship because of its later writing, near 90 A.D. References in John’s narrative make it clear that he is the true writer with his consistent third person references to himself as “The disciple Jesus loved.”

As John is the known writer of the Book of Revelation, this helps identity him as the author of the Gospel that bears his name today. There are clear similarities in writing style, word choices, and sentence structure between the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation.

In both works, Jesus is the central figure who is constantly exalted and centered in the dialogue. John’s intent was always to show the world that Jesus is the Christ, the only Savior of the world and that His power to save the world was derived from His nature as God, though dwelling within the body of a man.

In Revelation, the Gospel of John, and the Epistles of John, Jesus is consistently exalted as God and this gives us sufficient evidence to conclude that they are the same writer.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.  ~Revelation 1:1-2

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.  ~John 1:1-3

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. ~1 John 1:1-4

It is easy to distinguish the same writing intent of all three of these texts above. John wanted the world to know that Jesus is God, the Creator, and only in Him can a person find salvation. Notice that in all three above, John uses a style that is unique for him, to describe Jesus as the “Word.” John also writes in all three of these passages that it is his intent to act as an eyewitness for the reader so that there will be no doubt about the true identity of Jesus.

We see this in John 20 below, and 1 John 1:1-4 above.

  • John 20:31-31: “these are written that you may believe.”
  • 1 John 1:1-4: “that which we have seen and heard we declare to you.”

And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.  ~John 20:30-31

We have the benefit of John naming himself in the book of Revelation at the beginning so that authorship is not is doubt.

 I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.  ~Revelation 1:9

There are some critics who see a different writing style in the Greek language between John’s Gospel, and the book of Revelation. As Peter and Paul used a scribe or Amanuensis (secretary), to assist them in their writing, it is certain the John made use of the same resource. When John was banished to the island of Patmos, there were not others who could assist him in writing this text. This would explain why the Greek used in Revelation is more coarse than that of his Gospel.

Liberal Atheist Scholars Are Wrong

Once thing is certain, Bart Ehrman does not know if the original Manuscripts had the author’s names attached. When you read his website and books, remember that he is an atheist first of all. Second he is guessing about most of the comments he makes about Jesus and the New Testament. If you think I am wrong, read his words and look for actual evidence to support his statements. You will find that there is almost no evidence presented. He writes with the alleged authority of a New Testament Scholar, but he doesn’t believe in God, or that Jesus is God.

For these reasons, Bart Ehrman does not believe the New Testament is true when it records that Jesus is God and the only Savior of the world.

Are you willing to accept the expertise of a New Testament scholar who doesn’t believe God exists?

See my refutations of Bart Ehrman’s Thesis of Jesus and the New Testament in my new book: “Why Jesus Is God, And Others Are Not,” Now at Amazon.

[1]  William M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, 1982, page 8.
William M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, 1915, page 222.
1.John Elder, “Prophets, Idols and Diggers.” Indianapolis, New York: Bobbs-Merrill,1960. Pages 159, 160
2.Joseph Free,. “Archaeology and Bible History.” Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, 1969, Page 285.
Elder, John. Prophets, Idols and Diggers. Indianapolis, New York: Bobbs-Merrill,1960, Page 160.
1.Elder, John. Prophets, Idols and Diggers. Indianapolis, New York: Bobbs-Merrill,1960, Pages  159, 160.
2.Free, Joseph. Archaeology and Bible History. Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, 1969, page 285.
F. F. Bruce, “Archaeological Confirmation of the New Testament.” Revelation and the Bible. Edited by Carl Henry. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1969. Page 321.
Adrian Nicholas Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, 1963, page 189.
Tacitus’ characterization of “Christian abominations” may have been based on the rumors in Rome that during the Eucharist rituals Christians ate the body and drank the blood of their God, interpreting the symbolic ritual as cannibalism by Christians. References: Ancient Rome by William E. Dunstan 2010 ISBN 0-7425-6833-4 page 293 and An introduction to the New Testament and the origins of Christianity by Delbert Royce Burkett 2002 ISBN 0-521-00720-8 page 485
[9] Ancient Mesopotamian works:
See also: Sumerian literature, Sumerian creation myth, Babylonian mythology, Mesopotamian mythology, Sumerian mythology, and the Epic of Gilgamesh
Debate between bird and fish
Enûma Eliš
Hurrian hymn to Nikkal
Inscriptions at Tell Abu Salabikh
Instructions of Shuruppak, attributed to the historically debatable Shuruppak
Kesh Temple Hymn
Sumerian city laments
Lament for Ur
Lament for Sumer and Ur
Lament for Nippur
Lament for Eridu
Lament for Uruk
Sumerian creation myth
Ancient Egyptian works
See also: Ancient Egyptian literature and Ancient Egyptian mythology
Ancient Egyptian funerary texts
Coffin Texts
New Kingdom funerary texts
Book of the Dead
Spell of the Twelve Caves
The Book of Gates
Book of the Netherworld
Book of Caverns
Book of the Earth
Litany of Re
Book of the Heavens
Pyramid Texts
Ancient Egyptian medical papyri
Other works
I Ching
The Aesop Romance
Early classics
Cantar de Mio Cid
De Dubiis Nominibus
Dresden Codex
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
The Second Shepherds’ Play
“Enchiriadis” texts
Scolica enchiriadis
Musica enchiriadis
The Battle of Maldon
Diaries of Court Ladies of Old Japan
Gesta Hungarorum
The Secret History of the Mongols
St. Erkenwald
Corpus Hermeticum
Poetic Edda
The Lady of Escalot
One Thousand and One Nights
15th century
Modern pasquinades glued to the Pasquino statue in Rome.
The pasquinades (satirical poems) glued to the Talking Statues of Rome. They still appear from time to time.
The Key of Solomon
The Skibby Chronicle
La Farce de maître Pierre Pathelin
Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, published anonymously at the time, now considered likely to have been written by Francesco Colonna
The Voynich manuscript
16th century
Narrative of Some Things of New Spain and of the Great City of Temestitan
Lazarillo de Tormes
Chilam Balam
17th century
Theophrastus redivivus
The entire catalog of Pierre Marteau
All works published after 1788 by Sylvain Maréchal
18th century
An Essay on the Principle of Population by T.R. Malthus, originally published anonymously
Anti-Machiavel by Frederick the Great, originally published anonymously
Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin, originally published anonymously
The Sorrows of Yamba by Hannah More, originally published anonymously
Common Sense (pamphlet) by Thomas Paine, originally published anonymously
The Federalist Papers, by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay; originally published under the pseudonym “Publius”
The Animated Skeleton
The Cavern of Death
19th century
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, originally published anonymously
A Brief Inquiry Into the Natural Rights of Man
A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder by James De Mille, originally published anonymously.
Democracy by Henry Adams, originally published anonymously.
Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim, originally published anonymously.
Might is Right, published under the pseudonym “Ragnar Redbeard”. The most commonly claimed authors are Arthur Desmond or Jack London.
Romance of Lust, originally published anonymously but variously attributed to Edward Sellon or William Simpson Potter
Supernatural Religion: An Inquiry into the Reality of Divine Revelation by Walter Richard Cassels, originally published anonymously.
Tamerlane and Other Poems, the first published collection of poems by Edgar Allan Poe, originally published anonymously.
The Log-Cabin Lady
The Princess Ilsée
The String of Pearls
The Way of a Pilgrim
The Great Organ In The Boston Music Hall
Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation by Robert Chambers (publisher, born 1802), as only revealed after his death
20th century
The Autobiography of a Flea erotic novel published in 1901.
The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, the story of a young biracial man, was published anonymously in 1912 by James Weldon Johnson who revealed himself as the author in 1927.
Demian by Hermann Hesse, originally published under the pseudonym “Emil Sinclair”
Go Ask Alice, now known to have been written by Beatrice Sparks.
The Occult Technology of Power
A Woman in Berlin, an anonymous diary detailing experiences of a German woman as Germany is defeated in World War II.
Primary Colors, published anonymously. Journalist Joe Klein was immediately suspected as the author. He originally denied it, but admitted authorship within six months.
21st century
“Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”, published under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto
Bourbon Kid, an ongoing supernatural horror series first published in 2000[1]
The Bride Stripped Bare, an erotic novel published in 2003; soon after, the author was revealed as the Australian writer Nikki Gemmell.
Through Our Enemies’ Eyes: Osama Bin Laden, Radical Islam and the Future of America (2003) and Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror (2004) – both revealed to have been written by former CIA employee Michael Scheuer.
Recipes for Disaster (2004) – An Anarchist Cookbook published by the CrimethInc collective.
My Immortal (fan fiction) (2005) – A work of fantasy involving sorcery and the undead which has become a cult phenomenon. It relates to the gothic movement taking place in high school around the world.
Rolling Thunder (2005–2014) – eleven issues of “an anarchist journal of dangerous living” published the CrimethInc collective.
Diary of an Oxygen Thief (2006) – A Dutch novel about the independent art, literature, and music scene in Brooklyn, New York.
O: A Presidential Novel (2011) – ISBN 978-1-4516-2596-7. A speculative novel about President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. The publishers, Simon & Schuster, claim that the book was written by someone who was “in the room” with the President.
“I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration” (2018) – an op-ed published in the New York Times, written by an anonymous official working in the Donald Trump administration detailing the author and other officials’ efforts to oppose certain directives that they disagree with.
“I’M A SENIOR TRUMP OFFICIAL, AND I HOPE A LONG SHUTDOWN SMOKES OUT THE RESISTANCE” (2019) – an op-ed published in the Daily Caller, written by an anonymous official working in the Donald Trump administration detailing the author’s desire to get rid of wasteful government agencies and Trump administration saboteurs for good. Source: A list compiled by Wikipedia;
[10] Bishop Papias of Hierapolis (60-130AD, Ecclesiastical History Book 2 Chapter 15, Book 3 Chapter 30 and Book 6 Chapter 14.
[11] Irenaeus, “Against Heresies” Book 3 Chapter 1, Irenaeus (130-200AD).
[12] Justin Martyr, “Dialogue with Trypho,” 150 A.D.
[13] Clement of Alexandria, 150-215 A.D., “Hypotyposeis,” Ecclesiastical History Book 2 Chapter 15.
[14] Eusebius, “Ecclesiastical History,” Book 6 Chapter 14.
[15] Tertullian, 160-225AD,  “Against Marcion,” Book 4 Chapter 5.
[16] Muratori, Antiquitates Italicae Medii Aevii (Milan 1740), vol. III, pp 809–80. Located within Dissertatio XLIII (cols. 807-80), entitled ‘De Literarum Statu., neglectu, & cultura in Italia post Barbaros in eam invectos usque ad Anum Christii Millesimum Centesimum’, at cols. 851-56.
[17] Origen, Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History Book 6 Chapter 25.
[18] Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 3.39.16

Categories: Abhorrent teaching about Jesus, Anonymity of the Four Gospels, Atheists, Bart Ehrman, Common objections by Atheists, New Testament Manuscripts, Origin of the four Gospels, Principles of Biblical Interpretation, Robert Clifton Robinson, The Historical Jesus, Why Jesus Is God And Others Are Not

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5 replies

    • Very well, if you are able, write an impeachment, point by point, and prove the facts of this essay wrong.

      “Too weak argument,” is a weak argument.

      This essay is nearly 20 pages long. I would like to read more than a three word response from you.


  1. Your argument falls well short of the conclusion in your title.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your response falls well short of explaining why…


      • December 11, 2020: Two years later and you are still not able to properly impeach this essay! This is typical of atheists. You criticize the essay that is over 20 pages in length with dozens of citations and sources, and write 8 words of rebuttal. This tells me that you are simply a scoffer but have no ability to impeach the points made in this essay.

        Maybe in two more years, you will come back and try?


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