If you read the comments of atheist and progressive Christian New Testament scholars, you will notice that they often say the four Gospels were written anonymously. The idea behind this assertion is an effort to discredit the Gospels and call into question, their credibility, concerning the testimony written about Jesus in the four Gospels.
The first question we should ask a critic is how a work of literature becomes unreliable if a writer chooses to write anonymously? There are nearly 100 anonymous works of literature from antiquity that have never been questioned because the authors did not include the their names.
In John’s Gospel he tells us why he and the other three writers of the Synoptic Gospels, did not place their names at the top of these documents.
“Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies.” ~John 7:18
John the Apostle recorded that Jesus said these words to him and the other disciples. This teaching from Jesus became very important to these men, as they had learned by Jesus’ own example, as they never saw Jesus exalted Himself, but only the Father who sent Him to earth. It was Jesus’ example of humility and lack of effort to exalt Himself, that set the pattern for how the Gospel writers would record their testimony about Jesus. John the Baptist said it first: “He must increase, I must decrease.”
Jesus taught His disciples in John 17:18, that a person who seeks to honor someone who they are writing about, does not seek glory for themselves. Jesus is citing a well known Old Testament passage from Proverbs 27:2 “Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth—a stranger, not your own lips.” The writers of the four Gospels were seeking to exalt Jesus and the things He said and did, not themselves. Not exalting self is the mark of an honest, sincere person, not a writer who is fabricating lies.
It is interesting that when we read the opinions of atheist and progressive Christian scholars who insinuate that the Gospels were written anonymously, they provide us with no evidence this is true. The facts of history record that the early Christian church knew exactly who these writers were, and there is no record anywhere that the names of the true authors of the four Gospels was ever in doubt.
Numerous Anonymous Authors In The Historical Record
Most people are not aware that the 150 Psalms of the Old Testament, also did not likely have the authors names attached when they were originally written.1 It was not until later when they were assembled as one book during the period of the second Temple, 516-70 B.C., that the authors names were attached by those who knew their identity.2 Clearly, no one today thinks that the Psalms are invalid simply because the authors chose not to include their names in the text.
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.
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).
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 for 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, secular or religious, from that period. Time and decay have eliminated these original documents from the historical record. All that we have today to validate any 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 not 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.3 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 asserted for the four Gospels on every other ancient work of literature, very few could be validated as authentic. There is a tremendous bias applied to the surviving New Testament manuscripts that is not applied to any other ancient work of literature.
The New Testament has presented us with 24,593 manuscript copies, while the greatest number of surviving secular manuscripts are Homer’s Iliad with 643 documents.
Since we do not have the original autographs for 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 likely the reason that manuscript copies we have in later versions did not have the author’s name.
According to 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 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 claim 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 affixed. 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 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 context with 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 that is distinctly 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:
- Pseudo-Barnabas (c. 70-130)
- Clement of Rome (c. 95-97)
- Polycarp (c. 110-150)
- Hermas (c. 115-140)
- Didache (c. 120-150)
- Irenaeus (c. 130-202)
- Justin Martyr (c. 185-255)
- Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215)
- Tertullian (c. 150-220)
- Origen (c. 185-254)
- Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 315-386)
- Eusebius (c. 325-340)
- Jerome (c. 340-420)
- 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; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; 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 Thessalonians 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, or 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. For those who read Matthew’s narrative, we can understand that this writer is telling us the specific words that 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’s 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, 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.
- Born of a Virgin: Matthew 1:22-23, Predicted in Isaiah 7:14
- Out of Egypt: Matthew 2:15, Predicted in Hosea 11:1
- Messiah will be a Nazarene: Matthew 2:23, Predicted in Isaiah 11:1
- Coming First to the Gentiles: Matthew 4:14-16, Predicted in Isaiah 9:1
- Taking Our Sickness: Matthew 8:17, Predicted in Isaiah 53:4
- He Will Be Gentle: Matthew 12:17-21, Predicted in Isaiah 42:1
- Teaching By Parables: Matthew 13:35, Predicted in Psalm 78:2
- On the Foal of a Donkey: Matthew 21:4-5, Predicted in Zechariah 9:9
- Disciples Forsake Him: Matthew 26:56, Predicted in Zechariah 13:7
- 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 retains the ability to correctly interpret these laws.
This is 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.
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 sincere humility.
Mark is also unique in that he presents Jesus to us by His actions instead of what He taught. Mark writes in a style that is much shorter, easier to follow and understand, Mark is clearly seeking to reach the common man. This is no more evident that at the end of Mark’s Gospel where he abruptly ends His Gospel at 16:8, just after the words in verse 6, Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!
It is my opinion that verse 8 was where Peter instructed Mark to end this Gospel. This short ending fits the entire style of concise text that we see in the preceding chapters of Mark’s Gospel. I do not believe that the later additions placed at the end of Mark’s Gospel by verses 9-20, was an attempted forgery, but likely placed there as clarification by a commentator who later copied the text for people to read.
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—intended as incredibly important. 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.
See the chapter, “Eyewitness Accounts,” for a list of early church Fathers who state Peter is the true author of Mark’s Gospel.
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 done. 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.”3
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.”4
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 Augustus.
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 Augustus did conduct the precise census described, during the period of time Luke specified—near the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem.5
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.6
An archeological discovery in Egypt, uncovered a Papyrus which specifically describes the details of this census spoken of by Luke, under Caesar Augustus:
“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.”7
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 Abilene… ~Luke 3:1
Previously, there was no record of anyone called “Lysanias” as the tetrarch of Abilene during the time that Luke specified 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.8 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.”9
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.10
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 what Luke recorded 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 no 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
When scholars write that we cannot trust the New Testament because we don’t know who wrote them or when they were written, they are guessing. I am always surprised by how many people tell me that these men and women who say the New Testament is not reliable, don’t know that there is absolutely no proof any of this is true. These modern liberal scholars rarely provide evidence to prove any of their statements regarding the reliability of the New Testament.
Many modern scholars assert that they once believe in God. Some even claiming to have been an evangelical Christians, before they went to university and began to study the New Testament. These scholars state that after they were educated about the true facts of the New Testament they could not longer believe that it was true.
It is important to realize that many of these stories are contrived. You must understand that some of these individuals learned very quickly that by claiming to have once been a Christian and now an atheist, there was an eager audience ready to buy their books.
I know that this is true because the comments that many of these modern scholars make regarding the unreliability of the New Testament, do not come with support from actual evidence. If you read the books and articles of these scholars you will notice that they do not give the reader evidence that proves their conclusions. They expect the reader to take their word for it that they are telling the truth because they are a Ph.D, or a noted scholar.
By taking this adversarial position as a one time Christian who is now an atheist and knows the truth about the New Testament, these modern scholars have become very wealthy. Many of the books written by these critical scholars have reached the New York Times Best Seller’s List.
If you doubt my assertion, read one of the books by Bart Ehrman and notice that he is able to write a 300 page books about the unreliability of the New Testament, without providing a single piece of evidence to support his conclusions. All that you will find are Ehrman’s opinions.
I have had numerous young atheists tell me that I should trust the words of Bart Ehrman because he has done the necessary research and has obtained the education that allows him to make these conclusions. Many atheists don’t care if Ehrman or other atheist scholars do not provide evidence to support their ideas. They hear what they want to hear from these liberal scholars and this allows them to go on and keep denying the existence of God.
There are hundreds of thousands of people today who have denied God and refused Jesus Christ because of the words written by these lying scholars. Jesus said that men and women like this should remember that they will all stand before Him some day and give an account for all the lives they have ruined and doomed to an eternity without God by their lies.
One day Jesus said to his disciples, “There will always be temptations to sin, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting! It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these who believe in me to fall away. ~Luke 17:1-2
In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money. But God condemned them long ago, and their destruction will not be delayed. ~2 Peter 2:3
The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. ~Matthew 13:41-42
A few things are certain; Bart Ehrman does not know if the original Manuscripts had the author’s names attached, or precisely when the Gospels were written. He cannot prove that the writers of the New Testament were not eyewitnesses.
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, many of these modern liberal scholars do 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 assertions against Jesus and the New Testament in my new book: “Why Jesus Is God, And Others Are Not.”
1 Kselman, John S. (2007). “Psalms”. In Coogan, Michael David; Brettler, Marc Zvi; Newsom, Carol Ann (eds.). The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-528880-3.
The totality of the 150 Psalms were composed over a period of 500 years. A majority of the Psalms originated from the southern kingdom of Judah and were closely associated with Temple worship by the Jews at Jerusalem. Precisely how all 150 were assembled and the correct authors were attributed, is unknown. At least 73 were first attributed to David, but it is uncertain if his name was originally on the first copies. This is also true for the other Psalms that are attributed to Asaph (12), the sons of Korah (11), Solomon (2), Moses (1), Ethan the Ezrahite (1), and Heman the Ezrahite.
2 Understanding Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism, KTAV Publishing House, Lawrence H. Schiffman, page 48-49.
3 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
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
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
Ancient Egyptian medical papyri
The Aesop Romance
Cantar de Mio Cid
De Dubiis Nominibus
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
The Second Shepherds’ Play
The Battle of Maldon
Diaries of Court Ladies of Old Japan
The Secret History of the Mongols
The Lady of Escalot
One Thousand and One Nights
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
Narrative of Some Things of New Spain and of the Great City of Temestitan
Lazarillo de Tormes
The entire catalog of Pierre Marteau
All works published after 1788 by Sylvain Maréchal
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
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
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.
“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
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; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_anonymously_published_works
4 William M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, 1982, page 8.
5 William M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, 1915, page 222.
6 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.
7 Elder, John. Prophets, Idols and Diggers. Indianapolis, New York: Bobbs-Merrill,1960, Page 160.
8 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.
9 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.
10 Adrian Nicholas Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, 1963, page 189.
11 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