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Authorship of Synoptic Gospels

None of the gospels say within themselves who wrote them, but the church fathers from the early second century attached the current names to them. They would have been the students of the authors, or at most, grand-students. Some even quoted from them and we still have those quotes.
Doubt about authorship of the synoptic gospels did not arise until the “Age of Enlightenment” 1800’s. This was a time with people tried to prove how smart they were by throwing away everything accepted as truth before them. They especially scoffed at the Bible and Christianity, seeing atheism as more “intellectual.” These people move the writing of the gospels to much later times, requiring different authors than tradition calls for.

Dating the Gospels

None of the gospels or Acts mention AD 70. Ad 70 was 40 years (ish) after crucifixion. Since this event would have proven Jesus prophecies true, this alone lends powerful proof that the gospels were written before AD 70. 

Nor do they mention Nero’s persecution, the death of Paul or Peter (ad 64, 65) Wouldn’t Acts, by its very nature as the history of the Early Church, have mentioned these things?

If you were going to fake a gospel,

You would pick the most popular, trust worthy disciple to name it after.  Matthew was not that. Mark and Luke weren’t even disciples. Luke wasn’t even a Jew (best we can tell).

All four have had their names attached since the early second century with no competitors, no doubts (except for John which I discuss in a different aritcle) until the 1800’s.

Q Source

The existence of a “Q gospel” is speculation.  It was never mentioned by early church leaders, never hinted at. No copies survived, though we have many faux-gospels (all named after prominent disciples, by the way). The idea was first purposed in the 1800’s, after many came to believe Mark was written before Matthew. Q “must” have existed because where else would Mark get all his information?

Q is believed to be a collection of sayings from Jesus written before “Christian doctrine” was developed. There is a subtle distrust/disbelief in the Bible as truth here.

If Matthew was written first, we don’t really need Q, since Matthew could easily have been the primary source of the record of Christ’s sayings.


Ancients believed Matthew was the first gospel written.  It is 90% the same as Mark, so modern scholars assume Mark was written first and Matthew copied and expanded on his work (with the help of Q).

Matthew was probably written in Antioch.

One question, though, would be why Matthew would copy, just about word for word, Mark’s accounts of what Matthew experienced first-hand (such as the banquet in his own house in Matthew 9:9-13, Mark 2:13-17) Isn’t it more reasonable that Matthew wrote it down first and Mark copied him?

Matthew focused on the Jews. He quotes the Old Testament 62 times. He doesn’t bother to explain Jewish customs as the other gospels do. He is the only author to use “kingdom of heaven” instead of “kingdom of God.” He correlates Old Testament prophecy with the life of Christ.

Some quotes from the early fathers sound kind of like Matthew was originally written in Aramaic, but the grammar is correct Greek with no hint of translation problems. We are probably misunderstanding the pronoun assignment in the 2nd century quotes.

Matthew was quoted from by Ignatius who died around A.D. 115. This book is also quoted by Clement by the very late 1st century AD, so we know it was written and already considered "scripture" by then.

Matthew may have been written by as early as AD 40, though most think around 50. Note added by scholars as early as 125 attribute it to the disciple Matthew and are found on all known manuscripts. There is no known debate of authorship prior to modern times.

This would fulfill the requirements for a source of exact sayings written shortly after the time of Christ, exactly what Q is supposed to be.


Some now believe mark to be the first written because it is so much shorter and similar to Matthew. The speculation is that Matthew took Mark’s gospel (plus Q) and expanded it.

However, it is likely Mark took Matthew’s gospel and eliminated all that the Roman Christians he was writing to would not have been interested in, and added explanations the gentiles needed of basic Jewish culture.

The general agreement is that “Mark” is the gospel of Peter as told to John Mark (likely with the book of Matthew in hand). It was likely written around 65AD (Peter being murdered around 65). Whether written before or after Peter’s death we can’t really tell from the early church’s writings. They contradict each other. Maybe he began it before Peter died and finished it after?

Mark was a companion of Paul (Acts 12:25) the cousin of Barnabas (Col.4:10) and the companion of Peter (I Pt.5:13) possibly his interpreter. He was called “stump-fingered” by one of the 2nd century church leaders because he had short fingers?

The grammar and structure are consistent with Mark’s believed educational/social level. The linguistic style is that of someone writing in a second language with their first language Aramaic.

Mark refers to “Rufus and Alexander” (Mark.15:21) being the sons of Simon of Cyrene. Why would he bother with this unless the audience for the gospel knew who Rufus and Alexander were? Rufus is mentioned by Paul in the book of Romans (16:13). Even if the author were someone other than John Mark it still shows that the gospel had to have been written within the lifetime of the sons of Simon of Cyrene.”

Mark employs Roman time keeping, uses Roman military terminology which would have been understood by his audience.

Luke may possibly have developed John Mark in the book of Acts not only for literary reasons within the book, but because he was a source which Luke used

There is a similarity between the broad outline of this Gospel and Peter’s sermon in Caesarea [Galilee, Jerusalem, Passion, Resurrection, Commission] (Acts 10:34-43)

Mark was considered to be an abstract of Matthew from Augustine until the early part of the nineteenth century (Guthrie, p. 133)

Details such as Jesus using a pillow in the boat suggest that the account came from an eyewitness, which Peter certainly was.

The original document appears to have ended at 16:8. 9- and the rest was added later.


Luke written by gentile Luke, companion of Paul, acquaintance of apostles and other eyewitnesses. It was written before Paul’s execution (mid 60’s?)

The last part of Acts was written in first person plural (we). Possibly Acts was written as part of Paul’s defense before Caesar. Maybe he had Matthew and Mark in hand as well as Paul’s knowledge and that of other disciples in Rome. Since his stated purpose was to give a historical record, he would have done extensive research.

With Hebrews, Luke and Acts are the best Greek in the Bible. Luke was very educated.

So when were they written? Acts could not have been written earlier than [Festus's appointment as procurator (24:27), which… appears to have occurred between A.D. 55 and 59]

AD 63 is gaining popularity for the date of Acts writing.

Luke was written before Acts, so likely late 50’s or very early 60’s.


John is quoted in writings from AD 135, so must have been written earlier than that. Most believe written it was written between 80-90 AD though there is no mention of the fall of Jerusalem. May have a hint of it in Jesus talking about destroying the temple and raising it in three days in Luke.

Probably written in Ephesus.

Written in much more educated Greek than Revelation, evidence they don’t have the same author.

Papais says "he [John] was killed by the Jews." Which would have happened late 60s or early 70s. if John was written in 80-90 but not written by the disciple.

Earliest quotes from AD 120 maybe 117

Early dates for the Gospels are important because it means eye witnesses wrote them, making them the gold standard of historical record; no possible way to make them more reliable.

Also, it doesn’t allow time for myths to creep in to the culture. And there would have been eyewitnesses around who could have called a lie, yet there is no record from the first or second century of anyone disputing the gospel accounts.

Only from our “Enlightened, superior” times.