As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples.
—the Gospel of Matthew
As he [Jesus] was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.15 And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him.
—the Gospel of Mark
According to preeminent conservative Christian New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham (Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, chapter 5), the author of the Gospel of Matthew was not Matthew the Apostle, but an anonymous Christian author writing a Gospel based on accounts/stories which allegedly originated from the Apostle Matthew. Bauckham believes that this anonymous author knew that the Apostle Matthew was a tax collector, but, did not know the details of Matthew’s calling to be one of the Twelve; he did not know the story of how Jesus came to call upon Matthew to be one of his disciples.
Bauckham believes that the unknown author of the Gospel of Matthew very much wanted a story about the calling of Matthew for the Gospel he was writing; a gospel which he intended to attribute to…the Apostle Matthew (The Gospel “according to” Matthew). So this anonymous author decided to borrow a story about the calling of another tax collector, Levi, as found in the Gospel of Mark, and insert it into his gospel, creating the fictional calling of Matthew the tax collector and Apostle as found in Matthew chapter 9.
Yet…Bauckham has the audacity to repeatedly assure us in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses that the “eyewitnesses” to the individual stories or vignettes in the Gospels served as “guardians” to the historical integrity of these stories, zealously protecting the historical accuracy of the stories down to the very day that the Evangelists wrote the stories in their Gospels, and, continuing to protect the accuracy of these stories as the Gospels circulated among the churches in the first century. But to paraphrase Neil Godfrey of Vridar Blog (see his full comments here): Where were Bauckham’s ‘guardians of historical accuracy’ when the author of Matthew was concocting a fictional tall tale about Jesus’ calling of the Apostle Matthew???
Scandalous! Truly scandalous.
And yet Christian pastors in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and other conservative Christian denominations are still preaching from their pulpits, printing in their church newsletters, and publishing books (such as, “Making the Case for Christianity”), claiming that the Gospels are historically reliable sources of eyewitness testimony! If the laity of conservative Christian churches only knew how much wool is being pulled over their eyes!
The consensus of New Testament scholars regarding the non-eyewitness authorship of the Gospels is not biased as the LCMS authors of Making the Case for Christianity want us to believe! One only has to read the scholarship of conservative Christianity’s premier scholar, Richard Bauckham, to see just how correct the consensus of scholars truly is! The four canonical Gospels of our Bibles are NOT reliable sources of historical information. Conservative Christian scholars and pastors need to stop their charade that the Gospels are “eyewitness testimony” and start telling their congregations the truth!