Conservative Christian Blogger: [W]hen it comes to the gospels, there are huge double standards. They are often presumed to be guilty until proven innocent. Normal ways of doing history seemingly get thrown out the window. And a big example of this is when it comes to the debate [regarding the] authorship of the gospels. We have very good external evidence that the gospels were written by the names traditionally ascribed to them — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
[The Christian blog author then gives a list of statements by multiple early Church Fathers regarding the apostolic authorship of the Gospels. Click here to read.]
…So despite all the external confirmation that we have to the authorship and early use of the four gospels, that’s not good enough. Yet this “no one knows who really wrote the gospels” isn’t anything new. It’s notable that it wasn’t a criticism brought forward until around 400 AD by Faustus the Manichean. Now there were all kinds of critics of Christianity that we have a record of in the first three centuries of the church. Yet no one challenges who wrote the gospels until 400? Why so long? Augustine was not having it. Here is his response:
“Why does no one doubt the genuineness of the books attributed to Hippocrates? Because there is a succession of testimonies to the books from the time of Hippocrates to the present day, which makes it unreasonable either now or hereafter to have any doubt on the subject. How do we know the authorship of the works of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Varro, and other similar writers, but by the unbroken chain of evidence?”
In other words: “double standards much?!”. Historians normally drool over the kind of evidence we for the authorship of the gospels. It’s early. It comes from writers from all over the Roman empire. And there’s no rival tradition.
Gary: It is true that several second century Church Fathers such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement, and the author of the Muratorian Fragment all indicate their belief that the Apostle Matthew, John Mark, Luke the physician, and the Apostle John wrote the Gospels, but the question is, why? We have no good evidence that any of these men ever met one of the apostles. So where did they get their information? Notice that among these Church Fathers listed above, Justin Martyr was the closest to the events in question but he wasn’t even born until the second century! Is it possible that all these men believed in the apostolic authorship of the Gospels based on one source: Papias? Many scholars suggest this is the case.
And how reliable a source was Papias? Papias admits that his sources were not eyewitnesses, but the disciples of the disciples of the eyewitnesses. How reliable is third hand information? In addition, we have statements of “eyewitness testimony” from Papias which are clearly fictional: He believed that Judas Iscariot’s body parts swelled up so big that he could not pass through a city street. Eusebius questioned the intelligence of Papias. Papias was also known as a mystic. Does he sound like a good source upon which to base one’s belief in the apostolic authorship of the Gospels?
And what about your claim that Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of the Apostle John? Well, that is a very contested claim! No where does Irenaeus or Polycarp claim that Polycarp was a disciple of “the Apostle John”. What they state is that Polycarp was a disciple of “the Elder John”. Who was the Elder John? Answer: No one knows for sure. Some believe that he was the Apostle John, but others, including prominent conservative evangelical Christian New Testament scholar, Richard Bauckham, believe that John the Elder was a former Jewish high priest in Jerusalem who became a disciple of Jesus…but he was NOT John the son of Zebedee (the Apostle John). So how good is the evidence that Polycarp was a disciple of John the Apostle if even evangelical scholars contest that claim?
Yes, several second century Church Fathers believed that the apostles authored the Gospels, but just because they believed that, is it true?
The real problem for your argument is not that the majority of liberal, atheist, and agnostic scholars doubt the apostolic authorship of the Gospels, but that the majority of Roman Catholic scholars doubt the apostolic authorship of the Gospels. No one can credibly accuse Roman Catholic scholars of a bias against the supernatural or for having a double standard for the writings of Christianity. So why would so many Roman Catholic scholars, with the tacit approval of very conservative popes such as John Paul II and Pope Benedict, hold such a position if they did not feel that that is what the evidence indicates? THAT is the biggest problem for your argument that the majority consensus of scholars on the non-eyewitness authorship of the Gospels is based on a double standard or a bias. In fact, the evidence for a bias points in the other direction: The only scholars, with few exceptions, who hold to the traditional apostolic authorship of the Gospels are very conservative evangelicals and fundamentalist Protestants. Why is that??
End of post.