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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Which Written Records about Jesus Are Trustworthy?

Don Stewart :: Were the Writers of the Four Gospels Qualified to Write about Jesus?

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Were the Writers of the Four Gospels Qualified to Write about Jesus?

Which Written Records about Jesus Are Trustworthy? – Question 3

The four gospel writers are unanimously attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. There are no other candidates. While only John was a prominent character in the New Testament, each had excellent credentials to be in a position to know the facts about Jesus’ ministry and to record them correctly. The evidence is as follows.

Matthew

The writer of the first gospel originally bore the name Levi but was also named, or possibly renamed, Matthew (“gift of God”). We know that he was the son of Alphaeus. Luke wrote

After these things He [Jesus] went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” (Luke 5:27 NKJV)

Matthew was a member of the Twelve. These were Jesus’ inner circle of trusted disciples. Consequently he would have had access to Jesus’ private statements as well as His public ones.

Before Jesus called him to the ministry, his job was that of a hated tax collector. This position would have made him an ideal candidate for writing this gospel for the following reasons:

  1. A tax collector would be fluent in Greek.
  2. He would also be literate; he could read and write.
  3. He would be used to keeping records.
  4. He most likely would be able to write in short-hand. Therefore he could have been a note-taker at Jesus teachings.
  5. If Levi was a tribal name he would have known about scribal tradition and be familiar with temple practices.
  6. He would have been a well-educated scribe in the secular sense of the term.
  7. There is something else about the tax collector position that would make Matthew a particularly good candidate to be a writer of one of the accounts of the life of Jesus. Being a tax collector, he would be familiar with all types of fraud and deceit. He would be more distrustful than most people. This would make him very cautious about trusting the word of someone. Therefore his eyewitness testimony to the words and deeds of Jesus carries considerable weight. He would have written only the things that he knew were true.

Therefore, for a number of reasons, Matthew turns out to be an excellent candidate to record events in the life and ministry of Jesus. He would be in a position to write to Jews about how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament promises regarding the coming Messiah.

Mark

Mark was also in a unique position to write about Jesus. He was not one of the Twelve Apostles. Therefore, he was not personally in a position to report on what Jesus said and did. However, his gospel contained the preaching of a person who could do exactly this, Simon Peter. In fact, we are told by ancient sources that Mark was basically a stenographer or recorder of the words of Simon Peter.

Therefore we have Mark recording the things Simon Peter taught about the life and ministry of Jesus. In fact, there is hardly any incident related in Mark’s gospel where Simon Peter was not present. In addition, the recording of minute detail shows that we have the testimony of an eyewitness.

Luke

Luke, the writer of the third gospel, stated the purpose of his account in the preface. He explained it as follows:

Many people have tried to tell the story of what God has done among us. They wrote what we had been told by the ones who were there in the beginning and saw what happened. So I made a careful study of everything and then decided to write and tell you exactly what took place. Honorable Theophilus, I have done this to let you know the truth about what you have heard. (Luke 1:1-4 CEV)

This statement of Luke tells us, at least, the following things:

  1. Luke may not have been an eyewitness to the events he recorded.
  2. But he, like those before him, made careful use of the eyewitness accounts.
  3. Luke had access to other narratives, possibly written documents like his own.
  4. Luke felt the need for a further account.
  5. His account is orderly.
  6. He had full knowledge of the events he recorded.
  7. His ultimate aim is truth.

Luke wanted to make certain that the truthfulness of Jesus’ ministry was properly written. This was his stated aim. His audience consisted of non-Jews, or Gentiles. While Matthew directed his gospel toward Jewish people, Luke wrote to those who had little, if no, knowledge of the customs of the Jews.

John

The author of the fourth gospel, John, was one of the twelve. Consequently, he was an eyewitness to the events in the life of Christ. At the end of the Gospel of John, we find these words:

This disciple is the one who told all of this. He wrote it, and we know he is telling the truth. (John 21:24 CEV)

As an eyewitness John would certainly be in a position to correctly state the facts about who Jesus was and exactly what He said and did. Indeed, he was there.

Each Of Them Was Qualified To Write About Jesus

Consequently, each of the four gospel writers was in an excellent position to write about the life and ministry of Jesus. They desired to give us an accurate portrait of Jesus and they were certainly were in a position to fulfill that desire. Thus, there is every reason to trust what they said.

Summary – Question 3
Were the Writers of the Four Gospels Qualified to Write about Jesus?

The life and ministry of Jesus Christ has come down to us in four written documents known as gospels. Traditionally, they have been attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. There is every reason to believe that they were the actual authors of these documents.

Indeed, we find that each of the four gospels writers was be in a position to write an historically accurate account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. We can sum up their credentials as follows.

Matthew, the writer of the first gospel, was one of the Jesus’ Twelve disciples. This means that he was with the Lord for the three years of His public ministry. Thus, he saw basically everything what Jesus said and did publicly as well as hearing His private words.

Furthermore, his credentials were excellent. As a tax collector he would have been fluent in the Greek language. He would also have been able to read and write. Matthew would also be used to keeping records likely writing them in short-hand. Therefore he could have taken notes when Jesus taught.

While Mark was not an eyewitness, he recorded the story of Simon Peter who himself was an eyewitness. In fact, there are excellent reasons to believe that Mark recorded Peter’s sermons “word for word.” If so, then we have another eyewitness account of Jesus’ life and ministry.

Luke wrote his account of Jesus after exhaustive historical investigation with the firsthand sources. In his prologue, he states that his aim is to tell the exact truth concerning Jesus. There is every reason to believe that he met his stated purpose.

The fourth gospel writer, John, was not only a member of the Twelve; he was also a member of Jesus’ most inner circle. Along with Peter, John was a leader in the early church. He was with Jesus in certain situations where the Lord took along only three or four disciples. Again, we have someone who was in an authoritative position to write to us about Jesus.

Consequently, when we examine all of the evidence, we discover that we have four excellent, independent sources to the life and ministry of Jesus. Therefore, we can be confident that we have a trustworthy account of the things our Lord said and did.

Who Wrote the Four Gospels? ← Prior Section
When Were the Four Gospels Written? Next Section →
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