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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: Who Wrote the Four Gospels?

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Don Stewart

The only firsthand testimony that we have about the life and teachings of Jesus comes from the four Gospels. Who were the people that wrote these books?

The authorship is credited to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There are three basic reasons why we believe the men bearing their names wrote the four gospels.

1. There Is Unanimous Tradition As To The Authorship Of The Gospels

The four gospels are unanimously attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - there are no other candidates. With works as important as the gospels it is unlikely that the original authors would have been forgotten. To quickly command acceptance from the people it had to have an author that was known.

2. Three Of The Four Authors Are Unlikely

The authors of our four gospels would not have been the obvious choices to write the accounts of the life of Christ. Only one of these four men (John) was a prominent character in the New Testament. Why attribute a book to the others if they were not the authors? The unanimous attestation of these unlikely authors is another strong reason for accepting the traditional view that they penned their respective gospels.

3. The Documents Were Identified By Tags

The early preservation of the name of the author is another consideration. It was a common literary practice during the time of Christ to preserve the name of the author of a written work. Scrolls with written text on both sides had tags glued to them (called a sittybos in Greek) that insured the preservation of the author's name. They were attached in such a way that a person could see who authored the scroll without unrolling it. This is similar to the function of the spine on our modern books - one does not have to open the book to find out who wrote it.

With four different written gospels circulating, there needed to be a way to distinguish them from each other. The term "gospel" would not be enough, seeing that there was more than one circulating. Therefore the church had to preserve the name of each gospel writer at an early date. The tag on the outside of the scroll would accomplish that purpose. It would read in Greek, "Gospel of Matthew" or "Gospel of Mark."

There Are No Variations In The Titles

The fact that this happened is clear in that there are no variations in the titles of the gospels. Every source is unanimous that Matthew wrote Matthew, Mark wrote Mark, Luke penned his gospel, and John wrote his.

These three reasons - the unanimous testimony of the church, the unlikely authorship of these men, and the early identification of the document, all present a strong case for the traditional authorship of the gospels.


Four separate works known as gospels have recorded the life of Christ for us. The traditional authorship is credited to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There are three basic reasons why we believe the men bearing their names wrote the four gospels. The early church was unanimous in their testimony as to the individual authorship of each gospel. Apart from John, the writers of the various gospels were obscure figures. Why attribute these sacred writings to them if they did not compose them? There was also a tag that was glued on the outside of the scroll that would identify the individual author of the gospel. This made certain the name of the author was retained.

The evidence is clear and convincing. The traditional belief that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote the four gospels is the only view that fits the known facts.

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