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Confusion Concerning The Authorship Of The Gospels


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We have learned that the Gospels, written in Greek rather than Aramaic (the language of Jesus and the disciples), were written two to four generations after the death of Jesus. Yet when scholars such as Bishop Spong, Elaine Pagels, Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, and others are discussing the content of the Gospels, rather consistently they say such as "John writes...," "In Mark's Gospel...," "Matthew says...," etc. This is very confusing. Did Mark, Matthew, Luke, and/or John write the Gospels after all? If not, would it not lend clarity and lessen confusion if it were expressed, "The writer(s) of the Gospel of John...," instead of "John writes...?" My wife and I just watched on PBS a special broadcast titled "From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians" which traced the evolution of the church in the first century CE. The scholar presenters were all progressive theologians such as Pagals and Crossan, and by their language one would have to assume that Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John wrote the four Gospels that bear their names. I'm not an ardent logical positivist, but I do think that words matter and that clarity is important when it comes to Biblical scholarship. Verbal short cuts are handy, but....

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The books I read quite often will discuss this very subject in the preface or introduction stating the authors are unknown, but "tradition" has come down as Mark, Matthew, Luke and John and referred to them as the authors knowing they probably weren't. For simplicity the scholars state, "John writes...," when in reality it is assumed to mean "In John the author writes..."

 

I agree, it will continue to confuse those not aware of these implied meanings. For the uninitiated a good annotated Bible helps dispel this confusion.

 

Ron

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James, welcome. We usually ask new members to introduce themselves in the "Introduce Yourself" thread.

 

Yes, the authors are unknown, but it is convenient to refer to them by the titles of the books. "The anonymous author of the book that tradition has attributed to Mark says . . . " gets a little unwieldy the second or third time it is used.

 

George

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I would agree that, given that some scholars (not many according to my own reading) still argue/believe that the four Canonical Gospels were written by Matthew, Mark etc, then yes, it would aid clarity for those who do not think so to make such totally clear in their own writings.

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I agree with Tariki that it would make things clearer, and I agree with George that unfortunately such clarity does become rather cumbersome after the 2nd or 3rd use. Like Ron, often I have read in a Preface that the author acknowledges the anonymity of the gospel authors but for convenience will use the book's name to refer to the author. I can settle for that.

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