Some scholars claim that the four Gospels were written anonymously and only later attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
This theory doesn’t hold weight in light of the evidence. Here are four reasons why the traditionally named evangelists wrote the Gospels bearing their names.
1. The oldest manuscripts name the four evangelists.
We don’t have anonymous ancient manuscripts of the Gospels. They all include the name of the author at the beginning and/or end.
There’s one manuscript of Luke missing its ending and lacking attribution at the beginning. This is an ambiguous case, as there could have been an ending with Luke’s name.
The attributions on the other hundreds of early manuscripts are on point. You never see Mark’s Gospel attributed to John or vice versa. For ancient manuscripts where the author isn’t known, you find many different attributions. Not so with the Gospels.
2. People in the ancient world distrusted unattributed information.
If you get an anonymous email or text, do you automatically trust it? People from the first few centuries A.D. were just as skeptical of unattributed information.
If someone were writing a bogus gospel, he wouldn’t remain anonymous. He would add the name of someone with authority, such as Peter.
3. Early Christians mention the four evangelists.
Papias (c. 60–130 A.D.) is one of the earliest Church Fathers. His life overlapped with the apostle John. He named Matthew as the author of the first Gospel. Later Church Fathers repeatedly identified Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as the four writers.
4. It’s unlikely a fraud would attribute the Gospels to these four men.
John was one of Jesus’ apostles, so it’s easy to see a fraudulent author slapping John’s name on a gospel for authenticity. But Matthew? He was a tax collector. Ancient Jews despised his type, as much as we dislike drug dealers today.
Mark abandoned St. Paul during his travels. Luke was not an important figure. A fake author would have known better than to use their names to give his work credibility.
Once again, research supports the credibility of the Gospels. Christ requires our faith, but He gives us plenty of evidence supporting His Gospels, if only we have the ears to hear!