Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Who Wrote the Gospels?

Internal and External Arguments for Traditional Authorship

Keith Thompson

Section 1.) Matthew
Section 2.) Mark
Section 3.) Luke/Acts
Section 4.) John


It is often asserted by Muslim writers that we don’t know who wrote the Gospels and that the orthodox traditional authorship position is untenable. It is common for Muslim writers to quote snippets from critical and even careful conservative scholars regarding Gospel authorship. For example a scholar may be quoted as affirming that in light of their view of the evidence it is “probable” or “possible” that traditional authorship is correct – while ignoring the positive arguments the scholar does provide in favour of traditional authorship and the numerous scholars who view the evidence to be strong. Or for example a scholar may be quoted as stating that “Matthew does not identify himself as Matthew within the body of text” as though that demonstrates Matthaean authorship to be erroneous. But then the actual positive arguments for Matthaean authorship given by the same scholar (internal or external) will be omitted in the Muslim paper or not handled properly. This method assumes that traditional authorship can’t be demonstrated apart from a statement saying “I Matthew wrote this Gospel”. I will therefore build a case for traditional Gospel authorship using evidence and arguments which are just as powerful – data presented by qualified scholars that I feel the Muslim writers have not yet dealt with properly for the most part in the materials I have surveyed. Oftentimes it seems as though Muslim apologists feel that if they can quote statements from liberal critics or take a few snippets from careful conservative scholars which they feel are supportive of their position in some sense then that is enough to completely settle the issue of authorship. However, I am going to challenge this by exhorting Muslim apologists to actually deal with the bulk of positive evidence put forth by the numerous qualified scholars who argue for traditional Gospel authorship – the many who would say the evidence is strong. It is extremely important to actually present the positive data itself and interact with it in order for the best of both sides to be represented. I was initially setting out to refute the Muslim counter case against the bulk of positive evidence cited in favour of traditional Gospel authorship but I have not yet seen an in depth Muslim critique of this sort. So, for this article I will provide a fresh case for the traditional authorship of the synoptic gospels, John, and Acts, since Acts is so closely connected with Luke in this discussion. It is my hope that this article will lead to meaningful discussion with a focus on the actual evidence.

The traditional authorship view attributes the Gospel of Matthew to Matthew the tax collector. Matthew (derived from a Hebrew word meaning “gift of God”) the tax collector was the apostolic name given to one of Jesus’ twelve disciples and he also went by his other name Levi. He can be found in passages such as Mark 2:14, Luke 5:27-29, Matthew 9:9 and 12:3. The Gospel of Mark is attributed to John Mark the interpreter/secretary and companion of the apostle Peter. He can be found in passages such as Acts 12:12, 25 and 15:37. The Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts are attributed to Luke the physician and historian – also a companion of the apostle Paul. He can be found in passages such as Colossians 4:14, 2 Timothy 4:11 and Philemon 1:24. The Gospel of John also known as the fourth Gospel is attributed to John son of Zebedee who was one of the 12 disciples. He can be found in passages such as Matthew 4:21, 17:1, Mark 3:17; 9:2, Luke 6:14, Acts 1:13 and Galatians 2:9. I will be arguing for this traditional authorship view and thus affirming that the Gospels were written by disciples in the case of Matthew and John or based on the testimony of disciples by those who knew them in the case of Mark and Luke. 

Section 1.) Matthew

Before discussing the internal evidence for Matthaean authorship it is important to cover the issue of Matthew’s name being in the Gospel (i.e., the author referring to himself by name in the third person). Muslim writers may ask how Matthew can be the author when for example in 9:9 Matthew is referred to by name when being called by Jesus (“…he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me’…”). However, an author referring to themselves by name in the third person was fairly common in ancient literature. Craig Blomberg notes that “ancient parallels can be adduced for one writer referring to himself in the third person and first-person plural, as well as the ordinary first-person singular (Jackson 1999).”(1) This applies to the synoptic Gospels and John in the sense that he refers to himself as a son of Zebedee in the third person and, as I will argue, “the beloved disciple”. Examples of authors including their names in their works using the third person have been brought out by Craig. S. Keener in the 2007 work John, Jesus, and history, Volume 2. On p. 17 he notes the Greek historian Thucydides’ (B.C. 460 – 395) work The Peloponnesian War 1.1.1; 2.103.2; 5.26.1 as an example. Also worth mentioning is the Greek historian and philosopher Xenophon’s (B.C. 430 – 354) work Anabasis 2.5.41; 3.1.4-6 and Julius Caesar’s (B.C. 100 – 40) works Gallic War 1.7; 2.1; 3.28; 4.13; 5.9; 6.4; 7.11 and Civil War 1.1. See p. 17 for more supporting material.

Internal Evidence supporting the view that Matthew the apostle and tax collector wrote the Gospel attributed to him can be found in 9:9. Here Matthew is identified as “Matthew sitting at the tax booth” regarding Jesus calling Matthew to follow him when, concerning the same episode, Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27 identify Matthew by his other name Levi. It thus follows that the author came to believe that this apostolic name Matthew was nobler than the other name Levi and in turn it was used here instead. It was common for authors to do this as it pertained to one’s own name. For example in his letters the apostle Paul identifies himself with his new nobler apostolic name as opposed to his original name Saul even though other texts sometimes continued to refer to Paul as Saul (Acts 11:30, 12:25, 13:7). Likewise Peter in 1 Peter 1:1 identifies himself with his nobler apostolic name Petros instead of his original name Simon or Simeon even though other texts sometimes continued to refer to him as Simon or Simeon (Luke 7:43; Acts 15:14). Thus Matthew, like Paul and Peter, authored His work referring to himself by his nobler apostolic name in 9:9 when the other synoptic narratives referred to him by his non-apostolic name concerning the same episode. Second, in numerous Matthaean passages financial transactions are discussed (17:24-27; 18:23-35, 20:1-16, 26:15, 27:3-10, 28:11-15) and none of this content contradicts what a 1st century tax collector would know about finance. If Matthew the tax collector were not the author one may expect to find errors regarding these financial matters. Thirdly, we see in 22:19 that with respect to the Pharisees’ conflict with Jesus over paying tribute money or taxes to Caesar, the Gospel of Matthew alone not only uses the word δηνάριον (dēnarion) but also the more precise Greek term νόμισμα (state coin). In contrast, the other synoptic Gospels (Mark 12:15, Luke 20:24) only use δηνάριον (dēnarion) concerning this episode not showing the same concern for the precise financial term that Matthew does. This lends more evidence towards the position that we are dealing with Matthew the tax collector who was familiar with and concerned about accuracy regarding financial terminology. Fourthly, it is the Gospel of Matthew alone which mentions Jesus telling Peter to “give no offense to them [tax collectors]” and to pay temple tax in Capernaum when asked to (17:24-27). This is something that a tax collector such as Matthew would feel compelled to admit into his Gospel. Matthew would certainly not be indifferent towards this included episode since it concerned tax collectors, tax collecting, and the Christian position on not paying taxes being an offense. Fifth, in Luke 5:29 we are told that Matthew made a great feast in οικια αυτου (his house) where Jesus then reclined and ate. Likewise Mark 2:15 says οικια αυτου (his house). However, in the account in Matthew’s Gospel (9:10) we read that Jesus and the disciples reclined at τη οικια (the house). This is consistent with one writing of their own house in a third person narrative. Lastly, it is important to mention that there is nothing in the first Gospel that would clearly rule out a tax collector and apostle such as Matthew as being the author.

External evidence is very good for Matthaean authorship. If the apostle Matthew wrote this Gospel we would expect to find very early extra-biblical evidence in support of this. For, it is often irrationally demanded by critics, both secular and Muslim, that the Bible must be supplemented by good extra-biblical evidence in order to be considered valid. Well in this study we have the extremely early testimony of Papias a 1st century writer who, according to early evidence, was acquainted with those who knew the eyewitnesses of Christ and the apostles.(2) In the early 2nd century Papias wrote a five book work called The Sayings of the Lord Interpreted otherwise known as An Exposition of the Oracles of the Lord – sections of which were preserved in the work of the 3rd and 4th century church historian Eusebius known as Church History. Papias’ work survived intact in some European libraries up to the time of the Middle Ages but was later lost. However, the sections of the Papian texts which were preserved by Eusebius are very valuable. In his very early work Papias testified to Matthaean authorship:

Matthew compiled the sayings [logia of Christ] in the Hebrew language and each interpreted them as best he could.”(3)

Papias’ reliability is brought out by his documented method of discernment. He states:

But I shall not hesitate also to put down for you along with my interpretations whatsoever things I have at any time learned carefully from the elders and carefully remembered, guaranteeing their truth. For I did not, like the multitude, take pleasure in those that speak much, but in those that teach the truth; not in those that relate strange commandments, but in those that deliver the commandments given by the Lord to faith, and springing from the truth itself. If, then, any one came, who had been a follower of the elders, I questioned him in regard to the words of the elders — what Andrew or what Peter said, or what was said by Philip, or by Thomas, or by James, or by John, or by Matthew, or by any other of the disciples of the Lord, and what things Aristion and the presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, say. For I did not think that what was to be gotten from the books would profit me as much as what came from the living and abiding voice.”(4)

There are some crucial features about this quotation which bear out Papias’ reliability: 1) Papias carefully learned and remembered things from the first and second century elders or presbyters alive in his day who got their information from the apostles. According to Papias this was done to guarantee that he held to truth and not error. 2) Papias would avoid unreliable people who spoke a lot or recited the commandments of others and would instead listen to those who spoke truth traced back to Christ and the apostles. 3) When Papias encountered someone who followed the elders he would question them as to what they learned from the eyewitnesses of Jesus such as the 12 apostles or those who knew them such as Aristion and John the elder. 4) Papias was not concerned with early writings. He was concerned with what could be traced back to Christ and the apostles. 

Therefore, when Papias affirms that the apostle Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew, according to his discernment method and based on how he says he ascertained knowledge about the Gospel of Mark (see section on Mark), he affirmed Matthaean authorship because he had proper authoritative apostolic confirmation. Papias being a God-fearing man concerned with truth would not assert Matthaean authorship unless this view could be traced back to the apostles and those who knew them. And according to Eusebius Papias’ works testified that he personally knew friends of the 12 apostles from which he derived his information.(5)

It is also important to note that Papias does not mention any early church disputes regarding Matthaean authorship which suggests that this Gospel was unanimously regarded as Matthaean in the early 2nd century and prior. Historically speaking with Papias we have an early reliable account which utilized the testimony of those who were eyewitnesses of the apostles. Although I have heard various Muslim apologists assert things like “early evidence can be just as false as late evidence,” or that “early people can be just as big of liars as late people,” there are difficulties concerning this approach. For example those kinds of objections are just vacuous assertions and not arguments. Yes, early material can be false but where is the convincing evidence and what are the good arguments demonstrating that Papias’ early testimony is false? Merely claiming that something can be false does not prove that it is false. Such assertions do not constitute as a refutation of the evidence. I would challenge the Muslim apologists to go more in depth, though the critiques against Papias’ testimony have already been answered by major scholars.

The 2nd century writer Irenaeus who knew Polycarp, a student of the apostles, also testifies that the first Gospel was written by Matthew therefore demonstrating that this Matthaean authorship tradition was strongly attested to and widespread very early on. Irenaeus wrote:

Matthew published his Gospel among the Hebrews in their own language, while Peter and Paul were preaching and founding the church in Rome.”(6)

Some argue that although there are similarities between Papias’ comments concerning Matthew’s authorship and Irenaeus’ statements here, which suggests that Irenaeus was drawing from Papias’ writings, there are also differences. Hence, Irenaeus may have been acquainted with another independent early tradition which likewise attributed this Gospel to the apostle Matthew. This would make the external case even stronger than it already is. This early tradition of Matthaean authorship is also attested by Pantænus (A.D. ? – 200) and Origen (A.D. 185 - 254).(7) 

In summation Donald Guthrie notes that:

“… there is no conclusive reason for rejecting the strong external testimony regarding the authorship of Matthew…”(8)

With respect to Gospel titles such as “the Gospel of Matthew” there is no evidence to suggest that the Gospels were ever circulating without them. Scholars have asserted that the titles emerged sometime in the beginning or mid 2nd century but other scholars challenge this by noting that this presupposes anonymous Gospels to begin with as well as the works of early to mid 2nd century church writers representing the earliest stages of author attribution. This is an assumption one can not prove, however. Scholars also point out that when early New Testament churches began reading multiple Gospels around A.D. 100 it would be necessary that they be distinguished referentially from one another in the service to avoid confusion. Likewise noted is the fact that there is no recorded 1st or 2nd century competing hypothesis regarding who wrote Matthew. This lends credibility to the case for Matthew always having that title for if it were anonymous even after Gospel collection with no title and circulating as such up until the time of the early to mid 2nd century then there would emerge competing authorship theories. However, there is absolutely no evidence of any such competing theories indicating that the title "the Gospel of Matthew" is very primitive and that Matthaean authorship was affirmed in the earliest strands of Christian thought.

Section 2.) Mark

Internal evidence in support of the position that the New Testament figure we call John Mark, (“John called Mark” in Acts 12:12, 25; 15:37 or simply “Mark” in Acts 15:39; Colossians 4:10; Timothy 4:11), the companion and interpreter of Peter, wrote the Gospel of Mark based on Peter’s eyewitness testimony comes in a variety of forms. For example Philemon 1:24 places John Mark in Rome and we know that Peter resided in Rome in the later part of his life.(9) And writing from Rome Peter says that Mark was with him as a close acquaintance, “She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.” (1 Peter 5:13). Peter identifying Mark as his son is not to be taken biologically but in a ministerial sense. Here we see evidence of John Mark with Peter in Rome later in his life which is consistent with the position that John Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark in Rome based on Peter’s eyewitness testimony as early tradition affirms. Another piece of evidence affirming that John Mark was an acquaintance of Peter can be found in Acts 12:11-17 where earlier on Peter visits John Mark’s home in connection with the Palestinian church. If it is true that while in Rome with Peter John Mark composed this Gospel based on Peter’s eyewitness testimony then we would expect to find Latinisms in the Gospel of Mark. Latinisms are Latin terms contained in a Greek work and due to their presence in this Gospel many infer that the author wrote Mark in a place where Latin was dominant. Rome was such a place and since there are numerous strong reasons(10) to believe Mark was written in Rome the contention that John Mark wrote his Gospel in Rome alongside Peter is supported. Some of the peculiar Latinisms in Mark include 15:16 identifying a αὐλή (courtyard) as a πραιτώριον (Praetorium) which is a Roman/Latin term. Other Latinisms are found in 5:9 where the term legion is used or in 6:37 where the term denarius is used – and there are more. Second, many scholars and even Muslim writers have pointed out that Mark contains some Pauline theology. John Mark being the author of Mark along with the fact of his personal connection with Paul (Acts 13:5, 13; Philemon 1:24; Colossians 4:10) would explain this well. If one can show that the author of Mark was influenced by Paul’s theology this supports the position that the person who wrote Mark was Paul’s acquaintance, John Mark – and in turn Peter’s companion. The majority of scholars affirm that Paul wrote before Mark. With that in mind a very clear example of Mark picking up on Pauline thought concerns the cross of Christ. The vast correlations between Markan and Pauline thought on this point have been brought out nicely by Michael F. Bird in the work Paul and the Gospels: Christologies, Conflicts, and Convergences. He states:

Mark’s narrative focus on the cross has several key points of interaction with Paul: (1) the early intimation, literary focus and narrative climax of the Gospel on Jesus’ death is conducive to Pauline proclamation. With the exception perhaps of the author of Hebrews, only Mark portrays the cross with a similar pathos and gravity to that of Paul. (2) The description of Jesus’ death with the accompanying apocalyptic portents of cosmic darkness (Mk 15.33) and the rending of the veil in the temple (Mk 15. 38) combined with early language in the Gospel about ‘mystery’ (Mk 4.11, 22) and ‘this age’ (Mk 10.30) likewise represent a Pauline apocalyptic perspective on Jesus’ death and its divine revelation (Gal. 1.4, 6.14; 1 Cor. 2.7-9; Col. 1.12-24, 25-26). (3) Mark and Paul share a perspective on Jesus’ death that expresses the power to save others (Mk 15.31-32). Jesus preaches the kingdom of God and yet what we find at the end of the story is the announcement of the kingship of the crucified titulus (Mk 15. 31-32), marking the moment when the kingdom of God comes with power (Mk 9.1). Jesus’ power is displayed in the zenith degradation, death and disempowerment that has clear affinities with Paul’s description as Jesus of being humiliated, weak and yet triumphant (Phil. 2.5-11; 1 Cor. 2.8; 2 Cor. 8.9; 13.4; Col. 2.15). (4) The cross is also the apex of Christological revelation since it is only at the cross that Jesus is heralded as the Son of God by the centurion (Mk 15.29), which is a distinctly Pauline idea (Gal. 2.19-20; 4.4-5; cf. Rom. 5.10; 8.3). (5) Only Mark and Paul portray Jesus’ crucifixion as a royal triumph (Mark 14-15; Rom. 8.37; Col. 2.15).”(11)

Therefore, since there is good reason to affirm that Mark was influenced by Paul in these areas, the position that the Paul’s known acquaintance John Mark wrote this Gospel drawing certain things from Paul is supported. Moreover, if that is true then stronger supported is the position that this John Mark, the companion of Paul and associate of Peter in Rome, wrote his Gospel based primarily on the eyewitness testimony of Peter. 

Evidence that Mark is based on the apostle Peter’s eyewitness testimony is evident from the fact that inclusio is present in the Gospel. Scholars such as Michael F. Bird, Paul Barnett, Andreas J. Köstenberger, and most notably Richard Bauckham etc., have highlighted this point. Inclusio of eyewitness testimony is a literary devise where ancient writings would name the major eyewitness underlying an account first and last in the document. Studies have been done on the writings of early writers in the ancient world such as the 2nd century Lucian of Samosata’s work Alexander and the 3rd century Porphyry’s work Life of Plotinus which engaged in this practice. When Mark practiced inclusio he listed the apostle Peter as the eyewitness behind his Gospel (1:16; 16:7). Second, with respect to the third person plural within Mark surrounding events involving Peter, it should be seen as actually representing the first person plural of Peter (i.e., the eyewitness testimony of Peter). This is known as the “plural-to-singular devise”. Scholars like C. H. Turner, T.W. Manson, Donald Guthrie, Michael F. Bird, Robert H. Stein, Richard Bauckham, F. F. Bruce etc., have affirmed this position. In his classic work The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable F. F. Bruce writes:

Further confirmation of the Petrine authority behind Mark was supplied in a series of acute linguistic studies by C. H. Turner, entitled ‘Marcan Usage’, in the Journal of Theological Studies for 1924 and 1925, showing, among other things, how Mark’s use of pronouns in narratives involving Peter seems time after time to reflect a reminiscence by that apostle in the first person. The reader can receive from such passages ‘a vivid impression of the testimony that lies behind the Gospel: thus in 1:29, “we came into our house with James and John: and my wife’s mother was ill in bed with a fever, and at once we tell him about her”’.8

“8. C. H. Turner, The Gospel According to St. Mark, in A New Commentary on Holy Scripture (S.P.C.K., 1928), Part III, p. 48. On p. 54 he lists the following passages in which ‘Mark’s third person plural may be reasonably understood as representing a first person plural of Peter’s discourses’: Mk. 1:21, 29; 5:1, 38; 6:53, 54; 8:22; 9:14, 30, 33; 10:32, 46; 11:1, 12, 15, 20, 27; 14: 18, 22, 26, 32.”(12)

External evidence for Markan authorship is immense. In the early 2nd century Papias attests to Markan authorship based on the reliable testimony of an elder or presbyter who knew the apostles:

This also the presbyter said: Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not in order, whatsoever he remembered of the things said or done by Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterward, as I said, he followed Peter, who adapted his teaching to the needs of his hearers, but with no intention of giving a connected account of the Lord's discourses, so that Mark committed no error while he thus wrote some things as he remembered them. For he was careful of one thing, not to omit any of the things which he had heard, and not to state any of them falsely.”(13)

There are some important points to be brought out concerning this quotation: 1) Papias affirms that he received his information from “the presbyter” regarding Markan authorship being based on Peter’s eyewitness testimony. In section 1 we discussed how the presbyters or elders Papias would consult were those who knew the apostles and that Papias was very cautious about making sure facts from the elders or presbyters could be traced back to the apostles. 2) When Papias says that Mark was the interpreter of Peter most scholars hold that this means he was Peter’s translator or one who repeated and transmitted Peter’s preaching from Aramaic into Greek. 3) Papias relays that primitive Christian thought declared that Mark would not state anything in his Petrine Gospel falsely (i.e., distorting Peter’s teaching).

That Mark wrote the second Gospel based on Peter’s eyewitness testimony is also attested by the 2nd century writer Irenaeus who notes that “Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter.”(14) Tertullian (A.D. 160-220) writing in Carthage northern Africa affirms “that which Mark published may be affirmed to be Peter's whose interpreter Mark was.”(15) Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150-215) likewise affirmed that “The Gospel according to Mark had this occasion. As Peter had preached the Word publicly at Rome, and declared the Gospel by the Spirit, many who were present requested that Mark, who had followed him for a long time and remembered his sayings, should write them out. And having composed the Gospel he gave it to those who had requested it.”(16) In his commentary on Matthew Origen (A.D. 185-254) also confirms that “The second is by Mark, who composed it according to the instructions of Peter, who in his Catholic epistle acknowledges him as a son, saying, 'The church that is at Babylon elected together with you, salutes you, and so does Marcus, my son.'”(17) When discussing Mark 3:16-17 Justin Martyr (A.D. 103-165) affirms that Mark is based on Peter’s memoirs or reminiscence. He says “And when it is said that He changed the name of one of the apostles to Peter; and when it is written in the memoirs of him that this so happenedthis was an announcement of the fact that it was He by whom Jacob was called Israel, and Oshea called Jesus (Joshua), under whose name the people who survived of those that came from Egypt were conducted into the land promised to the patriarchs.”(18) A tradition preserved in a late 2nd century source (A.D. 160-180?) called The anti-Marcionite Prologue to Mark, a note attached to the Gospels by certain manuscript copyists, states: “Mark declared, who is called ‘stump-fingered’ because he had short fingers in comparison with the size of the rest of his body. He was Peter’s interpreter. After the departure of Peter himself, he wrote down this same gospel in the regions of Italy.”(19) 

After answering criticisms towards this strong external tradition D.A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo and Leon Morris note: 

“… there seems to be no compelling reason to reject the common opinion of the early church on this matter.”(20)

With respect to the issue of Gospel titles it must be asked if later Christians were dishonestly adding off the cuff titles to their Gospels in a deceitful fashion inserting “the Gospel of Mark” into their manuscript copies without proper justification then why would they not instead just name this Gospel after an actual apostle like Peter, Phillip or Andrew? The fact that Mark and not an actual apostle is designated as the author lends more credibility to Markan authorship being a primitive reality. Certainly if the early Christians were out to give the Gospels credibility and authority by attaching spurious names onto them, like the Gnostics tried to do, then, naturally, another more prominent name would have been selected. This according to many scholars reflects honesty and genuineness.

As is the case with Matthew there is no evidence of competing theories of the authorship of Mark existing in early church tradition. No church father ascribed this Gospel to anyone but Mark. This is suggestive of uniform primitive Markan designation (some say when the Gospels were collected). For, if Mark was anonymous, regarding the title of the book, after Gospel collection and remained as such up until the early 2nd century then one would certainly expect to find other theories concerning its author as there would be room for speculation. But because there aren’t any competing theories in the early church one is justified in maintaining that the title “the Gospel of Mark” is extremely primitive and reflective of truthfulness.

Section 3.) Luke/Acts

Internal evidence affirming that Luke the historian/physician (Luke 1:1-3; Col. 4:14) and companion of Paul wrote the third Gospel and Acts is strong. First, to establish that the author of Luke also authored Acts we see that in Luke 1:3 that the author wrote his Gospel for the “most excellent Theophilus”. In the beginning of the book of Acts we read “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1). The author of Acts references the same person the Gospel of Luke does, Theophilus, who he says he initially wrote the “first book” for which contained Jesus’ deeds and teachings – clearly the Gospel of Luke. Thus Acts and Luke were both written by the same person for Theophilus. Theophilus’ title of rank “most excellent” is probably a reference to him being a chief magistrate in Greece or Asia Minor. Moreover, the language, style and interests of Luke and Acts are similar further demonstrating a common author.(21) That the same author wrote both books is affirmed by virtually all modern scholars. With Luke and Acts having a common author in mind we will now show that Acts (and thus by extension Luke) was written by Luke the companion of Paul and acquaintance of other disciples. To do this it must be noted that in Acts there are what are known as “we” passages – five of them. These are passages in Acts where the author includes himself as an eyewitness of the events concerning the disciples’ affairs after Christ’s resurrection. In Acts 16:10-17 the author writes about his involvement in a missionary journey with Paul, Timothy and Silas to Macedonia using the first person plural. He says things like “we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” and “We remained in this city some days” etc. The same first person plural can be found in Acts 20:5-16; 21:1-18; 27:1-28 and 28:16. In the 28:16 “we” passage the author of Acts places himself in Rome with Paul during the time of his imprisonment. In one of his Roman prison epistles, commenting about a time when many abandoned him, Paul says “Luke alone is with me” (2 Timothy 4:11). Therefore, Luke, like the author of Acts, was in Rome during the time of Paul’s imprisonment – Luke being the only one who stayed with Paul. Thus we have reason to believe Luke authored Acts. Of the others who were also with Paul in Rome during the period of his imprisonment aside from Luke (Mark, Titus, Demas, Crescens, Jesus Justus, Epaphras and Epaphroditus) there is no evidence or good arguments that one of them wrote Luke or Acts. It is problematic to argue for their authorship since one of them would have had to be narrating and thus be present during the first four “we” passages in Acts as an eyewitness, and there are other problems.(22) Since Luke is the strongest candidate for being the eyewitness author present with Paul in Rome, as well as the one affirmed as being the author by strong early tradition, it follows that he wrote Luke/Acts. Thus, we are on very good grounds to affirm that Luke the physician, who we know was a companion of Paul in Rome during his time of imprisonment, was the author of Luke/Acts who was likewise a companion of Paul in Rome during that time. 

Second, in light of Luke being identified as a physician (Colossians 4:14) it is interesting that in the third Gospel we see medical language and medical interest which is what one would expect of a physician author. For example Matthew 8:14 and Mark 1:30 mention Peter’s mother-in-law suffering from a πυρέσσω (fever). Luke 4:38, however, says she suffered from a μέγας πυρετός (high fever) thus showing medical interest. Instead of speaking of a man with leprosy or λεπρος (a leper) as Matthew 8:2 does, Luke 5:12 says the man was πληρης λεπρας (full of leprosy), i.e., his disease was in an advanced stage. This shows medical interest consistent with a physician. In his New Testament Introduction the German scholar Alfred Wikenhauser notes that “… the author displays familiarity with medical terminology (cf. e.g. Lk. 4,38; 5,12; 8,44; Acts 5,5 10; 9,40), and he undisputedly describes maladies and cures from the point of view of a medical man (e.g. Lk. 4,35; 3,11; Acts 3,7; 9,18).”(23)

In 1:1-3 Luke says he surveyed handed down eyewitness testimony to compose his Gospel (“Now many have undertaken to compile an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, like the accounts passed on to us by those who were eyewitnesses and servants of the word from the beginning. So it seemed good to me as well, because I have followed all things carefully from the beginning, to write an orderly account…”). Moreover, we documented how Luke spent much time with Paul and could thus also ascertain information from him about Jesus’ life which Paul received from the apostles who knew Christ. Moreover, Luke’s proximity to John Mark (Colossians 4:10, 14 and Philemon 1:24) serves as an explanation as to why Acts 1 contains Marcan flavour and why the Gospel of Luke contains Marcan elements. In Acts 21:8 we learn that Phillip and his daughters entertained Paul and Luke. We know Phillip was associated with Stephen in ministry which would explain where Luke received the information contained in Acts 6-8 (concerning Stephen and Phillip). It follows that Luke received Acts 6-8’s content from Phillip the associate of Stephen who was eyewitness of the events concerning them. Lastly, Acts 21:16 mentions Luke lodging with Mnason of Cyprus an ἀρχαῖος μαθητής (early disciple). It follows that Luke received eyewitness testimony of certain events and corroborating ear-witness testimony from him for Acts and the third Gospel. Therefore, the case is strong for the Gospel of Luke containing early eyewitness and ear-witness testimony and this data also collectively suggests that Luke is the author behind these books.

External evidence for Lucan authorship of both books is strong. Writing to Trypho the Jew concerning Luke 22:44 Justin Martyr (A.D. 103-165) affirms the authority of the third Gospel as well as its author being a follower of the apostles: “For in the memoirs which I say were drawn up by His apostles and those who followed them, [it is recorded] that…”(24). The 2nd century writer Irenaeus reports an early tradition stating that “Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him.”(25) In the same work Irenaeus, concerning Luke documenting his travels with Paul in Acts, thus writing Acts, says: “But that this Luke was inseparable from Paul, and his fellow-labourer in the Gospel, he himself clearly evinces, not as a matter of boasting, but as bound to do so by the truth itself… As Luke was present at all these occurrences, he carefully noted them down in writing…”(26) In the earliest orthodox list of books dated to around A.D. 190 known as the “Muratorian Canon” we read: “The third book of the gospel is according to Luke. This Luke was a physician who Paul had taken after the ascension of Christ to be a legal expert. Yet he had not seen the Lord in the flesh. So, as far as he could, he begins his story with the birth of John.”(27). The Anti-Marcionite Prologue to Luke (A.D. 160-180) identifies Luke as the author when it says: “Luke, a Syrian of Antioch, doctor by profession… Luke, under impulse of the Holy Spirit, wrote his gospel in the region of Achaia.”(28) In his work against the heretic Marcion Tertullian (A.D. 160-220) attests to Lucan authorship: “… the evangelical Testament has apostles for its authors, to whom was assigned by the Lord Himself this office of publishing the gospel... therefore, John and Matthew first instil faith into us; while of apostolic men, Luke and Mark renew it afterwards… Now, of the authors whom we possess, Marcion seems to have singled out Luke for his mutilating process.”(29). P75 (A.D. 174-225) the oldest manuscript of the third Gospel designates Luke as the author as well. All early Lucan manuscripts we possess have the title. In his commentary on Matthew Origen (A.D. 185-254) also affirms that Luke wrote both the third Gospel and Acts when he says “And the third by Luke, the Gospel commended by Paul, and composed for Gentile converts… Luke, the author of the Gospel and the Acts, wrote it.”(30) 

Speaking to the significance of this strong external tradition Darrell L. Bock writes:

“Such unanimity, when numerous Pauline companion candidates exist, argues for the veracity of this identification.”(31)

D. A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo and Leon Morris write: 

The tradition attaches no other name to these writings. We should bear in mind the point made by M. Dibelius that a book bearing the name of a person to whom it was dedicated is unlikely to have lacked the authors name (it would have been on an attached tag).5 It is not easy to see how some other name would have been completely suppressed, or why the name Luke should have been attached to the writings if he had not produced them.” 

5 M. Dibelius, Studies in the Acts of the Apostles (London: SCM, 1956), p. 148. He also says forthrightly, ‘Both writings, Gospel and Acts, were offered to the literary reading public from the very beginning under the name of Luke as author’ (p. 89).”(32)


Luke’s authorship of these two books went virtually unchallenged until the onset of critical approaches to the New Testament at the end of the 18th century.”(33)

As similarly argued regarding Mark, why if the early Christians were attaching spurious Gospel titles to their Gospels, would they select Luke who was not an apostle instead of designating someone more prominent like Peter, Andrew or Phillip? This gives validity to Luke actually being the author and reflects the honesty of the primitive church.

Section 4.) John

Internal evidence that John son of Zebedee authored the fourth Gospel is strong. First it is important to note that in 1:14 it is said that “… the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory…” It must then be asked who is the “we” who beheld Christ’s glory on earth? The answer is given in 2:11 when it is said that “… the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” Thus the “we” who beheld Christ’s glory were the disciples and hence the author includes himself as an eyewitness disciple who beheld Christ’s glory on earth which included His early miracles. In 19:35 the author of the fourth Gospel affirms that he is an eyewitness of the crucifixion of Christ when he says “He who saw it has borne witness--his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth--that you also may believe.” With that said the discussion of authorship mainly centres John 21’s comments about the “beloved disciple” who we are told is an eyewitness of the life of Christ and the author of this fourth Gospel. In John 21 we see one of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to the disciples and near the end of the encounter we read:

“20Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at the table close to him and had said, "Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?" 21When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about this man?" 22Jesus said to him, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!" 23So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?" 24This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true” (John 21:20-24).

I will argue that the beloved disciple who we are told authored this Gospel and was an eyewitness of Jesus’ life was John son of Zebedee. Earlier comments in chapter 21 narrow down the list of possible “beloved disciple” candidates to Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James son of Zebedee, John son of Zebedee, and two unnamed disciples by placing them at this post-resurrection appearance where the beloved disciple is present (John 21:2). Of these seven we can easily rule out Peter, Thomas, Nathanael and James as being the beloved disciple.(34) And supporting the orthodox belief that it was John son of Zebedee and not one of these two unnamed disciples is the fact that John son of Zebedee isn’t mentioned by name in the fourth Gospel even though less known apostles are such as Philip, Lazarus, and Judas (not Judas Iscariot); and even though the synoptic Gospels often mention John the apostle by name. Could it be that for some reason John, being the author, deliberately avoided including his own name in the fourth Gospel? Further support for Johannine authorship is the fact that in the fourth Gospel the beloved disciple and the apostle Peter are linked closely together (John 13:23; 20:2-9; and 21:1-25). John 19:26 is the only time he is mentioned without Peter. Interestingly the non-Johannine New Testament data very strongly links John son of Zebedee and Peter (Mark 5:37; 9:2; 14:33; Luke 22:8, Acts 3:1, 11; 4:13; 8:15-25; Galatians 2:9). This further supports the beloved disciple being John the apostle who was close to Peter and thus the author of the fourth Gospel. Moreover, Donald Guthrie forcefully argues that in light of John the Baptist being identified simply as “John”, that this presupposes that the author’s audience would identify the apostle John with another name (beloved disciple). He argues that “… John the Baptist is described as ‘John’ without further qualification, which strongly suggests that the writer intended the apostle John to be understood under another title. It cannot be denied that the absence of specific reference to him creates a definite predisposition toward Johannine authorship and any alternative views must reckon with this peculiarity and provide an adequate explanation.”(35) F. F. Bruce argues that the beloved disciple is John the apostle based on the special relationship James, Peter and John had with Jesus. After narrowing down the possible “beloved disciple” candidates to one of the twelve in light of the synoptic data regarding the Last Supper he states:

“… of the twelve, there were three who were on occasion admitted to more intimate fellowship with the Master – Peter, James and John. It was these three, for example, whom he took to keep watch with Him during His vigil in Gethsemane after the Last Supper (Mk 14:33). We should naturally expect that the beloved disciple would be one of the number. He was not Peter, from whom he is explicitly distinguished in John 13:24, 20:2, and 21:20. There remain two sons of Zebedee, James and John, who were included in the seven of chapter 21. But James was martyred not later than AD 44 (Acts 12:2), and therefore there was little likelihood that the saying should go abroad about him which went abroad about the beloved disciple, that he would not die. So we are left with John.”(36)

Bruce referred to John 21:21-23’s discussion between Jesus and Peter regarding the beloved disciple not dying until Jesus came and took his life naturally and the followers of Christ spreading this rumour up to the time that the Gospel of John was written. He correctly observed that this rumour could not circulate about James up to that point since he died in A.D. 44 long before this Gospel’s composition. Thus it would have to refer to John son of Zebedee. Some scholars assert that the beloved disciple was Lazarus and not John. However, we know that the beloved disciple was at the Last Supper (John 13:23) as one of the twelve and Lazarus was not. According to the synoptic data only the twelve were present at that gathering.(37) Since Lazarus was not present at the Last Supper or one of the twelve this rule’s out Lazarus as being the beloved disciple. What is more John’s style is to not name the beloved disciple but identify him as such up until the end of the fourth Gospel. Therefore, since Lazarus is named fifteen times in the fourth Gospel it is problematic to assert that he is the beloved disciple. Moreover, some scholars have asserted that if John the apostle authored the fourth Gospel and identified himself with the title “beloved disciple” that this would reflect arrogance inconsistent with early Christian teaching. However, D.A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo and Leon Morris have answered this objection sufficiently by noting that: 

When a New Testament writer thinks of himself as someone whom Jesus loves, it is never to suggest that that other believers are not loved or are somehow loved less. Thus, Paul, in describing the saving work of the Son of God, can suddenly make that work personal: he ‘loved me and gave himself for me’ (Gal. 2:20). In no way does this imply that Paul thinks the Galatians are loved less. The suggestion betrays a profound ignorance of the psychological dynamics of Christian experience: those who are most profoundly aware of their own sin and need, and who in consequence most deeply feel the wonders of the grace of God that has reached out and saved them, even them, are those who are most likely to talk about themselves as the objects of God’s love in Christ Jesus. Those who do not think of themselves in such terms ought to (Eph. 3:14-21). If a ‘son of thunder’ has become the apostle of love, small wonder he thinks of himself as the peculiar object of the love of Jesus. But that is scarcely the mark of arrogance; it is, rather, the mark of brokenness.”(38) 

So weak is that refuted argument that these scholars posited that it should be completely abandoned. In sum, the internal case for Johannine authorship, and thus the case for the fourth Gospel being eyewitness testimony, is strong and in agreement with the large body of external evidence. I have not encountered any substantive exegetical reasons for rejecting Johannine authorship which cannot be or have not been answered.

External evidence affirming that John son of Zebedee authored the fourth Gospel is strong as well. Writing in the 2nd century Irenaeus, sourcing his contemporary acquaintance Polycarp, a pupil of apostles such as John, reports that “… John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia… those who were conversant in Asia with John, the disciple of the Lord, [affirming] that John conveyed to them that information. And he remained among them up to the times of Trajan… Then, again, the Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles.”(39) Hence, Irenaeus affirms that John the Lord’s disciple authored the fourth Gospel publishing it in Ephesus where he stayed until the time of Emperor Trajan’s reign. We know that the source for Irenaeus’ Johannine Ephesus information is Polycarp who Irenaeus viewed as a link between himself and Jesus regarding doctrine and theology(40) and because Eusebius quotes Irenaeus regarding congruous information concerning John’s encounter with Cerinthus in Ephesus which Irenaeus derived from Polycarp.(41) Thus, as Donald Guthrie remarks “There can be no doubt, therefore, that Irenaeus accepted John the apostle as author of the Gospel and believed it to have been published at Ephesus on the basis of Polycarp’s testimony.”(42) Moreover, Justin Martyr (A.D. 103-165) references John 3:3-5(43) while in the same work speaking of the Gospels in terms of “memoirs of the apostles”(44) in the plural most likely referencing John and Matthew since he indicates Luke was written by those who knew apostles.(45) The Assyrian Christian Tatian (A.D. 120-180) affirmed the authority of the fourth Gospel by composing the Diatessaron which was a Gospel harmony using, as Craig Blomberg notes, “John as the base into which to fit the other three.”(46) Tertullian (A.D. 160-220) affirms Johannine authorship stating “The same authority of the apostolic churches will afford evidence to the other Gospels also, which we possess equally through their means, and according to their usage — I mean the Gospels of John and Matthew…”(47) Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150-215) also notes that “John, perceiving that the external facts had been made plain in the Gospel, being urged by his friends, and inspired by the Spirit, composed a spiritual Gospel.”(48) Origen (A.D. 185-254) lists the Gospels and mentions “Last of all that by John.”(49) Some scholars hold that Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria and Origen relied on Irenaeus’ mere “opinion” (rejecting the view that Irenaeus accurately passed down Polycarp’s early testimony). However, in order for these authors to confidently grant Irenaeus’ position they must have viewed it as authoritative and reflective of factual orthodoxy, otherwise why would they simply repeat it without suspicion? That view makes little sense. Around A.D. 180 Theophilus of Antioch affirmed Johannine authorship when he said “And hence the holy writings teach us, and all the spirit-bearing [inspired] men, one of whom, John, says, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, showing that at first God was alone, and the Word in Him.”(50) The anti-Marcionite Prologue to John (A.D. 160-180?) affirms Johannine authorship when it says “John the apostle, whom the Lord Jesus loved very much, last of all wrote this gospel, the bishops of Asia having entreated him, against Cerinthus and other heretics…”(51) The anti-Marcionite prologue to Luke (A.D. 160-180?) also affirms Johannine authorship when it says “Afterwards John the apostle, one of the twelve, wrote the apocalypse in the island of Pathmos and after the Gospel.”(52) The Muratorian canon (A.D. 180-190) affirms that “John, one of the disciples, wrote the Fourth Gospel. When his fellow disciples and the bishops urged him to do so, he said, ‘Join me in fasting for three days, and then let us relate to one another what shall be revealed to each.’ The same night it was revealed to Andrew, one of the apostles, that John should write down everything in his own name, and they should all revise it.”(53) Thus we have very strong and early traditions affirming the authority and Johannine authorship of the fourth Gospel.

In regards to the external data Craig Blomberg notes that:

No orthodox writer ever proposes any other alternative for the author of the Fourth Gospel and the book is accepted in all of the early canonical lists, which is all the more significant given the frequent heterodox misinterpretations of it.”(54) 

And in sum Andreas J. Köstenberger boldly states that: 

“… we conclude that both internal and external evidence cohere in suggesting John, the son of Zebedee, to be the author of the Gospel that bears his name.”(55)


Having provided dozens of positive arguments for traditional Gospel authorship it is my hope that not only Christians will be edified and strengthened in their beliefs but that this material may help lead Muslims to receive the truth of Jesus Christ found within the New Testament. Though more could be said about all of the issues raised in this article I believe these issues need to be interacted with by Muslim apologists since they wish to openly teach that there is no evidence for the orthodox traditional authorship position. We have provided numerous arguments affirming that Matthew and John were the eyewitness authors of the Gospel’s assigned to them and that Mark and Luke were written by those men who knew the apostles and their acquaintances basing their Gospel’s on eyewitness and ear-witness testimony. The Muslim apologists now have the responsibility of addressing all of this information as opposed to selectively quoting critical unbelieving conclusions or the stances taken by careful conservatives. Again the data, which many find persuasive, has to be the subject of discussion if meaningful dialogue between Christians and Muslims is to be advanced.

Christ has risen, He is Lord.


1.) Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of John's Gospel: Issues & Commentary, [InterVarsity Press, 2001], pp. 37-38

2.) Irenaeus writing in the second half of the 2nd century mentions “… Papias, the hearer of John, and a companion of Polycarp” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, V.33.4). If this is true it would mean Papias was in a position to learn about who wrote the Gospels from eyewitnesses like John the apostle and Polycarp who was a companion of the apostles. Eusebius disagreed with Irenaeus about Papias being a hearer of the apostle John, however, but based on his interpretation of Papias’ writings Eusebius posited that Papias “received the doctrines of the faith from those who were their [apostles] friends” (Eusebius, Church History, III.39.2). Eusebius believed there were two John’s according to Papias’ writings – John the apostle whose teachings Papias learned about from others who knew him and John the elder or Presbyter, a friend of the apostles – Papias learning personally from him (see Eusebius, Church History, III.39.7). Whatever the case there is enough evidence either way for Papias to accurately know who wrote the Gospels since even if Eusebius was correct about Papias not knowing the apostle John the evidence shows that he obtained reliable early information from those who were acquaintances of the apostles and knew their teachings. 

3.) Paul L. Maier translation found in Eusebius: The Church History Translation and Commentary, [Kregal Publications, 2007]. p. 114. For good discussions on Papias’ words concerning Matthew see Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, [InterVarsity Press, 1990], pp. 44-52 and D. A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo, Leon Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament, [Zondervan, 1992], pp. 67-71. 

4.) Papias quoted in Eusebius, Church History, III.39.3-4

5.) “Papias, of whom we are now speaking, confesses that he received the words of the apostles from those that followed them, but says that he was himself a hearer of Aristion and the presbyter John. At least he mentions them frequently by name, and gives their traditions in his writings”. (Eusebius, Church History, III.39.7). Papias “received the doctrines of the faith from those who were their [apostles] friends” (Eusebius, Church History, III.39.2).

6.) Irenaeus quoted in Eusebius, Church History, V.8.2

7.) Eusebius, Church History, V.10.3 and VI.25.3, 4

8.) Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, [InterVarsity Press, 1990], p. 53

9.) Writing to the Christians in Rome in the 1st century Ignatius of Antioch states “I do not command you, as Peter and Paul did” (Ignatius, Letter to the Romans, Ch. 4). In the 2nd century Irenaeus reports that “…the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul…” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies Book 3 Ch. 3). Eusebius reports a tradition provided by Dionysius (A.D. ? – 171) bishop of Corinth: “And that they both suffered martyrdom at the same time is stated by Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, in his epistle to the Romans, in the following words: You have thus by such an admonition bound together the planting of Peter and of Paul at Rome and Corinth. For both of them planted and likewise taught us in our Corinth. And they taught together in like manner in Italy, and suffered martyrdom at the same time” (Eusebius, Church History, II.25.8).

10.) “The anti-Marcionite prologue to Mark (late second century?) claims that Mark wrote the Gospel ‘in the region of Italy.’ Both Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. 3.1.2) and Clement of Alexandria (according to Eusebius, H.E. 6.14.6-7) suggest the same thing. Several considerations are said to confirm a Roman provenance: (1) the large number of Latinisms in the gospel; (2) the incidental mention of Simon of Cyrene’s sons, Alexander and Rufus, at least one of whom may have known Mark in Rome (when writing to the Roman church, Paul greets Rufus [16:13]); (3) the apparently Gentile audience of the gospel; (4) the many allusions to suffering, which would be appropriate if the gospel was written under the shadow of persecutions of the church in Rome; (5) the connection with an important early centre of Christianity, which would have explained the gospel’s quick acceptance.” (D. A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo, Leon Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament, [Zondervan, 1992], p. 95)

11.) Michael F. Bird, Paul and the Gospels: Christologies, Conflicts, and Convergences, [Continuum International Publishing Group, 2011], pp. 42-43

12.) F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, [Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1981], p. 33

13.) Eusebius, Church History, III.39.15

14.) Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III.1

15.) Tertullian, Against Marcion, IV.5

16.) Clement of Alexandria quoted in Eusebius, Church History, VI.14.6

17.) Origen Commentary on Matthew quoted in Eusebius, Church History, VI.25.5

18.) Justin Martyr, Dialogue 106

19.) Anti-Marcionite Prologue to Mark quoted in Adam Winn, The purpose of Mark's Gospel: An Early Christian Response to Roman Imperial Propaganda, [Mohr Siebeck, 2008], p. 47

20.) D. A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo, Leon Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament, [Zondervan, 1992], p. 95

21.) Guthrie cites A. Kenny, (A Stylometric Study on the New Testament, 1986) and F. F. Bruce, (The Acts of the Apostles, 1952, p. 2).

22.) Guthrie lists numerous things in the “we” passages one of those with Paul in Rome would have had to be apart of in order to be the author of Acts “(1) first joins Paul at Philippi; (2) reappears on Paul’s return visit to Philippi; (3) accompanies the apostle on the journey towards Jerusalem and stays with Philip at Caesarea” (Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, [InterVarsity Press, 1990], p. 116). It is highly unlikely and non-evidenced that any of the candidates (Mark, Titus, Demas, Crescens, Jesus Justus, Epaphras and Epaphroditus) did all of these things with Paul. Second, Andreas J. Köstenberger, L. Scott Kellum and Charles Quarles have argued against these people being the authors noting that “Of these Mark wrote the Gospel that bears his name. Demas deserted Paul because he “loved this present world” (2 Tim 4:10), which renders him an unlikely candidate for authorship of Acts. Jesus Justus was a Jew (Col 4:11); the writer of Luke-Acts was probably not. Epaphroditus was most likely from Philippi (Phil 4:25), which makes it difficult to explain why he would have first joined Paul in Asia Minor before Philippi was evangelized (Acts 16:10). Epaphras is noted in the NT primarily for his role in founding the Colossian church (Col. 1:7-8; 4:12-13; see Phlm 23). This leaves Luke as the best viable candidate” (Andreas J. Köstenberger, L. Scott Kellum, Charles Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament, [B&H Publishing Group, 2009], p. 260).

23.) Alfred Wikenhauser, New Testament Introduction, [ET New York: Herder, 1963], p. 209 cited in D. A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo, Leon Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament, [Zondervan, 1992], pp. 114-15.

24.) Justin Martyr, Dialogue 103

25.) Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III.1.1

26.) Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III.14.1

27.) Muratorian Canon quoted in Alister E. McGrath, The Christian Theology Reader, [Wiley-Blackwell, 2006], p. 77

28.) Anti-Marcionite Prologue to Luke quoted in Vincent P. Branick, Understanding the New Testament and its Message: An Introduction, [Paulist Press, 1998], p. 138

29.) Tertullian, Against Marcion, 4.2.2; 4.5.3

30.) Origen quoted in Eusebius, Church History, VI.25.6 and VI.25.14.

31.) Darrell L. Bock, Luke: Volume 3 of The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, [InterVarsity Press, 1994], p. 17

32.) D. A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo, Leon Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament, [Zondervan, 1992], p. 113

33.) Ibid. p. 182

34.) The beloved disciple is distinguished by name from Peter (John 13:23-24; 20:2-9; 21:20). Thus the beloved disciple is not Peter. James son of Zebedee was martyred around A.D. 44 toward the end of the reign of Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:1-2), while the beloved disciple lived long enough for the rumour about him not dying until Christ came for him was seen to be true (John 21:23). Moreover, James died too soon for him to author the fourth Gospel. Thus James son of Zebedee is ruled out as being the beloved disciple. Most scholars who examine the actual evidence affirm Nathanael was not one of the twelve (Bauckham 2006). The beloved disciple was, however. We know this because he attended the Last Supper (John 13:23) when only the twelve attended (Mark 14:17-18). What is more, since it is part of the fourth Gospel’s nature to not name the beloved disciple even when others are named concerning events he is involved with, it is specious to say that Nathanael, who is often named, should be regarded as the beloved disciple. This rule’s out Nathanael from being the beloved disciple. With respect to Thomas, he can not be the beloved disciple because John 20:8 says the beloved disciple immediately believed after seeing the empty tomb with Peter. Thomas, however, remained doubtful and didn’t believe until later when Jesus appeared to him in John 20:25-29.

35.) Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, [InterVarsity Press, 1990], p. 257

36.) F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, [Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1981], p. 45

37.) Some say that because Mark 14:13 says Jesus “sent two of his disciples” into the city to prepare Passover and that later “he came with the twelve” to eat (Mark 14:17) that Jesus ate with the twelve as well as the two others outside the twelve whom he first sent. However, in Luke 22:8 we learn that the two disciples Jesus sent into the city to prepare the Passover were Peter and John. Hence, Jesus did not send two outside of the twelve to prepare the meal but two within the twelve. Thus, when we read that Jesus ate the Last Supper with the twelve (Mark 14:17-18) that demonstrates there were none outside the twelve present. Hence, because Lazarus was not one of the twelve, (see list of the twelve in Matthew 10:2-3) and thus not at the Last Supper, when the beloved disciple was, we can rule him out as being the beloved disciple. F. F. Bruce puts it in this way, “According to Mark 14:17,when our Lord arrived at the upper room for the Last Supper, He was accompanied by the twelve apostles, who reclined at a table with Him, and there is no suggestion in the synoptic Gospels that anyone else was present with Him on that occasion.” (F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, [Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1981], p. 45).

38.) D. A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo, Leon Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament, [Zondervan, 1992], p. 148

39.) Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III.1.1; II.22.5; III.3.4

40.) “In the letter to Florinus, of which we have spoken, Irenæus mentions again his intimacy with Polycarp, saying: These doctrines, O Florinus, to speak mildly, are not of sound judgment. These doctrines disagree with the Church, and drive into the greatest impiety those who accept them. These doctrines, not even the heretics outside of the Church, have ever dared to publish. These doctrines, the presbyters who were before us, and who were companions of the apostles, did not deliver to you. For when I was a boy, I saw you in lower Asia with Polycarp, moving in splendor in the royal court, and endeavoring to gain his approbation. I remember the events of that time more clearly than those of recent years. For what boys learn, growing with their mind, becomes joined with it; so that I am able to describe the very place in which the blessed Polycarp sat as he discoursed, and his goings out and his comings in, and the manner of his life, and his physical appearance, and his discourses to the people, and the accounts which he gave of his intercourse with John and with the others who had seen the Lord. And as he remembered their words, and what he heard from them concerning the Lord, and concerning his miracles and his teaching, having received them from eyewitnesses of the 'Word of life,' Polycarp related all things in harmony with the Scriptures.” (Irenaeus, Letter to Florinus quoted in Eusebius, Church History, V.20.4-8)

41.) “And the same writer gives another account of Polycarp which I feel constrained to add to that which has been already related in regard to him. The account is taken from the third book of Irenæus' work Against Heresies, and is as follows: But Polycarp also was not only instructed by the apostles, and acquainted with many that had seen Christ, but was also appointed by apostles in Asia bishop of the church of Smyrna. We too saw him in our early youth; for he lived a long time, and died, when a very old man, a glorious and most illustrious martyr’s death, having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, which the Church also hands down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic churches testify, as do also those who, down to the present time, have succeeded Polycarp, who was a much more trustworthy and certain witness of the truth than Valentinus and Marcion and the rest of the heretics. He also was in Rome in the time of Anicetus and caused many to turn away from the above-mentioned heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received from the apostles this one and only system of truth which has been transmitted by the Church. And there are those that heard from him that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe in Ephesus and seeing Cerinthus within, ran out of the bath-house without bathing, crying, 'Let us flee, lest even the bath fall, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.” (Eusebius, Church History, IV.14.2-6)

42.) Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, [InterVarsity Press, 1990], p. 270

43.) Justin Martyr, First Apology, 61

44.) Justin Martyr, First Apology, 66, 67

45.) When referring to Luke (Mark probably being included in this category) he notes that it was written by “those who followed them [apostles]” (Justin Martyr, Dialogue 103).

46.) Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of John's Gospel: Issues & Commentary, [InterVarsity Press, 2011], p. 24

47.) Tertullian, Against Marcion, IV.5

48.) Clement of Alexandria quoted in Eusebius, Church History, VI.14.7

49.) Origen quoted in Eusebius, Church History, VI.25.6

50.) Theophilus, To Autolycus, II.22

51.) Anti-Marcionite Prologue to John quoted in Ben C. Smith, The Latin Prologues (

52.) Anti-Marcionite Prologue to Luke quoted in T. W. Manson, Studies in the Gospels and Epistles, [1962], p. 49

53.) Muratorian Canon quoted in F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1994], p. 10

54.) Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of John's Gospel: Issues & Commentary, [InterVarsity Press, 2011], p. 25

55.) Andreas J. Köstenberger, Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective, [Baker Academic, 2002], p. 25