Category Archives: Trust New Testament

CAN WE TRUST THE NEW TESTAMENT? LESSON 6: THE AUTHORS OF ACTS-REVELATION

After establishing that the evidence clearly points to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John being the authors of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we will now look at the authorship of the rest of the New Testament books.

ACTS

The external evidence is both unanimous and early that Luke was the author of Acts.  Attestation that Luke was the author is found in sources from Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, Eusebius, and Jerome (as well as other early sources).

“At no time were any doubts raised regarding this attribution to Luke…The tradition could hardly be
stronger . . .” (https://bible.org/seriespage/5-acts-introduction-outline-and-argument#_ftn2).

The internal evidence that Luke was the author is equally strong. The book of Acts was addressed to Theophilus (just like the gospel account of Luke).

“Acts and Luke contain strong similarities of language and style as well as common interests. Furthermore, Acts naturally follows on from Luke’s gospel . . . It may safely be concluded that the evidence is very strong for linking the two books as the work of one man, a conclusion which few modern scholars would dispute” (Guthrie, 115-16).

PAUL’S EPISTLES

Romans
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
Galatians
Ephesians
Philippians
Colossians
1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Timothy
2 Timothy
Titus
Philemon

Unlike the gospel accounts (which are biographies), Paul’s writings are epistles (letters) written directly to Christians or churches. Whereas biographies rarely included the name of the author in the text, epistles typically did since it was a letter. These 13 epistles all identify Paul as the author in the text itself.

A steady stream of early Christian writers including Ignatius, Polycarp, Clement, Justin Martyr, Basilides, Athenagoras, Irenaeus, etc. all assume and attribute these letters to Paul. There is no genuine competing theory of who wrote these 13 epistles.

WHO WAS PAUL?

Paul was not an original disciple of Jesus. He was born in Tarsus in Cilicia around A.D. 1–5 in a province in the southeastern corner of modern day Tersous, Turkey (Acts 22:3). He was of Benjamite lineage and Hebrew ancestry (Phil. 3:5).

Paul was also called Saul (Acts 13:9). The custom of dual names was common at that time. Saul was his Jewish name and Paul was his Gentile name. When Paul was younger, he began to be trained by a great Jewish teacher, Gamaliel, under whom he mastered Jewish history, the Psalms and the works of the prophets (Acts 5:33-34; 22:3).

He was a top Jewish leader, a Pharisee and historical evidence points to the fact that he could have even been a member of the Sanhedrin, although that subject is highly debated (Gal. 1:14; Phil. 3:5). The Sanhedrin was the supreme council, or court, in ancient Israel. The Sanhedrin was comprised of 70 men, plus the high priest, who served as its president. The members came from the chief priests, scribes, and elders, but there is no record on how they were chosen (See: Num. 11:16).

Some argue that in order to be a member of the Sanhedrin, you had to be married. Thus, it is argued, Paul could have not been a member of the Sanhedrin since he wasn’t married (1 Cor. 7:8-9). On the other hand, it is argued that one could be single and a member of the Sanhedrin. Of course, even if one had to be married, an argument could be made that Paul at one point in time was married and either divorced or his spouse passed away (Of course, all of this is speculative).

Whether or not Paul was ever a member of the Sanhedrin is beside the point since he certainly was on his way to being a member due to his Jewish status, zeal and knowledge (Phil. 3:4-6; Gal. 1:14; Acts 22:1-5; etc.).

Paul was very much adamant against Jesus and Christianity because he believed that it was a false religion. He greatly persecuted the Church and Christianity (Acts 7:58; Acts 8:1-3; Acts 22:4-5; etc.).

At the same time, we must not make the mistake in judging Paul’s heart because he was very sincere in what he was doing, thinking he was following God in persecuting Christianity (Acts 23:1; 1 Tim. 1:13).

Paul was eventually converted to Christianity because of his miraculous experience with Jesus (Acts 9:1-19; Acts 22:1-21; Acts 26:12-23). Jesus chose to appear to Paul because of his zeal, sincerity and good intent (1 Tim. 1:12-17). Furthermore, those sincerely looking for truth will find it (Mt. 7:7).

Paul’s conversion is quite amazing given the fact that, from a worldly perspective, he had nothing to gain. His conversion to Christianity brought him great worldly trials, but he counted these trails as “gain” knowing that he had eternal life in Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:7-11; Gal. 1:11-2:9).

HEBREWS

The author of this letter does not state his name, though he assumes that the audience knows him (Heb. 13:19, 22, 23). A number of different authors have been proposed, though many still attribute the letter to Paul. However, Pauline authorship was explicitly denied by Origen, the successor to Clement, who said: “Whoever wrote the epistle, God only knows for sure.” Other names were suggested. Tertullian was the first to suggest Barnabas; Luther, the first to suggest Apollos.

Several theories exist as to who the author actually was (The list includes: Paul, Barnabas, Apollos, Luke, Priscilla, Silas and even the possibility of a combination of authors).

While the authorship is unknown, two points should be understood. First, this letter was written early. Second, this letter was largely accepted as inspired by God by the early Church. Whether or not the letter itself is inspired was not largely disputed; only who God chose to be the inspired author was under dispute.

JAMES

In James 1:1, the author identifies himself as “James, the servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” There are four different James’ mentioned in the New Testament. However, it is commonly believed that the author of James is James, Jesus’ brother (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3; Gal. 1:19; called simply James in Acts: 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; and in 1 Cor. 15:7), mentioned only twice by name in the Gospels (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3), he rises to prominence after Pentecost.

Arguably, James became the de facto leader of the Jerusalem church sometime before A.D. 44, and was one of two leaders Paul met with in Jerusalem three years after Paul’s conversion (Gal. 1:19). The assignment of this James (also known in later church traditions, starting with Hegesippus, as “James the Just”) as author of the letter has been the majority and traditional view.

There are 3 main reasons as to why most believe that the author is James, Jesus’ brother”

1) The author’s self-identification – the Lord’s brother is the only James who appears to have played a sufficiently prominent part in early Christian history.

2) The author’s Jewish background.

3) Similarities between James and Acts: James’ speech in Acts 15 contains many striking parallels in language with the epistle of James.

The epistle of James is first mentioned by name by Origen, who apparently regards it as scripture. Eusebius and Jerome also cite it as scripture, and apparently accept it as from the hand of James, the Lord’s brother.

1 & 2 PETER

Peter was an original disciple of Jesus. 1 Peter 1:1 identifies that Peter is the author of 1 Peter.

“So strong is the evidence for the use of this epistle in the early church that some scholars have regarded it as proved and maintained that it was considered to be canonical as early as this word had a meaning. There are parallels in Clement of Rome’s Epistle to the Corinthians, Ignatius, Barnabas, and Shepherd of Hermas. These may indicate borrowing, but not necessarily. Polycarp definitely quotes from it, though he does not identify the quoted material as coming from Peter. Irenaeus, however, does quote from it, and regards it as a genuine work of Peter” (https://bible.org/seriespage/21-first-peter-introduction-argument-and-outline).

2 Peter 1:1 identifies that Peter is the author of 2 Peter.

Simon Peter (Cephas) was known as one of the “Pillars” of the apostles and was given the keys to the kingdom to usher in the establishment of the kingdom on the Day of Pentecost (Gal. 2:9; Mt. 16:19; Acts 2; etc.).

1, 2 & 3 JOHN

It is commonly believed that the disciple John wrote the gospel of John as well as 1, 2 and 3 John. Irenaeus’ (“Against Heresies”) includes in three passages direct citations of 1 and 2 John. Adv. haer. 1.16.3 is a quotation of 2 John 11 in which Irenaeus adds that the Epistle was written by the Lord’s disciple John, who was also the author of the Fourth Gospel. Adv. haer. 3.16.5 is a quotation of 1 John 2:18-19 and 21-22, and 3.16.8 is quoted from 2 John 7-8 which also appears in 1 John 4:1-2 and 5:1.

Tertullian quotes 1 John numerous times, referring to it as the work of John the Apostle. Clement of Alexandria not only quotes 1 John a number of times but attributes this to John the Apostle and speaks of it as “the greater epistle,” which indicates he knew at least one more of the Johannine letters (2 or 3 John) and considered them to come from the same author.

Origen quoted frequently from 1 John and referred to it as by John the Apostle. 2 & 3 John identifies the author as “the elder” which is believed to be the disciple/apostle John.

JUDE

Jude identifies himself as a servant of Jesus and the brother of James (Jude 1:1). Most scholars accept Jude as both authentic and written by Jude, the brother of Jesus (Mk. 6:3; Mt. 13:55). Clement of Alexandria who lived c. 150–215 AD wrote in his work “Comments on the Epistle of Jude” that Jude, the Epistle of Jude’s author was a son of Joseph and a brother of the Lord.

Jude has attestation in early church literature. There are possible allusions to it in Clement of Rome, Shepherd of Hermas, Barnabas, and Didache, and probable allusions in Polycarp. The Muratorian Canon mentions it, as does Clement of Alexandria. Tertullian comments on its use of 1 Enoch and Didymus defended its authenticity (https://bible.org/seriespage/26-jude-introduction-argument-and-outline).

REVELATION

The author of Revelation is identified as John, the disciples and author of the gospel of John and 1, 2 and 3rd John (Rev. 1:1). Second century Christian writers such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Melito the bishop of Sardis, and Clement of Alexandria and the author of the Muratorian fragment identify John the Apostle as the “John” of Revelation.

He is known by name alone to the seven churches to which he writes. Such would be more believable if the work were written by the apostle. Second, he expects the churches to respond favorably and obediently to his writing, for he speaks with authority (cf. 1:3; 22:9, 18ff.). Third, although he writes in the genre of ancient Jewish apocalypses, there is one thing unique about his work: while the Jewish apocalypses were ascribed to great men of an age long ago (e.g., Enoch, Ezra, Baruch), this author simply identifies himself as “John your brother.”

From a comparison with other writings from John, this really is the strongest argument for common authorship. There are very strong similarities between this work and the fourth gospel account especially. Both have common ideas, common theological motifs, common terms.

AUTHORS IN SUMMARY

1. Matthew – (Gospel of Matthew); ORIGINAL DISCIPLE
2. Mark (Gospel of Mark); DISCIPLE OF PETER
3. Luke (Gospel of Luke, Acts); DISCIPLE OF PAUL
4. John (Gospel of John, 1,2,3 John & Revelation); ORIGINAL DISCIPLE AND BEST FRIEND OF JESUS
5. Paul (Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon); DISCIPLE, FRIENDS OF APOSTLES
6. Unknown (Hebrews)
7. James (James); BROTHER OF JESUS
8. Peter (1&2 Peter); ORIGINAL DISCIPLE/ ONE OF THE PILLARS OF THE APOSTLES
9. Jude (Jude); BROTHER OF JESUS

– Kevin Pendergrass

CAN WE TRUST THE NEW TESTAMENT? LESSON 2: THE AUTHORS

The phrase “gospel accounts” is another way of saying “Matthew,” “Mark,” Luke” and “John.” Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are referred to as “the gospels” or the “gospel accounts” because they are the four books in the Bible that record the life of Jesus.

Background

Matthew– Matthew, also known as Levi, was a Jew. He was a tax collector. He was the son of a certain man named Alphaeus and he was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27).

Mark– Mark was not one of the original 12 disciples of Jesus. Mark, also known as John Mark, was cousins with Barnabas (Col. 4:10; Acts 12:12, 25). He was a preacher who traveled with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey (Acts 12:25; 13:5).  He is also known as Peter’s son in the faith (1 Pet. 5:13).

Barnabas and Paul got in a heated disagreement over Mark because Mark left them at Perga and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13; 15:36-39). Paul didn’t want to allow Mark to accompany him on his second journey, but later Paul and Mark obviously made up (2 Tim. 4:11)

Luke– Just like Mark, Luke was not one of the original 12 disciples of Jesus. He was later converted and wrote about the life of Jesus using eye witness testimony (Luke 1:1-2). Luke was a doctor (Col. 4:14). Luke was a close friend and traveling companion of Paul and a faithful Christian (2 Tim. 4:11; Phil. 24; (Acts 16:10-11, 25-17:1; 20:6-21:18; 27:1; 28:2, 12-16).

John– John was one of the original 12 disciples of Jesus (Mk. 1:19-20; Lk. 5:10). His gospel account is well known because of the uniqueness of the information compared to the other gospel accounts. Often, instead of telling his version of an event or parable the others had already written about, he writes about things the other writers did not include. John appears to be one of the closest disciples of Jesus (e.g., the disciple whom Jesus loved; John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20).

Evidence of Authorship

Many Christians are surprised to learn that the writers of the gospel accounts never include their identity. In other words, the gospel of Matthew never says it was written by Matthew. The gospel of Mark never says it was written by Mark. The gospel of Luke never says it was written by Luke…and you guessed it…the gospel of John never says it was written by John.

If the text itself never reveals who wrote the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, then why should we believe that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?

The evidence which proves authorship for Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is as follows: (1) Superscription on the ancient manuscripts; (2) The testimony of the early church and (3) No alternative or competing theory.

A superscription is text added to an ancient manuscript by a scribe for purposes of identification; it acts as a title. Early church writings (also known as the Early Church Fathers) are non-inspired writings from Christians, who lived and wrote in the first several centuries and beyond, following the death of Jesus and the Apostles.

Evidence for Matthew

According to NT scholar D. Edmond Hiebert, the “identifying superscription, ‘The Gospel According to Matthew,’ is the oldest known witness concerning its authorship.”   Scholars believe the superscription was added as early as A.D. 125 and the “superscription is found on all known manuscripts of [the gospel of Matthew]” (See also: Harrington, Daniel J. (1991) p. 8. The Gospel of Matthew; Nolland, John (2005) p. 16. The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text. Eerdmans).

The early church writings are unanimous in crediting this gospel account to Matthew. Papias of Hierapolis (AD 100-140) is the first man who attributes this gospel account to Matthew. (Turner, David L. (2008) pp. 15-16. Matthew. Baker.). Other early testimony includes Irenaeus (AD 185) who wrote his famous Against Heresies. Origen, who wrote in the early third century.  He is quoted by Eusebius, who wrote in the early fourth century and Eusebius himself documents that Matthew wrote the gospel account of Matthew.

Finally, no competing or contradictory theories exist as to the authorship of Matthew.

Evidence for Mark

As with the gospel account of Matthew, all manuscripts for the gospel of Mark, which contain a superscription for authorship, attribute the gospel of Mark to Mark (Wallace, https://bible.org/seriespage/2-mark-introduction-argument-and-outline#_ftn1. The simplest inscription is κατὰ Μάρκον, found in Aleph B (“according to Mark”). As time progressed this became more elaborate: in the fifth century the title was customarily εὐαγγέλιον κατὰ Μάρκον (A D W [“The Gospel according to Mark”), while still later it was called τὸ κατὰ Μάρκον ἅγιον εὐαγγέλιον (209 and others [“the Holy Gospel according to Mark”).

The attestation from the early church writings that Mark wrote the gospel of Mark is overwhelming. It is cited by Papias (AD. 100-140), Irenaeus (AD. 180), Clement of Alexandria (AD. 150), Tertullian (AD. 160), Origen (AD. 185) and Jerome (AD.347). (Wallace, https://bible.org/seriespage/2-mark-introduction-argument-and-outline. See: Guthrie, 81). Peter considered John Mark his son in the faith (1 Pet. 5:13). This is further evidenced historically from the writings of Papias. Papias (AD. 100-140) said:

“Mark became an interpreter of Peter; as many things as he remembered he wrote down accurately (though certainly not in order) the things said or done by the Lord. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but he came later—as he said with reference to Peter who taught whenever the need arose…For he planned out one goal ahead of time, namely, to leave out nothing which he heard and not to falsify any [of the words of Peter]” (Wallace, My translation of Fragments of Papias 2:15; also recorded in Eusebius, HE 3.39.15).

Finally, no competing or contradictory theories exist as to the authorship of Mark.

Evidence for Luke

All manuscripts, which include a superscription, attribute the gospel of Luke to Luke (Wallace, https://bible.org/seriespage/3-luke-introduction-outline-and-argument#_ftn1; The simplest inscription is κατὰ Λούκαν, found in a B (“according to Luke”). As time progressed this became more elaborate: in the fifth century the title was customarily εὐαγγέλιον κατὰ Λούκαν (D W [“The Gospel according to Luke”]), while still later it was called τὸ κατὰ Λούκαν ἅγιον εὐαγγέλιον (209 and others [“the Holy Gospel according to Luke”]), and even ἀρχὴ τοῦ κατὰ Λούκαν ἁγίου εὐαγγελίου (1241 [“The Beginning of the Holy Gospel according to Luke”]).

The early church attestation that Luke wrote the gospel of Luke includes Irenaeus (AD. 180), Clement of Alexandria (AD. 150), Tertullian (AD. 160), Origen (AD. 185) Eusebius (AD.263) and Jerome (AD.347). (Wallace, https://bible.org/seriespage/3-luke-introduction-outline-and-argument#_ftn1; See: Guthrie, 114). They not only affirm authorship of the gospel by Luke, but also the authorship of Luke for the book of Acts, too.

Finally, no competing or contradictory theories exist.

Evidence for John

John’s superscription follows suit with the other gospel accounts, attributing the authorship of John to the gospel of John (The Gospel of John: A Commentary, pp.1253-1254ff; Bruner).

Early church writings help to identify the author as John. Irenaeus (AD. 180), a disciple of John’s disciple Polycarp (AD. 69-155), is of the earliest sources to associate John with the fourth gospel account (Eusebius Hist. Eccl. 2.23.1-4; 4.14.3-8; 5.8.4; 20.4-8 et al.). Irenaeus (AD. 180) wrote:

“Afterwards, 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” (Against Heresies 3. 3. 4; AD. 180).

All other early writers assume the apostolic authorship of the gospel of John to be John including Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria and Origen (Harris, https://bible.org/seriespage/1-background-study-john).

Finally, no competing or contradictory theory exist as to who wrote the gospel of John.

– Kevin Pendergrass