Unlikely Candidates for Gospel Writers
by Lenny Esposito
Do you ever remember cutting class in High School? Perhaps there was an event you wanted to attend, so you decided to ditch one day. The problem with ditching school is the ever-present danger of being caught. Teachers take attendance and they want to know why you missed class when you show up the next day. A lot of kids I knew would simply forge an absence note from their mother or father to escape detection.
Why do kids forge notes from their parents, but not the next-door neighbor or a sibling? Usually, it is because it would make the note a whole lot less believable. If a neighbor signed the note, the student would be forced to go to much greater lengths to demonstrate he or she was in the neighbor’s care or the neighbor had some legal authority over the child. It complicates things and makes people ask questions in a way that the more widely-recognized authority of the mother and father don’t.
Why Forge These Guys’ Names?: I bring this point up as I wrap down my little series on the authorship of the Gospels. While it is agreed that the original authors of the gospels didn’t sign their names to them (something not uncommon when dealing with a popular level biographical account in the ancient world), they have always been attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In fact, that’s a big point. Those who are skeptical will usually claim that no one knows who wrote any of the gospels. They were anonymous and the names they now bear were attached later. Yet, the gospels themselves claim to come from eyewitness testimony (Luke 1:1-3, John 21:24) and ancient biographers sought out eyewitnesses as the best type of evidence. Richard Bauckham, comments that historian Samuel Byrskog stresses that “for Greek and Roman historians, the ideal eyewitness was not the dispassionate observer but one who, as a participant, had been closest to the events and those who direct experience enabled him to understand and interpret the significance of what he had seen. The historians ‘preferred the eyewitness who was socially involved or, even better, had actively participated in the events.'”1
Given that involved eyewitnesses would be considered more valuable, then one would imagine that these anonymously-written accounts would offer some more significant apostolic names to be associated with them…
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