Clues That Corroborate the Traditional Authorship of the Gospels
By Carey Bryant
When trying to discern the authorship of the four gospels, scholars look at two types of evidence: external (outside the NT) and internal (inside the NT). In my previous post, we primarily looked at the external evidence in accessing the traditional authorship of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But what about the internal evidence? Are there any clues in the gospels and other New Testament books that back up the tradition behind these four authors?
Church tradition says that the author of the first gospel was Matthew, a Jewish tax collector. When we look inside Matthew’s gospel, there are some clues that indicate that the author was Jewish and that he was familiar with numbers and money. His gospel includes teachings of Jesus that put special emphasis on the Jewish people and the Jewish law (10:6 “house of Israel”; 5:17-20). He seems to know the geography well, even the small town of Nazareth (2:23). He was also familiar with Jewish customs, including the practice of betrothal (1:18-19). He has much respect for the Old Testament, and constantly points out when Jesus fulfilled prophecy (1:22; 2:15, 18; 3:3; 4:15-16; 12:18-21; 13:35; 21:5).
There are also clues to his background as a tax collector. He orders his gospel using certain numbered divisions, the primary example being the five sermons of Jesus ending with the same formula “And when Jesus had finished” (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). He also demonstrates his familiarity with money when he frequently uses monetary terms like drachma (17:24), stater (17:25) and talent (18:24). When comparing Matthew to the other synoptics, Matthew seems to prefer using monetary terminology than the others as well. For example, Matthew uses the term “gold” (2:11; 10:9; 23:16-27) while the synoptics don’t use this term at all. Another great example of this is when you compare Matthew’s account of the Lord’s prayer with Luke’s account. In asking God for forgiveness, Matthew uses the word “debts” (6:12) while Luke uses the term “sins” (11:4).
The internal evidence seems to line up well with the tradition that Matthew was Jewish tax collector.
The external evidence links Mark’s gospel with the apostle Peter. Are there any internal clues that hint at this relationship? In Acts 12:6-19, Peter was sleeping in prison when an angel of the Lord appeared to him and helped him escape. When Peter escapes and finally realizes what is going on, he goes to a house of a woman named Mary. Mary is said to be “the mother of John whose other name was Mark” (12:12). This event was no later than the mid-40s, showing that Mark had a relationship with Peter from early on. This is also corroborated in Peter’s first epistle, where he…
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