How do we know who wrote the gospel accounts?

by Rob Lundberg

Internet discussions with skeptics can be rather enlightening when there is a question on the authenticity of the Gospel records. Many will say that they are late (after the First Century).  Others will state that we really do not know who wrote them. 

This post is one of my quick ones that will help you in research the following points further. Let me present six points that will point to the fact that we really do know who wrote the gospels we know as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. 

  1. When scholars call the Gospels anonymous, they mean that the names of the authors do not appearing in the body of the writing. The writings of Plutarch or Plato would be considered anonymous by the same standard but they are not.

  2. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that the Gospels circulated without titles.  The manuscripts that we have are all titled “The Gospel According to” in the places where it is appropriate to do so.

  3. Bible scholar E. P. Sanders claimed that “anonymous” history was accepted as higher than that of a named work in the ancient world. The nature of this sort of anonymity is to say that this is a real event without the trappings of someone’s opinion.

  4. The Early Church Fathers living in the far-reaching locations and writing in nearly the same period all attribute the Gospels to the same four names: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. A few even say that they appear in the order that they were written.

  5. There is simply no debate for alternative authorship of the Gospels. We can see historical debate for a genuinely anonymous biblical writing like Hebrews, but nothing for the Gospels.  There is absolutely nothing despite the fact that there were pseudepigraphal works attributed to Thomas and Peter originating in the mid Second Century.

  6. The address to Theophilus in the gospel of Luke presupposes a desire to circulate books to the educated. For such readers, the name of the author would be important. This supports the idea that the gospel included a title. We also can know that Luke addresses the same person in the very first opening verses of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles.

I hope these points will help you in your next discussion with someone challenging you about the authorship of the Gospel records.   Please feel free to email me at with any questions you may have regarding this or any other subject. Watch also for other quick posts that will give you confidence on why we can be sure that the Christian faith is true.

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