The Gospel Writers

By Wayne Jackson

There were eight known New Testament writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul, James, and Jude (the writer of Hebrews is unknown). Let us look carefully at these men.

Peter, John, and Matthew were in the original apostolic company; they were with Jesus during his ministry for three and one-half years. They were by his side virtually day by day, hence they wrote as eyewitnesses of the things they saw and heard.

James (not the brother of John; cf. Acts 12:2) was a leader in the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:13; cf. Galatians 2:9), and a half-brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19; cf. Acts 1:14).

At first he and his brothers did not believe on Christ (John 7:5; cf. Matthew 13:57), but later he happily acknowledged himself as "a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ" (James 1:1). James' credibility is extremely high, because something overcame his natural reticence to endorse his brother's claims. Only the Saviour’s resurrection explains that turn-around.

Too, since Jude was a brother of James, and thus also a half-brother of Jesus, he too overcame an initial disbelief and acknowledged Christ as Lord (Jude 1).

Mark was the son of Mary of Jerusalem, and the cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10). She must have had a close relationship with the apostles, because Peter went immediately to her house when he was released from prison (Acts 12:12ff).

The familiarity of this family with the apostles is confirmed by Peter's reference to Mark as his "son" (1 Peter 5:13), suggesting a spiritual relationship (cf. 1 Timothy 1:2). Thus, Mark himself would have been a witness of many of Jesus' deeds. Several ancient writers (e.g., Papias, Irenaeus, and Tertullian) testify that Mark's Gospel reflects Peter's influence.

Luke was a Greek whose Gospel narrative was grounded in the eyewitness testimony of those familiar with Christ "from the beginning" (Luke 1:1-4). After studying Luke's writings carefully, Sir William Ramsay, once a sceptic himself, declared that "Luke's history is unsurpassed in respect of its trustworthiness.

Saul of Tarsus (Paul), of course, was a scholar of no meagre ability. He was contemporary with Christ and became acquainted with at least some of the apostles (cf. Galatians 1:18). His defences of Christianity are classic (see Acts 22; 26). Though there is no evidence that Paul saw Christ face-to-face before that encounter on the Jerusalem-to-Damascus road, he had ample opportunity to know the facts regarding Jesus' miracles, teachings, and influence.

Of course, all of these eight men were inspired of God, but in this brief piece, we have examined their credibility only in the light of recognized historical principles. Their writings pass the test superbly.

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