Who wrote the books of Matthew and Mark.  Early church fathers have said on many occasions that the Gospel of Matthew was written by Matthew.  Papias said  “Matthew wrote the oracles in the Hebrew language [or dialect], and every one interpreted them as was able.”  [1]  The church fathers accepted Matthew as the author of the Gospel without question.  If there were any doubt we would have documented evidence of it.  A perfect example would be the book of Hebrews.  Tradition in the east cites the Apostle Paul as the author, but that has been debated since its publication.  In fact the church today still does not know who wrote it.  We read in the scriptures that Matthew was a Levite who happened to be a tax collector.  In the other Gospels Matthew is referred to as “Levi” while in this Gospel he is referred to as Matthew.   Tax collectors were despised in biblical times and were looked upon as thieves.  “Matthew the Levite forfeited the esteem of his race, the most strict of whom viewed tax collectors not only as traitors but as immoral and rapacious.” [2] If the writer was anonymous why an Apostle with a more honorable profession would be named as the writer?   Many things appear in the Gospel that would be interesting to someone involved in financial affairs.  For example, Matthew is the only Gospel that depicts Jesus paying the customary Temple tax.  It is a very organized work held in a chronological sequence of events.  “The organizational method of the Gospel, built around five discourse or teaching sections, reflects the tidy mind-set of one who could have been a tax collector.” [3]  The Gospel of Matthew was written for a Jewish audience in that it keeps tying back to Jesus fulfilling old testament prophecy.  [4]  “The sermon on the Mount highlighted those incidents from Jesus’ life that contrast his teaching with Moses.” [5]  Mathew also contains the phrase “Father in Heaven” .  Heaven is a term used by Jews as reverence for the name of God.  [6]  “Matthew also contains a full additional chapter in the Olivet discourse beyond Mark and Luke, a fact likely reflecting Jewish interest in eschatology.”  [7]  The combination of these suggests that this Gospel was written to evangelize to the Jews, and that the great commission was done to tell the Jews to evangelize outside of Israel.

The Gospel of Mark is generally accepted to be written by Mark who was an interpreter for the Apostle Peter.   This was also accepted by the early church father Papias who said “Mark became Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately all the things he remembered, not indeed, in order, of the things said or done by the Lord.” [8]  This view has gone uncontested since the times of the early church.  Since Mark was the interpreter of Peter then Mark is writing the Gospel according to the eyewitness accounts of Peter.  This would make sense since the Gospel lacks any king of chronological order.  Everything is rushed.  By reading this Gospel alone it would seem like the Lord never rested.  In addition to these things the Gospel lacks order.  This may reflect the “occasional nature of Peter’s preaching.”  [9] If these things and the words of Papias are too believed then we can assume that “the identification of Mark as the author goes back to the first generation of Christians.” [10]  There is not much evidence inside the Gospel itself to prove Mark as the writer, but that is not the case throughout the whole of scripture, Mark is mentioned in Acts 12:12, 25; 13:5, 13; and 15:37.  His name also appears in Col. 4:10; Philem. 24; 2 Timothy  4:11; 1 Peter 5:13.  In fact 1 Peter 5:13 says “She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.”  Peter goes out of his way to mention his special relationship with Mark which helps solidify that he is constantly around Peter.  It is believed that Mark was written for a Roman audience which makes sense if he was with Peter in Rome.

There are many reasons why the authorship of the Gospels is important in today’s society.  One of the main objections from non-believers is that the writers of biblical books cannot be proven.  We can prove with historical accuracy who wrote the books, when they wrote them, and to which audience they were intended.  This helps us Christians to look at Gospel passages in their proper context.  We can look back at history and accurately define what was being said based on the writer’s geography.  

 

 

[1]  Lea, Thomas D., and David A. Black.  The New Testament: Its Background and Message.  2d ed.  Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2003, 132.

[2]  Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament.  2d ed.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005, 147.

[3]  Lea, Thomas D., and David A. Black.  The New Testament: Its Background and Message.  2d ed.  Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2003, 134

[4] Lea, Thomas D., and David A. Black.  The New Testament: Its Background and Message.  2d ed.  Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2003, 137.

[5]  Lea, Thomas D., and David A. Black.  The New Testament: Its Background and Message.  2d ed.  Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2003, 137.

[6]  Lea, Thomas D., and David A. Black.  The New Testament: Its Background and Message.  2d ed.  Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2003, 137.

[7]  Lea, Thomas D., and David A. Black.  The New Testament: Its Background and Message.  2d ed.  Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2003, 138.

[8]  Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament.  2d ed.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005, 173.

[9]  Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament.  2d ed.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005, 173.

[10]  Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament.  2d ed.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005, 173.

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