Saturday, 27 December 2014

Anonymous Gospels

Some further thoughts on the anonymity of the gospels, this time from Bart Ehrman. First some quotes from his Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium.
[N]one of the gospels claim to be written by an eyewitness. Take Matthew, for example. Even though someone named Matthew is mentioned in Matthew 9:9, there’s nothing in that verse to indicate that he’s actually the person writing the account (read it and see!). Furthermore, nowhere in the entire gospel does the author indicate that he was personally involved in the events that are described. He never says, for instance, ‘one time Jesus and I went up to Jerusalem, and while we were there…’ Instead, he always writes in the third person-even about the disciple Matthew! - describing what other people were doing.
[T]he New Testament Gospels were written anonymously. 
It appears that the earliest readers of the Gospels agreed, that is, that they weren't overly concerned with who wrote these books. In fact, for half a century after the books were first put into circulation, nobody who quotes them, or even alludes to them, ever mentions their author's names. (all quotes from p.42)
The whole third chapter (How did the Gospels get to be this way?) is an excellent primer on these issues. Sticking with Ehrman, just last month he wrote a blog piece entitled Why Are The Gospels Anonymous? which is definitely worth checking out.

Many other scholars have written - sometimes ponderously - on this matter, but few say it better than Ehrman.


  1. Nobody can convince anyone that a certain writing was authored by a certain person. There is always way of interjecting doubt. It is like the child's rejoinder of "why". It goes on forever. I could take the stance that Hemingway did not write "A Farewell to Arms." No documentary evidence would be acceptable. That is just people writing whatever on paper. The only way that I will believe that Hemingway wrote the novel is if I watch him write each word. And also that I know he did not get coached in the ideas and language by somebody else when I am not around to monitor his every move. Or that he did not memorize something from some other source. Therefore, you cannot prove to me that Hemingway wrote the novel because now he is dead and my opportunity to bear direct and detailed witness is gone. My guess is that it was written by an unknown Spanish writer because of certain translated Hispanic locutions in the text. Plus Hemingway was always too drunk to really write anything coherent. Textually and circumstantially Hemingway could not have been the author. You get the idea.

    What we have concerning Matthew is Patristic witness and little else. But when combined with the Gospels theological coherence with the rest of the NT, that does it for me.

    -- Neo

    1. "Gospels theological coherence with the rest of the NT"

      You mean like how Matthew says "Keep the commandments" and Paul says "Forget the commandments"?