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Category Archives: Who Wrote the Gospels

The Crucifixion in the Bible’s Gospels Differences and Contradictions

All of the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion are actually very brief1 – half a chapter of each gospel. The best comparison of the gospels’ crucifixion stories is that of Bart Ehrman in The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot where he compares them to other Christian writings of the time. He describes not only differences in details but a difference in style and emotion from the earlier accounts to the latter ones. As time progresses, Jesus becomes more and more mythologized and romanticized. Especially given that the first person to mention the event in writing, St Paul in 1 Cor 2:2, mentions no details at all and has Jesus crucified by a mythological being from the Gnostic religious tradition (an Archon, the archangelic servants of the Gnostic Demiurge)1. Given all of the problems, Robert Price asks “what are we to make of this very strange circumstance, that no memory of the central saving event of the Christian religion survived1? Critics of Christianity delight in these significant obstacles to belief.

The gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke contradict each other’s records of the crucifixion, even on the parts that consider to be the most important. Jesus died at different times of the day in the gospels, spoke to different people, gave different sets of final words and confusingly different accounts of the circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus. It is not simply a case that they recorded different details: the actions of Jesus in each gospel reflect general differences in opinion about what Jesus’ character should be. In Mark‘s sombre account Jesus is silent and mocked by all around him, and cries out in despair at the end. But in Luke and John Jesus is talkative, gives advice, and is surrounded by followers even while on the cross. Despite the massive impact they would have had on entire communities, the gospel writers also record different supernatural events occurring upon Jesus’ death too – Matthew 27:51-53 describes Earthquakes and the rising of the dead – things which no-one else at all noticed. Each gospel writer states their version as fact even though it is clear that some of them simply didn’t know the truth. Read more of this post


The Q Document

Why is the so-called Q document the most important lost book of the New Testament and the key to unlocking the puzzle of the Synoptic Problem?

The task of the “synoptic problem” is to discover the very early sources on the life and teaching of Jesus that were available to the synoptic writers.

The “problem” becomes apparent when you place the contents of the Matthew, Mark, and Luke side by side. Parallel incidents can be explained easily, but what about the numerous cases in which the actual words are parallel? And not just very important words as would be the case if you read the same story in three different newspapers, but every word.

Scholars conclude that each gospel, though independently written, must have drawn much of its material from a source or sources also available to one or both of the other two.

Click here to learn more about who wrote the synoptic gospels and the synoptic problem.

Mark and the Q document

Synoptic problem

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Who wrote the Synoptic Gospels?

When I lecture on the synoptic gospels (synoptic means “seeing together”) in my Who Wrote the Bible?, class at Columbus State University students frequently ask:

Why did the earliest canonical written gospel not appear until the late 60s CE?

Which gospel was written first and why?

Why is Matthew’s Gospel the first gospel in the New Testament even though it was probably not written first?

Did Matthew, John Mark, and Dr. Luke write the synoptic gospels or are they pseudopigraphal?

And most importantly… why is there such remarkable literary parallelism between the synoptic gospels?


On February 27, 1933 the Reichstag (German Parliament) in Berlin was set on fire. Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party, looking around for a suitable “scapegoat”, blamed the Communists. Many of them were executed for it, even though they probably did not do it and everybody knew it.

In the winter of 64 CE a similar thing happened in Rome. A great fire devastated two thirds of the city and the mad emperor, Nero, who himself probably started the fire, found his scapegoat in the new sect of “Christians.” In the horror that followed, which even turned the stomachs of the Roman Senator Tacitus, hundreds of Christians were brutally slaughtered — including Peter and probably Paul.  Read more of this post

Gospels Not Written By Matthew, Mark, Luke or John

Christians believe that the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) were written by those whose names appear in the title of the books. Most also believe that they were written in the same order as they appear in the Bible.

The Truth is …

No Mention of Gospels Until 2nd Century

There are extant writings accredited to the Apostolic Fathers, Clement of Rome, Barnabas, Hermas, Ignatius, and Polycarp; written, for the most part, early in the second century. These writings contain NO MENTION OF THE FOUR GOSPELS . This also is admitted by Christian scholars. Dr. Dodwell says: “We have at this day certain most authentic ecclesiastical writers of the times, as Clemens Romanus, Barnabas, Hermas, Ignatius, and Polycarp, who wrote in the order wherein I have named them, and after all the writers of the New Testament. But in Hermas YOU WILL NOT FIND ONE PASSAGE OR ANY MENTION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, NOR IN ALL THE REST IS ANY ONE OF THE EVANGELISTS NAMED (Dissertations upon Irenaeus).

THE FOUR GOSPELS WERE UNKNOWN TO THE EARLY CHRISTIAN FATHERS. Justin Martyr, the most eminent of the early Fathers, wrote about the middle of the second century. His writings in proof of the divinity of Christ demanded the use of these Gospels had they existed in his time. He makes more than three hundred quotations from the books of the Old Testament, and nearly one hundred from the Apocryphal books of the New Testament; BUT NONE FROM THE FOUR GOSPELS. The Rev. Dr. Giles says: “The very names of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are never mentioned by him [Justin] — do not occur once in all his writings” (Christian Records, p. 71). Read more of this post


Gospel of John: What Everyone Should Know About The Fourth Gospel

Almost any poll of regular church goers will reveal that their favorite book in the New Testament is the Gospel of John. It is the book that is most often used at Christian funerals. It includes such well known and oft-quoted texts as: “God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” It boasts the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept,” which serves the needs of many cross word puzzle creators. Its prologue was used for centuries in Catholic liturgies as “the last gospel” at the mass. It includes characters like Doubting Thomas, whose very name has entered our public discourse.

Yet, I suspect that if these devotees of John’s Gospel were introduced to the world of Johannine scholarship, they would be both shocked and angered by contemporary insights into this treasured book. It is to place much of this scholarship into the public arena that I have written the book, “The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic.”
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It has been said that John was written about the same time of Luke, sometime after 93CE. The text is anonymous7 although the early Christian church promoted this as the actual writing of the apostle John, the brother of James who was the son of Zebedee. John was killed, however, by Herod Agrippa in 44CE. We do know that the author was from Ephesus (in Asia Minor). The oldest surviving fragment of John is from 125CE, and the earliest versions of John did not contain the final chapter, which describes Jesus Christ appearing to his disciples after rising from the dead. John did not quote as much of Mark as the others did.

The Gospel of John is an interpretation of events in Jesus life that the author had heard about, but, with no parables and instead, some plays on words and figurative, symbolic and abstract speech. Jesus talks for long periods in this gospel rather than briefly, and, historians are deeply suspect about any history where descriptions get more detailed as time moves on from the events described. And some miracles and events were, apparently, only ever seen by the author of John as no-one else wrote about them. It is best to be considered imaginative fiction or spiritual encouragement depending on your point of view, but, should not be considered authoritive or factual. Read more of this post


The Gospel of Luke is the third book in the New Testament. It copies over half of Mark1 and also uses Josephus’s Jewish Antiquities as a reference and so must have been written after 93CE, probably after anyone who had known Paul (or Jesus) was already dead. The place of origin of Luke’s writing is unknown. Lukeexisted in a single-book form in 140CE when it was used by Marcion, and this early version was anonymous. There are some major edits in later versions, especially involving the insertion of the virgin-birth in Luke 2:33 and Luke 2:482. Later versions were “padded out” with extra inserted text, and had enough text added at the end that it had become known as the Acts of the Apostles and was included independently as the fifth book in the New Testament3.

It might be that the character of Luke was based on an old Roman pagan story about the healing God, Lykos, from Greek culture, and hence why the text was given the name Luke. Luke uses Mark, and ‘Q’, as sources of information. Out of Mark, 54% is quoted in Luke, and there are a hundred or so versus that, along with Matthew, he took from the source known as ‘Q’. It is surprising that a first-hand eyewitness of Jesus would need to copy so much of other people’s text about Jesus. Lukecontradicts the rest of the Bible on quite a few points of theology and gets many elements of Jesus’ life simply wrong (for example, the Roman-decreed census that never actually happened). For these reasons Luke is best not considered trustworthy. Read more of this post


The Gospel of Matthew is a later copy of the Gospel of Mark14, using 92% of its text. It is anonymous3and it wasn’t until about 150CE that the author “Matthew” was assigned15. It was written after the fall of the Jewish temple in 70CE, in Syria, and almost definitely written before 100CE. It went through several versions, probably edited by different authors, until it reached its final form by the 3rd century. The first two chapters, the birth of Jesus and the genealogy, were not found in the early versions.

Matthew not written by an eye-witness of Jesus. We know this because it is a copy of Mark. No eye witness of such an important person would have needed, or wanted, to simply copy someone-else’s memories about him. It is written in Greek and not in the native tongues of anyone who met and followed Jesus, and it was written too late to reasonably be the memóires of an eye-witness.

Matthew specifically set out to correct many mistakes in Mark’s gospel, especially regarding comments on Jewish customs and practices. Matthew was also written in order to debate some theological points, and had Jesus comment on those arguments, even though the disagreements hadn’t arisen until after the supposed time of Jesus. Therefore, the gospel gives away the fact that it more of a theological argument than an historical account.

The Gospel According to Saint Matthew” by Vexen Crabtree (2016)

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All the Gospels are Anonymous Until 180-185CE

Who Wrote the Four Gospels of the New Testament? An Introduction to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

By Vexen Crabtree 2015


2. All the Gospels are Anonymous Until 180-185CE

Book CoverThe four Gospels… are all anonymous, written in the third person aboutJesus and his companions. None of them contains a first-person narrative (“One day, when Jesus and I went into Capernaum…”), or claims to be written by an eyewitness or companion of an eyewitness. Why then do we call them MatthewMarkLuke and John? Because sometime in the second century, when proto-orthodox Christians recognized the need for apostolicauthorities, they attributed these books to apostles (Matthew and John) and close companions of apostles (Mark, the secretary of Peter; and Luke, the travelling companion of Paul). Most scholars today have abandoned these identifications, and recognize that the books were written by otherwise unknown but relatively well-educated Greek-speaking (and writing) Christians during the second half of the first century.

Lost Christianities” by Bart Ehrman (2003)7

Justin Martyr, writing around 150-60 CE, quotes verses from the Gospels, but does not indicate what the Gospels were named. For Justin, these books are simply known, collectively, as the ‘Memoires of the Apostles.’ It was about a century after the Gospels had been originally put in circulation that they were definitively named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. This comes, for the first time, in the writings of the church father and heresiologist Irenaeus, around 180-85 CE.

Forged” by Bart Ehrman (2011)3

Ehrman kindly points out that the gospels were not forgeries – they were anonymous, and it was a case of false attribution8 by Christians later on that was the cause of the misdirection which lasted many hundreds of years.