Who wrote Matthew, Mark and Luke?

Jesus left no writing, thereby preventing any direct reconstruction of his self-consciousness. We must suppose his intentions indirectly, from the reports of his disciples, which were often filtered orally through a generation or two of well-meaning and deeply committed reporters. (Alan Segal – Professor Columbia)

It comes as a surprise to many that, as far as we know, no non-Christian contemporary of Jesus wrote anything at all about him, but that’s the fact. Even our earliest Gospel was written by someone who didn’t know him and published 40 years after his death. (Dale Martin – Professor Yale)

One of the greatest strengths of Wilson’s book [Paul:  The Mind of the Apostle] is that it reveals the extent of our ignorance about the origins of Christianity.  (Karen Armstrong)

When were Mark, Matthew and Luke written? 

[Mark]  A date just before or just after AD 70 is now widely accepted:  it is difficult to choose between the two options.  … The place of composition is even more uncertain… Rome…Antioch (or somewhere else in Syria) and Alexandria in Egypt [have all been proposed]… Mark himself is not portrayed as an eyewitness:  he is Peter’s “interpreter”.  While this may mean “translator” (from Peter’s Aramaic into Greek), it probably refers to Mark’s role as the person who transmitted and explained Peter’s teaching…. Luke-Acts may have been written about AD 80-5.  But it is worth noting once again that the evidence for the dating or all four gospels is scanty.  (Graham Stanton – Professor Cambridge)

1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled[a] among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:1-4)  [italics added]

To illustrate the explanation of the “woman at the well” episode I have chosen three works published within the last decade:  a doctoral thesis by a Nigerian sister… … … Teresa Okure, alone among present-day exegetes [i.e. people working on the gospels], regards the evangelist [John] as an eye-witness of the events she records.  (John Ashton – Oxford)

Many [of the] New Testament letters were written within a decade or so of the death of Jesus, and they gave a vibrant account of the beliefs of the earliest disciples, who had either known Jesus personally or who had been able to talk to those who knew what Jesus had said and done. (Keith Ward – Professor Oxford)

Who wrote them? 

“… it is important to realise that none of the four gospels originally included an attribution to an author.  All were anonymous, and it is only from the fragmentary and enigmatic and – according to Eusebius, from whom we derive the quotation – unreliable evidence  of Papias in 120/130 CE that we can begin to piece together any external evidence about the names of their authors and their compilers”.   (Henry Wansbrough – Oxford)

Like the other three gospels, Mark is anonymous.  The title, “According to Mark”… was probably added when the Gospels were collected and there was need to distinguished Mark’s version of the gospel from the others.  The gospel titles are general thought to have been added in the second century but may have been added much earlier.  Certainly we may say that the title indicates that by AD 125 or so an important segment of the early church thought that a person named Mark wrote the second gospel.  (D.A. Carson – Professor Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

[Mark]  The vividness and detail of the second gospel is said to point to an eyewitness.  Only Mark, for instance, mentions that the grass on which the five thousand sat was green (6:39).  But even if valid (and some scholars insist that there was a tendency to add such detail to the tradition), this feature would do no more than show that there was some eyewitness testimony behind Mark’s gospel.  (D.A. Carson – Professor Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

We know virtually nothing about the persons who wrote the gospels we call Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. (Elaine Pagels – Professor Princeton)

Paul did not write the letters to Timothy to Titus or several others published under his name; and it is unlikely that the apostles Matthew, James, Jude, Peter and John had anything to do with the canonical books ascribed to them.  (Michael Coogan – Harvard)

“Probably none of these texts were written by anyone who had known Jesus in person, though some have taken the names of people who did”.  (Diarmaid MacCulloch – Professor Oxford)

“Few New Testament scholars today would agree with Irenaeus; we do not know who wrote the gospels… all we know is that all of these “gospels” are attributed to disciples of Jesus”.  (Elaine Pagels – Professor Princeton)

The Gospel of John evolved through numerous editions.  The first one may conceivably antedate 70 CE.  Matthew was composed around 85.  The “final” edition of John is dated about 95.  The composition of Luke-Acts is usually dated around 80-90, though some experts now suggest perhaps between 90 and 110. (Rev. James Charlesworth – Professor Princeton Theological Seminary)

According to church tradition, Luke the physician and travelling companion of Paul… is said to have composed the Gospel and Acts… Contrary to this view, which is occasionally still put forward today, a critical consensus emphasises the countless contradictions between the account in Acts and the authentic Pauline letters.  For example… Luke denies Paul the title, apostle, which was central to his own self-understanding…  the unknown author of Luke-Acts was certainly not a companion of Paul.  (Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz – Professors Heidelberg and Utrecht)

“…it looks as if a bid could be made for the authoritativeness of a writing by attaching to it an apostle’s name, whether Paul or Peter or John.  It is not clear how far this was done in what we should regard as a deliberately fraudulent way, and how far it was a matter of claiming the revered figure’s patronage – this is what he would have written if he had been in our shoes.  Both strategies can be paralleled in the relevant parts of the ancient world”.   (Leslie Houlden – Professor Kings, Oxford)

“… while the New Testament gospels contain traditions – sayings of Jesus, parables, and anecdotes – that go back to early times, even the earliest of the gospels, the Gospel of Mark , was written about forty years after Jesus’ death, and the rest about ten to thirty years later.  It is highly unlikely that any of them were written by disciples who personally knew Jesus, but we do not know who actually wrote them” (Karen L. King and Elaine Pagels – Professor Princeton)

At present… there is hardly a biblical scholar in the world actively working on the problem who would claim that the Five books of Moses were written by Moses – or by any one person.  Scholars argue about the number of different authors who wrote any given biblical book.  (Richard Elliott Friedman – Professor Georgia, previously visiting Professor Oxford and Cambridge)

[re Matthew]  It remains an unsolved problem how and why the Gospel came to circulate under the name of Matthew, who only in this Gospel is identified with a tax-collector called by Jesus (see 9:9, 10:3).  But it is highly unlikely that the man responsible for this Gospel had lived on the despised outskirts of Jewish religious life, nor does the Gospel itself (the title was certainly added later) intimate that Matthew was its author. (Krister Stendahl – Professor Harvard)

Matthew does not work in a vacuum, but within the life of a church for those whose needs he is catering; his Gospel more than the others is a product of a community and for a community.  (Krister Stendahl – Professor Harvard)

These books [the Synoptic Gospels] depict the events on which the significance of history and the destiny of every single individual depend: the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah… How did the Synoptic Gospels come to be written?  A simple and in some ways adequate answer would be to identify the people who, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote these books and to note the circumstances in which they were written.  (D.A. Carson – Professor Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

Modern Biblical criticism has greatly changed our views about the New Testament.  It has shown that the four gospels have been through complex processes of editing, not unlike various Old Testament books.  While the gospels must go back to reports of people who had seen and heard Jesus, these reports may have been altered in some respects by later editors.  … Thus what we have in the gospels is a picture of Jesus as seen by Christians living a generation or more after the events.  (William Montgomery Watt – Professor Edinburgh)

[Jesus and writing] … [Jesus’s] only recorded act of writing was a short-lived and unread finger etching on wind-swept soil.  (John 7:53-8:11)  (Margaret M. Mitchell – Professor Birmingham)

In the interval between the death of Jesus (c. 30 CE) and the composition of the first gospel (Mark, around 70 CE), the sayings of Jesus, like those of other holy men and philosophers, were remembered, rendered into Greek retold, revised and recast in such common forms as chreiai (also termed aphorism, pronouncement stories, and apophthegmata,), parables, logia (sayings), apokalypseis (revelations), prophecies, macarisms and woes and gnomai (maxims).  A similar process took place with narratives about Jesus, including stories of controversy with his contemporaries (now told in the light of the early church’s own contentious encounters with its neighbors) and accounts of miracle working.  (Margaret M. Mitchell – Professor Birmingham)

Mark’s gospel is a compilation of traditions he inherited, especially miracle stories about Jesus, tales of controversy, a smaller body of Jesus’ teachings, and perhaps an existing outline of the passion story.  (Margaret M. Mitchell – Professor Birmingham)

His newest book Evolution of the Word, is a chronological reading of the New Testament. When read in historical order, Borg argues, the Bible reveals itself as having been shaped by the community that engendered it, rather than the other way around. (From book review of Marcus J. Borg – Professor Oregon State)

Surveys show that a staggering 40 million Americans have seen what they describe as a UFO.  (Paul Davies – Arizona State University)

There were vibrant Christ communities spread out around the
Mediterranean world before any of the documents were written, so the documents
give us glimpses, or windows, into what those Christ communities were
like.  And they make clear that the New
Testament as a whole, including the gospels, are the product of those
communities, written to those communities, and in many cases written within
those communities. So, we learn that it’s not that the gospels created early
Christianity but early Christianity produces the gospels as well as the other
The book of Revelation, which of course comes at the end of the
familiar New Testament, is almost in the middle—number 14 of 27 documents. When
the book of Revelation comes at the end of the New Testament, it makes the
whole of the New Testament sound as if we’re still looking forward to the second
coming of Jesus and what is popularly called ‘the end of the world.’ When
the book of Revelation appears more or less in the middle, we see it, hear it
and understand it as a document produced in a particular time and place that
tells us about what that Christ community, and the author, John of Patmos,
thought would happen soon, in their time—rather than it being ‘Oh, this is
still about the future from our point in time.’
J. Borg – Professor Oregon State)

How do they relate to one another? 

Life would certainly be very much simpler for the student of the New Testament if Mark were the only major source employed by Matthew and Luke.  But most scholars accept the existence of a further, anonymous source, called “Q” (from the German Quelle, meaning “source”)… The main reason why scholars think that this further source Q must exist is because we have detailed verbal parallels between Matthew and Luke which are none the less not found in Mark.  (David Brown – Professor St Andrews previously Durham and Oxford)

[Matthew]  The author was not the apostle Matthew – for why they would he have need to use two other Gospels as sources, Mark and Q?  … Any notion of a common oral tradition will not do because the parallels are often just too exact, with word for word agreement even down to common asides.  For example, Jesus’ address to the paralytic is found in exactly the same form in all there Gospels (cf Matt 9:6; Mark 2:10; and Luke 5:24).  (David Brown – Professor St Andrews previously Durham and Oxford)

“The earliest gospel [Mark] proved enormously influential, since the authors of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, writing about ten to thirty years after the Gospel of Mark was written, both copied much of what its author wrote, sometimes nearly word for word, into their own, longer gospel narratives.  Each of them based his own gospels on the Gospel of Mark’s story line and amplified what he found in the Gospel of Mark by adding more material, in the process giving his own emphasis  and interpretation of the story”.  (Karen L. King and Elaine Pagels – Professor Princeton)

The tradition of Jesus’ teaching was handed down by word of mouth for a generation and more, and comparison of the Gospels shows that the early Christians had no compunction about altering his sayings.  (Don Cupitt and Peter Armstrong – Cambridge and BBC)

With the exception of about forty verses, the whole of Mark’s gospel is found in Matthew, and about half is found also in Luke.  Mark does not include stores about the birth of Jesus, and his account of the resurrection is terse to say the least.  Whereas nearly two-thirds of Matthew’s much longer gospel is taken up with the teaching of Jesus, words of Jesus take up only just over one third of Mark.  Familiar parables such as the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son are found in Luke, but not in Mark.  In Mark’s gospel there is hardly a trace of the sayings of Jesus found in the Sermon on the Mount in Matt. 5-7.  … In the case of Matthew and Luke, it is not at all difficult for the beginner to trace the changes Matthew and Luke have made to Mark.  With carefully use of a synopsis, even in an English translation, it soon becomes clear that Matthew and Luke have reshaped and reinterpreted their traditions.  But what about Mark?  Surely we may expect him to have done likewise with the traditions he incorporated into his gospel.  But it is much less easily to distinguish between the traditions on which Mark drew and the changes (or redaction) for which he was responsible.  (Graham Stanton – Professor Cambridge) could bung these three together?

How a society goes about the businesses of preserving an authoritative text can vary.  It may, or may not, feel committed to reproducing such a text with exactly the same wording each time.  It may preserve the text in purely oral form, resorting to mnemonic techniques of varying degrees of sophistication to check the natural decay of memory.  It may use some form of writing.  In general it makes sense to suppose that a society in possession of writing will be more likely to preserve the exact wording.  But this is not a foregone conclusion: oral transmission can achieve remarkable fidelity, and written transmission can be very lax indeed.  (Michael Cook – Professor Princeton)

In any given culture there is rarely a simple progression between the stage where all of the culture’s literature is oral and the stage where writing is the primary means of communication.  In all societies, both ancient and modern oral and written literatures interact in more complex ways, and often coexist… (Robert R. Wilson – Professor Yale)

On the whole it seems probable that Lk. handles Mk freely, modifying and supplementing as it suits his purpose.  (Geoffrey Lampe – Professor Cambridge)

[gospels written by eyewitnesses?]  … The traditions lack Characteristics which are usually found in accounts given by eyewitnesses.  They rarely include memorable details or exact biographical or topographical precision… Some claim that eyewitnesses must have been responsible for the vivid details in the gospels.  For example, in Mark’s account of the feeding of the multitudes the grass is “green” (6:39).  And at the arrest of Jesus (Mark 14:51-2) “a certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth.  They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked”.  [however] The appeal to vivid details by no means settles the matter since such details proliferate in the later apocryphal gospels, whose historicity no one wishes to defend.  (Graham Stanton – Professor Cambridge)

Thomas Jefferson famously said “I would sooner believe that two Yankee professor lied, than that stones fell from the sky”, when he was told of an eyewitness report of falling meteorites.  (Paul Davies – Arizona State University)

A geologist friend of mine has investigated several eyewitness reports of meteorite falls, and they all turned out to be mistaken interpretations.  (Paul Davies – Arizona State University)

Luke himself begins his gospel by acknowledging that many accounts of the origins of Christianity were already inexistence.  For almost a century after they were written, the gospels had no special sacred status, their texts were permeable to alteration, and probably had only patchy circulation in the scattered house-cult groups.   (Keith Hopkins – Professor Cambridge)

[comparing Mark 9:1 with the later and similar but different verses in Matthew 16:28 and Luke 9:27]

And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power. (Mark 9:1)


Most readers will immediately perceive that first Matthew and the Luke were working from a copy of Mark similar to our own.  They may not observe, however, that Jesus’ prediction in Mark is embarrassing since “the Kingdom of God” did not arrive “with power” while those who knew Jesus were still alive… The Evangelists knew that what Mark reported was embarrassing, and that they had to change what Mark had attributed to Jesus.  They do so in different and independent ways.  Matthew more severely edits the text, adding to Jesus’ prediction the title “the Son of Man”, which for Matthew clearly denotes Jesus -  who has come – and is associated with “his kingdom (cf esp 20:21).  Luke omits that the Kingdom of God will come dynamically in the lifetime of those standing by Jesus, and includes (or attributes to Jesus) later a saying that makes it clear that the Kingdom became present among, or within, Jesus’ followers (cf 17:21).  (Rev. James Charlesworth – Professor Princeton Theological Seminary)

The letters of Paul are older than the Synoptic gospels, yet the latter are historically closer to the historical Jesus.  This is first of all because they contain many individual traditions which are older than the letters of Paul, but above all because they are free of the Pauline “tendency” to see Jesus as a pre-existent, mythical being.  (Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz – Professors Heidelberg and Utrecht)

Close analysis of the Gospels… suggests that the memory of Jesus was transmitted orally within groups of disciples for some forty years, and that the written Gospels were literary crystallizations of such traditions selected and shaped within communities.  (Luke Timothy Johnson – Professor Candler, Yale)

[anecdote about Winston Churchill’s meeting with another man called “Winston Churchill” – from “Mr Churchill’s Profession”]  Like so much Churchilliana, however, this story seems to have improved in the telling.  (Peter Clarke – Professor Cambridge)

Matthew’s most substantive additions are sayings that he takes either from a source he share with Luke (Q), or from a source distinctive to him.  Matthew organises this great collection of sayings into discrete “sermons” that are both internally organised and thematically distributed.  The most famous is the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. It is not a sermon delivered as such by Jesus, but one constructed by the evangelist – note that Luke’s parallel “sermon” is different in location, length , and substance (see Luke 6:20-49). (Luke Timothy Johnson – Professor Candler, Yale)

Some of this elusiveness may be traced back to Jesus himself.  When he talked he often spoke in riddles and parables, and when asked who he was, he replied:  “who do you say I am?”.  He laid down few clear rules, left no systematic body of teaching, and founded no school to pass on his wisdom.  The mystery is also a function of the sources on which we have to rely.  We cannot consult the books Jesus wrote because he wrote no books, and we cannot turn to contemporary accounts of his life and works for there are no such accounts.  We have only interpretations, and interpretations of interpretations.  Our most important sources of information are already embroiled in the debate about his significance, and already take sides.  (Linda Woodhead – Professor Lancaster, Cambridge)

[“The Nature of our Sources - A Modern Parallel”]  In modern times, an earthshaking event such as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is examined and re-examined using motion picture cameras, still-life photography, and eyewitness accounts.  When author William Manchester worked for nearly three years “a hundred hours a week” to write The Death of a President, a history of that tragic event, he found that eyewitnesses c changed their stories a year after they were interviewed.  (William Klassen – Professor Jerusalem, Cambridge)

Each of the Gospel writers has a distinct purpose in writing.  They wrote in the first instance as missionaries in tending to persuade others but also as those who were committed to keeping their own Christian community faithful to the rise and historical Jesus.  (William Klassen – Professor Jerusalem, Cambridge)

The Gospel according to Matthew is considerably longer than that of Mark.  With respect to the passion narrative, it has been estimated that four-fifths of the Matthaean passion story is identical in vocabulary and content with its Markan counterpart.  (William Klassen – Professor Jerusalem, Cambridge)

…a chronicle of the Roman administration of Pontius Pilate in Palestine with a mention of the crucifixion of an outlaw named Jesus of Nazareth would be very helpful. But we do not possess such a record. Instead, we possess reports written by members of a religious group that had very specific and interested reasons for retelling his story. And the way in which it is told differs so markedly from the sorts of histories the Romans were writing in the second and third century that scholars have acknowledged for a long time the “problem” of deriving the historical Jesus from the gospels—and even more the problem of deriving his existence from the letters of Paul or any other New Testament writings. (R. Joseph Hoffman – Professor Beijing, Oxford)

For most of Jewish and Christian history there has been an uncritical assumption that the biblical story is historically true.  In fact, for most of this time the Bible was virtually the only source of information about the events in question.  In the last two hundred years, however, copious information about the ancient world has come to light, through archaeological exploration and through the recovery of ancient literature.  This information is often at variance with the account given in the Bible.  Consequently, there is now something of a crisis in the interpretation of the Bible.  This crisis is a crisis of credibility:  in brief, if the Bible is not the infallible inerrant book it was once thought to be (and is still thought to be by some), in what was it is reliable, or even serviceable at all? (John J. Collins – Professor Yale)

How does the transition from an orally based religious culture to one that is scripturally based affect not only the practices and beliefs themselves, but also our approach to evidence for them?   (Sarah Iles Johnston – Professor Ohio, Princeton)

More is known about early Christianity than the origins of the other world religions.  Yet much remains obscure and is surely destined to remain so.  The quality of some of the sources makes the gaps all the more frustrating.  And there are other complications.  The subject matter is precious to some of the investigators and hateful to others, and in any case elusive.  The puzzling mixture of myth, history and legend, in writings which do not clam to be disinterested, has been treated by some with credulity and by others with inordinate suspicion.  (Robert Morgan – Oxford)

[re Greek religion] Perhaps here, exceptionally, the fixity of a written text was held to out-trump oral tradition in prestige even in a cult that professed to go straight back uninterruptedly to mythical times.  (Robert Parker – Professor Oxford)

Martyrdom literature from the earliest Christian communities emerged from different contexts and at different times, commonly reflecting the distinct needs of the writer or editor’s own community.  Some descriptions embellished the events, transforming the martyrs into early Christian saints with supernatural powers over the beasts, or the fires, or their gladiatorial executioners.  This process of embellishment or elaboration has a long history, and continues up to the present time.  (Jolyon Mitchell – Professor Edinbrugh, Dartmouth, Cambridge)

One of the first exercises students of the Gospels do is to consult a parallel version of them, allowing an examination in four columns of the ways in which they relate to each other… As one notices the parallels and differences, a host of questions flood in and one thing above all becomes clear:  no single, agreed picture of Jesus is likely to be possible on this evidence.  (David F. Ford – Professor Cambridge)

The gospels were written when the Jesus movement was split into rival factions, which followed the tradition of particular apostles.  Their reports of Jesus’ relations with the disciples sometimes reflect these earlier and ongoing conflicts.  For example, Mark (10:35) shows up the disciples, James and John, as crudely ambitious:  they want to sit on either side of Jesus in heaven.  Matthew in a parallel passage (20:20) exonerates them, by attributing these ambitious to their mother; Luke helps make peace by omitting the incident.  When Jesus asks the disciples who they think he is, Mark (8:29-33) has Peter recognise Jesus as the Christ, but then he rebukes Jesus, who in turn compares Peter to Satan.  (Keith Hopkins – Professor Cambridge)

Mark’s Gospel originally ended abruptly at 16:8 without any mention of the Resurrection appearances.  Instead, he simply states the terror and awe with which the discovery was made that the tomb was empty.  It is perhaps little wonder that a later editor felt it necessary to add a brief account of the Resurrection itself.  (David Brown – Professor St Andrews previously Durham and Oxford) 7

In antiquity it was not uncommon for writings to appear bearing a claim to have been written by a given author but commonly understood not to be from that author.  Apocalyptic writings, for example, are often said to have been written by Enoch or Moses or some other great person from antiquity.  It is not known whether the first readers would have accepted them as coming from the great names they bear.  Writings other than apocalyptic were published under assumed names, among the Greeks and Romans as well as among the Jews and the Christians.  (D.A. Carson – Professor Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

Conservative evangelicals cannot be argued with. The more we say they’re wrong, the more convinced they become they’re right… … So what can be done? Argument is pretty useless. Conservative religious people are generally locked in a self-referencing worldview where truth is about strict internal coherence rather than any reaching out to reality. That’s why they treat the Bible like some vast jigsaw – its truth residing in a complex process of making the pieces fit together and not with the picture it creates.  (Giles Fraser – Church of England priest, Oxford)

There were vibrant Christ communities spread out around the
Mediterranean world before any of the documents were written, so the documents
give us glimpses, or windows, into what those Christ communities were
like.  And they make clear that the New
Testament as a whole, including the gospels, are the product of those
communities, written to those communities, and in many cases written within
those communities. So, we learn that it’s not that the gospels created early
Christianity but early Christianity produces the gospels as well as the other
The book of Revelation, which of course comes at the end of the
familiar New Testament, is almost in the middle—number 14 of 27 documents. When
the book of Revelation comes at the end of the New Testament, it makes the
whole of the New Testament sound as if we’re still looking forward to the
second coming of Jesus and what is popularly called ‘the end of the
world.’ When the book of Revelation appears more or less in the middle, we see
it, hear it and understand it as a document produced in a particular time and
place that tells us about what that Christ community, and the author, John of
Patmos, thought would happen soon, in their time—rather than it being ‘Oh, this
is still about the future from our point in time.’  (Marcus
J. Borg – Professor Oregon State)

My own religious awakening (as a teenager) first
motivated me to serious biblical studies, and those studies have only confirmed
further my fascination with these texts and the religious developments of
which they are expressions
. (Larry Hurtado, Professor Edinburgh)
[italics added]

Asch conformity experiments - series
of laboratory experiments that demonstrated the degree to which an individual’s
own opinions are influenced by those of a majority group [the specific issue
being the extent to which people were willing to agree that lines of different
lengths were in fact the same length in the light of other peoples’

It is now demonstrated,” he [Frank Moore Cross - Harvard] wrote, “that there were many different
Hebrew versions of such books as Exodus, Deuteronomy, Samuel, Kings, etc., and
that the uniformity of medieval Hebrew manuscripts is chiefly the result of
careful editing by Jewish rabbis in the first two centuries A.D.  (William Foxwell Albright – Professor John

While I hold that Mark
was a source utilized by both Matthew and Luke, I am not prepared to believe
that the writers of Christian literature only copied sources and never did
anything original and creative. (Samuel Sandmel – Professor Hebrew Union

I think that there are clear examples of
instances where Luke has redacted Mark, and that some of those Lukan redactions
of Mark appear in the Gospel of Thomas.
I argued this in my NTS article (2011) [see bibliographic info listed above].
One of the things which strikes me most is that in three cases, Luke introduces
an element into Mark, and then Thomas expands
upon that Lukan element. So for example, in the image of the “light under the
bushel”, Luke adds that the light is “for all who go in”, and Thomas expands it further to “all
who go in and come out” (GTh 33); Luke adds a
single “perhaps” into the parable of the wicked tenants, then Thomas includes this and adds another again (GTh 65); Luke adds a reference to prayer into the controversy
about fasting, and Thomas includes
this addition, and adds an extra reference to prayer (GTh 104). Again, I don’t
think this is a matter necessarily of Thomas having
read Luke (though this is impossible to rule out), but it reflects Thomas or his sources having known the stories in their Lukan forms, and elaborating on them further. So there is a gradual expansion, in these sayings at least, from Mark to Luke to Thomas, which I don’t think can be read in any other order (unless one denies Markan priority).  (Simon Gathercole – Cambridge)

scholars today would deny that Mark was the main source for the gospels of
Matthew and Luke. On the basis of their dependence on Mark and their allusions
to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the gospels of Matthew and Luke are
regarded as having certainly been written after AD 70, with their datings
varying between AD 70 and 100.  Because
the basic structure in these three gospels is the same, they are called Synoptic gospels (from the word σΎνοψις). The issue of the exact relation of the Synoptic gospels to each other, and the (p.214) question of their external sources,
constitute the so‐called ‘Synoptic problem’  As regards the
external sources of the Synoptics, scholarly critical research has shown that
many layers underly these texts, which ultimately might go back to oral
(Marie-Zoe Petropoulou)

The Gospel according to Mark, probably composed around the time of the Jewish revolt, reflects that period’s tension, while it admonishes disciples to follow Jesus’s way to the cross. The Gospel according to Matthew, probably from the 80s, insists on the ongoing validity of the Torah and portrays the person of Peter as its authoritative interpreter. The Gospel according to Luke, probably written in the 90s histories along with the Acts of the Apostles, portrays a compassionate Jesus, preaching repentance and forgiveness. Both Matthew and Luke evidence rivalry from leaders of Jewish communities, which probably intensified in the postrevolt period. The last gospel eventually included in the Christian canon, the Gospel according to John, probably achieved its final form around the turn of the century. Even more than Matthew and Luke, it displays an extreme animosity toward Jewish rivals, while trying to inspire a deeper understanding of the significance of Jesus as the incarnate Word of God who fulfills all that temple and Torah promised. (Harold Attridge – Professor Yale)

I teach my introduction to the NT course I usually spend about one and a half
days on how Greek literature was written and interpreted… … because the
historical background, the cultural background, is enormously complex.
  …  … we
have to attend to the Israelite and Hellenistic background to the texts because
it is complex and very interwoven between the Hellenistic and Israelite
concepts and themes.  I would just like
to start with one quick example.  Any of
you who do the synoptic gospels in particular are going to know that we can’t
get very far in our texts without talking about the Son of Man, because this
title comes up so many times in reference to Jesus, and one of the problems
that we are going to face in dealing with the background of the use of this
term is that it has multiple backgrounds
If we stick with the official scriptural background then Son of Man is
either going to refer to a human being or to a representative of the people of
god.  So we already have this Israelite background
to this title.  However a lot happened between the writing of those scriptures and the time of the NT and what’s happened in Israelite religion is that by the first century Judaism is as variegated as Christianity is today, and each of the subdivisions are dealing with traditional concepts like the son of man in very different ways, so we have
people in northern Palestine apparently had been influenced by Hellenism and
Son of Man has become a concept that deals not so much with a human being or
the representative of God’s chosen people but as in some sense the form of a
human being or the perfect paradigm of humanness that is manifest partially in
each of us.  But at that same time that is just one of the types of Israelite religion that is operative in northern Palestine at that time, and each of our NT authors in particular are dealing with different branches of Judaism or proto Judaisms in their formulation of concepts.  Then they’re adopting these concepts and
their concepts are percolating through theological reflection for thirty, forty
, fifty years before the writers come along and use it, so it barely resembles what
it started out as, and then the authors each have a programme of developing a
specific and unique way of looking at the son of man for themselves
.  So there is technically nothing I can tell you about the son of man that you can use automatically in any one of your classes.  You see the problem?  Anything that I would give you is going to be reinterpreted, reformulated, mixed with new ideas and developed before it
actually hits the page.
 And so whatever I tell you about Mark won’t work in Matthew, and anything I tell you about Matthew won’t work in Luke.  And the problem
is that there is going to be enormous complexity in trying to present to your students
a certain set of concepts that would be applicable to all of you here.  (Paul Danove – Associate Professor Villanova University)  [italics added]

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