Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Some Lesser Known Evidence Relevant To Gospel Authorship (Part 4)

For some background information and an explanation of what this series of posts is about, see here . Part 2 of this series is here, and part 3 is here.

Irenaeus' Roman Source

"Claus Thornton has shown that this [a passage in Irenaeus about gospel authorship] is an earlier tradition, which must be taken seriously; as the geographical references and references to persons show, it is written throughout from a Roman perspective....As Thornton has demonstrated, it corresponds to the short notes about authors in the catalogues of ancient libraries, of the kind that we know, say, from the Museion in Alexandria. Presumably this information comes from the Roman church archive." (Martin Hengel, The Four Gospels And The One Gospel Of Jesus Christ [Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 2000], pp. 35-36)

Irenaeus lived in Rome for a while, and he was in contact with the Roman church on other occasions, as his correspondence with the Roman bishop Victor illustrates.


"Other second-century writers who call the author of John's Gospel an apostle are the Valentinian teachers Ptolemy (Letter to Flora, apud Epiphanius, Panarion 33.3.6) and Theodotus (apud Clement of Alexandria, Excerpta ex Theodoto 7.3; 35.1; 41.3)." (Richard Bauckham, Jesus And The Eyewitnesses [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006], n. 96 on p. 466)

Early Gospel Manuscripts

"As with the other gospels, no MSS which contain John’s Gospel affirm authorship by anyone other than John. Once again, as with the others, this is short of proof of Johannine authorship, but the unbroken stream suggests recognition (or at least acknowledgment) of Johannine authorship as early as the first quarter of the second century. Indeed, John’s Gospel is unique among the evangelists for two early papyri (P66 and P75, dated c. 200) attest to Johannine authorship. Since these two MSS were not closely related to each other, this common tradition must precede them by at least three or four generations of copying. Further, although B and P75 are closely related, textual studies have demonstrated that P75 is not the ancestor of B—in fact, B’s ancestor was, in many respects, more primitive than P75. Hence, the combined testimony of B and P75 on Johannine authorship points to a textual tradition which must be at least two generations earlier than P75. All of this is to say that from the beginning of the second century, the fourth gospel was strongly attached to the apostle John." (Daniel Wallace)

Tertullian's Expectation Of Titles

It's unlikely that Tertullian would have made the following criticism of Marcion if there hadn't been a long-standing practice of naming the gospels' authors by means of titles attached to the documents:

"Marcion, on the other hand, you must know, ascribes no author to his Gospel, as if it could not be allowed him to affix a title to that from which it was no crime (in his eyes) to subvert the very body. And here I might now make a stand, and contend that a work ought not to be recognised, which holds not its head erect, which exhibits no consistency, which gives no promise of credibility from the fulness of its title and the just profession of its author." (Against Marcion, 4:2)

Non-Christian Jews

"For they [non-Christian Jews] will not maintain that the acquaintances and pupils of Jesus Himself handed down His teaching contained in the Gospels without committing it to writing, and left His disciples without the memoirs of Jesus contained in their works." (Origen, Against Celsus, 2:13)

In conclusion, it should be noted that the examples I've given over these past few days are representative, not exhaustive. More examples could be cited. This lesser known evidence I've been discussing would have to be combined with the more commonly discussed evidence, and the result would be early and nearly unanimous testimony from sources representing a large variety of backgrounds, dispositions, and locations.

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