Sunday, June 20, 2021

Modern Scholars Who Accept The Traditional Gospel Authorship Attributions

Here are some recent comments by Mike Licona on Markan authorship. On Luke's authorship of Acts (and its implications for the authorship of the third gospel), see Craig Keener's comments here. Even though modern scholarship is so overly skeptical of Christianity, there's still such widespread acceptance of some of the gospels' authorship attributions. We should be more concerned about the evidence than we are about the views of modern scholars, and the evidence supports the traditional attributions of all four gospels. It's noteworthy, though, that skeptics often overestimate how much the traditional views are rejected by modern scholarship.


  1. I've always wondered how someone could say "all of/most of a group of scholars think this". Grad students.

  2. That's useful to know in response to some extreme positions like that of Ehrman & co. who will blithely say "we have no idea who wrote this."

    At the risk of sounding obsessed, I do think this should be pointed out: Dr. Licona does often defend traditional authorship of the Gospels. However, there is a caveat here in that he also strongly suggests that the Gospel authors had what he calls "secretaries," but which would really amount to very active co-authors, who added fact-changing Greco-Roman "compositional devices" to their works. This does to a large extent take away the *point* of traditional authorship, which is to secure closeness to the facts and to raise the probability of literal, factual accuracy. When you bring in a wholly anonymous, and for that matter wholly hypothetical, Greek-trained co-author who is saying, "Hey, let's move the date of this" or "let's expand this discourse" or "let's add this detail to make it seem vivid to the audience, even though we have no factual support for it," then it's rather Pyrrhic to assert that in some sense Mark or Luke or Matthew or John was "the author." It's unclear whether he believes that the traditional authors agreed to these changes to their documents, memories, and information. I think probably he would say that they did, though perhaps not on a case-by-case basis. Nor has he ever worked out his amanuensis theory in detail. It is, however, now his "go-to" response whenever anyone asks him about the improbability that the traditional authors would have been trained in the Greco-Roman devices he alleges, even if we waive the question of whether such devices existed (which I have argued they did not). What is particularly odd is that Mark would have been more or less Peter's amanuensis on the traditional authorship view, so we're multiplying influences here if we also envisage Mark as having a rhetorically trained co-author. In general, I'm afraid that Licona does not consider himself bound to spell out such theories in detail or to consider their plausibility or implausibility or why we hshould believe them. But he seems now much taken with it as an answer to the question about how traditional authorship intersects with his literary device views.