Skeptics say “we don’t know who wrote the gospels, but it wasn’t Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John”. They’re using a double standard.

Double standards are the worst.

Have you ever been on the other side of a double standard? Of course, you have.

Take for example the subject of women’s breasts. OK, that was me shamelessly trying to get your attention. But now that I got your attention, hear me out. In America, it’s perfectly acceptable for breasts to be on display on newsstands in the grocery aisle. But if you pull a breast out at Walmart to feed a baby — you know, what breasts were actually made for — you’ll get all kinds of awkward looks. My wife can attest to this. It often meant she’d have to go sit in the backseat of a cold van to nurse one of our kids. During the Iowa winter, that’s not fun.

OK, so what does that have to do with the gospels? Because when it comes to the gospels, there are huge double standards. They are presumed to be guilty until proven innocent. Normal ways of doing history seemingly get thrown out the window. And a big example of this is when it comes to the debate authorship of the gospels.

We have very good external evidence that the gospels were written by the names traditionally ascribed to them — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Let me just quote to you some of the early church fathers.

Tertullian of Carthage (ca. 160–225; Against Marcion 4.2.1–2):

Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150–215; Adumbrationes in Epistolas Canonicas on 1 Peter 5:13):

Irenaeus of Lyons (ca. 130–200; Against Heresies 3.1.1–2; cf. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History5.8.1–4):

Papias of Hierapolis (ca. 125 AD, Recorded in Eusebius 3.39)

Muratorian Fragment. (ca. 175 AD)

So we have early external confirmation of our four gospels where they mention the writers by name. These attestations come from church leaders in just about all four corners of the Roman empire.

I could go into a lot of details of how often the gospels are quoted in the Christians writers of the late first century and second century, but here’s a link to a chart that has all of it for you.

The Double Standard of Biblical Critics

Under normal circumstances, this is crazy good info. But we’re talking about the gospels, and they don’t get a free pass.

Critics will say the authors’ names were just added later to add authority. We don’t know who wrote the gospels. They were just people writing far away from the events.

These gospel writers were compiling, redacting and even inventing various traditions in order to confirm their faith. They certainly weren’t written by eyewitnesses or people who had real access to eyewitnesses. Bart Ehrman is a bestselling author who has written several books criticizing the gospels. He sums it up like this:

So despite all the external confirmation that we have to the authorship and early use of the four gospels, that’s not good enough. We gotta view these books with a ton of skepticism and find ways to dismiss the external evidence. Yet this “no one knows who really wrote the gospels” isn’t anything new. But it’s notable that it wasn’t a criticism brought forward until around 400 AD by a guy named Faustus.

Now there were all kinds of critics of Christianity that we have a record of in the first three centuries of the church. Yet no one challenges who wrote the gospels until 400? Huh. Isn’t that interesting?

Augustine went full Thug Life with this objection. And I quote:

In other words: “double standards much!?!”. Historians normally drool over the kind of evidence we for the authorship of the gospels. It’s early. It comes from writers from all over the Roman empire. And there’s no rival tradition.

Augustine mean muggin’

There’s a great book on this topic written in the 1800’s by a guy named Andrews Norton. You can even read it for free. Exposing the hypocrisy, he joins Augustine in going full thug life when he says:

OK, so it’s bible nerd thug life, but it’s still pretty gangsta. Normal history just isn’t done the way many biblical critics do history. Not when it comes to this issue. It’s an obvious double standard, and I’m guessing it’s because miracles are just hard for people to deal with. And what the gospels ask for — our very lives — stands to upend our comfort. Yet it’s also the greatest news ever. Death has been defeated. Our sins are forgiven. What’s not to like?

Away with double standards.

For more, here’s a detailed lecture of the genuineness of the gospels by Dr. Tim McGrew. It goes into great detail of the external confirmations I mentioned here:

And here’s a short video by Dr. Michael Kruger, with some other arguments I didn’t mention here:

I am the Reasonable Faith Chapter Director in Cedar Rapids and the writer for I’m interested in the intersection of Christianity and history.