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The Issue Of Titles For The Gospels

The consensus of modern Bible scholarship is that the authors of the Gospels are Anonymous and that the current name designations are second century guesses. The related Errancy question is whether such subsequent naming is any type of error.

Probably most people would say this is not any type of error because it's not something done by the original authors and the subsequent naming is based on Tradition. Consider the following though:

Regarding a title of "Matthew" combined with the Church's traditional teaching that this was the disciple Matthew who is being referred to creates the IMPLICATION that such a Gospel is a first hand eyewitness report which as evidence is far superior to an anonymous non-eyewitness story. This Implication is especially deceptive here as the Matthew in "Matthew" has been changed from "Levi" in its source story in "Mark". (Actually the Gospel "Matthew" was originally known as "Levi" but the subsequent Church changed it because they thought "Levi" was "too Jewish".)

Related to all this we have to try and define what is a Christian Bible? In my opinion a Christian Bible is any Bible commonly used by Christians. Inerrantists would like to contract the definition of "Bible" to whatever was theoretically originally written even though this leaves us with an indefinite "Bible". Scripture and Bibles remind me of nicotine and cigarettes all of which can be hazardous to your health . Is nicotine in its original form dangerous? When left alone most people would never come in contact with it. Those few that would could manually smoke some but the relationship between the effort required to smoke and the harm done would probably not make nicotine overly dangerous. Cigarettes consisting primarily of nicotine on the other hand are marketed by huge coporations who through economies of scale can make them relatively inexpensive and through advertising can make them irresistable. They also come in a package. So it is with Scripture. When what we now call "Matthew" was originally written was it considered a "Bible" at that time. It probably had no front or back covers, no "Bible" title, stood alone and was not marketed as a Bible by any organization. As far as we know it may originally have been intended to be primarily a story and not a Bible. Early Christian writing indicates that initially Christians preferred the oral tradition to written traditions. Certainly the author of "Luke" didn't consider "Matthew" to be a Bible. The Church didn't start deciding what was "Scripture" until the middle of the second century and the Canon was not created until the fourth century.

Was whatever was originally written a Bible? I don't think so. The "Bible" was created later when an institution started marketing and packaging it, creating covers, titling it a "bible" and advertising that it was truth which was good for your health. Labeling a book "bible" carries implications. Most Christians in the world have no idea that the Gospel now known as "Matthew" was almost certainly not originally labeled as such. Why? Because their Bible has the title "Matthew" and lacks any appropriate disclaimer such as "the title "Matthew" is a second century guess and inhaling all its contents deeply could be hazardous to your health."

--JoeWallack 09:44, 19 Jan 2007 (CST)

Early References to the Gospels Lacking Attributed Names


From Iason @ Internet Infidels, early references to the Gospels lacking attributed names:


"A large number of references to the Gospel(s) by the early Christians make NO mention of any titles even into the mid-late 2nd century :

The Epistle of the Apostles, 140-150CE , 1 reference :

1 The book which Jesus Christ revealed unto his disciples: and how that Jesus Christ revealed the book for the company (college) of the apostles, the disciples of Jesus Christ, even the book which is for all men. Simon and Cerinthus, the false apostles, concerning whom it is written that no man shall cleave unto them, for there is in them deceit wherewith they bring men to destruction. (The book hath been written) that ye may be not flinch nor be troubled, and depart not from the word of the Gospel which ye have heard. Like as we heard it, we keep it in remembrance and have written it for the whole world.

Apology of Aristides, 138-161CE, 1 reference :

And it is said that God came down from heaven, and from a Hebrew virgin assumed and clothed himself with flesh; and the Son of God lived in a daughter of man. This is taught in the Gospel, as it is called, which a short time was preached among them; and you also if you will read therein, may perceive the power which belongs to it.

Justin Martyr's 1st Apology, 150-160CE, 1 reference :

Ch. 66 : For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, "This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;" and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, "This is My blood;" and gave it to them alone.

Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho, 150-160CE, 3 references :

Ch. 10 : "This is what we are amazed at," said Trypho, "but those things about which the multitude speak are not worthy of belief; for they are most repugnant to human nature. Moreover, I am aware that your precepts in the so-called Gospel are so wonderful and so great, that I suspect no one can keep them; for I have carefully read them." ... Ch. 12 : The Lawgiver is present, yet you do not see Him; to the poor the Gospel is preached, the blind see, yet you do not understand. You have now need of a second circumcision, though you glory greatly in the flesh. ... Ch. 100 : For I have showed already that Christ is called both Jacob and Israel; and I have proved that it is not in the blessing of Joseph and Judah alone that what relates to Him was proclaimed mysteriously, but also in the Gospel it is written that He said: 'All things are delivered unto me by My Father;' and, 'No man knoweth the Father but the Son; nor the Son but the Father, and they to whom the Son will reveal Him.'

Justin Martyr's On The Resurrection, 150-160CE, 1 reference :

Ch. 10 : Considering, therefore, even such arguments as are suited to this world, and finding that, even according to them, it is not impossible that the flesh be regenerated; and seeing that, besides all these proofs, the Saviour in the whole Gospel shows that there is salvation for the flesh,

Fragments from Theodotus, 150-180CE, 2 references :

He cited as a proof to all, how, when the angels give glad tidings to the barren, they introduce souls before conception. And in the Gospel "the babe leapt" as a living thing.

Anti-Montanist (from Eusebius H.E.), 193CE, 2 references :

Eusebius H.E. Ch. 16:2 - A certain one of these, in the beginning of his work against them, first intimates that he had contended with them in oral controversies. He commences his work in this manner: "Having for a very long and sufficient time, O beloved Avircius Marcellus, been urged by you to write a treatise against the heresy of those who are called after Miltiades, I have hesitated till the present time, not through lack of ability to refute the falsehood or bear testimony for the truth, but from fear and apprehension that I might seem to some to be making additions to the doctrines or precepts of the Gospel of the New Testament, which it is impossible for one who has chosen to live according to the Gospel, either to increase or to diminish."

The Acts of Paul, 150-200CE, 2 references :

40 But Thecla yearned after Paul and sought him, sending about in all places; and it was told her that he was at Myra. And she took young men and maids, and girded herself, and sewed her mantle into a cloak after the fashion of a man, and departed into Myra, and found Paul speaking the word of God, and went to him. But he when he saw her and the people that were with her was amazed, thinking in himself: Hath some other temptation come upon her? But she perceived it, and said to him: I have received the washing, 0 Paul; for he that hath worked together with thee in the Gospel hath worked with me also unto my baptizing. ... 34 If, then, ye receive any other doctrine, GOD SHALL BE WITNESS AGAINST YOU; AND let no man trouble me, 35 for I bear these bonds that I may win Christ, and I therefore bear his marks in my body that I may attain unto the resurrection of the dead. And whoso receiveth (abideth in) the rule which he hath received by the blessed prophets and the holy Gospel, shall receive a recompense from the Lord,

The Acts of Peter, 150-200CE, 1 reference :

And Peter entered into the dining-hall and saw that the Gospel was being read, and he rolled up the book and said: Ye men that believe and hope in Christ, learn in what manner the holy Scripture of our Lord ought to be declared: whereof we by his grace wrote that which we could receive, though yet it appear unto you feeble, yet according to our power, even that which can be endured to be borne by (or instilled into) human flesh.

The Treatise on the Resurrection, 170-200CE, 1 reference :

What, then, is the resurrection? It is always the disclosure of those who have risen. For if you remember reading in the Gospel that Elijah appeared and Moses with him, do not think the resurrection is an illusion.

Hegesippus Fragments, c. 170CE, 1 reference :

With show of reason could it be said that Symeon was one of those who actually saw and heard the Lord, on the ground of his great age, and also because the Scripture of the Gospels makes mention of Mary the daughter of Clopas, who, as our narrative has shown already, was his father.

Melito of Sardis, c. 170CE, 3 references :

The finger of the Lord-the Holy Spirit, by whose operation the tables of the law in Exodus are said to have been written; and in the Gospel: "If I by the finger of God cast out demons" The fingers of the Lord-The lawgiver Moses, or the prophets. ... As in Habakkuk: "He good and measured the earth;and in the Gospel: "Jesus stood, and bade him be called" that is, the blind man. ... The knowledge of the Lord-that which makes men to know Him. To Abraham He says: "Now I know that thou fearest the Lord; "that is, I have made thee to know. The ignorance of God is His disapproval. In the Gospel: "I know you not."

Theophilus to Autolycus, c.180CE, 4 references :

Ch. 12 : Moreover, concerning the righteousness which the law enjoined, confirmatory utterances are found both with the prophets and in the Gospels, because they all spoke inspired by one Spirit of God. ... And the voice of the Gospel teaches still more urgently concerning chastity, saying: "Whosoever looketh on a woman who is not his own wife, to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." ... And the Gospel says: "Love your enemies, and pray for them that despitefully use you. For if ye love them who love you, what reward have ye? This do also the robbers and the publicans."

Apart from the controversial comments of Papias, the Gospels were not given author's name until late 2nd century."