Recently I spoke to some Muslim friends and they objected to the actual validity of the Gospels based on the assumption that we can really not trust the four Gospels purely because we do not know who wrote them? This allowed me to compose the following brief response. First of all externally we can be assured that these Gospel authors were the actual authors by looking at the following evidence.

Plutarch, Lucian, Porphyry, Plato ect. are never mentioned in one of their writings as the original authors, yet, we do not doubt the validity of Greek or Hellenic History? Scrolls in antiquity simply did not bother to write their names on the documents and many times authorship were unanimously resumed.

Evidence that the Gospels were written by its mentioned authors are quite extensive; for instance Justin Martyr (150a.d.) refers to the “memoirs of the Apostles” (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) sixteen times as well as other independent sources. Even more we have not one person from antiquity write “and the Four letters are Matthew, Mark, Luke and Bob”?? No! Every time the four Gospels are affirmed as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John!

Traditionally the Authorship of the Gospels are said to be attributed to:

Matthew – Disciple of Jesus.

Mark – Secretary to Peter.

Luke – Historian and collector of actual accounts.

John – Disciple of Jesus.

For the Gospels we have the following Historical attestations:

Papias (120 A.D.) – Mentions Matthew & Mark.

Marcion (145 A.D.) – Mentions Luke.

Justin (150 A.D.) – Mentions Mark and Luke.

Irenaeus (170 A.D.) – Mentions Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Anti- Marcionite Prolue to Luke (175 A.D.) – Mentions Luke.

Theophilus of Antioch (175 A.D.) – Mentions Luke.

Clement of Alexandria (200 A.D.) – Mentions Mark and John.

Tertullian (200 A.D.) – Mentions Mark.

P75 (200A.D.) – Mentions Luke.

Clement of Alexandria (200 A.D.) – Mentions Mark and John.

Muratorian Canon (200A.D.) – Mentions Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Origen (225 A.D.) – Mentions Mark.

It is also noteworthy that there is no indication that these manuscripts were authored by anyone else and simply no evidence for it?

Armin D.Baum argued that the Gospels were intentionally written as anonymous works in order to reflect the practice of the Old Testament historical books which were themselves anonymous (as opposed to other Old Testament writings, like the prophets, which included the identity of the author). It seems like this allows the authors of the gospels “to disappear” and to give “highest priority to their subject matter.” Thus, the anonymity of the Gospels, far from diminishing their scriptural authority, actually served to increase it by consciously placing the Gospels “in the tradition of Old Testament historiography.” (Armin D. Baum, “The Anonymity of the New Testament History Books: A Stylistic Device in the Context of Greco-Roman and Ancient Near Eastern Literature,”)

In my opinion, there is little reason to doubt the titles of these gospels and thus little reason to doubt the authorship of these books. Baum’s position along with the evidence you presented strongly suggests that the most likely authors are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Another important point I think everyone should consider is the Internal evidence for the validity of the Gospels. All thought the NT we find actual words attributed personally to Christ speaking authentically from himself like “you heard it said but I say unto you” or “Jesus said” (Matt 5:21; 27; 38, John 9:39) Even Paul records that “Our Lord Himself said” (Acts 20:35). The authors of the NT recorded Christ’s Words as “ipsissima verba” and we are assured it is valid [ipsissima vox]

This leaves us with the assurance that:

  • Biblically Christ assures us that what He said is sure: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away”. (Mark 13:31)
  • And Salvifically He requires me to trust in that when He claims “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life”. (Joh.6:63).
  • Theistically He affirms “Do you not believe that I am in my Father and my Father in me? The words which I am speaking, I am not speaking from myself, but my Father who dwells within me, he does these works.” (Joh.14:10) This is affirmed in the Quran as well as the idea that God’s Words CANNOT be corrupted!
  •  Lastly, Pneumatically he assures us that all He has spoken would be brought back to their memory by the Holy Spirit to the immediate disciples; “He who does not love Me does not keep My words, and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.“These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (John 14:24; 26).

This is important because clearly Jesus made a great deal about the preservation of His Words and make all Christians bank on its promise. He also assures us that what He said would never be corrupted: “Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words won’t ever disappear”. (Luke 21:33). So what we have is clearly sure! Not because we know who penned it but because we are assured so by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself! And we should believe it!