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How were Matthew, Mark, Luke and John named and can you tell me something about the authors of these books?

Each of the gospels get its name from the names of the human authors who wrote them, of course, God being the One who enable them to write their message under His inspiration (2 Pet. 1:21). All of these men were either an apostle who knew the Lord Jesus, or who were a close friend or associate of an apostle.

Matthew: Matthew is a contraction of Mattathias, “gift of Jehovah or Yahweh”). He was a Jew, the son of a certain man named Alphaeus. His original name was Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27). It is not known whether his father was the same as the Alphaeus named as the father of James the Less; he was probably another. This gospel was incontestably written by the apostle Matthew. As a tax collector under the Romans at Capernaum who was a hated publican, it is unthinkable that his name would have been attached to the first gospel had he not been the actual writer.

Mark: Mark is the evangelist who was probably the same as “John who was also called Mark” (Acts 12:12, 25). He was the son of a certain Mary in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12) and was, therefore, presumably a native of that city. He was of Jewish parentage, his mother being a relative of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10). It was to her house that Peter went when released from prison by the angel (Acts 12:12). That Peter calls him his son (1 Peter 5:13) is probably because Mark was converted under his ministry. He accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first journey (Acts 12:25; 13:5) but left them at Perga and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Whatever the reason for this act, it seems to have been sufficient in Paul’s estimation to justify his refusing to allow Mark to accompany him on his second journey. Barnabas was determined to take him, and thus Mark was the cause of a “sharp disagreement” between them and a separation (Acts 15:36-39). This did not completely estrange him from Paul, for we find Mark with the apostle in his first imprisonment at Rome (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24). Later he was at Babylon and united with Peter in sending salutations (1 Peter 5:13). He seems to have been with Timothy at Ephesus when Paul wrote to him during his second imprisonment and urged him to bring Mark to Rome (2 Timothy 4:11), A.D. 66. Tradition states that Mark was sent on a mission to Egypt by Peter, that he founded the church of Alexandria, of which he became bishop, and suffered as a martyr in the eighth year of Nero. In the gospel of Mark his record is emphatically “the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1), living and working among men and developing the mission more in acts than by words.

Luke: Luke is the evangelist and author of the gospel bearing his name and the Acts of the Apostles.

The materials found in Scripture referring to the life of Luke are scanty and seem to yield the following results: (1) Luke was of Gentile origin. This is inferred from the fact that he is not reckoned among those “who are from the circumcision” (Colossians 4:11; cf. v. 14). When and how he became a physician is not known. (2) He was not one of the “eyewitnesses and servants of the word” (Luke 1:2). (3) On the supposition of Luke’s being the author of the Acts we gather from those passages in which the first person we is employed that he joined Paul’s company at Troas and sailed with them to Macedonia (Acts 16:10-11). He accompanied Paul as far as Philippi (Acts 16:25-17:1) but did not share his persecution or leave the city, for here the third person they is used. The first person we does not reappear until Paul comes to Philippi at the end of his third journey (Acts 20:6), from which it is inferred that Luke spent the intervening time—a period of seven or eight years—in the city or neighborhood; and as the we continues to the end of the book, that Luke remained with Paul during his journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20:6-21:18), was that apostle’s companion to Rome (Acts 27:1), sharing his shipwreck (Acts 28:2), and reaching the imperial city by way of Syracuse and Puteoli (Acts 28:12-16). According to the epistles he continued to be one of Paul’s “fellow workers” till the end of his first imprisonment (Philemon 24; Colossians 4:14). The last glimpse of the “beloved physician” discovers him to be faithful amid general defection (2 Timothy 4:11). Tradition since the time of Gregory of Nazianzus makes Luke a martyr, yet not unanimously, since accounts of a natural death slip in. Where he died remains a question; certainly not in Rome with Paul, for his writings are far later (Meyer, Com., on Luke, in introduction).

John: ( “Jehovah is gracious”). The son of Zebedee, a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee, (Mark 1:19-20; Luke 5:10), and Salome (Matthew 27:56; cf. Mark 15:40). We have no information respecting the religious character or personal participation of Zebedee in the events of the gospel history, but John’s mother was one of the women who followed Jesus even to His crucifixion.

Internal evidence that the author is “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” who also leaned on His breast at supper (John 21:20, cf. 21:7), and that this is the apostle John, is supported by numerous lines of evidence. (1) He was a contemporary of the events described. The writer was known to the high priest and entered the high priest’s residence in company with Jesus (John 18:15). He alone narrates the fact that it was the high priest’s servant whose ear Peter cut off (John 18:10). He deals with questions about the period before the destruction of Jerusalem and not with controversies of the second century when Gnostic and Ebionite defections were active (cf. John 6:15; 11:47-50). Numerous other details point to the contemporary scene. (2) He was a Jew of Palestine. He shows acquaintance with Heb., as is shown by the book’s opening words (cf. Genesis 1:1). Three times he quotes from the Heb. (John 12:40; 13:18; 19:37). He knows intimately the Hebrew festivals, that of Passover (John 21:13, 23; 6:4; 13:1; 18:28), the Feast of Booths (John 7:2; Tabernacles, KJV), and the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22). Jewish customs and habits of thought are familiar to him, such as questions of purification (John 3:25; 11:55), marriage customs, especially the way of arranging waterpots (John 2:1-10); Jewish burial customs (John 11:38, 44; 19:31, 40). He shows firsthand knowledge of Palestine, that there is a descent from Cana to the Sea of Galilee (John 2:12) and that Jacob’s well is deep (John 4:11). He is familiar with such places as Ephraim (John 11:54), Aenon (John 3:23), Mt. Gerizim (John 4:20), Jerusalem and the Kidron (John 18:1), Bethesda and Siloam (John 5:2; 9:7), and Golgotha (John 19:17; etc.). (3) He was John, the beloved apostle. This is a general deduction sustained from the above facts. He indicates the hours of events recounted (John 1:39; 4:6, 52; 19:14). He reports quotations of Philip (John 6:7; 14:8), Thomas (John 11:16; 14:5), Judas (John 14:22), and Andrew (John 6:8-9). He leaned on Jesus’ breast at the Last Supper (John 13:23-25) and was numbered among the three, Peter, James, and John. Moreover, Peter is distinguished from the author by name, as in John 1:41-42; 13:6, 8, and James had suffered martyrdom long before the writing of the gospel (Acts 12:2). He characteristically introduces himself (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20). These general facts make it difficult to escape the conclusion that John the apostle wrote the fourth gospel.

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines, Character Study