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Question 110

Hi, Father, I have a question. The gospels were apparently written quite some time after the time Christ lived on Earth. There are also some scholars who claim that the book of Mark was written first and copied by the writers of the synoptic gospels. My questions are were the gospels written by Matthew, Mark and Luke and John respectively and how accurate are the gospels as a record of Christ's life and teaching?    


Answer to Question 110


The Church believes that the first Gospel is that of Matthew's and the last that of John. Whether Mark is older than Luke or vice-versa is not verified. The order in which the books are placed today is the accepted order handed down during the first four centuries by Holy Tradition and after various proposals by local synods and individual fathers, the Church finalized which books should be in the canon of the Bible and in which order they should be placed during the Quinisext Ecumenical Synod in 691. 

In recent years the order of which Gospel was written first has been challenged by modern biblical scholars. Many claim that the Gospel of Mark came first and that Matthew had a copy of this and wrote his Gospel by supplementing certain details, especially on the Nativity of Christ. Modern scholars also disagree on when the Gospels were written.

The Church says that Matthew's Gospel was written between 42- 62AD, modern scholars vary between 70 -100AD.

Mark according to the Church was written before the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70AD, modern scholars agree and place it between 65-70AD.

Luke according to the Church was written before the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70AD but also before the martyrdom of the Apostle Paul in 64AD otherwise he would have mentioned Paul's death in the Gospel or in the Acts of the Apostles as he was his closest companion. With this in mind some place it around 56-60AD. Modern scholars place Luke between 80-100AD.

John according to the Church was written between 85 – 95AD, modern scholars place it between 90 – 100 with some placing it around 110AD. 

In truth modern scholars are so diverse in their dating and interpretation of the Gospels that I give them little credence. As for how accurate the Gospels are on the events of Christ’s life, we have no other source to contradict anything in the Gospels except for the Gnostic and Apocryphal gospels which the Church rejected as false and blasphemous.