Authorship of Gospels and Clement's Letter

This article will examine external/objective witness in regards to the authorship of the gospels and their time of composition.

A comparison will line up both the traditional conservative view of the authors of the gospels and the liberal view of the gospels and evaluate evidence based on objective/external data to arrive at a conclusion

External/objective data in regards to the time of composition for the gospels is remarkably consistent. An Issue wouldn't arrive with one outlier but what do the multiplicity of witnesses say in regards to when the gospels were written. This examination will look at the apostles, associates of the apostles and the collective mass of followers from several continents.

Liberal View vs Conservative View

Liberal View essentially believes that the gospels were composed in the between 80CE-120 CE by some anonymous people.

Conservative/traditional historical view maintains that the gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John from as early as the 30s CE to the 60s CE. (John Wenham, A.T. Robinson)

Comparison of liberal and conservative view on the authorship of the gospels based on external/objective testimony.

Independent verification was important in Old Testament era (Deuteronomy 17) New Testatment era (2 Corinthians 13) and even today. When a person lines up both the liberal and conservative view side by side and evaluate on the basis on external evidence the liberal view loses every time. The result is clear that the view is exposed as having no objective evidence it is nothing more than subjective conjecture. Liberal view is conjecture disproven by external evidence. The historically traditional/conservative view is corroborated and established on the basis of objective data.

Its important to remember that there is a history underlying the authorship and time of composition of the gospels. History is not silent on the matter.

Clement's Letter - Written in the 60s CE

Clement of Rome wrote a letter which was commonly thought to have been written in 96 CE but the internal evidence demonstrates that this letter was written pre-70 CE.

The pre-70CE date is beneficial as it demonstrates the existence and authority of various gospels and epistles of the apostles within the lifetime of the writers, their associates, various church communities around the world to whom the writers traveled.

  • 1 Clement 5 mentions that the most recent heroes to undergo persecution (he calls envy) is the Apostles Peter and Paul (chapter 5), multitude of others with them in Rome (chapters 6) and the churches of Rome and Corinth. This is notable because if this epistle was written about 96 CE after the widespread persecution under Emperor Domitian, then the most recent martyrs/sufferers would have been those in that era.

    • Since the Nero era is listed as the most recent then it is obvious that the Domitian era persecutions had not begun yet

  • Clement also refers to the churches of Rome and Corinth currently being under the same conflict and persecution (chapter 7), as the multitude of others in Rome (chapter 6), during the same time as Peter and Paul were killed in Rome (chapter 5). The implication from this is that Clement, the church of Rome and Corinth were still in the Nerodian persecution which matches the evidence in chapter 1. Nero's persecution ended when he died so the deduction from this passage is that it was written in the 60s CE when Nero was still alive.

  • The temple (which was destroyed in 70 CE ) is referred to as still existing, but also the priests were still serving in the temple and animal sacrifices were still being made. All of this would have had to occur before the end of 70CE. This is another indication that the letter was written in the 60s CE.

  • A group of Christian scriptures in existence and authoritative during the era of Clement's letter is seen in his text. Although Clement was not writing a canonical list; his appeal to these scriptures as authoritative shows they were already written and regarded as holy writ.

    • Clement quotes from:

      • Gospel of Matthew

      • Gospel of Mark

      • Gospel of Luke

      • Romans

      • 1 Corinthians

      • 2 Corinthians

      • Galatians

      • Ephesians

      • Colossians

      • Philippians

      • 1 Thessalonians

      • Hebrews

      • James

      • 1 Peter

      • 2 Peter