AN INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT by A H McNeile. Copyright A H McNeile - first published at the University Press, Oxford 1927. 2nd Edition revised by C S C Williams 1953. - This Edition prepared for Katapi in Arial Unicode MS by Paul Ingram 2003.

Chapter II - Part 2


HOME | Date | Patristic tradition | Internal evidence | Place of Writing | Original Language | Bibliography


For the dates of the first three Gospels we are dependent largely upon evidence within the New Testament itself.
The patristic traditions, which afford little help, are as follows:

Patristic Tradition

Matthew | Luke | Top


Divergent theories were held as to the date of the Second Gospel, some placing it in Nero's reign, and some in that of Claudius. Late, but not early, traditions date it within St. Peter's lifetime.

(1) According to Irenaeus, iii.i.1 [Eus. H.E.v.8], 'And after their exodus [i.e. the death of Peter and Paul] Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, having committed to writing the things that Peter used to preach delivered them to us'.
The interpretation, indeed, is disputed.
Some explain 'having committed to writing' (ἐγγράφως) as referring to a time before St. Peter's death, while only 'delivered them to us' belong to the time after 'their exodus'.
But this is strained and unnatural.
Others, very improbably, understand 'exodus' to mean 'departure' not 'death'. [Cf. Lk.ix.31; 2 Pet.i.15.]
If the words are taken in their plainest meaning, Irenaeus dates the Second Gospel c. 64‑67.

(2) In the English edition of Huck's Synopsis the evidence of the Anti‑Marcionite Prologues is given after Papias's evidence.
Thus they are put before the evidence of St. Irenaeus as though they were prior to and independent of his works; if so, they may be dated about 160‑80.
Dom de Bruyne pointed to their homogeneity and Anti‑Marcionite tendency. [Revue Benedictine, 1928, pp.193 ff.]
His arguments convinced A. Von Harnack [sitzungsberichte der Preussischen Akademie, Phil‑hist. KI., 1928, pp.322 ff.] and F. L. Cross. [Cf. Dr. Cross's letter to the London Times, 13 February 1936.]
However, M. J. Lagrange concluded after a careful study of the evidence that the Prologue‑writer knew Irenaeus's Adversus Haereses. [Revue Biblique, xxxviii, 1929, pp.115‑21; cf. his Introduction a l'etude du Nouveau Testament: deuxieme partie: critique textuelle, II. La Critique rationelle, p.265; cf. B. W. Bacon, J.T.S. xi.134 ff.]

The Prologues, which are found in thirty‑eight Latin biblical manuscripts, were written originally in Greek, to judge from internal evidence, but only the Lucan Prologue is extant in Greek, the other two being in Latin.
The Prologue to Matthew and the opening of the Prologue to Mark are lost, the fragment of the latter being as follows:

'... Marcus adscruit, qui colobodactylus est nominatus, ideo quod ad ceteram corporis proceritatem digitos minores habuisset. iste interpres fuit Petri, post excessionem ipsius Petri descripsit idem hoc in partibus Italiae evangelium.'
[Huck‑Lietzmann, A Synopsis of the First Three Gospels, English edition by F. L. Cross, pp. vii‑viii.]

Colobodactylus was an epithet applied to Mark especially at Rome before Latin became the ordinary tongue of Christians there.
Streeter [The Four Gospels, pp.336‑7.]quotes this epithet as applied to St. Mark by Hippolytus and he cites the explanation given by Wordsworth and White [Novum Testamenturn Latine, p.171.]who took it to describe a man who cut off his thumb to escape military service, a 'shirker'.
If the word described a 'shirker' in general, it may have carried a reference to the story in Acts xv.38, according to which John Mark deserted Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey and went home.
Streeter somewhat too ingeniously suggests that the epithet had a double meaning, 'the author was a shirker, his gospel a torso', for the original ending of Mark if it ever existed after xvi.8 is lost.
Others would connect the word κολόβον, an undervest with short sleeves, with the story peculiar to Mark of the young man who fled 'naked', wearing only his inner garment, xiv.52; others would say that the epithet was conferred on St. Mark because of the brevity of his Gospel compared with St. Matthew's; even St. Augustine, was to describe Mark wrongly as a successor of Matthew and a lackey and abridger of him. ['tanquam pedisequus et breviator eius videtur', De cons. ev.ii.]
Another suggestion is that the epithet was due to the legend that Mark, cousin to the Levite Barnabas, [Acts iv.36.]  mutilated his thumb to escape Levitical service in the Temple; in an age when Christians loved to gossip about the apostles and their followers, as the Western text of Acts and the Apocryphal Gospels show, this legend arose to which Hippolytus refers. [Philosophoumena, vii.30.]
The Prologue‑writer, however, appears to have interpreted the epithet to mean that Mark had rather short fingers in relation to his general bodily stature and not that he was mutilated. [Cf. H. B. Swete, The Gospel according to St. Mark, pp. xxi f.]
The last sentence in the Prologue, containing interpres Petri and excessio, resembles closely the evidence of Papias and of Irenaeus and is probably dependent upon them.

(3) In Alexandria the wish was felt for an apostolic guarantee for St. Mark's work.
Clement of Alexandria places it at a date after St. Peter had worked and taught at Rome, but before his death.
Eusebius cites his testimony in two somewhat different forms.
In H.E. ii.15 he relates, on the authority of Clement in the sixth book of his Hypotyposes, that the hearers of Peter at Rome earnestly entreated 'Mark, whose Gospel is extant, who was a follower of Peter', to preserve in writing the oral teaching which they had received; [H. B. Swete remarks that 'this feature in the story bears a suspicious resemblance to the account which the Muratorian fragment gives, and Clement repeats, in reference to the Gospel of St. John' (St. Mark, p. xx).]and that Peter 'was pleased with the zeal of the men, and authorized the writings to be read by the Churches'.
In Clement is reported to have said in the same work that 'when Peter knew it he used no persuasion either to hinder him from it or to urge him to do it'.
And Origen said (ap. Eus. that Mark made his Gospel 'as Peter instructed (ὑφηγήσατο) him', which seems to imply his personal supervision.
Jerome (De vir. ill.8) says much the same as Clement in the former of the two passages of Eus., appealing to Papias as well as to Clement; yet he states (ad Hedib. 11) that the Second Gospel was produced 'Petro narrante et illo scribente'.

(4) Eusebius himself, on the other hand (H.E.ii.14, 17), brings the Apostle to Rome to oppose Simon Magus in the reign of Claudius (41‑54AD).
Hence it is stated by Theophylact, and in the subscriptions of some late manuscripts, [13,124,346,543, 160, 16t, 293,2092.] that the Gospel was written ten or twelve years after the Ascension.


The persistent belief that St. Matthew the Apostle wrote his Gospel for 'Hebrews', i.e. residents in Palestine, carried with it an early date.
Iren. iii.i.1 (Eus. H.E.v.8): 'Matthew also put forth a Gospel writing among the Hebrews in their own language [i.e. Aramaic], while Peter and Paul in Rome were preaching the Gospel and founding the Church.'
Clement Alex. [Eus. H.E. vi. 14]: 'The Gospels which contain the genealogies were written first.'
Origen, in Evang. Joh., 'Matthew who, according to tradition, before the others published the Gospel for the Hebrews.'
Eus. H.E.iii.24: 'Matthew, having first preached to the Hebrews, when he was about to go to others, compensated for the loss of his presence those whom he was obliged to leave by delivering to them in writing his Gospel in their native language.'
And Jerome follows the same tradition stating repeatedly that Matthew wrote first, and in Judaea.


The facts as to the origin of the Third Gospel appear to have been no better known.
Irenaeus (loc. cit.) writes: 'And [see also after the death of Peter and Paul] Luke, the follower of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by Paul.'
Eusebius even implies (H.E. iii.4) that his Gospel was written within St. Paul's lifetime, recording a tradition (φασί) that St. Paul referred to St. Luke's writing whenever he said 'according to my Gospel' (cf. Rom.ii.16).
The tradition is, of course, worthless; but it shows how unintelligently conclusions could be formed, after two or three centuries, as to the dates of New Testament writings.

Reference here may be made to two other pieces of evidence.

(1) The Anti‑Marcionite Prologue to Luke (see above, p. 26) may contain valuable information.
It runs:

Luke is a Syrian of Antioch, a doctor by profession.
Having been a disciple of the Apostles and later having accompanied Paul until his [Paul's] martyrdom, he served the Lord without distraction, unmarried, childless, and he fell asleep at the age of eighty‑four in Boeotia, full of Holy Spirit.

[ἀπερισπάστως, cf. P46, Heb..2, εὐπερίσπαστον, and 1 Cor.vii.35.]
This man, when Gospels already existed‑that according to Matthew written down in Judaea and that according to Mark in Italy‑impelled by Holy Spirit composed the entire Gospel in Achaia, showing through his preface this very fact that before him other [Gospels] had been written, and also that it was necessary to produce an accurate account of the dispensation for the faithful ex‑Gentiles so that they should neither be distracted by Jewish myths nor be led astray by heretical and empty imaginings and miss the truth.
Therefore we have transmitted to us at once at the beginning as being most necessary [the record of] the birth of John, who is the beginning of the Gospel, having been forerunner of the Lord and a participator in the preparation of the Gospel [Latin: of the people], in the baptismal instruction [Latin: in the introduction of baptism] and in the fellowship of the Spirit [Latin: in the fellowship of suffering].
A prophet [Malachi.] among the Twelve mentions this dispensation.
And indeed afterwards the same Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles while, later, John the Apostle, one of the Twelve, wrote the Apocalypse in the isle of Patmos and, after that, the Gospel.

That Luke wrote in Achaea and that he lived to be eighty-four and died unmarried and childless cannot be inferred from the evidence of the New Testament itself nor taken as Anti‑Marcionite polemic.
It may be accepted that Luke wrote later than Mark but it is more doubtful whether he wrote later than the First Evangelist.

(2) The Muratorian Canon was published by Muratori from the eighth‑century MS. Bibl. Ambros. Cod. 101 at Milan.
Four small fragments of the same Canon were discovered in manuscripts of the eleventh and twelfth centuries at Monte Cassino.
The bad Latin is no doubt a translation from the original Greek, the author of which may well have been Hippolytus. [Lagrange, Revue Biblique, xlii, 1933, pp.161ff.; B. Altaner, Precis de Patrologie, pp.121 f.]
The Canon contains the following:

'The third book of the Gospel (according to Luke), Luke, that physician whom after the ascension of Christ Paul had taken with him as one zealous for the law composed in his own name on the basis of report.
[iuris studiosum; or itineris socium, a companion of his journey,
or litteris studiosum, with a zeal for letters,
or quasi adiutorem, in the role of assistant.
The text is uncertain.
Cf. M. Goguel, Introduction au Nouveau Testament, iii, 1922, p.371.]
However, he did not himself see the Lord in the flesh and therefore as he could "trace the course of events" he set them down.
So also he began his story with the birth of John.

There is nothing here, however, which could not have been inferred from an intelligent reading of the New Testament.

All the Patristic evidence is set out fully by H. J. Cadbury in F. Jackson and K. Lake, The Beginnings of Christianity, ii, 1922, pp.209 ff. Cadbury (ibid., pp.243 f.) gives the Monarchian Prologue, as it has been called with which the Anti‑Marcionite Prologue quoted above should be compared.

Internal Evidence

Matthew | Luke | Top


Irenaeus was doubtless right in saying that St. Mark wrote his Gospel after St. Peter's death.
It was then that a record of the Apostle's preaching would be needed.
Apart from that fact, which presupposes a date after 64, and the sure conclusion, which has been reached by synoptic study, that Matthew and Luke were later than Mark, the only indication of date is supplied by the apocalyptic discourse in Mk.i.
There is a fairly general, though not quite universal, consensus of opinion that the discourse, in its original form, was at one time in circulation as an independent pamphlet.
It contains, no doubt, some sayings of our Lord; but in the form known to St. Mark it appears to have been the work of a Jewish Christian who understood the Apocalypse of Daniel (as many have done ever since) as applying to the events immediately beyond his own horizon.
'The Abomination (neuter) of Desolation standing where he ought not' refers to the personal figure of Anti‑Christ, which was a well‑known feature of Jewish apocalyptic expectation.
The writer, as always in eschatological thought, is sure that the dire catastrophe will occur soon.
Not, indeed, actually at once, because deceivers, wars, earthquakes, famines, were to be only the 'beginning of travail pains'. This, in itself, had nothing to do with the fall of Jerusalem.
But Mark incorporated the document because he, in turn, could apply the predictions to his own day and see their fulfilment immediately beyond his horizon.
The end of this world‑order is seen against the foreground of Jerusalem's fall and the distance between the two future events is foreshortened.
There is no real connexion between vv.1, 2 and the discourse which follows; but the fact that he could connect them shows that, for him, the destruction of the Temple was one of the imminent horrors of 'that tribulation'.
If, however, he had been writing after it occurred, v.2 would probably have contained a more explicit description of the fall of the city.
At whatever earlier date, then, the Little Apocalypse may have been current, the use which St. Mark makes of it points to a date shortly before 70AD for the writing of the Gospel.
With this agrees the view of A. E. J. Rawlinson, [St. Mark, pp.xvi ff.] that one object of the Gospel was to encourage Christians at Rome in the Neronian persecution.

This is against the view of Allen [Dict. of the Apostolic Church, i.474.] who contends for an early date for all three Synoptic Gospels, and thinks that St. Mark wrote early in the time that St. Peter was absent from Jerusalem (44‑49AD) before returning for the Council, to compensate for the loss of his personal presence.
And that being in Jerusalem it was naturally in Aramaic; but when St. Mark, soon afterwards, went with Barnabas to Antioch (44‑47) the need was felt for its translation into Greek.
Similarly C. C. Torrey, [The Four Gospels, pp.256 ff.] who thinks that all four Gospels were based on written Aramaic sources, maintains that there is no reference in the Gospels or Acts to the Fall of Jerusalem.
'The supposed references ... are merely repeated from the Old Testament prophecies ... Zech. xiv. 2 ... Dan. ix. 26 ... Zech. i. 8.'
He holds that when Caligula [Josephus, Ant. xviii.5.3.] threatened to set up his own image in the Temple in 40AD, Mark expected the fulfilment of Dan. ix. 27 and . 11. 
Caligula fortunately died on 24 Jan. 41AD at the hand of an assassin.
The Aramaic background of the Second Gospel is clear; but there is not enough evidence to prove that it was a translation [see pp. 42 ff.].
He thinks, rightly, that there is nothing in the eschatological discourse which our Lord, with prophetic insight, could not have said.
But, as we have seen, it is St. Mark's use of it, which points to a later date for the Gospel.
On the other hand M. Goguel [Introduction au Nouveau Testament, i, 1923, pp.373 f.] is among those who date Mark after 70AD despite the allusiveness of i.14.
He urges that the saying in xiv.57 about the destruction and rebuilding of the Temple in three days, which 'may not be authentic' ' is disavowed by the evangelist, i.e. after 70AD; it was false witnesses who reported it.
But xiv.58 was no doubt an authentic saying of Christ; cf. Acts vi.14, in. ii.19.
When Goguel adds that he wonders whether the Parable of the Husbandmen would have ended before 70AD so explicitly as .9 does, he forgets that that Parable shows no sign of being retouched by Christians.
[F. C. Burkitt, Transactions of the Third International Congress for the History of Religion, ii.321‑8; Cf. C. H. Dodd, History and Gospel, p.101, citing Matt.xi.36 and Lk.xi.49‑51, Matt.xi.37‑39 and Lk.i.34‑35, Lk.xix.41‑44, Jn.ix.39.
'The purpose of them all is the same; the rejection of Jesus by the Jews is a sign of divine judgement. ...'
Note that there is no reference in the Parable to the Resurrection of Christ.]

It is scarcely necessary, in the face of all the work that has been done upon the Gospels, to discuss the arguments that used to be offered for bringing this Gospel down to the second century.


If the arguments for dating Mark shortly before AD 70 are sound, all attempts to date either Matthew or Luke earlier than that must fail, since the writer of each of them used Mark virtually in its present form.
Such attempts have been made, but none of the arguments adduced can outweigh that fact.
The dates given by various scholars can be seen in Moffatt, Introd. Lit. N.T., p.213.
The evidence for an exact date is scanty.
But such expressions as 'till now' ἕωςἄρτι (xi.12), 'till today' ἕως τῆς σήμερον (xxvii.8), μέχρι τῆς σήμερον ἡμέρας (xxviii.15), suggest generally that some time had elapsed since the days of Jesus.
The destruction of Jerusalem seems to be referred to in x.7: 'he sent forth his armies and destroyed those murderers and burnt up their city.'
And a comparatively late date is required by the following considerations: Mark, written at a place distant from Palestine, probably Rome, had had time to reach Palestine or Syria with an established value, which the writer of Matthew could appreciate.
There are allusions to Church government (xvi.19, xviii.18) and to excommunication (xviii.17).
The apostles are so highly reverenced that the writer often softens or omits statements derogatory to them (see A. H. McNeile's St. Matthew, on viii.26).
False Christian prophets had appeared (vii.15, 22); cf. Didache, xi‑i.
There had been time for apocryphal or legendary details to become current, which the evangelist adopts (e.g. xxvii.52 f., xxviii.2 ff.).
And though, with other writers of his day, he had not given up the expectation of the imminence of the Advent, and freely recorded utterances of our Lord to that effect, he could yet look forward to a period during which the evangelization of 'all nations' would be carried on (xxviii.19 f.).

On the other hand, there are considerations that forbid a late date.
The Gospel was the first favourite in the early Church although it lacked the prestige of the two chief centres of Christendom, Rome and Ephesus; and the prestige also of the two chief apostolic names, Peter and Paul.
And the strongly Judaic elements in it would have discredited it if it had appeared in the second century.
All of which imply its early, widely known, and apostolic credit. [See C. H. Turner, J.T.S. x, 1908‑9, p.172.]

External evidence is of no help earlier than Ignatius (AD 110‑115).
Echoes in James and Clement of Rome may be accounted for by the probability that collections of the Lord's sayings had been made before the evangelist's date, and were still in use.
But Ignatius certainly seems to refer to our Gospel when he speaks of Christ (Smyrn.i) as baptized by John 'that all righteousness might be fulfilled by Him' (cf. Matt.iii.15).
There is no reason to depart from the conclusion (McNeile's St. Matthew, p.xxviii) that 'these facts, which are, in keeping with the impression produced by the Gospel as a whole, forbid a date earlier than C. 80AD, but do not require one later than 100'.
A date about 80‑85 is a probable one.
'I am not convinced that any of the reasons brought forward [by Dr. Kilpatrick] requires a date as late as AD 90', writes Dr. T. W. Manson. [J.T.S. xlviii, 1947, p.218.]


Such evidence as we have is best satisfied by placing the Third Gospel in the same period, c. 80‑85.
Dr. T. W. Manson would date the writing of Luke‑Acts C. 70.
An argument for an earlier date has been drawn from the conclusion of the Acts.
Since the narrative leaves St. Paul in imprisonment at Rome, without going on to record his death, some have thought that St. Luke wrote at that point of time, i.e. before 64; and that the Gospel must be earlier still.
But it is possible that Acts was written after a compilation of Q and L material and before the third Gospel as we have it.
[C. S. C. Williams, J.T.S. xlix, 1948, p.204.
The end of Acts and its bearing on the date of Luke‑Acts have been discussed by M. Goguel, Introduction au Nouveau Testament, iii.326‑41, and by K. Lake and H. J. Cadbury, Beginnings of Christianity, iv.349 f. and by Cadbury, v.326‑38.]

The study of the synoptic problem will show that it is very doubtful if there is any dependence of Matthew on Luke, or vice versa; and their independence can most easily be explained if they wrote at about the same time.

A comparison of St. Luke's treatment of the eschatological discourse with St. Mark's (see Lk. xxi. 20‑24) makes it probable that while St. Mark expected the destruction of the Temple in the future, St. Luke looked back to the siege and sack of the city in the past.
[Dr. C. H. Dodd denies this.
Luke quotes the LXX and does not refer to horrors of the siege. (The journal of Roman Studies, xxxvii, 1937, pp.47‑54.)]

It is possible that the Fourth Evangelist knew Luke.
[See Windisch, Johannes und die Synopliker, pp.48‑50.]

Streeter [The Four Gospels, pp.401‑8.] concludes as follows: 'The interest shown by John in identifying and connecting persons and places, or in elaborating incidents, mentioned in Luke is more likely if they occurred in some document regarded by his readers as a standard account of the life of Christ rather than in a mere floating tradition.'
And after a further examination of the question whether the source known to him was our Luke or the earlier Proto‑Luke which was incorporated in it, he says 'Neither singly nor together do these points amount to demonstrative proof that what John knew was, not Proto‑Luke, but our Gospel of Luke; yet, to my mind, they make the balance of probability incline still very decidedly in that direction.'

The question whether St. Luke had read Josephus's Antiquities, which was written C. AD 93, has been disputed by competent scholars.
[F. J. F. Jackson and K. Lake, Beginnings of Christianity, ii, 1922, pp.355‑8; E. Meyer, Ursprung und Anfange des Christentums, i, 1921, pp.47 ff., ii.404 f., iii.11;   F. C. Burkitt, Gospel History and its Transmission, (3rd ed. 1911), pp.105 ff.]
Coincidences of language prove nothing.
Two historians, writing Hellenistic Greek in the same quarter, or third, of the first century, would naturally show similarities of vocabulary.
But the two chief considerations offered as proof that St. Luke had read it ‑ and not only read, but in each case misread ‑ are as follows:

(a) Josephus [Antiq. xx.5.] gives an account of the abortive insurrection of Theudas in the procuratorship of Fadus, i.e. 44‑46AD.
He attracted a large following, but a Roman squadron of cavalry cut them in pieces, and Theudas was captured and beheaded.

He then relates that Alexander, the next procurator of Judaea (46‑48), executed some of the sons of Judas the Galilean.
This person had incited the Jews not to pay taxes, forty years before in the time of Quirinus.
Here we have Theudas followed by the sons of Judas.
But in the speech of Gamaliel (Acts v. 34 ff.,) we hear of an insurrectionary Theudas followed by an insurrectionary Judas.
And, as Burkitt says: [The Gospel History and its Transmission, 1911, p.107.] 'Here, if anywhere in the Acts, the details of the speech must be due to the author, for all the Christians had been put outside.'
If St. Luke had read the Antiquities his remembrance of the passage is faulty, since he writes 'Judas' instead of 'the sons of Judas'.
But further, if his Theudas is the same as the Theudas of Josephus he has committed a startling anachronism, because Gamaliel was speaking not less than twelve years before that insurrection took place.
If he had not read it, we must suppose, that he possessed some source of information from which he derived the names Theudas (an abbreviation of Theodorus and of other names) and Judas as rebels, and their stories in this chronological order.

(b) Lysanias was tetrarch of Abila, and according to Strabo (xvi.ii.10) had been executed by Mark Antony in 36BC, but the district continued to be called by his name.
Josephus [Antiq. xix. v.1.] speaks of Ἀβίλαν τὴν Λυσανίου 'Abila of Lysanias', and (B.J. II.xi.5) of βασιλείαν τὴν Λυσανίου καλουμένην, 'the so‑called kingdom of Lysanias'.
And he says of Abila [Antiq. xx. V. 1.] Αυσαωίου δ᾽ αὕτη ἐγεγόνει τετραρχία, 'now this had been the tetrarchy of Lysanias'.
But in Lk.iii.1, 2 the beginning of the Baptist's ministry is dated 'in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar', and, together with four other synchronisms, 'Lysanias being tetrarch of Abilene'.
Unless there was a second Lysanias, tetrarch of Abila, of which there is possibly evidence, [Cronin, J.T.S. xviii.147‑51.] St. Luke makes him tetrarch sixty‑five years after his death.
If, then, he did not get his information about an unknown man from an unknown source, he had learnt that the Abilene district was known as the tetrarchy of Lysanias, and erroneously concluded that Lysanias was alive at the time.
And it is claimed that he learnt it from the Antiquities.
Torrey thinks that both St. Luke and Josephus are dependent upon earlier sources. [The Composition and Date of Acts, 1916, pp. 69 f.]
M. Goguel
agrees, suggesting that Luke and Josephus used a history of Herod which went up to AD 79 [Introduction au Nouveau Testament, iii.117 ff.] and quoting G. Holscher. [Die Quellen des Josephus fur die Zeit vom Exil bis zum judischen Kriege, 1904.]
Streeter [The Four Gospels, pp.557 f.]suggests that St. Luke had not read the Antiquities but heard Josephus lecture previously in Rome, and had made some slips when he took down hurried notes.
The theory of indebtedness cannot be considered proved.
But if it is accepted, he wrote later than 93.
Such a date is not impossible for a companion of St. Paul.
But since he was, presumably, a physician before he joined the Apostle on his travels, he can hardly have been born much later than AD 20.
And was therefore some seventy‑five years of age when he wrote both the Gospel and the Acts, which is a somewhat advanced age for the execution of such a work, though not impossible; cf. the Anti‑Marcionite Prologue (p.29).
If the Acts was written about go, and the Gospel 80‑85, all the evidence (apart from Josephus) is satisfied; however, dependence on Josephus is unlikely.
As Dr. T. W. Manson, urges, Luke's ignorance of a collection of Pauline epistles is a stronger argument against a late date in the first century than any problematical acquaintance with the Antiquities can be for it. [Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, xxviii, 1944, p.398.]


Matthew | Luke | Top


(1)  In 2 Tim.iv.11 (a passage from St. Paul's own hand) directions are given for St. Mark to be brought to Rome.

(2)  Very soon afterwards i Pet.v.13 implies that he is there.
Even if the Epistle was not the work of St. Peter, it must have been written early enough for Polycarp to know it; i.e. the presence of St. Mark with the Apostle at Rome must have been accepted as a fact by, say, 110. Merrill [Essays on Early Church History, pp.311 f.] contends, as many writers in the past have contended, that 'Babylon' (in i Pet., loc. cit.) means the Mesopotamian city, and that St. Peter never visited the capital.
But this criticism has commended itself to few. See Streeter's note, op. cit., P. 489.
If he was not in Rome, something is required‑supposing the Epistle not to be authentic ‑ to account for the belief that he was.
That belief is perhaps implied by Ignatius in his letter to Rome (iv.3): '1 do not enjoin you like Peter and Paul'; and even more clearly by Clement of Rome, who, in his letter to Corinth (v. vi) speaks of the deaths of Peter and Paul in close connexion with the Neronian persecution.
But, as Streeter argues, if a mistaken inference was drawn from Clement's words, the acceptance of that inference would be rendered easier if there was a prior belief that a Gospel, representing St. Peter's reminiscences, had emanated from Rome.
'Thus the hypothesis that Mark was written in Rome is a legitimate inference from the tradition that Peter and Mark were together in Rome, if that is historical; or, if that tradition is not historical, then it helps to explain its origin.'

(3)  Irenaeus [quoted on p.25] adds to the statement of Papias the significant fact that St. Mark wrote after the death of St. Peter and St. Paul, who had been (as he says in the previous context) 'preaching and founding the Church in Rome'.
This would have little point unless he thought that he wrote at Rome, carrying on their work.

(4)  Clement Alex. evidently understood it so, for he explicitly places St. Mark's work at Rome in the lifetime of St. Peter [see p.27].

(5)  The Second Gospel was the least popular of the four; and without the backing of some strong authority such as that of the Roman Church, might not have been included in the Canon at all.

Two points of internal evidence are sometimes adduced which cannot be allowed much weight:

(a)  The writer uses Latinisms.
But this might be done anywhere in the Roman Empire.
In Egypt, for example, the papyri show how easily Latin could penetrate the popular Greek.
Even the First Evangelist could adopt quadrans (v.26) from a Jewish‑Christian source, and praetorium (xxvii.27) from Mark. [See Thumb, Dict. of the Apost. Church, i.555.]

(b)  He mentions Rufus as a son of Simon the Cyrenaean (xv.21); and St. Paul sends greeting to a Rufus in Rom.xvi.13.
They were not necessarily the same person; the name was common.
But even ,if they were, it is very probable that Rom.xvi was written not to Rome but to Ephesus, perhaps added to a copy of Rom.ixv sent to Rome [see pp.154 ff.].

Tradition afterwards placed St. Mark at Alexandria.
But the Gospel cannot have been written there (as stated in the subscriptions of the MSS. Y and 473), because, as Turner [J.T.S. x, 1916‑17, 916‑17, p.169.] says, 'Alexandrine Christianity, during more than a century and a half after Christ, stood almost completely aloof from the main current of Church life'.
The motive, no doubt, for the tradition was to suggest that Alexandria ought to stand to Rome as St. Mark had stood to St. Peter, as subordinate.


One of the chief merits of Streeter's work on the Four Gospels is its insistence on the fact that each of them must have had its original home in one of the great apostolic Churches, to which appeal was made against the Gnostic claim to a secret tradition.
The First Gospel is anonymous; and therefore its author must have been known, and it must have been read and honoured, in one of the great Churches, or it would not have become the favourite Gospel; it would not, indeed, have enjoyed any circulation at all.

The tradition, traceable to Irenaeus, who in turn was dependent upon the words of Papias, that the First Gospel was written for 'Hebrews', though its Aramaic origin cannot be maintained, points at least to the East as the place of its origin.
And there is evidence that it was largely used by Jewish Christians.
This makes Rome, Ephesus, or Alexandria impossible.
There are left Caesarea or some Church in Palestine, and Antioch.
With regard to the first, Streeter's reasoning (op. cit., PP. 502 f.) that 'the official Gospel of a Church which was the port of entry of Samaria was not very likely to have contained the command, "Enter not into any city of the Samaritans" ' is not very convincing.
And against any Church in Palestine he argues that the 'haggadic' use of Mark in Matthew shows that Mark must have been known in the Church where the latter was written 'long enough to have become an established authority ‑ a document which teachers and preachers expounded by methods familiar in the exposition of Scripture'.
But he does not make it clear why this would be impossible anywhere in Palestine.
The writer, however, seems to have lived at some place where the Christians were not in close touch with Jerusalem.
He apparently had no knowledge, or at least made no independent use, of the Hebrew Old Testament, and employs no distinctively Jerusalemite traditions.
Antioch, therefore, is the place which seems to satisfy the conditions best.
Streeter refers to Burkitt who points out that the use of the verb ἐπιφώσκειν, Matt. xxviii. 1, implies the Gentile mode of reckoning time and suggests Antioch.
And if' that was the place of writing, the use of the Gospel by Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, is explained (see PP. 33 f.).
Dr. G. D. Kilpatrick, however, thinks that Matthew was composed in some prosperous city in Syria, perhaps in one of the Phoenician sea‑ports. [The Origins of the Gospel according to St. Matthew 1946, pp.133 f.]


There was a tradition that St. Luke was a native of Antioch, as the 'Anti‑Marcionite' Prologue says, which is in keeping with the large part which Antioch plays in the narrative of the Acts.
[Found in the 'Monarchian Prologue' to the Gospel, and in Eus. H.E. iii.4, the tradition being carried on by Jerome (Praef. in Matt., De vir. ill. 7).
If Eus. was independent of the Prologues, as Harnack thinks, they go back to a very early common source.
Possibly, but not necessarily, the tradition is an inference from the reading of D at Acts xi.27: 'and when we were gathered together, one of them named Agabus, &c.'
If so, the evidence for the reading is greatly strengthened.]

[See Harnack, Luke the PIysician, pp.20‑24.]
But it does not follow that he wrote his Gospel there.
Streeter (op. cit., p.533) points out that 'no Church writer and no MS. "subscription" says that Luke wrote at Antioch'.
And he adds, 'the fact that the connexion of Peter with Antioch ‑ the proudest boast of that Church ‑is completely ignored is fatal to the theory of some modern scholars that the book was written in and for that Church'.
It may also be said that if Matthew was written at Antioch Luke was not.
The tone and language and general atmosphere are too different.
A large part of his sources was no doubt collected in Palestine; he had access, in particular, to Jerusalemite and Caesarean traditions.
But he wrote for the Gentile Theophilus and other readers who were unacquainted with Palestine, since topographical explanations are given of Nazareth (i.26), Bethlehem (ii.4), Capharnaum (iv.31), the country of the Gerasenes (viii.26), Arimathaea (xi.51), Emmaus (xxiv.13).

Moreover, the same Prologue places the writing of the Gospel in Achaea; and that is assumed by Gregory Naz. (Orat. xxi.11), and the tradition is reflected by Jerome (Praef. in Matt.).
But the latter also places the writing of the Acts in Rome, a conclusion which can be safely drawn from the contents of the book.
The Gospel and the Acts were not necessarily written in the same place; there was probably some interval between the two, during which St. Luke could have moved from Achaea to Rome.
There was, further, a tradition that he was buried at Thebes in Boeotia; this had been well accepted by the time of Constantine, who removed what he believed to be his bones to Constantinople.
None of the evidence is decisive, but if we are to indulge in conjecture, that of Streeter is as likely as any:

The name Theophilus in the Lucan Prefaces looks like a prudential pseudonym for some Roman of position - κράτιστε might be translated 'your Excellence'; and if Luke had a special connexion with some personage who, after a provincial governorship (perhaps of Achaea, resident at Corinth), subsequently returned to Rome, all the conditions would be satisfied.
But in that case a copy of the Gospel would have been brought to Rome by Luke himself so soon after it was written, that from the point of view of its circulation in the Church at large, it may practically be reckoned as a second Roman Gospel [op. Cit., pp.534 f.].

It is possible that a collection of Q and L material was addressed to Theophilus as the 'first account' (Acts i.1) and that Acts formed the second work addressed to Theophilus after a copy of Mark had come into Luke's hands (for Acts echoes passages of Mark not used in the Third Gospel) and that finally perhaps at Rome or perhaps still in Achaia, if one may credit the phrase found in the Anti‑Marcionite Prologue ἐντοῖς περὶ τὴν Ἀχαίαν τὸ πᾶν τοῦτο συνεγράψατο εὐαγγέλιον, Luke composed the 'whole Gospel' using Mark as his chronological framework, as the Q and L material was not provided with one.


Mark | Matthew | Luke | Top

The opinion, long universally held, that all the three synoptic Gospels were originally written in Greek has been controverted in modern times, partly in consequence of an ancient tradition about Matthew, and partly from internal evidence.
The question of the language of the Gospels as they stand must be carefully distinguished from that of their sources.
It is probable (see p. 88) that Lk. i, ii are a translation, or at least based upon a translation, from a Hebrew document; and perhaps the same must be said of Matt. i, ii.
Also that someone, perhaps St. Matthew the Apostle, made an Aramaic collection of logia, which was expanded into different Greek recensions, from two of which a portion of Matthew and Luke was derived.
And any oral tradition of our Lord's words and deeds handed down by His Palestinian contemporaries ultimately goes back to Aramaic, which was the vernacular of Palestine. But Matthew and Luke embody much of Mark in its Greek dress, not an Aramaic one; almost certainly therefore they were both written in Greek originally, even if they included translations of some Aramaic sayings.


There is no early tradition that the Second Gospel is a translation, but that is maintained by some modern scholars.
The treatment of the subject by Blass [Philology of the Gospels, ch.xi.]is not, indeed, convincing.
He thinks that the first part of the Acts was based on an Aramaic writing by St. Mark which formed a continuation of his Gospel, and therefore that the Aramaisms to be found there were St. Mark's Aramaisms. Hence 'if Mark's second part was written in Aramaic, then his first part, that is the Gospel, must have been originally written in the same language'.
As evidence that the Gospel was written in Aramaic he notes textual variations which suggest 'the idea that there existed a plurality of versions [or rather redactions] of a common Aramaic original, and that St. Luke "used another Mark`.
'Before writing his own Gospel he made a Greek redaction of that of Mark.'
'Another translation of Mark, or other translations, were made by other persons, and one version among these was that which eventually predominated, but the others have at least left their traces.'
But in no single case of variant readings does Blass try to show that one of the readings reveals an Aramaic original.
Variants can be accounted for in many other ways, and his conjectures cannot be said to have created the least probability of an original Aramaic Mark.

But a stronger case is made by linguistic arguments. Wellhausen points to the general Semitic colouring of style and syntax, a few only of his numerous instances being specifically Aramaic.
(He shows also that when Matthew and Luke differ, especially in words of our Lord, the difference can occasionally be explained by reference to the Aramaic which He spoke.)
[Einleitung in die drei ersten Evangelien, pp.14‑42.]
cites the frequent use of certain particles; καί= וְ, εὐθύς
טִיַד, πάλιν= תוּב, ὅτιrecit = דְ.
In syntax he refers to instances of asyndeton, to the frequent historic present corresponding to the Aramaic participle, and to the use of the participle with the verb 'to be' as a periphrasis for a verb in a past sense.
And he adduces some expressions, which seem to reflect Aramaic idioms. [Expositor, June 1900, and St. Mark pp.48‑50.]
The phenomena certainly point to Aramaic, but the question is whether they imply actual translation or only the work of a bilingual writer whose Greek was influenced by the fact that he habitually thought in Aramaic.
Allen and Wellhausen decide in favour of the former.
And the theory was supported by Torrey, who believed in the Aramaic origin of all the four Gospels (as well as of Acts i‑xv). [Harvard Theol. Rev., Oct. 1923.]

On the other hand, Allen's results are tested by Burney, who shows that the Aramaic colouring of Mark is not nearly as striking as that of John, and says rightly (p.19), 'What is needed to substantiate the theory of an Aramaic original for Mark is some cogent evidence of mis‑translation; and this has not yet been advanced'. [The Aramaic Origin of the Fourth Gospel.]

However, Torrey produced his Four Gospels in 1933, which like his Our Translated Gospels aimed at corroborating his theory and presenting evidence of such mis‑translations.
This evidence has been sifted and discussed by other Aramaic scholars, who have not been convinced by it in detail, such as
J. T. Hudson, ['The Aramaic Basis of St. Mark', Ex. T, May 1942, pp.264 ff.]
W. F. Howard, [Moulton's Grammar of New Testament Greek, ii, Appendix. J.T.S. xxxvi, 1935, pp.357 ff.] G. A. Barton,s Matthew Black, [An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts, 1946.]
and E. Littmann. [Zeitschr.f. d. neutest. Wiss. 34, 1935, pp.20‑34.] 
As Howard says, 'Mark's Greek is always Greek, yet translation Greek: not that he translates an Aramaic writing but because he reproduces an Aramaic κατήχησις᾽ (op. cit., p.481).
This is also the conclusion reached by M. Goguel. [Introduction au Nouveau Testament, i. 1923, pp.352‑6.]


That St. Matthew wrote for Hebrews in 'Hebrew' (i.e. Aramaic) [Cf. Dalman's Grammatik, 2nd ed., ? 1.] was a tradition which can be traced to Irenaeus.
See the passage quoted on p.28
, where the testimonies of Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome to the same effect are given.
To these may be added those of Cyril Jerus., Catech. xiv, 'Matthew who wrote the Gospel in the Hebrew tongue', and Epiphanius, Haer. II. i. 5 1, 'And this Matthew writes the Gospel in Hebrew [ἑβραΐκοῖς γράμμασι], and preaches, and begins not from the beginning but gives the genealogy from Abraham'.

Two causes seem to have created this tradition‑firstly the words of Papias, 'Matthew composed the logia in the Hebrew language' (See P. 4), and secondly the existence of apocryphal Gospels, current in Jewish‑Christian circles, which were closely related to Matthew (see p. 16 n.).
In particular the Gospel of the Nazarenes was written in Aramaic, and used by a JewishChristian sect in Beroea in Coele Syria. It was clearly based on our Gospel, but by Jerome and others it was identified with it.
Zahn, though he recognizes this, accepts the tradition, and believes that the First Gospel was originally written in Aramaic.
But he makes no attempt to support his theory linguistically, and in fact it cannot be done. [Introd. to the N.T. (trans. Trout), vol. ii, § 54.) 
An ancient translation from a document in another language always betrays itself in vocabulary and syntax.
Some of our Lord's words in Matthew and Luke, as has been said above, show traces of their Aramaic origin, but both Gospels as wholes are entirely free from Aramaisms.
The tradition reflected in Irenaeus and the others cannot compete with the fact that, apart from Old Testament quotations, Matthew is quite innocent of 'translation Greek'.
Nor can it compete with the fact that the writer transparently uses the Greek Mark.


St. Luke, a Hellenist, some even think a Gentile, cannot, probably, himself have written in a Semitic language, even if he could read it.
The probability of a Hebrew source for chs.i, ii is discussed on p.88, and of Aramaic sources for some, or the whole, of Acts i‑xv on pp.101‑3.
It is improbable that he translated them, but he incorporated translations, which he touched up, as usual, with his own distinctive style and vocabulary.
The remainder of the Gospel shows no sign of a Semitic origin, with two exceptions.
In some of our Lord's utterances from Q His original Aramaic can be detected behind the Greek.
And the LXX, itself a translation, was employed for Old Testament quotations, and deeply colours the whole work, giving it an archaic, Semitic tinge, which St. Luke no doubt thought more suitable than the artificial, rhetorical Greek of the period (which is found only in i.1‑4) for the narration of the Lord's words and deeds, which were as sacred as the Old Testament, and required a biblical style.


F. B. Clogg (1937), 937),
P. Feine (9th ed., 1950),
M. Goguel (1922‑6),
E. J. Goodspeed (1937),
R. Heard (1950),
K. Lake (1938),
J. Moffatt (3rd ed., 1918),
J. Wellhausen (2nd ed., 1911).


F. C. Burkitt, The Gospel History and its Transmission, 3rd ed., 1911.  
A. von Harnack, Luke the Physician, 1907.
Sir E. C. Hoskyns and N. Davey, The Riddle of the New Testament, 1931.
T. W. Manson, The Sayings of Jesus 1949.
V. H. Stanton, The Gospels as Historical Documents, 1903‑20.
B. H. Streeter, The Four Gospels, 1924.
V. Taylor, Behind the Third Gospel, 1926.



W. C. Allen (1907),
G. H. Box (1922),
F. W. Green (1936),
A. H. McNeile )1915),
P. A. Micklem (1917),
A. Plummer (1909), 
B. T. D. Smith (1927).


W. C. Allen (1915),
A. W. F. Blunt (1929),
B. H. Branscomb (1937),
E. Klostermann (3rd ed., 1936),
M. J. Lagrange (1947),
E. Lohmeyer (1937), 937),
E. J. Rawlinson (1925), 925),
H. B. Swete (1902), 
V. Taylor (1952),
J. Wellhausen (i (909).


W. F. Adeney (.2nd ed., 1922),
H. Balmforth (1930), 930),
J. M. Creed (1930),
A.S. Easton (1926),
B.W. Manson (1930),
C.A. Plummer (1896),
D.L. Ragg (1922),
E.J. Wellhausen (1904).

Synoptic Gospels:

A. Loisy (1907‑8),
C. G. Montefiore (1927).