Internal Evidence for the Gospels of Matthew and Mark

The Gospel of Matthew

The intention of this blog is to provide evidence in support of the authors of two Gospels: Matthew and Mark. Internal evidence in the book of Matthew supports the claim the author is Matthew the tax collector, Jesus’ apostle. All three Synoptic Gospels feature the event in which Jesus called Matthew the tax collector to become one of His apostles and the dinner that Matthew threw with Jesus and the disciples, other tax collectors, and sinners.[1] Matthew and Mark referred to the event as a “dinner” with “many” guests, while Luke referred to the event as a “great banquet” with a “large crowd.” One implication is Matthew had accumulated some wealth to afford such a feast, while a second is that Matthew (and Mark) perhaps played down the event as a dinner rather than great banquet in a move of humility.

Matthew referred to the tax collector as Matthew, while Luke and Mark referred to him as Levi. Matthew was at his tax collector’s booth when Jesus said, “Follow me.”[2]

Matthew also offered the Temple Tax event where the Pharisees confronted Peter, asking him whether his teacher pays the Temple Tax. The two-drachma tax was collected to cover the upkeep of the Temple. Jesus responded by asking His disciples “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes – from their own children or from others?” When Peter answered “others,” Jesus said the children were exempt. He then instructed Peter to throw a line into a lake. The first fish he caught would have a four-drachma coin in its mouth, which he could use to pay for his taxes and Jesus.’[3] It seems fitting that only the tax collector would feel this story deserved inclusion.

In the Parable of the Two Sons,[4] Jesus shared a story of a man with two sons to the Pharisees. The father asked both to work in his vineyard, but they both refused. Later the first one changed his mind and went to work. Similarly, the way of righteousness was shown to the Pharisees, tax collectors, and prostitutes, yet only the tax collectors and prostitutes believed. Therefore, Jesus told them that the prostitutes and tax collectors would be entering the kingdom of God ahead of the Pharisees. This Parable is unique to the Gospel of Matthew.

The Pharisees also attempted to trick Jesus when they asked Him, “Tell us then, what is your opinion, is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” Jesus asked them for the coin that was used to pay the tax. When they presented Him a denarius, He asked, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” When they responded the image was of Caesar, Jesus replied, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God.” This amazed the Pharisees. Matthew and Luke are the only Gospels to record this passage.[5]

Given Matthew’s position as a tax collector and inclusion of two unique and four events related to tax collectors, one could make the assertion we have internal evidence supporting his authorship of the Gospel.[6] Furthermore, the early church fathers and Christians, such as Eusebius, Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus of Lyons, and Justin Martyr, Origen of Alexandria, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian, supported the Gospels’ named authors. We have exactly zero ancient sources who attribute the four Gospels than to anyone other than the four named authors.

The Book of Mark

The Gospel of Mark has been multiply attributed to John Mark, who was a companion of Paul and Barnabbas and considered as a son by Peter. In Acts 12-15, Luke shared the story of John Mark with us. He is introduced as John (his Jewish name), also called Mark, who lived in the home of his mom Mary. When God miraculously rescued Peter from prison, Peter went to Mary’s house, which is where many people had been praying for Peter’s liberation and John Mark was present. John Mark then traveled with Paul and Barnabbas to Paphos, where they encountered opposition from Elymas the sorcerer. Paul called Elymas out for being a deceitful child of the devil and God blinded Elymas for a time. John Mark then left Saul and Barnabas in a rather cowardly manner and returned to his mom’s house in Jerusalem. It is likely that John Mark was mentored by Peter after this event had happened, since Peter came to know John Mark as a son.[7]

A while later, Barnabbas (who was a cousin of John Mark) wanted to add John Mark to his travels with Paul, yet Paul vehemently disagreed to such an extent that they split up.  Barnabbas traveled with John Mark to Cypress, while Paul went with Silas to Syria and Cilicia.

Did John Mark ever redeem himself in the eyes of Paul? Years later while writing under house arrest in Rome to the Colossians, Paul referred to Mark. He said, “You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him. Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me.”[8] Paul further referred to Luke, the doctor, as a dear friend. Luke, the author of the Gospel and Luke, had traveled with Paul (as cross-referenced when he referred to himself in the first person, starting in Acts 16). In Paul’s last letter, written to the owner of the slave Onesimus who had escaped from Philemon, Paul referred to Mark as one of his fellow workers.[9] Mark is credited for writing the Gospel according to Mark.

In conclusion, let’s let the authors speak for themselves in support of their authenticity or relationships to Jesus’ eyewitnesses and apostles.

[1] Matthew 9:10-12; Mark 2:15-17

[2] Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27-32

[3] Matthew 17:24-27

[4] Matthew 21:28-32

[5] Matthew 22:15-22; Luke 20:20-26

[6] Luke also referenced the story of a tax collector called Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10.

[7] 1 Peter 13

[8] Colossians 4:10-12

[9] Philemon 24

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