In my previous post I argued that sometime in the second half of the second century, an edition of the four Gospels was compiled by an unknown editor/scribe, and place in circulation in Rome, in which the texts were identified, definitively and possibly for the first time, as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Now the question is: why did these names come to be chosen?
This is a complicated question, and the answer is neither straightforward nor easy. But I can state its broad contours simply: for two of the authors, Matthew and Mark, there were much older traditions indicating that they had written Gospels, and the editor of the Roman edition of the four Gospels latched onto these traditions and assigned two of his Gospels to them; and for the other two Gospels, the unknown Roman editor used internal hints within Luke and John themselves to derive the names of their authors.
First I’ll deal with Matthew and Mark, beginning with this post.
The old traditions that Matthew the tax collector and Mark the “interpreter” or “translator” of Peter – his personal scribe – had written Gospels can be traced back to the writings of Papias, who produced an important work about half a century before my hypothesized Roman edition of the Gospels would have appeared; Papias was well known among early proto-orthodox writers. To make sense of what he has to say about Matthew and Mark (not our Gospels, but the men Matthew and Mark themselves), I need first to provide some background on who Papias was and when he was writing and so on.
We do not any longer have…
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