Yesterday I dealt with the issue of anonymous writings in antiquity, what we know about them in general.  Today I deal directly with the question about why the Gospels of the New Testament were all written anonymously, with the authors giving us no indication of who they were.  I have a theory about that, a theory that I’ve never heard or seen before.   Here is how I lay it out in my trade book Forged.


It is always interesting to ask why an author chose to remain anonymous, never more so than with the Gospels of the New Testament.  In some instances an ancient author did not need to name himself because his readers knew perfectly well who he was and did not need to be told.  That is almost certainly the case with the letters of 1, 2, and 3 John.  These are private letters sent from someone who calls himself “the elder” to a church in another location.  It is safe to assume that the recipients of the letters knew who he was.

Some people have thought that the Gospels were like that: books written by leading persons in particular congregations who did not need to identify themselves because everyone knew who they were.  But then as the books were copied and circulated, names were still not attached to them.  As a result the identities of the authors were soon lost.  Then later readers, rightly or wrongly, associated the books with two of the disciples (Matthew and John) and with two companions of the apostles (Mark the companion of Peter and Luke the companion of Paul).

Another option is …

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