Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Ned B. Stonehouse on the Authorship and Anonymity of the Canonical Gospels

Image: Ned B. Stonehouse (1902-1962).

An interesting point is made by Ned B. Stonehouse in the opening of chapter two (“The Self-Witness of Matthew”) in his Origins of the Synoptic Gospels (Tyndale Press, 1963) relating to the self-disclosure of the canonical Gospel authors (19 ff).

He notes that the canonical Gospels are technically “anonymous writings” in that the authors never directly self-identify. In this regard he makes a distinction between Matthew and Mark, on one hand, and Luke and John on the other, with the latter at least including some “features of self-disclosure” (cf. Luke’s historical prologue, Luke 1:1-4, the “we passages” in Acts, and passages in John like John 13:23 ff; 19:26 ff, 35; 20:2 ff).

He contrasts this with the apocryphal Gospel of Peter which includes this statement, “But I, Simon Peter, and Andrew my brother, took our nets and went out into the sea….” One does not find Matthew or the other Gospel writers speaking in the first person about themselves quite like this. The sense is that the canonical Gospel authors did not feel compelled to “prove” or “show” that they were eyewitnesses (at least in the case of Matthew and John), in the way that the pseudonymous author of the Gospel of Peter did, and this, in fact, subtly supports the traditional view of their authorship.


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