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Are the Gospels Anonymous?

It is commonplace today to state that the four Gospels are technically anonymous since the author is not named in the text. I have made this statement myself.

Thus, the question of authorship is unclear. This statement from a recent commentary is typical:

“The Gospel does not explicitly name its author, and so it is necessary to engage in guesswork based upon evidence from the Gospel itself and from early Christian tradition.”

But is this actually true? Why should we be left to guesswork if all of the oldest manuscripts we have contain titles explicitly stating the authors? It is striking, in the typical comment just quoted, that these titles don’t even merit a mention. We are told that the titles are a later addition, but is this more than guesswork itself? I don’t see how we can know the titles are not original if they consistently are included in the manuscripts we have. One can choose to disregard the titles and to argue against their authenticity, but the documents are not anonymous. They have names attached. And, these titles, then, are significant, early witnesses.

I am not saying the case is scientifically proven, but that the evidence is actually clearer and stronger than typically stated. And, I do assert that “anonymous” is technically incorrect in reference to the Gospels. It is striking how easily these titles are dismissed and our conjectures are affirmed.

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