Who wrote the gospels? Did Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the apostles currently ascribed to them, really write these books, or were they merely written by anonymous scribes using apostolic pseudonyms many decades after Jesus?
The first thing we notice about the synoptic gospels Matthew, Mark and Luke is how identical they are -- they share most of the same stories about Jesus, the same dialogue (almost verbatim at times), and a very similar narrative structure. So what external source references, if any, did the gospel writers use, or did they just copy each other? This is more of a brief introductory to the synoptic problem. A more extensive discussion is "The Q Conundrum" below.
Gospel Within a Gospel
Due to the duplicated traditions in each gospel, scholars have argued for centuries in favor of textual-dependency -- specifically, that the writers of Matthew and Luke used the gospel of Mark as a source reference. Was Mark really the earliest gospel used as a source? Just how reliable is the popular textual-dependency theory itself, and is there another simpler solution for these duplicated traditions?
The Q Conundrum
In "The Genesis" we established that the canon gospels were written no later than the first century. The consensus is anywhere between 70-100 CE for all four. Nonetheless, the pre-70/post-70 CE gospel date debate rages on to this day between scholars, whether they were written before or after 70 CE. So just when were the gospels written exactly, how can we know this, and why does it matter?
Post-70 CE View:
7 Key Points
Pre-70 CE View (six part series):
Can we trust that the stories in the gospels are historically accurate and reliable? Or did the traditions of Jesus start out primitive and simple, only to become altered via oral and written transmission as the church gradually evolved and developed over time into exaggerated legend with complex theological beliefs being added more and more as the traditions flowed through fluid communities before they even found their way into the written gospels? In other words, instead of the church evolving around the traditions of Jesus, did the traditions evolve around the church and how it developed? And is there any way we can possibly know this?