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The Historicity of the Gospels
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Jesus Emerges from the Historical-Critical Fog
Sunday - October 15, 2017 8:21 pm     Article Hits:3165     A+ | a-
As published in the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly • Fall / Winter 2017
(Introduction added)
by Jerome D. Gilmartin
Author of The 7-Step Reason to Be Catholic, 2nd Edition:
Science, the Bible and History Point to Catholicism
From the time the Gospels were written in the decades after Christ’s death on the cross and Resurrection, few Christians doubted that eyewitness-apostles Matthew and John, and “apostolic men” Mark (Peter) and Luke (Paul), wrote them. In the late 1800s, however, soon after the First Vatican Council declared the Dogma of Papal Infallibility, biblical scholars using the historical-critical method developed the Markan Priority Two-Source Hypothesis (TSH). Virtually ignoring the early historical record, the TSH casts doubt on evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke as writers of those Gospels and generally attributes them to later unknown writers who never heard Jesus.
The TSH — with doubt also cast on the apostle John as writer of the last Gospel — has been the dominant hypothesis taught in all but a few Catholic colleges, universities and seminaries for the past 50 years, the effects of which are everywhere apparent. After 40 years of such dominance Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “intimate friendship with Jesus . . . is in danger of clutching at thin air.”  

The good news is that the dark night of TSH dominance is over. As this essay makes clear, professors in Catholic and other centers of higher learning now have the Matthean Priority Two-Gospel Hypothesis (TGH), a scholarly, peer-recognized, Gospel-affirming historical-critical hypothesis. Now coupled with the Gospel Semitism scholarship called for by Pope Pius XII in Divino Afflante Spiritu the TGH is, by any objective measure, far more credible than the speculation-based TSH. Jesus is “thin air” no more.
“Dear Professor,” also posted on this web page, includes a 13-point refutation of the TSH. Religious Studies students may wish to use this or a similar email message to respectfully request classroom discussion of the merits of the TGH vs. the TSH.

Catholic Religious Studies 101
Welcome to this Catholic university and to Religious Studies 101—The Gospels. I know that many in this class have been taught that the Gospels were written by apostles who were eyewitnesses (Matthew and John) and by Mark (Peter) and Luke (Paul). But most biblical scholars to­day say that they are not sure who wrote these Gospels. They may tell us that there are historical indications that Mark wrote what he heard Peter preach, but they usually claim that evidence within the Gos­pel calls that into question.1 Whoever Mark may have been, these scholars tend to believe that Mark was the first Gospel written. Matthew, whoever he was, prob­ably wrote next, using Mark as a source. Luke, whoever he was, wrote next, using both of the previous Gospels as well as other sources. In addition to these Gospels, the scholars say that there is one more source to which we can look in our search for the historical Jesus. It is called ‘Q,’ a hypothetical document that has never been found but one that is supposed to be a list of sayings of Jesus. Later this semester we’ll consider The Gospel ac­cording to John, about which the scholars tell us that it was probably not written by John the apostle.”2
“But professor, didn’t the apostle Matthew write his Gospel in the Hebrew dialect before leaving Jerusa­lem?” “Maybe,” the professor replies, “but biblical scholars believe that whoever wrote the only text of Matthew we have, the canonical Greek Matthew, probably used Mark as a source. The apostle Matthew would not have need­ed a source. For this and other reasons scholars believe Matthew was written later, anonymously. These four Gospels are part of the biblical canon, and the Church calls upon all Catholics to accept them on faith. In this class, however, we will study them not from the stand­point of faith, but primarily using the historical-critical method; specifically, we will use the Markan priority Two-Source Hypothesis.”
The Unwarranted Dominance of Markan Priority and the Two-Source Hypothesis
Are the canonical Gospels historically authentic? If so, why do great numbers of college students lose their faith in the biblical Jesus? To answer this question, it may be helpful to consider certain points in the history of biblical interpretation.
Although earlier scholars had long studied textual similarities among the four Gospels and tried in various way to explain the texts that we have, few Christians before the mid-nineteenth century doubted that the Gospels were four independently written accounts of the extraordinary life and ministry of Jesus Christ, writ­ten by eyewitness-apostles like Matthew and John and by “apostolic men” like Mark (Peter) and Luke (Paul).
By the late nineteenth century, however, soon after the proclamation of papal infallibility in 1870, Protes­tant scripture scholars began to scrutinize the first three synoptic Gospels using the historical-critical method initiated by Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677). In 1943 Pope Pius XII gave Catholic scholars permission to use this method.3 Since then many hypotheses have been pro­posed to account for the numerous instances in which identical or similar wording is found in two of the syn­optic Gospels and sometimes in all three.
Despite serious unresolved difficulties, Markan pri­ority—the theory that Mark wrote the first of the three synoptic Gospels and that both Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source—is taught in most colleges and universities today. To account for non-Markan content in Matthew and Luke, most such scholars posit a second source, a hypothetical collection of the sayings of Jesus called “Q” (German: Quelle, source). But postulating the existence of Q is problematic for several reasons: (a) Some scholars posit relatively few Q sayings while oth­ers posit many. Further (b), as Brant Pitre points out, no Q manuscript has ever been found, (c) no early Church Father ever refers to it, and (d) the idea is fraught with internal problems.4
Numerous examples of the same or some similar text in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark indicates that one used the other as a source. Scholars differ on which of them wrote first. In defense of their hypothesis that “Mark wrote first,” proponents of the hypotheses of Markan priority and of two sources (Mark + Q) ask: “Why would the apostle Matthew—certainly literate as a former tax collector and an eyewitness to almost ev­erything Jesus said and did as Peter was—need to have copied or paraphrased Mark’s account of what Peter preached?” The answer, according to many Markan priority proponents, is that Matthew would not have needed to do so. Therefore, according to this hypoth­esis, Matthew’s Gospel was probably written not by the apostle Matthew but by some unknown later writer who did need to do so. Further, these scholars hold as historically doubtful anything in Matthew that is not in Mark and most importantly the notion that Jesus was initiating Petrine primacy in the one Church he was founding: “Thou art Peter and upon this Rock…” (Mt 16:18-19). They regard as problematic the verses that affirm the words of Jesus about this (“One flock…One Shepherd” [Jn 10:16]), just as 500 years later many of our Christian brethren who separated from the Catho­lic Church by the Reformation find them problematic. Attempts to increase the credibility of non-Markan verses in Matthew and Luke by attributing them to Q are unhelpful to resolve such issues, for (as these schol­ars acknowledge), Q is hypothetical.
In Dei Verbum and the Synoptic Gospels, Bernard Orchard, O.S.B., a twentieth-century scripture scholar, provided a sharp critique of the idea of Markan prior­ity. He lists thirty books dealing with the weaknesses of Markan Two-Source Hypotheses.5 And Brant Pitre, a contemporary biblical scholar, pointed out in 2016:
Finally, there are so many internal problems with the [Markan priority] Two-Source Theory that E. P. Sand­ers and Margaret Davies once concluded: “Of all the solutions, this one [the Two-Source theory], which re­mains the dominant hypothesis, is least satisfactory.”6,7
In view of the resolute refusal of most scholars to reject or even question the idea of Markan Two-Source priority despite the many unresolved difficulties, David L. Dungan referred to it as the Teflon[®] hypothesis.8 The Two-Source Hypothesis is now considered the best working hypothesis in Protestant academia. Craig Evans, among its best-known Protestant proponents, did not attempt to identify the writers of the synoptic Gospels, but at least he did not rule out the possibility that Mark may have been written before the year 70. 9
The Dominance of the Markan Priority Hypothesis in most Catholic Centers of Higher Learning
The doubt-inducing anonymous Gospel variant of the Markan priority Two-Source Hypoth­esis (TSH/AG) was introduced into Catholic centers of higher learning soon after the Second Vatican Council ended in 1965 by the Sulpician priest Ray­mond E. Brown, S.S. (1928-1998) through his many books and lectures. Brown specifically cast doubt on the possibility that the apostle Matthew10 (and apostle John11) wrote a Gospel, cast doubt on Mark as the hear­er and writer of what Peter preached,12 and cast doubt on Luke as the close companion of Paul and writer of Acts and the Gospel that bears his name.13
In 1912 the Pontifical Biblical Commission had given Catholic scholars permission to discuss the Mar­kan priority Two-Source Hypothesis in the context of Church Tradition, but it forbade them to advocate this hypothesis. By that point Protestant biblical scholars had favored it for decades. In 1943, in Divino afflante spiritu, Pope Pius XII granted Catholic biblical scholars that long-awaited permission to employ the historical-critical method, but he stipulated that in that endeavor the scholar must study not only Greek but also Hebrew and must “diligently apply himself so as to acquire daily a greater facility in biblical as well as in other oriental languages.”14
The Pontifical Biblical Commission also encour­aged the study of Semitic languages like Hebrew and Aramaic in their 1993 document “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church” when they wrote: “[T]he study of…the Semitic mode of composition allows for a better discernment of the literary structure of texts, which can only lead to a more adequate understanding of their message.”15
Despite the requirement of Pope Pius XII and the encouragement of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, many Catholic exegetes have proceeded primarily from the Greek, with only passing reference (if any) to Hebrew and Aramaic and have generally affirmed TSH/AG, thereby casting doubt on everything in the synoptic Gospels.
Pope Pius XII would have been astonished to read what Brown wrote in 1985:
no one of the evangelists was an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus. Rather the evangelists were ‘second generation’ Christians.16
Brown also discredits the statement on the question by such Church Fathers as Papias, Irenaeus, Origen, Augustine, and Jerome:
[B]ut unless those writers [Church Fathers] had his­torical information they cannot answer historical questions.17
Brown was the author of twenty-five books, many of them promoting the doubt-inducing TSH/AG. His 878-page Introduction to the New Testament was published in 1997, the year before his untimely death. He had served on the Pontifical Biblical Commission under Pope Paul VI (1972—1978) and was again appointed to that body in 1996, two years prior to his death, by Pope John Paul II. And yet as early as 1975, Brown cast doubt on the primacy of Peter:

we [members of the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue] did come to significant agreement that much of what is peculiar to Matthew in that Caesarea Philip­pi scene [“Thou art Peter and upon this Rock I will build my Church…”?] is probably post-resurrection­al in origin.18
But there are scholars who come to other conclu­sions. In The Birth of the Synoptic Gospels (1987), the French Hebraist Abbé Jean Carmignac presented com­pelling evidence that the canonical Greek Gospels Mat­thew and Mark, and some of the sources of Luke, were translations from a Semitic language, probably Hebrew but possibly Aramaic. The is the sort of evidence that was called for in Divino afflante spiritu and by the Pontifical Biblical Commission when they insisted on a Semitic-based study. In An Introduction to the New Testament Brown mentions “J. Carmignac” in a footnote, thereby indicating that he was aware that Carmignac’s conclusions strongly indicated an early Semitic origin for Matthew, Mark, and some of the sources of Luke, almost certainly within the lifetime of those Gospel writers, and thus making it al­most certain that they were written personally by those evangelists. However, rather than attempting directly to refute the evidence for such early Semitic origin—which would discredit Markan priority in favor of Matthean priority—Brown arbitrarily differentiated between the apostle-eyewitness Matthew and, in his view, the later unknown “Matt” whom Brown asserts wrote the Gospel according to Matthew:

Whether somewhere in the history of Matt’s sources something written in Semitic by Matthew, one of the Twelve, played a role we cannot know. (emphasis added)19
Ignoring the many Semitisms evident in Matthew, Mark, and the sources used by Luke enabled Brown and other exegetes to assign a late date for these Gospels and to assert that they are anonymous, thereby casting serious doubt on their historical authenticity.20
In An Introduction to the New Testament,21 Brown attempts to cast doubt on the notion of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke as eyewitness accounts by claiming that the discrepancies within these Gospels are not consistent with an eyewitness origin. [My responses to his questions are within brackets]. For example:

How could eyewitness John (chap. 2) report the cleansing of the Temple at the beginning of the min­istry and eyewitness Matthew (chap. 21) report the cleansing of the Temple at the end of the ministry? [Both Matthew and Mark report such a cleansing late in Jesus’s ministry. Could not Jesus also have done this early, as John reported? With Jesus doing “more things than the books of the world could contain” (Jn 21:25), can we not excuse these three evangelists for noting only one such cleansing, though there may have been two?] 
Since Matt has a Sermon on the Mount and Luke has a similar Sermon on the Plain (Matt 5:1; Luke 6:17), there must have been a plain on the side of the mountain. [In his three-year ministry, is it improbable that Jesus gave similar sermons on a mountain and on a plain?]
Since Matt has the Lord’s Prayer taught in that sermon and Luke has it later on the road to Jerusalem (Matt 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4), the disciples must have forgotten it, causing Jesus to repeat it. [Again, is repetition of this important prayer by Jesus improbable?]
Mark 10:46 places the healing of the blind man after Jesus left Jericho, while Luke (18:35; 19:1) places it before Jesus entered Jericho. [Here Mark seems to have copied Luke’s second-hand account almost verbatim. Peter, as an eyewitness, may have corrected Mark’s account while noting that the miracle occurred as Jesus and the twelve were leaving Jericho and add­ing the beggar’s name, Bartimaeus, of which Luke was apparently unaware. If Mark was written first, as Brown believed, and Luke copied from Mark, why did Luke omit the name of the beggar while including, for example, the names Joanna and Susanna in another passage? (Lk 8:3)]
In fairness to Fr. Brown, the reader will do well to con­sult his book An Introduction to the New Testament for his full defense of assumptions that are foundational to the TSH/AG as he promoted it in his books and lectures.
Friendship with Jesus Is Now “Like Clutching at Thin Air” and Faith Is “Driven out of Catholic Campuses”
In 2002, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger noted that the Two-Source theory, that is, the Markan prior­ity Two-Source Hypothesis, is accepted today by almost everyone.”22 Four years later, as Pope Benedict XVI, he wrote with deep concern:
As historical-critical scholarship advanced…the figure of Jesus—became increasingly obscured and blurred.…All these attempts have produced a com­mon result: the impression that we have very little certain knowledge of Jesus and that only at a late stage did faith in his divinity shape the image we have of him. This impression has by now penetrated deeply into the minds of Christian people at large. Intimate friendship with Jesus, on which everything depends, is in danger of clutching at thin air.23
Is it coincidental that it was the doubt-inducing TSH/ AG that has been taught as the best working hypothesis in most Catholic colleges and universities since soon after the close of The Second Vatican Council in 1965?
As if to emphasize (then) Pope Benedict’s point, Wolfgang Grassl wrote in his 2014 essay “How can we save Catholic Higher Education?”:
Faith has been, and continues to be, driven out of Catholic campuses.…The few remaining [Catholic faculty members] are becoming lonely, increasingly isolated from the centers of influence, and sometimes even embattled.…God has largely been driven out of the academic enterprise.…[T]oo many Catholic uni­versities are now Catholic in name only.24
I have no data on the extent to which Catholic clergy leave their parishioners “clutching at thin air” in regard to Jesus. I can only hope that few Markan priority pro­ponents are as candid with their parishioners as a former pastor of mine was with me. As I sat in his office a few decades ago, I must have said something about Pope John Paul II. I wasn’t prepared for his response: “The Pope may be Bishop of Rome, Jerry, but he has no author­ity outside Rome. There is no biblical basis for it.” “But Father,” I objected, “don’t we read in the Bible, ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church?’” “Yes, Jerry, that’s in Matthew,” he said, “but those words giv­ing Peter primacy are not in Mark’s account of the same scene at Caesarea Philippi. So we have good reason to doubt that Jesus gave Peter primacy.”
Here is an excerpt from a message I received recently from a Catholic priest taught by Fr. Brown:

Dear Jerome,
I was taught the Historical-Critical Method in the seminary in the 1970’s…[by] Fr. Raymond Brown. [H]e saw toward the end of his life how this method could destroy Catholic Faith in people rather than build it up. I saw seminarians lose their faith in my class when exposed to the unbridled use of this meth­od. Many were converted by this method to hetero­dox teachings or beliefs. Others lost their faith and left the seminary. For me, and by God’s grace, some­where someone indicated that even if the Scriptures were not written by eye-witnesses to Christ, the oral tradition certainly came from them [and] it was the Risen Lord inspiring the written text and so Christ, the Risen Lord was completely active in this process. But it would be easy to be manipulated by the HCM to abandon the Catholic Faith in favor of some Ecu­menical Church with loose doctrines or dogmas. The HCM calls into question not only the infancy narra­tives but also the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Virgin Conception and birth, not to mention miracles of Christ and his physical death and resurrection. It really opens old heresies already resolved by the Church. And Catholic exegetes who use this method simply make the same mistakes of liberal protestant scripture scholars of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s which radicalized many believing Protestants and pushed them to fundamentalism and literalism that actually began to be institutionalized in the 1920’s.… The Fathers of the Church can never be left out of the equation!
This good priest does not mention which doubt-in­ducing historical-critical hypothesis Brown was teach­ing in the 1970s when this priest was a seminarian. It may or may not have been based on what Brown wrote the following decade while advocating the TSH/AG: “no one of the evangelists was an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus. Rather the evangelists were ‘second generation’ Christians.”25 Clearly the TSH/AG—pur­sued essentially without the Semitism study called for by Pope Pius XII and the Pontifical Biblical Com­mission—has been a faith-undermining force in our seminaries, our colleges, our parishes and, indirectly, in virtually every Catholic home.
Writing as Pope Benedict, Ratzinger faulted the Markan priority Two-Source Hypothesis but still sup­ported the validity of historical-critical exegesis. As an alternative to the TSH, however, he encouraged “ca­nonical exegesis”:

‘Canonical exegesis’—reading the individual texts of the Bible in the context of the whole—is an essential dimension of exegesis. It does not contradict histori­cal-critical interpretation, but carries it forward in an organic way toward becoming heology in the proper sense.26
Surely many Catholic scholars who now teach the TSH/AG view that Matthew, Mark, and Luke are prob­ably anonymous, and therefore subject to doubt, would welcome canonical exegesis. Doing so would allow them to teach with confidence the historical reality of Christ and his biblical teachings in the context of the whole Bible. Sadly, the TSH/AG arguments that the synoptic Gospels are of anonymous, second generation origin remain prominent. Until they are refuted, faithful Catholic educators may find it difficult to accept ca­nonical exegesis. As an alternative to the TSH/AG, the Matthean priority Two-Gospel Hypothesis (TGH) is faith-affirming, consistent with Catholic teaching, and lends itself well to canonical exegesis.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church—the “sure norm for teaching the faith,” as expressed by Pope John Paul II, states:

[T]he Gospel was handed on in two ways: “orally ‘by the apostles…’” [and] “in writing ‘by those apostles and other men associated with the apostles who, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing.’”27
The Vatican II document Dei Verbum at §19 affirms what the Church has always held when it states:
Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute constancy maintained and continues to maintain, that the four Gospels just named, whose historicity she un­hesitatingly affirms, faithfully hand on what Jesus, the Son of God, while he lived among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation, until the day he was taken up (Acts 1:1-2).…Whether they relied on their own memory and recollections or on the testimony of those who “from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word,” their purpose in writing was that we might know the “truth” concerning the things of which we have been informed (cf. Lk 1:2-4).
In full accord with the Catechism and Dei Verbum, some young Catholics have been taught that the four Gospels really do faithfully hand on what Jesus, the Son of God, taught for our eternal salvation. Catholic An­swers, EWTN, and many other fine organizations and individual Catholics have embraced the New Evan­gelization endeavor. But many Catholic colleges and universities undermine that endeavor and severely test (if not actually shatter) the faith of students by casting doubt on the Gospels with the TSH/AG, for it is taught as the “best working hypothesis.”
Matthean Priority—The Faith- Affirming Two-Gospel Hypothesis
In contrast to the idea of Markan priority, the no­tion of Matthean priority posits that the Gospel according to Matthew was the first Gospel to have been written. Among Matthean priority proponents, some have posited the sequence Matthew, Mark, Luke; other more recent scholars Matthew, Luke, Mark. In this latter view the physician Luke, an associate of Paul, wrote the second Gospel, using Matthew as one of his sources. Mark, last of the three, used two Gospels, Mat­thew and Luke (thus the name of this hypothesis) as sources in addition to the preaching of Peter and other sources that Mark may have had. In contrast to the Markan priority Two-Source Hypothesis, the Matthean priority TGH does not posit Q or any source of sayings of Jesus that has been postulated but never found. It is consistent with the view of the early Church that Mat­thew was the first Gospel written. This Matthew, Luke, Mark sequence is also consistent with the commentary of Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-215): “[T]he Gos­pels containing the genealogies were written first.”28 The TGH is a further development of the Griesbach Hypothesis that was introduced in its current form by William R. Farmer in 1964. In “The Present State of the Synoptic Problem,” after an analysis of five scholarly books, Farmer wrote:
[T]here appears to be no longer any theoretical ba­sis for the existence of ‘Q,’ and it appears that the old Streeterian [cf. B. F. Streeter] reasons for belief in Markan priority are no longer regarded as valid. None the less, most scholars continue to use the Two-Source Hypothesis as the “best working hy­pothesis.” The reasons given for this vary. But the most recurring one is that all major alternatives ap­pear to be fraught with even greater difficulties than those associated with the Two-Source Hypothesis. Among these difficulties the only one which appears to be so serious as to block a shift away from the Two-Source Hypothesis in the direction of its major rival, the Two-Gos­pel Hypothesis, is the difficulty in imagining how one can explain the omissions Mark has made from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke on the assumption that the author of Mark has derived his Gospel largely from those two earlier Gospels (emphasis added).29
Why would Mark, having Matthew and Luke at hand, have omitted important teachings of Christ found in those Gospels? Let me offer a few thoughts that may overcome the block to acceptance of the TGH:

(1) Peter’s prudence in what he preached in Rome, with the agents of Claudius (41-54) and Nero (54-68) listening to his every word. In the pericope about Cae­sarea Philippi in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says to his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answers, “You are the Christ,” and Jesus gives him primacy among the apostles and in the Church he is founding: “Thou art Peter and upon this rock…I will give you the keys…whatever you bind…whatever you loose…” (Mt 16:13-19). The absence in Mark’s Gospel of these words of Jesus that give Peter primacy (Mk 8:27-30) would be consistent with Peter’s prudence in not in­cluding them in his preaching in Rome, with Nero’s officials listening and alert to anything that might threaten Rome’s authority.
But how, scholars ask, could Peter have failed to preach the Lord’s Prayer, which was at the heart of Jesus’s teaching? Surely Peter wanted to teach the Lord’s Prayer to his followers in Rome. But, with the Emper­or’s agents ready to pounce, did Peter prudently delay teaching that perfect prayer—too long as it turned out—knowing that to preach “Thy kingdom come [a rival kingdom!]; Thy will be done…” [not that of Claudius/ Nero!]; “Deliver us…” [overthrow Claudius/Nero!] could well have brought an immediate end to his min­istry—and his life? Mark first uses the word “kingdom” in his first chapter, possibly during Peter’s pre-Rome preaching: “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk 1:15). Mark quotes Peter using the word “kingdom” seven­teen more times in his preaching, but always in a way unlikely to prompt the Emperor’s officials to arrested him. Both Matthew (19:28) and Luke (22:29-30) relate the promise of Jesus that Peter and the other apostles would sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Silence in Mark on this matter is another example of Peter’s prudence in what he preached with the Emperor’s officials listening.
(2) If Peter’s ministry in Rome had not ended abruptly with imprisonment and martyrdom under Nero about A.D. 67, he would have preached a more complete Gospel. According to St. Clement of Alex­andria (c. 150-215), Peter was still living and approved Mark’s Gospel before Mark promulgated it. Peter may have given that approval to Mark after Peter was ar­rested and during his brief imprisonment before being martyred by Nero.30 In any event, Peter’s arrest would have cut short his preaching before he had time to preach a more complete Gospel.
Farmer suggests that the key difficulty preventing exegetes from accepting the TGH as the best solution to the synoptic problem is Mark’s failure to include in his Gospel important teachings of Jesus that Mark would have seen in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Clearly all such omissions, even of the Lord’s Prayer, can be explained by Peter’s prudence while preaching in the belly of the beast, by his abrupt arrest and martyr­dom, and by what may have been Mark’s intent to limit his Gospel to what Peter preached—especially if, as Clement of Alexandria noted, Peter was still living (and in prison?) when Mark “gave his Gospel to those who had requested it.”31
There is yet another argument for taking Matthew to have been written before Mark, and it is perhaps the most compelling of all. Let us suppose—since those words giving primacy to Peter (“Thou art Peter and upon this rock…I will give you the keys…” [Mt 16:18-19]) are not found in Mark’s account of the same pericope (Mk 8:27-30)—that whoever wrote Matthew falsely added them later. Imagine the surprise, more likely indignation, of other apostles upon reading what we now refer to as Mt 16:18-19. Certainly John, who heard Jesus at that moment near Caesarea Philippi and would have known that Jesus did not give Peter pri­macy within the Church and over the other apostles. Would the response of John and the other living apos­tles have been quietly to accept this lie of the anony­mous (according to the TSH/AG) “Matthew” when he subordinates them to Peter and Peter’s successors? No. They—certainly John—would have made the decep­tion widely known and thus condemned Matthew’s entire Gospel to the dust bin of history. With such deception it would never have received the canoni­cal approval of the early Church. A strong indication, then, that Matthew’s Gospel is authentic. We have the attestation of St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215) that John did, in fact, approve the other Gospels before writing his own: “John, last of all, seeing that the plain facts had been clearly set forth in the Gospels, and be­ing urged by his acquaintances, composed a spiritual Gospel under the divine inspiration of the Spirit.”32
And if Jesus never established Petrine primacy (as in Mt 16:13-19), consider the probable response of the Church at Corinth upon receiving, in an authenticated letter from St. Clement, who was Bishop of Rome in about the year 96-98, these words of admonishment, clearly from a superior to a subordinate:
These things, beloved, we write unto you, not merely to admonish you of your duty, but also to remind our­selves. For we are struggling on the same arena, and the same conflict is assigned to both of us.33
If Jesus had never established Petrine primacy, I imagine that the response by the Bishop of Corinth, although more graciously written, might have amount­ed to: I might accept such criticism from John, now head of the Church in Antioch. He is an apostle. But what makes you think that you, Bishop of Rome, can admonish me, Bishop of Corinth?” Regardless of any response that may have been written, the existence of such a letter from St. Clement, Bishop of Rome and third successor of Peter, is consistent with Petrine pri­macy (as indicated in Mt 16:13-19 and with its absence in Mk 8:27-30) probably because Peter prudently omit­ted it while preaching in Rome with the officials of the Emperor listening.
The same historical reasoning strongly points to Matthew as the writer of the first published Gospel and as the eyewitness-writer of the “Great Commission” (given by the risen Jesus uniquely to the eleven): “Now the eleven disciples [Judas Iscariot having killed himself] went to Galilee to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.…Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Mt 28:16-20). This, of course, is the biblical passage that most strongly supports the unique claim of the Catholic Church to apostolic succession given per­sonally by the risen Jesus; the succession that was sum­marily rejected by Luther and the other Reformers in the sixteenth century.
Mark also provides an account of the Great Com­mission (again uniquely given to the eleven). In Mark it is preceded by the appearance of Jesus “to the eleven themselves as they sat at table,” apparently before Jesus directed them to the mountain to which Matthew referred. Mark continued: “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation’” (Mk 16:14-20). Mark’s account of the details differs somewhat from that of Matthew, as we might expect, with Mark writing what Peter preached. But note that nothing in Mark’s account threatens the authority of the Emperor. In Matthew, by contrast, the Great Commission begins: “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me, Go therefore…” (Mt 28:18-19). This is one more indication, it seems to me, that Irenaeus and others were correct in that Matthew was the first Gospel written and that differences and apparent omissions such as this in Mark reflect Peter’s prudence in preaching in Rome with officials of the Emperor alert to any threat to the authority of Rome.
Our separated Christian brethren are to be com­mended for taking to heart Jesus’s command to “Go make disciples of all nations.” They often do this with far better results than their Catholic counterparts. But often when they do so, they hear it as saying, “The Great Commission is your commission,” but they seem unaware of Mt 28:16 and Mk 16:14-15, in which Jesus gives that Commission only to the remaining eleven whom he taught intensively day and night throughout his three-year ministry as the predecessors of all later Catholic bishops and the successors of Peter whom they would, through time and with Christ’s continu­ing authority (Mt 28:20), elect to lead them and his Church.
The Great Commission of these apostles by Je­sus in both Gospels in the one Church that he was founding is reflected three centuries later in the Nicene Creed. The amplified form, approved one-half century later at the Council of Constantinople (381) includes: “And (I believe) in…one, holy, catho­lic, and apostolic Church.” This statement is prayed aloud each Sunday in the Catholic Church, to which historically it directly applies. It is also common to all Eastern Churches separated from Rome and—Lu­ther’s redefinition of apostolicity in the Reformation of the sixteenth century notwithstanding—to most Protestant denominations today.34
Matthean priority is demonstrated most persua­sively in One Gospel from Two: Mark’s Use of Matthew and Luke (2002), the 426-page book by David B. Pea­body, Allan J. McNicol, and Lamar Cope, the research team of the International Institute for Gospel Studies. Although these authors do not address the question of who actually wrote Matthew and the other Gospels,35 they provide a formidable defense of Matthew as the first Gospel written. They demonstrate at many levels and in many ways the secondary character of the Gospel according to Mark with respect to the Gospels of Mat­thew and of Luke.36 They point out that nowhere in the ancient sources is there any evidence that Mark was the first synoptic Gospel written,37 and that the Patristic evidence in all cases specifies Matthew as the first Gospel composed and John the last.38 They also note that Ray­mond E. Brown and other scholars continued to use ar­guments of B. F. Streeter, even though Streeter had been discredited and had purportedly altered whole phrases of Mark to make his conclusions appear convincing.39
The Matthean priority TGH has earned peer rec­ognition, as noted in The Synoptic Problem: Four Views (2016). In this book David B. Peabody defends the Matthean priority TGH against the Markan priority Two-Source Hypothesis and two other hypotheses, both Markan priority.
In his book, Why Four Gospels? The Historical Ori­gins of the Gospels (2001, 2010), after an eleven-point overview of the patristic and historical evidence in support of Matthean priority, David A. Black concludes that Matthew was always “first in the minds of the early fathers” and that this evidence “utterly fails to support the priority of Mark at any point.” Furthermore, Black asks, “How do Markan prioritists deal with this evi­dence?”40 In the bibliography of this book Black lists 296 books and articles dealing with the synoptic prob­lem, including the weaknesses of the Markan priority hypothesis.
The unwarranted dominance of Q—the specu­lative, never-found sayings of which vary with each individual speculator—prompted David L. Dungan to label Markan priority the “headless horseman who rises across the countryside every Halloween in the light of the full moon.”41
The case for the Matthean priority TGH is con­cisely explained by Mark Allan Powell in Introducing the New Testament in the section entitled “Evidence to support the Two-Gospel Hypothesis.”42 The table en­titled “The Synoptic Gospels Compared” provides a three-column comparison of the content of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.43
Dead Sea Scrolls Semitisms Point to Early Hebrew Under­pinnings of Matthew, Mark, and Sources of Luke—and to Matthean Priority
Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (1947-56) arguments for Markan priority and against Matthean priority may have seemed persuasive. Until then scholars who studied Semitisms were quite familiar with the Hebrew of the Old Testa­ment and the Mishnaic Hebrew that developed after the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70. They seem to have been less acquainted with the He­brew of the middle period in which Christ lived and the Gospels were written. The Dead Sea Scrolls enabled scholars to translate more precisely the Hebrew and Aramaic of the time of Christ.
As noted, in Divino afflante spiritu Pope Pius XII encouraged exegetes to become skilled in Semitic lan­guages, (for example, Hebrew and Aramaic) to better interpret Sacred Scripture. There are more than 900 Dead Sea Scrolls, most written in Hebrew, the first of which were discovered four years after Pius XII’s encyclical. The many Semitisms found in the canoni­cal Greek of the three synoptic Gospels have led many scholars to conclude that these Gospels are largely faithful translations of documents originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic during the probable lifetimes of evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Such evidence points strongly to these evangelists as the writers of these Gospels. We have no evidence of fraudulent au­thorship of these Gospels as we have with letters falsely attributed to Paul (2 Thes 2:1-3) and “false words” at­tributed to John (3 John:9-10).
Carmignac’s book The Birth of the Synoptic Gospels44 is the result of more than twenty years of studying the Dead Sea Scrolls. There he wrote as follows in regard to

We have here the literal, carbon copy or transparency of a translator attempting to respect, to the greatest extent possible, the Hebrew text which he had before him.…The invisible soul was Semitic but the visible body was Greek.45 (And later)…and the proofs for this are so numerous that they cannot be doubted.46
And Matthew:
Matthew is totally as Semitic as Mark.…[I]f it is acknowledged that Mark was previously in Hebrew, then there is no difficulty in admitting that Matthew was likewise in Hebrew.47
And Luke:
He has clearly composed his Gospel in Greek.…[I] n his Gospel we find the most unexpected Semitisms sprinkled about in the midst of turns of phrases of a most elegant Greek [probably because] he was work­ing upon Semitic documents, translated very literally, which he inserted into his own redaction.48
Citing more than thirty other scholars who affirmed the Semitic (either Hebrew or Aramaic) origin of Mat­thew, Mark, or sources of Luke, Carmignac wrote:

The [synoptic] Gospels therefore have been redacted earlier than is customarily claimed. They are much closer to the events. They have a historical value of prime importance. They contain the witness of dis­ciples who followed and listened to Jesus.49
Carmignac offered the following rebuttal to schol­ars who rejected his analysis and instead attributed the Hebrew/Aramaic Semitisms in the canonical Greek to the mother tongue of anonymous writers or their tendency to imitate the apparent indications of Hebrew in the Septuagint, the Koine Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible done in about the third century before Christ:
(1) He divided those Semitisms into nine catego­ries: Semitisms of borrowing, of imitation, of thought, of vocabulary, of syntax, of style, of composition, of transmission, of translation, with the added category of multiple Semitisms; several mixed together.
(2) Then he defended unequivocally the Semitisms of the final three categories (composition, transmission, translation), each of which he explained at length.
(3) He continued: “But even in the first five cat­egories…and especially the sixth (style), the abundance of evidence presented goes far beyond any possibility that the author [writer] was influenced by his mother tongue or by the prestige of a venerable text.”50
This finding by many Hebraist/Aramaist scholars that the canonical Greek Matthew was a translation of an original Semitic (Hebrew or Aramaic) Gospel is important. It is consistent with the report by Irenaeus that the apostle Matthew wrote his Gospel in the He­brew dialect while Peter and Paul were still preaching in Rome, with Mark writing his Gospel later, after both “departed.”51 It is consistent with the report of Irenaeus that Pantaenus found a copy of the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew in India, apparently brought there earlier by the apostle Bartholomew.52 It is consistent with David Alan Black’s article, “New Testament Semitisms,” In which he divides these many Semitisms into twenty-one categories.53 It is consistent with the work of J. J. Griesbach, W. R. Farmer, B. Orchard, O.S.B., and others.
In addition to the other arguments, Semitism-based scholarship now makes it abundantly clear that the faith-building Matthean priority TGH is the best working hypothesis. Can Catholic and other Christian educators now continue in good conscience to keep the doubt-inducing Markan priority Two-Source Hypothesis on its tottering pedestal, mindful of what that choice may mean for the eternal salvation of each student?
The Apostle John: Writer of the Fourth Gospel and Guarantor of the Authenticity of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke
The long life of the apostle John also adds to the confidence Catholics and other Christians should have, not only in his Gospel but also in the historical authenticity of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It is well documented that the apostle John lived until almost the year 100. Most scholars believe that he wrote his Gospel about the year 96 or soon afterward, either during his exile to the Island of Patmos or soon after returning to Ephesus in Asia Minor. Some believe that he fled to Ephesus in about the year 66, at about the time of the outbreak of the first Jewish war (66-73) and for the next three decades, except for his brief exile on Patmos, supervised the spread of the Gospel throughout Asia Minor.54
In any case, as probably the last surviving apostle, John would surely have read the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Through Eusebius, St. Clement of Al­exandria (ca. 150-215) affirms this:

The Gospels containing the genealogies [Matthew and Luke] [Here, within his quotation of Clement’s statement, Eusebius adds, “he says”] were written first…Mark [wrote what Peter had proclaimed and] Having composed the Gospel, he gave it to those who had requested it. When Peter learned of this, he did not positively forbid it, but neither did he encourage it. John, last of all, seeing that the plain facts had been clearly set forth in the Gospels, and being urged by his acquaintances, composed a spiritual Gospel under the divine inspiration of the Spirit.”55
Would John have been concerned that Matthew and Luke apparently had different sources for their con­flicting infancy narratives, or that Matthew and Mark placed Jesus’s driving the money changers out of the Temple near the end of his ministry rather than soon after it began, as John did? If John observed that one or another of the other three evangelists had apparently copied or paraphrased text from another evangelist, but that what all had written was true, would he have objected, “seeing that the plain facts had been clearly set forth in [those] Gospels,” if they differed only in incon­sequential details? Would John, whose own Gospel is not strictly chronological, have been concerned that the earlier evangelists’ accounts were to some extent struc­tured logically or topically?
As an apostle who accompanied Jesus throughout his entire three-year ministry, John would have quickly recognized, and made known in writing to the seven churches in Asia Minor and to the Bishop of Rome, any substantive deviation in Matthew, Mark, and Luke from what Jesus actually said and did. Note John’s sharp criticism of Diotrephes for his “false words” (3 John:9-10). We know that numerous “gospels” and other such early writings were rejected by those developing the canon two centuries later. Given John’s preeminence in the Church, any substantive disapproval of the content of Matthew, Mark, or Luke by him would have disquali­fied them for the canon.
Translations or not, if, as virtually all biblical schol­ars agree, all three synoptic Gospels in Greek were completed by the year 96, we can be confident that they had John’s approval after his return from exile in the year 96, if not before, and thus can be relied upon as authentic accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus.56
It is important to note that the doubt-inducing TSH/AG popularized by Raymond Brown, S.S., and widely taught today in Catholic colleges and universi­ties, depends for its very existence on the three synoptic Gospels’ being written by anonymous second-genera­tion Christians, not by evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
The Flawed Rationale for the “Anonymous Origin” of the Gospel according to John
In support of his TSH/AG, Raymond Brown posit­ed what we might call a second-generation pseudo-Matthew, pseudo-Mark, and pseudo-Luke, which the underlying Semitisms and the above commentary have shown to be untenable. For the last Gospel, Brown also posited a pseudo-John. In his book An Introduction to the New Testament, Brown wrote:

Was the Beloved Disciple the evangelist? That would be the impression given by Jn 21:20,24: “has written these things.” Could this, however, be a simplification by the redactor who added chap. 21, hardening the more accu­rate 19:35?57 The passage [in Jn 19:35]: [“This testimony has been given by an eyewitness, and his testimony is true; he is telling what he knows to be true that you too may have faith”] could mean that the Beloved Dis­ciple was not the evangelist but a witness to Jesus and thus the source of tradition that has gone into the Fourth Gospel. The evangelist who wrote that passage could have been a follower or disciple of the Beloved Disciple (whom he describes in the third person) and not him­self an eyewitness of the ministry.58
Brown suggests that “the Beloved Disciple was not [John] the evangelist.” But at the Last Supper a beloved disciple was “lying close to the breast of Jesus” (Jn 13:23). If, as Brown suggests, this unknown “beloved disciple” who was so intimate with Jesus was not John the apostle, who was it? Whoever it was, Peter must have known him well; he asked that disciple who it was who would betray Jesus. A further question would be, is this a thirteenth disciple at the Last Supper? In both Matthew (Mt 26:20) and Mark (Mk 14:17) the “twelve disciples” are at the Last Supper. Luke identifies those at the Last Supper as “the apostles,” obviously the twelve. John is undeniably one of the twelve. It seems we must then conclude either, (a) the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are wrong, and there were thirteen disciples/ apostles at the Last Supper, including John and this un­known “Beloved Disciple.” Or, (b) that Luke was wrong about twelve apostles attending but Matthew and Mark were correct in that twelve disciples attended; eleven apostles/disciples and the unknown “Beloved Disciple.” But we must then ask, “Which apostle was missing, and why do all four Gospels fail to mention this?” Finally, there is a reference to the “Beloved Disciple” or “the disciple whom Jesus loved” in four separate pericopes in The Gospel according to John (Jn 13:23, 20:2, 21:7, and 21:20). To hypothesize this unknown, nonapostle, “Be­loved Disciple” instead of the apostle John in each of these instances in the ministry of Jesus takes us beyond any semblance of credibility.
Manuel Miguens, O.F.M., S.T.D, S.S.D, taught at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., from 1969 to 1975. As indicated, he held doctoral degrees in theology and scripture. He was skilled in four biblical languages (Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Syriac), as well as Latin, Spanish, English, and four other languages. Miguens had this to say about Brown’s cast­ing doubt on apostolic succession:

Brown’s argument is affected (and infected) by con­structions like likelihood, probability, almost certainly, plausibly, it would seem, seemingly, etc. This precau­tion and uncertainty in argumentation is in sharp contrast to the certainty with which he states his conclusions. Brown appears to be not nearly so certain of his arguments as he is about what he wants them to prove. [Parenthesis in the published article].59
It seems we have similar speculation as Brown at­tempts to cast doubt on the apostle John as writer of The Gospel according to John:

“Was [he] the evangelist?”; “impression given”; “Could this, however, be…a simplification?”; “could mean…”; “could have been…”; Jn 21:24 is “less accu­rate” than Jn 19:35”; “the redactor who added.”
Again, this precaution and uncertainty in argumen­tation is in sharp contrast to the certainty with which he asserts that “no one of the evangelists was an eyewit­ness to the ministry of Jesus. Rather the evangelists were ‘second generation’ Christians.” The same subtle method could eviscerate even the Ten Commandments:

“Thou shalt not commit adultery; that would be the impression given by the sixth Commandment.” “Could the sixth commandment be less accurate than the ninth?” “Was the redactor who added the tenth Commandment influenced by the seventh?” “The eighth commandment could mean only that we are not to lie when under oath.”
In contrast to this flawed argumentation for an anonymous pseudo-John, we have the clear, well-attest­ed statements of Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and others affirming John, the beloved apostle who was an eyewitness to the entire earthly ministry of Jesus, as the author of The Gospel according to John.
Markan priority casts doubt on the Resurrection of Jesus, which John affirmed unequivocally in the last two chapters of his Gospel. We find further emphatic affirma­tion of that Resurrection only about four decades later by Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna, who in his youth was a disciple of the apostle John. In his Letter to the Philippians Bishop Polycarp affirmed the Resurrection of Jesus five times.60 Two decades later, facing martyrdom, Polycarp chose death rather than “blaspheme my king who has saved me.” But, to the spiritual detriment of students, such poignant extrabiblical history is outside the purview of the Markan priority Two-Source Hypothesis.
Some biblical scholars who posit Gospel anonymity claim that it was only later that the titles “The Gospel ac­cording to…” Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were added to our earliest copies of those Gospels. But Brant Pitre argues against that claim. Citing the research of New Testament scholar Simon Gathercole, Pitre writes: “[N]o anonymous copies of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John have ever been found.…All the ancient manuscripts—without exception, in every language—attribute the four Gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.” After listing twenty-seven examples of manuscript evidence of various papyri and codices from the second to the fifth century, all spe­cifically attributed to one or another of the four evange­lists, Pitre notes, “According to the basic rules of textual criticism, then, if anything is original in the titles, it is the names of the authors.”61
Given Brown’s long-standing commitment to the TSH/AG, I can understand his attempt to defend it. However, as Pope Emeritus Benedict made clear, in the last fifty years, as historical criticism advanced, the fig­ure of Jesus became increasingly obscured and blurred, placing intimate friendship with Jesus in danger of “clutching at thin air.” As noted, during this time the TSH/AG championed by Brown was the predominant historical-critical hypothesis taught in most Catholic universities and colleges, and it remains so today.
Summary and Conclusion
For the first eighteen centuries of the Christian era, believers accepted the four Gospels as au­thentic accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. In the late 1800s, however, more than three cen­turies after the Reformation, Protestant biblical schol­ars began to embrace the historical-critical method of biblical analysis. They concluded that The Gospel accord­ing to Mark, although written by someone else decades later, was the first and therefore the most authentic Gospel. The writer of Matthew was considered to be not the apostle but a later unknown writer. Doubt was cast on Matthew’s Gospel and that of Luke, especially where either was as odds with the text of Mark. In 1943 Pope Pius XII gave Catholics permission to study the canon­ical Greek Gospels using the historical-critical method, but with the stipulation that they do so after developing skill in Semitic languages, namely, Hebrew and Aramaic. Unfortunately, the studies of most historical-critical Catholic scholars have instead proceeded from the Greek with little if any reference to a Semitic substrate. For more than a half-century a Markan priority Two- Source Hypothesis variant that regards the canoni­cal Gospels as anonymous has been widely taught in Catholic centers of higher learning. This had been the case for more than four decades when, in 2006, Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “Intimate friendship with Jesus… is in danger of clutching at thin air.”
As the priest taught by Markan prioritist Fr. Ray­mond Brown wrote, “[Brown] saw toward the end of his life how this method could destroy Catholic Faith in people rather than build it up.” In recent decades other scholars have developed a formidable case for Matthew, almost certainly the apostle, as the writer of The Gospel according to Matthew, the first Gospel, and an equally for­midable case against Markan priority; so much so that David L. Dungan described Markan priority as “resem­bling the headless horseman who rides across the coun­tryside every Halloween in the light of the full moon.”62
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls greatly aided understanding of the Hebrew and Aramaic of the time of Jesus. Since then many Hebraist/Aramaist scholars have found compelling evidence for the Semitic un­derpinnings of the canonical Greek Gospels of Matthew and Mark and sources of Luke, thus dating these Gos­pels well within the probable lifetimes of those evange­lists and therefore almost certainly written by them. As a result, they provide strong support for Matthew as the first Gospel written and as a probable source for Luke and Mark, and render Markan priority untenable.
The dark night of doubt-inducing Markan priority is over. In its place, instructors in Catholic colleges and universities now have a sound scholarly basis for teach­ing Matthean priority, in particular the faith-building TGH, as the best working hypothesis.
In Matthean priority we now have Jesus “emerging from the historical-critical fog” in the synoptic Gospels. We also have a clear rationale for believing that the apostle John, the beloved disciple, was the writer of The Gospel according to John.63 ✠
Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. Jerome D. Gilmartin. Slightly revised for publication.
1 Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (1997; New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010), 159.
2 Ibid., 368-371.
3 With the stipulations described on the following page.
4 The Farrer Hypothesis, “Markan priority without Q,” is outlined on the “Overview of Solutions” website:­tic-problem/2004/09/overview-of-proposed-solutions.html.
6 Brant Pitre, The Case for Jesus: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for Christ (New York: Image, 2016), 97-98.
7 E. P. Sanders and Margaret Davies, Studying the Synoptic Gospels (Harris­burg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1989), 117.
8 David L. Dungan, A History of the Synoptic Problem: The Canon, the Text, the Composition, and the Interpretation of the Gospels (New York: Doubleday, 1999), 390.
 9 – Evans: From 13:40 to 16:50.
10 Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, 210-11.
11 Ibid., 368-71.
12 Ibid., 159-60.
13 Ibid., 268; 322-27.
14 Divino afflante spiritu, 15 and 16.
16 Raymond E. Brown, Biblical Exegesis and Church Doctrine (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1985), 14.
17 Ibid., 20.
18 Raymond E. Brown, Biblical Reflections on Crises Facing the Church (Mah­wah, NJ: Paulist Press International, 1975), 72.
19 Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, 210, 211.
20 As an extreme example, Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels casts doubt on the divinity, miracles, and most of the words of Jesus quoted in the Gospels. (New York: Polebridge Press/ Macmillan Publishing Company, 1993), 16.
21 Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, 109-11, including footnotes.
23 Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (New York: Doubleday, 2007), xvi-xix. [J.G.: Pope Emeritus Benedict did not specify the variant of the Two-Source Hypothesis that has almost reduced intimate friendship with Jesus to “clutching at thin air.” However, he can be referring only to the Markan priority TSH/AG as championed by Brown and widely taught in Catholic centers of higher education, since the predominant TSH variant in Protestantism does not explicitly reject the possibility that the apostle-eyewitness Matthew and “apostolic men” Luke and Mark wrote those Gospels.]
24 Wolfgang Grassl, “How Can We Save Catholic Higher Education?” Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly 37, no. nos. 1-2 (Spring/Summer 2014): 15. In choosing a college, Catholic parents and students may wish to consult The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College: https://car­
25 Raymond E. Brown, Biblical Exegesis and Church Doctrine (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1985), 14.
26 Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, xix. Canonical exegesis was developed by American scholars and popularized by Brevard Childs. Childs described his canonical approach in his Biblical Theology in Crisis (Louisville: West­minster John Knox Press, 1970). He applied it in Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture (Grove City, PA: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1979).
27 CCC, #76.
28 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 6.14.
30 Irenaeus wrote: “After their departure [apparently after the death of Peter and Paul] Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter.” Against Heresies, 3.1.1. This is not inconsistent with Mark having received Peter’s permission to publish his Gospel while Peter was imprisoned, though soon to be martyred by Nero, then publishing it after Peter’s death.
31 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 6.14.
32 Ibid.
33 Letter to the Corinthians 7. Trans. John Keith, in Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 9., ed. Allan Menzies (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1896). Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight: http://
34 Luther attempted to reclaim apostolicity for Protestantism by defining an apostle as “one who brings God’s word.” This claim becomes problematic when “God’s word,” for reformers in the sixteenth century and later, contradicts “God’s word” as taught since the time of Christ by the apostles and their consecrated succes­sor bishops. For example, “The Eucharist IS the body and blood of Christ” versus “The Eucharist IS NOT the body and blood of Christ.” Such a “reformed” entity, even if still called a church, would no longer be “one.”
35 The following quotation from One Gospel from Two suggests that authors Peabody and McNicol do not rule out Luke and Matthew as the writers of the Gospels that bear their names: “And we provided evidence in Beyond the Q Impasse that, in our view, makes it ‘very probable that Luke knew Mat­thew.’” David Dungan, David B. Peabody, Allan J. McNicol, One Gospel from Two (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2002), 14.
36 Ibid., 1.
37 Ibid., 16.
38 Ibid., 20.
39 Ibid., 5, 10.
40 Kindle Location 661.
41 David L. Dungan, A History of the Synoptic Problem (New York: Doubleday, 1999), 389-90.
42 files/778/original/hyperlink-04-08.pdf?1417381960.
44 Original published in French: La Naissance des Évangiles Synoptiques (Paris: O.E.I.L., 1984).
45 Jean Carmignac, The Birth of the Synoptic Gospels (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1987), 2-3.
46 Ibid., 44.
47 Ibid., 5.
48 Ibid., 5, 6.
49 Ibid.; Carmignac’s signed message summarizing his work; back cover; paperback (1987). After noting in his book that he was influenced by nineteenth-century German exegetes (45), Carmignac speculated that Mark was the first of the synoptics written (43). Later, however, in #19 of his “Response to Criticisms” of his book, Carmignac acknowledged that according to Irenaeus the apostle Matthew wrote before Mark: “Irenaeus place[d] the composition of Marc after the death of Peter and Paul, so shortly before 70…[but] St. Irenaeus…determines the composition [of Matthew’s Gospel] before the death of the two apostles.” Against Heresies, 3.1.1; cited by Eusebius of Caesarea. Carmignac ends this response with, “Must we remind Grelot that these are the theories that must adapt to the sources, not the reverse?” This seems to suggest that Carmignac calls both himself and Grelot to adapt their differing theories to the Matthean priority view of Irenaeus. In context however, in the English translation at least, this is unclear. “Responses to Criticism” is not included in the Eng­lish translation of Carmignac’s book The Birth of the Synoptic Gospels. For an English translation of Carmignac’s “Responses to Criticism,” contact
50 Carmignac, The Birth of the Synoptic Gospels, 40.  
51 Against Heresies, 3.1.1; cited by Eusebius of Caesarea. If “departed” is an accurate translation and Irenaeus meant “died” this is at odds with the later writing of Clement of Alexander, who wrote that Peter became aware of the Gospel Mark was promulgating and “did not forbid it” (n. 47).
52 Eusebius, History of the Church, 5.10.
53 Black’s article was published in The Bible Translator 39, no. 2 (April 1988): 215-23. Black’s twenty-one categories of Semitisms were included in Michael D. Marlowe, “The Semitic Style of the New Testament,” available at:
55 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 6.14.
56 Brown expressed his own doubt that the apostle John was the writer of The Gospel according to John. That doubt is addressed later in this paper.
57 Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, 369.
58 Ibid., 369.
59 Triumph (April 1972). Published from 1965 to 1975 by L. Brent Bozell, former senior editor of National Review and author of Conscience of a Conservative.
61 Pitre, The Case for Jesus, 15-17.
62 David L. Dungan, A History of the Synoptic Problem: The Canon, the Text, the Composition and the Interpretation of the Gospels (New York: Doubleday, 1999), 389.
63 Comments on this article are welcome. They may be submitted after the article at the author’s website:                      
A special word of thanks to French scholar Marie-Christine Ceruti- Cendrier, president of the Paris-based Association Jean Carmignac and author of the book Les Evangiles sont des reportages (The Gospels Were Written by Reporters). Her book is being translated into Eng­lish. In the first edition of 7-Step Reason to be Catholic (2001), after a brief critique of Brown’s exegesis but unaware of the importance of Semitisms, I drew the analogy of a worker who uses a cutting torch to weaken a building for demolition and then says, “Look at this building standing straight and tall; what harm have I done?” In writing the second edition (2008), thanks to information provided by Marie-Christine Ceruti-Cendrier, I was aware that the many Gospel Semitisms noted by Carmignac and others strongly indi­cated that the canonical Greek Matthew, Mark, and sources of Luke were translations of earlier Semitic documents almost certainly writ­ten by the apostle Matthew and by “apostolic men” Mark and Luke. This evidence renders untenable the claim of Brown and others that those Gospels were written later, anonymously.
Thanks as well to the Sulpicians, Province of the U.S., Baltimore, for their kind permission to quote Fr. Raymond E. Brown, S.S.; to Dr. David A. Black for his twenty-one categories of Semitisms and per­mission to quote from his book Why Four Gospels?; and to Dr. Da­vid B. Peabody and Dr. Allan J. McNicol, coauthors (with Dr. Lamar Cope) of One Gospel from Two: Mark’s Use of Matthew and Luke, for permission to reference their book. The second holder of the U.S. copyright for The Birth of the Synoptic Gospels sold the copyright in 2007; the current copyright holder is unknown.
And my very special thanks to the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars in particular to Father Joseph Koterski, S.J., FCS Quarterly Editor and Elizabeth C. Shaw, Ph.D., Associate Editor for their editing excellence and acceptance of this essay for publication in the Fall / Winter 2017 FCS Quarterly.

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