in Blog

What Writers Worked on the Gospels?

  • March 30, 2019
  • By Ben van Noort
What Writers Worked on the Gospels?

What Writers Worked on the Gospels?

A variety of writers and writing activities were necessary for the Gospels to come into being.

Who Provided the Sources, the First Reports?
These were the Note takers. It all began with note taking. After an occurrence the note takers took their wax tablets with notes to organize their materials. In the first place they had to read their notes to each other. These were notes of circumstances as well as the spoken word.

Usual writers. Then they had to decide what they would take for the teaching reports (later in Matthew) and for the public reports (later in Luke). Usually they took different blocks of text that seemed suited for the different purposes they had.

. It is possible that a third writer worked as a secretary, writing the first dictated report on his wax tablet. Or one of the two note takers did so in the absence of a secretary.

. For (long) orations and discourses it was most necessary to make use of stenography, the tool that was invented for these purposes in the Greco-Roman world. For instance: the five long orations in the Gospel of Matthew, that have at the end a formula as: “and when Jesus had finished saying these things” (7:28-29, 11:1, 13:53, 19:1, 26:1). It is also worth  mentioning here the long discourses found in the Gospel of John, e.g. Chapters 13-17.

(messenger).  Who has (had) been sent out with a document (instruction) or a letter. For example, The disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus with the question: “Are you the one or do we expect another?” Or in another place the friends of the centurion said that Jesus did not need to come to the house of the centurion to heal his servant (the friends read a message: “I am not worthy for You to come under my roof,” Luke 7:6).

Writing Activities
Writing of dictation
. Usually a shaliach brought a message that was a writing of dictation, on a wax tablet or on a piece of paper. But also Mary, when the angel Gabriel came to her, could preserve his words by writing on her wax tablet after he had introduced himself as a messenger who had an important message for her. 

Collecting facts and sayings
(afterwards, after an occurrence). Sometimes it was necessary to search for information about what had happened precisely, e.g. during a storm on the lake. Several witnesses had to be examined to find out details and to control what was said.

The Writers of the Gospels
Authors. People who had proven to be trained in writing, and with feeling for coherence and interrelations of stories together with an overall view for a book.

Copyists. An important task was to understand the sources, reports being made in Jesus’ ministry, and sources from different character, historical evidence, reports from Jesus youth etc.

New Things
In the new things after Jesus’s departure, the inspirational work of the Holy Spirit could not be missed. The authors had to limit their work to information already in the reports and to verifiable additions proper for a greater reading public.

Transitional formulas. To connect stories together.
Indications of place and time, if necessary.
Reader indications. Example: “Who became the traitor”, or “that is” explanations (especially in Mark).
Introductions or conclusions. The introductions of the Gospels of Luke and John, the final conclusions of the Gospels of Mark and John


By Ben van Noort, March 30, 2019