The Anonymous Gospels

Bart Ehrman and many others write off the Gospels because of a theory they have developed that the Gospels are anonymous and not written by the claimed authors in the Gospels.

The theory can be summarized like this: The four gospels originally were published without any titles or identifying markers for authorship. The gospels were then circulated for a century before anyone decided to give them any authorship. Then they were forged to deceive people into believing the authors were followers of Jesus, this happening after all of them were dead. Lastly, they were not written by any eyewitnesses of Jesus and the Disciples.

The theory sounds promising because it completely undermines the faith we have in the Gospels and if the Gospels are anonymous and forgeries in some form then we cannot trust what they say about Jesus or His claims. However, we will see that most of these points have holes that cannot be filled by Erhman or anyone else.

The elephant in the room is that there have been no recoveries, discoveries, or evidence of any of the Gospels being anonymous. No copies of any anonymous gospel have ever been located. What's the main rule of Textual Criticism that we've spoken about so often? That rule says we go back to the earliest and best manuscripts we have to see what they have to say.

It's not just the earliest copies that contain the titles of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John but it's also every single ancient manuscript, in every language that includes them. This begs the question as to why none of the proponents of the anonymous gospel theory ever speak about this glaring issue in their thought process.

Erhman attempts to explain that "Because our surviving Greek manuscripts provide such a wide variety of titles for the Gospels, textual scholars have long realized that their familiar names (e.g. The Gospel According to John) do not go back to a single "original title", but were added later by scribes."

I'd challenge that claim by looking at every manuscript from Papyrus 4 to Codex Bezae. You will not find this "wide variety" that Erhman claims. You may see the word "Gospel" missing but in every single manuscript the SAME names are located in the titles. The earliest copies of every single Gospel contain the titles according to how we have them today. I do believe we've established that there is no basis for this theory but we will continue to show more reasons as to why this theory fails.

The idea that manuscripts or a book could circulate the Roman Empire at this time while not containing a title for almost a hundred years is not only a stretch but entirely implausible, but wait there is more, this also has to include the fact that at some point they got attributed to the same authors by scribes throughout the entire world and left no evidence of disagreement among manuscripts. As if it entered the minds of scribes all at once or something. Oh, not just once but four times. This theory is four times implausible.

Next, let's look at Luke 1:1:-4 where we read that many accounts of the life of Jesus were already in circulation by the time he wrote his account. Suggesting that no titles were in circulation at this point (late second century) fails to take into account the fact that multiple Gospels were already circulating before Luke ever started. We would expect to see these anonymous manuscripts but we do not. We would expect to see contradictory titles but we do not.

There is one last golden nugget that Ehrman skips right over. This nugget is that we do have an anonymous book in Hebrews. We see exactly what would happen if we had anonymous gospels. We see different titles between Papyrus 64 to Minuscule 104. The early church cannot even decide who wrote Hebrews. We see Eusebius write that only "God knows" who wrote Hebrews though it is suggested canon. The early church does not treat the Gospels like this because they are not anonymous nor is there any plausible evidence that they are.

Another flaw in logic is to state that the titles were added to boost the authority of the books themselves. We know this doesn't make any sense because two of the Gospels are not even eye-witnesses. Why would a scribe who wants to add authority pick two people who were not eyewitnesses of Jesus himself? It doesn't make any sense. Instead we have Mark and Luke both writing their Gospels. We know this to be even deeper into truth because we have the "lost gospels" of Thomas, Mary, and others which we know to be fraudulent.

This comprehensively refutes the theory but we will not halt here we will continue to dive into this and search the evidence both externally and internally for the Gospel titles.