The Canonical Gospels
The four canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John narrate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Biblical Archaeology Society editors have hand-selected articles from the BAS Library that cast each of the canonical Gospels in a new light. Explore the earliest-known versions and authors of the canonical Gospels in this BAS Library Special Collection.
Scroll down to read a summary of these articles.
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—the four canonical Gospels—have come down to us only in Greek. The Gospels we use today—in English or in other languages—are translations from old Greek manuscripts. By contrast, what Christians call the Old Testament—the Hebrew Bible—was written in Hebrew, with a few short sections in a sister language called Aramaic. Were the canonical Gospels originally written in Greek? In “Was the Gospel of Matthew Originally Written in Hebrew,” Biblical scholar George Howard presents formidable evidence that at least one of the Gospels, and perhaps more, may originally have been written in Hebrew! Learn what Howard discovered in a little-known 14th century manuscript preserving the type of Hebrew written in the first century.
How did Mark end his gospel? It’s difficult to tell from the nine versions of his last chapter that we have today. The shortest version ends with the empty tomb; Jesus is never seen again. In the longest, Jesus reappears three times before he rises to heaven. The difference is critical—to Bible scholars trying to determine which ending is the earliest, to biographers mapping the course of Jesus’ life, to historians trying to trace how it came to be recorded, to theologians contemplating Jesus’ resurrection, and to curious readers who simply want to know how the story ends. In “To Be Continued … The Many Endings of the Gospel of Mark,” Michael W. Holmes examines the various versions to rethink our understanding of the gospel.
In “Who Wrote the Gospel of Luke?” Mikeal Parsons investigates this seemingly obvious question. The gospel itself never reveals the author’s name. However, over the centuries, numerous traditions have evolved around this somewhat shadowy evangelist: Luke is credited with writing not only his gospel but the New Testament Book of Acts as well. He is portrayed as a physician, a friend of Paul’s and even a painter, and is described as a gentile writing for a gentile audience. “Who Wrote the Gospel of Luke?” investigates the individual behind the author of two of the most significant contributions by an early Christian to our understanding of the founder of Christianity and its first followers.
Commentators have long debated whether John provides the truest portrait of Jesus or the least accurate. But perhaps they should be asking another question altogether: What kind of book is the so-called Gospel of John? The brisk dialogue and memorable sayings of the Synoptics give way to a handful of elaborate set pieces in John. In “The Un-Gospel of John,” Robin Griffith-Jones considers this more spiritual gospel. While the other gospels tell Jesus’ stories from the outside, John reveals the heart of Jesus.
In these four Bible Review articles, acclaimed scholars shed new light on our understanding of the recording of Jesus’ life and deeds. Every article ever published in Biblical Archaeology Review, Bible Review and Archaeology Odyssey are available online in the BAS Library.
New evidence indicates that the Gospel of Matthew was an original Hebrew composition. Indeed, it is now possible to recover much of this original Hebrew composition from an extant manuscript. But before explaining how this can be done, let me set the stage with a little background. Until now, the four canonical Gospels—Matthew, Mark, […]
The answer seems obvious: a man named Luke, of course. But do we really know this, and, if so, how? The gospel itself never reveals the author’s name. The title “The Gospel According to Luke”—printed in virtually every Christian Bible today—is late: We have no evidence that it appeared on the earliest versions of […]
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1). With this wonderfully poetic opening verse, John sets the tone for his entire gospel and defines its vast scope. The Word that God speaks in the life […]
Francis Ford Coppola filmed two endings for Apocalypse Now, and John Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman offers a choice of endings. But nothing quite matches the last chapter of the Gospel of Mark for variety. At least nine versions of the ending of Mark can be found among the 1,700 surviving ancient Greek […]