and Why Markan Priority is an Important Issue
Today is the Feast Day of St. Bartholomew (Aramaic) who is identified as Nathanael (Hebrew, “gift of God”) in John’s Gospel.
In the first 1700 years of the Church almost everyone believed,
according to the early Church Fathers, that Matthew’s Gospel was written
by Saint Matthew the Apostle and was the
first Gospel written.
However, many modern scholars dispute this. They support the position of
Markan Priority which claims that Mark’s Gospel was written first. In
order to make this claim they have to dismiss most all the early Church
Father’s testimony as these Fathers claim the contrary.
Those who dissent from Church teaching do not permit others to dissent
on their claim of Markan Priority. Their justification of dissent is
based on the assumption that Matthew 16:18-19 were words put into Jesus’
mouth by a later community and were not really Jesus’ words. And so, they
claim, this account in Matthew was not written by an early eyewitness Apostle,
Saint Matthew. This argument is often based on the underlying assumption
that Mark’s Gospel written first.
Others will say,
“Well, it doesn’t make any difference which Gospel was
first as along as we believe that the four Gospel writers faithfully
state what Jesus said and did.”
But, the truth is many do not believe that. And in the real
world these people pass laws restricting how we live.
If Mark’s Gospel was first, then the tradition passed down by the
early fathers as well as the belief that the synoptic Gospels provide
eyewitness testimony are both undermined. It is obvious that Matthew,
Mark, and Luke copied from each other. The main question is which Gospel
was written first. If Matthew the Apostle wrote what we call Matthew’s
Gospel it is very unlikely that he would have relied so heavily on
another Gospel written by a non-Apostle Mark. So, if Mark’s Gospel was
written first then it is very unlikely that Matthew’s Gospel was written
by the Apostle Matthew.
And today, many choose not to believe the Gospels are accurate
accounts of what Jesus said and did. So, verifying them as eye-witness
testimonies, testimonies for which they were willing to die, does
St. Augustine writes that he would not accept the New Testament as the
Word of God if it were not for the Church to tell him that it was so.
When the Church decided which books belonged in the Bible ( latter 4th
century) they based their conclusion on the testimony of the early
church fathers and the ancient tradition they left behind. The
early church fathers also tell us that Matthew the Apostle wrote the
Those who dissent from Church teaching reject the tradition of the
fathers of the church and argue for Markan Priority.
However, the conclusion of which Gospel was written first needs to
depend on the facts, not on what is convenient.
In Warren H. Carroll’s book THE FOUNDING OF CHRISTENDOM page 433,
“Eusebius ( Ecclesiastical History, V, 10)
says a copy of the "Hebrew" Gospel of Matthew was taken to India
by the Apostle Bartholomew and found there at the end of the second
century by the Christian scholar and traveler Pantaenus.”
Bartholomew, one of the twelve, must have known who wrote it. For it to
have been written in his life time before he went to India, it must have
been written relatively very early. And being an Apostle he would not
have relied on a Gospel that had not been written by another Apostle.
Thus, this Gospel had to be the same Gospel written by the Apostle
One fallacy of this argument
that Markan Priority does not matter
is that everyone does NOT believes that four Gospel writers faithfully
state what Jesus said and did. Not even all Catholics believe that. Some
dissenters base their dissent on the assumption that Matthew put into
Jesus’ mouth the words of Jesus building His church on St. Peter. By
undermining the eyewitness aspect of Matthew’s Gospels we undermine one
of the strongest reasons for believing that it is true. Sure, a person
can believe on blind faith that the words of the Gospels are
historically accurate. But the eyewitness account places one’s reasoning
on solid ground.
Non-Christians will often pass laws to pressure Christians to not live
the Gospel. Some Christians deny them one of the strongest reasons for
believing in the Gospels. They in turn deny Christians the opportunity
to legally follow the Gospel.
So, Mathew’s Gospel was first, as other Church
fathers always affirmed.
So, thanks to Bartholomew we have some very early evidence of Matthew’s
Gospel being the first Gospel written.
How the Gospels
- By Dennis Barton – Free Pamplet
How the Synoptic
Problem Was Solved
- By Dennis Barton – Free Pamplet
Gospels are Historical
- By Dennis Barton - Free Pamphlet