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St. Bartholomew and Why Markan Priority is an Important Issue


 Ebbo Gospels :  St. Matthew


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.

Some 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.”

However, Markan Priority undermines the foundation as to why Catholics would believe that the Gospels were faithful to what Jesus said and did.  So, this safe group of people - those who believe that the four Gospels faithful record what Jesus said and did - is minimized and significantly reduced because of Markan Priority.


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 matter.

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 first Gospel.

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, states:

“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 Matthew.

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.


In order to accept Markan Priority 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.


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  Were  Written 
- By Dennis Barton – Free Pamplet

How  the Synoptic  Problem  Was  Solved  
- By Dennis Barton – Free Pamplet

The Gospels are Historical  
-  By Dennis Barton -  Free Pamphlet



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