Who Wrote the Gospels, and How Do We Know for Sure?

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Historical Jesus

The Bible gives us four accounts of Christ’s life. Each records a unique perspective of the most significant event in history—the crucifixion and resurrection. All four gospels are named after men who lived during or shortly after Christ’s early ministry. Tradition considers these men the authors, but there’s one problem: not one of these books names its author.

The gospels are anonymous—so how do we know who wrote them?

None of the gospels came with an “about the author” section. The closest we get to a claim of authorship is at the very end of the Book of John, where the author implies that the book was written by “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:24 NIV).

Are there other context clues we can use to determine the authors? Can we trust tradition’s assumptions about who wrote the gospels? Did…

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Bible Contradictions Explained: 4 Reasons the Gospels “Disagree”

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Historical Jesus

The story of Jesus stands or falls on the trustworthiness of the Gospels. That’s why skeptics pay so much attention to the Gospels’ apparent contradictions. Christianity’s critics cast doubt on the New Testament’s reliability by pointing out disparities in the Gospels. This puts well-meaning—but often unprepared—Christians in a difficult position of trying to reconcile these potential inconsistencies.

So how do we account for the apparent discrepancies in the Gospel accounts? A lot of the problem stems from our expectations. If we expect a level of historical precision that the Gospels didn’t intend to provide, we’re going to run into problems. The truth is that it’s completely normal for ancient (and modern) historical accounts to summarize, paraphrase, omit details, and explain events in a way that highlights their specific points and perspectives.

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Nabeel Qureshi, author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, passes

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(Nashville, TN) September 18, 2017—It is with deep sympathy for family and loved ones that HarperCollins Christian Publishing recognizes the passing of Nabeel Qureshi, who lost his year-long battle with stomach cancer on Saturday, September 16, 2017, and entered into the presence of Jesus, whom he had embraced as his Savior and Lord. He was 34 years old.

A convert from Islam to Christianity, Qureshi was known as an apologist for the Christian faith, a powerful preacher, and a best-selling author. He had an MD degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School, an MA in Christian apologetics from Biola University, an MA in religion from Duke University, and an MPhil in Judaism and Christianity from Oxford University. At the time of his diagnosis with cancer, he was in the midst of a doctoral program in New Testament at Oxford University.

His…

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What Are the Synoptic Gospels, and Where Do They Come From?

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Historical Jesus

The Bible’s four gospels paint four portraits of Jesus. While each gospel follows him on the same journey, they recount it a little differently. They had their own methods, styles, purposes, audiences, and (probably) sources—making each portrait of Jesus uniquely valuable.

Despite their unique qualities, the first three gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—share many of the same accounts of Christ, often shared in the same order and with the same wording. Because of their similar perspectives on Jesus’ ministry, together they’re known as the synoptic gospels. (The word “synoptic” comes from the Greek word synoptikos, meaning “able to be seen together.”)

While the differences between the gospels can be a challenge for us, these similarities can be problematic, too. The parallel passages between the synoptic gospels have left scholars with pressing questions about their origins. If Matthew, Mark, and Luke…

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How Luther discovered the doctrine of justification by faith alone

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How the Protestant Reformation started

One of the decisive doctrines to emerge from the Protestant Reformation—and central to Luther’s theology—was the doctrine of justification by faith alone (sola fide).

But when and how did Luther come to his new understanding of this doctrine?

Rather than seeing his theological discovery as a single decisive event, we should view it more as a gradual process.

Let’s take a look.

Luther’s early encounters with Romans and Psalms

Between 1513 and 1516, Luther lectured on the Psalms and Romans. It is clear from these texts that he was beginning to think differently about how the individual sinner finds forgiveness from God.

He retained some of the older traditional concepts alongside his radical new ideas. Only after some years of biblical study under the inspiration of the theology of Augustine did Luther arrive at a more fully formed distinctive…

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How the Protestant Reformation Started

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How the Protestant Reformation started

You probably know at least one thing about Martin Luther: that he nailed the 95 theses to a church door and defied the Roman Catholic Church.

This was Luther’s declaration of independence from Rome.

The truth is, this is historically inaccurate.

Yes, October 31, 1517, would turn out to be the first hint that the Western world was about to be turned upside down. But Luther’s act on October 31, 1517 was not an act of rebellion.

It was, in fact, just the opposite. It was the act of a dutiful son of mother church.

Someone—no one knows who—took the Latin text of Luther’s 95 Theses, translated them into German, and sent them all over Germany. When the German people realized that Luther was standing up against abuses in the church, he became a hero throughout Germany.

The Reformation began.…

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Who wrote Jude?

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Who wrote Jude

The book of Jude itself tells us that it was written by “Jude, slave of Jesus the Anointed One, and brother of James.”

There is a consensus that the “brother of James” identifies the author as the brother of that James who led the community of Jesus-followers in Jerusalem from at least 40 CE until his execution in 62 CE—in other words the same person who wrote the book of James.

That would make Jude the younger brother of Jesus. In lists of Jesus’ brothers James is always listed first and Jude is listed last (Matthew 13:55) or next to last (Mark 6:3).

But note that neither Jude nor James mentions a family relationship…

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Who wrote the book of James?

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Who wrote the book of James?

According to James 1:1, the letter is written by James himself. He was the son of Joseph, a construction worker who originally lived in Nazareth in Galilee.

He is always named next after Jesus in lists of Jesus’ brothers, so he was presumably considered to be Jesus’ next younger brother.

It’s also possible that James was the oldest of Jesus’ cousins if one follows Jerome’s interpretation that adelphos means “cousin,” the children of Mary wife of Clopas, also identified as “the mother of James and Joses.”

James was a prominent figure among the communities of the followers of Jesus living in Palestine in the first century. Paul names him, along with Cephas (Peter) and John, an acknowledged “pillar” of the Jerusalem community (Galatians 2:9);…

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What James means by “Faith without works is dead”

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What James means by faith without works is dead

This post is adapted from material found in A Theology of Peter, James, and Jude, an online course taught by Peter H. Davids. Sign up for the course.

Paul famously writes that “a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”

But James writes that “a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone” and that “faith without works is dead.”

Which is correct? How are we to read Paul and James together?

Does James really mean that our works save us?

Before we talk about how to read Paul and James together, let’s take a close look at what James really says.

James tells us that if someone claims to have a commitment—faith—and assumes that on this basis they will be saved or delivered in the final judgment,…

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What it means to read the General Epistles theologically

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We recently sat down with Peter H. Davids to discuss what it a biblical theology of the General Epistles looks like. See his answer below.

His online course on the theology of James, Peter, and Jude is now open. Sign up today.

In James, 1 & 2 Peter, and Jude, we have a group of letters very heavily dependent on Jesus—especially First Peter and James. And they are showing how the teaching of Jesus was used by the first century church.

A theological study tends to draw the ideas together—what are the implications of this for the building of the whole of Christian theology?

I think a major issue in these works is that they’ve been so neglected. How does this Sermon on the Mount work in everyday life? How does the God that Jesus talked about function…

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Hypocrisy is Keeping People from the Church – An Excerpt from The Problem of God

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God doesn’t exist. Christianity has a violent history. The Bible can’t be trusted. We hear phrases like this more and more from those who are challenging the Christian faith. In his book The Problem of God: Answering A Skeptic’s Challenges to Christianity, pastor Mark Clark addresses the top ten questions doubters are asking.

In today’s excerpt, we learn about one of the biggest hurdles keeping people from embracing the faith: Christians themselves.

9780310535225The Problem of HYPOCRISY

The greatest Liar has his Believers; and it often happens, that if a Lie be believ’d only for an Hour, it has done its Work, and there is no further occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it; so that when Men come…

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eBook Flash Sale: How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge

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For a brief time you can save 36% on the eBook edition of Clay Scroggins’ new book How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge: Leveraging Influence When You Lack Authority. In this book you will discover:

The common identity traps that snag leaders How to approach ambition in healthy ways What you can learn from a less-than-stellar boss How to deal with a dead-end job—do you stay or do you go?

Don’t wait, because this deal will disappear on August 17, 2017 (at 11:59pm ET).

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Excerpt: The Importance of Critical Thinking

How to Lead When You're Not in ChargeOne of the most common frustrations of not being in charge is being told no. No…

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