Fatherly Advice Part 2

Last time, I noted that the early church fathers were a useful source of information. I specifically demonstrated that they had better information at their disposal than we have, and that they were not as universally uncritical as they are sometimes accused of being.

With that said, there are a few specific things I want to bring out that the fathers present about the gospels.

1. It is sometimes claimed that the gospels were originally written anonymously and the names of Biblical authors were added later. This makes little sense in general, if this were the case, we would expect that the gospels would bear the names of the higher profile Church leaders. However, the fathers make this theory impossible. Matthew is never referred to as anything other than the gospel of Matthew, and the same is true of the rest of the gospels.

2. While there was some debate about the authority (also known as the canonicity) of a few books of the New Testament, there was very little controversy to any of the New Testament gospels, Acts or the Pauline Epistles. The Gospels and Acts were nearly universally treated as historically accurate, first century, authoritative works of history by the church since they were initially written.

3. The earliest fathers quote from nearly every book of the New Testament, while recent questions regarding the dating of some of the fathers have recently been raised, it is difficult to conceive any timeline in which the New Testament books were written in the second century.

4. Finally, many argue that the early Church was not interested in the historic reality of the gospels. A late second century father named Tertullian, however, also demonstrates that this is not true. Tertullian in his work On Baptism notes that a presbyter in the Church of Asia was excommunicated for writing a book called The Acts of Paul and Thecla. Tertullian states of this book, “the presbyter in Asia who produced this document, as if he could add something of his own to the prestige of Paul, was removed from his office after he had been convicted and had confessed that he had done it out of love for Paul.” This strongly indicates that the early church did care about the historic realities of the New Testament and the gospel accounts.

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