In the words of Kevin Garnett, the famous NBA player, “Anything is possible!!” Those are the famous words he screamed upon winning the 2008 NBA championship with the Boston Celtics. Of course, being partial to the Celtics myself, I agree. However, this sentiment is too often acceptable in discussing the authorship of the Gospels.
For example, one of the most significant debates between skeptics and Christians centers on who wrote the Gospels of the New Testament. From history, here are vital pieces of information :
- The earliest manuscripts of the Gospels are anonymous.
- Early church fathers and late church fathers attest that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were the authors of the Gospels.
- There is no other oral or written tradition that attests authorship to anyone else in history.
Often I hear, either in private conversations, academic debates, YouTube channels, and Periscope broadcast that we just don't know who wrote the Gospels. Thus, there's the list of possibilities: It could have been young, rich Jewish Hellenists; it could have been mid-to-late second century Christians.
These are both possible, but the question at hand is not a matter of what is possible, but instead, what is evidentially reasonable. Think for a minute about a murder trial, there is a slew of possible murderers: the husband, wife, co-worker, boss, cousin, stranger, daughter, mother, government official, etc. However, each of these is systematically eliminated through the evidence. So while almost anything in a murder is possible, the conclusion is based on what is evidentially reasonable.
A similar application should be made in the case of the authors of the Gospels. While there are many possible options, it is only evidentially reasonable on the basis of oral and written tradition that the names attributed to the Gospels are the actual authors. For this evidence to be overturned, speaking in hypothetical possibilities won't due, there needs to be real evidence. For almost 2,000 years, there is no other tradition or writing that has ascribed these Gospels to anyone other than Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.