Response revised: 8-Apr-2012
Question from Pieter Kraay (Bishop’s Stortford, Herts., England) that was published in the “Readers’ Perspective” column of Jerusalem Perspective 50 (Jan.-Mar. 1996): 7.
Papias said Matthew wrote first. Someone else said Mark wrote first. Lindsey said Luke wrote first. Papias was probably right.
Does it matter? Why can’t we just accept that the four gospel writers were four independent individual persons used by God to write one complete Gospel? Why, oh why, do learned people love to waste precious time, money and paper on unimportant matters?
Jerusalem Perspective responds:
To be accurate, Lindsey believed that Matthew wrote first; however, Lindsey also believed that the author of the “Gospel according to Matthew” was neither the disciple Matthew nor the Matthew to whom Papias referred. Although there is a church tradition—dating not earlier than 175 A.D.—that the disciple Matthew composed the first gospel, the Gospel of Matthew itself nowhere names its author. (See Joseph Frankovic, “Pieces to the Synoptic Puzzle: Papias and Luke 1:1–4,” Jerusalem Perspective 40 (Sept.-Oct. 1993): 12-13.)
For the importance of ascertaining which synoptic gospel was written first, see the Conclusion to Robert Lindsey’s “Unlocking the Synoptic Problem: Four Keys for Better Understanding Jesus,” Jerusalem Perspective 49 (Oct.-Dec. 1995): 16-17.