Apologies And The Apologetic Apologists Who Tell Them - A Fair And Balanced Look At The Religious Right

The Apologist JP Holding is currently arguing that there are excellent reasons to attribute "Matthew" to "Matthew". In my opinion, due to a lack of existence of the usual positive evidence indicating authorship Holding is forced to resort to a primarily negative evidence argument which I can summarize in one sentence:

"Why would a Religion which is based on Faith accept on Faith that "Matthew" wrote "Matthew"? (Talk about asked and answered!).

I've previously indicated that in my opinion the Supernatural issue is the best reason why Matthew did not write "Matthew". As the Impossible is Impossible it would have been Impossible for Matthew to witness the Impossible. Therefore "Matthew" had to have been written by someone who Believed in the Supernatural as opposed to witnessed the Supernatural. This conclusion is consistent with how all of us think in the Real World, outside of religion. We assume a Natural explanation and not a Supernatural one. That the real author of "Matthew" did not witness any miracles also helps explain why "Matthew" ended up anonymous much better than an assumption that Matthew did witness miracles would.

Let's move on now to the category of evidence which is normally the most determinative for authorship in the Real World, External evidence.

I've previously indicated that I don't believe there is any first hand evidence that Matthew wrote "Matthew". Is there any second hand evidence? Second hand evidence here would be testimony from a person who had direct knowledge of the testimony of a different person who had direct knowledge that Matthew wrote "Matthew". The earliest known historical person who is clearly connected to a claim that Matthew wrote "Matthew" is Papias. Here is the relevant quote from Peter Kirby's (God bless him) website:

Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.39.1-7,14-17 (c. 325):

16 "Now this is reported by Papias about Mark, but about Matthew this was said, Now Matthew compiled the reports in a Hebrew manner of speech, but each interpreted them as he could."

Is this second hand evidence? Let's identify and evaluate what hand or foot testimony this is. The first question is WHO is the witness here? The answer is Eusebius. The next question is WHAT is his testimony based on?

Again, from Peter Kirby's website:

Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.39.1-7,14-17 (c. 325):

1 "... And of Papias there are five treatises in circulation, and which were entitled, An Exposition of the Lord's Reports. Irenaeus also mentions these as his only writing, using the following words: And these things Papias, who has been a hearer of John and a colleague of Polycarp, an early man, corroborates in writing in the fourth of his books. For there were five books that he composed."

Eusebius reports that in his time the relevant writings of Papias were in circulation. Eusebius wrote approximately 200 years (very rough guess) after Papias did. I think it's safe to assume that Eusebius did not read the original writings of Papias but rather Copies (maybe others here could comment on this assumption). So in trying to establish the chain of witness testimony from Eusebius going back to superior hand witness testimony we have:

1) Eusebius says that he saw writings of Papias stating "Matthew compiled the reports in a Hebrew manner of speech but each interpreted them as he could." There is no explicit statement that Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew here but Christians of Papias time didn't generally use the word "Gospel" to refer to written reports. At the same time the "but each interpreted them as he could." would seem to indicate that whatever Matthew wrote according to Papias was not the organized Canonical Gospel. So we have doubt as to whether even Eusebius testified that Matthew wrote "Matthew".

2) My assumption here is that Eusebius' testimony is based on a copy of what Papias wrote. WHO made the copy? Unknown. Could it have been made by someone who changed what was originally written? Possibly. Was the original copied more than once when Eusebius read it? Possibly. What we have here is a failure in communication. A gap in the chain of witnesses. As Senior so aptly put it, "That's bad, that's bad." for the reliability of hand testimony.

3) What was Papias' testimony based on? There is no explicit answer in Eusebius' quote above.