The Christians recognize four canonical gospels, which were selected out of a number of writings of diverse forms (apocrypha) that were written in the 1st or 2nd century and described the life of Jesus Christ and his teachings.

According to the Christian tradition, which consists of late-1st and 2nd-century writings:

  • Matthew was an apostle mentioned in the Gospels (e.g Matthew 10, 3). He wrote his gospel in aramaic, a greek version of which became "our" gospel.
  • Mark was the son of a woman named Mary, who hosts the apostles in Acts 12, 12. Or he was that young anonymous man who appears in Mark 14,51-52. Others said he was a follower of the apostle Peter, and he wrote down everything Peter told him about Jesus. These data are not necessarily contradictory.
  • Luke was a physician who followed Paul (Colossians 4,14), according to late-2nd century testimonies. He also wrote the Acts of the Apostles.
  • The Gospel of John claims that it was written by "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 21). Later, it was considered that the disciple was the apostle John. This one focused more on spirituality issues since the life of Jesus had already been narrated in other gospels.

According to modern scholars, the first three gospels are quite similar. Mark (and maybe another hypothetical document called "Q") was used as a basis for Matthew and Luke, which sometimes repeat it word for word. They are called the Synoptic Gospels. Their historical interest is difficult to determine since their purpose is religious, but there is no reason to think that everything is false.

  • The Gospel of Mark may have been written around 65 or 70 A.C (i.e more than 30 years after Jesus was crucified.)
  • The Gospel of Matthew may have been influenced by Matthew's thinking, assuming that the apostle Matthew did exist, but scholars think it was not written by him at all. It may have been written aroung 80-90 A.C. On the ground of a palaeographical discovery, other say that the book may have been written around 60.
  • The Gospel of Luke may have been written around 80-90 However, some scholars think he wrote his book much sooner, around 60 A.C, because the Acts of the Apostles (which are probably the second part of a book which first part is the Gospel of Luke) may have been written when Paul was still alive. Therefore the Gospel of Mark would have been written no later than 60 A.C.
  • The Gospel of John was written around 100 A.C and is the result of decades of meditation and developments. It may have been written by another John, who also wrote John's Letters (1 John, 2 John, 3 John.)

My main sources were: (in French)