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Early Witnesses to the Four-Gospel Collection

1. Papias (c. 70/75-c. 163) may have known the four biblical Gospels. He certainly knew the Gospels of Matthew and Mark (Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History, 3,39,15). Further, in The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple arguing that "[t]here should be no doubt that Papias knew the Fourth Gospel," Bauckham cites 1) Papias' list of six disciples are in the distinctively Johannine order; 2) the quotation from John 14:2; and 3) the reference to Papias' comment on John 19:39. Bauckham cites Papias' quotation of Luke 10:18 as possible evidence that he knew Luke (The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple, 51).

2. The origins of the "Long Ending" of Mark (i.e., the extended narrative of resurrection appearances in Mark 16:9-20 which many scholars think is not original to Mark's Gospel but nonetheless found in many manuscripts) are very early and may have been dependent on the resurrection accounts found in the other three canonical Gospels. See the discussion in James A. Kelhoffer, Miracle and Mission, 137-150.

3. Justin probably had a four-gospel collection. See the discussion in Charles E. Hill, The Johannnine Corpus in the Early Church and "Was John's Gospel among Justin's Apostolic Memoirs" in Justin Martyr and His Worlds, 88-94.Justin Martyr Hill writes, "It is generally agreed that these [Memoirs of the Apostles] included the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke;" but Hill also writes that "we may now affirm that when Justin designated a number of Gospels as Memoirs of the Apostles, one of those he had in mind was indeed John's" (88). Cf. also, Oskar Skarsaune, "Justin and His Bible" in Justin Martyr and His Worlds, 53-76.

4. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-211/216) certainly knew of the four-gospel collection (Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History, 6,14,5-7).

5. Tertullian (c. 160-c. 220) knew the four-gospel collection (Against Marcion, 4,2).


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