Contested Status of John
Contested Status of John

Contested Status of John

Paul’s Primary Use of Luke

Luke (or Proto-Luke) is the only Gospel that Paul referred to as Scripture. There are several places in which Paul makes reference to the material that is exclusively in the Gospel of Luke. He actually references material in Luke not found in other Gospels and refers to Luke as “Scripture”. Paul relies on the testimony of Luke-Acts for reiterating what are the essentials of the faith – in the same context, twice referring to it as “Scripture.” Paul gives the account of the Lord’s Supper in a way that is consistent with Luke, but not with Mark/Matthew. In other places, Paul draws parallels with Luke with content that Luke contains not exhibited in the other Gospels. Accordingly, Paul is the first and chief witness attesting to the primacy of Luke. Of all the Gospels, he has the most affinity with it while also recognizing it as Scripture. None of the Gospels match Paul’s teaching on the Law as close as Luke. 

1. The Apostle Paul himself quotes Luke as Scripture in 1 Timothy 5:18

The first quotation of 1 Tim 5:18 from “Scripture” is found in Deuteronomy 25:4, but the second quotation, “The laborer deserves his wages,” is found nowhere in the Old Testament. It does occur, however, in Luke 10:7 (with the same words in the Greek text). So, here we have Paul apparently quoting a portion of Luke’s gospel and calling it “Scripture,” that is, something that is to be considered part of the canon.

Someone might object that Paul could be quoting an oral tradition of Jesus’ words rather than Luke’s gospel, but it is doubtful that Paul would call any oral tradition “Scripture,” since the word (Gk. γραφή, G1210, “writing”) is always in New Testament usage applied to written texts, and since Paul’s close association with Luke makes it very possible that he would quote Luke’s written gospel. 

(Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 61-62).

2. The Gospel “According to the Scripture” that Paul is referring to is that of Luke-Acts

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 Paul refers twice to core aspects of the gospel that occurred “in accordance with the Scriptures.” The scripture that is being referenced is Luke-Acts. Luke-Acts establishes that Christ died for our sins. Luke-Acts establishes that he was buried, that was raised on the third day. And Luke-Acts presents the order of resurrection appearances as affirmed by Paul. The appearances as conveyed by Matthew and Mark are inconsistent with Paul’s affirmation of the order of appearances. 

Thus, Paul is referring to Luke-Acts as scripture and is using the testimony of Luke-Acts as a basis for summarizing the core essentials of the Christian Faith. Paul attests to Luke-Acts primacy by using it as a foundational authority for the Gospel.   

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

(1 Corinthians 15:3-6 ESV)

3. Paul Recounting of the Lord’s Supper is consistent with Luke (Not Mark/Matthew)

Paul’s account of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:23-25) is more consistent with Luke 22:19-20 than Mark 14:22-24 or Matthew 26:26-28 indicating that Paul shares the tradition with Luke. Paul and Luke have more affinity with each other. Matthew and Mark do not share this affinity with Paul. 

“Paul Himself records the tradition authorizing the Lord’s Supper as the account of the last supper of Jesus with his disciples, which Paul himself received and passed on to the Corinthians at the foundation of their church. A comparison of this tradition with its variant versions is instructive. Two features of this common tradition call for comment:

First, there were clearly two slightly (but significantly) different versions of the form and wording used at the last supper among the churches. One we may call the Mark/Matthew version; the other was common to Paul and Luke. It should be fairly evident even from the brief comparison that neither can be completed derived from the other. The most obvious explanation of their otherwise striking closeness is that they come from a common source or tradition. There is a dispute as to which is likely to have been closer to the common original. But since Paul makes so little use on his own behalf of the “new covenant” tradition (the emphasis on which constitutes the most distinctive feature of the Paul/Luke version of the cup word), the case for seeing the Paul/Luke version as closer to the original form probably has the edge.  (The Lord’s Supper – James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle,  1998, pp. 606-607)

4. Paul parallels 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6 with Luke 21:34-36

There are particularly compelling parallels between Luke 21:34-36 and 1 Thess 5:2-6, and strong indications that Paul is making reference to Luke.

“Both have as their subject the Day, which, it is warned, will come upon those unprepared suddenly and unexpectedly (“as a trap,” Luke 21:34); both emphasize that there will be no escape (cf. Luke 21:35); both encourage believers to watch in light of that coming “Day”; both use the same verb (ἐφίστημι) and the same adjective, αἰφνίδιος (“suddenly”) of the “Day”—and the latter is used only in these two places in biblical Greek.” ((Three Views on the Rapture (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 185).

This parallel with Paul is exclusive to the Gospel of Luke. Matthew and Mark lack this parallel. This demonstrates that Paul has more affinity with Luke than any of the other Gospels.  

List of Parallels Between Luke 21:34-36 and 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6:

  1. “The Day” as subject (Lk 21:34; 1 Th 5:2); NOTE: Moo is linking “that day” of Lk 21:34 to Lk 21:27 and the coming of Christ.
  2. Comes unexpectedly upon the unprepared (Lk 21:34 “like a trap”; 1 Th 5:2 “like a thief in the night” [cf. 1 Th 5:4 also])
  3. no escape (Lk 21:34-35; 1 Th 5:3); NOTE: the failure to escape in Luke is conceptualized in the “trap” and it coming upon “all those who dwell on the face of all the earth.”
  4. Believers are encouraged to watch (Lk 21:34, 36; 1 Th 5:6)
  5. verbal choice of ἐφίστημι for the event (Lk 21:34, ἐπιστῇ [Aorist Active Subjunctive], “will come”; 1 Th 5:3, ἐφίσταται [Present Mid./Pass. Indicative], “will come” or more literally, “comes”); NOTE: the word has the idea of being “present” or “at hand,” and given the context similarities makes the parallel word choice a stronger argument for some literary dependence.
  6. Unique correlation of adjective choice of αἰφνίδιος for the event (Lk 21:34; 1 Th 5:3); NOTE: this may be one of the most compelling points about some literary dependency, as the only two uses of this word in the NT appear in these two passages that do have such apparent similarities of topic.
  7. Avoiding drunkenness anticipating these events (Lk 21:34 “not be weighted down with … drunkenness”; 1 Th 5:6 “be … sober”)

5. Luke-Acts has the strongest affinity with Paul’s teaching on the Law

None of the other Gospels come as close to paralleling Paul’s teaching on the Law as Luke does, which Acts confirms. The passage of Luke 16:14-18 has no matching parallel in the other Gospels. Acts 15:8-11 contain the same core elements. These elements are echoed/paralleled in Romans 2:12-29, Romans 3:19-31, and Galatians 2:15-21.

Common elements:

  1. God knows the heart (Luke 16:15)
  2. Now there is a new way to receive grace (through the Lord Jesus Christ) (Luke 16:16)
  3. Those who receive the kingdom of God, gain it by forcing their way into it (i.e., dyeing to flesh/faith) (Luke 16:16)
  4. This grace is available to all (not just the Jews) (Luke 16:16)
  5. Without the Gospel, we are condemned under the Law (Luke 16:17-18)

Gaius and other “Alogians” Rejected the Gospel of John

The Alogi or Alogoi (ἄλογοι, also called “Alogians”) were a group of heterodox Christians in Asia Minor that flourished c. 200 CE, and taught that the Gospel of John and the Apocalypse of John (Book of Revelation) were not the work of the Apostle, but his adversary Cerinthus. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia (ALOGI) the Alogi were composed of the Roman Caius (also spelled Gaius) and his followers. According to the fourth-century church historian Eusebius of Caesarea, Caius was a churchman of Rome who wrote during the time of Pope Zephyrinus, and published a disputation with Proclus, a Montanist leader in Rome. 

When others began to use the Gospel of John, Gaius, a presbyter and noted orthodox scholar at Rome, rejected the Gospel and denied that it was written by an apostle. Gaius was an opponent of the Montanists, an enthusiastic group in Asia Minor who based their claims regarding the Spirit on John. While his basic concerns seem to have been theological, Gaius sought to discredit John by carefully noting its historical discrepancies and the places where it contradicted the synoptic Gospels. Gaius is significant because he shows that the authority of John was not so firmly established that it could not be challenged by one of the leaders of the church. The form of his argument is also telling: he sought to discredit the Gospel of John by showing that it contracted the synoptic Gospels, which by implication served as the standard by which a gospel could be judged.  (R. Alan Culpepper, The Gospel and Letters of John, Abingdon Press, 1998, p. 289)

What we know of the Alogians is derived from their doctrinal opponents, whose literature is extant, particularly St. Epiphanius of Salamis. It was Epiphanius who coined the name “Alogi” as a wordplay suggesting that they were both illogical (anti-logikos) and they were against the Christian doctrine of the Logos. While Epiphanius does not specifically indicate the name of its founder, Dionysius Bar-Salibi, citing a lost work of Hippolytus (Capita Adversus Caium), writes in his commentary on the Apocalypse:

Hippolytus the Roman says: A man appeared, named Caius, saying that the Gospel is not by John, nor the Apocalypse but that it is by Cerinthus the heretic.

Epiphanius tells us Alogoi (Ἄλογοι) rejected the Gospel of John as well as the Apocalypse (Haer. xxxi. [li.]).

The party of the Alogians explicitly denied the Logos doctrine in John chapter 1, and they denied Johannine authorship by comparing the Gospel attributed to him with the synoptic Gospels. Their methodology can be seen in the surviving fragments of Hippolytus of Rome’s refutation, Capita Adversus Caium, preserved in Bar-Salibi’s Commentary on the Apocalypse. Their comparative method was considered very foolish in Epiphanius’ opinion, who derided them as “without reason”. Syriacist John Gwynn, who published these fragments in English, likewise indicates that “The objections of Caius are . . . Those of a somewhat captious critic, and indicates little breadth of scriptural learning or of eschatological conceptions”.

Epiphanius argues that Cerinthus could not have written the Gospel of John because whereas Cerinthus denied the deity of Christ, the Gospel taught Christ’s Godhead. Epiphanius contemplates that they may not reject Christ’s deity outright, but instead just the “Logos form under which the doctrine was presented in the Gospel”. Epiphanius also asserts in regard to the Alogi, “they themselves seem to believe as we do.” He therefore is not so much concerned with their Christology as much as he is concerned with their biblical criticism. Nevertheless, Epiphanius is harsh in his condemnation of them and asserts that the bottom line for the Alogi is that they deny the Gospel of John and consequently the Word-Flesh Logos doctrine. Epiphanius clearly distinguishes them from the Ebionites and from the Docetists. (Havey, Francis. “Alogi.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 10 Jul. 2022 .)

Fisher, G. P. “Some Remarks on the Alogi,” Papers of the American Society of Church History, 2,1 (1890), pp. 1–9

Zahn in his History of the New Testament Canon” (1888)) interprets Alogi as meaning to simply cast away the Logos Gospel. One or two sentences in Epiphanius which bear on the point are certainly loose and ambiguous. But what he says (in c. xxviii.) appears to affirm that they rejected the Logos-idea (the proto-orthodox interpretation of the prologue). (p.3)

It is not clear if Alogi believed Jesus was a mere man in their conception of the person of Christ. They did accept the first three Gospels, and, of course, the miraculous conception.

“Hippolytus, in his polemic, has merely warned us against the consequences, which were not to be avoided from their rejection of the Logos. That the party actually drew these consequences he nowhere distinctly avers, and even Epiphanius does not here venture on perfectly definite assertions. Hence there is no ground for ascribing to them a denial of the miraculous conception; and the formula, the party could not have used. ” (Herzog u. Plitt, x., p. 185. Cf. Harnack’s ” Dogmengeschichte,” i., p. 619).

Epiphanius, in the midst of his denunciation, remarks that, with the exception of their views on the teaching of John, the Alogi were in agreement with the orthodox (c. iii., p. 424).

At first, it seems strange that they should have attributed the Fourth Gospel to Cerinthus, a Judaizing Gnostic. But when we look at the objections of an internal character which, according to Epiphanius, they brought against its Apostolic authorship, we find that prominent among them is the idea that because the Gospel makes no mention of the birth and baptism of Christ, its author meant to teach that the heavenly Christ, called by the author the Logos, descended upon the man Jesus and united himself with him. This interpretation is one which the modern assailants of the Johannine authorship have not suggested, but it may help to account for the conjecture of the Alogi as to its authorship, since, according to Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and other authorities, this Gnostic speculation relative to the heavenly Christ was a part of the creed of Cerinthus. (p.4) 

Among the other critical objections of the Alogi was the alleged discrepancy between the Synoptics and John in respect to the number of Passovers kept by Jesus, and thus as to the duration of his ministry. One thing that they said about the Apocalypse was that there was no Church at Thyatira at the time when it was written. But, as was remarked, the objections of this class were, in all probability, an after-thought, the antipathy to the writings bearing the name of John having had its start in a doctrinal motive. (p.5)

A question to be considered is whether Theodotus, the Currier, had a connection with the Alogi. Epiphanius (h. 54) styles him an offshoot of this heresy. Harnack renders this statement literally, and considers it entitled to credence. One argument is the probable classification of Theodotus by Hippolytus under the same rubric with the Alogi. Zahn contends that Theodotus had no real connection with them. Theodotus was from Byzantium. Caius, the probable author of the” Little Labyrinth,” quoted by Eusebius (H. E., B. V., c. 28) styles Theodotus “the inventor” of the heresy that Christ was a mere man. What is especially important, Hippolytus, in the Ref. Omn. Hcer. (vii., 23), expressly states it to be the doctrine of Theodotus that, at the baptism of Jesus, Christ descended upon him in the form of a dove… (pp.5-6)

It may be added that Epiphanius, after connecting Theodotus with the Alogi, adds that he had conversed or communicated with other heretics before being named and contemporary with them. Harnack’s statement that nothing more than contemporaneity is here meant, can hardly be justified. Leaving this point of the real or imaginary relation of Theodotus to the Alogi, as not essential in our present inquiry, it is certain that he received John’s Gospel. Epiphanius cites a comment by him on John viii., 40 (Eph., p.464). We do not hear that Theodotus rejected the Apocalypse, or any other New Testament book. (p.6)


Ebionites’ Use of Proto-Luke in the Gospel According to the Hebrews

Ebionites refers to a Jewish Christian sect, which viewed poverty as a blessing, that existed during the early centuries of the Common Era. The Ebionites embraced an adoptionist Christology, thus understanding Jesus of Nazareth as a mere man who, by virtue of his righteousness in following the Law of Moses, was chosen by God to be the messianic “prophet like Moses”. A majority of the Ebionites rejected the Orthodox Christian belief in Jesus’ divinity. 

The Church Fathers considered the Ebionites identical with other Jewish Christian sects, such as the Nazarenes. The Hellenized Hebrew term Ebionite (Ebionai) was first applied by Irenaeus in the second century without making mention of Nazarenes (c.180 CE). Origen wrote, “for Ebion signifies ‘poor’ among the Jews, and those Jews who have received Jesus as Christ are called by the name of Ebionites.” The earliest reference to a sect that might fit the description of the later Ebionites appears in Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho (c. 140). According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, the Ebionite movement “may have arisen about the time of the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (70 CE).”

Origen (Contra Celsum 5.61) and Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica 3.27.3) recognize some variation in the Christology of Ebionite sects; for example, that while all Ebionites denied Jesus’ pre-existence, there was a sub-sect which did not deny the virgin birth. Irenaeus reports that they only used a version of the Gospel of Matthew, which omitted the first two chapters (on the nativity of Jesus) and started with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. (Haer 1.26.2). Eusebius of Caesarea wrote that they used only the Gospel of the Hebrews (Church History, III, 27, 4.). From this, the minority view of James R. Edwards and Bodley’s Librarian Edward Nicholson claims that there was only one Hebrew gospel in circulation, Matthew’s Gospel of the Hebrews. Epiphanius contended that the gospel the Ebionites used was written by Matthew and called the “Gospel of the Hebrews”.

They too accept the Matthew’s gospel, and like the followers of Cerinthus and Merinthus, they use it alone. They call it the Gospel of the Hebrews, for in truth Matthew alone in the New Testament expounded and declared the Gospel in Hebrew using Hebrew script (Epiphanius, Panarion 30.3.7)

However, internal evidence from the quotations in Panarion 30.13.4 and 30.13.7 suggests that the text was a gospel harmony originally composed in Greek.

Source: “Ebionites.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 9 Jul. 2022. Web. 10 Jul. 2022.)

A Proto-Lukan Basis for the Gospel According to the Hebrews

Matthew was traditionally associated with the Ebionite Gospel of the Hebrews because tradition has it that Mathew was originally composed in Hebrew and that it is directed to Jews. However, the Gospel According to the Hebrews has more in common with Luke than with Matthew. In 1940, Pierson Parker concluded that, rather than Matthew, a close connection existed between the Gospel according to the Hebrews and a hypothetical “Proto-Luke” document:

…the presence in this gospel of Lukan qualities and parallels, the absence from it of definitive… Markan elements… all point to one conclusion, viz., that the source of the Gospel according to the Hebrews… was most closely related to sources underlying the non-Markan parts of Luke, that is, Proto-Luke. (Pierson Parker; A Proto-Lukan Basis for the Gospel according to the Hebrews; Journal of Biblical Literature 59 (1940) p. 478)

Several of the surviving readings from the Gospel according to the Hebrews parallel Luke only and not Matthew. For example, 

  • only Luke gives Jesus’s age as being thirty (Luke. 3:23);
  • only Luke includes the account of Jesus being comforted by an angel (Luke. 22:43);
  • only Luke includes the discussion about eating the Passover as described in Luke 22:45
  • only Luke includes Jesus’s words at the crucifixion, “father forgive them…” (Luke. 23:34).

All of these are found in the surviving Gospel according to the Hebrews fragments. There are also Lukan elements even in Gospel according to the Hebrews material that also parallels Matthew. The immersion account as cited by Epiphanius also included the words “in the form of [a dove]” (as in Luke’s account) and the phrase “I have this day begotten you” (as in Luke’s account in the Greek Western type text of Codex D).

Marcion’s use of Luke

Marcion of Sinope (c. 85 – c. 160) was an early Christian theologian, in early Christianity. Marcion was born the son of a bishop in Pontus (modern-day Turkey). Marcion was described by others as a “mariner” and a “ship-master.” He considered himself a follower of Paul the Apostle, whom he believed to have been the only true apostle of Jesus Christ, a doctrine called Marcionism. Early Church Fathers such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian denounced Marcion as a heretic, and he was excommunicated by the church of Rome around 144. After his ex-communication, he returned to Asia Minor, where he continued to lead his many church congregations. They used a Gospel that was similar to the Gospel of Luke, but more abbreviated. Marcion published the first known canon of Christian sacred scriptures, which contained ten Pauline epistles (the Pastoral epistles were not included) and the shorter version of the Gospel of Luke. This made him a catalyst in the process of the development of the New Testament canon by forcing the proto-orthodox Church to respond to his canon. The Marcionite church expanded greatly within Marcion’s lifetime, becoming a major rival to the emerging Catholic church. After his death, it retained its following and survived Christian controversy and imperial disapproval for several centuries.

Early Christians such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Epiphanius claimed that Marcion’s editions of Luke and the Pauline epistles were intentionally edited by Marcion to match his theological views, and many modern scholars agree. However, some scholars argue that Marcion’s texts were not substantially edited by him, and may in some respects represent an earlier version of these texts than the canonical versions.

Marcion’s Version of Luke

Church Fathers say Marcion wrote the gospel of Marcion himself, and that the gospel of Marcion is a revision of the Gospel of Luke with some passages expunged from it to fit Marcion’s theology; this hypothesis on the relationship between the gospels of Marcion and of Luke is called the patristic hypothesis. However, this is not the only hypothesis. Three others are as follows:

  • Semler hypothesis: The gospel of Marcion and the Gospel of Luke are two independent versions of a common source, and that the gospel of Marcion is an unaltered version of this source or is more faithful to this source than the Gospel of Luke is. (BeDuhn, Jason (2013) The First New Testament: Marion’s Scriptural Canon)
  • Schwegler hypothesis: The gospel of Marcion precedes the Gospel of Luke, and it is a revision of the Gospel of Marcion
  • Marcion hypothesis: the Gospel of Marcion was the very first gospel ever produced, preceding all others including the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

“[T]here has been a long line of scholars” who, against what the Church Fathers said, claimed, “that our canonical Luke forms an enlarged version of a ‘Proto-Luke’ which was also used by Marcion. This dispute […] was especially vivid in nineteenth century German scholarship”. In 1942, John Knox published his Marcion and the New Testament, defending that the gospel of Marcion had the chronological priority over Luke. After this publication, no defense of this theory was made again until two 2006 articles: one of Joseph Tyson, and one of Matthias Klinghardt. “Knox and Tyson believe that Marcion used and falsified ‘Proto-Luke'”, while Klinghardt, who at that time did not defend that the gospel of Marcion was the very first gospel ever produced, “assert[ed] that Marcion used Proto-Luke as he found it, that is, Marcion’s Gospel and ‘Proto-Luke’ are identical.” (Moll, Sebastian (2010). The Arch-Heretic Marcion. Mohr Siebeck. pp. 90–102.)

Justin Martyr Favored Luke and hardly made reference to John

The relatively voluminous treatises of Justin Martyr (153-160 A.D.) form a class by themselves for all students of the external evidence. The surprising non-appearance of the Fourth Gospel among his recognized authorities, at least in a degree approximating his “more than one hundred” employments of the Synoptics, is one of the admitted difficulties of the supporters of tradition. Drummond, Character and Authorship, p. l00, counts “somewhere about 170 citations from or references to the Gospels.” Among these, he probably includes what he regards as “three apparent quotations” from John. Drummond, for example, after accumulating all possible traces of the use of John, meets the question “Why has Justin not quoted the Fourth Gospel at least as often as the other three?” with certain analogies whose validity we must test hereafter. Abbott, on the other hand, meets the alleged traces of the Fourth Gospel in Justin by an analysis even more thorough than Drummond’s, resulting in the following summary:

“It appears, then, that (1) when Justin seems to be alluding to John, he is really alluding to the Old Testament, or Barnabas, or some Christian tradition different from John, and often earlier than John; (2) when Justin teaches what is practically the doctrine of the Fourth Gospel, he supports it, not by what can easily be found in the Fourth, but by what can hardly, with any show of reason, be found in the Three; (3) as regards Logos-doctrine, his views are alien from John. These three distinct lines of evidence converge to the conclusion that Justin either did not know John, or, as is more probable, knew it, but regarded it with suspicion, partly because it contradicted Luke his favorite Gospel, partly because it was beginning to be freely used by his enemies the Valentinians. (4) It may also be fairly added that literary evidence may have weighed with him. He seldom or never quotes (as many early Christian writers do) from apocryphal works. The title he gives to the Gospels (‘Memoirs of the Apostles’) shows the value he set on what seemed to him the very words of Christ noted down by the apostles. Accepting the Apocalypse as the work of (Trypho 81) the Apostle John he may naturally have rejected the claim of the Gospel to proceed from the same author. This may account for a good many otherwise strange phenomena in Justin’s writings. He could not help accepting much of the Johannine doctrine, but he expressed it, as far as possible, in non-Johannine language; and, where he could, he went back to earlier tradition for it, such as he found, for example, in the Epistle of Barnabas.”  (Edwin A. Abbott, “Gospels”, Encyclopedia Biblica, Macmillian, 1901, Vol. II, column, 1837)

For more on this, see the article Justin Martyr Favored Luke Over John


Irenaeus Acknowledged that others rejected John

Irenaeus ” Adv. Haer.,”III., xi., 9. is a well-known passage in which he sets forth with so much emphasis the fact that there are four, and only four, Gospels having any just title to acceptance or any acknowledged authority in the Church. In this connection, he refers to those who represent that there are more, or that there are less than four. He makes mention of Marcion and proceeds to remark: ” Others again, that they may set at naught the gift of the Spirit, which in the last times has been poured out on the human race by the will of the Father, do not admit that speciem “—that is to say, that aspect of the ” fourfold Gospel” to which he has referred—” which is according to the Gospel of John, in which the Lord promised that He would send the Paraclete; but they set aside at once both the Gospel and the prophetic spirit. 

Irenaeus gives no name to these dissensions. He does not imply that they had any organization. There is no reason to doubt that they are the class to whom Epiphanius gives the nickname of “Alogi.” We learned afterwards that they sprung up in Thyatira. They appeared, in all probability, somewhere about 170,—perhaps a few years earlier.

Clement of Alexandria claimed that John was a “Spiritual Gospel”


Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 – c. 215 AD) was a Christian theologian and philosopher who taught at the Catechetical School of Alexandria. A convert to Christianity, he was an educated man who was familiar with classical Greek philosophy and literature. According to Eusebius (the Christian historian of the fourth century), Clement of Alexandria spoke of John writing a “Spiritual Gospel” after Matthew, Mark, and Luke had already written about the “outward” matters related to Jesus. (Ecclesiastical History 6.14.7)  What could have Clement meant by “Spiritual” in contrast to the “outward” matters related to Jesus, other than meaning that John was intended to be more symbolic rather than a historical narrative? If Clement gives us any doubt as to what contrast was being made, his successor, Origen, clarifies in the most explicit way in his commentary on John. 

Origen of Alexandria (c. 185 – c. 253) was an early Christian scholar and theologian. He was a prolific writer who wrote roughly 2,000 treatises in multiple branches of theology. He has been described as “the greatest genius the early church ever produced.”  Origen, one of the most prolific church Fathers of the third century, clearly believed that John’s portrait of Jesus was more symbolic than a historical narrative as elaborated in his commentary which is covered here: Origen: Commentary on John

Diagram of Scriptural Authorities Referenced to Each Other and to Various Believers

In consideration of the material thus presented, the diagram below shows a plausible interrelationship between written authorities and they correspond to what is embraced by various groups of believers. The diagram embodies several interesting insights:
  1. Several groups contested the Fourth Gospel, including Alogians, and Ebionites, Marcions. Irenaeus acknowledges that John was contested. 
  2. Alogians (including Gaius/Caius), who were proto-orthodox for the most part, accepted all the Synoptics but rejected the Gospel of John.
  3. Paul attests to Luke (or proto-Luke), but he provides no attestation of the Fourth Gospel (John). 
  4. Luke was likely the core Gospel relied upon by Paul, Mark, Matthew, and Marcion’s Gospel.
  5. Luke-Acts is the pivotal work and the principal authority as the latest Synoptic Gospel that remains for providing a more authentic witness of Christ’s ministry and words as compared to the other Gospel narrations. It is the foundational resource for accurately conveying the core Gospel message according to 1st Century Apostolic Christianity. Integrity Syndicate advocates for consideration of Luke-Acts and Paul’s Epistles as the most robust foundational authorities for conveying the essentials of the Gospel.