There has been a long-standing scholarly discussion about how far back we can trace the roots of the fourfold gospel. Even though the four gospels obviously existed in the first century, there is still debate about when Christians began to gather them together and view them as a unit.
We certainly see this happening in Irenaeus, who is quite plain about his view, “It is not possible that the gospels can be either more or fewer than the number they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live and four principle winds… [and] the cherubim, too, were four-faced” (Haer. 3.11.8).
But, can we trace the fourfold gospel back even further? Justin Martyr, an early Christian apologist writing c.150-160, is a key player in this debate. He clearly knows the Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark and Luke. But did he know John? Scholars disagree about this. But, I think there are good reasons to think that he did. Here are a few: [Read more…]