The four gospels.

Four canonical gospels attributed to apostles or to their followers.


Attributed author(s).
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.

Text(s) available.
Gospel of Matthew 1-4, 5-7, 8-11, 12-14, 15-18, 19-21, 22-25, 26-28.
Gospel of Mark 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16.
Gospel of Luke 1-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-12, 13-15, 16-18, 19-21, 22-24.
Gospel of John 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16, 17-21.

Useful links.
Gospels in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

The genre of the gospels.

The four canonical gospels are those of Matthew, of Mark, of Luke, and of John. The gospels of Matthew and John are attributed to apostles, those of Mark and Luke to followers of the apostles.

The most common inscriptio (book title at the beginning of a work) and subscriptio (book title at the end of a work) for each of our canonical gospels is as follows:

Matthew: ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΟΝ ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΘΘΑΙΟΝ (gospel according to Matthew).
Mark: ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΟΝ ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΡΚΟΝ (gospel according to Mark).
Luke: ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΟΝ ΚΑΤΑ ΛΟΥΚΑΝ (gospel according to Luke).
John: ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΟΝ ΚΑΤΑ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ (gospel according to John).

This page is dedicated to those passages that name all four of our canonical gospels as belonging to some kind of unique collection or canon.

Several of these passages compare the four gospels to the cherubim (כרבים in Hebrew) of Ezekiel 1.10 (which are not actually called cherubim until Ezekiel 10.1-22). These creatures bear four faces each, that of a man, that of a lion, that of a bullock or calf, and that of an eagle. However, the description of these creatures vis--vis the four gospels always seems filtered (sometimes implicitly, usually explicitly) through Revelation 4.7, in which each creature resembles only one of the animals or the man, not all four at once. The five patristic passages available here that compare the gospels to the cherubim are the following:

  1. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.11.8.
  2. Victorinus, Commentary on the Apocalypse 4.3-4a.
  3. Jerome, Prologue.
  4. Pseudo-Athanasius, Synopsis of Sacred Scripture.
  5. Augustine, On the Consensus of the Evangelists 1.6.

Felix Just also has a useful page dedicated to this symbolism available online; also refer to the weblog entry of mine on this topic.

Anti-Marcionite prologues.

Late century II?

These Latin prologues, also called the Old Latin prologues, precede each of the gospels in some copies of the Latin Bible. Scholars disagree as to their exact date, but many place them in the late second century. A Matthean prologue is not extant.

Irenaeus.

Late century II.

Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.1.1 (introduction to quotation and Greek text thereof drawn from Eusebius, History of the Church 5.8.1-5a):

Επει δε αρχομενοι της πραγματειας υποσχεσιν πεποιημεθα κατα καιρον ειποντες τας των αρχαιων εκκλησιαστικων πρεσβυτερων τε και συγγραφεων φωνας εν αις τας περι των ενδιαθηκων γραφων εις αυτους κατελθουσας παραδοσεις γραφη παραδεδωκαιν, τουτων δε και ο Ειρηναιος ην, φερε, και τας αυτου παραθωμεθα λεξεις, και πρωτας γε τας περι των ιερων ευαγγελιων, ουτως εχουσας·

Since, in the beginning of this work, we promised to give from time to time the words of the ancient presbyters and writers of the church, in which they have declared those traditions which came down to them concerning the testamental books, and since Irenaeus was one of them, we will now give his words and, first, what he says concerning the sacred gospels:

Ο μεν δη Ματθαιος εν τοις Εβραιοις τη ιδια αυτων διαλεκτω και γραφην εξηνεγκεν ευαγγελιου του Πετρου και του Παυλου εν Ρωμη ευαγγελιζομενων και θεμελιουντων την εκκλησιαν.

Ita Mattheus in Hebraeis ipsorum lingua scripturam edidit evangelii cum Petrus et Paulus Romae evangelizarent et fundarent ecclesiam.

Indeed Matthew, among the Hebrews in their own dialect, also bore forth a writing of the gospel, Peter and Paul evangelizing in Rome and founding the church.

Μετα δε την τουτων εξοδεν Μαρκος, ο μαθητης και ερμηνευτης Πετρου, και αυτος τα υπο Πετρου κηρυσσομενα εγγραφως ημιν παραδεδωκεν, και Λουκας δε, ο ακολουθος Παυλου, το υπ εκεινου κηρυσσομενον ευαγγελιον εν βιβλω κατεθετο.

Post vero excessum Marcus discipulus et interpres Petri et ipse quae a Petro annuntiata erant per scripta nobis tradidit, et Lucas autem sectator Pauli quod ab illo praedicabatur evangelium in libro condidit.

But after the exodus of these men Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself also delivered to us in writing the things preached by Peter, and Luke also, the follower of Paul, set down in a book the gospel preached by that man.

Επειτα Ιωαννης, ο μαθητης του κυριου, ο και επι το στηθος αυτου αναπεσων, και αυτος εξεδωκεν το ευαγγελιον, εν Εφεσω της Ασιας διατριβων.

Postea et Johannes discipulus domini qui et supra pectus ejus recumbebat et ipse edidit evangelium Ephesi Asiae commorans.

Afterward John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned upon his breast, himself also published the gospel, passing his time in Ephesus of Asia.

Ταυτα μεν ουν εν τριτω της ειρημενης υποθεσεως τω προδηλωθεντι ειρηται.

He says these things, then, in the third book of his abovementioned work.

Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.11.7-9 (Greek from Anastasius; English translation modified slightly from that on Early Christian Writings):

Et haec quidem sunt principia evangelii, unum deum, fabricatorem huius universitatis, eum qui et per prophetas sit adnuntiatus et qui per Moysen legis dispositionem fecerit, patrem domini nostri Iesu Christi adnuntiantia, et praeter hunc alterum deum nescientia neque alterum patrem. tanta est autem circa evangelia haec firmitas, ut et ipsi haeretici testimonium reddant eis et ex ipsis egrediens unusquisque eorum conetur suam confirmare doctrinam. Ebionei etenim eo evangelio quod est secundum Matthaeum solo utentes, ex illo ipso convincuntur non recte praesumentes de domino. Marcion autem id quod est secundum Lucam cirmumcidens, ex his quae adhuc servanture penes eum blasphemus in solum existentem deum ostenditur. qui autem Iesum separant a Christo et inpassibilem perseverasse Christum passum vero Iesum dicunt, id quod secundum Marcum est praeferentes evangelium, cum amore veritatis legentes illud corrigi possunt. hi autem qui a Valentino sunt eo quod est secundum Iohannem plenissime utentes ad ostensionem conlugationum suarum, ex ipso detegentur nihil recte dicentes, quemadmodum ostendimus in primo libro. cum ergo hi qui contradicunt nobis testimonium perhibeant et utentur his, firma et vera est nostra de illis ostensio.

Such, then, are the first principles of the gospel, that there is one God, the maker of this universe, he who was also announced by the prophets, and who by Moses set forth the dispensation of the law, [principles] which proclaim the father of our Lord Jesus Christ and ignore any other God or father except him. So firm is the ground upon which these gospels rest that the very heretics themselves bear witness to them, and, starting from these, each one of them endeavours to establish his own peculiar doctrine. The Ebionites indeed, using only that gospel which is according to Matthew, are convicted by that alone, not presuming rightly about the Lord. But Marcion, mutilating that according to Luke, is proved to be a blasphemer of the only existing God from those [passages] which he still retains. Those again who separate Jesus from Christ, alleging that Christ remained impassible, but that it was Jesus who suffered, preferring the gospel by Mark, if they read it with a love of truth may have their errors rectified. Those, moreover, who follow Valentinus, making copious use of that according to John to illustrate their conjunctions, shall be proved to be totally in error by means of this very gospel, as I have shown in the first book. Since, then, our opponents do bear testimony to us, and make use of these [documents], our proof derived from them is firm and true.

Neque autem plura numero quam haec sunt neque rursus pauciora capit esse evangelia.* quoniam enim quatuor regiones mundi sunt in quo sumus, et quatuor principales spiritus, et deseminata est ecclesia super omnem terram, columna autem et firmamentum ecclesiae est evangelium, et spiritus vitae. consequens est, quatuor habere eam columnas, undique flantes incorruptibilitatem et vivificantes homines. ex quibus manifestum est, quoniam qui est omnium artifex verbum, qui sedet super cherubim et continet omnia, declaratus hominibus, dedit nobis quadriforme evangelium, quod uno spiritu continetur. quemadmodum et David postulans eius adventum ait: Qui sedens super cherubim. appare. et enim cherubim quadriformia; et formae ipsorum imagines sunt dispositionis filii dei. primum enim animal, inquit, simile leoni, efficabile eius et principale et regale significans; secundum vero simile vitulo, sacrificalem et sacerdotalem ordinationem significans; tertium vero animal habens faciem quasi humanam, qui est secundum hominem adventum eius manifeste describens; quartum vero simile aquilae volantis, spiritus in ecclesiam advolantis gratiam manifestans. et evangelia igitur his consonantia, in quibus insidet Christus Iesus. aliud enim illam quae est a patre principalem, et efficabilem, et gloriosam generationem eius enarrat, dicens sic: In principio erat verbum, et verbum erat apud deum, et deus erat verbum. et omnia per ipsum facta sunt, et sine ipso factum est nihil. propter hoc et omni fiducia plenum est evangelium istud; talis est enim persona eius. id vero quod est secundum Lucam, quoniam quidem sacerdotalis characteris est, a Zacharia sacerdoto sacrificante do inchoavit. iam enim saginatus parabatur vitulus, qui pro inventione minoris filii inciperet mactari. Matthaeus vero eam quae est secundum hominem, generationem eius enarrat: Liber, dicens, generationis Iesu Christi, filii David, filii Abraham. et iterum: Christi autem generatio sic erat. humanae formae igitur hoc evangelium; propter hoc et per totum evangelium humiliter sentiens, et mitis homo servatus est. Marcus vero a prophetico spiritu, ex alto adveniente hominibus, initium fecit: Initium, dicens, evangelii, quemadmodum scriptum est in Esaia propheta, volatilem et pennatam imaginem evangelii monstrans; propter hoc et compendiosam et praecurrentem annuntiationem fecit. propheticus enim character est hic. et ipsum autem verbum dei, illis quidem qui ante Moysem fuerunt patriarchis, secundum divinitatem et gloriam colloquebatur; his vero qui in lege sacerdotalem et ministerialem actum praebebat; post deinde nobis homo factus, munus coelestis spiritus in omnem misit terram, protegens nos alil suis. qualis igitur dispositio filii dei, talis et animalium forma; et qualis animalium forma, talis et character evangelii. quadriformia autem animalia, et quadriforme evangelium, et quadriformis dispositio domini. et propter hoc quatuor data sunt testamenta humano generi, unum quidem ante catclysmum sub Adam, secundum vero post cataclysmum sub Noe, tertium vero legislatio sub Moyse, quartum vero quod renovat hominem et recapitulat in se omnia, quod est per evangelium, elevans et pennigerans homines in coeleste regnum.

* This first Latin sentence goes unrepresented in the Greek.

Επειδη τεσσαρα κλιματα του κοσμου εν ω εσμεν εισι, και τεσσαρα καθολικα πνευματα, κατεσπαρται δε η εκκλησια επι πασης της γης, στυλος δε και στηριγμα εκκλησιας το ευαγγελιον, και πνευμα ζωης· εικοτως τεσσαρας εχειν αυτην στυλους, πανταχοθεν πνεοντας την αφθαρσιαν, και αναζωπυρουντας τους ανθρωπους. εξ ων φανερον οτι ο των απαντων τεχνιτης λογος, ο καθημενος επι των χερουβιμ και συνεχων τα παντα, φανερωθεις τοις ανθρωποις, εδωκεν ημιν τετραμορφον το ευαγγελιον, ενι δε πνευματι συνεχομενον. κυθως ο Δαβιδ αιτουμενος αυτου την παρουσιαν φησιν· Ο καθημενος επι των Χερουβιμ, εμφανηθι. και γαρ τα χερουβιμ τετραπροσωπα· και τα προσωπα αυτων εικονες της πραγματειας του υιου του θεου. το μεν γαρ πρωτον ζωον, φησιν, ομοιον λεοντι· το εμπρακτον αυτου και ηγεμονικον και βασιλικον χαρακτηριζον· το δε δευτερον ομοιον μοσχω, την ιερουργικην και ιερατικην ταξιν εμφαινον· το δε τριτον εχον προσωπον ανθρωπου, την κατα ανθρωπον αυτου παρουσιαν φανερωτατα διαγραφον· το δε τεταρτον ομοιον αετω πετωμενω, την του πνευματος επι την εκκλησιαν εφιπταμενου δοσιν σαφηνιζον. και τα ευαγγελια ουν τουτοις συμφωνα, εν οις εγκαθεζεται Χριστος. το μεν γαρ κατα Ιωαννην την απο του πατρος ηγεμονικην αυτου και ενδοξον γενεαν διηγειται, λεγον· Εν αρχη ην ο λογος, και παντα δι αυτου εγενετο· και χωρις αυτου εγενετο ουδε εν. το δε κατα Λουκαν, ατε ιερατικου χαρακτηρος υπαρχον, απο του Ζαχαριου του ιερεως θυμιωντος τω θεω ηρξατο. ηδη γαρ ο σιτευτος ητοιμαζετο μοσχος, υπερ της ανευρεσεως το νεωτερου παιδος μελλων θυεσθαι. Ματθαιος δε την κατα ανθρωπον αυτου γεννησιν κηρυττει, λεγων· Βιβλος γενεσεως Ιησου Χριστου, υιου Δαβιδ, υιου Αβρααμ, και του δε Ιησου Χριστου η γεννησις ουτως ην· ανθρωπομορφον ουν το ευαγγελιον τουτο. Μαρκος δε απο του προφητικου πνευματος, του εξ υψους επιοντος τοις ανθρωποις, την αρχην εποιησατο, λεγων· Αρχη του ευαγγελιου Ιησου Χριστου, ως γεγραπται εν Ησαια τω προφητη· την πτερωτικην εικονα του ευαγγελιου δεικνυων· δια τουτο δε και συντομον και παρατρεχουσαν την καταγγελιαν πεποιηται· προφητικος γαρ ο χαρακτηρ ουτος. και αυτος δε ο λογος του θεου, τοις μεν προ Μωυσεως πατριαρχαις, κατα το θεικον και ενδοξαν ωμιλει· τοις δε εν τω νομω, ιερατικην ταξιν απενειμεν· μετα δε ταυτα ανθρωπος γενομενος, την δωρεαν του αγιου πνευματος εις πασαν εξεπεμψε την γην, σκεπαζων ημας ταις εαυτου πτερυξιν. οποια ουν η πραγματεια του υιου του θεου, τοιαυτη και των ζωων η μορφη· και οποια η των ζωων μορφη τοιουτος και ο χαρακτηρ του ευαγγελιου. τετραμορφα γαρ τα ζωα, τετραμορφον και το ευαγγελιον και η πραγματεια του κυριου. και δια τουτο τεσσαρες εδοθησαν καθολικαι διαθηκαι τη ανθρωποτητι, μια μεν του κατακλυσμου του Νωε επι του τοξου, δευτερα δε του Αβρααμ επι του σημειου της περιτομης, τριτη δε η νομοθεσια επι του Μωυσεως, τεταρτη δε η του ευαγγελιου, δια του κυριου ημων Ιησου Χριστου.

It is not possible that the gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the church is scattered throughout all the world, and the pillar and ground of the church is the gospel and the spirit of life, it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh. From which fact, it is evident that the word, the artificer of all, he who sits upon the cherubim and contains all things, he who was manifested to men, has given us the gospel under four aspects, but bound together by one spirit. As also David says when entreating his manifestation: You you sit between the cherubim, shine forth.1 For the cherubim, too, were four-faced, and their faces were images of the dispensation of the son of God. For it says: The first living creature was like a lion,2 symbolizing his effectual working, his leadership, and his royal power; the second was like a calf,2 signifying sacrificial and sacerdotal order; but the third had, as it were, the face as of a man,2 an evident description of his advent as a human being; the fourth was like a flying eagle,2 pointing out the gift of the spirit hovering with his wings over the church. And therefore the gospels are in accord with these things, among which Christ Jesus is seated. For that according to John relates his original, effectual, and glorious generation from the father, thus declaring: In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God; and all things were made by him, and without him was nothing made.3 For this reason, too, is that gospel full of all confidence, for such is his person. But that according to Luke, taking up the priestly character, commenced with Zachariah the priest offering sacrifice to God.4 For now was made ready the fatted calf, about to be immolated for the finding again of the younger son.5 Matthew, again, relates his generation as a man, saying: The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham,6 and also: The birth of Jesus Christ was as follows.7 This, then, is the gospel of his humanity; for which reason it is, too, that a humble and meek man is kept up through the whole gospel. Mark, on the other hand, commences with the prophetical spirit coming down from on high to men, saying: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet,8 pointing to the winged aspect of the gospel; and on this account he made a compendious and cursory narrative, for such is the prophetical character. And the word of God himself used to converse with the patriarchs before Moses, in accordance with his divinity and glory; but for those under the law he instituted a sacerdotal and liturgical service. Afterward, being made man for us, he sent the gift of the celestial spirit over all the earth, protecting us with his wings. Such, then, as was the course followed by the son of God, so was also the form of the living creatures; and, such as was the form of the living creatures, so was also the character of the gospel. For the living creatures are quadriform, and the gospel is quadriform, as is also the course followed by the Lord. For this reason were four catholic covenants given to the human race, one prior to the deluge under Adam, the second being after the deluge under Noah, the third being the giving of the law under Moses, the fourth being that which renovates man and sums up all things in itself by means of the gospel, raising and bearing men upon its wings into the heavenly kingdom.

1 Refer to Psalm 79.2.
2 Refer to Revelation 4.7.
3 Refer to John 1.1, 3.
4 Refer to Luke 1.8-9.
5 Refer to Luke 15.11-32, the parable of the prodigal son.
6 Refer to Matthew 1.1.
7 Refer to Matthew 1.18.
8 Refer to Mark 1.1-2.

His igitur sic se habentibus vani omnes et indocti et insuper audaces qui frustrantur speciem evangelii et vel plures quam dictae sunt vel rursus pauciores inferunt personas evangelii, quidam ut plus videantur quam est veritatis adinvenisse, quidam vero ut reprobent dispositiones dei.* etenum Marcion totum reiciens evangelium, immo vere seipsum abscidens ab evangelio, partem gloriatur se habere evangelii. alii vero ut donum spiritus frustrentur quod in novissimis temporibus secundum placitum patris effusum est in humanum genus, illam speciem non admittunt quae est secundum Iohannis evangelium in qua paracletum se missurum dominus promisit, sed simul et evangelium et propheticum repellunt spiritum. infelices vero, qui pseudoprophetas quidam esse nolunt, propheticam vero gratiam repellunt ab ecclesia; similia patientes his qui propter eos {qui} in hypocrisi veniunt etiam a fratrum communicatione se abstinent. datur autem intellegi quod huiusmodi neque apostolum Paulum recipiant, in ea enim epistula quae est ad Corinthios de propheticis charismatibus diligenter locutus est et scit viros et mulieres in ecclesia prophetantes. per haec igitur omnia peccantes in spiritum dei in inremissibile incidunt peccatum. hi vero qui sunt a Valentino iterum existentes extra omnem timorem suas conscriptiones proferentes plura habere gloriantur quam sunt ipsa evangelia. siquidem in tantum processerunt audaciae uti quod ab his non olim conscriptum est veritatis evangelium. quoniam autem sola illa vera et firma et non capit neque plura praeterquam praedicia sunt neque pauciora esse evangelia, per tot et tanta ostendimus. etenim cum omnia conposita et apta deus fecerit, oportebat et speciem evangelii bene conpositam et bene conpaginatam esse. examinata igitur sententia eorum qui nobis tradiderunt evangelium, ex ipsis principiis ipsorum, veniamus et ad reliquos apostolos et perquiramus sententiam eorum de deo; post deinde ipsos domini sermones audiamus.

* The Greek is extant only up to this point.

Τουτων δε ουτως εχοντων ματαιοι παντες και αμαθεις, προσετι δε και τολμηροι οι αθετουντες την ιδεαν του ευαγγελιου και ειτε πλειονα ειτε ελαττονα των ειρημενων παρεισφεροντες ευαγγελιων προσωπα, οι μεν ινα πλειονα δοξωσι της αληθειας εξευρηκεναι, οι δε ινα τας οικονομιας του θεου αθετησωσιν.

These things being so, all who destroy the form of the gospel are vain, unlearned, and also audacious, those who represent the aspects of the gospel as being either more in number than as aforesaid or, on the other hand, fewer. The former class do so that they may seem to have discovered more than is of the truth, the latter that they may set the dispensations of God aside. For Marcion, rejecting the entire gospel, yea rather, cutting himself off from the gospel, boasts that he has part in the gospel. Others, again, that they may set at nought the gift of the spirit, which in the latter times has been by the good pleasure of the father poured out upon the human race, do not admit that aspect presented by 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. Wretched men indeed who wish to be pseudoprophets, forsooth, but who set aside the gift of prophecy from the church, acting like those who, on account of such as come in hypocrisy, hold themselves aloof from the communion of the brethren. We must conclude, moreover, that these men cannot admit the apostle Paul either. For in his epistle to the Corinthians he speaks expressly of prophetical gifts, and recognizes men and women prophesying in the church.* Sinning, therefore, in all these particulars against the spirit of God, they fall into the irremissible sin. But those who are from Valentinus, being, on the other hand, altogether reckless while they put forth their own compositions, boast that they possess more gospels than there really are. Indeed, they have arrived at such a pitch of audacity as to entitle their comparatively recent writing the gospel of truth, though it agrees in nothing with the gospels of the apostles, so that they have really no gospel which is not full of blasphemy. For if what they have published is the gospel of truth, and yet is totally unlike those which have been handed down to us from the apostles, any who please may learn, as is shown from the scriptures themselves, that what has been handed down from the apostles can no longer be reckoned the gospel of truth. But that these gospels alone are true and reliable, and admit neither an increase nor diminution of the aforesaid number, I have proved by so many and such [arguments]. For, since God made all things in due proportion and adaptation, it was fit also that the outward aspect of the gospel should be well arranged and harmonized. The opinion of those men, therefore, who handed the gospel down to us, having been investigated, from their very fountainheads, let us proceed also to the remaining apostles and inquire into their doctrine with regard to God; then in due course we shall listen to the very words of the Lord.

* Refer to 1 Corinthians 12.1-31; 14.1-40; 11.4-5.

The Muratorian canon.

Late century II.

The Muratorian canon list attests to all four canonical gospels. It attests to those of Luke and John directly, but to those of Matthew and Mark only indirectly because the beginning is lost (as is the ending).

Theophilus of Antioch.

Late century II.

From Theophilus, To Autolycus 3.12:

Ετι μην και περι δικαιοσυνης ης ο νομος ειρηκεν, ακολουθα ευρισκεται και τα των προφητων και των ευαγγελιων εχειν, δια το τους παντας πνευματοφορους ενι πνευματι θεου λελαληκεναι.

Moreover, concerning also the justice of which the law has spoken, it is found that there are attending details both in the prophets and in the gospels, on account that all of them spoke, spirit-borne, by one spirit of God.

From Jerome, epistle 121:

Theophilus, Antiochenae ecclesiae septimus post Petrum apostolum episcopus, quatuor evangelistarum in unum opus dicta compingens, ingenii sui nobis monumenta dimisit.

Theophilus, seventh bishop of the Antiochene church after Peter the apostle, in compiling the sayings of the four evangelists into one work, left us monuments of his ingenuity.

Theophilus also quotes the gospel of John by name and makes quotations from or allusions to the gospel of Matthew and possibly that of Luke.

Tertullian.

Early century III.

Tertullian, Against Marcion 4.2.1b-2 (text and translation modified from that of Ernest Evans):

Transeo nunc ad evangelii, sane non Iudaici sed Pontici, interim adulterati demonstrationem, praestructuram ordinem quem aggredimur. constituimus inprimis evangelicum instrumentum apostolos auctores habere, quibus hoc munus evangelii promulgandi ab ipso domino sit impositum. si et apostolicos, non tamen solos, sed cum apostolis et post apostolos, quoniam praedicatio discipulorum suspecta fieri posset de gloriae studio, si non adsistat illi auctoritas magistrorum, immo Christi, quae magistros apostolos fecit.

I pass on next to show how his gospel, certainly not Judaic but Pontic, is in places adulterated, and this shall form the basis of my order of approach. I lay it down to begin with that the documents of the gospel have the apostles for their authors, and that this task of promulgating the gospel was imposed upon them by our Lord himself. If they also have for their authors apostolic men, yet these stand not alone, but as companions of apostles or followers of apostles, because the preaching of disciples might be made suspect of the desire of vainglory, unless there stood by it the authority of their teachers, or rather the authority of Christ, which made the apostles teachers.

Denique nobis fidem ex apostolis Ioannes et Matthaeus insinuant, ex apostolicis Lucas et Marcus instaurant, isdem regulis exorsi, quantum ad unicum deum attinet creatorem et Christum eius, natum ex virgine, supplementum legis et prophetarum. viderit enim si narrationum dispositio variavit, dummodo de capite fidei conveniat, de quo cum Marcione non convenit.

In short, from among the apostles the faith is introduced to us by John and by Matthew, while from among apostolic men Luke and Mark give it renewal, beginning with the same rules as far as relates to the one only God, the creator, and to his Christ, born of a virgin, the fulfilment of the law and the prophets. It matters not that the arrangement of their narratives varies, so long as there is agreement on the essentials of the faith, and on these they show no agreement with Marcion.

Tertullian, Against Marcion 4.5.3 (text and translation modified from that of Ernest Evans):

Habet plane et illud ecclesias, sed suas, tam posteras quam adulteras, quarum si censum requiras, facilius apostaticum invenias quam apostolicum, Marcione scilicet conditore, vel aliquo de Marcionis examine. faciunt favos et vespae, faciunt ecclesias et Marcionitae. eadem auctoritas ecclesiarum apostolicarum ceteris quoque patrocinabitur evangeliis, quae proinde per illas et secundum illas habemus, Ioannis dico et Matthaei, licet et Marcus quod edidit Petri affirmetur, cuius interpres Marcus. nam et Lucae digestum Paulo adscribere solent.

Admittedly that gospel too has its churches, but they are its own, of late arrival and spurious. If you search out their ancestry you are more likely to find it apostatic than apostolic, having for founder either Marcion or someone from the hive of Marcion. Even wasps make combs, and Marcionites make churches. That same authority of the apostolic churches will stand as witness also for the other gospels, which no less [than that of Luke] we possess by their agency and according to their text, I mean those of John and Matthew, though that which Mark produced is stated to be of Peter, whose interpreter Mark was. The narrative of Luke also they usually attribute to Paul.

Origen.

Early century III.

From the Commentary on Matthew, as cited in Eusebius, History of the Church 6.25.3-6:

Ταυτα μεν ουν εν τω προειρημενω τιθησι συγγραμματι, εν δε τω πρωτω των εις το κατα Ματθαιον, τον εκκλησιαστικον φυλαττων κανονα, μονα τεσσαρα ειδεναι ευαγγελια μαρτυρεται, ωδε πως γραφων·

So these things he places in the aforementioned writing, but in the first of the [interpretations] on Matthew, protecting the ecclesiastical canon, he testifies that he knows only four gospels, writing something like this:

Ως εν παραδοσει μαθων περι των τεσσαρων ευαγγελιων, α και μονα αναντιρρητα εστιν εν τη υπο τον ουρανον εκκλησια του θεου, οτι πρωτον μεν γεγραπται το κατα τον ποτε τελωνην, υστερον δε αποστολον Ιησου Χριστου Ματθαιον, εκδεδωκοτα αυτο τοις απο Ιουδαισμου πιστευσασιν, γραμμασιν Εβραικοις συντεταγμενον.

As learned in tradition concerning the four gospels, which even alone are not spoken against in the church of God under heaven, that the first written that according to the one who was once a publican, but later an apostle of Jesus Christ, Matthew, who published it for those from Judaism who had believed, ordered together in Hebrew letters.

Δευτερον δε το κατα Μαρκον, ως Πετρος υφηγησατο αυτω ποιησαντα ον και υιον εν τη καθολικη επιστολη δια τουτων ωμολογησεν φασκων· Ασπαζεται υμας Βαβυλωνι συνελεκτη και Μαρκος ο υιος μου.

And second that according to Mark, who made it as Peter led him, whom he confessed also as son in the catholic epistle, through these words: She who is in Babylon, elect with you, greets you, as well as Mark my son.

Και τριτον το κατα Λουκαν, το υπο Παυλου επαινουμενον ευαγγελιον τοις απο των εθνων πεποιηκοτα· επι πασιν το κατα Ιωαννην.

And third that according to Luke, the gospel praised by Paul, made for those from among the gentiles. After all of them, that according to John.

Prologue to Homilies on Luke:

Ωσπερ εν τω παλαι λαω
πολλοι προφητειαν επηγγελλοντο,
αλλα τουτων τινες μεν
ησαν ψευδοπροφηται,
 
τινες δε αληθως προφηται,
και ην χαρισμα τω λαω
διακρισις πνευματων,
αφ ου εκρινετο ο τε αληθης
προςητης και ο ψευδωνυμος.
 
 
ουτω και νυν εν τη καινη διαθηκη
τα ευαγγελια πολλοι
ηθελησαν γραψαι,
αλλ οι δοκιμοι τραπεζιται
ου παντα ενεκριναν,
αλλα τινα αυτων εξελεξαντο.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Ταχα δε και το επεχειρησαν
λεληθυιαν εχει κατηγοριαν
των χωρις χαρισματος
ελθοντων επι την αναγραφην
των ευαγγελιων.
Ματθαιος γαρ
 
ουκ επεχειρησεν
αλλα εγραψεν απο αγιου
πνευματος,
ομοιως και Μαρκος και Ιωαννης,
παραπλησιως δε και Λουκας.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Το μεντοι
επιγεγραμμενον κατα Αιγυπτιους
ευαγγελιον και το επιγεγραμμενον
των δωδεκα ευαγγελιον
οι συγγραψαντες επεχειρησαν.
ηδη δε ετολμησε και Βασιλειδης
γραψαι κατα Βασιλειδην
ευαγγελιον.
πολλοι μεν ουν επεχειρησαν.
 
 
 
 
φερεται γαρ και
το κατα Θωμαν ευαγγελιον
και το κατα Ματθιαν
και αλλα πλειονα.
 
 
 
ταυτα εστι
των επιχειρησαντων·
τα δε τεσσαρα μονα προκρινει
η του θεου εκκλησια.
Sicut olim in populo Iudaeorum
multi prophetiam pollicebantur,
et quidam
erant pseudoprophetae, e quibus
unus fuit Ananias, filius Azor,
alii vero veri prophetae,
et erat gratia in populo
discernedorum spirituum,
per quam alii inter prophetas
recipiebantur, nonnulli quasi
ab exercitatissimus
trapezitis reprobabantur,
ita et nunc in novo instrumento
multi conati sunt
scribere evangelia,
sed
non omnes recepti.
 
Et ut sciatis non solum
quatuor evangelia sed plurima
esse conscripta, e quibus haec
quae habemus electa sunt
et tradita ecclesiis,
ex ipso prooemio Lucae,
quod ita contexitur, cognoscamus:
Quoniam quidem multi conati
sunt ordinare narrationem.
 
Hoc quod ait: Conati sunt,
latentem habet accusationem
eorum, qui absque gratia
spiritus sancti ad scribenda
evangelia prosiluerunt.
Mattheus quippe
et Marcus et Ioannes et Lucas
non sunt conati scribere,
sed spiritu sancto pleni
scripserunt evangelia.
 
 
Multi, igitur, conati sunt
ordinare narrationem
de his rebus quae manifestissime
cognitae sunt in nobis.
 
Ecclesia quator habet evangelia,
haeresis plurima, e quibus quoddam
scribitur secundum Aegyptios,
aliud iuxta duodecim apostolos.
 
 
ausus fuit et Basilides
scribere evangelium et suo
illud nomine titulare.
multi conati sunt scribere,
sed quatuor tantum evangelia
sunt probata, e quibus
super persona domini et salvatoris
nostri proferenda sunt dogmata.
scio quoddam evangelium
quod apellatur secundum Thomam
et iuxta Matthiam:
et alia plurima legimus,
ne quid ignorares videremur
propter eos qui se putant
aliquid scire si ista
cognoverint. sed in his
omnibus nihil aliud
probamus nisi quod ecclesia,
id est quatuor tantum evangelia
recipienda. haec idcirco, quia
in principio lectum est:
Multi conati sunt ordinare
narrationem de his rebus
quae confirmatae sunt in nobis.
illi tentaverunt atque conati
sunt de his rebus scribere,
quae nobis manifestissime
sunt compertae.
The following translation is a conflation of both the Greek and the Latin versions. Key:
  • Both Greek and Latin.
  • Greek only.
  • Latin only.

Just as formerly among the people of the Jews many engaged in prophecy, but some of them were false prophets, one of whom was Ananias the son of Azor, but others were true prophets, and among the people there was the gift of discerning spirits, through which some among the prophets were received as true, others rejected as false as if by the most expert moneychanger, so now also in the New Testament many have taken in hand to write gospels, but not all have been received by the approved moneychangers, but only certain ones of them have been selected. That, as you know, there have been written not only the four gospels but many, from which those which we possess were selected and delivered to the churches, we may know from the preface of Luke, which runs thus: Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to order a narrative. That which he says about having taken in hand holds a latent accusation of those who hurried to write gospels without the gifting of the holy spirit. For Matthew and Mark and John and Luke did not take in hand to write, but wrote the gospels full of the holy spirit, and likewise Mark and John, like Luke himself. Many, therefore, took in hand to order a narrative of these matters which have most manifestly been made known among us. The church has four gospels, heresies very many, of which one is written according to the Egyptians, another according to the twelve apostles. Basilides also dared to write a gospel and to entitle it by his own name. Many have taken in hand to write, but four gospels only are approved, from which the dogmas about the person of our Lord and savior are to be derived. I know a certain gospel which is called according to Thomas, and one according to Matthias, and many others we read, lest we should be seen as ignorant on account of those who suppose they know something if they have knowledge of those. But in all these, which were taken in hand, we approve nothing else except that which the church of God approves, that is, four gospels only as to be received. These are they which are read in the beginning: Many have taken in hand to order a narrative of these matters which have been confirmed among us. Those attempted, but took in hand to write of these matters which most manifestly have been imparted to us.

It appears to me that Jerome echoes this Origenic passage in the preface to his commentary on Matthew.

Victorinus of Pettau.

Late century III.

Commentary on the Apocalypse 4.3-4a:

Quattuor {animalia quattuor} sunt evangelia. primum, inquit, simile leoni, secundum simile vitulo, tertium simile homini, quartum simile aquilae volanti, {habentes} alas senas, in circuitu oculos et intus et deforis; et non cessant dicere, inquit: Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus, dominus deus omnipotens.

The four animals are the four gospels. The first, he says, was similar to a lion, the second similar to a calf, the third similar to a man, the fourth similar to an eagle flying, [each] having six wings, eyes roundabout both within and without. And, he says, they do not cease to say: Holy, holy, holy, omnipotent Lord God.

Sedentes XXIIII seniores habentes tribunalia XXIIII libri {sunt} prophetarum et legis referentes testimonia iudicii. sunt autem viginti quattuor patres, duodecim apostoli et duodecim patriarchae. animalia igitur quod differenti vultu sunt, hanc habent rationem.

The twenty-four seated elders who have twenty-four thrones are the books of the prophets and of the law, handing testimonies of judgment. They are, moreover, twenty-four fathers, twelve apostles and twelve patriarchs. In that, therefore, the animals are of different appearance, this is the reason.

Simile leoni animal evangelium cata Iohannem, quod, cum omnes evangelistae hominem factum Christum praedicaverunt, ille autem illum antequam descenderet et carnem sumeret deum praedicavit dicendo: Deus erat verbum, et quoniam tamquam leo fremens exclamavit, leonis vultum sustinet praedicatio eius. hominis Matheus enititur enuntiare nobis genus Mariae, unde carnem accepit Christus. ergo dum enumerat ab Abraham usque ad David et ab David usque ad Ioseph, tamquam de homine locutus est; ideo praedicatio eius effigiem hominis accepit. Lucas quoque {a} sacerdotio Zachariae offerentis hostiam pro populo et apparente sibi angelo dum enumerat, propter sacerdotium et hostiam ipsa conscriptio vituli tulit imaginem. Marcus, interpres Petri, ea quae in munere docebat commemoratus conscripsit, sed non ordine, et incipit prophetiae verbo per Esaiam praenuntiato.

The animal similar to a lion is the gospel according to John, because, since all the evangelists had preached that the Christ had become a man, he preaches that God had previously descended and assumed flesh, saying: The word was God, and it is because he exclaimed in the manner of a lion roaring that his preaching takes on the appearance of a lion. [In the figure] of a man Matthew strives to announce to us the genealogy of Mary, whence Christ received flesh. When, therefore, he enumerates from Abraham even to David and from David even to Joseph, he spoke as if of a man; thus his preaching recieves the effigy of a man. Luke, when he enumerates from the priesthood of Zacharias as he offers a sacrificial victim for the people, and from the angel who appears to him, on account of the priesthood and of the sacrificial victim this writing bore the image of a calf. Mark, the interpreter of Peter, having remembered the things that he taught in his duty wrote it down, but not in order, and began with the word of prophecy announced beforehand through Isaiah.

Incipiunt ergo sic dicendo. Iohannes: In principio erat verbum, et verbum erat apud deum, et deus erat verbum; haec facies leonis. Matheus autem: Liber generationis Iesu Christi filii dei filii David filii Abrahae; haec facies hominis. Lucas autem sic: Fuit sacerdos nomine Zacharias de vice Abia {et} mulier illi erat de filiabus Aaron; haec est imago vituli. Marcus incipit sic: Initium evangelii Iesu Christi sicut scriptum est in Esaia; advolante spiritu coeptum est, ideo volantis aquilae habet et effigiem.

They began, therefore, speaking thus. John [writes]: In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and God was the word; this is the figure of a lion. But Matthew [writes]: The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of God, the son of David, the son of Abraham; this is the figure of a man. But Luke [writes] thus: There was a priest by the name of Zacharias, from the division of Abijah, {and} his wife was from the daughters of Aaron; this is the image of a calf. Mark starts off thus: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ just as it was written in Isaiah; it begins with the spirit flying, thus it also has the effigy of a flying eagle.

Eusebius.

Early century IV.

Eusebius compiles a canonical list that includes all four canonical gospels (accented Greek and English translation of History of the Church 3.23.1-19; 3.24.1-18).

Ephraem.

Middle of century IV.

From the commentary on the Diatessaron (text and translation slightly modified from that supplied by S. C. Carlson):

Non autem aequiparantur et concordant ad invicem verba apostolorum, quia non simul scripserunt hi evangelium. non enim acceperunt hi mandatum, ut Moyses cum tabulis, sed sicut dixerat propheta: Dabo eis pactum testamenti, non sicut illud, sed legem meam dabo in cogitationibus eorum et in cordibus eorum scribam illam. et occasiones provocaverunt eos, et scripserunt. Matthaeus Hebraeus scripsit hoc, et ecce versum est in graecum. Marcum autem sequebatur Simonem; cum profecti essent Romam in urbem, ut recordantur perfecte, ne forte diuturnitate in oblivionem veniret hoc, {fideles} persuaserunt eum, et scripsit quodcumque apprehenderat. Lucas autem exordium fecit a baptismo Iohannis, nam unus de incarnatione eius locutus est, et de regno eius quod ex Davide; alter vero ab Abraham incepit. venit Iohannes et repperit {varias} opiniones indicasse verba eorum qui descripserunt genealogiam eius, {probando nempe} hominem esse illum; ideo scripsit et ispe non esse illum {tantum} hominem, sed a principio esse illum verbum.

They are, however, not to be compared and they agree in turn with the words of the apostles, because they did not write these gospels at the same time. For they did not receive this mandate, as Moses with the tablets, but just as the prophet had said: I will give them a covenant of testament, not like this, but I will put my law in their minds and I will write it in their hearts. Opportunities have both summoned and written them. Matthew the Hebrew wrote this, and behold it was turned into Greek. Mark, however, used to follow Simon, when they gained ground in the city Rome, so that they were perfectly recorded; lest they come to oblivion for a very long time, {the faithful} persuaded him, and he wrote whatever he learned. Luke, however, made the beginning from the baptism of John, for one spoke from his incarnation, and from his reign that is from David; the other truly began from Abraham. John came and found {various} opinions to be made known about their words that describe his genealogy, {to test to be sure} that he is human; he also wrote that he is not {so much} human but he is the word from the beginning.

Matthaeus Hebraice scripsit evangelium, Marcus Latine a Simone Romae in urbe, Lucas Graece; Iohannes (tandem) scripsit illud quia permansit in mundo usque ad tempus Traiani.

Matthew wrote the gospel in Hebrew, Mark in Latin from Simon in the city of Rome, Luke in Greek; John {at last} wrote it because he remained in the world until the time of Trajan.

Marcus evangelizavit in Aegypto, Iohannes in Asia, Matthaeus apud Indos et in Iudaea, Thomas apud Parthos, et Iacobus Zebedaei in Gallia, Andreas apud Scythas et Macedones et Achaios, Petrus in Ponto et Romae et apud Galatas et Cymbrios et Bythinos et Asianos et in Merdsin, Paulus a Ierusalem usque in Hispaniam, Bartholomaeus evangelium Matthaei dedit Indis, et fuit ibi episcopus, et evangelizavit in Lycaonia; Philippus apud Graecos et apud Galatas, Crispus apud Dalmatas, Titus apud Cretenses, Levi infra Pontum, Thaddaeus, unus ex septuaginta Urhae, in diebus Abgari, custodis loci; et sanavit eum, cum aegrotus esset.

Mark evangelized in Egypt, John in Asia, Matthew with the Indians and in Judea, Thomas with the Parthians, and James of Zebedee in Gaul, Andrew with the Scythians and Macedonians and Acheans, Peter in Pontus and at Rome and with the Galatians and Cymbrians and Bythinians and Asians and in Merdsin, Paul from Jerusalem to Spain, Bartholomew gave the gospel of Matthew to the Indians, and was bishop there, and evangelized in Lycaonia; Philip with the Greeks and with the Galatians, Crispus with the Dalmatians, Titus with the Cretans, Levi beyond Pontus, Thaddeus, one of the seventy in Ur, in the days of Abgar, guard of the place; and healed him, when he had been ill.

Quadraginta annis post ascensionem domini nostri initium factum est ruinae Ierusalem ante bellum Titi. omnes apostoli dispersi erant ad universas nationes gentium, ut et praeceperat eis dominus noster: Exite in universum mundum.

Forty years after the ascension of our Lord the beginning was made at the ruin of Jerusalem before the war of Titus. All the apostles were dispersed to all the nations of people, as our Lord also commanded them: Go into the entire world.

Epiphanius.

Late century IV.

Translations modified slightly from those in volume 2 of the translation of the Panarion by Frank Williams, except for those of 51.6.10-12, which are slightly modified from that given by S. C. Carlson.

Epiphanius, Panarion 51.4.12:

Ματθαιος γαρ πρωτος αρχεται ευαγγελιζεσθαι. τουτω γαρ ην επιτετραμμενον το ευαγγελιον κηρυξαι απ αρχης, ως και εν αλλη αιρεσει περι τουτου δια πλατους ειρηκαμεν ουδεν δε ημας λυπησει και αυθις περι των αυτων διαλαβειν, εις παραστασιν αληθειας και ελεγχον των πεπλανημενων.

For Matthew was the first to become an evangelist. He was directed to issue the gospel first. I have spoken largely of this in another sect;* however, I shall not mind dealing with the same things again, as proof of the truth and in refutation of the erring.

* Williams gives 20.8.4 and 30.3.7 as cross references.

Epiphanius gives the order of composition of the four gospels as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. He does so, creatively enough, by making each evangelist (except the first) write in order to correct a misapprehension about the previous gospel. He first affirms that Matthew wrote first in 51.5.1-3a:

Ουτος τοινυν ο Ματθαιος καταξιουται πρωτος κηρυξαι το ευαγγελιον, ως εφην, και δικαιοτατα ην. εδει γαρ τον απο πολλων αμαρτηματων επιστρεψαντα και απο του τελωνειου ανασταντα και ακολουθησαντα τω ελθοντι επι σωτηρια του γενους των ανθρωπων και λεγοντι· Ουκ ηλθον καλεσαι δικαιους, αλλα αμαρτωλους εις μετανοιαν, εις υποδειγμα ημιν τοις μελλουσι σωζεσθαι [ομοιως] τω εν τω τελωνειω αναχθεντι και απο αδικιας αναστρεψαντι, πρωτον παρασχεσθαι το κηρυγμα της σωτηριας, ινα απ αυτου μαθωσιν οι ανθρωποι την της παρουσιας φιλανθρωπιαν. μετα γαρ την αφεσιν των αμαρτιων εδωρησατο αυτω και αναστασιν νεκρων και καθαρσιν λεπρας και ιαματων δυναμεις και απελασιν δαιμονιων, ινα μη μονον απο του λογου πειση τους ακουοντας, αλλα και απ αυτου του εργου [δυνηται] κηρυξαι ευαγγελια, τοις απολλυμενοις οτι σωθησονται δια μετανοιας και τοις πεπτωκοσιν οτι αναστησονται και τοις τεθνεωσιν οτι ζωογονηθησονται. και αυτος μεν ουν ο Ματθαιος Εβραικοις γραμμασι γραφει το ευαγγελιον και κηρυττει, και αρχεται ουκ απ᾿ αρχης, αλλα διηγειται μεν την γενεαλογιαν απο του Αβρααμ.

As I said, Matthew was privileged to be the first [to issue] the gospel, and this was absolutely right. Because he had repented of many sins and had risen from the receipt of custom and followed him who came for the salvation of man and said: I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance, it was the duty of Matthew to present the message of salvation as an example for us, who would be saved like this man who was restored in the tax office and turned from his iniquity. From him men would learn the graciousness of the advent of Christ. For after the forgiveness of his sins it was granted him to raise the dead, cleanse leprosy, and work miracles of healing and cast out devils, so that he would not merely persuade his hearers by his speech but preach good tidings with actual deeds, to the perishing the tidings of their salvation through repentance; to the fallen the tidings that they would arise; and to the dead the tidings that they would be quickened. Matthew himself wrote and issued the gospel in the Hebrew alphabet, and did not begin at the beginning, but rather traced the pedigree of Christ from Abraham.

Now, in 51.6.1-6a, Epiphanius leads up to the misapprehension concerning Matthew:

Τι ουν ερουμεν; επει μη κατηγγειλεν ο Ματθαιος τα υπο του Λουκα ρηθεντα, αρα ασυμφωνος ειη ο αγιος Ματθαιος προς την αληθειαν; η ουκ αληθευει ο αγιος Λουκας, ειπων ουδεν περι των πρωτων τω Ματθαιω πεπραγματευμενων; ουχι εκαστω εμερισεν ο θεος, ινα οι τεσσαρες ευαγγελισται οφειλοντες κηρυξαι ευρωσιν εκαστος τι εργασωνται και τα μεν συμφωνως και ισως κηρυξωσιν, ινα δειξωσιν οτι εκ της αυτης πηγης ωρμηνται, τα δε εκαστω παραλειφθεντα αλλος διηγησηται, ως ελαβε παρα του πνευματος μερος της αναλογιας; τι δε ποιησωμεν; Ματθαιου μεν κηρυττοντος εν Βηθλεεμ την Μαριαμ γεγεννηκεναι, κατα [τε] τας παρ αυτω γενεαλογιας απο Αβρααμ και Δαυιδ την ενσαρκον Χριστου θεοφανειαν, ως ουχ ευρισκεται ο αγιος Μαρκος ταυτα λεγων, αλλα απο της εν τω Ιορδανη πραγματειας ποιειται την εισαγωγην του ευαγγελιου και φησιν· αρχη του ευαγγελιου, ως γεγραπται εν Ησαια τω προφητη, φωνη βοωντος εν τη ερημω. ουτω και τα τω αγιω Ιωαννη πεπραγματευμενα και εν αγιω πνευματι ησφαλισμενα την φροντιδα εσχεν, ου περι των ηδη κεκηρυγμενων πολλακις μονον λεγειν, αλλα περι των αναγκαιως υπο των αλλων εις αυτον κηρυγματων καταλειφθεντων. Η γαρ πασα των ευαγγελιων υποθεσις τοιουτον ειχε τον τροπον. Ματθαιου μεν γαρ κεκηρυχοτος τον Χριστον γεννηθεντα και εκ πνευματος αγιου συλληφθεντα, εκ σπερματος τε Δαυιδ και Αβρααμ κατα σαρκα οικονομηθεντα, πλανη τις γεγενηται τοις μη νενοηκοσιν.

What then shall we say? Because Matthew did not report the events which Luke related, can the holy Matthew be at odds with the truth? Or is the holy Luke not telling the truth, because he has said [nothing] about the first things Matthew dealt with? Did not God give each evangelist his own assignment, so that each of the four evangelists whose duty it was to proclaim the gospel could find what he was to do and proclaim some things in agreement and alike to show that they were from the same source, but otherwise describe what another had omitted, as each received his proportionate share from the spirit? What then shall we do? Matthew declares that Mary gave birth in Bethlehem {and} shows the incarnation of Christ in the line of Abraham and David. The holy Mark, we find, says none of this. He introduces the gospel with the affair at the Jordan and says: The beginning of the gospel, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet, the voice of one crying in the wilderness. Is Mark lying then? Of course not. There was no reason for him to repeat information which had already been given. Similarly, the things that the holy John discussed and confirmed in the holy spirit were not just meant to repeat what had already been proclaimed, but rather to speak of the teachings that the others had had to leave to John. For the whole essence of the gospel was of this nature. After Matthew had proclaimed the generation of Christ, his conception through the holy spirit, [and] his incarnation as a descendant of David and Abraham, an error arose in those who did not understand the narrative which was intended in good faith to provide assurance of these things from the gospel.

This misapprehension is what led, according to 51.6.10-14a, to the composition of Mark, which in turn produced yet another misapprehension:

Ευθυς δε μετα τον Ματθαιον ακολουθος γενομενος ο Μαρκος τω αγιω Πετρω εν Ρωμη επιτρεπεται το ευαγγελιον εκθεσθαι και γραψας αποστελλεται υπο του αγιου Πετρου εις την των Αιγυπτιων χωραν. ουτος δε εις ετυγχανεν εκ των εβδομηκοντα δυο, των διασκορπισθεντων επι τω ρηματι ω ειπεν ο κυριος· εαν μη τις φαγη μου την σαρκα και πιη μου το αιμα, ουκ εστι μου αξιος, ως τοις τα ευαγγελια αναγνουσι σαφης ειη η παραστασις ομως δια Πετρου επανακαμψας ευαγγελιζεσθαι καταξιουται, πνευματι αγιω εμπεφορημενος. αρχεται δε κηρυττειν οθεν το πνευμα αυτω παρεκελευσατο, την αρχην ταττων απο πεντεκαιδεκατου ετους Τιβεριου Καισαρος, μετα ετη τριακοντα της του Ματθαιου πραγματειας. δευτερου δε γενομενου ευαγγελιστου και μη περι της ανωθεν καταγωγης του θεου λογου τηλαυγως σημηναντος, αλλα παντη μεν εμφαντικως, ου μην κατα ακριβολογιαν τοσαυτην, γεγονε τοις προειρημενοις ηπατημενοις εις δευτερον σκοτωσις των διανοηματων του μη καταξιωθηναι προς φωτισμον του ευαγγελιου λεγοντων αυτων οτι ιδου και δευτερον ευαγγελιον περι Χριστου σημαινον και ουδαμου ανωθεν λεγον την γεννησιν....

Immediately after Matthew, Mark, who was a follower of the holy Peter in Rome, was entrusted to set forth the gospel and, after he wrote, he was sent forth by the holy Peter to the area of Egypt. He happened to be one of the seventy-two who were scattered abroad upon the word that the Lord said: Unless someone eats my flesh and drinks my blood, he is not worthy of me,1 as the proof would be clear to those who read the gospel; likewise, after his restoration by Peter, he was privileged to evangelize, being filled with the holy spirit.2 He began to preach from what the holy spirit encouraged, laying down the beginning from the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, after thirty years of the careful study of Matthew. Since he was a second evangelist, and gave no clear indication of the descent of the divine word from on high, {though} he does it vividly everywhere, but not with as much precision, these misguided people had their perceptions darkened a second time, and they were not held worthy of the illumination of the gospel. They said: Look, here is a second gospel too with an account of Christ, and nowhere does it say that his generation is heavenly.

1 Refer to John 6.53 and Matthew 10.37.
2 I have modified Carlson with Williams at this point.

Now, in 51.7.1, Epiphanius asserts that Luke was written as a response to this latest error:

Επειδη δε ταυτα ουτως εν τοις τοιουτοις ανοητοις ετελειτο, αναγκαζει το αγιον πνευμα και επινυττει τον αγιον Λουκαν ως απο βαθους κατωτατου την διανοιαν των ηπατημενων ανενεγκαι και τα υπο των αλλων καταλειφθεντα αυθις επιβαλλεσθαι.

Since this was the state of mind of these stupid people, the holy spirit compelled and urged the holy Luke to raise their misguided minds from the lowest depths, as it were, and once again take up what the other evangelists had omitted.

Finally, in 51.11.4b-12.2, John writes last of all, in response to the misapprehension about Luke:

Υπερβας δε τον Αδαμ λεγει του θεου. εντευθεν λοιπον ην φανερωτατον οτι του μεν θεου ην υιος, δια δε του σπερματος του Αδαμ κατα διαδοχην εν σαρκι παρεγενετο. αλλα ουκ εσχον παλιν φωτισμον οι πεπλανημενοι, αντελεγον δε τω λογω, εαυτους πλανωντες και το ψευδος αγαπωντες υπερ την αληθειαν. εφασκον δε οτι ιδου τριτον ευαγγελιον το κατα Λουκαν. τουτο γαρ επετραπη τω Λουκα, οντι και αυτω απο των εβδομηκοντα δυο των διασκορπισθεντων επι τω του σωτηρος λογω, δια δε Παυλου του αγιου παλιν επανακαμψαντι προς τον κυριον επιτραπεντι τε αυτου κηρυξαι το ευαγγελιον. και κηρυττει πρωτον εν Δαλματια και Γαλλια και εν Ιταλια και Μακεδονια. αρχη δε εν τη Γαλλια, ως και περι τινων των αυτου ακολουθων λεγει εν ταις αυτου επιστολαις ο αυτος Παυλος Κρησκης, φησιν, εν τη Γαλλια ου γαρ εν τη Γαλατια, ως τινες πλανηθεντες νομιζουσιν, αλλα εν τη Γαλλια. πλην επι το προκειμενον ελευσομαι. ανενεγκαντος γαρ του Λουκα τας γενεαλογιας απο των κατω επι τα ανω και φθασαντος την εμφασιν ποιησασθαι της ανωθεν του θεου Λογου παρουσιας ομου τε συναφθεντος τη ενσαρκω αυτου οικονομια, ινα αποτρεψηται απο των πεπλανημενων την πλανην, ουκ ενοησαν. διο υστερον αναγκαζει το αγιον πνευμα τον Ιωαννην, παραιτουμενον ευαγγελισασθαι δι ευλαβειαν και ταπεινοφροσυνην, επι τη γηραλεα αυτου ηλικια, μετα ετη ενενηκοντα της αυτου ζωης, μετα την απο της Πατμου επανοδον την επι Κλαυδιου γενομενην Καισαρος και μετα ικανα ετη του διατριψαι αυτον επι της Ασιας, [αναγκαζεται] εκθεσθαι το ευαγγελιον.

And [Luke] goes past Adam and says: Son of God. From this, at length, it was perfectly plain that he was the son of God, but that he had come in the flesh as the lineal descendant of Adam. But once more the misguided did not see the light; in their self deceit [and their preference of falsehood] to truth, they disputed the statement. They said: Here is a third gospel, that of Luke. For Luke was given this commission. He too was one of the seventy-two who had been scattered because of the saying by the savior. But he was brought back to the Lord by the holy Paul and told to issue his gospel. And he preached in Dalmatia, Gaul, Italy, and Macedonia first, but originally in Gaul, as Paul says of certain of his followers in his epistles: Crescens is in Gaul.* It does not say in Galatia, as some wrongly believe, but in Gaul. But to return to the subject. Although Luke had traced the pedigree of Christ from its end to its beginning and reached the point where, to turn the misguided from their error, he hinted at the advent of the divine word and his simultaneous union with his human nature, they did not understand. Later, therefore, though from caution and humility he had declined to be an evangelist, the holy spirit compelled John to issue the gospel in his old age when he has past ninety, after his return from Patmos under Claudius Caesar, and several years of his residence in Asia.

* Refer to 2 Timothy 4.10.

Epiphanius has more to say about the gospel of John in this same chapter, since it concerns the Alogi, those who rejected the gospel and apocalypse of John.

Jerome.

Late century IV or early century V.

From Prologue of the Four Gospels (the translation of the first paragraph is slightly modified from Orchard and Riley, The Order of the Synoptics, page 206; this paragraph seems to echo Origen):

Plures fuisse qui evangelia scripserunt, et Lucas evangelista testatur, dicens: Quoniam quidem multi conati sunt ordinare narrationem rerum, quae in nobis completae sunt, sicut tradiderunt nobis, qui ab initio ipsi viderunt sermonem, et ministraverunt ei; et perseverantia usque ad praesens tempus monimenta declarant, quae a diversis auctoribus edita, diversarum haereseon fuere principia, ut est illud iuxta Aegyptios, et Thomam, et Matthiam, et Bartholomaeum, duodecim quoque apostolorum, et Basilidis atque Apellis, ac reliquorum, quos enumerare longissimum est; cum hoc tantum in praesentiarum necesse sit dicere, exstitisse quosdam, qui sine spiritu et gratia dei conati sunt magis ordinare narrationem, quam historiae texere veritatem. quibus iure potest illud propheticum coaptari: Vae qui prophetant de corde suo, qui ambulant post spiritum suum, qui dicunt: Haec dicit dominus; et dominus non misit eos. de quibus et salvator in evangelio Ioannis loquitur: Omnes qui ante me venerunt fures fuerunt et latrones. qui venerunt, non qui missi sunt. ipse enim ait: Veniebant, et ego non mittebam eos. in venientibus praesumptio temeritatis; in missis obsequium servitutis est. ecclesia autem, quae supra petram domini voce fundata est, quam introduxit rex in cubiculum suum, et ad quam per foramen descensionis occultae misit manum suam, similis damulae hinnuloque cervorum, quatuor flumina paradisi instar eructans, quatuor et angulos et annulos habet, per quos quasi arca testamenti et custos legis domini, lignis immobilibus vehitur.

There have been many who wrote gospels as Luke the evangelist testifies, saying: Inasmuch as many have endeavored to set in order the narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word.1 Those of the documents that are even now extant, being published by a variety of authors, were the origins of a variety of heresies; examples are the gospel of the Egyptians, of Thomas, of Matthias, of Bartholomew, even of the twelve apostles, of Basilides and of Apelles, and of all the others whom it would take too long to list, since for present purposes it need only be remarked that certain people, lacking the spirit and grace of God, have endeavored more to set the narrative in order than to expound historical truth. To such as these one may fittingly apply the prophecy: Woe to those who prophesy from their own heart, who follow their own desire, who say: Thus says the Lord, and the Lord has not sent them.2 Of these even the savior speaks in the gospel of John: All who came before me were thieves and robbers.3 Who came, not who were sent. For he himself said: They came, yet I was not sending them.4 Those who come display rash presumption, those who are sent true obedience. Now the church which has been set upon the rock by the voice of the Lord, whom the king has led to his bedchamber and toward whom he secretly stretched out his hand through the opening, is like a little fallow deer, a young stag;5 like paradise it is the source of four rivers,6 and it has four corners and four rings by means of which it is carried by moveable poles as was the ark of the testament, the receptacle for the law of the Lord.7

1 Refer to Luke 1.1-2.
2 Refer to Ezekiel 13.3, 6.
3 Refer to John 10.8.
4 Refer to Jeremiah 14.14; 23.21.
5 Refer to Song of Solomon 1.4; 5.4; 2.9.
6 Refer to Genesis 2.10.
7 Refer to Exodus 25.10-16.

Primus omnium Matthaeus est, publicanus cognomento Levi, qui evangelium in Iudaea Hebreo sermone edidit, ob eorum vel maxime causam qui in Iesum crediderunt ex Iudaeis, et nequaquam legis umbra succendente evangelii vertitatem servabat.

First of all is Matthew, a publican with the cognomen of Levi, who published a gospel in Judea in the Hebrew speech, especially on account of those who had believed in Jesus from among the Jews, and with the shadow of the law in no way succeeding he served the truth of the gospel.

Secundus Marcus interpres apostoli Petri et Alexandriae ecclesiae primus episcopus, qui dominum quidem salvatorem ipse non vidit, sed ea quae magistrum audierat praedicantem iuxta fidem magis gestorum narravit quam ordinem.

Second was Mark, interpreter of the apostle Peter and first bishop of the church of Alexandria, who did not actually see the Lord savior for himself, but narrated rather those things which he had heard the master preaching according to faith rather than in the order of events.

Tertius Lucas medicus, natione Syrus Antiochensis, cuius laus in evangelio, qui et ipse discipulus apostoli Pauli in Achaiae Boeotiaeque partibus volumen condidit, quaedam altius repetens et, ut ipse in proemio confitetur, audita magis quam visa describens.

Third was Luke, a physician, Antiochene Syrian by nationality, whose praise is in the gospel, who, also himself a disciple of the apostle Paul, gave together the volume in parts of Achaia and Boeotia, repeating certain things more highly and, as he confessed in his preface, describing what he heard rather than what he saw.

Ultima Iohannes, apostolus et evangelista, quem Iesus amavit plurimum, qui super pectus domini recumbens purissima doctrinarum fluenta potavit et qui solus de cruce meruit audire: Ecce, mater tua. is cum esset in Asia et iam tunc haereticorum semina pullularent, Cerinthi, Hebionis, et ceterorum, qui negant Christum in carne venisse, quos et ipse in epistula sua antichristos vocat et apostolus Paulus frequenter percutit, coactus est ab omnibus paene tunc Asiae episcopis et multarum ecclesiarum legationibus de divinitate salvatoris altius scribere et ad ipsum, ut ita dicam, dei verbum non tam audaci, quam felici temeritate prorumpere, ut ecclesiastica narrat historia. cum a fratribus cogeretur, ut scriberet, ita facturum respondisse si indicto ieiunio in communi omnes deum deprecarentur; quo expleto revelatione saturatus in illud prooemium caelo veniens eructavit: In principio erat verbum, et verbum erat apud deum, et deus erat hoc verbum; hoc erat in principio apud deum.

Last was John, apostle and evangelist, whom Jesus loved very much, who while reclining on the breast of the Lord drank the purest streams of his teachings and who alone deserved to hear from the cross: Behold, your mother. When he was in Asia and already then the seeds of the heretics were sprouting, of Cerinthus, of Ebion, and of the rest, who deny that Christ came in the flesh, whom he himself in his epistle calls antichrists and the apostle Paul frequently strikes at, he was then urged by almost all the bishops of Asia and by the delegates of many churches to write more highly concerning the divinity of the savior and to break forth unto the very word of God, so to speak, not so much boldly as with happy chance, as the Ecclesiastical History narrates. When he was coaxed by the brethren to write, [it is said that] he responded that he would do so if a fast would be indicated in common and all would pray to God. When it was brought about he burst out, saturated with revelation, in that prologue which comes from heaven: In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and this word was God. This was in the beginning with God.

From the Prologue by Jerome (the various prologues and prefaces by Jerome on the books of the Bible confuse me; this particular text is from the introduction called Prologus in Evangelia Quattuor in the Latin New Testament by Tischendorf, pages 8-9):

Haec igitur quattuor euangelia multo ante praedicta Hiezechielis quoque volumen probat, in quo prima visio ita contexitur: Et in medio sicut similitudo quattuor animalium, et vultus eorum facies hominis et facies leonis et facies vituli et facies aquilae. prima hominis facies Matheum significat, qui quasi de homine exorsus est scibere: Liber generationis Iesu Christi filii David filii Abraham; secundum* Marcum in quo vox leonis in heremo rugientis auditur: Vox clamantis in deserto: Parate viam domini; rectas facite semitas eius; tertia vituli, quae evangelistam Lucam a Zacharia sacerdote sumpsisse initium praefiguravit; quarta Iohannem evangelistam, qui adsumptis pinnis aquilae et ad altiora festinans de verbo dei disputat. cetera quae sequuntur in eundem sensum proficiunt: crura eorum recta, et pinnati pedes, et quocumque spiritus ibat ibant et non revertebantur, et dorsa eorum plena oculis, et scintillae ac lampades in medio discurrentes, et rota in rota, et in singulis quattuor facies. unde et apocalypsis Iohannis, post expositionem viginti quattuor seniorum qui tenetes citharas et fialas adorant agnum dei, introducit fulgora et tonitrua et septem spiritus discurrentes et mare uitreum et quattuor animalia plena oculis, dicens: Animal primum simile leoni, et secundum simile vitulo, et terium simile homini, et quartum simile aquilae volanti; et post paululum: Plena, inquit, erant oculis et requiem non habebant die ac nocte, dicentia: Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus, dominus deus omnipotens qui erat et qui est qui venturus est. quibus cunctis perspicue ostenditur quattuor tantum debere evangelia suscipi, et omnes apocriphorum nenias mortuis, magis hereticis quam ecclesiasticis vivis, canendas.

* Possibly a corruption for secunda.

That these four gospels then were predicted a long time beforehand by Ezekiel the volume [itself] proves, in which the first vision is described thus: And in the middle were four beings in the likeness of animals, and their countenance was the face of a man and the face of a lion and the face of a calf and the face of an eagle.1 The first, the face of a man, signifies Matthew, who begins to write as if concerning a man: The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham;2 the second3 [signifies] Mark, in whom the voice of a roaring lion is heard in the wilderness: A voice crying out in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight;4 the third [face], which fixes beforehand that Luke the evangelist would assume a beginning from Zachariah the priest,5 is of a calf; the fourth [signifies] John the evangelist, who disputes concerning the word of God by assuming the wings of an eagle and hurrying on to the heights.6 The rest of the things which follow help in this same sense. Their legs were straight, and their feet winged, and they went wherever the spirit went and were not turned away, and their backs were full of eyes, and sparks or torches were running about in the middle, and wheels within wheels, and the four faces separately.7 Whence also the apocalypse of John, after the exposition of the twenty-four elders who, having citharas and bowls, adore the lamb of God, introduces lightning bolts and thunderclaps and seven spirits running about and a sea of glass and four animals full of eyes, saying: The first animal was like a lion, and the second like a calf, and the third like a man, and the fourth like a flying eagle.8 And after a little bit it says: They were full of eyes and had no rest day or night, saying: Holy, holy, holy, omnipotent Lord God, who was and who is and who will be.9 By all of these things it is plainly shown that only four gospels ought to be accepted, and that all of the apocryphal [ones] are funereal dirges for the dead, more for heretics than for living churches.

1 Refer to Ezekiel 1.5, 10.
2 Refer to Matthew 1.1.
3 Reading secunda instead of secundum.
4 Refer to Mark 1.3.
5 Refer to Luke 1.5.
6 Shades of John 1.1.
7 These details derive from the rest of the vision in Ezekiel 1.
8 Refer to Revelation 4.7.
9 Refer to Revelation 4.8.

The Monarchian prologues.

Century IV or V.

These Latin prologues precede the gospels in some manuscripts of the Latin Bible. A prologue is extant for each of the four canonical gospels.

Athanasius.

Century IV.

Athanasius affirms that only four gospels, namely the ones according to Matthew, according to Mark, according to Luke, and according to John (ευαγγελια τεσσαρα, κατα Ματθαιον, κατα Μαρκον, κατα Λουκαν, και κατα Ιωαννην), are canonical in his thirty-ninth festal letter, dated to year 367.

Pseudo-Athanasius, Synopsis of Sacred Scripture (Greek text from Migne, Patrologia Graeca 28, columns 432-433; English translation slightly modified from that of Stephen Carlson):

Ευαγγελια γαρ τεσσαρα εθεσπισαν ημιν οι ιεροι κανονες της αγιας καθολικης και αποστολικης εκκλησιας· το κατα Ματθαιαν, το κατα Μαρκον, το κατα Λουκαν, και το κατα Ιωαννην, κατα την προφητειαν της οπτασιας, ης εθεασατο Ιεζεχιηλ ο προφητης περι των τεσσαρων χερουβιμ. τεσσαρα γαρ ειδε χερουβιμ ουτος ο προφητης· τον εν ομοιον ανθρωπω, τουτεστι το κατα Ματθαιον ευαγγελιον· το δευτερον ομοιον μοσχω, τουτεστι το κατα Μαρκον ευαγγελιον· το αλλο ομοιον λεοντι, τουτεστι το κατα Λουκαν ευαγγελιον· το δε τεταρτων ομοιον αετω, τουτεστι το κατα Ιωαννην ευαγγελιον. παρα δε ταυτα τα τεσσαρα ετερον ευαγγελιον ουδεν.

For the sacred standards of the holy catholic and apostolic church foretold for us the four gospels, according to Matthew, according to Mark, according to Luke, and according to John, in accordance with the prophetic interpretation of the vision that Ezekiel beheld concerning the four cherubim. For this prophet saw four cherubim; one like a human, that is, the gospel according to Matthew; the second like a calf, that is, the gospel according to Mark; another like a lion, that is, the gospel according to Luke; and the fourth like an eagle, that is, the gospel according to John.* Besides these four there are no other gospels.

* Refer to Ezekiel 1.10; Revelation 4.7.

Το μεν ουν κατα Ματθαιον ευαγγελιον εγραφη υπ αυτου του Ματθαιου τη Εβραιδι διαλεκτω, και εξεδοθη εν Ιερουσαλημ, ηρμηνευθη δε υπο Ιακωβου του αδελφου του κυριου το κατα σαρκα, ος και πρωτος εχειροτονηθη επισκοπος υπο των αγιων αποστολων εν Ιεροσολυμοις.

The gospel according to Matthew was written by Matthew himself in the Hebrew dialect and was published in Jerusalem, but translated by James the brother of the Lord according to the flesh, who was appointed bishop by the holy apostles in Jerusalem.

Το δε κατα Μαρκον ευαγγελιον υπηγορευθη μεν υπο Πετρου του αποστολου εν Ρωμη, εξεδοθη δε υπο Μαρκου του μακαριου αποστολου, και εκηρυχθη υπ αυτου εν Αλεξανδρεια και εν Αιγυπτω και ιν Πενταπολει και Λιβυη.

The gospel according to Mark was dictated by Peter the apostle in Rome, but published by Mark the blessed apostle and proclaimed by him in Alexandria and in Egypt and in Pentapolis and Libya.

Το δε κατα Λουκαν ευαγγελιον υπηγορευθη μεν υπο Παυλου του αποστολου, συνεγραφη δε και εξεδοθη υπο Λουκα του μακαριου αποστολου και ιατρου· ωσπερ και πραξεις των αποστολων υπηγορευσε μεν ομοιως Πετρος ο αποστολος, συνεγραψατο δε ο αυτος Λουκας.

The gospel according to Luke was dictated by Paul the apostle, but written down and published by Luke the blessed apostle and physician, just as Peter the apostle also likewise dictated the Acts of the Apostles, but Luke himself wrote [them] down.

Το δε κατα Ιωαννην ευαγγελιον υπηγορευθη τε απ αυτου του αγιου Ιωαννου του αποστολου και ηγαπημενου, οντος εξοριστου εν Πατμω τη νησω, και υπο του αυτου εξεδοθη εν Εφεσω, δια Γαιου του αγαπητου και ξενοδοχου των αποστολων, περι ου και Παυλος Ρωμαιοις γραφων φησι· Ασπαζεται υμας Γαιος ο ξενος μου και ολης της εκκλησιας.

The gospel according to John was dictated by himself, the holy John the apostle and beloved one, when he was banished to the island of Patmos, and published by him in Ephesus through Gaius the beloved and host of the apostles, about whom Paul too, writing to the Romans, said: Gaius the host of me and the entire church greets you.*

* Refer to Romans 16.23.

Augustine.

Century V.

Augustine, On the Consensus of the Evangelists 1.6 (English translation slightly modified from that on the page by Felix Just about the four evangelical symbols):

Unde mihi videntur qui ex apocalypsi illa quatuor animalia ad intelligendos quatuor evangelistas interpretati sunt, probabilius aliquid attendisse illi qui leonem in Matthaeo, hominem in Marco, vitulum in Luca, aquilam in Ioanne intellexerunt quam illi qui hominem Matthaeo, aquilam Marco, leonem Ioanni tribuerunt. de principiis enim librorum quamdam coniecturam capere voluerunt,non de tota intentione evangelistarum, quae magis fuerat perscrutanda. multo enim congruentius ille qui regiam Christi personam maxime commendavit, per leonem significatus accipitur; unde et in apocalypsi cum ipsa tribu regia leo commemoratus est, ubi dictum est: Vicit leo de tribu Iuda. secundum Mattheum enim et magi narrantur venisse ab oriente ad regem quaerendum et adorandum, qui eis per stellam natus apparuit; et ipse rex Herodes regem formidat infantem, atque ut eum possit occidere, tot parvulos necat. quod autem per vitulum Lucas significatus sit, propter maximam victimam sacerdotis, neutri dubitaverunt. ibi enim a sacerdote Zacharia incipit sermo narrantis. ibi cognatio Mariae et Elisabeth commemoratur; ibi sacramenta primi sacerdotii in infante Christo impleta narrantur; et quaecumque alia possunt diligenter adverti, quibus appareat Lucas intentionem circa sacerdotis personam habuisse. Marcus ergo, qui neque stirpem regiam neque sacerdotalem vel cognationem vel consecrationem narrare voluit, et tamen in eis versatus ostenditur quae homo Christus operatus est, tantum hominis figura in illis quatuor animalibus significatus videtur. haec autem animalia tria, sive leo, sive homo, sive vitulus, in terra gradiuntur; unde isti tres evangelistae in his maxime occupati sunt, quae Christus in carne operatus est, et quae praecepta mortalis vitae exercendae carnem portantibus tradidit. at vero Ioannes super nubila infirmitatis humanae velut aquila volat, et lucem incommutabilis veritatis acutissimis atque firmissimis oculis cordis intuetur.

Whence it also appears to me that, of the various parties who have interpreted the living creatures in the apocalypse as signifying the four evangelists, those who have taken the lion to point to Matthew, the man to Mark, the calf to Luke, and the eagle to John have made a more reasonable application of the figures than those who have assigned the man to Matthew, the eagle to Mark, and the lion to John. For, in forming their particular idea of the matter, these latter have chosen to keep in view simply the beginnings of the books, and not the full design of the several evangelists in its completeness, which was the matter that should, above all, have been thoroughly examined. For surely it is with much greater propriety that the one who has brought under our notice most largely the kingly character of Christ should be taken to be represented by the lion. Thus is it also that we find the lion mentioned in conjunction with the royal tribe itself, in that passage of the apocalypse where it is said: The lion of the tribe of Judah has prevailed.1 For in the narrative of Matthew the magi are recorded as having come from the east to inquire after the king and to worship him whose birth was notified to them by the star. Thus, too, Herod, who himself also was a king, is afraid of the royal child, and puts so many little children to death in order to make sure that the one might be slain.2 Again, that Luke is intended under the figure of the calf, in reference to the preeminent sacrifice made by the priest, has been doubted by neither of the two [sets of interpreters]. For in that gospel the account of the narrator commences with Zachariah the priest.3 In it mention is also made of the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth.4 In it, too, it is recorded that the ceremonies proper to the earliest priestly service were attended to in the case of the infant Christ,5 and a careful examination brings a variety of other matters under our notice in this gospel, by which it is made apparent that the object of Luke was to deal with the part of the priest. In this way it follows further that Mark, who has set himself neither to give an account of the kingly lineage nor to expound anything distinctive of the priesthood, whether on the subject of the relationship or on that of the consecration, and who at the same time comes before us as one who handles the things which the man Christ did, appears to be indicated simply under the figure of the man among those four living creatures. But again those three living creatures, whether lion, man, or calf, have their course upon this earth; and in like manner those three evangelists occupy themselves chiefly with the things which Christ did in the flesh, and with the precepts which he delivered to men, who also bear the burden of the flesh, for their instruction in the rightful exercise of this mortal life. Whereas John, on the other hand, soars like an eagle above the clouds of human infirmity and gazes upon the light of the unchangeable truth with those keenest and steadiest eyes of the heart.

1 Refer to Revelation 5.5.
2 Refer to Matthew 2.1-18.
3 Refer to Luke 1.5.
4 Refer to Luke 1.36.
5 Refer to Luke 2.22-24.

On 08-20-2006 Michael Bird posted the following list of characteristics shared by the four gospels from Luke Timothy Johnson (slightly formatted):

  1. All four gospels are realistic narratives.
  2. All four gospels have specific historical roots in the Palestine of century I.
  3. All four gospels explicitly connect the story of Jesus to that of Israel, using the texts and stories of the Torah and the prophets to express the identity and role of Jesus.
  4. All four gospels emphasize the way that humans respond to Jesus.
  5. All four gospels climax in the passion of Jesus.
  6. All four gospels share an understanding of the resurrection of Jesus that is continuous with his human existence and sustaining of the relationships formed in his human ministry.
  7. All four gospels, despite their manifold differences, agree in their portrayal of Jesus as a human sent from God for the sake of other humans, who speaks and acts as the representative of God, even as he is also radically committed to obeying God.
  8. In all four gospels God is at once the father of Jesus and the God of Israel.
  9. In all four gospels the triumph of God is still in the future.
  10. All four gospels, despite their divergent portraits of the disciples, agree that discipleship means walking the path of radical obedience to God and living in service to Jesus Christ.