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At the present day it is generally admitted that, had the titles to the canonical Gospels been intended to set forth the ultimate authority or guarantor, and not to indicate the writer, the Second Gospel would, in accordance with the belief of primitive times, have been called "the Gospel according to Peter", and the third, "the Gospel according to Paul". The name gospel, as designating a written account of Christ's words and deeds, has been, and is still, applied to a large number of narratives connected with Christ's life, which circulated both before and after the composition of our Third Gospel (cf. The titles of some fifty such works have come down to us, a fact which shows the intense interest which centred, at an early date, in the Person and work of Christ.

At the same time it is rightly felt that these titles denote authorship, with a peculiar shade of meaning which is not conveyed by the titles prefixed to the Epistles of St. John, etc; The use of the genitive case in the latter titles (according to), on the contrary, while referring the composition of the contents of the First Gospel to St. Mark, etc., implies that practically the same contents, the same glad tidings or Gospel, have been set forth by more than one narrator. It is only, however, in connexion with twenty of these "gospels" that some information has been preserved.

Of these testimonies of the second century two are particularly worthy of notice, viz, those of St. The testimony of the latter apologist is still more important.

"The very absurdity of his reasoning testifies to the well-established position attained in his day by the four Gospels, to the exclusion of all others.

It remains true, however, that all the early testimony which has a distinct bearing on the number of the canonical Gospels recognizes four such Gospels and none besides.

Thus, Eusebius (died 340), when sorting out the universally received books of the Canon, in distinction from those which some have questioned writes: "And here, among the first, must be placed the holy III.25).

Irenæus' bishop was Potinus who lived to the age of 90, and Irenæus had known Polycarp in Asia Minor. Athanasius, in the lists of the sacred books drawn up by the Councils of Laodicea and of Carthage, and also in the oldest Greek uncial Manuscripts.: the Vatican, the Sinaitic, and the Alexandrine. In this way, as it seems, was obtained the present general order of the Gospels in which we find, at the beginning, an Apostle as author; at the end, the other Apostle; between the two, those who have to derive their authority from Apostles.

Here are links of connexion with the past which go back beyond the beginning of the second century" (Adeney). Its origin is best accounted for by the supposition that whoever formed the Gospel collection wished to arrange the Gospels in accordance with the respective date which tradition assigned to their composition. Matthew's Gospel, because a very early tradition described the work as originally written in Hebrew, that is, in the Aramaic language of Palestine. Luke, tradition ever spoke of them as posterior to St. John, so that their Gospels were naturally placed between those of St. The numerous orders which are different from the one most ancient and most generally received can easily be explained by the fact that after the formation of the collection in which the four Gospels were for the first time united, these writings continued to be diffused, all four separately, in the various Churches, and might thus be found differently placed in the collections designed for public reading. Luke) may be easily accounted for by the desire of paying a special honour to the Apostolic dignity. Luke) whose mutual resemblances are obvious and striking, and of placing at the end of the list of the Gospels the narrative (that of St. Luke are usually grouped together, and designated under the common name of the Synoptic Gospels.

Apart from various secondary meanings connected with that Greek particle, two principal significations have been ascribed to it.

Clement of Alexandria (died about 220) and Tertullian (died 220) were familiar with our four Gospels, frequently quoting and commenting on them.

The last-named writer speaks also of the Old Latin version known to himself and to his readers, and by so doing carries us back beyond his time.

This was, of course, the sole meaning connected with the word, so long as no authentic record of the glad tidings of salvation by Christ had been drawn up.

In point of fact, it remained the only one in use even after such written records had been for some time received in the Christian Church: as there could be but one Gospel, that is, but one revelation of salvation by Jesus Christ, so the several records of it were not regarded as several Gospels, but only as distinct accounts of one and the same Gospel.

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