The Authors of the New Testament Gospels

February 21, 2015

If you ever wondered why the four New Testament Gospels were ascribed to the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, I have written a number of posts over at the blog Bible Study and the Christian Life that aims to introduce some of the scholarship on this to the layperson sitting in the church pews or to anyone else who is interested. Here is an index for the whole series and I welcome feedback or questions in the comments sections under any of the posts linked to below:

Who Wrote the Gospels?

Why are the Gospels Anonymous?

Why was Matthew Chosen as the Author of the First New Testament Gospel?

Why was Mark Chosen as the Author of the Second New Testament Gospel?

Why was Luke Chosen as the Author of the Third New Testament Gospel?

Why was John Chosen as the Author of the Fourth New Testament Gospel?

A New Article at the Bible and Interpretation Website

February 19, 2015

I have written a new article called “Why Did the Gospel of Mark Survive?” at the website The Bible and Interpretation.  It summarizes my own theory that I defend more fully in my book about why I believe the Gospel of Mark was preserved at all after most of its content was repeated in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, much less was included in the New Testament.  I hope you will enjoy it and, if you have any critical feedback or questions, will add your thoughts in the comments section below the article.

I will be speaking at Concordia University College of Alberta

February 13, 2015

I will be giving a talk at Concordia University College of Alberta for a Philosophy and Religious Studies Colloquium on Thursday, February 26 at 4 pm.  Here is the poster they have created for the event (Phi-Rel_Colloquium_Feb26_Poster_Proof).  If the topic is of interest to you, I hope to see you there. 🙂

Why Did Mark’s Gospel Survive?

AbstractAs any survey of the manuscripts, citations and commentaries of the New Testament Gospels will demonstrate, Mark’s Gospel was extremely neglected in the early church.  Further, over 90 percent of Mark’s content is also found in the highly esteemed Gospel of Matthew.  Why, therefore, was Mark’s Gospel preserved at all when so many other Christian writings were lost in antiquity?  I will explore the question of why Mark’s Gospel not only survived, but came to be included in the New Testament.

The lecture will be based on  my book The Gospel on the Margins: The Reception of Mark in the Second Century.

“The Gospel on the Margins” is Now Out

February 2, 2015

On Sunday, February 1, my book The Gospel on the Margins: The Reception of Mark in the Second Century became available to purchase.  It just happened to coincide with that other major event, the Super Bowl, and that amazing finish to that game (I say that as a Canadian who is generally out of the loop when it comes to the NFL)!  There is a description of the contents and endorsements of the book over at the Fortress Press site and it is also listed on,,,, and elsewhere online.  I will be more than happy to link to any critical blog reviews and look forward to the possible discussions that might happen.

I am very grateful to Professors C. Clifton Black, Paul Foster, James Crossley, Willi Braun, Tony Burke and James McGrath for their endorsements:

“Controlling abundant primary evidence with fine analysis of biblical and patristic scholarship, Michael Kok reopens the question of Mark’s ambiguous authority in second-century Christianity. That the Gospel lay in the crosshairs of ancient disputes over incipient orthodoxy is a creative proposal, vigorously argued, which merits reflection and testing.”

– C. Clifton Black, Princeton Theological Seminary

“In this invigorating and informative study, Michael J. Kok surveys who knew what about Mark’s Gospel during the second century. In an extremely useful and readable form, he assembles the available evidence and advances the striking hypothesis that early Christian writers were often hesitant to use Mark because they viewed it as susceptible to misuse by rival factions. Kok’s thesis is bold, provocative, and argued with great energy. Moreover, if it is judged correct, it casts significant light on some of the significant forces and dispute at work in the early Christian movement.”

– Paul Foster, the University of Edinburgh

“The Gospel on the Margins is part of an increasingly prominent trend in scholarship which looks at the early receptions of the Gospels. In his combination of traditional exegetical approaches with theoretical concerns about “reception” and “centrism”, Kok provides a distinctive, learned and important contribution to the debate. For anyone interested in the earliest receptions of Mark’s Gospel, and the Gospels more generally, Kok’s impressive book will be required reading.”

– James Crossley, the University of Sheffield

“Michael Kok has written a remarkable book, full of implications for the study of the early history of the Gospel of Mark and for Christian origins generally. His argument that the Gospel of Mark was hardly read in the second century, except perhaps by a fringe group in the developing coalition of Christian groups, is utterly convincing. Kok’s argument that the gospel received a place in the emerging Christian canon not because of its intrinsic merit but because it was confiscated for the canon as a way of further marginalizing a group that treasured it, is provocative and persuasive. Kok’s scholarship is impeccable, and he makes his novel argument with great clarity. New Testament scholars and historians of early Christianity, take note!”

– Willi Braun, the University of Alberta

“New Testament scholars love the Gospel of Mark. It is our earliest portrayal of Jesus but also the most unorthodox; its origins are well-documented in antiquity, yet, with good reason, most of us discount this evidence. It confounds and delights. Michael Kok does much to dispel some of the mysteries behind the creation and early reception of the Gospel, bolstering Willi Braun’s theory that early church writers were ambivalent to Mark because of its appreciation by so-called ‘heretics.’ He carefully adjudicates between previous approaches to the evidence, showing particular caution in his treatment of the still-controversial Secret Gospel of Mark (wisely reserved for discussion in an appendix), which, if authentic, would contribute much to his argument. In all, the book is a deftly-written, comprehensive resource for those seeking answers to Mark’s most challenging questions.”

– Tony Burke, York University

“Mike Kok’s new volume brings the perspective of reception history to bear on the question of the authorship of Mark. What ancient authors say about who wrote Mark may or may not reveal what they truly thought, but how they actually used it – and the extent to which they ignored it – tells us much more. Kok surveys several of the classic methods in New Testament studies – such as form and redaction criticism – in order to evaluate their implications for how Mark was composed. A treatment of the authenticity of the so-called Secret Gospel of Mark, and its resulting place as evidence of the composition or reception history of Mark, is also included. As a result, this volume covers many of the most important introductory matters related to the Gospel of Mark, as well as offering fresh methodological perspectives and insights. As a result,The Gospel on the Margins will not only serve as an important reference work for scholars, but as a helpful point of entry for all those approaching the academic study of Mark for the first time. It seems destined to become the go-to treatment of these subjects for years to come.”

James McGrath, Butler University