1. Evidence for Mark
Papias, who had contact with the apostolic circles, wrote, ‘This also the Elder (John) used to say: Mark, being the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately all that he (Peter) mentioned, whether sayings or doings of Christ; not, however, in order. For he was neither a hearer nor a companion of the Lord; but afterwards as I said, he accompanied Peter, who adapted his teachings as necessity required, not as though he were a compilation (collection) of the sayings of the Lord. So then Mark made no mistake, writing down in this way some things as he (Peter) mentioned them, for he paid attention to his one thing, not to omit anything that he had heard, nor to include any false statements among them ( Quoted by Eusebius: ‘History of the Church’, 111.39)
i) Here at once we see that the written Gospel of Mark was based on the preaching of the apostles – it is connected with the oral tradition.
ii) When observing the close similarity in the structure of the first three Gospels, the weight of this evidence concerning the origin of Mark increases considerably.
2. Evidence for Matthew
i) Something of the same link with the preaching of the apostles is found in connection with the first Gospel.
ii) Eusebius has written that Matthew having formerly preached to Hebrews, when he was about to go to others also, having committed to writing in his native tongue the Gospel which bears his name, supplied by his writing the want of his presence to those from whom he set out (History of the Church 111.24). Preaching’s and writings are here again associated.
3. Evidence for Luke
i) Concerning Luke’s Gospel we are informed by Irenaeus that Luke the follower of Paul set down in a book the Gospel which he (Paul) used to preach (Against Heresies 111 1:1, quoted by Wescott in Introduction to the Study of the Gospels, p.189
ii) Luke’s own preface makes it plain that his narrative was the embodiment of the oral tradition of eyewitnesses (Luke 1:2) and it was his peculiar advantage in having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first which qualified him to write an orderly account that should supersede the earlier and fragmentary attempts
iii) Thus, once more, the writing is built upon the preaching, though there is no doubt that Luke made full use of whatever had been written previous to his undertaking the task.
The Gospel of John written so very much later and under such different circumstances, does not yield any particular evidence as to the connection between the apostolic preaching and the written records. This Gospel requires separate consideration on its own account.