Although a four Gospel canon probably preceded the late second century theologian Irenaeus of Lyons, he was the first to explicitly rise to its defense. Here are his traditions on the evangelists. Recalling Papias, how does he understand that Matthew wrote among the Hebrews in “their own dialect” and, when he refers to Mark handing down Peter’s preaching in writing after the exodos of Peter and Paul, does he mean their “departure” from Rome or a euphemism for their “death”? When Irenaeus identifies Luke as the companion of Paul, is it because he combines the “we” of Acts with 2 Timothy 4:11 to suggest that Luke alone was with Paul in Rome (see Against Heresies 3.14.1)? Where did Irenaeus get the idea that John the disciple (= Apostle?) leaned on the Lord’s breast (see John 13:23) and resided in Ephesus (see Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.39 on the confusion over whether there were one or two Christian leaders named John with memorials in Ephesus)?
Ita Mattheus in Hebraeis ipsorum lingua scripturam edidit Evangelii cum Petrus et Paulus Romae evangelizarent et fundarent Ecclesiam. 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. Postea et Johannes discipulus Domini qui et supra pectus ejus recumbebat et ipse edidit Evangelium Ephesi Asiae commorans. (Irenaeus, Adversus Haeresis 3.1.1)
ὁ μὲν δὴ Ματθαῖος ἐν τοῖς Ἑβραίοις τῇ ἰδίᾳ αὐτῶν διαλέκτῳ καὶ γραφὴν ἐξήνεγκεν εὐαγγέλιου τοῦ Πέτρου καὶ τοῦ Παύλου ἐν Ρώμῃ εὐαγγελιζομένων καὶ θεμελιούντων τὴν ἐκκλησίαν· μετὰ δὲ τὴν τούτων ἔξοδεν Μάρκος, ὁ μαθητὴς καὶ ἑρμηνευτὴς Πέτρου, καὶ αὐτὸς τὰ ὑπὸ Πέτρου κηρυσσόμενα ἐγγράφως ἡμῖν παραδέδωκεν· καὶ Λουκᾶς δέ, ὁ ἀκόλουθος Παύλου, τὸ ὑπ’ ἐκείνου κηρυσσόμενον εὐαγγέλιον ἐν βίβλῳ κατέθετο. ἔπειτα Ἰωάννης, ὁ μαθητὴς τοῦ κυρίου, ὁ καὶ ἐπὶ τὸ στῆθος αὐτοῦ ἀναπεσών, καὶ αὐτὸς ἐξέδωκεν τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, ἐν Ἐφέσῳ τῆς Ἀσίας διατρίβων. (Greek text quoted in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 5.8.2-4)
Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia. (Alexander Roberts, William Rambaut)
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. 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. 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. (Ben C. Smith)
So Matthew, among the Hebrews in their own dialect, brought forth a writing of the gospel when Peter and Paul in Rome were evangelizing and founding the church; but after their departure Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, he too handed what was preached by Peter down to us in writing, and Luke, the follower of Paul, set forth in a book the gospel that was preached by him. Then John, the disciple of the Lord and also the one who leaned against his chest, also published the gospel when residing in Ephesus of Asia. (Stephen Carlson)