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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dating the New Testament

When was the New Testament written?

This question arose when a group of us were studying the book of Revelation; but it led me to consider what is written elsewhere in the New Testament, not least because a number of writers find in Revelation echoes not only of the Old Testament (which, of course, had been around a long time by the timme Jesus Christ was born), but of other books in the New Testament as well.

Apart from Revelation, which, Irenaeus tells us, was written during the time when the Emperor Domitian was persecuting the church in the late 1st century, the New Testament was written prior to 70 A.D. Most was probably written even before 66 A.D. The internal evidence is what compels this conclusion.

The Gospel of Luke, which is the first half of a two-part work consisting of itself and the Book of Acts, borrows much from the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. It also gives a description of the ministry of the Apostle Paul. The Book of Acts ends with Paul in Rome, under house arrest after using his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar, awaiting his hearing.

But Eusebius and certain earlier Roman historians tell us that in 66 A.D., the Emperor Nero blamed the Christians for burning Rome, and ordered a persecution in which the Apostles Peter and Paul were both martyred. Hence, Luke-Acts (along with Matthew and Mark), must have been written prior to that time. This also means that all of Paul's letters and the two letters of Peter must predate that time. The fact that Acts ends on a fairly upbeat note, as if Paul (and Luke, his companion) was confident of acquittal, also indicates a pre-persecution date.

Further, none of the books of the New Testament take the destruction of Jerusalem as a fait accompli. While Matthew 24-35, Mark 13, and Luke Luke 21 all record Jesus' prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem,none of the New Testament books sees the event as past. This would be hard to imagine had the vindication of the founder's prophecy occurred prior to the composition of one of the New Testament books.

1 comment:

  1. Hello.

    Have you done any more research on the dating of the New Testament? I would be interesting in learning approximate dates for all 27 New Testament books as you see it.