Late dating of the gospels
Is it not interesting that “the church”, or at least the “proto-orthodox” side of Christianity, first appears to take an interest in writings about the earthly life of Jesus at the same time as heated arguments over the teachings of Paul?The two interests, the teachings of Paul and the earthly life of Jesus, first appear in the wider record around the same time.Well before this, the early Christians in Jerusalem had experienced “a great persecution” in which “all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1).Perhaps this early dispersal of the Christians away from the capital city, with its Jewish temple and all this stood for, was one method God used to prepare His succeeding church there for the ultimate break with Judaism that would occur with the fall of Jerusalem.In a cave sealed in 68 CE was a piece of a text which is claimed to be an early version of Mark, thus allowing Mark to be dated before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.This fragment, though, is just one inch long and one inch wide.
We now have 76 manuscripts of portions of the New Testament going back to the 4th century or earlier. It is now regarded as practically established that the four Gospels as we know them were circulating in Egypt as separate books within the first half of the second century. Looking at the table below, we can see that the oldest manuscripts of certain major works of Plato, Caesar, Cicero and Horace date from the 9th century; of Thucydides, Herodotus, Sophocles and Aristotle from the 10th; of Tacitus from the 11th—yet no one doubts that these manuscripts, though ever so many centuries later than their authors’ day, are, substantially, the uncorrupted descendants of the originals. D., and thus they evince the authenticity of their content and origin. Language in the Age of the Gospels, Franciscan Herald Press, Chicago 1989, p.324 A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark, 2nd. ed., Center for Judaic-Christian Studies, Dayton, Ohio 1994 De Vir.
We know from Church History that later Jewish believers in Christ in Jerusalem heeded His warning in Matthew 24 and Mark 13, so that they left before “Fortunately we have three ancient writings which if we pool the information together; we do know how they responded.
The first source is Josephus, a Jewish writer of the first century, an eyewitness of the events of 70 ; the second man was Hegisippus, who was a Jewish believer of the second century; and then came Eusebius of Caesarea a Gentile Christian of the fourth century.
We recently re-posted Russell Grigg’s classic article John the Creation Evangelist, which is still as relevant now as it was when it was first published almost 20 years ago. from the USA took issue with the article’s assignment of a late date to John’s Gospel. The matter of when John wrote his Gospel is certainly an interesting one and has elicited quite a lot of comment from expositors.
CMI as a whole doesn’t take a position on this, yet we thought it right that Mr Grigg should defend the date he gave, which seems to be the majority view in conservative biblical scholarship. The non-mention of the death of Paul or of the fall of Jerusalem is powerful evidence that the book of Acts was written before either of these events occurred, as Acts is all about the growth of the church and the ministry of Paul in particular in regard to this growth.