Dating the New Testament Writings

10 Oct

I may not be dating the church anymore (wink at Josh Harris), but I have continued my study on the New Testament and the historical dating of when the Scriptures were written.

I just came across a fascinating video series,by Xorosater, that attempts to answer when the New Testament Scriptures were written.  I like the series because the video clips are short, but very helpful in illustrating the difficulties of finding consistent evidence that the New Testament writings we have today are actually from the first century.

When I first started reading writings from the early church (over 12 years ago), I was fascinated by the diversity and a little unsettled at how much they actually muddled the water about the authority of the Bible and which books should be considered scripture and which ones should not.

If this is a topic that interests you, check it out and let me know what you think.  I still am a huge geek about the history of the early church and love the complexity and implications of this time period.

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12 Responses to “Dating the New Testament Writings”

  1. Lora Gorton October 14, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    I was brought up in churches that taught Higher Criticism and I have seen the damage it has done on the church and it’s people. I am now learning about the truth of God’s word and why it can and should be trusted. I hope this one site helps. It has helped me and the books and scholarship available through it. There is much out there now that should help folks faith grown in Christ and his word not destroy a persons faith. http://www.4gospels.com/

    • christianagnostic October 15, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

      Thanks for the link…I think that I’m not going to be in much agreement with you on this one.

      You can certainly construct an argument for the 4 Canonical Gospels being based on eyewitness testimony, but it means you have to put an enormous amount of faith in an unseen oral tradition that can not be accounted for before 150 AD.

      It also completely ignores the fact that the early church was in much disagreement over the the gospels and many New Testament books. If the scriptures of today are so obviously the inspired word of God, then why was it so difficult for the early church to figure out which were “true” scriptures and which ones were “false”? The history does not paint a pretty picture when it comes to the formation of the New Testament.

      As late as the 4th century, Jerome still considered the Gospel of Peter to be the oldest gospel, but did not include it in his translation of the Bible because of it’s doctrinal differences with the emerging Great Church of his time. Just to name one, of many examples of how screwy this whole process of putting together the New Testament actually played out.

  2. M. Rodriguez October 14, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

    I personally have done a lot of studying on this topic. In regards to early church history. Here are some general stuff on my site on it.

    http://bittersweetend.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/the-issue-of-translation/
    http://bittersweetend.wordpress.com/2012/04/15/third-person-gospels/

    I come back ater to comment more on this, because I do have a some more knowledge on this topic than the average person. And this is one of my Favorite topics

  3. christianagnostic October 15, 2012 at 4:25 pm #

    Sorry…but I’m going to pick at the 4Gospels site again. This article

    http://www.4gospels.com/when-was-it-decided-there-would-be-just-four-gospels.html

    states the following in it’s summary:

    Summary: It is hard to maintain that the decision to have four gospels was made in the fourth century. If Papias’ evidence is reliable, people were treating the four gospels as authoritative within one generation of the writing of the last of the four gospels (probably John).

    But here’s the problem with citing Papias as evidence for the canonical gospels. First off, even the early church treated Papias with suspicion (not an encouraging sign). Secondly, Papias states that he prefers the oral testimony of Christians to the writings of the Gospels. His own writings are full of wildly strange stories that even the early church found hard to swallow.

    If Papias is reliable is a huge understatement of the problem of establishing the fact of Apostolic authorship of the Gospels. If Papias is your main witness, then you have a major problem since your witness seems prone to believe just about anything he has heard as true.

  4. M. Rodriguez October 16, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    I really do love this topic,

    I find it odd that church history classifies Marconian as a heretic. Because without him, we may not have the pauline epistles. It was Marconian and band of believing followers that collected the wriings and epistles of paul for cannonization. So it is possible that without marconian, instead of the NT being 27 books, without marconian it very well possibly be just 14 books.

    I know that marconian is consider a heretic, becuase he doctrinely wanted to separte Jesus the Messiah’s teaching and gospels from Judaic culture, religion. So in Marconian teachings and works he took out the old testament and omitted other things. One can only think had marconian got his way, what would the modern christian church look like today?

    I also find it somewhat interesting that the writings of paul are dated only some 3-6 years after Jesus death. And that the gospels are nearly some 30-40 years after he died. It makes me wonder, was christianity and the gospels a byproduct Paul’s ministry, and did people make up or write the story as a response in support of Paul’s minstiry and teachings. Could Christianity be all a teaching of this paul? I wonder I tried to research, but I could not find much information on the topic.

    • christianagnostic October 16, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

      I think you are close to what I’ve come to understand of the early Christian writings. It seems that Marcion was the first patron organizer of the Christian scriptures. It wasn’t until after his death that others accused him of changing the scriptures.

      I also think it’s possible that Paul’s ministry led to the writing of the Gospels (canonical). Even though Marcion was called a heretic, it seems that his scriptures were so popular that other sects of Christianity were forced to accept them (with some possible editing) and even invent whole books (the Book of Acts doesn’t seem to be known until the late 2nd century) to try and blend Marcion’s Christianity with the emerging historic/Orthodox view of Jesus of that time.

  5. M. Rodriguez October 16, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    and just for CA, I found Dr. Bart Ehrman a very useful resource on the study of this topic. If you don’t already know about him

  6. christianagnostic October 17, 2012 at 4:30 pm #

    Nice post…I have more to say about it, but I’ll leave those comments over on your blog.

  7. unklee October 19, 2012 at 7:36 am #

    “If this is a topic that interests you, check it out and let me know what you think.”

    Hi CA, I have an interest in this, so here’s my comments.

    Luke’s gospel is generally considered to have been written by Luke, a companion of Paul, about 75 or 80 CE. The evidence for this is summed up in Maurice Casey’s book, Jesus of Nazareth, p 94-97 – you can actually read it yourself if you go to that URL. Casey is not a christian, and the evidence he presents is so strong that almost all scholars of all persuasions accept these facts.

    So if we are going to consider Xoroaster’s proposal, we need some good evidence. So what does he supply? Well I don’t recall seeing any – did I miss it? Instead I found a number of suppositions and one clear mistake. When talking about whether Marcion “rejected” any of the other 3 gospels, he said “perhaps they weren’t written yet”. This was in 140 CE, yet we have a fragment of John dated about 125 CE, so it was surely written before Marcion. This is not important for his main argument, but it does suggest his “scholarship” isn’t all that good.

    So, instead of believing the plain statements of Paul, Luke. and the early church fathers, we are supposed to believe that a christian church established without some or all of the gospels, so that when Marcion wrote his in 140CE the church was offended, copied his Gospel to make Luke’s gospel, then got rid of all traces of Marcion’s gospel except as mentioned in later writers and promoted Luke’s gospel as being written a century earlier, and keeping this secret from everyone? It sounds like an amazing conspiracy theory, yet without evidence.

    So I guess I’m left wondering: why have you taken notice of him? What evidence have you seen for what he is suggesting?

    • christianagnostic October 20, 2012 at 7:16 am #

      Good questions…really good questions. I apologize that I haven’t been more engaged in this conversation in the last 2 days.

      I’ve been consumed (and a little overwhelmed) at all that is happening with Sovereign Grace Ministries. I was a long time member, church planter, and worship leader before we left over major differences with their authoritarian theology of leadership.

      I promise to answer you, but it might be a few days before I can clear my head. I know you are a good sport, but just wanted to let you know I wasn’t ignoring you.

      Thanks-CA

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