Monday, 29 November 2010

Why the Gospels were written before 62 AD - part 1

After reading chapter 4 of Dean Overman's A Case for the Divinity of Jesus: Examining the Earliest Evidence I changed my mind on the dating of the Gospels. This series will pretty much be based off that chapter from his book title: "Reliability of the Canonical Gospel Accounts is Supported by the Historical Evidence".

There are two more reasons as to why I think the Gospels were written before 70 AD. These reasons bring the publishing dates closer to Jesus' death than what I have looked at so far.

We have already seen that Luke doesn't mind mentioning believers death in the book of Acts, and that to argue for a post 70 AD publishing date there needs to be a very good reason why the deaths of Peter and Paul were not recorded by Luke. Peter and Paul were both pretty key figures. Another main figure in the early church was also James.

James was part of the inner three disciples (the other two were Peter and John) that Jesus took into Jairus's house (Luke 8:51), up at mountain to see His Transfiguration (Luke 9:28) and Matthew and Mark records that Jesus took Peter, John and James into Gethsemane to pray just before His betrayal (Mark 14:32). James also wrote an epistle and he was Jesus' brother. James became something like the overseer of the church in Jerusalem and helped in one of the early church councils (Acts 15:13).

Although Jerome (347-420 AD) argues that James was not Jesus' brother, he still held James to be pretty important. His book (De Viris Illustribus) about key Christian figures put James in at Chapter 2, just before Peter. Jerome also quotes Hegesippus (110-180 AD) saying the following about James:
After the apostles, James the brother of the Lord surnamed the Just was made head of the Church at Jerusalem. Many indeed are called James. This one was holy from his mother's womb. He drank neither wine nor strong drink, ate no flesh, never shaved or anointed himself with ointment or bathed. He alone had the privilege of entering the Holy of Holies, since indeed he did not use woolen vestments but linen and went alone into the temple and prayed in behalf of the people, insomuch that his knees were reputed to have acquired the hardness of camels' knees. (Chapter 2 of De Viris Illustribus)
I say all this to point out that James was well respected and no less a key player in the early church than Peter and Paul and yet Jame's death is not recorded in Acts and he died about 5 years before Peter and Paul in 62 AD.

Josephus' (30-100 AD) second reference to Jesus in his Antiquities of the Jews is more of a reference about James' death than Jesus (which makes it less likely to be doctored than his first reference to Jesus. You can read my take on each Josephus quote in my other series on Jesus outside the Bible). The quote in question is:
Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned... (Antiquities of the Jews, 20.200)
It should be noted that Hegesippus also comments on Jame's death, adding a bit more drama to Josephus' account, saying:
The aforesaid scribes and Pharisees accordingly set James on the summit of the temple, and cried aloud to him, and said: “O just one, whom we are all bound to obey, forasmuch as the people is in error, and follows Jesus the crucified, do thou tell us what is the door of Jesus, the crucified.” And he answered with a loud voice: “Why ask ye me concerning Jesus the Son of man? He Himself sitteth in heaven, at the right hand of the Great Power, and shall come on the clouds of heaven.”
And, when many were fully convinced by these words, and offered praise for the testimony of James, and said, “Hosanna to the son of David,” then again the said Pharisees and scribes said to one another, “We have not done well in procuring this testimony to Jesus. But let us go up and throw him down, that they may be afraid, and not believe him.” ... So they went up and threw down the just man, and said to one another: “Let us stone James the Just.” And they began to stone him: for he was not killed by the fall; but he turned, and kneeled down, and said: “I beseech Thee, Lord God our Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
And, while they were thus stoning him to death, one of the priests, the sons of Rechab, the son of Rechabim, to whom testimony is borne by Jeremiah the prophet, began to cry aloud, saying: “Cease, what do ye? The just man is praying for us.” But one among them, one of the fullers, took the staff with which he was accustomed to wring out the garments he dyed, and hurled it at the head of the just man.
And so he suffered martyrdom; and they buried him on the spot, and the pillar erected to his memory still remains, close by the temple. This man was a true witness to both Jews and Greeks that Jesus is the Christ. (Acts of the Church, Book 5, fragment 1)
Since Acts was written after the Gospel of Luke, and if the Gospels were written after 70 AD, there seems to be some massive historical events that Luke didn't include in Acts. It's almost as if he wrote Acts unaware of these events even happening...

There is one more key figure that Luke fails to mention in his early Church account that I want to look at, (before I try and tie this series all together) that person is Nero.


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