Thursday, 29 July 2010

When were the Gospels written?

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". (Page numbers in this post come from this book.)

F.F Bruce, admits that "a majority of modern scholars fix the dates of the four gospels as follows: Matthew, c. 85–90; Mark, c. 65; Luke, c. 80–85; John, c. 90–100." (p84) Although he personally thinks that it is more likely "Mark around AD 64 or 65, Luke shortly before 70, and Matthew shortly after 70" (p84). Overman also says that "the more skeptical of contemporary New Testament scholars date Mark around AD 70, Matthew in the 80s, Luke and Acts in the 80s, and John in the 90s." (p84)

Even the trusted Wikipedia articles list: Matthew, c.70-100; Mark, c. 70; Luke, c. 80-90 (with some discussion on earlier dates) and John, c.80-95. Or on this page Wikipedia has: Matthew, c. 60-85; Mark, c. 60-70; Luke, c. 60-90 and John, c. 80-95 and again on this page it has the tradition dates of Matthew, Make and Luke being written between the 40s-60s with John been written c. 60-115. The wiki article on Luke's date is interesting, as most scholars think that Mark was written first so if Luke was written earlier then that would also push Mark earlier. If Mark was written in the 70's then that makes it quite possible for Luke to have written it by the 80's or 90's.

Now these dates are quite removed from the 33 AD that Jesus was meant to have died. Of cause the dates are still in a lifetime of eye witnesses (think about asking your grandparents about their late teens or early 20's, you might be able to reach back to World War 2- if not themselves, they might remember their own parents telling them stories about it and World War 1 or before). After reading Chapter 4 of Overman's book, I think Mark was written around the 50's some 20-25 years after Jesus's death and reported resurrection, and Luke was written around the early 60's at the latest with Matthew not far from that. I have no idea about John (as his writings were a bit off the norm) and may well have been around 80-95 AD.

In this series I will look at why Mark is considered to have been written first, why scholars think they had to have been written after 70 AD and then look at the many problems with the post 70 AD date for Luke in particular and by extension Mark.


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