How Do We Know When the Gospels Were Written?

Here is an important question that I have recently received.  It’s a tricky one!  But completely fundamental to the study of the New Testament.

 

QUESTION:

I now have your book “The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings”. Great book/text! Something I haven’t figured out is how do scholars know when the original Gospels (not copies) were written since apparently none survived?

 

RESPONSE:

This is a great question, and one that I get asked a lot.  How ...

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A Peculiar Story of Peter’s Martyrdom

Now, in response to the question I started answering a few days ago, I discuss the earliest account we have of the martyrdom of Peter.   It is an odd account, and not widely known.  Here is what I say about it in my book Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene.

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Peter as Martyr

The death of Peter by execution is already alluded to in the Gospel of John – which evidently, then, had been written after the event occurred.  As Jesus ...

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Who *Was* the First Bishop of Rome?

I continue from my post of yesterday, in which a reader asked about whether Peter was really the first bishop in Rome (that is, the first Pope).    In my next post I’ll deal with the question, also asked, about if we have any solid information about how Peter died (crucified upside-down??)

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But who was the first bishop of Rome?  According to the second-century Irenaeus, it was a man named Linus, who was appointed to the office by Peter ...

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Peter: First Bishop (Pope) in Rome?

Today I move on to something else (I’ll get to the after life after more life).  Here’s an interesting question I received about Peter: the first bishop of Rome?

 

QUESTION:

Is there any historical evidence that the apostle Peter was the first Bishop of Rome and that he was martyred upside down on a cross?

 

RESPONSE:

Ah, I get asked this one (or these two) on occasion.  I dealt with them both in my book Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene (which, by the way, ...

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Would the Disciples Die for A Lie? Proofs for the Resurrection.

Reminiscing about blogs of years gone by, I found this one from almost exactly six years ago.  And it’s still relevant for today.  The disciples all died for their belief that Jesus was raised from the dead, right?  So they must have *known* he was actually raised.  No one would die for a lie.  Right?   Here’s the question a blog member asked, and my response.  I still hold to it!

 

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QUESTION:

Another very very popular evidence put forward for the ...

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Did My Loss of Faith Affect my Scholarship?

I ran across this blog post from six years ago that I think is particularly interesting.  It’s a question about my personal religious views and my scholarship, and I’m interested to see that now, all these years later, I would pretty much answer it the same!    That’s heartening…

Here it is:

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One question I received recently particularly struck me – as it caused me to think for a bit – was about how my loss ...

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Is 1 Clement Older than Some Books of the New Testament?

This will be my final post on the book of 1 Clement.  Now that I’ve summarized what the book is about and said something about its author, I can turn to the original question I was asked, about its date.  The time of its writing is an important question, for a reason you might not suspect.

It is almost always said – I myself regularly say this, as a kind of simple “short hand,” knowing that it’s probably not literally true, ...

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The Letter of First Clement: An Overview

I received a request recently about one of the “Apostolic Fathers.”  This term does not refer to just any of the post-canonical writers of early Christianity, but to a specific group of ten (or eleven, depending on how you count) authors who were later considered “authoritative” in some sense by proto-orthodox thinkers, but were believed to have been writing after the NT period.  They include letters by Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna, and texts called 1 and 2 ...

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Is There Sarcasm in the New Testament?

 

Here is an unusually interesting question I have received:

 

QUESTION:

During the time that the New Testament was being written, especially during Paul’s time, did they have in society what we consider sarcasm? Sometimes certain sentences pop out to me as they could have meant them in a sarcastic tone. I know it is probably just me since I am a sarcastic person.

 

RESPONSE:

Now *that’s* an interesting question that I, literally, have never been asked before!   But it’s something I’ve thought about a ...

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Did the Original Gospels Describe Jesus’ Miracles?

      While I’m on the topic of miracles, here’s a particularly interesting question I received a long time ago, and my response.

QUESTION:

I have looked up the content of all the papyri I’m aware of (off of links on wikipedia, so who knows if they’re accurate).

It is my understanding that although p52, p90, and p104 are dated around 125-150 AD, they contain fragments of John 18 and Matt 21 only, and that it’s not until 200 AD that manuscripts emerge ...

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