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  1. Avatar
    jimmo  May 7, 2012

    I read something that maintains Acts was written *before* the destruction of the temple because there is no mention of the destruction, and certainly Luke would have mentioned it if it had already occurred. In my mind, that is an argument from silence. To me it would be like saying that because a book describing Pacific naval battles of World War II does not mention the Normandy landing, it must not have happened. The goal of Acts was not to provide a comprehensive history of the middle east of the time, but rather describe the acts of the apostles, so they were not writing about things that happened later.

    I thought it was humorous because the very same book tries to argue away differences in the gospels by saying the respective author had a particular goal in his writing. So that applies for the difference in the gosples, but not for an account of the destruction of the temple.

    • vergari
      vergari  July 6, 2018

      The argument that Acts doesn’t mention the destruction of the Temple is the very same argument from silence Professor Ehrman uses with regard to Paul’s silence about any gospels in his letters.

      Acts is also silent as to the deaths of the main characters: Paul and Peter. Arguments from silence can cut in any number of ways.

      • Bart
        Bart  July 8, 2018

        I would say it’s a different use of the argument from silence. Acts is a historical narrative and *can’t* mention the destruction of the Temple because it hasn’t happened yet within the chronological sequence of events being narrated. To mention it would be to destroy the sense that the book was being written prior to the Neronian persecution. Paul had no such reason for not mentioning the Gospels. He simply doesn’t mention them, even though he well could have had he known of their existence.

        • vergari
          vergari  July 9, 2018

          The argument about the purpose of the narrative in Acts being pre-Neronian persecution does beg the question a bit, though, as it supposes a purpose, which can only be made from historical inference. The fact that the events of the book are pre-Neronian persecution may simply reflect that the narrative was created prior to the Neronian persecution, rather than it being a post-persecution effort to write a pre-persecution narrative. In that sense, there is the same type of argument from silence.

          Those advancing an argument from silence in the case of Paul’s epistles failure to mention/quote from written gospels are supposing that, if such gospels existed, Paul would (i) know about them, and (ii) find reason to quote from them. These are reasonable suppositions; but by no means entirely certain.

          Those advancing an argument from silence in the case of Acts failing to mention the deaths of Peter and Paul and/or the destruction of the Tempe are supposing that, if Acts had been written after these events, that Luke (i) would have known of these events, and (ii) would have included one or more of them in his narrative.

          So the principled difference in these two arguments from silence, assuming the authors would have been aware of these other materials, is whether the authors would have found reason to reference these items in their works. You seem to think that Paul referencing/quoting from a gospel in one of his known epistles would have been more likely than Luke including the deaths of Peter and/or Paul and/or the destruction of the Temple in his Acts narrative. That may be the case; but I am not sure.

          • Avatar
            SidDhartha1953  October 25, 2018

            If Paul had known any written gospels and trusted their veracity, surely he would have used them as a source of his claims about Jesus. If he knew but didn’t trust them, bibliocentric Christianity has a big problem!

  2. Avatar
    RyanBrown  May 7, 2012

    On the category of dating, the passages in Mark and Matthew speaking of the “desolation that causes abomination,” reference the book of Daniel and Antiochus Epiphanes. However, has anyone taken the position that these were later interpolations in relation to Hadrian’s construction of a Roman shrine on the former Temple? I was also thinking of 2 Thessalonians 2:4. Or were Jews always expecting some outside power to take over their Temple cult?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 8, 2012

      I don’t know of anyone who takes the passages as an interpolation; more frequently they are taken to refer to the actions of Caligula. 2 Thessalonians is a different kettle of fish; it is widely thought that the book itself is a later forgery in Paul’s name.

  3. Avatar
    aigbusted  May 7, 2012

    What do you think about Richard Pervo’s arguments that Luke-Acts was written between 95 and 115 AD? One of the things he brings up is that he believes Luke used some of Josephus’ writings as a source (which is one reason that he dates Luke post 94 AD).

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 8, 2012

      I’ve never been convinced that Luke used Josephus; just the contrary, I think the evidence is too thin. I’m not against it in principle — I’ve just never been convinced.

  4. Avatar
    anthonylawson  May 7, 2012

    Dr. Ehrman, what are your thoughts regarding Maurice Casey’s views on some of the Aramaic underpinnings of some of the gospel material, and his early dating of Mark? Casey and I also believe James Crossley are (if I understand things correctly) not religions believers.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 8, 2012

      I”m afraid I haven’t looked at or thought about Casey’s views since his book came out in the late 90’s. About all I remember is that I wasn’t convinced!

  5. Avatar
    bobnaumann  May 8, 2012

    John A.T. Robinson makes a convincing argument that places them before the destruction of the temple in 70 CE since this cataclysmic event is only predicted, but not confirmed in the Gospels. And why does the Acts of the Apostles end without mentioning the execution of Peter and Paul in Rome in 64 CE and say nothing about the persecution of the Christians under Nero?

    Is it accepted that the Luke that traveled with Paul is the same Luke that wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts? If so why is his theology so different from Paul’s? If not, how did he have so much detailed knowledge of Paul’s travels and write in first person?

    If Acts was written before 70, as Robinson suggests, since Luke was not in Palestine during Jesus’ ministry, how did Luke get so much knowledge of Jesus’ life while he was traveling with Paul to be able to write the Gospel of Luke, or did he write this later?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 9, 2012

      Yes, I’m afraid Robinson’s book — which made a big splash at the time — has not been found to be convincing to most of the experts in the field. It very much represents a minority opinion, for some of the reasons I mention in my post — that the destruction of Jerusalem, for example, does indeed appear to lie behind the narratives of Matthew and Luke. On Luke being the companion of Paul — I deal with this at length in my book Forged and at even greater length in my scholarly book to come out in the Fall (Forgery and Counterforgery): I think this author wants his readers to think that he was Paul’s traveling companion, even though he was almost certainly not.

      • Avatar
        bobnaumann  May 9, 2012

        Thanks for your reply. But I still don’t understand why the author of Acts wouldn’t have included the deaths of Peter and Paul if they had already occurred when it was written.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  May 9, 2012

          Ah! Great question. The normal answer is one that I myself find personally convincing. Paul (and Peter) were the heros of Acts. According to Acts, nothing could stop them (stone Paul to death in one city, and he gets up to evangelize in the next!). Because of this, he would almost certainly not want to report that God did not protect them to the very end. But he gives hints throughout that Paul was killed, and as I indicated, he knows of the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 CE.

          • Avatar
            gorlim  January 1, 2014

            I’m intrigued that the author of Acts would be reluctant to describe Paul’s death, given how later Christians became obsessed over martyrology. When did the interest in martyrdom, and stories of martyrdom, develop?

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  January 2, 2014

            Well, you already have it in Acts (stoning of Stephen). The standard view about Acts and Paul is that since the author of Acts wants to portray Paul as the mighty apostle that *no one* could stop, he didn’t want to narrate the event in which he was, in fact, stopped.

  6. Avatar
    Bjarte  May 9, 2012

    Forgive me if I am merely stating the obvious, but one possible argument for not dating Mark too late is the well-known prophecy attributed to Jesus in Mark 9:1 that the apocalypse would occur in the lifetime of some of his disciples. This does not strike me as something Mark would have included if the prophecy had already failed.

    It is interesting, how the earliest sources, such as Paul, clearly expected the apocalypse to occur in their own lifetime (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 etc. ). By the time we get to Mark, only “some of them that stand here […] shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power”. In Luke the coming of the Kingdom has already been reinterpreted as a spiritual event (Luke 17:20-21), which I take as a sign that the prophecy had definitely failed at that point. John 21:22-23 looks like an attempt to explain away a failed expectation that one single disciple would experience the return of Jesus. By the time we get to 2. Peter it has become blasphemy to even bring it up, and we get the well-known rationalization that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2. Peter 3:3-4, 8-9)

    • Avatar
      Barryb  March 19, 2020

      very good comment. i was thinking the same thing.
      for me this is a very good argument for dating the gospel of Marc earlier. better argument then the arguments for dating it after 60ac.

      • Bart
        Bart  March 20, 2020

        It is often thought that Mark 9:1 is *placed* where it is, right before the Transfiguration, as a way for Mark to explain that even though this was a saying known to be by Jesus, he wasn’t *really* saying the end of history would come soon, but that it was already being manifest to his disciples before they died (as he revealed his glory to them), a move picked up big time by Luke who sees that it is precisely in the ministry of Jesus that “the kingdom of God is in your midst” (a saying found only in Luke)

  7. Avatar
    SelfAwarePatterns  May 9, 2012

    Very interesting. Thank you Dr Ehrman.

  8. Avatar
    fred  May 9, 2012

    Dr. Ehrman: how firmly established are the years of Jesus’ birth and death?

    In “Did Jesus Exist” p 131, you indicate the date of his death is based on some estimates related to Paul’s conversion experience and ministry. I’m wondering what the actual margin of error is. It sounded like there’s a chain of events being estimated, which implies the errors would accumulate.

    Regarding Jesus’ birth year, my impression is that this is based on the Nativity narratives – which seems to make this a dubious basis.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 9, 2012

      Well, his death is easier than his life. He was executed when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, so that must have been some time between 26-36 CE. And if you work back from Paul’s chronology, it must have been somewhere in the middle of that period. The birth is harder. If it’s true that he was born during the reign of king Herod (you’re right, this depends on Matthew and Luke both getting this correct), then it would have had to have been sometime before 4 BCE, when Herod died. I don’t see anything implausible about that, but it’s a bigger question mark than the date of his death.

  9. Avatar
    SJB  May 10, 2012

    Prof Ehrman,

    I’ve read some commentators who see the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas as relatively early. Elaine Pagels sees some kind of relationship between Thomas and the Gospel of John. How would you date Thomas?


    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 11, 2012

      I think Thomas was written in its final form in the early second century, a decade or two after the Gospel of John. In NC, apparently, it wouldn’t be constitutional for me to date Thomas….

  10. Avatar
    JR  April 22, 2016

    I know this was posted years ago and this question might have been covered since. But If Acts was written after 75 CE why do you think Acts doesn’t contain details of Paul and Peters death?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 22, 2016

      I’ve been asked that a lot lately. I better add it to my mailbag!

      • Avatar
        JR  April 27, 2016

        Thanks – I hope you can cover it in the mailbag but understand if not given that you must get loads of questions!

        My take on it is that Luke wanted to end his account on a positive and unspectacular note that would resonate with his readers own experience.

        All the supernatural and stuff and violent persecution in Acts were probably (or certainly!) nothing like his readers experience of the ‘gospel going forth’. By ending with Paul in his house under Roman guard sharing the gospel with ‘all who came to him’ he is saying to his readers ‘you are just like Paul! Living under Roman authority and sharing the message (quietly) with anyone who asks’.

        It also is a ‘happy ending’ in that the gospel is now going out in Rome. To end with the heroes dying might have been a bit of a downer.

        Not sure if this stands up but it is all I can think of.

        • Bart
          Bart  April 28, 2016

          Interesting idea.

          • Avatar
            SidDhartha1953  October 25, 2018

            Depending on how ancient the Jewish tradition of not ending public readings of scripture with a curse is (e.g. the custom of repeating Mal 4:5 after 4:6) Luke may have considered it improper to end his account of Paul’s life with a beheading (or whatever) .

    • Avatar
      AnotherBart  December 8, 2017

      Great question. Has it been answered? I would add more.

      If it was written after 75 A.D. then why does it end with what I call a ‘thank you note’ to the Roman Govt? Why is it so positive towards the Romans, especially towards the end?
      Why does it say next to nothing about the 12 disciples with the obvious exceptions (Peter, John, Phillip etc.(?)) And why does it pay so much attention to Phillip?
      And how on earth did Stephen’s speech get to be so long? (verse count: 60, compared to the following:
      2 john 13 verses
      3 John 15 verses
      Philemon 25 verses
      Jude 25 verses
      Titus 46 verses
      2nd Thessalonians 47 verses
      (Stephen’s speech in Acts: 60 verses)
      2nd Peter 61 v
      Peter’s speeches in Acts (altogether) 82 v
      2nd Timothy 83
      1st Thessalonians 89
      Colossians 95
      Philippians 104
      1st Peter 105
      1st John 105
      James 108
      1st Timothy 113
      Paul’s speeches in Acts (combined): 130
      Galatians 149
      Ephesians 155

      For Luke to have been someone convincing others that he was hanging around Paul, he’s done a fantastic job of convincing me. He’s convinced me that Paul was right there with him when he wrote it, “seeing’s that” Paul witnessed the Stoning of Stephen (an unforgettable event), and his speeches, plus Stephen’s speech equals 190 verses, or more than 2 john, 3 John, Philemon, Jude, Titus, & 2nd Thessalonians combined.

      Peace, and blessings……

  11. Avatar
    tlhm94  August 8, 2016

    Prof Ehrman,

    If the author of Acts was using Mark as his source for this story, it seems odd that he would decide to adjust the details. Mark’s version speaks of the temple’s destruction in allusion to Daniel’s vision and Jesus suggests that once this ‘abomination that brings desolation’ was inside the temple, THEN everyone should get the hell outta dodge as destruction would emanate outward from that. The account in Acts, however, instead removes Jesus’ allusion to Daniel’s vision (which seems odd if your goal is to convince audiences that Jesus was fulfilling OT prophecies) and replaces it with an image of the temple being destroyed from the outside-in (armies specifically surrounding the city). In this account, Jesus tells ppl to flee once this happens and to stay away. In Mark’s account we also have this hope that when the temple falls it does not do so during winter, which seems an odd thing to include if Mark’s goal was to falsely ascribe a confirmed prediction after the fact.

    I could imagine Mark’s account being crafted as a contemporary prediction (see: Trump proclaiming to have ‘predicted’ international terrorism) in that perhaps as the Jewish Revolt was getting out of control in the 66-70 CE period the audience may have receptive to predictions about turmoil, folks turning on one another, etc. since they were seeing it (or hearing about it) taking place in Jerusalem. That could have helped sell that prediction as being in the process of coming to fruition in a pre-temple destruction setting.

    In any case, it is also striking (to me at least) that the author of Acts not only inserts details deviant from his source (directly prophetic quotes from Jesus citing the OT language, no less!), but also that he removes the comment about winter. If I recall, the temple fell in summer.

    Apart from sharing any thoughts on the above, I was wondering if you’d mind sharing any other reasons for the dating of Mark as post-70 CE. Or is it typically just the one issue of the temple destruction story that pushes most scholars to the post-70 CE era?


    • Bart
      Bart  August 9, 2016

      My sense is that it is not odd that he would change his source, but that it makes sense he would do so — otherwise there would be no reason for him to write a different account. He would simply copy the other one as a scribe. But yes, he certainly changed the details that he wanted to alter given his own understanding and context. The assumed fall of Jerusalem is certainly a good reason for dating Mark after 70. Another is that Paul, an earlier author who was well-traveled and connected, does not appear to know that any such account exists. ANd a third is that htere don’t seem to be any good reasons for dating it earlier!

      • Avatar
        tlhm94  August 9, 2016

        Thanks for the fast reply!

        Do you think it would be an uncommon presumption (on the part of the gospel’s author, not Jesus) that the temple would fall if it were being written in, say, 66-70 CE? To me I could imagine it may be similar to someone expecting more international terrorist attacks…since there are plenty of those today it is not that impressive to ‘predict’ (or rather, to expect) that more will follow in some vague sense. Couch that temple ‘prediction’ a few decades earlier and ascribe it to Jesus though, and it may seem more impressive to audiences. It seems strange to me that the author would comment about winter in the way he did if it was written post-destruction. Seems like an obvious detail to avoid putting to paper for the author of Mark’s gospel.

        I had not heard the point about Paul’s letters. That does seem to be a pretty strong argument on its own for limiting how early Mark’s gospel was likely written, but why would that point to a post-70 CE authorship instead of merely a post-57 CE (or whenever Paul stopped writing such letters)? I could see that, when taken alongside the commentary on the temple’s destruction, one might shift the date up to post-66 CE if we assume the audience would be most receptive to images of social turmoil in Jerusalem.


        • Bart
          Bart  August 11, 2016

          Yes, I think it’s perfectly plausible that someone could see the coming destruction of Jerusalem/temple; in fact I think Jesus did see it. Usually it is the specificity of the predictions that are taken to indicate that an author is living after the fact (see how Luke describes the destruction in Luke 21 e.g.)

  12. Avatar
    AnotherBart  December 6, 2017

    Dear Sir:

    Not to get ‘snarky’ on you, but your comment……
    “But these parameters (between, say 65-100 CE for all four Gospels) are agreed on by most scholars of all persuasions, except fundamentalists and a few others.”

    Those ‘fundamentalists and a few others’ being John Wenham, G. R. Balleine, Arthur Stapylton Barnes, Adolf Von Harnack, and myself, an evolutionist who both respects Darwin and at the same time ascribes, as did Eusebius, the date of (Aramaic) Matthew to 41. A.D. I don’t see a single reference anywhere on this blog to John Wenham’s work. I have yet to digest all of your writing, but I’m guessing that there’s not a footnote to be found on him. (BTW, my views are not based upon his; I found him by looking for others who held my same suspicions. And, also, BTW, I don’t pretend to hold a candle to his breadth of knowledge, nor yours, or any other author I’ve mentioned.

    I do look forward to hearing more of your thoughts on the differences between Luke and Matthew, and thank you for being brave enough to point out things like the ‘angry Jesus’ in Mark 1 in “Misquoting Jesus”. Specifically, I’m looking for authors who acknowledge the angry tone Jesus’ words in Matthew towards the Pharisees which I see as deliberately being mitigated in Luke, by Luke, out of deadly necessity.

    I also want to know more of your thoughts on the dating of Acts. I admit to being flabbergasted that even those with opposing views to yours, such as Craig Evans, N.T. Wright, Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, Timothy Paul Jones seem (again, I haven’t digested every word of their writing) seem not to deal with Acts 16-28 and its date of authorship.

    Alright. I’m done with my soapbox for now. I hope you are well and enjoying the season.

    I’m looking forward to spending some time on the blog.

    Blessings, and take care.

    Bart McNeely

    • Bart
      Bart  December 8, 2017

      Nope, not snarky. The scholars you name as supporting such an early date are all long dead and represented an older view of scholarship that is no longer held by any experts that I’m aware of.

      • Avatar
        AnotherBart  December 8, 2017

        If all we did was pay attention to living scholars, our world would be in a heaping load of trouble, don’t you think?

        Is it possible for a majority in a field to be off on a particular view when, as Wenham said “life is short” and few to none are in earnest asking the question/seeking the answer?

        Must one be a textual critic to have a primary-sourced research based opinion worthy of consideration?

        There are many who view “Q” as being a fashion of the 1950’s.

        Regarding the long dead scholars, I shall resurrect them. 😉

        As far as someone living, John W. Mauck is a lawyer. While textual critics, those with advanced degrees in theology/classics might look at a lawyer as not having the qualifications, (like a heart surgeon complaining about the opinion of an orthopedic (?)), he’s written a great book, (again, which I’ve not digested totally). He sees Acts as having been written very much in the way that a lawyer would today.

        Mauck sees, as do I, Acts as a legal brief, written for the purpose of defending Paul, Aristarchus etc.. It is chocked full of trials, accusations–, Gallio, the elder brother of Seneca, saying “this is a jewish matter, not a roman concern”, The letter from Claudius Lysias to Governor Felix.

        I found John Wenham after reading Eusebius & reconstructing when Peter went “on the heels of simon magus’ to Rome ‘during the reign of claudius. (which came from Clement of Alexandria & others(?) The only possible dates were 42-46 AD. Peter is otherwise obscured with a striking amount of intention in the NT.

        I found John W. Mauck after being struck personally with the legal nature of Acts.

        Contrary to the ‘sunday school’ answers I learned long ago, Acts doesn’t strike me as a ‘History of the Early Church” at all (though it certainly contains some history–the question is… which history, and why?). Some write out of leisure, self fulfillment, or for the sake a benefactor. But oftentimes writing is done for a compelling reason. Securing Paul’s freedom, and seeing to it that Christianity did not become an illegal religion is indeed a compelling reason. And the purpose which Acts seems to embody is rendered moot after 65 AD.

        What would you have done for ‘two whole years’ of relative freedom under house arrest in Rome while a trial was underway/pending? If you were accused of starting riots all over the Empire, and your life, and that of others was on the line? And you had secured the resources to support your efforts? (see Philippians) I wouldn’t have sat on my britches waiting to see what happened, that’s for sure.

        If Acts were a history of the early church, you might think it would contain 12 sections, each devoted to a disciple, their eventual location, the people, places, the churches they started. But it doesn’t. Nada. It introduces important characters and then shuffles them off the stage without anyone noticing… Silas…. where’d he go? Peter…….? If it was written after they were dead, you’d think it would be a bit more revealing……… But no….. Its about a….. Roman Citizen.

        As far as ‘scholarly consensus’ goes, my opinions on γραφὴ do not rest upon others’ views. They are mine. And mine are still developing, changing, needing to be challenged….. Strongly held in some areas, unsure in others, with strong ones being occasionally unearthed and replanted. Exciting times!

        And I certainly don’t dismiss the dead scholars who, as you said, have an ‘older view’, when their view supports mine. Again, my view isn’t based on theirs. It is supported by theirs.


  13. Avatar
    AnotherBart  January 1, 2018

    Could Matthew 22:7 & Luke 21:24 be referring to the 586 BC Temple destruction/city burning found in 2 Kings 25:9-10, 21, rather than the 70 AD temple destruction?

    2 Kings 25:9-10, 21
    “He set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. The whole Babylonian army under the commander of the imperial guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem.” 

    Luke 21:24 “They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”

    Matthew 22:7 “The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.”

    quoted above
    “Well, it is relatively clear that Matthew and Luke were written after 70………..The reason: they both appear to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem (see for example Matthew 22:7, “burned their city”!; and Luke 21:24). “

    • Bart
      Bart  January 2, 2018

      Xns, of course, portrayed Rome as the new Babylon, for just this reason.

      • Avatar
        AnotherBart  January 2, 2018

        Just as peter clandestinely did in his reference “She (the bride of Christ) who is in Babylon (Rome) sends her greetings”.

        What do you think of this hypothesis:

        1) Jesus was a READER! (how many times did he chastise people for their lack of bookwormishness? A BUNCH!–do a search for “it is written”, & ‘have you not read?’)
        2) Jesus knew the Old Testament well enough to know that the Temple/Jerusalem/the Israelites had been destroyed/massacred/taken into captivity (2nd Kings: 586 BC) before by occupiers, and had even more recently (167 BC: Antiochus Epiphanes) had worse things happen without temple destruction.
        2) Now it was–once again–occupied by the Romans and Jesus could ‘see the writing on the wall’.

        My major point is that by simply being a smart, well-read, & observant human person, Jesus could predict that things were eventually not going to go well: history would repeat itself. So he gave his warning to the disciples.

        Now, I personally do believe that Jesus was the Son of God, and that he did resurrect bodily on the third day–(and I say that as a skeptic who has a hard time believing in anything paranormal.) But (important point!) even without the divine aspect of his being, it doesn’t take fundamentalist, inerrantist, dogmatic, ‘the math doesn’t work, so insert miracle’ kind of thinking to conclude that Jesus–as a reader– was correctly foretelling what he believed would happen, or that his prediction–whether part of the oral Jesus tradition, or in published form, or both–actually was used to INSTIGATE its happening.

        And it makes even more sense, if his prediction did get into a published form (45 AD Mark / 62 AD Luke) in Rome, 20 & just four years before the Romans invaded, and they thought, “Hey, not a bad idea! We’re ticked enough to help make this little ‘not one stone left on another’ prophecy come true.”

        And I think there may even be evidence that suggests this in Josephus…….

        • Bart
          Bart  January 3, 2018

          In the ancient world, most people “read” a book by hearing a literate person read it out loud to everyone else.

  14. Avatar
    ftbond  February 11, 2018

    Dating the gospels is somewhere between an art and a bad joke. I do not know that it is anything close to a science.

    The simple fact of the matter is that nobody really knows when the gospels were written, and the 70 AD “early date” is attributable to nothing more than the idea that Jesus could not have predicted the destruction of the Temple.

    Dr Ehrman says in his original post “…Paul gives no indication that he had ever heard that there were Gospels about Jesus”.

    So what? Paul doesn’t mention 1st Samuel, 1st Chronicles, Numbers, Ruth, Esther… shall I go on? Clearly, though, that hardly means Paul didn’t know about those books. We’ve got a total of seven – count ’em – seven “authenticated letters” of Paul. Me? I can write a dozen emails a day, talking about “biblical stuff”, and never once mention the gospels. Why on earth anyone would expect any of these seven letters to be referencing someone else’s writing is beyond me.

    Dr Ehrman concedes (in the original msg) that he has no idea when Mark was actually written. Before the destruction of the Temple? After? Who knows? The point being this: If Mark was indeed the first to be written, it matters a bunch. If it was written in 40 AD, then, that would seem to change the whole picture. But, we can’t even nail down that date.

    Despite not knowing when Mark was written, Dr Ehrman concludes “These Gospels were evidently, then, written some time between 70-150”. Were they? Really? Based on what? Based on Mark being written around 65 or 70 AD? Or, maybe a tad earlier, say, 50 AD? How about 40 AD? But, none of us, including Dr Ehrman, knows that date of composition. And, without knowing the date of the first gospel written, it’s impossible to conjure up a date for the others, with the possible exception of John. (Although, Luke offers the most evidence for it’s own date of composition. But again, this is based on the bias that “Jesus could not have predicted the destruction of the Temple”, thus, it *has* to be after 70 AD.)

    Dr Ehrman also asserts “…it is relatively clear that Matthew and Luke were written after 70 – at least in the judgment of most experts who deal with this question. The reason: they both appear to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem (see for example Matthew 22:7, “burned their city”!; and Luke 21:24).

    Again, we see the “it must have been post 70 AD, because Jesus couldn’t have predicted the destruction of the Temple”. [ I have to note: the scripture from Matthew (22:7) – the past-tense “burned their city” – has nothing whatsoever to do with the destruction of the Temple.]

    So, is it really true that Jesus could not have predicted the destruction of the Temple? Churchill made no bones about predicting eventual British involvement in the war against the Nazis. Nouriel Roubini correctly predicted the housing crash of 2009. Nikola Tesla predicted hand-held wireless communications devices in 1909. In1840, Alexis de Tocqueville predicted the Cold War.

    For all we know, Jesus just made a good guess. Or maybe he actually knew something others didn’t know. For that matter, maybe he was the son of God and had some type of foreknowledge. But this is a guy who said “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red. And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?” Jesus may have simply been a very perceptive person who knew, like some others, how to read “the signs of times”.

    But *none* of those can be possibilities for the majority of “biblical scholars”. Thus, Luke had to have been written post 70 AD.

    • Bart
      Bart  February 11, 2018

      Mark 13 appears to presuppose the destruction of the Temple. That was in 70 CE. Hence the common view that it was written after that event.

      • Avatar
        ftbond  February 12, 2018

        Roger that. And, it too, like Luke and Matthew, *must* have been written *after* 70 CE because – yep – Jesus couldn’t possibly have predicted the destruction of the Temple.

        I just find the “he couldn’t have done it” theory exceedingly weak. But, it is to be expected when one must find means to deny even the remote possibility that something “supernatural” might have taken place (such as a bonafide prophecy), even if it means (a) denying the possibility of a simple “good guess” having been made, and (b) even if it means getting the whole “Gospel Dating Structure” wrong.

  15. Avatar
    ftbond  February 14, 2018

    Dr Ehrman –

    You say “… Paul gives no indication that he had ever heard that there were Gospels about Jesus. Maybe he knew of them and just chose to ignore them in his letters, but for a variety of reasons, that seems unlikely”.

    It appears that you feel the Gospels, had they been written at the time of Paul, would have been already been held in of some kind of “eminence”, such that it would only seem reasonable that Paul should quote from them. And, you seem to think that Paul should (for example) have been quoting Matthew when writing to the Galatians (again, for example), yet the Galatians may never have even seen a copy of Matthew to begin with. In other words, they’d be asking “who the heck is Matthew, and what makes him so special that Paul quotes him”?

    Why do you hold that view? It it not entirely as likely that each of the Gospels, had they been in existence, were *not* regarded as “scripture” by anyone? And, is it not quite possible that the Gospels simply didn’t get circulated beyond the communities to whom they were originally written?

    I’m not even remotely convinced that Paul would have regarded the Gospels as worthy of quoting, nor am I convinced that they would have been much use to him, if they were not widely circulated, well-read, and already accepted among the various churches that Paul wrote to as something akin to “authoritative scripture” (which I doubt so very seriously)

    I’d really like to know your view on that.

    • Bart
      Bart  February 15, 2018

      No, I’m not saying that they would have had any eminence. They simply would have been sources of information for knowing what Jesus said and did.

      • Avatar
        ftbond  February 15, 2018

        It seems I’ve read elsewhere – perhaps on this blog? – that maybe Paul wasn’t as much of a Big Cheese as some think. It seems I remember that there were early “church fathers” that never quoted him.

        Had the gospels been written during Paul’s “writing days”, yes, I suppose they could have served as an information source. Still, there’s no need to QUOTE them. It’s not as if they would have been seen as some kind of “canonized scripture” or something. Heck, even Paul’s letters were not given that status until centuries later. And, as I pointed out, there were (apparently?) church fathers that never quoted Paul. So, I really don’t see any reason to *expect* that Paul would have quoted the gospels. In fact, given the nature of Paul’s own “conversion” (Damascus Road experience), and given that the vast majority of what he wrote about was, in some fashion, answering “how then shall we live” (given that Christ had risen), I see even *less* of a reason for Paul to ever bring up somebody else’s documentation of the “historic Jesus”.

        So, yeh – it would have been information. No, it wouldn’t necessarily have been anything Paul would have quoted (I would assert)

  16. Avatar
    Marko071291  April 1, 2018

    Hi Bart!
    You say that there may be allusions to them (Matthew, Luke and Mark) – though not actual quotations – in such works as the Didache (written around 100 CE) and the letters of Ignatius (around 110). All of that is disputed and the arguments are complex and detailed. Could you please recommend some books or articles that deals with that kind of stuff? By ‘that kind of stuff” I mean the problem of allusions/quotations(?) in Didache and the letters of Ignatius.
    Thanks and greetings from Croatia!

    • Bart
      Bart  April 1, 2018

      I’d suggest the relevant essays (on just this topic) in Andrew Gregory and Christopher Tuckett, The Reception of the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers.

  17. Avatar
    SidDhartha1953  October 26, 2018

    I know you rarely respond to comments that don’t ask a direct question, but sometimes, as with this post from the past, I remember commenting, but don’t always recall upon which post I commented or whether I posed a query. Is there a way to search my own most recent comments, regardless of the age of the posts on which I commented?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 26, 2018

      I have no idea! Send me an email and I’ll forward it to Steven, my assistant, who knows all such things.

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