New Testament scholars are virtually unified in thinking that the Gospels of the New Testament began to appear after 70 CE.  The major exceptions are conservative evangelicals who often date them earlier.  One can understand why: they typically maintain that the Gospels of Matthew and John were written by disciples of Jesus and it seems implausible that they would still be alive toward the end of the first century (especially given live expectancies in antiquity).


There are good reasons, nonetheless, for the scholarly consensus outside evangelical circles.  I’ve talked about the matter on the blog before but just now I reread my discussion in my New Testament textbook and thought it might be useful to give it here.  In particular I like the final point I make (in the second to last paragraph), which, now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve stressed enough over the years.


Here is what I say there:




Critical scholars are widely agreed that the earliest Gospel was Mark, written around 70 c.e.; that Matthew and Luke were written some years later, say, around 80–85 c.e.; and that John was the last Gospel, written around 90–95 c.e. But how do scholars establish those dates?

It is actually a highly complicated matter, but I can give some sense of why these particular dates are so widely preferred. To begin with, none of the Gospels appears to have been

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