Biblical Resource: Dating the Books of the New Testament
In doing some research, I came across a website named Evidence for Jesus Christ which apparently had our own J.P. Holding as one of its members. According to the website, the group that created Evidence for Jesus Christ were “formerly the Errant Skeptics Research Institute. Our primary mission and focus has shifted to presenting strong evidence for Jesus Christ's claim that He is the unique Son of God, and that He is the only way one can be saved.”
In reviewing the website, I came across a chart created by Gary Butner, Th.D. and R.A. Sickler, Ph.D. entitled Dating the Books of the New Testament, a Chronological Order of the New Testament which these two scholars prepared with an eye towards establishing that average dates for the books of the New Testament based upon actual scholarship and not the rantings of Internet atheists. The website notes:
Dating the New Testament, based on the opinions of several hundred New Testament scholars.
In a court of law the testimony of one expert is considered evidence, however it is frequently offset by another expert with a differing opinion. The same thing happens in the academic community as to when the New Testament books were written. However, in the court of public opinion the testimony of several hundred New Testament scholars is strong evidence and far outweighs the opinions of radical scholars, skeptics and nonbelievers. The latter groups seek to discredit the Gospel accounts, and create another Jesus they claim was produced by legends over a long time frame. We have provided the opinions of several hundred conservative and liberal scholars in the links below to establish the weight of scholarly evidence against all such radical views. Many eyewitnesses to the Gospel accounts were still alive, when the books of the New Testament were penned.
The chart then gives ranges of dates for each of the books of the New Testament by adopting the range of dates identified by those scholars (both conservative and liberal), and then averaging the early dates and the later dates to show the average range. What the chart shows is revealing.
The earliest book (according to the average of the scholars) was 1 Thessalonians, penned by Paul, which was written around 50-51 AD. However, following the link to see the Scholars Dates for 1 Thessalonians reveals that some scholars placed the writing as early as 49 AD, and with one exception all of the scholars believed it was written by 54 AD. (The outlier scholar believes 1 Thessalonians was completed no later than 63 AD.
The latest of the books to be written (no surprise here) was the Revelation to John. The chart reveals that the average of the scholars believes it was written prior to the end of the First Century (between 90 and 94 AD). Interestingly, the details chart on Revelation shows that while a couple of the scholars could be considered outliers on the early end (John A.T. Robinson dates the Revelation as early as 68 AD) none of the scholars reviewed, conservative or liberal, put the Revelation any later than 100 AD.
I found this chart to be very helpful, and I imagine that I will use it the next time someone tries to claim that mainstream scholarship shows that the books of the New Testament were written years and years and years after the death of Jesus. No one believes that canard anymore.