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.


you know BK i got my Masters degree from one of those evil liberal seminaries where they are trying to destroy the Bible.It's just not that simple.

When the chart includes Pastoral epistles as the earliness written it's pretty good indication all is not so neatly arranged, not copacetic.
BK said…
If you don't agree that most Biblical scholars date those books to the 60s then I am not impressed regardless of where you received your master's degree.
It is very useful to have such a chart, /the trend e en among liberal scholars is to early dates now, No one really buys the 19th century idea that Gospels were written second century.

If you don't agree that most Biblical scholars date those books to the 60s then I am not impressed regardless of where you received your master's degree.

7/10/2016 08:52:00 PM Delete

No I do agree,i used to have a chart done by a regular guy who compiled a bunch of scholarly views on each Gospel and showed that even the liberals date then at 60s now, The funny thing is I always suspected something was going on with the dates in relation to temple. If they are not written 200 years latter trying to fabricate a feeling of pre 70 Jerusalem (they are not) then they have to be prior to the destruction

where I disagree is the pastoral epostels. They assume Pauline authorship i can't assume that. In spite of that it's a very good chart to have
Hebrew in 39?don't think there;s time for Paul to get converted and set the Pauline circle by then. how long was he in the desert?
Jason Pratt said…
Oh, good! -- I was thinking of doing a quick compile of sources at hand to discuss the idea that dating texts early is always a conservative fringe move. But this is better. {g}

Joe, it isn't Hebrews in 39; the earliest date is 49 in their 39 sources listed. The main chart shows an average earliest date of 64.6.

Jason Pratt said…
On the other hand, an apologetic book I'm reading for review, which is otherwise okay (if necessarily overly simplistic, but does try to put things together in a logical order), tendetiously tried to paint the standard 70-90s Gospel dating as only held by fringe liberal authors like (specifically) Spong. That just isn't true, even though the trend among actual NT scholars has been toward earlier dating for a while now.

But it would be worth mentioning that the 70-90s dating is widely held because actual scholars of antiquity (including NT scholars) widely held and still widely hold it; and that they have widely held it as a sort of Pax Data, that everyone across the ideological board from ultra-believer to ultra-sceptic can plausibly accept as a working range and then go on with whatever their projects are -- unless they have a strongly vested interest in pushing the dates much later! It doesn't really matter to conservative scholars, though, whether the compositional dates are in the standard working-agreement range or earlier. (And some conservative scholars are fine with some Pauline epistles being post-Pauline, although naturally that's more contentious.)

yes I discovered the early dating trend years ago and it;s liberals as well as conservatives but I still want a list of the scholars omn the chart. does it have one/

Jason, I can't read a chart at 5am
BK said…
Joe, if you click on the book of the Bible that you want to examine, it will take you for a chart specifically for that book. That chart will show you each scholar consulted and that scholar's range for dating the book.

BTW, I am one of those people who would have a problem if a particular letter (1 Timothy, for example) were not written by Paul when it is claimed at the outset to be written by Paul. To me, it would mean that the entire letter was a lie. That may not make a difference to you, but it definitely does to me. Since I have never seen a compelling reason to date the letters after the life of Paul, I accept the ranges of the letters as being during the life of the author and not later. (Note, I said compelling reason and not just reason. I am aware of the arguments for dating them later, but I don't find them compelling.)
well BK we can't regard the name on the title as part of the book. the names are put on latter not by the authors you really don't think Mark said think i'll call it Mark"
BK said…
Joe, I don't think that the Gospel of Mark was written by Mark because it is called the Gospel of Mark. I think it was written by Mark for other reasons. On the other hand, 1 Timothy, for example, begins with this language: "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord." This introduction appears to be written by Paul since it says from Paul to "my true son in the faith." The letters of Paul are practically signed by Paul and usually are written in a manner that says "I, Paul, am writing this letter to ____ for purpose _____." If it was written later by someone other than Paul, than seems to me to be a lie.
Jason Pratt said…
Also, you ought to know perfectly well that the "web of history" attributes the Pastorals to Paul, Joe, not merely a name in the title (which none of the epistles have anyway in original attribution as far as we can reconstruct from external references). Hebrews authorship? Still webby, but enough less that it might not count. 1 Tim? Totally webby.

So I can't believe you just called the idea of "the name being put on letter" against Bill, as a matter equivalent to "just assuming Pauline authorship", especially when the naming in 1 Tim is in the body not the title anyway!

Other factors might count against the web of history; but as far as that goes, it has to weigh in favor of Pauline authorship. It cannot feasibly be dismissed, no more than sceptics simply dismissing Gospel attribution as only a name on the outside of the scroll at best (and maybe no name at all, as though GosMark was written by Mr. Nobody.)

Meanwhile, the couple of lists I looked at on the site often refer to multi-author commentaries or things like that, not to specific scholars, so checking for specific refs is limited that way. It's still very useful, of course!

Jason Pratt said…
That being said, JAT Robinson is by far the most liberal scholar I recognized on the 1 Tim list -- and of course the reference is to his far more (relatively) conservative late work Redating the NT -- with Raymond Brown being a distant second. If there are other major liberal and/or non-Christian scholars in that list, I don't recognize them.

one major reasonfor not accepting tim is the widows likst was a much latter development, Now I thinkj it;s in a pretty primitive state in
tim so it might be authentic, maybe that was the early evolution of it, But that is a major reason ,Aslo if you read those books carefully like a list of rambling collected quote pasted together to make a document. One could always argue that is subjective, i know from what little translating I did when I studied Greek that the more you do it the more feel you get for it and scholars who do it all the time for 50 years think this it;s more than just subjective.
good Jason glad they include Brown and Robinson Robimnson has early dates and did a long time ago.I think he started the trend,
Jason Pratt said…
Robinson certainly made broadly early dating a respectable intellectual option; although part of his supporting argument was (as you know, but others might not) that there has always been a much broader range of dating even among liberal scholars than the workable-consensus range suggests to those who haven't worked at digging up information on the specific question. Robinson (in his opening chapter of the status) even notes that liberal scholars oscillated wildly in their dating schemes among themselves (though with a pattern that at least some significant number of canonical texts must be very late), from the 19th through the early 20th century, while "still carefully critical" conservative scholars (by which he means not content to just take the traditional attributions for granted -- keeping in mind JATR was no fan of conservative theology generally) stayed content with the traditional dating range out to AD 100 within the lifetimes of the purported authors, the sole new exception being 2 Peter which was generally dated even by conservative scholars to around 150(!). (He notes with some irony that the most 'conservative' dating of this period came from the German scholar Theodore Zahn in 1933, this being the main exception to dating 2 Peter late, with nothing later than mid-90s.) By mid-century liberal scholarship had settled down to general agreement with conservatives, aside from a few "wandering stars" which radical liberals wanted to put later and another few which conservatives tended to put sooner.

It's hard to find proper contemporary collections of this information, though. I spent a good half hour (at least) paging through Hemer yesterday afternoon trying to see if he reported any dating lists for the pastorals; but I couldn't find any. Which wasn't his main focus of course, although he works out a nominal dating range for the Pastorals and other challenged Pauline circulars like Ephesians -- but that isn't a poll of other authors to show the status of the question in-or-up-to his day.


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