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March 23, 2016

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Turek argues that all the books of the New Testament were written before 70AD. Even very conservative scholars agree that all four gospels were written after 70AD. Licona and Habermas are not representative of New Testament scholars here. Turek does not give any evidence in this video that the gospels were written by eyewitness testimonies. Turek also asserts in this video that oral cultures would faithfully transmit memories. This is one of the claims that Ehrman examines in his latest book Jesus Before the Gospels. Ehrman points out that cultural anthropologists have been studying oral cultures for 100 years now, and have concluded that oral cultures do not faithfully transmit oral traditions. Oral cultures prize relevance to present situations over accurate transmission. Based on my reading, most New Testament scholars see the New Testament as a record of how Jesus was remembered by early Christians. This does not mean that these memories of Jesus are wrong. But they are memories, not eyewitness accounts.

"Yet we have a report of the resurrection – that Jesus appeared to named individuals and groups of eyewitnesses – which has been dated to within months of Jesus’ death."

Is there a reference for the 'dating to within months'? It would be great to have. RnB

Is there a reference for the 'dating to within months'? It would be great to have. RnB

RobertNotBob, see point #2 here, then see here for quotes from critical scholars (more links can be found on that post).

Caleb, see the links in the post that provide evidence of eyewitnesses and faithful oral transmission.

Can you point me to somewhere that lists evidence/arguments that the Gospels were written after AD 70 (or just summarize them for me)? I've tried to find arguments before (that didn't have to do with an assumption against supernatural events), and I heard vaguely about one once, but I can't remember what it was. If you could point me to what you know about this, I would appreciate it.

(For brief discussions from the other side, see here, here, and the eyewitness evidence linked to in the post.)

Thank-you Amy
Happy Easter
RnB

Amy,

An argument can be made for a post AD 70 date for the synoptics based on Mark 13 and Matthew 24 without any assumption against supernatural events. The argument is that there would've been little reason for Mark and Matthew to spend so much space discussing Jesus' predictions about the destruction of the temple if the fulfillment hadn't just recently taken place.

Mr. Harper: On that argument, is there any valid reason for recording prophetic speech? Or do we subscribe to the thought that all such records are ex post facto? That would itself constitute a disregard for supernatural events.

What is the difference between a "memory" and an "eyewitness account" if both come from the same source?

Ken, one reason for recording prophetic speech is because Jesus made them. I don't see why there needs to be any deeper reason than that. The argument I mentioned doesn't claim Jesus' prophecy is ex post facto, only that the reason the author chose to put so much emphasis on it is because they knew of its recent fulfillment. They might've done that because of how significant its fulfillment was, or because it vindicates Jesus or because those who were dealing with the aftermath were in great need of comfort, reassurance, or just understanding in light of the events.

Sam,

It seems just as likely that the put emphasis on it because of their audience and the centrality of the Temple for Judaism. Thus, I don't see that as adding any evidence to the scales for the post 70 AD date.

And/or because Jesus taught it and the Holy Spirit brought it to the disciples' memory in order to set it down (John 14:25, 16:12-13; 2 Peter 1:20-21).

It seems this is the justification offered by any naturalistic critic of prophetic literature: it had to be written after the fact, and only those prophecies that "came true" were preserved.

@Sam
I think that the argument you suggested doesn't work because it doesn't take into account the NT as a whole.

(a) if Mark is to be dated post-70AD because of its reference to Jesus' prophetic statements, then, granting that Mark was the first gospel written down, and that Matthew and Luke are dependent upon it:
- then Luke/Acts would have to be dated post-70AD as well, yet Luke only gives it a passing reference in Luke 21:5-9, but nowhere in Acts does it mention the actual destruction of Jerusalem. Acts documents the death of James, the expulsion of the Jews from Rome (in the AD 40-50 time frame), the dispersion of the early Christians around the empire, Paul's missionary journeys, etc. But it does not mention the deaths of any of the Apostles (other than the aforementioned James). If we had to date Acts post-70AD, why is there no mention of these significant details? There is really nothing in Acts that compels us to a post-70AD date, but everything is consistent with a date sometime after AD49 (IIRC, that is the time frame for the expulsion of the Jews from Rome), and before AD68 ( the traditional year of Paul's death).

There are really no compelling reasons to not accept the NT documents for what they claim to be, despite the arguments of the skeptics. It seems that only a presupposition of metaphysical naturalism and the need to rationalize their desire for Christianity to not be true is what drives the skeptics.

The work by Colin Hemer on the historicity of Acts is a superb reference.
See here

pardon, Luke 21:5ff is a reference to Jesus' prophecy about Jerusalem, not just 21:5-9...that does not affect the analysis of Acts, though

Victoria, if I argued with you, I would only be doing it as devil's advocate. The reason I mentioned that argue for a post AD 70 date was because Amy said she was unaware of any argument for a post AD 70 date that did not have an assumption against supernatural events. I was just giving an example of one.


Wouldn't the reasoning, reported by Sam, regarding Matt 24 and Mark 13, when applied to Luke and John, mean that if such an historic fulfillment of prophecy had already taken place, that Luke and John would have surely mentioned it in their accounts of Jesus life? And since they did not, this is equal 'evidence' that the destruction of the Temple had not yet occurred?

@Sam
Based on your posts, I more or less concluded that you were playing devil's advocate (nice blog site, BTW), so I wasn't so much responding to you specifically as I was responding to the post-70AD argument.

Sam, I've always heard that as the opposite argument—i.e., that they would have discussed the fulfillment of His words if they had been fulfilled at the time of the writing (there are points when they say "to this day," etc., so it does seem more likely to me that they would have), but I guess somebody could use it the other way (just not as convincingly). But there was a better argument I heard a bit of once. I think it was something about one of the Gospels quoting something that wasn't written until later (Josephus maybe?). It kills me that I can't remember where I saw this or what it was. If you ever come across it, let me know.

I just heard that Michael Kruger will be on the podcast next Friday (4/01/16) to talk about Ehrman's article, so if you're interested in this post, make sure you listen next week!

Amy, some people think Mark's parenthetical comment--"let the reader understand"--was kind of his way of say something like "to this day." He was trying to help the reader understand what was happening with the present destruction of the Temple through Jesus' explanation of it. That's why Mark is frequently dated right around AD 70 instead of five years earlier or later.

The other argument you heard doesn't sound familiar, but then I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "The gospels quoting something that wasn't written until later."


Ah, okay. As to the other argument, it was something about the way something was worded in one (or more?) of the Gospels. It supposedly mirrored the wording in a non-Christian document that was written later. I didn't have a chance to look into it at the time, and then somehow I lost track of the details.

If the Gospel author, Luke, wrote after AD 70, the obvious place to mention the downfall of Jerusalem was in Acts. The visible fact that fulfilled the prophecy would have been reported there.

Indeed, such a central event in Jewish history would have been reported there, prophecy or not, in any case.

But it wasn't.

That's because Acts was written before AD 70.

Because that is true, Luke who openly says that he's working from pre-existing accounts, was written before AD 70.

Because that is true, Matthew and Mark, the accounts Luke was working from, were written before AD 70.

=========================================

As for this business about letting the reader understand. This is one of those passages that people like to point to to argue that Matthew cribbed from Mark or Mark from Matthew. It's all nonsense of course, the two are independent.

The reason both mention the phrase about the reader is that these words were not added by the Gospel authors, but spoken by Jesus in reference to Daniel's prophetic writings. Matthew's account makes this utterly clear, summarizing Jesus' words more exhaustively. Mark is more clipped, and so less clear on this point.

The reader referenced who needs to pay attention is not the reader of the Gospel, but of the book of Daniel. Jesus is the one who is recommending caution by the reader of Daniel.

Matthew and Mark accurately summarize these words of Christ.

And because Jesus said "let the reader understand", the phrase has nothing at all to do with dating the Gospel.

I agree, WL. I think it's a very weak argument, but I'm glad to at least know one people are making. If you know of any others, let me know.

After listening to a 24-part lecture series by Dr Erhman, his theme emerged--if it was Orthodox, it is suspect and probably made up. Anything rejected or ignored by the early church was the REAL story regardless of the evidence.

>> Even very conservative scholars agree that all four gospels were written after 70AD.

Did some research on this one.

Harnack places Mark's Gospel 45-60 AD.
Moulton dismisses Harnack's suggestion but insists that Mark had to become influential by 65 AD. Not written ... already in use.
Hendricksen sees the drafting of the Marcian Gospel from 40-65 AD, with preference for 40-50 AD, based on a papyrus scrap from the seventh cave of Qumran.

The structure of Matthew (Hebrew bias) and Mark (many explanations of Hebrew/Aramaic phrases indicating a Grecian or Latin audience) show interdependence, but Matthew's point of countering a planted story to explain the empty tomb (Mt. 28:11-15) implies an early production. If Matthew is received as an original Aramaic document, Mark becomes the early Greek recension (Moulton's theory). Matthew's rendering into Greek could have been assisted through the Marcian document. Luke is obliged to eyewitnesses, which could include Matthew and Mark, as well as others who had lived at the time and Luke interviewed in Paul's Caesarean imprisonment (ca. 58 AD).

An early drafting of the Gospels through individual writers is feasible. The roots of Ehrmann's theories come from the late 19th century work of Wellhausen and the liberal theology of that day. Papyrus discoveries in the 20th century bankrupted the core theories from that school. This school was impelled by that era's zeal to create a naturalistic mechanism for the development of the Biblical books. What was once recognized to be works of the mid-first century was pushed to the second on suppositions which were proven incorrect (vocabulary usage, perceived mature Christological statements, elements of personal style ...). The trend is to see the Gospels as first century works, just late in the century.

Turek is correct. The tendency to push all this to times after 70 AD stems on a refusal to see anything divine about Jesus and His ministry.

I think the discussion highlights one big problem with attempting to date the gospel accounts: we can't really know with any kind of precision when the accounts were actually written. The dating is based on estimates and some of the reasons for the estimates can be highly speculative, such as making assumptions about why an author would or would not mention a specific event (for example the destruction of the temple and fall of Jerusalem in AD 70).

We can know the latest when the gospels were written, because we have the writings of other authors who reference and quote them in the 2nd century. So the only certainty we can have is that they were definitely written and circulated prior to when the later authors reference them. But there is no objective way to pinpoint what the earliest dating could be.

I've read a few of Erhman's books, and one other big point he brings up is that we don't really know who the authors of the four canonical gospels are because they don't identify themselves in text. They also don't identify where or when they wrote them. They also do not mention their sources, or if they relied on any sources for that matter. It remains a mystery to us, and the authors willingly choose not to reveal this information.

I've looked for arguments or evidence as to why there is good reason to think that the Catholic Church's traditional view of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John are the actual authors but I haven't found any. The only people who claimed the above 4 others were church leaders that lived a century or more after the gospels were written and don't seem to have any connection or ability to verify the true authors.

Does anyone know a good argument as to why we should view the traditional Catholic Church orthodoxy of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John being the actual authors? I've read Erhman's view of why he doesn't think so but I haven't read any good rebuttal to it.

AWF, you can start with the link in the post on the word "eyewitnesses." For more, see the link there on "oral transmission" and Bauckham's book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (discussed at that link).

Alan Watts fan raises a good point that we cannot precisely date the gospels. We must weigh probabilities. Most New Testament scholars date the gospels after 70AD for a variety of reasons. To see this just look at some scholarly commentaries on the gospels.
Some reasons for the dating given to each gospel are given on the http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/ under each gospel. Now you may or may not agree with the reasons given, but there are reasons why NT scholars are unified overall in viewing the gospels as post-70AD works. This does not guarantee that the scholarly consensus is correct. But since they represent the scholarly consensus, we should have strong reasons for disputing those claims. Since arguments for the dating of an ancient writing are based on probabilities, one needs to show that the probabilities of a pre-70AD writing of the gospels are higher than the probabilities of a post-70AD writing of the gospels. I fail to see any strong claims for a pre-70AD writing of the gospels in this post or comment thread that would dispute the scholarly consensus.

DGFischer says "The trend is to see the Gospels as first century works, just late in the century." You are correct which is why most NT scholars date all 4 gospels between 70AD and 100AD. If this judgment is due to "a refusal to see anything divine about Jesus and His ministry", you need to explain why many conservative scholars who view Jesus as divine also date the gospels 70-100AD.

Even if the gospels were based on eyewitness testimonies, this does not guarantee accuracy. Modern studies of eyewitness testimony show it to be far less accurate than people believe. Again, Turek asserts in this video that oral cultures accurately transmit memories. This is a main claim that Ehrman in his latest book Jesus Before the Gospels disputes based on cultural anthropology studies of oral cultures. These studies indicate that oral cultures prize relevance to present situations over accurate transmission of what happened in the past. I do not have the background to judge the accuracy of Ehrman's arguments, but one must understood and provide compelling reasons to dispute those claims if one is to successfully argue that the gospels are historically accurate. If Ehrman is correct in his understanding and presentation of the the results of cultural anthropology research on oral cultures, then it becomes much more difficult to defend the historicity of every event found in the gospels.

FYI, Ehrman also interacts with Bauckham's book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses in his most recent book. Part of Bauckham's argument requires that Papias (at least Papias as we have him quoted by Eusebius, since we do not have Papias' writings themselves) is a reliable source for information about the gospels. Ehrman gives various reasons why we should question whether Papias should be trusted here to give historically accurate information. Papias seems to either be referring to gospels other than the canonical four or mischaracterizes them. Also, Papias' account of events recorded in the gospels (e.g. the death of Judas) is vary different from the account found in the gospels or Acts. Again, Ehrman may be wrong here, but the reasons he gives help explain why most NT scholars dispute Bauckham's main thesis.

Caleb G.

You cited conservative scholars that place the Gospels 70-100 A.D.

I cited conservative scholars and commentarians who push for early authorship of the Gospels, which would follow/found the theories Habernnas, Licona, and Bauckmann support.

Who specifically are these conservation scholars you refer to? Surely you do not allude the Ehrmann.

As to your point about Ehrmann's objections to the Papias' citations, Papias was one of the earliest Apostolic fathers (Clement and Ignatius being the earliest, whose works cite the Gospels). In dealing with the Papias' citations, there are ten recollections of the Church father, some rather short and fragmented (such as the second citation of Clement Alexandrian, where Papias notes the Christians described as guileless children), while some are lengthier and where the logical flow well-established (the sixth citation, which mentions his association with John and his notes on the Gospels of Mark and Matthew). Ehrmann focuses on a short citation, the third, where all is spoken of is Judas killed by being run over by a chariot, and the notice that "his bowels gushed out." In that case, there is no mention of context, whether Papias was noting some bizarre opinion, whether this notion was his own or another's, whether it was a point made concerning Acts 1:18 or one of the notices in the Gospels. Rather sketchy to make many assertions, much less question the well thought out longer citations.

Skepticism will get a lot of mileage out of Papias' third citation. Except it will always be based on speculation. It only becomes a red herring when studying Papias' substantial sixth citation.

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