In my previous post on this topic, I discussed the case for an early dating for the writing of the gospel accounts of the life of Jesus. I believe that the case for the early dating is very compelling even without any scholarly comments on the subject. However, I believe that it is important that one stands upon the work of others, and use them to bolster the arguments. I want to point out that just because scholars say one thing or another, it is important to understand that these scholars are merely stating their opinions. Their statements are not facts. One should take their comments as an interpretation of the facts at hand. This is very much like an expert witness at a murder trial. That witness’ task is to assist the jurors in interpreting the evidence, either for or against the defendant. My purpose is to show that there are others that hold the same opinion as I do.
As with my previous post on this topic I want to point out that this post is not an exhaustive study. Rather a compilation of the most interesting points that I discovered in my research. If you want a deeper exploration of this and other topics I will discuss, then I suggest you utilize your preferred search engine.
Ricciotti wrote many seminal works on the life of Christ and the Apostle Paul. Ricciotti concluded that the gospels were written early based on the same lines of reasoning that appeared in part one of this series. Based on these reasons Ricciotti claimed that Matthew was written between 50 and 55 AD, Mark between 55 and 60 AD, Luke was penned around 60 AD, and John near 100 AD.
John Arthur Thomas Robinson
Robinson was an Anglican bishop who wrote Redating the New Testament. His research utilized a historical approach that was grounded in the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Based on his research, he concluded that the gospels were penned at an early date. Robinson places the writing of Matthew from between 40 and 60 AD, Mark from between 45 and 60 AD, Luke from between 57 and 60 AD, and John between 40 and 65 AD.
John W. Wenham
Wenham was a professor of New Testament Greek and biblical scholar. He wrote Redating Matthew, Mark and Luke: A Fresh Assault on the Synoptic Problem. He compared the each synoptic gospel (Matthew, Mark & Luke) with each other, as well as their relationship to other early writings as well as with the early church fathers from the first through third centuries. Based on this research, Wenham concluded that the synoptic gospels were written at an early date. Wenham places Matthew near 40 AD, Mark at around 45 AD, and Luke in the mid 50s.
As a professor at Lund University, Gerhardsson wrote The Reliability of the Gospel Tradition. In it, Gerhardsson, examined Jewish oral tradition. In particular he focused on the teaching and memorization techniques of the Jewish rabbis in Jesus’ day. This approach is similar to research done by Harold Reisenfeld and Thorleif Boman. These three scholars conclude that the gospels are consistent with the teaching and memorization traditions of the Jewish rabbis. As a result, all three conclude that the gospels should be dated early.
Jousse is a biblical scholar from France. He wrote L’anthropologie du Geste which examined the Semitic nature and rhythm of Jesus’ statements in the gospels. He concluded that the gospels are consistent with the language and characteristics of first century rabbinical teaching. Based on this research Jousse concluded that the gospels can be dated very early.
Carmignac spent 20 years researching the Hebrew language as a backdrop for the writing of the gospels. He wrote The Birth of the Synoptic Gospels and concluded that one or more of the synoptic (Matthew, Mark & Luke) had a Semitic origin. This conclusion has been agreed with by scholars such as Robert Lindsey, David Flusser, Pinchas Lapide and David Bivin. Carmignac’s work argued that the synoptic gospels formed in the Jewish culture of the first half of the first century.
This French biblical scholar wrote Epitre aux Romains: Texte Grec Structure. By comparing the language from several New Testament letters and the Book of Acts Rolland formed the opinion that the gospel of Matthew was first written in Hebrew around 40 AD, and then translated into Greek around 63 to 64 AD along with the gospel of Luke. He also argued that the gospel of Mark was not the first gospel written, rather it was the third gospel written, and that the gospel of John appeared on or near 100 AD.
There are many more scholars that I could have quoted from both sides of the spectrum. However, that is not our purpose here. Our purpose is to demonstrate that there are experts in academia that hold to an early date for the writing of the gospels, and that this view is not simply “wishful thinking” on the part of Christians desperately clinging to their bibles and their faith. Rather, Christians have solid reasons and evidences for the trust they place in the bible as being what it claims to be.
So we have seen that we can trust that the New Testament is accurate. We have seen that a solid case can be made for an early dating of the gospels. However, can we trust the gospels in that they have given us an honest account of the events they claim to chronicle? That question will be answered in the next post.