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Authorship and Dating of the Gospels

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Lesson

Nothing covered so far guarantees that what the Gospel writers said is true. How do historians make assessments about reliability of claims made in ancient works? How do we know who wrote a document, when did they write it, and were they in a context in which they could know what actually happened?

Outline

I. EXTERNAL EVIDENCE

A. Written testimonials from the second, third, and early fourth centuries (Patristic evidence)

B. Matthew

1. Papias

2. Irenaeus

3. Wrote in the 60’s primarily to Jewish Christians

C. Mark

1. Clement of Alexandria

2. Wrote in the 60’s primarily to Roman Christians

D. Luke

1. No evidence as clear as for Matthew and Mark

2. “We” statements in Acts

3. Tradition agrees Luke was a Gentile written for Theophilus

E. John

1. Papias (disciple of John)

2. Later evidence: Ephesus; end of first century

II. INTERNAL EVIDENCE

A. Matthew

1. Destruction of Judaism

2. Anti-supernatural bias

B. Mark

1. Nero’s persecution

2. Earliest Gospel, prior to Luke-Acts

C. Luke

1. “Jerusalem surrounded by armies”

2. Goal of Acts is to get Paul to Rome

D. John

1. Lifespan (40 – 100 years)

2. John perhaps was the youngest disciple (80 in the 90’s)

E. Two sets of dates

1. Conservatives: Matt – Luke in the 60’s; John in the 90’s

2. Liberals: Mark in the 70’s, Matt and Luke in the 80’s; John in the 90’s

III. WHAT IS AGREED UPON?

A. First century documents

B. From eyewitnesses or second-hand witnesses

C. Good evidence by ancient standards (compared to other histories)