Dating the new testament


"The case for early gospels in anything like the form we understand is very fragile.The onus is on proof of this early date on solid grounds, as the evidence for a later date is plain.



Once you accept that the process of taking only the latest date that will meet the scanty extant data is a fallacy, quite a number of conclusions follow. Bell therefore recognised that we could well be looking at 25-30 years to get from the autograph, via an unknown number of intermediaries and by geographical transfer up the nile and to the cheap provincial copy extant in P52.As was remarked at the time, while it is perfectly possible that P52 was written within days of composition, "it must be admitted it is the reverse of probable" (H. And in fact it could be double this without obvious unreason.But 25-30 years puts the date of composition back from the first quarter of the second century to the fourth quarter of the first century, perhaps around 85-90 --- which is, of course, the traditional date. Few suppose that the synoptics were written before John.Indeed there is the statement transcribed by Eusebius that the old apostle saw the others and was influenced by their contents.

Whether this is so or not - and the survival of so much material, comparatively about him is yet another indicator that John deceased much later than the other apostles - we again must ask what interval there was between these events. But if we move back 20-30 years, are we saying too much? But if we do this, we immediately find outselves from the fourth quarter of the first century into the third quarter of the first century.

And here again the 'last possible date' approach raises its head, and again we think of P52 and must reject it. But we see that such an extreme position has led to crass errors. But this again is the traditional date of these documents. In the absence of evidence, I'm not sure what is, except to avoid making definitive statements.