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Old 08-16-2001, 06:12 AM   #1
Polycarp
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Post Dating the Gospels - Does it matter?

Having been involved in numerous discussions regarding the dates of the four gospels, Iíd like to propose a very simple and brief thesis: The exact dates of the gospels do not matter when it comes to assessing the truthfulness of Christianity.

Allow me to elaborateÖ For the sake of argument, letís say that we could somehow prove to your satisfaction that the gospel of Mark was written in 60 C.E. It doesnít really matter how this was proven. Iím simply speaking hypothetically and saying that none of the skeptics here would change their beliefs about Christianity based on the discovery of an early date for one or all of the gospels. Likewise, I doubt that Christians would renounce their beliefs if it could be proven that all of the gospels were written in the early second century.

Any comments? Iíd really be curious to hear from anyone (Christian or non-Christian) who disagrees with this thesis.

Peace,

Polycarp
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Old 08-16-2001, 07:49 AM   #2
James Still
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Quote:
Originally posted by Polycarp:
<STRONG>For the sake of argument, let’s say that we could somehow prove to your satisfaction that the gospel of Mark was written in 60 C.E. It doesn’t really matter how this was proven. I’m simply speaking hypothetically and saying that none of the skeptics here would change their beliefs about Christianity based on the discovery of an early date for one or all of the gospels.</STRONG>
I agree that dating is secondary to the larger issue of faith. When people of faith sit down to read the Gospel of John to their grandkids more likely than not they've never given any thought to attestation, transmission or dating. The text is inspirational to them and that's all that matters. But I also don't want to mitigate the importance of a written text's date because it can have profound implications for faith. I think one of the reasons you see hard-line skeptics push for absurdly late dates is in order to bolster the thesis that syncretism with Mithraism (or other pagan practices) creeped into the young movement's theology. Likewise, some hard-line believers push for extraordinarily early dates in order to push the written texts closer to the eyewitnesses, and thus toward Jesus himself. We are all right to be suspicious of these claims and to place a good deal of weight on scholarly consensus. But even scholarly consensus refuses to take a controversial position. In the case of Mark if we were to date it at 60 then a good argument could be made that Mark's author was astute enough to see the coming destruction of the Temple by Vespasian. And if we date Mark at 80 then we could make a good argument that Mark's theology in which salvation is granted also to the Gentiles is a result of the loss of the Temple and the Jerusalem Church. I guess that's why scholars always say 70 and leave it at that.
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Old 08-16-2001, 08:09 AM   #3
Vorkosigan
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I don't think it matters as far as the factual content of the text is concerned, regardless of whether Mark published in 55 or 140.

I suppose the only way it is important is if you want to reconstruct the origins and development of Christianity.

On the other hand, some people seem to get extraordinarly and entertainingly peeved if one dates a text even a decade or two later than they think it should be.

Michael

[ August 16, 2001: Message edited by: turtonm ]
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Old 08-16-2001, 08:50 AM   #4
MOJO-JOJO
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Lightbulb

polycarp, here are two references worth investigating when you are dealing with issues regarding the authenticity and dating of the gospel. The first is a comparison of the Homeric tales and the Gospel of Mark, which raises some pretty interesting points that you just can't sweep under the carpet;

Richard Carrier's review

and some interesting questions raised by Earl Doherty regarding the "conspiracy of silence" during the 1st Century by the early Christians;

Doherty's essays

Please feel free to read these and other like-kind essays, apply a little rational, critical thinking, and share your thoughts with us.
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