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Old 02-12-2001, 09:00 AM   #21
Bede
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Turtomn,

Thanks for your post but I must confess to being rather confused. Are you suggesting that later Christians removed references in the Gospels to a major historical event that everyone knew about on the grounds it was secret? I know that it is popular to cut texts apart, add bits and say bits have been taken away but unless there is solid evidence I don't buy it.

Luke isn't based on Josephus and very few scholars have been convinced by the sort of arguments Richard discusses. If you'd like to start a thread on this we can go into it deeper.

The long silence on the Gospels (another argument from silence) is because:

a) They were not considered scripture and hence 'authoritive' under rather later. Early fathers prefered to make their point using the OT.

b) Oral tradition was seen as more reliable as long as it was available.

c) Most of the earliest Christian writers (like Papias' five volumes, all but one of Polycarps letters etc) are lost.

Yours

Bede

Bede's Library - faith and reason
 
Old 02-12-2001, 03:06 PM   #22
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Actually Bede, I think the gospels do have a reference to the destruction of the temple in AD 70 in Mark's "little apocalypse" which Matthew and Luke copied later. Christians saw it as the beginning of the end. Nero is an infamous character in Christian history, but it seems as though Domitian, who was worse doesn't have the noteriety that Nero does. Anyway, when Luke and Matthew were written, it was during Domitian's reign, so it is important to keep that in mind when analyzing the gospels.

[This message has been edited by Le pede (edited February 12, 2001).]
 
Old 02-12-2001, 03:29 PM   #23
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Hello Le pede

Could you please present your evidence to support your claims that Mark is referring to the destruction of the Temple, and that Luke and Matthew were written during Domitian's reign?

Also, where did you learn that Domitian was somehow worse than Nero? My sources contradict that point directly.

Thanks,

Nomad
 
Old 02-12-2001, 04:59 PM   #24
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Turtomn,

Bede:
Thanks for your post but I must confess to being rather confused. Are you suggesting that later Christians removed references in the Gospels to a major historical event that everyone knew about on the grounds it was secret? I know that it is popular to cut texts apart, add bits and say bits have been taken away but unless there is solid evidence I don't buy it.

turton:
No, i wasn't being clear. What I meant was, suppose there were two traditions, an open tradition which we have, and the oft-alluded, never really seen "secret tradition." Perhaps one aspect of the "secret tradition" involved the Temple's destruction, and so was not part of what the hoi polloi got. Something like that.

You see, to me, from either perspective, the silence on the Temple is weird. I mean, if the gospels really date from later, why don't they mention it? And if they date from earlier, why wasn't interpolated into them, as so many other things were?

Bede
Luke isn't based on Josephus and very few scholars have been convinced by the sort of arguments Richard discusses. If you'd like to start a thread on this we can go into it deeper.

turton
No thread necessary. A critical review of the issues involving Luke and Josephus will be enough. Know of one?

Bede:
The long silence on the Gospels (another argument from silence) is because:

a) They were not considered scripture and hence 'authoritive' under rather later. Early fathers prefered to make their point using the OT.

turton:
I've never felt this was a good argument. Why use the OT when apropo statements from Jesus were right at hand?

Bede:
b) Oral tradition was seen as more reliable as long as it was available.

c) Most of the earliest Christian writers (like Papias' five volumes, all but one of Polycarps letters etc) are lost.

turton:
a crying shame, too.

Yours in discourse
Michael
 
Old 02-12-2001, 05:47 PM   #25
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This question is for Nomad:

You started this thread by "Redating the books of the New Testament." When exactly do you believe, say, the four Gospels were written? And why? I couldn't find your stance on that in your posts so far, and I'm curious to hear your reasoning.

I appreciate it.

Rew
 
Old 02-12-2001, 07:35 PM   #26
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To Nomad:

Well, it seems that to most historians, Domitian's "second persecution" (as it is referred to in a sarcastic tone within historical communities) of Christians is regarded as the result of storytelling by later Christians. In fact, I must admit that my statement was misleading. There seems to be nothing to justify my statement unequivocally that Domitian was "worse" it is just that, according to some sources, he was on the same footing as Nero. I was basing the staement on my general recollection of what sources said about Domitian, but I forgot some very important things surrounding Domitian's allegeged "second persecution." I also forgot that almost all of the information comes from church "history." I will only cite the some of the more famous church historians, but Domitian is quite an infamous fellow in church literature.

In Eusebius', Historica Ecclesiastica:
many, and having unjustly put to death no small number of well-born and notable men at Rome, and having without cause exiled and confiscated the property of a great many other illustrious men, finally became a successor of Nero in his. hatred and enmity toward God. He was in fact the second that stirred up a persecution against us, although his father Vespasian had undertaken nothing prejudicial to us.

According to Tertullian's Apology 5:
Consult your histories; you will there find that Nero was the first who assailed with the imperial sword the Christian sect, making profess then especially at Rome. But we glory in having our condemnation hallowed by the
hostility of such a wretch. For any one who knows him, can understand that not except as being of singular excellence did anything bring on it Nero's condemnation.
Domitian, too, a man of Nero's type in cruelty, tried his hand at persecution; but as he had something of the human in him, he soon put an end to what he had begun,
even restoring again those whom he had banished.

According to Jerome's Lives of the Illustrious Men 9:
In the fourteenth year then after Nero Domitian having raised a second persecution he was banished to the island of Patmos, and wrote the Apocalypse, on which Justin Martyr and Irenaeus afterwards wrote commentaries. But Domitian having been put to death and his acts, on account of his excessive cruelty, having been annulled by the senate, he returned to Ephesus under Pertinax and continuing there until the tithe of the emperor Trajan, founded and built churches throughout all Asia, and, worn out by old age, died in the sixty-eighth year after our Lord's passion and was buried near the same city.

Also, according to Suetonius, Domitian cracked down on taxes against Jews (in exchange for leaving them alone)--this would include Christians. And, of course, Domitian did crack down on "atheism." But that was a part of his grand scheme of restoring "morality" and traditional Roman values. So, it appears as though Domitian did not specifically target Christians as Nero did, but it seems as though they were victims of these persecutions. Additionally, historian Dio Cassius (non-Christian third century), says that many were persecuted under the charge of "atheism." But it is important to keep in mind that he wrote in the 3rd century.

I believe that Matthew and was written in the late 80's because of its references to Judaism. All of the references to Judaism appear to be an attack on the Judaic sect that was forming after the Herod's temple was destroyed. He is obsessed with "the scribes and Pharisees" (Mt. 23) and "their synagogues" (Mt. 4:23, 9:35). Judaism was a wild and varied religion until after the temple was destroyed and then a more orthodox religion began to rise. Matthew, it seems was also trying to distance himself from Judaism in the sense that the emphasis in the gospel is on the right interpretation of Torah--in contrast to the Pharisees' interpretation.

Luke-Acts is dated btwn. 80 and 90 partially because of "Luke's" statement in 1:1-4. It is also dated then because of its HUGE emphasis on things like: baptism, meals, prayer and house churches. It seems as though there is a big emphasis on the institutionalization of the church, more so than the other gospels. That is why scholars have concluded that it is this preoccupation with the church as an institution that would put Luke in the 80's. To subscribe to this line of argument, you would have to accept the two source theory as well as redaction and form criticism which I am not prepared to defend at this point.

And I look at the statements about the "abomination of desolation" (particularly in Lk. where it also mentions armies surrounding Jerusalem) and I think it is a pretty clear reference to the sacking of Jerusalem. It is hard for me to believe that this event did not play a huge role in the Christian psyche--more so that Nero's persecutions.


[This message has been edited by Le pede (edited February 12, 2001).]
 
Old 02-12-2001, 10:16 PM   #27
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Rew:

You started this thread by "Redating the books of the New Testament." When exactly do you believe, say, the four Gospels were written? And why?</font>
Hi Rew

I apologize for the length of time that I am taking to get to this very important point, but I am hoping to cover off a number of what I call "foundational" questions first as we move towards an answer to your question.

In other words, I am getting to the "point" of this thread, and in my next post will show why I do not find Le pede's arguments on the late dating for Luke to be very convincing. I do not doubt the sincerity of his belief, BTW, only that I am coming to believe that he is in error.

That said, even 6 months ago if you had asked me when I thought the Gospels were written, I would have pretty much repeated the NT scholars' party line:

Mark 70AD
Matthew 75-85AD
Luke 80-85AD
John 90AD

But as I have researched this question more, especially from a hard science papyrological and paleographical standpoint, as opposed to the softer science of textual criticism, I am finding the arguments for these dates to be pretty weak.

Bede has hinted at one of the questions that late dates for the Gospels (not to mention the non-Pauline epistles) leave unanswered. And the silence on the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple are only two. But even more importantly, I think the underlying assumptions about things like the nomina sacra (Sacred Names) and the introduction of the codex in the first century are going to force NT scholars to take a very hard look at their theologically driven dating methods of the past.

If it is any comfort, the scholarly community has been down this road once before. Prior to the archeological excavations of Troy, and papyrological discoveries, a number of time honoured sacred cows had arise regarding the reliability of Homer, and when and who wrote his epics. Happily, old prejudices gradually gave way to the evidence found by the scientists, and we have a much better picture of Homer and his works as a result.

A lot of egos and reputations are deeply invested in protecting the dates of the NT Canons (the Gospels AND the Epistles), so this will not happen quickly, but with this thread, I hope to give at least some insight into why I think these dates are going to need to be radically revised.

Now, should I give away the climax just yet and state my own preferences for dates?

To be honest, I have not made any final conclusions, but I am increasingly coming to agree with JAT Robinson and others (albeit less so on GJohn than the Synoptics), but in the case of the latter I would offer the following date ranges:

Mark 55-62
Matthew 60-65
Luke 66-70
John 90 (but this one is REALLY up in the air for me, and I will get into that after we cover off the Synoptics)

Thank you for your patience, your questions, and thank you as well to penatis, not a theist, Bede and Le pede for their contributions and thoughts. I seriously invite anyone that wishes to add to this to please do so.

Peace,

Nomad

P.S. My apologies to Le pede, I had wanted to get to your response, but it is late, and I want to tie my own reply in with my arguments for an earlier dating of Luke/Acts (and Matthew). So I am off to bed, and with luck, I will get to this tomorrow.

Good night.

[This message has been edited by Nomad (edited February 12, 2001).]
 
Old 02-13-2001, 06:02 AM   #28
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Michael,

OK, first let me be clear that I'm not alleging an early Gospel date. Like you, I find the silence weird but I'm not convinced by any sort of argument from silence.

The idea of 'secret traditions' is unconvincing as orthodox Christians (as opposed to gnostics) were usually quite up front. Anyway, there has been much less interpolation into the NT than you seem to assume (Secret Mark being a third century fraud if not a twentieth century one).

On Josephus, I can't recall a full length study but you might try the Luke volumes of the Anchor Bible.

Yours

Bede

Bede's Library - faith and reason
 
Old 02-13-2001, 08:20 PM   #29
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Le pede:

Well, it seems that to most historians, Domitian's "second persecution" (as it is referred to in a sarcastic tone within historical communities) of Christians is regarded as the result of storytelling by later Christians. In fact, I must admit that my statement was misleading. There seems to be nothing to justify my statement unequivocally that Domitian was "worse" it is just that, according to some sources, he was on the same footing as Nero. I was basing the staement on my general recollection of what sources said about Domitian, but I forgot some very important things surrounding Domitian's allegeged "second persecution." I also forgot that almost all of the information comes from church "history."</font>
Hi Le pede

If it is any consolation, I had tended to buy into these “legends” as well until I began to dig into them. As you have found, the sources for the demonization of Domitian do appear to be largely Christian, and apologetic in origin, however, and should not be given too much credence. Christians were persecuted throughout the first 3 Centuries of their existence, and this cannot be doubted, but it is fallacious to use the relatively minor persecutions of Domitian as a probable backdrop for the apocalyptic visions presented in Matthew 24 and Luke 21. In fact, it was the fact that persecutions only really got rolling on a large scale in the 2nd Century that led many 19th and early 20th Century scholars to postulate 2nd Century dates for these books.

Using things like specific persecutions and even Christological development within a Gospel or Epistle as reasons for late datings should be pretty much discredited by now. The especially embarrassing example of John being dated to the late 2nd Century should have taught us this lesson by now, but apparently it hasn’t thus far. In fact, if anything, the primitiveness of much of Luke/Acts points to early dates for this work, but I will cover this off as well later on.

For now, I hope we can agree that the evidence for widespread persecution of outside of Rome prior to the 2nd Century can be pretty much discounted. Any persecutions up to this point in time had been confined largely to Rome (especially by Nero 65-68), and also to Palestine (from the death of Jesus c. 33 onward). Because of this, I don’t think we can use such persecutions to help us establish a reliable date for either Matthew or Luke/Acts.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I will only cite the some of the more famous church historians, but Domitian is quite an infamous fellow in church literature.

In Eusebius', Historica Ecclesiastica: </font>
This quote talks about Nero, and shows that Vespasian reversed much of these persecutions, so it offers little help regarding questions about Domitian.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">According to Tertullian's Apology 5:
Consult your histories; you will there find that Nero was the first who assailed with the imperial sword the Christian sect, making profess then especially at Rome. But we glory in having our condemnation hallowed by the hostility of such a wretch. For any one who knows him, can understand that not except as being of singular excellence did anything bring on it Nero's condemnation. Domitian, too, a man of Nero's type in cruelty, tried his hand at persecution; but as he had something of the human in him, he soon put an end to what he had begun, even restoring again those whom he had banished.</font>
Again, we see that even Tertullian found that Domitian had largely backed off from persecuting Christians. I will take Cary and Scullard’s view over those offered here.

"The evidence for any serious Domitianic persecution (of Christians) is very slight: even Tertullian says Domitian soon changed his mind annd recalled those whom he had exiled, but some Christians probably came under his ban on the spread of Oriental religions (Isis worship being excepted) and the measures taken against proselytising Jews and judaising Gentiles.
(M. Cary, H.H. Scullard, History of Rome Down to the Reign of Constantine, (London 1979), pg. 412)


Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">According to Jerome's Lives of the Illustrious Men 9:</font>
This source is 4th Century, and you will also note, that Jerome was uncharacteristically charitable with Domitian, and this fact speaks volumes about the actual level of cruelty Domitian probably inflicted on early Christians.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Also, according to Suetonius, Domitian cracked down on taxes against Jews (in exchange for leaving them alone)--this would include Christians.</font>
Domitian cracked down on all Oriental religions (excepting the Isis cult). None of this looks very apocalyptic though.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> And, of course, Domitian did crack down on "atheism." But that was a part of his grand scheme of restoring "morality" and traditional Roman values. So, it appears as though Domitian did not specifically target Christians as Nero did, but it seems as though they were victims of these persecutions. Additionally, historian Dio Cassius (non-Christian third century), says that many were persecuted under the charge of "atheism." But it is important to keep in mind that he wrote in the 3rd century.</font>
Atheism was indeed the charge made against Christians (who were never granted the exemption enjoyed by the Jews on this subject. This was an ongoing problem for Christianity throughout its first 300 years of existence. This is not a lot of help for reliable dating of the Gospels.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I believe that Matthew and was written in the late 80's because of its references to Judaism. All of the references to Judaism appear to be an attack on the Judaic sect that was forming after the Herod's temple was destroyed. He is obsessed with "the scribes and Pharisees" (Mt. 23) and "their synagogues" (Mt. 4:23, 9:35). Judaism was a wild and varied religion until after the temple was destroyed and then a more orthodox religion began to rise.</font>
Actually, Judaism was much more diverse prior to the destruction of Jerusalem than it was before, with the Pharasees emerging as the dominant group. The Sadducees were completely destroyed, as was the Qumran community and the Zealots at Masada. In fact, by 80AD the memory of the Sadducees would have been fading. Their power would certainly have been long forgotten (considering their denial of the afterlife), so mention of them in Matthew is one of the arguments that raises far more questions about a late date than it answers.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Matthew, it seems was also trying to distance himself from Judaism in the sense that the emphasis in the gospel is on the right interpretation of Torah--in contrast to the Pharisees' interpretation. </font>
Matthew was a Levite, and probably a rabbi (teacher). Without a doubt he thought Judaism was mistaken, but using this as an argument for dates is not productive. By 62 the Sanhedrin had shown its attitude towards Christianity by killing James, the brother of Jesus after an illegal trial conducted by Ananus II. Considering that this same group had also conspired against Jesus, Matt’s hostility is hardly surprising, and would have been strong whenever he wrote his Gospel, but especially anytime after 62. Jewish-Christian hostilities had early roots, and again is an unlikely proof for a late dating of Matthew or Luke/Acts.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Luke-Acts is dated btwn. 80 and 90 partially because of "Luke's" statement in 1:1-4. It is also dated then because of its HUGE emphasis on things like: baptism, meals, prayer and house churches.</font>
Baptism dates back to the very beginnings of the Church (as does worship in private houses) and stands as one of THE central rituals instituted by Jesus. And as for the emphasis of meals (especially as relates to the sacrament of Holy Communion), this can be traced back to Mark, and shows little embellishment from the traditions found in Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 11), generally dated to the 50’s.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> It seems as though there is a big emphasis on the institutionalization of the church, more so than the other gospels. That is why scholars have concluded that it is this preoccupation with the church as an institution that would put Luke in the 80's. To subscribe to this line of argument, you would have to accept the two source theory as well as redaction and form criticism which I am not prepared to defend at this point.</font>
Since it can be shown that Paul himself was primarily interested with the “institutionalization” of the church, this is an especially weak argument for the late dating of Luke. As for your reference to redaction and form criticism, I think we can set this aside, since neither contributes to accurate dating in my view (IOW, it doesn’t really narrow the range of dates down sufficiently), and the evidence of redaction in Matthew and especially Luke is very weak. (Even in John I am not wholly convinced that significant redaction took place, but that is a separate issue no doubt).

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">And I look at the statements about the "abomination of desolation" (particularly in Lk. where it also mentions armies surrounding Jerusalem) and I think it is a pretty clear reference to the sacking of Jerusalem. It is hard for me to believe that this event did not play a huge role in the Christian psyche--more so that Nero's persecutions.</font>
If we place Luke in the midst of the Jewish War 66-70AD, the reference to an army surrounding Jerusalem, nor its eventual sacking is not a difficult stretch. This is especially true if, as I believe, Luke was convinced of Mark’s prophecy found in Mark 13, and that it came from Jesus Himself.

As you can see, I find the arguments for a late authorship of Luke/Acts and Matthew pretty flimsy, and will cover this off in more detail in my next post. I will also offer additional arguments for an earlier dating of these same Gospels.

Thank you,

Nomad
 
Old 02-13-2001, 11:03 PM   #30
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Alright, so in my last couple of posts I have covered off some of the reasons why I think a late date for the Gospels seems forced or unlikely. In fact, I think if you study the evidence, the single biggest reason you will find for dating Matthew and Luke/Acts to the 80’s is that the same scholar doing these dates believes that they had to come 10+ years after Mark, and he has dated Mark to 66-70 based on the reading of Mark 13 as a later invention by Mark himself! On the other hand, if this same scholar was required to examine either of these works on its own, independently of Mark, he would be hard pressed to offer any sound reasons for a late date (i.e. later than 70AD) of these books.

So in this post, I would like to cover off the questions of why Matthew and Luke/Acts are seen as independent of one another, and thus dependent upon separate traditions and sources, why they could not have depended on one another (thus keeping them within a relatively fixed dating range of about 5 years of each other), and then, why we should date both of these works as pre-70AD if not earlier.

Independence of Matthew and Luke

Just as Marcan priority is pretty much accepted as a given by scholars (see my post above of Feb. 6 at 2:59PM), and with very good reason, the belief that Matthew and Luke wrote separately and without knowledge of one another is also considered as virtually certain. I will cover off the reasons for this very quickly.

(1) Lack of Agreement Against Mark

If Luke was using Matthew as a source (or vice versa), then we would expect to see stories appearing in both of these books that are not found in Mark. In the words of one NT scholar: ” “One of the strongest arguments against the use of Matthew by Luke is the fact that when Matthew has additional material in the triple tradition (‘Matthean additions to the narrative’), it is ‘never’ found in Luke.” (Robert H. Stein, The Synoptic Problem: An Introduction, Grand Rapids, 1987, pg. 91). Thus Stein concludes: “If Matthew and Luke both used Mark independently, we would expect that their editorial additions to the account would seldom, if ever, agree with one another. Rather, they would appear as ‘Matthean additions’ and ‘Lukan additions’ to the narratives. And this is exactly what we find.” (Ibid. pg. 94).

Now, ‘never’ found in Luke is a bit strong, since we do find some agreement between Matthew and Luke that is not found in Mark. In total, 235 verses (or about 20-22% of the total of each Gospel) appear uniquely in Matthew and Luke (and not in Mark or John), and these verses have now become known as evidence of a “sayings gospel” most commonly called the Quelle or “Q” Gospel.

The most famous of these sayings would be the “Beatitudes” found in Matt 5:1-12 and Luke 6:17-26, but even here the differences in wording is so dramatic as make it impossible to imagine that either copied these verses from the other. In fact, the entire “Sermon on the Mount” (Matt 5-7) is more or less truncated to just the Beatitudes, Lord’s Prayer, and a few other “disjointed” sayings by Luke, and this is inexplicable if Luke was using Matthew as a source. It seems much more likely that Luke was using a shorter version of “Q”, or that Matthew embellished it. In neither case can we point to Luke copying Matthew, or Matthew using Luke. We find a similar situation with the “Lord’s Prayer” (Matt 6:9-14/Luke 11:2-4), where Matthew again shows far greater theological development.

Daniel Wallace, in his essay, The Synoptic Problem, concludes ”Overall, Luke has a greater number of harder readings than does Matthew in the common material. This is quite difficult to explain on the basis of Matthean priority. Especially is this so when Luke’s gospel involves certain motifs that would have benefited from Matthew’s articulation. Personally, I regard this as a very strong argument against Matthean priority.”

Stein agrees, noting that there is simply too much material Matthew and Luke leave out of their respective Gospels to give much credence to the notion that either used the other as a source. ”It is, of course, impossible to know what was going through the mind of Luke when he wrote and why he might have omitted this or that account from his Gospel. Such mental acts are beyond the capacity of the exegete to reconstruct with any certainty. Nevertheless, it is possible to discuss which procedure appears more probable in light of how an Evangelist handles the other material found in his Gospel. It would therefore appear that Luke’s use of Matthew is improbable, due to the lack of his incorporation of the M (Matthean) material into his Gospel.” (Stein, [b]Synoptic Problem[b], pg. 102).

(2) Differences in the Birth Narrative

Mark, of course, has no birth narrative at all, and it takes only a cursory reading of Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-3 to see that these two accounts are independently authored. An in depth study of these differences is given by Raymond Brown in Birth of the Messiah. For the purposes of this discussion, I will let the evidence of clear independence of the two accounts stand on their own.

(3) Differences in the Passion Narrative

For an especially good introduction into how the Synoptics differ from one another (and especially what is unique in each of them) in the Passion Narrative (Mark 14-15/Matthew 26-27/Luke 22-23) I recommend Raymond Brown’s seminal work, The Death of the Messiah, Vol 1&2, where Brown goes into these differences (and similarities) in astonishing depth. His treatment is powerfully given, and helps demonstrate that while Mark’s account of the Passion is almost certainly a source for Matthew and Luke, far too much of the latter two Gospels is unique to each for them to be considered sources for one another. (Since the two volume set is 1524 pages long, and falls outside of the scope of this post (except to highlight the point that Matt and Luke did not copy one another here), I hope the reader will forgive my leaving the details out here). It is also worth noting that Brown makes a very good case for a Passion Narrative the pre-dates even Mark, but again, this is beyond the scope of this thread. If, however, you have specific questions about some of these differences between the Synoptics, and especially the unique parts of Matthew or Luke please let me know. I will be happy to discuss them.

(4) Dating Matthew

So we have established with reasonable certainty that Matthew and/or Luke did not use each other as a source, even as both with almost equal certainty used Mark when writing their Gospels. Since Mark can be reasonably dated to 55-60AD (based on earlier evidence offered in previous posts), and Matthew would have needed time to gain a copy of this Gospel, we should expect a gap of 5 or more years between his Gospel and Mark’s. Thus, Matthew cannot be dated earlier than 60-65AD, and may be even later (possibly even 80-85 as is commonly held by most NT scholars).

But what is the latest most reasonable date for Matthew?

As we have seen above, if Matthew did not use Luke (or vice versa), then the latest possible date for Luke would serve as an upper bracket on dating Matthew as well (plus or minus 5 more years). Thus, if Luke/Acts can be safely dated to, say, mid-60’s to 70, then Matthew cannot be later than 70-75 itself.

There is, however, one possibly compelling reason to date Matthew to the early 60’s, rather than the 70’s, and that is papyrus fragments found in Magdalen College, England. These three papyri, containing portions of Matthew 26 were dated in the 1950’s to the late 2nd Century by renowned papyrologist Colin Roberts. Until recently those dates have gone pretty much unchallenged until C. Peter Thiede examined them in 1992. Thiede concluded that these fragments dated to the 1st Century, and very probably c. 68AD, publishing his findings in Eyewitness to Jesus, Doubleday, New York, 1996, and while the scholarly community has yet to be convinced that he is right, it is not surprising that he has created a sensation.

Without getting too deeply into his arguments, Thiede found two critical errors in Robert’s reasoning. The first, is that the papyri are very definitely from a codex, and not a scroll. Since in the 1950’s (and even to this day), most scholars think that the codex did not appear until the 2nd Century, an earlier date would seem to be impossible. But as we have seen above from the work of papyrologist Young-Kyu Kim on P46, and the discovery of Marial’s advertisement for “books” (codecies) that dates from 86AD, the codex almost certainly dates to the 1st Century, not the 2nd. The second problem with Robert’s dating of these papyri comes from one of Robert’s own arguments we have already seen. These papyri contain nomina sacra (Holy Names) that have been abbreviated. In this case it is the word dodeka which is written in the Greek letters iota beta, the numerical abbreviation for 12 (see EJ, pg. 138-9). Again many scholars have assumed that nomina sacra appears only in the 2nd Century, but it is Roberts who postulated that it was much more likely that the Christian Church of Jerusalem first began using this system of abbreviations, and did so prior to the Diaspora (i.e. pre-70AD).

I am personally withholding an opinion on the Magdalen papyri until more research is done. But what these fragments give us, is the opportunity at least, like P52 did for dating the Gospel of John to late 1st Century, of having solid scientific evidence for a much earlier 1st Century dating of Matthew as well. The best single hope we have of achieving these earlier dates, BTW, is from the as of yet unexamined hordes of papyri fragments found in the ruins of Herculaneum, which given the fact that the town was buried in 79AD, could not possibly be dated later than this date. If we see evidence of codices, or nomina sacra (or even better, Gospel or other NT fragments) amongst this find, then many more assumptions about dates of the NT Canons will have to be abandoned.

All of that said, we will have to content ourselves with drawing an upper end date range on the Gospel of Matthew by first dating Luke/Acts.

In my next post, I will turn my attention to this task, and by the end of it, hopefully offer substantial reason to redate Luke/Acts (and therefore Matthew as well) to pre-70AD.

Peace,

Nomad

Prof’s Soapbox
 
 

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