FRDB Archives

Freethought & Rationalism Archive

The archives are read only.


Go Back   FRDB Archives > Archives > Biblical Criticism - 2001
Welcome, Peter Kirby.
You last visited: Today at 05:55 AM

Notices

 
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old 05-14-2001, 04:31 PM   #1
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Post Earl D.' Late Dating of Acts

The Dating of Acts

I'm interested in a question raised by Nomad and fairly answered by Earl D. Earl D. states that while he accepts the majority view on dating the gospels, he argues for a late date of Acts. Nomad asked him how important such a late dating is to his case for an entirely mythical case, Earl D. stated that if Acts could be shown to have been written around 60-62 CE that his theory would fail.

Since Earl D. argues that Acts was not written until "well into" the second century I would like to know what effect a more traditional date for Acts, between 75 CE and 85 CE, would have on his theory for an entirely mythical Jesus. It is an important issue, because the author of Acts purports to write about Christian beliefs and teachings prior to and apart from Paul's epistles and/or mission.

For example, Peter is depicted as teaching in a very human Jesus in the heart of Jerusalem:

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know--Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that he should be held by it </font>
Acts 2:22-23.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod an Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.'" </font>
Acts 3:27-28.

Is it Earl D.'s contentions that these are clear references to historical Jesus, but that the late dating of Acts means that they are untrustworthy and therefore likely to be complete fabrications? Or does he claim that these seemingly clear references to the human Jesus are, in fact, like the seemingly clear references by Paul, not so clear at all? But, in fact, are references to a purely spiritual Jesus?

While I'm not sure that Acts can be conclusively shown to have been written around 60-62 CE, I do believe that the evidence forecloses a dating "well into" the second century.

Why?

Part of the rationale for dating Acts earlier in the first entury, rather than later in the second, is provided by Earl D. himself. He dates Acts to "well into" the Second Century while accepting a more traditional dating of Luke from between 70-100.

I can only assume that Earl D. is rejecting the overwhelmingly accepted conclusion that Luke and Acts were written by the same author. As stated by John Drane, "There is no doubt [Acts and Luke] were written by the same person. They are both addressed to Theophilus, and their style and language are identical." Introducing the New Testament, at 236. I could provide further argument on this point if requested, but I'm curious as to why Doherty has bucked the academic consensus on this one. I know he is busy, but perhaps someone who is familiar with his work or the theories on which he relies for such a late dating of Acts could speak up?

Reason 1 for dating Acts between 75 CE and 85 CE is that the Gospel of Luke, written by the same author, was written during this time frame. It is extremely unlikely that such a vast gulf of time between 80 CE and "well into" the second century would, or even could, separate these two works.

Reason 2. Luke's ecclesiology is rather primitive. When compared with even early second-century writings, such as Ignatius (writing around 110 CE), Luke's depiction of the church is much less developed than was established by the second-century.

Reason 3. Luke's ignorance of Paul's epistles. Luke displays no literary familiarity with Paul's epistles. Given his hero worship of Paul, it is extremely unlikely that Luke would have ignored Paul's letters, had he known of them. It seems obvious, therefore, that he did not. Because Paul's letters were already collected and circulating as a revered corpus of early Christian writings by the beginning of the second-century, the only reasonable explanation for Luke's failure to mention them is that he wrote prior to their widespread circulation. Ben Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles, at 62.

Reason 4. Just Martyr refers to Acts as an established tradition in his First Apology, 50:12:

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> afterwards, when He had risen from the dead and appeared to them, and had taught them to read the prophecies in which all these things were foretold as coming to pass, and when they had seen Him ascending into heaven, and had believed, and had received power sent there by Him upon them, and went to every race of human beings, they taught these things, and were called apostles. </font>

There are other indicators of a first-century date, such as Luke's Christology, the "we" passages, and his familiarity with geographic and political realities from Paul's time, but I thought the above the least-controversial and a good place to begin a discussion.

So. On what basis does Earl D. date Acts so late? And, what implications, if any, does this have for his theory?

[This message has been edited by Layman (edited May 14, 2001).]

[This message has been edited by Layman (edited May 14, 2001).]
 
Old 05-14-2001, 04:56 PM   #2
Toto
Contributor
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Los Angeles area
Posts: 40,549
Post

This is just what I found from a quick glance at his web site. He assumes that Acts was written by the person who wrote the final version of Luke.


http://www.magi.com/~oblio/jesus/partthre.htm

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
Only in Justin Martyr, writing in the 150s, do we find the first identifiable quotations from some of the Gospels, though he calls them simply "memoirs of the Apostles," with no names. Scholars such as Helmut Koester have concluded that any earlier "allusions" to Gospel-like material are actually floating traditions which themselves found their way into the written Gospels. Is it conceivable that the earliest account of Jesus' life and death could have been committed to writing as early as 70 (some date it even earlier), and yet the broader Christian world took almost a century to receive copies of it?

(snip more commentary on Gospels)

As for Acts, written by the same author who wrote the final version of Luke, there is no reference to it before the year 170--more than a century after the date often assigned to it! It is clearly unknown even to Justin. Some, such as John Knox, view Acts as a response by the church of Rome in the mid-second century to the Gnostic Marcion's view of things. The author of Acts drew on kernels of tradition about the primitive Palestinian church, but these have been recast to fit the new plot line. There are huge discrepancies between Acts and what Paul tells us in his letters. Scholarship has been forced to admit that much of Acts is sheer fabrication. With its discrediting, the true beginnings of Christianity fall. into a murky shadow.
</font>
Toto is offline  
Old 05-14-2001, 05:19 PM   #3
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Post

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Toto:
This is just what I found from a quick glance at his web site. He assumes that Acts was written by the person who wrote the final version of Luke.


http://www.magi.com/~oblio/jesus/partthre.htm

Quote:
Only in Justin Martyr, writing in the 150s, do we find the first identifiable quotations from some of the Gospels, though he calls them simply "memoirs of the Apostles," with no names. Scholars such as Helmut Koester have concluded that any earlier "allusions" to Gospel-like material are actually floating traditions which themselves found their way into the written Gospels. Is it conceivable that the earliest account of Jesus' life and death could have been committed to writing as early as 70 (some date it even earlier), and yet the broader Christian world took almost a century to receive copies of it?

(snip more commentary on Gospels)

As for Acts, written by the same author who wrote the final version of Luke, there is no reference to it before the year 170--more than a century after the date often assigned to it! It is clearly unknown even to Justin. Some, such as John Knox, view Acts as a response by the church of Rome in the mid-second century to the Gnostic Marcion's view of things. The author of Acts drew on kernels of tradition about the primitive Palestinian church, but these have been recast to fit the new plot line. There are huge discrepancies between Acts and what Paul tells us in his letters. Scholarship has been forced to admit that much of Acts is sheer fabrication. With its discrediting, the true beginnings of Christianity fall. into a murky shadow.
</font>
Apparently his only argument for dating Acts late is that it was not directly refered to as the Acts of the Apostles until 170 CE? This is rather incredible.

Does Earl D. assume ancient works did not exist until referred to by name? I have not encounated that particular method of dating before. And I see it as problematic, for even though 1 Clement and Ignatuis rely on several of Paul's letters when they are writing, I do not believe that they refer to each by name when they make their allusion. Unless, of course, he is willing to redate Paul's epistles based on this same method.

And I note that he seem to rely on the proto-Luke theory. Does he explain his reasons for said reliance? I believe it is a distinctly minority viewpoint.

And finally, I note that the offered selection completely fails to explain Luke's primitive ecclesiology and failure to refer to any of Paul's letters.
 
Old 05-14-2001, 05:46 PM   #4
Toto
Contributor
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Los Angeles area
Posts: 40,549
Post

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Layman:
Apparently his only argument for dating Acts late is that it was not directly refered to as the Acts of the Apostles until 170 CE? . . .</font>
I would prefer to let Doherty defend his position, but I am not sure what other evidence there is of the dating of Acts. Your cite from Justin Martyr hardly proves the existence of what we know as Acts, with its history of the early church.

Toto is offline  
Old 05-14-2001, 06:25 PM   #5
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Post

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Toto:
I would prefer to let Doherty defend his position, but I am not sure what other evidence there is of the dating of Acts. Your cite from Justin Martyr hardly proves the existence of what we know as Acts, with its history of the early church.
</font>
I offered more than the Justin M. reference. But I wouldn't want you to speculate about Earl D.'s positions.

Perhaps you could offer your own?
 
Old 05-14-2001, 06:51 PM   #6
Toto
Contributor
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Los Angeles area
Posts: 40,549
Post

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Layman:
I offered more than the Justin M. reference. But I wouldn't want you to speculate about Earl D.'s positions.

Perhaps you could offer your own?
</font>
You did offer the Justin Martyr reference, and I still don't see how it shows anything about Acts. Perhaps there is some reference in its context that I don't know about, or are you speculating that those vague references must refer to Acts?

You said that Luke and Acts were written by the same person, and Luke must have been written between 75-85 C.E., based on his "primitive eschatology." But this is still not 62 C.E. It was after Mark was written, and Doherty's (and others') position is that the author of Mark essentially invented the character of Jesus of Nazareth, and that the authors of Luke and Matthew (and probably John) copied Mark's characterization.

Then you offered an argument from silence - no reference to Paul's epistles in Luke-Acts, so they must not have been around. (If you can argue from silence here, why not accept Doherty's arguments from silence?)

I am not an expert, so I don't know why you care about my opinion. What I have read is that the Gospels and Acts were heavily edited to advance the political purposes of different church factions. If this is true, you may have an early date for the first (lost) version, with other details or spin added later on. I recall reading that Acts in particular was written as a counter to Marcion.

Since there is so little real evidence, all you can do is try to construct a story that seems to account for all the details as completely as possible. I think that that is what Doherty is trying to do, and what the Christian apologists try to do. I have a hard time with the idea that any of this reconstructed story rises to the level of "proof" one way or the other.
Toto is offline  
Old 05-14-2001, 08:05 PM   #7
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Post

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Toto:
You did offer the Justin Martyr reference, and I still don't see how it shows anything about Acts. Perhaps there is some reference in its context that I don't know about, or are you speculating that those vague references must refer to Acts?

You said that Luke and Acts were written by the same person, and Luke must have been written between 75-85 C.E., based on his "primitive eschatology." But this is still not 62 C.E. It was after Mark was written, and Doherty's (and others') position is that the author of Mark essentially invented the character of Jesus of Nazareth, and that the authors of Luke and Matthew (and probably John) copied Mark's characterization.

Then you offered an argument from silence - no reference to Paul's epistles in Luke-Acts, so they must not have been around. (If you can argue from silence here, why not accept Doherty's arguments from silence?)

I am not an expert, so I don't know why you care about my opinion. What I have read is that the Gospels and Acts were heavily edited to advance the political purposes of different church factions. If this is true, you may have an early date for the first (lost) version, with other details or spin added later on. I recall reading that Acts in particular was written as a counter to Marcion.

</font>
I'm not an expert either, but I have studied enough scholars to allow me to determine and express my thoughts on the matter. If you have not, then you have not. No biggie. You have faith in your source.

I never said Luke must be placed between 75-85 CE because of its "primitive eschatology." In fact, I made no arguments for dating Luke. I was accepting Earl D.'s admission that he accepted the accepted view of Luke's dating. That was his conclusion, not mine.

Moreover, I did not raise any issue related to primitive "eschatology." I did, however, refer to Luke's primitive "ecclesiology." The issues are distinct and generally unrelated.

Let's look at the "arguments from silence." It appears that Earl D. is arguing that Acts should be dated no sooner than its first explicit mention by name in 170 CE. I pointed out that such a method of dating is rather questionable. It would place ALL of the gospels well into the second-century. Of course, Earl D. has said he doesn't date the gospels so late, but he does argue that Acts should be so dated. Why the difference?

I also pointed out that it was common in the early church to cite or allude to the Epistles of Paul without direct attribution. These letters were not directly attributed to Paul until later. Does Earl D. date these letters to the first direct reference by title and author? No. Why the difference?

As for my argument "from silence," perhaps I have not explained it well enough. Acts does not just fail to explicitly refer to Paul's letters by attribution (this appears to be Earl D.'s standard as you have represented it). Rather, Acts shows no familiarity with Paul's epistles at all. Although, scholars are very confident that Paul's letters were well circulated and revered by the second century (and certainly in Luke's sphere). Clement relies on them when he writes the church in Corinth (95 CE). So does Ignatius. (110 CE). Moreover, Ignatius wrote many other churches and seems to presume their knowledge of Paul's letters as well. But, Acts does not. No allusions, no citations, and no attributions. No knowledge.

Toto:

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Since there is so little real evidence, all you can do is try to construct a story that seems to account for all the details as completely as possible. I think that that is what Doherty is trying to do, and what the Christian apologists try to do. I have a hard time with the idea that any of this reconstructed story rises to the level of "proof" one way or the other. </font>
This is fascinating. You think that we have such "little evidence" that we must construct a story that fits our fancy and see how it accounts for all the "details." Well, I completely disagree with your characterization of the evidence. We have plenty of evidence.

But even assuming that you are correct, Earl D.'s theories, far from trying to explain all the details of what evidence we do have, tries very hard to explain away what evidence we do have.

He explains away both references to Jesus in Josephus (despit the scholarly consensus to the contrary).
He explains away the Acts of the Apostles.
He explains away Q (at least I expect that he will try).
He explains away the many references in Paul to the human Jesus ("according to the flesh" & "born of a woman").
He explains away the references to the human Jesus in Hebrews.
He explains away the reference to Jesus of Cornelius Tacitus.
He explains away Matthew and its unique material.
He explains away Luke and its unique material (1/3 to 1/2 of the Gospel).
He explains away John (despite the majority of scholars who believe it is independent).

In short, he is cooking the books. You are determine what evidence you will accept by whether or not it fits into your fanficul recreation. You are not independently examining the different threads of evidence and seeing where they lead, or even which theory best explains them.

I actually have few qualms with arriving at a hypothetical theory an attemping to evaluate its explanatory power. It can be a helpful tool. N.T. Wright uses this method. What I object to, and believe Earl D. engages in, is using the hypothetical theory to evaluate the majority of the evidence so that it then gives itself explanatory power.


[This message has been edited by Layman (edited May 14, 2001).]
 
Old 05-14-2001, 11:40 PM   #8
Toto
Contributor
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Los Angeles area
Posts: 40,549
Post

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Layman:
I'm not an expert either, but I have studied enough scholars to allow me to determine and express my thoughts on the matter. If you have not, then you have not. No biggie. You have faith in your source
</font>
I have no faith in my sources. I keep an open mind. I read the scholars who seem to share my point of view and write in an interesting manner, but if they were proven wrong tomorrow, I wouldn't care.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
Let's look at the "arguments from silence." It appears that Earl D. is arguing that Acts should be dated no sooner than its first explicit mention by name in 170 CE. I pointed out that such a method of dating is rather questionable. It would place ALL of the gospels well into the second-century. Of course, Earl D. has said he doesn't date the gospels so late, but he does argue that Acts should be so dated. Why the difference?

I also pointed out that it was common in the early church to cite or allude to the Epistles of Paul without direct attribution. These letters were not directly attributed to Paul until later. Does Earl D. date these letters to the first direct reference by title and author? No. Why the difference?

As for my argument "from silence," perhaps I have not explained it well enough. Acts does not just fail to explicitly refer to Paul's letters by attribution (this appears to be Earl D.'s standard as you have represented it). Rather, Acts shows no familiarity with Paul's epistles at all. Although, scholars are very confident that Paul's letters were well circulated and revered by the second century (and certainly in Luke's sphere). Clement relies on them when he writes the church in Corinth (95 CE). So does Ignatius. (110 CE). Moreover, Ignatius wrote many other churches and seems to presume their knowledge of Paul's letters as well. But, Acts does not. No allusions, no citations, and no attributions. No knowledge.

</font>
You are still hung up on the idea that Doherty wants to date Acts later because it is not referred to by name earlier. You have still not demonstrated to me that it is referred to in any manner before 170.

Your argument from silence is still an argument from silence. You try to distinguish it as an argument from total silence, but I don't see the distinction.
Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
This is fascinating. You think that we have such "little evidence" that we must construct a story that fits our fancy and see how it accounts for all the "details." Well, I completely disagree with your characterization of the evidence. We have plenty of evidence.

But even assuming that you are correct, Earl D.'s theories, far from trying to explain all the details of what evidence we do have, tries very hard to explain away what evidence we do have.

He explains away both references to Jesus in Josephus (despit the scholarly consensus to the contrary).
He explains away the Acts of the Apostles.
He explains away Q (at least I expect that he will try).
He explains away the many references in Paul to the human Jesus ("according to the flesh" & "born of a woman").
He explains away the references to the human Jesus in Hebrews.
He explains away the reference to Jesus of Cornelius Tacitus.
He explains away Matthew and its unique material.
He explains away Luke and its unique material (1/3 to 1/2 of the Gospel).
He explains away John (despite the majority of scholars who believe it is independent).
</font>
I think he does have explanations for your list of "evidence". (I don't know what you think he has to explain away in 'Q' - it is part of his case.) And Christians have no good explanation for many problems with the historical record - why do non-church sources contain so few references to Jesus, and those references are so flimsy? Why does Paul never quote Jesus' words? Or refer to his mother, or other events from his life, in places where such a reference would be expected?

I am not going to argue Doherty's case here. If he doesn't cover these points to your satisfaction, you can email him directly.
Toto is offline  
Old 05-15-2001, 01:08 AM   #9
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Post

Toto,

The problem with attempting to have a discussion with you is that you don't attempt back. I have raised many specific issues and asked many specific questions which are important to evaluating the approrpiate date of Acts. Rather than respond with specific answers, you respond with "I read somewhere" and "I'm not an expert." In short, you don't discuss, you refer.

You have failed to offer any support for the notion of a proto-Luke or a late editing of Luke/authorship of Acts. Considering the overwhelming consensus to the contrary, this failure is mystifying.

You have failed to explain Acts' primitive ecclesiology. Heck, it doesn't appear that you even know what ecclesiology is.

You have offered no rationale as to why the author of Acts, although extremely interested in Paul's ministry, would completely fail to allude to, quote, or mention any of Paul's letters which were widely circulated at that time. (Rather, you have offered a reverse argument from silence without offering any of the details I have provided: motive, availability, proven reliance on sources).

You have dismisss Justin Martyr's allusion to Acts. At no other place in New Testament or early church writing is the ascension, the "receiving of power" (pentacost), and the missionizing of the world linked together except in Acts. This is a clear allusion to Acts.

You have also failed to explain why Doherty's rationale for dating Acts does not also apply for the Gospels (all of which are not mentioned until "well into" the second-century).

I understand that you do not feel qualified to engage in these discussion. What I can't figure out is why you then proceed to engage in these discussions, but then neglect to do your homework so that you could actually discuss the issues.
 
Old 05-15-2001, 10:13 AM   #10
Toto
Contributor
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Los Angeles area
Posts: 40,549
Post

Layman - I only jump in because I don't want to see the theists totally take over this board based on their long-windedness and bogus assertions of expert consensus, and because I spot certain irrationalities that I can't ignore. I would be happy if someone with more credentials than me would take over.

I don't know why Doherty dates Acts and the Gospels the way he does, and I will let you direct this question to him. It is not that important to me. I think they all are fictional, whenever they were written.

You have made an argument from silence when you argue that if Acts were written at a later date, it surely would have included references to Paul's letters. How is my pointing this out a "reverse" argument from silence? It is only because you have decided that arguments from silence are bad that you don't want to use this label.

I myself have not expressed an opinion on when Acts was written, rewritten, or edited by the theological spin doctors of the early church. Perhaps Justin Martyr does refer to Acts, or perhaps he refers to an oral legend that was used by the author of Acts. How would you know? What difference would it make?
Toto is offline  
 

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 12:29 PM.

Top

This custom BB emulates vBulletin® Version 3.8.2
Copyright ©2000 - 2015, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.