When Were the Gospels Written?
What are the most accurate dates for the canonical gospels in the New Testament as we have them? Are these texts really the faithful accounts of eyewitnesses written shortly after Jesus's advent? Or does the evidence point to the gospels as anonymous compositions dating to the late second century?
Who Was Jesus? Fingerprints of The Christ
by D.M. Murdock aka Acharya S
Who Was Jesus? Fingerprints of The Christ
The Gospel Dates
"It's important to acknowledge that strictly speaking, the gospels are anonymous."
Dr. Craig L. Blomberg, The Case for Christ (26)
Because of the lack of original texts, it has been very difficult to date the canonical gospels as to when they were written or even when they first emerge in the historical record, as these two dates may differ. The gospels have been dated variously from shortly after the crucifixion, traditionally placed around 30 Four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and Johnad/ce, to as late as a century and a half afterwards. The currently accepted dates are as follows, from the earliest by conservative, believing scholars to the latest by liberal and sometimes secular scholars:
Matthew: 37 to 100 ad/ce
Mark: 40 to 73 ad/ce
Luke: 50 to 100 ad/ce
John: 65 to 100 ad/ce
Many reasons have been given for these dates, from one end of the spectrum to the other, the earliest dates being based on the events recounted in the gospels themselves. The later dates are based also on this timeframe, but the difference is that they account for the mention of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, which occurred in 70 ad/ce. According to this scholarship, the gospels must have been written after the devastation because they refer to it. However, conservative believers maintain the early dates and assert that the destruction of the temple and Judea mentioned in the gospels constitutes "prophecy," demonstrating Jesus's divine powers. The substantiation for this early, first-century range of dates, both conservative and liberal, is internal only, as there is no external evidence, whether historical or archaeological, for the existence of any gospels at that time. Nevertheless, fundamentalist Christian apologists such as Norman Geisler make misleading assertions such as that "many of the original manuscripts date from within twenty to thirty years of the events in Jesus' life, that is, from contemporaries and eyewitnesses." Scrutinizing the evidence forensically, however, it is impossible honestly to make such a conclusion.
Moreover, even the latest of the accepted gospel dates are not based on evidence from the historical, literary or archaeological record, and over the centuries a more "radical" school of thought has placed the creation or emergence of the canonical gospels as we have them at a much later date, more towards the end of the second century.
Anonymous and Pseudonymous Authors
Based on the dating difficulties and other problems, many scholars and researchers over the centuries have become convinced that the gospels were not written by the people to whom they are ascribed. As can be concluded from the remarks of fundamentalist Christian and biblical scholar Dr. Craig L. Blomberg, the gospels are in fact anonymous. Indeed, the belief in the authorship of the gospels by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is a matter of faith, as such an opinion is not merited in light of detailed textual and historical analysis. In reality, it was a fairly common practice in ancient times to attribute falsely to one person a book or letter written by another or others, and this pseudepigraphical attribution of authorship was especially rampant with religious texts, occurring with several Old Testament figures and early Church fathers, for example, as well as with known forgeries in the name of characters from the New Testament such as the Gospel of Peter, et al.
Apocryphal gospelsIn actuality, there were gospels composed in the name of every apostle, including Thomas, Bartholomew and Phillip, but these texts are considered "spurious" and unauthorized. Although it would be logical for all those directly involved with Jesus to have recorded their own memoirs, is it not odd that there are so many bogus manuscripts? What does it all mean? If Peter didn't write the Gospel of Peter, then who did? And why? Is not the practice of pseudepigraphy