Dating of new testament books
Meanwhile, other scholars have defended the authenticity (and first-century date) of these books. However, even if these debated books are left aside in our discussions, we can still affirm that the vast majority of the New Testament writings (including the four gospels) still remain the earliest Christian writings we possess. The only possible exception is Revelation which is dated, at the latest, around 95-96 A. Just to be clear, we are not arguing here that books are canonical simply because they have a first century date.
Other Christian writings existed in the first century that were not canonical—and perhaps we will discover some of these in the future.
Almost every book of the New Testament is explicitly cited as Scripture by these early writers.
By around 300, nearly every verse in the New Testament was cited in one or more of over 36,000 citations found in the writings of the Church Fathers (Geisler and Nix 108, 155).
One of the most formidable challenges in any discussion about the New Testament canon is explaining what makes these 27 books unique. There are many answers to that question, but in this blog post we are focusing on just one: the of these books.
These books stand out as distinctive because they are earliest Christian writings we possess and thus bring us the closest to the historical Jesus and to the earliest church.
The New Testament is not the stuff of mythology or fiction, as the early and wide accessibility of the documents attest.
It is simply that the New Testament books are the earliest Christian writings we possess.
For this reason radical scholars (for example, the Jesus Seminar) argue for late first century or even second century dates for the original manuscripts. Sherwin White has demonstrated, using documents from antiquity even less well-attested and with much wider composition-to-earliest-copy spans than the New Testament documents, even two generations are too short a span to allow the mythical tendency to prevail over the hard historic core of the oral tradition (Sherwin-White, 190).
Invoking these dates barely opens the door to argue that the New Testament documents, especially the Gospels, are mythological and that the writers created the events contained in them, rather than simply reporting them. In the 19th century, Ferdinand Christian Baur (17921860), founder of the Tubingen School of theology, maintained that the majority of the New Testament documents were pseudonymous works and gave little weight to the evidence of numerous citations provided by the early Christian writers (commonly known as church fathers).
If we want to find out what authentic Christianity was really like, then we should rely on the writings that are the nearest to that time period.
This is particularly evident when it comes to the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
He mainly based his argument on the fact that the New Testament documents do not reference the fall of Jerusalem (70AD; Redating, 1330).