Dating The Synoptic Gospels

The general consensus is that Luke wrote the last of the synoptic gospels. I tend to agree with this notion (based on several factors but that is another blog post entirely) and for this reason, I have chosen to use this premise as a good starting point. By establishing when the last synoptic gospel was written we can then set a boundary for when the other two had to have been written. John’s gospel is a whole other can of worms and I will tackle that one later. Please note that this is not meant to be an exhaustive post on dating the Synoptic Gospels but a few good reasons I have for dating them prior to AD 70.

 

Luke Didn’t Just Write the Gospel

Luke didn’t just write his gospel he also wrote Act’s of the Apostles and maybe a few of Paul’s letters but for the sake of this discussion, let us focus on his gospel and Act’s. Luke wrote his gospel as the first of a two volume history to a man named Theophilus. Luke intended for his writings to confirm what Theophilus had been taught and that he would have an authoritative history of the Christian ministry thus far (Luke 1:3-4). Which leads us to our first clue about when Luke composed his gospel.

The most convincing clue I have found for Luke being written prior to AD 70 (and thus our starting point) has very little to do with Luke’s gospel but more to do with Act’s of the Apostles. Particularly I want to focus on the end of Acts. Acts of the Apostles ends rather abruptly with Paul being imprisoned awaiting trial in Rome, which leads to the question why would Luke end his story at this point? The simplest and to me the obvious answer is because the rest of the story had yet to unfold. Think about it for just a moment. If Luke had written Act’s of the Apostles sometime after AD 80 after he had written his Gospel as most scholars today propose, that means he wrote AFTER both Peter and Paul died glorious deaths as martyrs of the faith at the hands of Emperor Nero. Why would he not include these events in his history of Christianity? What logical reason would he have for leaving out the martyrdoms of the two most important men in Christianity? One of which he was a life long companion of? It just doesn’t make sense. The only logical conclusion is that Luke ended Act’s where he did because he had reached his present day around AD 60. It would then follow that Luke’s Gospel was written prior to Paul’s imprisonment in Rome since it was the first of the two volume set.

 

Prediction of the Destruction of the Temple

The most common argument I have heard from people that support dating the gospels after the destruction of the Jewish Temple in July/August of AD 70 is that Jesus’ predictions of the destruction of the temple were not actually predictions but details added after the destruction of the temple itself thus putting the composition of the gospels after AD 70. I, however, believe that this line of thinking is flawed. From my research on the subject,  there is compelling evidence to actually turn this argument around and use it as a piece of the puzzle to dating the gospels prior to AD 70.

The first thing I would like to look at is the fact nowhere in the gospels is the destruction of the temple looked at as a past event. It would follow that if the temple had been destroyed the authors would make a reference to the event actually taking place. One would expect a line similar to “and so it happened in X year” but no such reference is made.

Secondly, the references to the destruction of the temple that do exist actually would not make sense had they been written AFTER the destruction of the temple. Brant Pitre in his book “The Case for Jesus: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for Christ”, points out that Mark warns his audience to pray that the destruction of the temple does not occur in the winter (Mark 13:18), while Luke says not to enter into the city when the armies surround it (21:20-21), and Matthew adds to the warning to pray it doesn’t happen on the Sabbath (Matthew 24:20). None of these passages of scripture would make sense if the author was talking about a past event that had already occurred. They would know that the temple was destroyed in the summer and a warning to not enter the city when armies surrounded it would be obvious since it already occurred.

Then When Were They Written?

So now for the 64 million dollar question, when was the synoptic Gospels written?  We have good reason to believe that Jesus was crucified in AD 33 so we have a starting point on the range. We also have established a couple of good reasons as to why the Synoptic Gospels could not be composed after AD 70. We also are operating under the assumption that Luke wrote his Synoptic Gospel last and since we know that Luke had to have written his Gospel before AD 62 before the end of Paul’s first imprisonment, we can establish a range of AD 33 to AD 62 for when the Synoptic Gospels were written. Can we narrow it down a little further? Possibly. Here is my (current) best stab at narrowing it down. Since Paul was imprisoned from AD 60 to AD 62 I believe it is likely Luke wrote his gospel during this time frame or maybe slightly before. So I will go with AD 59 to AD 62 for Luke’s Gospel. I believe Luke used Mark and Matthew’s gospel to write his own, Matthew used Mark, and Mark used Peter’s sermons for a primary source for his gospel. With that being said if Mark used Peter as his primary source for his gospel it would have been after he parted ways with Paul and became Peter’s interpreter. It is believed that this event occurred around AD 49. So for Mark, I will assign a range of AD 50 to AD 55 (leaning toward the middle of that range) and AD 56 to AD 59 for Matthew. Of course, someone could find an Aramaic version of Matthew’s Gospel dating from the AD 30’s or AD 40’s and my dates will just fly out the window but I’ll cross that bridge when/if it ever happens.

The next part of this series will focus on the Gospel of John. Stay Tuned and as always feel free to comment or write me with opinions. Even if you disagree with me, it’s good to hear other viewpoints.

Dating the Gospels

Much debate exists about when each gospel was written. The common view currently seems to be that Mark was written first on or around AD 70, followed by Matthew between AD 80 and AD 90, then Luke between AD 80 and AD 100, and finally John between AD 90 and AD 100. While I do not necessarily disagree with the order (although I’ve wrestled with it in the past), I am in 100% disagreement with such a late dating of all 4 gospels. In fact instead of dating the gospels starting with AD 70, I believe strong evidence exists to say that ALL 4 gospels were written before AD 70 or at least before the destruction of the temple in AD 70. While dating the gospels later than AD 70 is currently in the majority view, it has not always been that way. As a matter of fact for most of Christian history the line of thought has been for a pre-AD 70 authorship of all 4 gospels. I believe that this stance is the most plausible and is starting to make a comeback among Christian scholars. Going forward I intend on presenting evidence that I have garnered during my research on the topic in a series of posts detailing the evidence for each gospel being written before AD 70 and when I believe each document was written specifically. As I publish each part of the series I will update this post with the links to each part.

Will We Know One Another In Heaven?

While at a funeral last weekend, the Pentecostal preacher who was delivering the sermon raised the question “Will our loved ones know us in Heaven?” His position was that he could not say or did not seem to know if we would be able to recognize our loved ones once we got to Heaven. Having not considered the question before I began to think about the question he had posed. Immediately a couple of passages from the bible came to mind that seem to answer this question.

The very first passage that comes to mind when pondering this question is Luke 16:19-31, the story of the rich man and Lazarus.

19 “There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Laz′arus, full of sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Laz′arus in his bosom. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Laz′arus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Laz′arus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.’”

In this story the rich man not only identifies Laz’arus but also Abraham, which suggest two things to me. First is the most obvious and more direct to the question we are attempting to answer, is that the rich man who has just died recognizes Laz’arus who has also just died. This seems to be clear evidence that after death we will retain our memory of our earthly life and also be able to recognize people we knew in our life in the afterlife. Secondly and perhaps less obvious is Laz’arus identifies Abraham which would suggest that not only will we be able to recognize people we knew in our past life but also anyone in Heaven. It is assumed that the rich man did not live during the time of Abraham but yet he still is able to recognize him and even know his name.  I can only conclude that this is due to God sharing in his knowledge with us.

The second passage that comes to mind is Revelations 6:9-10, Johns vision of the martyr’s in Heaven.

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; 10 they cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?”

In this passage John see’s the martyr’s who have died on Earth and are now in Heaven. It would seem from this passage that the Saints in Heaven are aware that God has not avenged their deaths and thus they are aware of the fates of those that martyr’d them. If the Saints in Heaven have a knowledge of those people who are not in Heaven and are on Earth then it would follow that they recognize those people and know who they are. If the saints have this knowledge of people that are not in Heaven, it is only logical they would have this knowledge of those in Heaven.

These are just two different passages that come to mind that seem to prove that we will in fact know our loved ones in Heaven. The passage I presented from Luke would even seem to go further and indicate that we will know people in Heaven that we did not know in this life. What do you think? Feel free to comment or send me an email to let me know what you think.

Welcome To My Blog

Hello everyone and welcome to my blog. Let me start out by apologizing ahead of time for my poor writing abilities but I hope to improve as this blog moves along. This blog is primarily an outlet for me to explore my Catholic faith and further develop my own idea’s/opinions on various topics pertaining to the Catholic faith. As you may have guessed from the title of this blog I reside in the Appalachian Mountains, specifically in the southeast portion of the great state of Kentucky, along the Tennessee and Virginia border. I hope you enjoy this blog and feel free to leave comments.