Dating of the New Testament

When were the New Testament books written? Many liberal theologians and atheists claim that many or all of the books of the New Testament were written well into the second century, after everybody who witnessed these events had died. Although the New Testament books could certainly still be true regardless of when the authors wrote them, this may present two problems: 1) Loss of eyewitness evidence; and 2) legendary material could creep in.  Therefore, it is important to know when the New Testament was written.
 
Also, had the New Testament been written after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, extreme fear of the Romans could have, for example, caused the authors to shift the blame for the death of Jesus to the Jews from the Romans.
 
As the New Testament books did not claim dates as to when they were written, sources external to the Bible are used to date the New Testament books.
 
Note that a few of the books are not included yet. I plan to add them in the future.

When Were the New Testament Books Written?

1 Thessalonians: 54 AD (Annals of the World, p. 858)

2 Thessalonians: 54 AD (Annals of the World, p. 858)

Galatians: 58 AD (Annals of the World, p. 861)

1 Corinthians: 59 AD (Annals of the World, p. 862)

2 Corinthians: 60 AD (Annals of the World, p. 862)

Romans: 60 AD (Annals of the World, p. 863)

Philippians: 64 AD (Annals of the World, p. 870)

Philemon:  64 AD (Annals of the World, p. 870)

Colossians: 64 AD (Annals of the World, p. 870)

Ephesians: 64 AD (Annals of the World, p. 870) also known as the letter to the Laodiceans

Hebrews:  64 AD (Annals of the World, p. 871)

1 Timothy:  65 AD (Annals of the World, p. 872)

Titus:  65 AD (Annals of the World, p. 872)

2 Timothy:  66 AD (Annals of the World, p. 874)

2 Peter:  66 AD (Annals of the World, p. 871)

Fragment of Gospel of John, 120 AD
Fragment of Gospel of Mark, 90 AD

When Were the Gospels Written?

The above covers when the New Testament was written, aside from the Gospels.  This section covers when the authors Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote the Gospels of the same names.

The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts

Paul at the End of the Book of Acts

And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux. And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days. And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium: and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli: Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome. And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage. And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him. (Acts 28:11-16)[1]

Paul arrived in Rome in the spring of 63AD (Annals of the World, p. 867)

And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him. (Acts 28:30-31, final two verses of Acts)

Paul After the End of the Book of Acts

Paul was released and left Rome before returning sometime in 66 AD. (Annals of the World, pp 871-872)

Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. (2 Timothy 4:9-11, published 66 AD)

The Romans beheaded Paul on June 29, 67 AD. (Annals of the World, p. 875) I included the information after that recorded in the book of Acts to demonstrate that, had Luke written the book of Acts later than 65 AD, he would almost certainly have included this information. Therefore, the dating of the book of Acts is almost certainly two years after Paul first arrived in Rome, or 65 AD.

The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts

The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. (Acts 1:1-4)

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. (Luke 1:1-4)

The two passages above show that the former treatise was the Gospel of Luke.  This would date the Gospel of Luke to around 60 AD.

Gospels of Matthew and Mark

Matthew was likely the first Gospel to be written. The early church fathers almost unanimously agreed on this. Theologians agreed on this until just over 200 years ago, when they began to argue that Mark was written first.

Luke's Declaration

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. (Luke 1:1-4)
 

The declarations set forth for the Gospel of Luke may have included the Gospel of Mark and/or the Gospel of Matthew, although Luke does not claim the exact sources. Since the Gospel of Luke, as mentioned above, was written around 60 AD, any Gospel that he used would have been written in the 40s or 50s AD.

Jesus' Prophecy about the Destruction of the Temple

And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. (Matthew 24:1-2)
 
And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. (Mark 13:1-2)
 
In any event, the Gospels of Matthew and Mark were almost certainly written before the destruction of the temple in 70 AD; otherwise, Matthew and Mark would almost certainly have included the fact that the prophecy listed above came to pass.

Gospel of John

Use of the Present Tense to Describe Jerusalem

Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. (John 5:2-4)

 
εστιν  δε εν τοιζ  ιεροσολνμοιζ επι τη     προβατικη κολνμβηθπσ    η      επιλεγομενη   εβραιστι
    is   And in -         Jerusalem        at  the Sheep Gate       a pool        which     is called      in Hebrew
 
 βνθζαθα    πεντε        ατοαζ   εχονσα
Bethesda    five     porticoes having (John 5:2, Greek)
 
John wrote this verse in the present tense, as though Bethesda was still present at the time of the writing of the gospel. The Romans destroyed this pool, along with the rest of Jerusalem, in 70 AD. This would be similar to a book stating that the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center are located in New York City. Such a book would have clearly been written prior to September 11, 2001.
 

John Appealing to the Jews to Accept Jesus

Cleansing the Temple

And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up. (John 2:15-17)

For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me. (Psalm 69:9)
 
Bread from Heaven

Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. (John 6:31)

Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no. (Exodus 16:4)
 
Jesus Making Himself Out to Be God

Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? (John 10:34)

I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. (Psalm 82:6)
 
Jesus' Entry into Jerusalem

On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt. (John 12:12-15)

Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD. (Psalm 118:26)

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. (Zechariah 9:9)
 
Jews Still Not Believing in Jesus

But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. (John 12:37-41)

Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? (Isaiah 53:1)

Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. (Isaiah 6:10)
 
Jesus Prophesying His Betrayal

I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. (John 13:18)

Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me. (Psalm 41:9)
 
Jesus Hated Without a Cause

If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. (John 15:24-25)

Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me: neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause. (Psalm 35:19)
 
Casting Lots for Jesus' Garments

They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did. (John 19:24)

They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. (Psalm 22:18)
 
At Jesus' Crucifixion

The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced. (John 19:31-37)

He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken. (Psalm 34:20)

And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10)

 
Conclusion

This list of Jewish Scriptures that John quoted show that John was appealing in part for Jews to accept that Jesus was the Christ (or Messiah). This would have little or no appeal to the Jews if he never mentioned what was likely the worst calamity that the Jews had ever gone through with the exception of the Nazi Holocaust.

 

Dating the Gospel of John Close to 70 AD

However, the Gospel of John was not written long before 70 AD.

Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? (John 18:10-11)

The Gospel of John is the only gospel that mentions that Peter was the one that drew the sword. This would have been a serious crime at the time. Therefore, John probably wrote his Gospel  close to 67 AD, when the Romans executed Peter.

footnotes

[1] All scripture references are from the King James Version unless otherwise noted. Please see my about page for why I chose this translation.↩