When was the New Testament Written?

12 Jul

ManuscriptObviously, there are many opinions about when the New Testament was written. Many scholars put much of its authorship at the end of the 1st century or even into the 2nd century AD. However, I agree with Clement of Alexandria, a church father of the late 2nd and early 3rd centuries AD, that all the books of the New Testament were written between the reigns of Tiberius and Nero, emperors of Rome. There are reasons why I believe what I do concerning authorship and much of my reasoning is tied to the implications within the various books and epistles that offer hints and even strong suggestions as to when its authorship was complete.

It is also obvious that many people will not agree with what I have come to believe about these books and when they were written, because some interpret the context of the narratives and some of the epistles too long after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. In order for these people to change their points of view about when they were written, they would first have to change their opinions of the text itself.

Below I intend to give a reasonable short synopsis, showing why I believe each book was written when it was. I hope what I write will be clear and found logical, given my premise.

Book Time Written, To Whom and Why
Matthew Matthew was probably the first book written, and its context shows it was written especially to Jews, showing them Jesus was the Messiah. There is a great deal of Jewish references in Matthew that would be gratuitous, if it were written after the Temple was destroyed. After 70 AD, new believers were more and more gentile and less and less Jewish. Matthew is better fitted early than late when Jewish believers could listen to the apostles at Jerusalem and commit their lives to Jesus. This book was written especially to be committed to memory. All the parables of the Kingdom are together rather than in chronological order. The generations leading to Jesus birth are in three “fourteen” groups for easy memory (David’s name has a numerical value of 14). Matthew was written to help early Jewish believers learn the “doctrine of the apostles.” It was probably written in Jerusalem with input from all the apostles and written by Matthew probably not long after Pentecost of 31 AD, but definitely before 43 AD when the persecution under King Agrippa expelled the remaining apostles from Jerusalem. Nevertheless, if the whole New Testament was written between the reigns of Tiberius and Nero, something had to have been written before Tiberius died (cir. 35 AD). Matthew is the best candidate for something to have been written between 31 and 35 AD, so I place his Gospel cir. 31-35 AD.
Luke Luke is probably the second book written and was written specifically to Theophilus, the then reigning high priest at Jerusalem who continued the persecution of the Hellenistic Messianic believers. Just as Jeremiah was commanded to write a prophecy to the unrighteous King of Judah who not only didn’t believe, but had the writing torn and burned (Jeremiah 36:21-28), so Luke wrote his Gospel to an enemy of the faith, as a witness, but also for a record for believers, especially for the churches in the Diaspora with gentiles in mind. Luke’s work has been termed irenic (especially Acts) to cover up the disputes between the believing communities. I agree with the analysis, but not with the conclusion. Luke had to be especially irenic to keep from giving a very antagonist Jewish government an excuse to persecute and destroy the whole Messianic body of believers. The church in Jerusalem had to be very cautious so they could preach the Gospel there and not be expelled from the city where so many Jews, especially from the Diaspora, came three times a year to worship at the annual festivals. The Gospel could be preached very effectively in Jerusalem with the effect of believers taking it out to the whole world. The antagonistic Jewish authorities had to be accommodated for the sake of the Gospel.
Revelation This book was written especially for believers, living in the 1st century AD , but it has meaning for all time. It was not written late in the century as traditionally supposed, but, probably, during the reign of Herod Agrippa I (41-44 AD) in Jerusalem. Agrippa began to kill the apostles in an effort to please the Jewish authorities. John wrote this book while on the isle of Patmos, just off the coast of the Province of Asia in the Aegean Sea. John probably fled there after the execution of his brother, James, in 43 AD. There were believers in Asia worshiping in the synagogues with non-Messianic Jews, and this accounts for the seven churches to whom the book is addressed (Revelation 2 & 3). They came to believe probably through the evangelistic efforts of the apostles at Jerusalem and had returned home spreading the Gospel to other Jewish friends and family who believed their word. Revelation 17:10 shows five of the seven kings had fallen, one is and one is yet to come. The one who **is** was Agrippa, so I place the writing in 43 AD, just as the latest persecution had begun.
Galatians This book was most likely written about 50 AD at Antioch immediately after the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15. Nothing is mentioned of James’ letters to Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, which the Galatians would have had, if it was written later from Asia as is supposed by some. Acts 16:4 shows that Paul gave the churches in Galatia the same letter he had given to the churches in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia. Mark seems to have been the one who brought the problem to a head. When he left Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey he went directly to Jerusalem, probably telling the elders there that Paul’s preaching didn’t demand the gentiles become Jews. Mark was offended and left, and, apparently, the “false brethren,” which Paul speaks of in Galatians 2:4, were sent out “from,” but not “by,” James. In other words they came from Jerusalem, and they were enemies of the Gospel—probably sent “by” the Sadducee leadership (the high priest—Annas). These false brethren went to Antioch, Syria and Cilicia (where Paul preached for about two or three years before Barnabas came for him to help with the new believing gentiles in Antioch), and the new churches in Galatia! Paul had to explain to them what occurred in Antioch, because it was really blown out of proportion by these men. Galatians fits this environment rather than much later when Paul was in Asia.
1Thessalonians 1st and 2nd Thessalonians were probably written by Paul during his ministry at Corinth cir. 52-54 AD. The problems they encountered determined the content of the letters, and Paul had to be more specific, for example, concerning when the Day of the Lord would arrive, which had to do with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.
2Thessalonians See 1Thessalonians above.
1Timothy The letter tells us that Paul went to Macedonia and left Timothy in Ephesus to keep order there (1Timothy 1:3), showing Paul was much more active during his ministerial periods in places like Ephesus. He says he taught them for three years, but this included his travelling to places like Macedonia and perhaps Thessalonica and Corinth during this period. I place the writing of this epistle cir. 55-56 AD (see also Titus below)
Titus This epistle was written to Titus while he was in Crete. Paul left him there, showing Paul was very active, while ministering to other places mentioned in the book of Acts. It would be wrong to assume because Paul ministered in Ephesus that he didn’t take periodic trips elsewhere to minster to the brethren there and address their current problems. In this epistle Paul told Titus he intended to winter in Nicapolis, which is on the Adriatic side of Greece. It is most likely that Paul wrote Timothy in Ephesus at the same time that he wrote to Titus on Crete. He told Timothy he went to Macedonia and Titus that he intended to winter in Nicapolis. Nothing is mentioned of either Crete or Nicapolis in Acts, but Paul ministered to believers there, showing a much more mobile Paul than at least I had originally thought. I place the epistle to Titus cir. 55-56 AD.
1Corinthians This epistle was written from Ephesus some time in 56 AD probably in the fall or winter. Paul planned to remain at Ephesus until Pentecost (1Corinthians16:8) 57 AD and come to them by way of Macedonia visiting the churches there and receiving their offering and spend the winter of 57 AD with them in Corinth (1Corinthians 16:6).
2Corinthians Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians was written from Macedonia in the summer of 57 AD. Among other things, he let them know how much the Macedonians gave, so they could be prepared with their own offering and not be embarrassed, if out done by poorer brethren (2Corinthians 9:2, 4).
Romans Romans was written from Corinth in 57 AD while he wintered with the churches there. He hoped to visit Rome after he visited Jerusalem in 58 AD.
Hebrews I believe the author of Hebrews is Paul. The epistle mentions the writer was in prison, and those who comforted him had their goods spoiled (Hebrews 10:34). This is probably exactly what occurred, due to Annas’ hatred for the Messianic body of believers. I believe, therefore, it was written from Rome sometime between 63 and 64 AD.
Ephesians Most people believe Ephesians and Colossians were written from Rome. I believe, however, they were probably written from Caesarea during Paul’s imprisonment under Felix, sometime between 58 and 60 AD. The reason why I believe they were not written in Rome is both letters were delivered by the same person, Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7), and Tychicus did go with Paul to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4) as a witness and representative from Asia for the offering delivered to the poor in Jerusalem. If Tychicus was sent from Rome, why didn’t he also bring the Philippian letter (Philippians 2:25) which was definitely written from Rome (Philippians 4:22)?
Colossians 58-60 AD see Ephesians above.
Philemon Was probably written from Caesarea where Paul was held prisoner by Felix to please the Jewish authorities to some extent. It probably was not written in Rome, because Paul expected to go to Spain, if released from there, but if he were released in Jerusalem he could have been Philemon’s guest on his way to Rome (cf. Philemon 1:22). This would place the letter sometime between 58 to 60 AD (cf. Acts 24:27).
James James was killed by Ananias, the high priest and son of Annas the high priest, the latter being responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. James died in 62 or 63 AD depending upon the date of Festus’ death (the Roman procurator of Judea). If Festus died in 62 close to the winter, he would not have been replaced by Rome until 63 AD near the spring. If this was the scenario, then James was probably killed just before the Passover season, while Festus’ replacement was still on the way from Rome. This would place James’ epistle probably in 62 AD, while Festus was still alive. The epistle of James and all of the “catholic” epistles were written to ward off an empire wide assault upon the Messianic churches by Annas the high priest of Jerusalem and false prophet mentioned in the book of Revelation. I believe James’ book was written in “code” in an effort to keep Annas from readily finding out what was going on. When he did find out, he took the earliest opportunity to kill James, and the third persecution of the church headed up by the Annas family of high priests was underway.
1Peter Like James above, Peter’s first epistle was written in code and probably about the same time as James’ epistle. It was written from Jerusalem, because Babylon is a code for the Jewish capital (Revelation 17:18; 18:10; cf. with 11:8). It would be difficult to know which one of the two epistles, James or 1Peter was written before the other one. Therefore, I place it about 62 AD or perhaps just before James’ death in 63 AD.
Acts The book of Acts was written to Theophilus, the high priest. Why him after his official reign was over? I don’t know, but perhaps it was perceived he was approachable. In any event, Luke’s second thesis is especially irenic, never placing the Jewish leadership in a negative light. One has to read between the lines of Luke’s work to discover the evil present in Jerusalem that looks for any opportunity to destroy the Messianic faith. Acts was begun in the 30s AD when Luke was researching and writing the Gospel of Luke. It wasn’t finished, however, until 63 AD. Paul was sent to Rome in the fall of 60 AD and arrived in Rome close to the spring of 61 AD. The book ends with Paul awaiting his trial and preaching from his own rented house for two years (63 AD).
Philippians Paul wrote this epistle from Rome to address the problems in Philippi that had also arisen there that the catholic epistles show was true throughout the empire. It was written cir. 61-63 AD
2Timothy Paul’s second letter to Timothy was probably his final letter. It was written from Rome and his death seems evident. Nero was the first Roman official to persecute people who believed in Jesus. He blamed them for the fire in Rome in 64 AD. The Annas family had great influence with the Caesars. Annas was the first high priest appointed by Rome in 6 AD and his influence lasted for 60 years. It is possible that Nero was influenced by Annas to turn against Messianic believers (Christians). It was during the final 3 ½ years of Annas’ life that he made an all out effort to destroy the Messianic sect, beginning with the execution of James. It wouldn’t surprise me that he also had a hand in the Christian deaths at Rome including Peter’s and Paul’s. I place 2 Timothy cir. 64 AD. Something occurred that showed Paul things would not go well for him before Nero. Perhaps it was the fire that destroyed parts of Rome and the blame that was placed upon Christians.
2Peter Peter’s second epistle is much more direct and to the point than his first. It was evidently written after the death of James and Annas’ persecution was underway, which lasted 42 months—culminating in Annas’ own death at the hand of a Jewish zealot rebelling from Rome. Peter speaks of his own death in 2Peter 1:15, so this epistle may have been written from Rome just before his trial and execution by Nero cir. 64 AD.
Mark According to Papias and Irenaeus, Mark wrote down Peter’s testimony to the churches at Rome. After a series of lectures from Peter, the Roman believers begged Mark to leave them a copy of Peter’s testimony. So, the Gospel of Mark was written in Rome just before Peter was martyred cir. 64 AD. However, Peter’s testimony was available very early, and he had a lot of input, as would be expected, into Matthew’s Gospel above, which is the earliest Gospel written.
1John All of John’s epistles, like Peter’s second epistle, were written to the churches of God throughout the empire to ward off the assault of false teachers (antichrists in John’s letters), most of whom were obeying the orders of Annas the high priest in Jerusalem. The assault lasted until the outbreak of the Jewish war with Rome, so John’s epistles were probably written cir. 63-66 AD.
2John Cir. 63-66 AD see 1John above.
3John Cir. 63-66 AD see 1John above.
Jude Jude, the brother of James, probably wrote his letter after James’ death. As John’s epistles and Peter’s second epistle, he openly speaks of false brethren and false teachers who had crept into the Messianic ranks pretending to believe. Now they were attacking the faith by seeking to gain control over the Messianic Movement. I place this epistle with John’s three—cir. 63-66 AD
John John’s Gospel was probably the final book written in the New Testament, but just like Peter’s Gospel, preserved in Mark, it would have been John’s testimony throughout his ministry as an evangelist and apostle. According to Clement of Alexandria, John formally wrote his Gospel at the request of the Ephesians brethren to whom he ministered at the time. When they had seen that Peter’s Gospel was written at the hand of Mark, they encouraged John to write his own Gospel, cir 64-68 AD.

Certainly, what I have offered is not set in cement. There may be some give and take here and there, but by and large I stand by my understanding that ALL of the New Testament was written before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. I think a lot of understanding concerning when the books and epistles were written was lost, due to a lack of emphasis upon the hatred Annas bore for Messianic believers all his life. Little is said of him and the Sadducees in the texts, but what could we expect today in written form coming from Christians who live in Arab countries? Wouldn’t they be very cautious, concerning what they did and wrote? Similarly, early Messianic believers had to be cautious over what they did, preached and wrote in Jerusalem.

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Posted by on July 12, 2010 in Christianity, Religion, Textual Criticism


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