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Dating The Books Of The New Testament

The New Testament is the second part of the Christian Bible. It was written between the years 50-100 CE. The New Testament contains 27 books: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon.

The books are organized into four groups called gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), letters (Paul’s letters), Acts and Revelation.

The New Testament is a collection of 27 books that were written by various authors during the 1st and 2nd centuries CE. The books are all believed to have been written by people who were followers of Jesus Christ, though not always directly by him.

The New Testament is considered by many Christians to be a continuation or extension of the Old Testament, which was written over several centuries before it. Some Christians believe it is also a continuation of God’s revelation in nature and history.

Dating the books of the new testament

These early dates based upon three historical dates including: Nero’s persecution in AD 64, the Judean war with Rome in AD 66–70, and the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in AD 70. Most of the New Testament books do not indicate that the destruction of Jerusalem had happened yet, and so some scholars date the New Testament before AD 70. This article considers the most probable dates for NT books.

Matthew – AD 34–58
– The author of Matthew wrote before the Gospel of Luke in which Luke referred to previously written narratives by “eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” of which most likely include Matthew and Mark (Luke 1:1–3; cf. 1 John 1:1–4). Matthew noted that Caiaphas was the High Priest in the present tense, yet Caiaphas was removed in AD 36 (Matt 26:3).

Mark – AD 35–58
– John Mark was in the company of Peter earlier in Acts (Acts 12:6–25). According to early church history, Mark wrote the teachings of Peter. Luke’s Gospel may include the Gospel of Mark among the previously written texts (Luke 1:1–3). Mark may have also written his text before Caiaphas was removed in AD 36, because Mark wrote without noting the current High Priest’s name. However, Mark most likely wrote around AD 64 when was in the company of Peter in Rome.

James – AD 48–50
– James’s epistle was most likely written when James was a visible leader in Jerusalem, yet before the controversies of Christians keeping the Law of Moses (Acts 15:13ff). In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, Paul also noted that James was an apostle and the brother of Jesus (Gal 1:19).

Galatians – AD 48–52
– The apostle Paul dealt with believers following Moses’s Law over the Gospel of Christ in his letter to the Galatians. These circumstances clearly developed after Paul’s first missionary journey throughout Galatia, and after Paul and Barnabas brought this same controversy from Antioch to Jerusalem (Acts 14:23–28; 15; 16:4).

1 & 2 Thessalonians – AD 53
– According to 1 Thessalonians, Paul wrote this first letter when Timothy was reunited with Paul from Macedonia as described in Acts (1 Thess 3:1–6; cf. Acts 17:15; 18:5–8). He wrote his second letter to the Thessalonians soon after 1 Thessalonians.

1 & 2 Corinthians – AD 55, 56–57
– Paul noted that he wrote this letter to the Corinthians from Ephesus in which he stayed there for some time (Acts 19:21–22; 1 Cor 16:8). Paul wrote his second epistle soon after 1 Corinthians as indicated in 2 Corinthians.

Romans – AD 57
– Paul wrote to the church in Rome upon his second visit to Corinth as indicated by Paul’s reference to Erastus the treasurer of Corinth and sending Phoebe from Cenchreae (Romans 16; cf. Acts 18:5–8; 20:1–3).

Luke – AD 58–62
– Luke wrote his Gospel obviously supplementing previously written Gospels (Luke 1:1–3). Luke wrote this Gospel when he was in the company of eyewitnesses of Jesus, who were his sources (Luke 1:1–3). With the extent of time that Luke spent with Paul in Judea, this must have been written when Luke wrote his Gospel (Acts 21–26).

John – AD 50–61
– John wrote this Gospel as a witness (John 19:35; 21:24), and before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (John 5:1–3). John clearly supplements the other Gospels without the same details (ex. Jesus’s baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and baptism in Jesus’s name), but John does mention these institutions by alluding to them. John’s Gospel was written earlier than John’s epistles, because John and Peter both mention writing at about the same time (2 Pet 1:16–21; 1 John 1:1–4).

Acts – AD 60–63
– Luke wrote Acts after Luke’s Gospel and finished Acts with Paul under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:30–31). Because of the account of the beginning of the Church in Judea, Luke would have started this writing with those same Judean witnesses that he used for His Gospel.

1 Peter – AD 58–63
– Peter wrote from Rome and his first epistle must have been before John could note the writings of the apostles in 1 John (1 Pet 5:12–13; cf. 2 Pet 1:16–21; 1 John 1:1–4).

Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon – AD 60–63
– These letters were written during Paul’s first imprisonment as indicated by the apostle Paul in His writings (Acts 28:30–31; cf. Eph 3:1; 4:1; 6:20; Phil 1:7, 13–16; Col 4:10; Phile 1:1, 9–10, 13, 23).

1 Timothy – AD 55–64
– Paul was likely in Macedonia when he wrote Timothy in Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3). This would occur after Paul imprisonment from AD 60–62 (cf. Acts 28:30). However, Paul could have written this epistle about AD 55 following the events following the riot in Ephesus in Acts 19 (cf Acts 20:1–4).

Titus – AD 58–65
– When Paul wrote Romans, Titus was in Corinth (2 Cor 8; 12:17–18). Paul is not in prison when he wrote this epistle to Titus. There are no records of Paul having a prolonged work in Crete (cf. Acts 27:8). Either Paul left Titus after his imprisonment in Rome about AD 60–62 or Paul had been there earlier but no earlier than AD 57.

Hebrews – AD 60–64
– The Pauline author of Hebrews wrote before there was widespread bloodshed of Christians via Nero’s persecution in AD 64 or of Jews in the Judean War in AD 66 (Heb 12:4). The text is silent of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 implying that this text comes before this event too. However, Hebrews does anticipate the Law, temple, and sacrifices becoming obsolete soon (Heb 8:13; 10:1–2).

2 Timothy – AD 64–67
– Paul’s final epistle was written just before his death while in prison in Rome (2 Tim 1:8; 4:6–8). This writing is dated according to historical accounts of the time of Paul’s death.

1–3 John – AD 61–66
– In 1 John, John said that “we,” the apostles, were writing, which included Peter’s epistles and Paul’s as later noted in Peter’s second epistle (2 Pet 1:16–21; 1 John 1:1–4). John most likely moved to Ephesus before or at the beginning of the Judean War.

2 Peter – AD 63–67
– Peter’s second letter was written just before his death (2 Pet 1:13–15; 3:2, 15–16). This writing is also dated according to the historical time of Peter’s death.

Jude – AD 64–69
– Jude most likely wrote his epistle in fulfillment of 2 Peter rather than Peter warning of an event happening again as Jude already wrote (2 Pet 2). In AD 55, Paul referenced Jesus’s brothers traveling in the proclamation of the Gospel (1 Cor 9:5).

Revelation – AD 69–79
– Revelation was written as its was revealed (Rev 10:4; 14:13; 19:9; 21:5). This revelation came to John before Jerusalem’s destruction in AD 70 (Rev 11:1–2) and during the sixth Emperor of Rome (Rev 17:9–10).

All of these writings are quoted by early church writers. In 180, Irenaeus, who knew John’s disciple Polycarp, quote from every New Testament book while also excluding and opposing Gnostic writings. Origen listed the 27 books in his commentary on John.

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