When Were the Gospels Written?

Learn when the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) were written, the arguments for dates earlier than A.D. 70, and the response to later Gospel dates.
Gospels
...

This post is still in progress. Check back regularly for updates!

Table of Contents

  1. Why Dating the Gospels Correctly is Important
  2. Date of Acts and Luke
  3. Date of Mark
  4. Arguments for Early Dates for the Gospels
    1. The destruction of Jerusalem the Temple in A.D. 70 is not recorded in the Gospels

^ 1. Why Dating the Gospels Correctly is Important

One popular argument against the Bible is that the Gospels are not reliable because they were written late enough that myth and exaggeration could easily have crept in. For example, the article, "40 Problems with Christianity," Michael Runyan says this:

The accounts of Jesus’ life in the gospels were written well after the events allegedly occurred. The crucifixion of Jesus is believed to have occurred around 30 AD. The best estimates date the gospels as follows:

Mark: AD 68-73
Matthew: AD 70-100
Luke: AD 80-100
John: AD 90-110

The time lag between the events and the documentation was long enough for exaggeration and myths to contaminate the historical account. It would be similar if a person today wrote a biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. just by talking to people who heard something about him from their now-deceased ancestors.

Runyan's argument here is absolutely absurd. Martin Luther King, Jr. died in 1968. It is now 2019, and King's daughter, Bernice King, is still alive.

The gap between King's death and today is 51 years, and the gap between Jesus' death and AD 90 is 57 years. Even assuming the dates Runyan provides (and we will argue later for earlier dates for the gospels), writing a biography of King or Jesus would simply involve talking to people who were eyewitnesses of their lives, which would provide very accurate and reliable accounts of their lives.

Furthermore, Runyan's statement, "The best estimates date the gospels as follows," is also a complete lie. There are very strong arguments for earlier dates for the gospels.

^ 2. Date of Acts and Luke

We are starting with the dating of Acts and Luke because they are arguably the easiest to date, and they will help us date the rest of the gospels.

There is no doubt, due to tradition and internal evidence, that Luke and Acts were written by Luke, the companion of Paul.

Acts - On or before AD 62

Acts 28 ends abruptly with Paul arriving at Rome and awaiting his trial before Caesar in about AD 62. At the end of Acts, Paul had spent about two years imprisoned in Caesarea, from about AD 59–61. Acts does not mention any events subsequent to this, such as:

  1. The Roman-Judean war of AD 66–70, during which Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed. This was a fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy that Luke certainly would not have omitted if it had occurred before the time of his writing.
  2. The execution of James in AD 62, who was Jesus' brother and the leader of the church in Jerusalem. Luke mentions James in Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18.

The most natural conclusion is that Luke simply recorded everything that had happened up until the point of his writing.

Luke - Before Acts (before AD 62)

We know that the gospel of Luke was written before Acts because of the opening verses of each book. Both books are addressed to "Theophilus," and in Acts, Luke references his "first book."

Because of this, we can conclude that Luke was written before AD 62.

^ 3. Date of Mark

Mark

Read More

What Does the Bible Say About Food? (35 Verses)
What does the Bible say about...
Updated: a year ago
What Does the Bible Say About Gossip? (26 Verses)
What does the Bible say about...
Updated: a year ago
Chapter 11. of Justification | Westminster Confession of Faith
Faith vs. Works
Updated: a year ago
What Does the Bible Say About Anxiety and Depression? (32 Verses)
What does the Bible say about...
Updated: a year ago
100 Scriptures on Life (ESV)
Scriptures on...
Updated: a year ago
What Does the Bible Say About Dying? (26 Verses)
What does the Bible say about...
Updated: a year ago
What Does the Bible Say About Integrity? (14 Verses)
What does the Bible say about...
Updated: a year ago
Papias and Gospel Authorship
Authorship
Updated: 10 months ago
The Problem of Evil - the Christian Solution
Is God good?
Updated: a year ago
Chapter 19. Of the Law of God | 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith
Law
Updated: a year ago