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Redating the NEW TESTAMENT By John A.T. Robinson

September 3, 2018

I admired the Bishop of Woolwich for his radicalism so it came as a big surprise when he came out in favour or the early dating of much of the New Testament. If he was right, then those who say that it can’t be true because it was written up so long after the event are challenged. And my old RE teacher, who argued for the historicity of John was also right.

This book read like a detective book. He describes a developing dissatisfaction with current assumptions regarding the dating of the New Testament books. His intensive explorations in the Gospel of John first led him to believe that he was hearing the voice of Jesus, if not the actual words. If so, he argued, might not John’s Gospel represent a separate, but contemporary, tradition of the teachings and life of Christ to that of the Synoptic Gospels? Once he was convinced of this possibility, his questionings led him to-challenge the traditional datings of all the New Testament books. He surprised himself by coming out the other side of his studies not only with no absolute reasons for a late dating of any of the New Testament books but with evidences supporting early dates.

More than anything else, the puzzling lack of reference to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D, 70 left him convinced that such an event could not have gone unrecorded if New Testament books postdated that happening. Later noncanonical books refer frequently to the significance of the fall for both Jew and Christian. Robinson questioned how the trauma of this event could have escaped the authors of Hebrews, the pastoral Epistles, 2 Peter, and the Johannine writings if these books had been written at the dates many scholars assert.

It’s interesting that he quotes, with approval, conservative F. F. Bruce.

The interpretation of Paul’s letters and the time of their composition does not generally fluctuate much. Since they represent an already “mature” Christology, it is important to be aware of their early date. Robinson dates them as follows:

1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Corinthians
1 Timothy
2 Corinthians
Ephesians late
2 Timothy
Spring 50
ca. 50-51
Spring 55
Autumn 55
Spring 56
Autumn 56
Spring 57
Autumn 57
Summer 58
Summer 58
Summer 58
Autumn 58

To validate his thesis Robinson gives pretty extensive proof devoting, for example, approximately 60 pages and a couple of hundred footnotes to two of the NT’s thorniest problems, the letters of Peter and Jude, concluding with fairly early datings for them too, a fact which also supports their authenticity. The rest of the NT letters he dates as follows:

2,3 and 1 John
1 Peter
ca. 47-48
ca. 61-62
ca. 61-62
ca. 60-65
Spring 65

In dating the gospels the tendency in Biblical criticism is to place them as originating only after the destruction of the Templs: Mark, around AD 70, Matthew in the 80’s and Luke ca. AD 90. John, they say, was written in the 90’s but appeared only around 100 AD. Robinson dates them as follows:

between  45-60
between  40-60+
apparently in the years  57-60+
possibly 40-65+

The book is made up of 11 chapters.

I Dates & Data
II The Significance of 70
III The Pauline Epistles
IV Acts & the Synoptic Gospels
V The Epistle of James
VI The Petrine Epistles & Jude
VII The Epistle to the Hebrews
VIII The Book of Revelation
IX The Gospel & Epistles of John
X A Post-Apostolic Postscript
XI Conclusions & Corollaries

There are several known historical benchmarks that aid in this process. For instance Galio, mentioned in Acts 18, was appointed proconsul in 51AD and died within a year of malaria; Caligula ordered Jews from Rome in 49AD, which prompted Priscilla and Aquilla’s meeting with Paul; Nero was emperor from 54-68 and started heavy persecution of Christians in around 64AD; Jesus step-brother James was executed in Jerusalem in 62AD during a short period without a Roman governor of Judea; and the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed in 70AD never to return. Since the later event was mentioned in a patriarchal writing from this early period (1 Clement), but not mentioned anywhere in NT docs which assume that Jewish temple service is continuing, this provides a strong final date for writing the NT documents, including the book of Revelation.

The abrupt ending of Acts is highly suggestive of a pre 70 A.D. writing rather than the accepted dating of 85 A.D. give or take 5-10 years. It ends with Paul in Rome early 60’s A.D. To quote by Harnock (quoted by John A.T. Robinson): `Throughout eight whole chapters St Luke keeps his readers intensely interested in the progress of the trial of St Paul, simply that he may in the end completely disappoint them — they learn nothing of the final result of the trial! Such a procedure is scarcely less indefensible than that of one who might relate the history of our Lord and close the narrative with his delivery to Pilate, because Jesus had now been brought up to Jerusalem and had made his appearance before the chief magistrate in the capital city!’. If Acts had been written around 85 A.D as currently dated, surely the story of what happened to Paul after his trail with Caesar and his martyrdom would have been included?


It is, of course, predicted; and these predictions are, in some cases at least, assumed to be written (or written up) after the event.

Explanations for this silence have of course been attempted. Yet the simplest explanation of all, that perhaps … there is extremely little in the New Testament later than ad 70 and that its events are not mentioned because they had not yet occurred, seems to me to demand more attention than it has received in critical circles.

What will be the sign when the fulfilment of all this is at hand?’ (13.1-4). The first thing to notice is that the question is never answered. … The mere fact again that there is no correlation between the initial question and Jesus’ answer would suggest that the discourse is not being written retrospectively …. It is clear at least that ‘the abomination of desolation’ cannot itself refer to the destruction of the sanctuary in August 70 or to its desecration by Titus’ soldiers in sacrificing to their standards. By that time it was far too late for anyone in Judaea to take to the hills, which had been in enemy hands since the end of 67 … What apparently the instruction is shaped by (whether in the mind of Jesus or that of a Christian prophet speaking in his name) is, rather, the archetypal Jewish resistance to the desecration of the temple-sanctuary by an idolatrous image under Antiochus Epiphanes in 168-7 BC.… It is more likely that the reference to ‘the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not’ (to stress Mark’s deliberate lack of grammatical apposition) is, like Paul’s reference to ‘the lawless one’ or ‘the enemy’ who ‘even takes his seat in the temple of God’ (II Thess.2.1-12), [There is here the same transition between neuter and masculine: τ• κατ•χον(v.6), • κατ•χων (v. 7).] traditional apocalyptic imagery for the incarnation of evil which had to be interpreted (‘let the reader understand’; cf. Rev. 13.18) according to whatever shape Satan might currently take. It is indeed highly likely that such speculation was revived, as many have argued, by the proposal of the Emperor Gaius Caligula in 40 to set up his statue in the temple (which was

averted only by his death). Paul was evidently still awaiting the fulfilment of such an expectation in 50-1 (to anticipate the date of II Thessalonians), where ‘the restrainer’ holding it back is probably to be interpreted as the Roman Empire embodied in its emperor (• κατ•χων being a play perhaps on the name Claudius, ‘he who shuts’). His expulsion of the Jews from Rome in 49 could be reflected in the phrase of I Thess. 2.16 about retribution having overtaken them ε•ςτ•λος (‘with a view to the end’?). [A suggested interpretation I owe to Dr E. Bammel.] The only other datable incident to which ‘the abomination’ might conceivably refer in retrospect is the control of the temple not by the Romans but by the Zealots temporarily in 66 and permanently in 68, which Josephus speaks of in terms of its ‘pollution’. This would be the very opposite of  Brandon’s thesis, with the Zealots filling the role of antichrist. But it does not  explain the masculine singular (as a  vaticinium ex eventu should require) and again  it is too late for a pre-war flight…

With regard to Mark 13 as a whole the most obvious inference is that the warnings it contains were relevant to Christians as they were facing duress and persecution, alerting them to watchfulness against false alarms and pretenders’ claims, promising them support under trial before Jewish courts and pagan governors, and assuring them of the rewards of steadfastness. Doubtless the phrasing has been influenced and pointed up by what Christians actually experienced, but, as Reicke argues in the second half of his essay [‘Synoptic Prophecies’, 130-3.], there is nothing that cannot be paralleled from the period of church history covered by Acts (c. 30-62).

In fact there is, as we said, wide agreement among scholars that Mark 13 Does fit  better before the destruction of the temple it purports to prophesy. In fact there is, as we said, wide agreement among scholars that Mark 13 does fit  better before the destruction of the temple it purports to prophesy.

parable would have altered the reference if he had been writing after 70. This, I believe, is putting it too strongly, since undoubtedly Christians came to see the destruction of Jerusalem as God’s retribution on Israel, whoever the human agent. [Cf. later (c.300) Eusebius, HE3.5.3: ‘The justice of God then visited upon them [the Jews] all their acts of violence to Christ and his apostles, by destroying that generation of wicked persons root and branch from among men’; also (c.400) Sulpicius Severus, Chron.2.30. But evidence for this is remarkably absent from earlier writings where one might expect it, e.g. the Epistle of Barnabas or Justin’s  Dialogue with Trypho.] Yet the correspondence does not seem close enough to requirecomposition in the light of the event.

Nevertheless, the conclusion must, I think, stand that on the basis of Matt. 22.7 alone it is impossible to make a firm judgment. It could reflect 70. [R. V. G. Tasker, St Matthew (Tyndale NTC), 1961, 206, suggests that the verses may have been marginal comment (subsequently embodied in the text) added after 70 to draw attention to the judgment on Israel for persecuting the Christians. The weakness in this suggestion is of course the lack of any textual evidence.] On the other hand, it need not. One must decide on the evidence of the distinctive features in Matthew’s apocalypse in chapter 24.

The first observation to be made is how few these are. As K. Stendahl says, ‘He does not have any more explicit references than Mark to the Jewish War or the withdrawing of the Christians from Jerusalem’. Cf. Marxsen, Mark the Evangelist, 198, who himself has no doubt that Matthew is later than 70: ‘If we begin by inquiring into the time of Matthew’s composition, we encounter the startling fact that chap. 24 is scarcely ever used in evidence. It is rather on the basis of 22.7 that the Gospel is assumed to have originated after ad 70.’] Apart from minor verbal variations he follows the tradition common to Mark, with only the following differences of any significance:

  1. In 24.3, the purpose of the discourse is broadened to answer the disciples not merely on the date of the destruction of the temple (‘Tell us, when will this happen ?’) but on the theme to which the chapter (and the one following) is reallyaddressed: ‘And what will be the signal for your coming and the end of the age?’ Itis significant, however, that the former question does not drop out, as might beexpected (especially since Matthew has no more answer to it than Mark) if at therime of writing it now related to the past whilst the parousia was still awaited.
  1. In 24.9-14, the prophecies of persecutions ahead found in Mark 13.9-12 areomitted, being placed by Matthew in Jesus’ mission charge to the disciples during the Galilean ministry (10.17-21). Whatever the motives for this, the effect is to see the predictions fulfilled earlier rather than later, and evidently they are not intended by Matthew to have any reference to the sufferings of the Jewish war. In their place Matthew has warnings against division and defection within the church, which are presumably relevant to the state of his own community but have no bearing on the question of date.
  1. In 24.15, the cryptic reference to ‘the abomination of desolation’ is specificallyattributed to the prophet Daniel (which was obvious anyhow), and Matthew has theneuter participle •στοςfor the masculine •στηκ•τα(as the grammar demands), and
  • ντλοπ• •γλι• for the vague •πουο• δε•. Despite the lack of article, ‘(the) holyplace’ must mean the temple (evidently intended by Mark’s allusion), and the choiceof phrase may again reflect the scriptural background already referred to:How long will impiety cause desolation, and both the holy place and thefairest of all lands be given over to be trodden down? (Dan. 8.13)

They sat idly by when it [Jerusalem] was surrendered, when the holy place was given up to the alien (I Mace. 2.7). Yet none of Matthew’s changes affects the sense or makes the application more specific (in fact the neuter participle does the opposite). Again he does not mention the reference in Daniel to the cessation of the daily sacrifices. If Matthew intended the reader to ‘understand’ in the prediction events lying by then in the past he has certainly given him no help. Moreover, as Zahn said long ago in view of Matthew’s appeal to conditions in Jerusalem ‘to this day’ (27.8; cf. 28.15), one would have expected him of all people to draw attention to the present devastation of the site.

  1. In 24.20, there occurs the only other change in the decisive paragraph aboutJudaea, with the addition of the words in italics:Pray that it may not be winter  when you have to make your escape, or Sabbath

‘When you have to make your escape’ merely specifies what must be meant in Mark. The reference to the sabbath could again contain an allusion back to the fact that when the faithful of Judaea took to the hills after the original ‘abomination of desolation’ their first encounter with the enemy was on the sabbath and because of scruples which they later abandoned they were massacred without resistance (I Mace. 2.29-41). But it is more likely to refer to the obstacles to movement on the sabbath for Jewish Christians who were strict observers of the law. In any case it bespeaks a primitive Palestinian milieu and a community-discipline stricter than that  recommended in Matthew’s own church (cf. Matt. 12.1-14). It is certainly not an addition that argues for a situation after 70. Indeed it is one of those points of difference where, unless one is committed to over-all Markan priority, it looks as though Mark has omitted an element in the tradition no longer relevant for the Gentile church.

  1. Matthew’s material without parallel in the Markan tradition (24.26-8; 24.37-25.46) has no reference to the fall of Jerusalem but, like the additional signs of theParousia in 24.30f., solely to ‘the consummation of the age’. Yet his version of the Q,’ material in 24.26, ‘If they tell you, “He is there in the wilderness”, do not go

out’, clearly shows that in his mind the scene is still in Judaea (in the Lukan parallel in 17.23 it could be anywhere). It is significant therefore that in 24.29, ‘the distress of those days’ (i.e., on the assumption of ex eventu prophecy, the Judaean war) is to be followed ‘immediately’ (ε•θ•ως) by the coming of the Son of Man, whereas in Mark 13.24 it is promised vaguely ‘in those days, after that distress’. Normally Matthew edits out (if this is the relationship between them) Mark’s incessant use of ε•θ•ς. Never elsewhere does he alter a Markan phrase to ε•θ•ως. [Though he adds the word, without significant change of sense, in 27.48. B. W. Bacon, ‘The Apocalyptic Chapter of the Synoptic Gospels’, JBL 28, 1909, a, argued (without a shred of evidence) that ε•θ•ςcould ‘easily’ have been in the original text of Mark 13.24 – though this would still not explain why Matthew retained it.] This makes it extraordinarily difficult to believe that Matthew could deliberately be writing for the interval between the Jewish war and the parousia.

So conscious was Harnack [Chron.,653f.] of this difficulty that he insisted that the interval could not be extended more than five years (or ten at the very most), thus dating Matthew c.70-5. He would rather believe that Matthew wrote before the fall of Jerusalem than stretch the meaning of ε•θ•ως further. It seems a curious exercise to stretch it at all!

Even E. J. Goodspeed, [E. J. Goodspeed, An Introduction to the New Testament, Chicago 1937, 176.] who put Luke at 90, said of Matthew, ‘A book containing such a statement can hardly have been written very long after ad 70’ (though his elastic was prepared to extend to 80). The only other way of taking this verse retrospectively is to say that ‘the coming of the Son of Man’, though not ‘the consummation of the age’, did occur with the fall of Jerusalem. [Cf. A. Feuillet, ‘La synthese eschatologique de saint Matthieu’, RB 55-6, 1949-50, 340-64, 62-91, 18o-211 (especially 351-6); ‘Le sens du mot parousie dans l’evangile de Matthieu’ in W.  D. Davies and D. Daube (edd.), The Background of the New Testament and its Eschatology: In Honour of C. H. Dodd, Cambridge 1956, 261 —80; Gaston, No Stone on Another, 484; also (somewhat differently) France, Jesus and the OT,227-39; and G. B. Caird, Jesus and the Jewish Nation(Ethel M. Wood Lecture), 1965.] But it is a fairly desperate expedient to seek to distinguish these two (joined by Matthew by a single article in 24.3) in face of the usage of the rest of the New Testament.

Finally, Matthew retains unaltered Jesus’ solemn pronouncement, ‘The present generation will live to see it all’ (24.34), preserving also (as the equivalent of Mark 9.1) the saying, ‘There are some standing here who will not taste of death before they have seen the Son of Man coming in his kingdom’ (16.28). Most notoriously of all, he has, alongside the apocalyptic material from the Markan tradition which he sets in his mission charge, the promise, ‘Before you have gone through all the towns of Israel the Son of Man will have come’ (10.23). ….. I think that it needs to be asked much more pressingly than it is why warnings and predictions relating to the crisis in Judaea should have been produced or reproduced in such profusion after the events to which they referred.

Dodd argued strongly and circumstantially that no such inference could be drawn. These operations are no more than the regular commonplaces of ancient warfare. In Josephus’s account of the Roman capture of Jerusalem there are some features which are more distinctive; such as the fantastic faction-fighting which continued all through the siege, the horrors of pestilence and famine (including cannibalism), and finally the conflagration in which the Temple and a large part of the city perished. It is these that caught the imagination of Josephus, and, we may suppose,

of any other witness of these events. Nothing is said of them here. On the other hand, among all the barbarities which Josephus reports, he does not say that the conquerors dashed children to the ground. [The youths under the age of seventeen were sold into slavery (BJ6.418).]The expression •δαφιο•σινσεκα• τ• τ•κνασο•νσο•is in any case not based on anything that happened in 66-70: it is a commonplace of Hebrew prophecy.

Dodd then proceeds to show in detail how all the language used by Luke or his source is drawn not from recent events but from a mind soaked in the Septuagint. So far as any historical event has coloured the picture, it is not Titus’s capture of Jerusalem in ad 70, but Nebuchadrezzar’s capture in 586 bc. There is no single trait of the forecast which cannot be documented directly out of the Old Testament.

  1. C. Torrey, The Composition and Date of Acts (Harvard Theological Studies, I), Cambridge, Mass., 1916, 691., who concludes: ‘Every particle of Luke’s prediction not provided by  Mark was furnished by familiar and oft-quoted Old Testament passages.’]

Luke has preferred to concentrate on the destruction of the city rather than the temple, the last reference, veiled or unveiled, to the sanctuary having disappeared, despite his retention of the opening question about the fate of the temple buildings  2I.5-7). [Luke broadens the audience (‘some people were saying’) but not, like Matthew, the question.] The answer therefore is even less precise, though there is now a definite reference to devastation and not simply to desecration. Reicke indeed argues that by replacing Mark’s ‘abomination of desolation standing where he ought not’ with ‘Jerusalem surrounded by armies’ Luke actually makes it more certain that he is notwriting after the event.

The one conclusion we can draw so far is to agree with Reicke’s opening statement that it is indeed ‘an amazing example of uncritical dogmatism’ that ‘the synoptic gospels should be dated after the Jewish War of ad 66-70  because they contain prophecies ex eventuof the destruction of Jerusalem’.

the relative fixity of the Pauline datings remains.

The Pauline epistles constitute therefore an important fixed point and yardstick, not only of absolute chronology but of relative span, against which to measure other developments.

  1. The sources, Roman, Jewish and Christian, are largely unco-ordinated and share no common canon of chronology such as is presupposed by any modern historian. The evidence, for instance, from Tacitus, Josephus and Acts has to be set together from different systems of time measurement and then reduced to our (quite arbitrary) BC and AD.
  2. The actual calendar years begin at a bewilderingly different number of points – e.g. (ignoring internal changes with periods and places) the Jewish in the spring, the Macedonian (which was spread to the Greek-speaking world by the conquests of Alexander the Great) in the autumn, the Julian (the official calendar of the Roman empire and still ours today) in midwinter. (The same applies to the time the day was reckoned to begin, but this is not so relevant to the epistles as to the gospels.)
  3. Dates are designated not by the calendar but by the year of office of some king or official. This does not, of course, usually commence neatly with the calendar year. There is the additional uncertainty whether the ‘first’ year of, say a particular emperor is the residue of that year from the day of his accession (assuming, too, that that follows immediately on the demise of his predecessor) or whether it is counted from the next new year’s day. For instance, is what we call ad 55 the second or the first year of Nero, who was proclaimed emperor on 13 October 54?
  4. When we are dealing with intervals, there is the uncertainty whether the reckoning is inclusive (with parts of the day or year being counted as wholes) or exclusive. For instance, ‘on the third day’ (Matt.16.21; Luke 9.22; I Cor.15.4) in all probability means the same as ‘after three days’ (Mark 8.31), whereas we should say it was ‘after two days’. The question arises which usage a particular New Testament writer (e.g. Paul or Luke) is following.

the sequence of Paul’s missionary activities that can be inferred from his letters is so remarkably compatible with the information from Acts that we have good grounds for deriving the relative chronology of Paul’s activity from a critical combination of the information from Paul’s letters with the account in Acts.

The most reliable fixed point from which we can work both backwards and forwards is supplied by the inscription to which I have already referred. This enables us to date the proconsulship of Gallio in Achaia, before whom, according to Acts 18.12-17, Paul was summoned towards the end of his first visit to Corinth. With increasing certainty we may say that Gallic entered upon his office in the early summer of 51 and that Paul appeared before him soon afterwards, probably in May or June.[That the Jews ‘tried their luck’ with the new proconsul by bringing Paul before him when Gallio had but recently arrived is, however, only a presumption.] By that time Paul had been in Corinth for at least eighteen months (Acts 18.11) and probably longer – for this period appears to be reckoned from the time of Paul’s full-time preaching (18.5) and his residence with Titus Justus (18.7). Prior to that he had lodged and earned a living with

Aquila and Priscilla (18.1-4). So his arrival in Corinth is probably to be dated  in the autumn of 49. This would fit well with the statement of 18.2 that Aquila ‘had recently arrived from Italy because Claudius had issued an edict that all Jews should leave Rome’, which is usually dated in 49.

To allow for the visits of Acts 15.36-17.34, Paul and Barnabas must have set out from Antioch at least in the early spring of 49. This in turn probably puts the Council of Jerusalem late in 48, allowing for the vaguely defined but apparently quite extensive interval of 15.30-6.

Working backwards from this we find the chronology of Acts, as we might expect, increasingly uncertain. The incidents of 11.27-12.25, introduced by such nebulous time-references as ‘during this period’ (11.27) and ‘about this time’ (12.1), appear to be arranged topically rather than chronologically. The famine of 11.27-30 seems to correspond with that recorded by Josephus [Ant.20.101.] as coming to its climax in 46 (or perhaps a year earlier or later), whereas the death of Herod Agrippa I, which Luke relates after it (though he does not make Barnabas and Paul return to Antioch till after Herod’s death), occurred in 44. If then the famine-relief visit of Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem in Acts 11.30-12.25 is to be dated c.46, then the first missionary journey described in Acts 13-14 would occupy 47-8, with the controversy and council-meeting of Acts 15 coming later in 48. So far there are no serious problems.

It is when we come to tie up the Acts story with Paul’s own statements in Gal. 1-2 that the difficulties begin. There Paul relates two visits to Jerusalem – and two only – to make contact with the apostles. At this point we must give absolute priority to Paul’s own account, not merely because he is writing in the first person, whereas Luke is at this stage clearly dependent on sources (and can be shown to be chronologically unreliable), but because Paul is speaking on oath (Gal. 1.20) and any slip or dissimulation on his part would have played into the hands of his opponents. Indeed we may say that the statements of Gal. 1-2 are the most trustworthy historical statements in the entire New Testament….The first question is whether the fourteen years are to be counted from the first visit or from his conversion. There is no way of being certain, but the natural presumption is that Paul is detailing a sequence (•πειτα… •πειτα… •

πειτα— exactly as in I Cor.15.5—8) and that the two intervals of three years and fourteen years are intended to follow on each other. Moreover, the ‘again’ of 2.1, if part of the true text (as it surely is), would naturally refer the reader back to the former visit, not to the conversion. No one, I believe, would begin by supposing otherwise, though once the other way of taking it is suggested there is no way of disproving it.The second question is whether the reckoning is to be regarded as inclusive or exclusive. Again we cannot be sure, but Jewish usage would indicate the  former. ‘After eight days’ in John 20.26 is evidently intended to refer to the following Sunday (not Monday), and is rightly rendered in the neb ‘a week later’. When Paul says he stayed with Peter for fifteen days (Gal.1.18) the neb is again surely correct in rendering it ‘a fortnight’. So we may begin by assuming that ‘after three years’ means in the third year following, or what we would call after two years. Similarly, ‘with the lapse of (δι•, cf. Acts 24.17)  fourteen years’ probably means thirteen years later.The third question (and much the most difficult) is which visit of Acts it is to which the visit of Gal. 2.1 corresponds. If it is the second (that of Acts 11), then it must have occurred  c.46; if it is the third (that of Acts 15), then it would on our calculation have been in 48. On the assumption that the two intervals are sequential and the reckoning is inclusive, then 13+2 from 46 would bring us back to 31 for Paul’s conversion; if from 48, then to 33. Though we cannot be absolutely certain, it looks as if the most likely date for the crucifixion is 30 – the only serious alternative astronomically and calendrically being 33

There is no hint of his going off to Arabia or of a two- to three-year gap. Moreover in Gal.1 he is insistent that he saw only Peter and James and remained unknown by sight to the congregations in Judaea. In Acts 9 he is introduced by Barnabas (who is not mentioned in Gal.1) to the apostles, moves freely about Jerusalem, debating ‘openly’ with the Greek-speaking Jews

Comparing then the details of Gal. 2 with Acts n and 15, what do we find? With Acts 11 the correspondences are not in fact great. There Paul and Barnabas go up from

Antioch to Jerusalem, but they are alone, they meet none of the apostles, only the elders (Acts 11.30; contrast the repeated ‘apostles and elders’ of 15.2, 4, 6, 22f), and they are not recorded as having conversations or debate with anyone. Other possible points of convergence are (a) that Paul describes himself as having gone up by ‘revelation’ (Gal.2.2) and, on the assumption that this means by an inspired utterance (as in I Cor.14.6, 26), it could be a reference to the prophecy of Agabus (Acts 11.28) which gave rise to the visit; and (b) that Gal.2.10 could refer to the famine relief that

occasioned it, if Paul’s comment on the charge ‘remember the poor’ is interpreted to mean ‘which was the very thing I had made, or was making, it my business to do’. But neither is the obvious translation of the aorist•στο•δασαwhich would naturally refer to a resolve from that moment on

Moreover, the only other reference to ‘the poor’ at Jerusalem in Paul’s epistles is to the collection towards the close of his ministry (Rom.15.26). Since we know he wrote to the Galatians about that (I Cor.16.1), it is natural to take the reference to point forward to it. With Acts 15 on the other hand, as Lightfoot observed in his extended note on the subject, the correspondences are considerable

There is the same tension between Judaizing Christians and the church at Antioch over the same issue (the requirement of circumcision), with the same persons (Paul,

Barnabas, and Titus in Galatians; Paul, Barnabas and ‘some others’ in Acts)  going up from Antioch to Jerusalem, and back, to meet the same people (James, Peter and John in Galatians; [As we have seen, for whatever reason, Titus is never mentioned by name in Acts.] James, Peter with the apostles and elders in Acts) with the same essential result (recognition of the non-necessity of circumcision, with corollaries for mutual respect and support).

For Knox these other difficulties are with ‘the usual Pauline chronology’ – such as we are following. I am not in fact persuaded of them; but the greatest difficulty for Knox, and therefore the strongest argument for resorting to his reconstruction, turns on another point (the date of Festus’ accession) to which we shall come later. Meanwhile there are, of course, very real difficulties for those who (unlike Knox but like myself) wish to fit the visits of Gal.1-2 into the framework of Acts.

The first is why Paul passes over in apparently damaging silence the second visit described by Acts 11.30-12.25. This has led many to excise this visit as unhistorical or as a doublet in Luke’s sources of the visit of Acts 15. But this is an arbitrary way of cutting the knot, for which there is no evidence nor indeed other probability (the two visits are, as we have seen, very different in purpose and detail). The most likely reason for Paul’s silence is surely that there was no occasion for him to mention this visit. As Lightfoot succinctly stated it years ago, His object is not to enumerate his journeys to Jerusalem, but to define his relations with the Twelve; and on these relations it had no bearing. Secondly, it is said, Why does not Galatians refer to the decrees of Acts 15.28f.? One of the corollaries of equating Gal.2 with Acts 11 is that it is possible to date Galatians before the council-visit of 48 and therefore to explain Paul’s lack of reference to it. Yet this is not a necessary corollary, and the date of Galatians must be determined, in due course, on its own merits. Indeed, Caird goes so far as to say, ‘This rider has done more to discredit than to commend the theory to which it has been attached.’

the answer of course is that the decrees  were devised for a local, predominantly Jewish-Christian church situation ‘in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia’ (Acts 15.23) – not even for Galatia.

To sum up, whatever the differences in the accounts – and there is no need to deny or minimize them – I find the case for equating the visits of Gal. 2 and Acts 15 more compelling than any alternative. It also enables us to take the two intervals, ‘after three years’ and ‘after fourteen years’, in sequence rather than concurrently. For 33 is certainly a possible date for Paul’s conversion – though we are still free to run the intervals together and to put the date later if we wish

The crucial date is when Porcius Festus succeeded Felix as procurator of Judaea (Acts 24.27).

33 Conversion

35 First visit to Jerusalem

46 Second (famine-relief) visit to Jerusalem

47-8 First missionary journey

48 Council of Jerusalem

49-51 Second missionary journey

52-7 Third missionary journey

57 Arrival in Jerusalem

57-9 Imprisonment in Caesarea

60-2 Imprisonment in Rome

1 Corinthians. We have already argued that this was written from Ephesus about Passover-time (March-April) when Paul had been nearly three years in Ephesus and was beginning to make plans to move on. There is wide agreement that this must, as we have reckoned, have been in 55.

2 Corinthians. The first part of this epistle at any rate (i.e. chs.1-9) is written from Macedonia, in all probability in the early part of 56. If chs.10-13 belong to a subsequent letter, then they must come from later that same year, shortly before Paul descends upon Corinth for the last time to winter there (13.1-10). In any case we can safely place the whole of II Corinthians in 56.

Romans.Paul is writing shortly before setting off for Jerusalem (15.25), while staying with Gaius in Corinth (16.23; cf. I Cor. 1.14) and completing the work on the collection (15.26-8). It can confidently be dated during the three months spent in Achaia (Acts 20.3), early in 57. The only issue is whether the final ch.16 is part of the letter sent to Rome or, as many have argued, a covering letter for dispatching a version of it at the same time to Ephesus. As this does not affect the date, it is not directly our concern. But since the destination of the chapter determines the use of its material elsewhere, I simply register my conviction, with that of most recent commentators, that, despite the evidence of textual dislocation, it belongs to Rome with the rest of the Epistle.

Galatians presents much more uncertainty. The view that we have taken that the visit to Jerusalem in Gal.2 corresponds to the council visit of 48 means that it cannot be written before that date. There would in any case be no initial reason to think that it was, since the closest contacts of the epistle are with II Corinthians and still more with Romans. It is however difficult to be more precise. We do not even know for certain the location of the recipients, whether in the Roman province of Galatia, which included the churches in Pisidia and Lycaonia founded on Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13-14) and revisited on the second (16.1-5), or the territory of Galatia

further north (which could be referred to in 16.6 and 18.23.) The weight of scholarly opinion appears to favour the former,

The undoubted affinities with II Corinthians and Romans, though certainly not decisive for dating, have inclined the majority of scholars who do not wish for other reasons to put Galatians back in 48 to place it either during Paul’s time in Ephesus (52-5) or between II Corinthians and Romans, perhaps on his travels in northern Greece, in 56

I would conclude therefore, with Lightfoot and others, that Galatians most probably comes from the period between II Corinthians and Romans, which we have already argued covers most of 56. But this conclusion is much less sure than that for the other epistles so far discussed. Indeed Knox has suggested that, so far from being the first of Paul’s writings, it may have been among the last, written

from prison.However, the absence of the slightest reference to his ‘bonds’ (particularly in a letter which has so much to say about freedom) makes this very arbitrary. Yet it is a salutary warning. For Philippians, which carries the same greeting, ‘the brothers who are now with me’ (Phil.4.21; cf. Gal.1.2), and which many have put last of all, has equally forcibly been argued to come from the period of Paul’s Ephesian ministry (where indeed Knox puts it) because of its common themes with Galatians, Corinthians and Romans.

With regard, then, to Philippians, we may note that of all the captivity epistles this is the one for which the hypothesis of an Ephesian origin has won greatest support.  Indeed it can at first sight be fitted neatly into the Acts narrative at this point. In Phil. 2.19-24 Paul says that he hopes to send Timothy soon, confident that he himself will come before long. In Acts 19.22 he sends Timothy and Erastus ahead of him to Macedonia, of which Philippi was ‘a city of the first rank’ (Acts 16.12), while he stays on for a time in Asia. Referring apparently to the same situation, Paul speaks in I Cor.16.5-11 of Timothy having gone before him to Corinth. And he will wait in Ephesus for his return, just as in Phil.2.19 he hopes that Timothy will bring him news of the church at Philippi. On the other hand, there is not the slightest hint in Acts or I Corinthians that Paul is or has been in prison. On the contrary, he is a free agent planning his future travels (Acts 19.21; I Cor.16.6-8) and fully stretched by his evangelistic opportunities (I Cor.16.9). He sends greetings from the churches of Asia and from Aquila and Prisca and the congregation at their house (I Cor.16.19).

The  cri de Coeur of Phil.2.20, that, apart from Timothy, there is no one else here who sees things as I do and takes a genuine interest in your concerns; they are all bent on their own ends, not on the cause of Christ Jesus II Cor.6.5; 11.23  and Rom.16.7 (cf. I Clem.5.6, which mentions seven imprisonments of Paul). No description of Paul’s many troubles and dangers in Ephesus or Asia (Acts 19.23-20.1; I Cor.15.32; 16.9; II Cor.1.8f.; and [perhaps]  Rom.16.3f.) includes imprisonment. Moreover, the imprisonment referred to in Philippians must have been an extended one (1.13f.) (and based on a capital charge, 2.17) – having lasted long enough even by the time of writing for the Christians in Philippi to have heard about it and sent Epaphroditus with relief, and then for Epaphroditus to have recovered from a near fatal illness, of which they had also had time to get news (2.25-30).

Another difficulty is that in Philippians there is no reference whatever to the collection for the poor, in which Macedonia was so prominent (II Cor.8.1-5; 9.1-4; Rom.15.26f.). On the contrary, stress is laid upon the Philippians’ collection for Paul’s personal needs (Phil. 2.25, 30; 4.10-19), which he is especially sensitive to dissociate from the other collection (II Cor.8.i6-24; 12.13-18; Acts 20.33-35). It looks then as if Philippians must come from a period well before or well after the project that occupied so much of Paul’s time and thought in the two years (at least) prior to 57. And if it came before it must be well prior to the spring of 55, when the Corinthians are already assumed to know about the collection (I Cor.16.1-4). This scarcely fits the

impression which we get from Philippians that Paul’s relations with that church have by then extended over many years (1.5; 4.10f., 15f.). Nor does it comport with his expressed desire for death (1.20-26), which is very different from what he is looking forward to even in Romans. It seems altogether easier to place it later. The only advantages indeed of an Ephesian locale for Philippians would seem to be: (a) the affinity of language with the other epistles in the central section of Paul’s ministry. But the parallels are spread amongst all the Pauline epistles; and, as with Galatians, this is a fairly uncertain criterion. (b) The shorter distance required for the journeys described to and from Philippi (Phil. 2.19-30). But it is generally conceded that this latter cannot be decisive. For the rest, the references to the praetorium in 1.13 and the servants of the imperial establishment (‘Caesar’s household’) in 4.22, though not impossible in Ephesus, point more obviously to Rome or Caesarea. ertainly these latter two references would seem to favour Rome, though again it is agreed even by the advocates of this hypothesis that they cannot be decisive. Indeed, if it is in Rome, then the phrase •ν•λωτ• πραιτωρ•ω ust be taken, with Lightfoot, to  refer to the members of the Praetorian guard, whom Paul it is supposed influenced by rota, and not a building – since according to Acts 28.30 he is in his own hired lodging. This is not however how it is used anywhere else in the New Testament (Matt.27.27; Mark 15.16; John 18.28, 33; 19.9; Acts 23.35). An alternative is to say that it refers to a later stage in Paul’s Roman captivity when he has been moved into the praetorium to stand trial – though Lightfoot insisted that ‘in Rome itself a “praetorium” would not have been tolerated’. But then we lose all contact with the evidence and can invent any circumstance that suits us (as at Ephesus). n Caesarea on the other hand, Paul is specifically said to be in the praetorium of Herod’s palace, the headquarters of the procurator of Judaea (Acts 23.55). Moreover, the sense of Phil. 1.16f. is correctly rendered in the neb by ‘as I lie in prison’. He is in jail. And yet, according to Acts 24.23, Felix ‘gave orders to the centurion to keep Paul under open arrest ‘apparently means leave to communicate with friends and receive food’ and not to prevent any of his friends from making themselves useful to him’ – a statement which fully fits the

description of his conditions in Phil. 2.25-30; 4.10-19. Furthermore a hearing

has already taken place (1.7), which suits the situation at Caesarea following the appearance before Felix; but by the time Acts ends there has been no hearing in Rome. It has been objected that at Caesarea Paul was not facing the possibility of death, since he could always appeal to Caesar. Yet it is constantly made clear that his life is in danger from the Jews (Acts 21.31, 36; 22.22; 23.30; 25.3, 24; 26.21), a fate from which he is protected only by Roman custody. If he had really brought a Greek into the temple, then, even as a Roman citizen, he would under Jewish law have been liable to death. In fact he says to Festus, ‘If I am guilty of any capital crime, I do

not ask to escape the death penalty’ (25.11). Yet he knows, like the authorities, that he is innocent of this (23.29; 25.10, 25; 26.31; 28.18) and  therefore has every ground for expecting discharge (26.32) – which, it is suggested, he could have bought at any time (24.26). His appeal to the emperor is only a last desperate recourse when it looks as if Festus is going to hand him back as a sop to the Jews (25.11). At the time of writing to the Philippians his confidence was that he would be alive and free to visit them

once more (Phil. 1.24-26; 2.24) on his projected journey back west (Rom. 1.13; 15.23-29; Acts 19.21; 23.11). That he had any plans for returning east from Rome is entirely hypothetical – though of course we can never prove that he did not change his mind. The only evidence is for journeys further west still, whether planned or accomplished.

Further support for Caesarea as the place of writing is the bitter polemic in Phil. 3.1-11 against the Jews, who are much more fiercely attacked even than fellow-Christians who betray the gospel (1.15-18; 3.18f.). This fits the fanatical and unrelenting Jewish opposition Paul encountered in Jerusalem and Caesarea (Acts 21.37-26.32; cf. 28.19). There may have been such bitterness later in Rome, but the only evidence we have is of Jews who are conspicuously fair to Paul, even if sceptical and obtuse (28.21-28).

I would agree therefore with Kummel in thinking that Caesarea as the place of origin for Philippians has been too quickly abandoned, and it is certainly preferable to Ephesus. Rome has little to be said against it, precisely because the evidence is so thin. Reicke, who argues, as we shall see, strongly for the Caesarean locale of the other captivity epistles, still places Philippians in Rome. He urges, rightly, that on grounds of personalia it does not belong with the rest. Yet I believe the best hypothesis may turn out to be that all these epistles come from the same place but at different times. But before deciding on a date for Philippians, we should turn to the other letters. Colossians, Philemon and Ephesians. At once we are up against the problem of authenticity, not for the last time. There is virtually no one now who denies the genuineness of Philemon.[John Knox, Philemon among the Letters of Paul, Nashville, Tenn., 2 I959, makes its genuineness a cornerstone of his case against Ephesians. Cf. also Bruce, ‘St Paul in Rome: 2. The Epistle to Philemon’,

BJRL 48, 1965, 81-97.] There are those, especially in Germany, [for names, cf. Kummel, INT, 340.] who question Colossians on stylistic and theological grounds. But the close and complex interrelationship of names with Philemon points strongly to the fact that the two epistles were dictated by the same man at the same time and sent to Colossae by Tychicus, in company with Onesimus (Col. 4.7-9; Philem.12).

Ephesians presents a difficult problem to handle here. To argue in any detail the question of Pauline authorship would take us far from our primary purpose, which is to establish a chronology. If it is not Pauline, then there are two alternatives: either it is by an amanuensis or agent writing on the apostle’s behalf at the same date; or it is strictly pseudonymous, claiming to be Pauline but coming (probably) from towards the end of the first century. The former alternative has commanded little support (though it has recently been argued by Gunther, who believes that the author was Timothy)

Which is more likely, that an imitator of Paul in the first century composed a writing ninety or ninety-five per cent in accordance with Paul’s style or that Paul himself wrote a letter diverging five or ten per cent from his usual style?

we regard the Pastoral Epistles and II Peter as pseudonymous, we are not in these cases dealing with original and creative productions. The only comparable unknown author is the writer to the Hebrews. But he is not imitating anyone, and in any case, I believe, belongs firmly within the apostolic age. [See ch. vii below.] Here as so often the case is cumulative and to some extent circular. If on other grounds half the literature of the New Testament is to be located in the last quarter of the first century, then the epistle to the Ephesians will seem to stand in good company. If on the other hand it is isolated there, it will look very exposed.

I propose therefore to proceed as though Ephesians comes from Paul, and to see how it fits in if it does. There is not in fact much that turns on it for chronology, since its dating (if genuine) is derivative from Colossians and Philemon rather than

vice versa.

If, therefore, anyone prefers to regard it as an exception and set it outside the series altogether, the consequences for the rest are not decisive. If then all three epistles are by Paul, there can be no doubt that they were written closely together and sent by Tychicus on the same journey, with Ephesians being composed in all probability shortly after Philemon and Colossians, almost certainly as a general homily to the Asian churches. This is strongly supported by the absence of ‘in Ephesus’ from the

best manuscripts of Eph.1.1 and the lack of local details or personal messages. Where, and therefore when, may we say that they were written?Again the same three options are open. Only, of course, if Ephesians was  not sent to Ephesus (and the inclusion of that church in the general circulation is difficult to deny) is Ephesus itself a credible source of origin.

Indeed all the previous objections and more arise to this hypothesis. Mark and Luke are with Paul (Col.4.10, 15; Philem. 24). Yet according to Acts (15.37-39) Mark had not accompanied Paul to Ephesus, and the absence of any ‘we’ passage for the Ephesus period, let alone any account of an imprisonment, tells strongly against Luke’s presence there (assuming for the moment the Lukan authorship of Acts). Indeed the only real argument for Ephesus is again its geographical proximity, [Colossians is indeed assigned to Ephesus by the Marcionite Prologue, but the value of this statement is negatived by its assignation of Philemon (which clearly belongs with it) to Rome.] which considerably eases Paul’s request to Philemon to have a

room ready for him should he be released (Philem.22) and, according to some, the arrival there of the runaway slave Onesimus. But that Onesimus would have been most likely to flee to Ephesus, a mere hundred miles away, to escape detection seems to others less credible. As Dodd says, ‘If we are to surmise, then it is as likely that the fugitive slave, his pockets lined at his master’s expense, made for Rome because

it was distant, as that he went to Ephesus because it was near.’ We cannot tell. Moreover, though arguments from theological development are notoriously dangerous, there are strong grounds for thinking that the elaboration of the doctrine of the church as the body of Christ, with Christ as its head, found in Colossians and Ephesians follows rather than precedes its much more tentative formulation in I Corinthians and Romans (written on or after Paul’s departure from Ephesus). It has not seemed to anyone to come earlier: the only question is whether it is so much later as to require an  author other than Paul.

We are back then with Caesarea or Rome. The latter has been the traditional location, and the only argument has been whether these epistles precede or follow the somewhat different situation pre-supposed by Philippians. There is nothing finally against Rome, and from the ‘we’ passages Luke can certainly be presumed to have been there. But the lack of obstacles again is largely due to the fact that we know so little about Paul’s prospects there that we can create what conditions we like – for instance, that he is expecting release and plans to travel east (though the idea of asking from Rome for a guest-room to be prepared in Colossae has always stretched credibility).

According to Acts 21.28f. Paul had been unjustly accused of bringing Greeks into the inner sanctuary (τ• •ερ•ν) of the temple. On the wall which marked it off from the court of the Gentiles were inscriptions, fragments of which survive to this day, giving warning of the death-penalty for any foreigner transgressing this line. Reicke draws attention to the particularly virulent animosity at this time between Jews and Gentiles in Caesarea, leading later to an appeal to the emperor, with each party denying the other the right of citizenship (•σοπολιτε•α); and he observes how closely these themes are reflected in the language of Ephesians:

Paul speaks of (a) the ethnic dividing wall (Eph.2.14b), which has been removed in Christ, and the new temple (2.20); (b) the animosity between Jews and Gentiles (2.14c; 16b; cf. Col.1.21), which has been changed into peace through Christ (2.15b, 17); (c) the divine citizenship (2.19), which in Christ belongs also to the Gentiles (3.6), as well as the fact that every nationality (πατρι•) on earth has its origin in God the Father (3.15;cf. Col.3.11).

No one of course is to say that such language could not have been written in Rome, but in the Caesarean context its appropriateness is striking. As Reicke says, ‘If the epistle is a forgery, then the author had unusually accurate information to hand.’ It is also a strong argument, as with the epistle to the Hebrews, against a date after 70. For by then the situation had been obliterated by events, and Paul’s spiritual point could scarcely have been made without reflecting the fact that the infamous dividing wall had quite literally been ‘broken down’.

(a) Is there anything that requires, or makes probable, a date for the Pastoral Epistles outside the lifetime of the Apostle, whether or not genuine fragments from an earlier period are incorporated in them?  (b) If there is not, how may they be fitted into his career, whether he composed them personally or not?

(a) For the former it would have to be established that the vocabulary, the church organization and the theology presupposed by the epistles could not come from the 50s or 60s of the first century but only from the end of the first century or the beginning of the second – if not later. Without going into the detail needed to determine this, I can only say that I do not regard the case as proven. There is nothing decisive to require us to say that the distinctive vocabulary of the Pastorals could only have come from the second century. On the contrary, it has been shown that nearly all the words in question are to be found in Greek literature by the middle of the first century and that half of them occur in the Septuagint, with which Paul was well acquainted.

With regard to the organization of the church, the Pastorals do not presuppose monarchical episcopacy (on the second-century Ignatian model), but rather the equivalence of bishop and presbyter (cf. I Tim.3.if.; 5.17; Titus 1.5-7), and they demand nothing more elaborate than the local ministry of ‘bishops and deacons’ of Phil.1.1 Timothy and Titus themselves are travelling delegates of Paul, not residential archbishops with fixed territorial assignments. While therefore concern for orderly ministry and appointments in the church could argue a later date, there is nothing that requires a second-century setting – or indeed anything subsequent to the pastoral solicitude already shown by Paul, according to Luke, in his speech to the Ephesian elders at Miletus (Acts 20.28-31). Parry [Op. cit., Ixxviii.] concludes an extensive examination with the words:

There is no substantial reason in the character of the organisation implied in the Pastoral Epistles for assigning them to a date later than the lifetime of S. Paul.

With regard to doctrine too, the type of gnosticizing Judaism attacked in the Pastorals betrays no more elaboration than that refuted in Colossians (if anything less) and certainly bears no comparison with the fully-blown gnostic systems of the second century, which we now know so much better at first hand. Indeed Kummel, who believes that the way in which this false teaching is countered is uncharacteristic of Paul, is nevertheless emphatic that there is not the slightest occasion, just because the false teachers who are being opposed are Gnostics, to link them up with the great Gnostic systems of the second century. … The Jewish-Christian-Gnostic false teaching which is being combated in the Pastorals is … thoroughly comprehensible in the life span of Paul. The preoccupation with purity of doctrine, the quotation of hymns and teaching formulae, and the stress on ‘the faith’ rather than ‘faith’, though certainly more marked in these epistles, represent but shifts in emphases already present in other parts of Paul and the New Testament. None of them rules out a first-century date; and unless a date well after the death not only of Paul but of Timothy and Titus is presupposed it is hard to imagine a situation in which the fiction would either have deceived or have been taken for granted. We may contrast the situation presupposed by II Thessalonians, where Paul warns of the effect of ‘some letter purporting to come from us’ (2.2) and is most insistent to add the authentication of his personal signature: ‘In my own hand, signed in my name, PAUL; this authenticates all my letters; this is how I write’ (3.17; cf. I Cor.16.21; Gal.6.11; Col.4.18). The inherent difficulties of the alternative theories, whether of total fabrication – with purely fictional messages, like ‘I am hoping to come to you before long’ (I Tim. 3.14) – or the incorporation of genuine (but highly-fragmented) fragments, do not directly concern us. All one can say is that the case which makes a second-century composition necessary or even probable has very far from established itself. Indeed Reicke has pointedly argued that the call for ‘petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings’ for ‘sovereigns and all in high office, that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in full observance of religion and high standards of morality’ (I Tim.2.1f.; cf. Titus 3.1) betokens an attitude towards authority and its beneficent effects which would be inconceivable after the Neronian persecution (we may contrast the Apocalypse). Among the recent commentators it is interesting that J. N. D. Kelly, the patristic scholar, should judge that the Pastorals could not come from the second century, while, writing in the same year,

Barrett, the Pauline scholar, should judge that they could not come from Paul. [C. K. Barrett, The Pastoral Epistles (New Clarendon Bible), Oxford  1963.] Perhaps both may be right. At any rate there would seem to be a  detectable swing back, if not to apostolic authorship, at any rate to taking  seriously the second set of questions relating to dating.

(b) The presupposition here is that Timothy and Titus are the same real persons who meet us in the rest of the New Testament and that they are being addressed by Paul in genuine pastoral situations, whether directly at his dictation or through someone writing on his behalf or by a combination of the two. It is not necessary for our present purpose to come to a decision on the purely literary issue. But, whether the style is Paul’s own or not, this is the position taken by such scholars as Jeremias, Moule and Reicke, as well as by the more conservative Guthrie. I believe it  to be open to fewer difficulties than any theory that requires the letters to be pseudonymous, whether in whole or part. Whether Paul penned them fabrication – with purely fictional messages, like ‘I am hoping to come to you before long’ (I Tim. 3.14) – or the incorporation of genuine (but highly fragmented) fragments, do not directly concern us. [The major statement of this latter theory is P. N. Harrison’s, The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles,Oxford 1921, whose second thoughts arc to be found in Paulines and Pastorals, 1964. There are many other fragment theories, but no two agree on all the same passages. All one can say is that the case which makes a second-century composition necessary or even probable has very far from established itself. Indeed Reicke has pointedly argued that the call for ‘petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings’ for ‘sovereigns and all in high office, that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in full observance of religion and high standards of morality’ (I Tim.2.1f.; cf. Titus 3.1) betokens an attitude towards authority and its beneficent effects which would be inconceivable after the Neronian persecution (we

may contrast the Apocalypse). Among the recent commentators it is interesting that J. N. D. Kelly, the patristic scholar, should judge that the Pastorals could not come from the second century, while, writing in the same year, Barrett, the Pauline scholar, should judge that they could not come from Paul. [C. K. Barrett, The Pastoral Epistles (New Clarendon Bible), Oxford  1963.] Perhaps both may be right. At any rate there would seem to be a detectable swing back, if not to apostolic authorship, at any rate to taking seriously the second set of questions relating to dating.

(b) The presupposition here is that Timothy and Titus are the same real persons who meet us in the rest of the New Testament and that they are being addressed by Paul in genuine pastoral situations, whether directly at his dictation or through someone writing on his behalf or by a combination of the two. It is not necessary for our present purpose to come to a decision on the purely literary issue. But, whether the style is Paul’s own or not, this is the position taken by such scholars as Jeremias, [J. Jeremias, Die Briefe an Timotheus und Titus, Gottingen 6 I953, 7f.] Kelly, Moule

[C. F. D. Moule, ‘The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles’, BJRL 47, 1965, 430-52. He suggests that Paul used Luke as his agent. For the same thesis, cf. A. Strobel, ‘Schreiben des Lukas? Zum sprachlichen Problem der Pastoralbriefe’, NTS 15,1968-

9,191-210.] and Reicke, as well as by the more conservative Guthrie [D. Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles and the Mind of Paul; The Pastoral Epistles (Tyndale NTC), 1957; and NTI, 584-622, 632-4.] and by the majority of  Roman Catholics. [E.g. C. Spicq,

Les Epitres Pastorales (Etudes Bibliques),  Paris 1947, cxix; P. Benoit in  the Jerusalem Bible, 1966, 264; G. A. Denzer,  ‘The Pastoral Letters’, JBC, 351f., and the literature there cited.] I believe it  to be open to fewer difficulties than any theory that requires the letters to be pseudonymous, whether in whole or part. Whether Paul penned them Crete, where he left Titus, but his main activity appears to have been in

Macedonia and Greece. From the Captivity Epistles we may surmise that he visited the Lycus valley, no doubt on the same occasion as he urged Timothy to remain at Ephesus, and that he paid his promised visit to Philippi… . He may have been rearrested in the western districts of Macedonia or Epirus (which is mentioned in Titus 3.12) and taken to Rome.’ Denzer, JBC, 351: ‘He might have gone to Crete first. When he left Crete, Titus might have remained there as his legate (Titus i .5). From Crete, Paul might have gone to Asia Minor. When he left Ephesus for Macedonia,

Timothy remained as his legate (I Tim. 1.3). Possibly, Paul passed through Troas on his way to Macedonia (II Tim.4.13), and there wrote I Timothy and Titus. Paul then perhaps spent the winter at Nicopolis in Epirus (Titus 3.12). The following spring he might have returned to Ephesus, according to his plan (I Tim.3.14; 4.13). It would seem that he was then arrested in the region of Ephesus (II Tim.1.4). In the course of Paul’s voyage to Rome as a prisoner, the ship might have stopped at Miletus and Corinth (II Tim.4.20). During his imprisonment in Rome, Paul wrote II Timothy. In this letter, Paul is without hope of being released; he expects to be condemned and to suffer martyrdom in the near future (II Tim.4.6-8).’]

Since there are no controls, we can make Paul do anything, go anywhere, and the sole evidence for any of the journeys (let alone for their dating) is that surmised from the documents themselves – on the odd assumption, judging from his previous experience, that all Paul’s hopes and plans were fulfilled. It is interesting that those who suppose that the fragments represent genuine travel-plans do not think of placing them here, but, by dint of judicious selection and drastic dissection, slot them into the Acts framework – though even so they do not agree together. [In his Problem of the Pastoral Epistles, 115-27, Harrison isolated five fragments and placed them as follows: (1) Titus 3.12-15 in western Macedonia; (2) II Tim. 4.13-15, 20, 21a in Macedonia; (3) II Tim.4.16-18a (18b?) in Caesarea; (4) II Tim.4.0-12, 22b, and (5) II Tim.1.16-18; 3.10f.; 4.1, 2a, 5b, 6-8, 18b, 19, 21b, 22a in Rome (before the end of Acts). Duncan, op. cit. (n. 94), 184-225, scattered all his fragments among or between different imprisonments in or near Ephesus. Subsequently Harrison, Paulines and Pastorals, 106-28, converted to an Ephesian origin for Colossians and Philemon, reduced his fragments to three and located them as follows: (1) Titus 3.12-15, in western Macedonia; (2) II Tim. 4.9-15, 20, 2ia, 2ib in Ephesus; (3) II Tim.i.i6-i8; 3.iof.; 4.1, 2a, 5b-8, 16-19, 31 b, 22a in Rome.] But this is testimony to the fact that some external control is felt to be necessary for any plausibility. Those who believe that the travel plans are all part of the fiction do not explain why the inventor of them should not have aimed at greater verisimilitude. One would have expected him to quarry the details from existing sources (as the author of Ephesians is supposed to have drawn on Colossians for the journey of Tychicus), or at any rate to have seen that they matched. The very difficulty of squaring them with any itinerary deducible from Acts or the other Pauline epistles is a strong argument for their authenticity. An attempt was indeed made some time ago by Vernon Bartlet to fit them, with the rest of the captivity epistles, into the first imprisonment of Paul in Rome between 60 and 62. [Vernon Bartlet, ‘The Historic Setting of the Pastoral Epistles’, The Expositor,  8th series, 5, 1913, 28-36, 161-7, 256-63, 325-47, especially 326-39.] But quite apart from the hypothetical nature of any journeys back east from Rome, Bartlet’s reconstruction is open to at least three weaknesses: (1) He does not attempt to explain why, if I Timothy  and Titus were written from prison, they contain no references to Paul’s

‘bonds’, like all the other prison epistles. (2) He is hard put to it to account for Paul’s referring back after some five years to his instruction to Timothy to stay on in Ephesus (I Tim.1.3 = Acts 20.1) when so much else has happened to both of them in the interval. (3) He can do nothing with II Tim.4.20 (‘Erastus stayed behind at Corinth, and I left Trophimus ill at Miletus’), which he has to explain, rather tamely, as a misplaced fragment of a much earlier, and entirely hypothetical, letter.

With the other alternatives so unsatisfactory, it is at least worth exploring one more, and I do so by taking up the suggestive hint dropped by Reicke in the second of the two articles to which I referred (n. 101 above). He draws attention to the names in common between Colossians and Philemon (which he has already argued were written from Caesarea) and II Timothy. [Though the personalia in Philippians are different, both Johnson, ExpT  68, 25, and Gunther, op. cit., 97, suggest that ‘those who belong to the imperial establishment’ in Phil.4.22 could well be represented in the predominantly Latin names of Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, and Claudia, unique to II Tim.4.21.] Demas, Luke and Mark reappear in different contexts (Col.4.10, 14; Philem.24; II Tim.4.10f.). Moreover, in II Tim.4.12 the sending of Tychicus to Ephesus (Eph.6.21f.; cf. Col.4.7-9) is again mentioned, but this time in the past tense. Timothy, associated with the writing of Colossians and Philemon, but not of Ephesians, is by now away on Paul’s behalf apparently some-where near Troas in Mysia, north-west of Ephesus (II Tim.4.13). Mark, for a possible visit from whom Paul had previously prepared the Colossians (Col.4.10), is to be collected from the same parts (II Tim. 4.11). Reicke’s suggestion is that it is Mark who is to take II Timothy, which, he argues, is an open pastoral letter for reading aloud in the various

churches visited. The names and places mentioned in it reflect his itinerary: A reference to the belief found in Timothy’s mother and grandmother was inserted (II Tim. 1.5), for they lived in the city of Derbe (Acts 16.1), through which Mark had to pass on his way from Caesarea to Colossae ( For the same reason the Christians, to whom Mark would come in other cities of Lycaonia, were reminded of Paul’s earlier troubles in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra (II Tim. 3.11). After the visit to Colossae (Col.4.10), Mark was expected to make the Christians of Ephesus familiar with the epistle of Timothy. He should especially let the house of Onesiphorus know about Paul’s appreciation of this man (II Tim. 1.16-18; 4.19) and make sure that people in Asia realised the danger of the new heresy (1.15; 2.16-3.9). [We might add 4.14f., if (as Reicke subsequently agrees) Alexander the coppersmith is the same Alexander put forward in Acts i9.33f. by the silversmiths and workers in allied trades (19.25) of Ephesus. He is mentioned, in conjunction with Hymenaeus (who also appears in II Tim.2.18), in I Tim.1.20, which we shall argue comes from shortly after that incident.] After this it was planned that Mark should meet Timothy in Mysia (4.11) and go back with him via Troas (4,13). Paul needed their help since his only collaborator was presently Luke (4.11). [RE 70,438.] Reicke adds, ‘It is questionable whether any member of the early church would have found it worthwhile to restore or construct such antiquities in a later situation.’

Obviously such a reconstruction is hypothetical (and I shall question its detail), but at least it is not grounded on air. And once we make it, other connections open up. Above all, ‘my first defence’ (τ• πρ•τη•ου•πολοω•α) in II Tim.4.16 will now refer not to some entirely undocumented court appearance in Rome but, like the •πολοω•αmentioned in Phil.1.7 and 16, to the hearings in Jerusalem and Caesarea, which in Acts 22.1 Paul specifically introduces as •ουτ•ςνυν• •πολοω•αςand which Felix adjourns in 24.22. As soon as this identification is made, other correspondences are recognizable. II Tim.4.17a, ‘But the Lord stood by me and lent me strength, so that I might be his instrument in making the full proclamation of the Gospel [Cf. earlier Rom.15.19: ‘I have completed the preaching of the gospel of Christ from Jerusalem as far round as Illyricum.’] for the whole pagan world to hear,’ reflects with considerable precision Acts 23.11, ‘The

following night the Lord appeared to him and said, “Keep up your courage: you have affirmed the truth about me in Jerusalem, and you must do the same in Rome”‘, while II Tim.4.17b, ‘And thus I was rescued out of the lion’s jaw’, will refer to Paul’s narrow escape from ambush the following day (Acts 23.12-35). [Cf. M. Dibelius, Die Pastoralbriefe(HNT 13), Tubingen  8 1966, 95, who saw the strength of the case for Caesarea. Harrison, The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles, 121f., also recognized these parallels in his earlier placing of II Tim.4.16-18 in Caesarea – though he confused the issue by supposing, apparently, that only the speech of Acts 22.1-29 represented the

‘first defence’. But later he put the fragment in Rome, where no hearing is recorded at all.] Even the phrase in II Tim.1.3, ‘God, whom I, like my forefathers, worship with a pure conscience’ echoes the speech Paul made  before Felix in Acts 24.14 and 16: ‘I worship the God of our fathers … and keep at all times a clear conscience.’ Either the correspondences arise from the facts, or the author of the Pastorals is using Acts. But in that case why  did he not draw on Acts for the travel-notes – or at least not make them so hard to harmonize?.

The second difficulty is occasioned by II Tim.4.20, ‘I left Trophimus ill at Miletus’. For if this refers to Paul’s brief stay at Miletus on the way to Jerusalem (Acts 20.15-38), Trophimus had not been left behind, for he was subsequently seen with Paul in the city (21.29). The easiest (perhaps too easy) solution would be to say that in a highly confused situation, of which there were garbled reports and rumours (21.27-40), Luke has simply mixed up the twin delegates from Asia (20.4) and confused Tychicus with Trophimus. It would be a pardonable error.

The one thing of which we can be reasonably sure is that Paul is reporting on recent events, not only for Timothy’s benefit (who would have known of the first hearing of Paul’s case from being at Jerusalem and Caesarea), [This is a genuine difficulty, but not so hard surely as positing, with Johnson, op. cit., 26, another defence before Felix (why then is it called the first?)  unrecorded by Acts, or referring it, with Gunther, op. cit., 109f., to the first defence under Festus (Acts 25.6-12). The latter solution would confine the writing of II Timothy to the few days (25.13) between that and the second •πολογ•α (26.1, 24) before Festus and Agrippa. Moreover it totally fails to explain why Paul does not inform Timothy of the major new turn in events – namely, his appeal to Caesar and the transfer of his case to Rome (25.11f.).] but for the leaders of the congregations, to whom the letter would be read out – for all the Pastoral Epistles end with greetings to the church as well as to the individual (I Tim.6.21; II Tim.4.22; Titus 3.15). This brings us back to our main question, the date of II Timothy, which, if our hypothesis is right, must be considered in close conjunction with that of the other letters from the Caesarean jail.

If so, we may reconstruct the following time-table for the year 58:

Spring: Philippians written and dispatched via Epaphroditus to Philippi.

Summer: Philemon and Colossians written. Timothy sent to Philippi. Ephesians written and dispatched with the other two letters via Tychicus to Asia Minor. Mark sent to Colossae.

Autumn: II Timothy written and dispatched to Philippi

by the following year Paul was  already in late summer awaiting shipment to Rome: the request to have his cloak before winter would have been too late.

As the weeks and months pass at the imperial headquarters, Paul’s confidence ebbs. In Philippians, though he cannot yet see the outcome, he is sure that he will live to be with them again before long (1.25f; 2.24). In Philemon he hopes, in answer to their prayers, to be granted to them (22). In Colossians and Ephesians he says merely that

Tychicus will tell them all the news, and prays that he may be given the right words when the time comes (Col.4.7-9; Eph.6.19-22). By the time of II Timothy only the prospect of death appears to await him, hope of release having faded: he is deserted, and men must come to him (1.12; 4.6-13). As he was to explain later (Acts 28.19), he had ‘no option’ left – except his last card, appeal to the emperor.


What I should like is to depart (•ναλ•σαι) (1-23).

If my life-blood is to crown the sacrifice (ε• κα• σπ•νδο•αι) (2.17).

I have not yet reached perfection (ο•κ… •δητετελε•ω•αι) but I press on (3-I2).

I press toward the goal to win the prize (3.14).

II Timothy

The hour for my departure (•ναλ•σεως) is upon me (4.6).

Already my life-blood is being poured out on the altar (•δησπ•νδο•αι) (4.6).

I have run the great race, I have finished the course (τ•νδρ••οντετ•λεκα) (4-7).

Now the prize awaits me (4.8).

It is hard to resist the conclusion that both epistles reflect the mind of the same man, at not too great an interval and in that sequence. So we may put Philippians in the spring of 58, Philemon, Colossians and (a little later) Ephesians in the summer of 58, and II Timothy in the autumn of 58.

But what finally of the other Pastoral Epistles, I Timothy and Titus? Working backwards from II Timothy, let us take Titus first.

When is Paul writing? There is no hint that he is in prison. [Failure to recognize this vitiates Gunther’s reconstruction of the epistle (op. cit., 114-20) as coming from the same time as II Timothy.] Any time in the first half of 57 would fit. Reicke has made the plausible suggestion that Paul writes to Titus en route to Jerusalem, perhaps from Miletus, whence a boat could easily go to Crete and where we know his mind was occupied with similar matters. Indeed he may well have used material prepared for his charge to the Ephesian elders.

What finally of 1 Timothy? With far fewer personal details than the other two, it is correspondingly difficult to locate. There is no more suggestion than in Titus that Paul is or has been in prison. The only clear clue is in 1.3, where he says to Timothy, ‘When I was starting for Macedonia, I urged you to stay on at Ephesus.’ It is natural to look to Acts 20.1, where Paul sets out for Macedonia from Ephesus after the silversmiths’ riot, and natural, too, as we have said, to surmise that the Alexander mentioned in 1 .20 recalls the same incident. Unfortunately, as we have seen, Luke’s notice in Acts 20. if condenses a considerable amount of time and activity which it is impossible to reconstruct accurately. During the interval Paul probably went to Corinth and back and certainly spent some time in the neighbourhood of Troas.

From where he would have written to Timothy we cannot know. Perhaps it was from Corinth, if he did travel there  via Macedonia, as he originally planned (I Cor.16.5) – though probably he went direct (II Cor.1.16). More likely it was from the Troad, where he had gone for missionary work, which turned out to present many openings (II Cor.2.12). At the time of writing he is still hoping to come to Timothy before long, though he recognizes the possibility of delay (I Tim.3.i4f.). The next time in fact they meet, owing to Paul’s restless determination to push on (instead of returning to Ephesus?) in order to make contact with Titus (II Cor. 2.13), is evidently in Macedonia, where Timothy joins Paul in the sending of II Corinthians (1.1). It looks therefore as if the autumn of 55 is the most likely space for I Timothy. Indeed the farewell exhortation for which Paul assembled the disciples in Acts 20.1 may be the occasion mentioned in I Tim.1.3, where the same word is used (παρακαλ•σας, παρακ•λεσα). The letter will then reinforce on paper as a pastoral charge the gist of this address, whose substance could indeed be incorporated in I Tim.2.1-3.13 (beginning παρακαλ• ο•ν). I Timothy more than any other epistle stresses the aspect παραγγελ•αor pastoral ‘order’ (1.3, 5, 18; 4.11; 5.7; 6.13, 17), which had been a istinctive feature of Paul’s apostolic method from the beginning (I Thess.4.11; II

Thess.3.4, 6, 10, 12; I Cor.7.10; 11.17). We should not therefore see anything un-Pauline or indeed novel here. If the dating seems surprisingly early we must not forget that at this stage Timothy is evidently still quite junior and is working closely under Paul’s supervision. Earlier the same year he had felt it necessary to say to the Corinthians: If Timothy comes, see that you put him at his ease; for it is the Lord’s work that he is engaged upon, as I am myself; so no one must slight him. Send him happily on his way to join me, since I am waiting for him with our friends (I Cor.16.10f.).

Now he writes to his protégé in very similar terms: Let no one slight you because you are young, but make yourself an example to believers in speech and behaviour, in love, fidelity, and purity. Until I arrive … make these matters your business and your

absorbing interest, so that your progress may be plain to all (I Tim.4.11-15). It is not difficult to believe that these words were written six months apart.

50 (early) I Thessalonians

50 (or early 51) II Thessalonians

55 (spring) I Corinthians

55 (autumn) I Timothy

56 (early) II Corinthians

56 (late) Galatians

57 (early) Romans

57 (late spring) Titus

58 (spring) Philippians

58 (summer) Philemon Colossians Ephesians

58 (autumn) II Timothy

(a) They provide a reasonably fixed yardstick or time scale against which to set other evidence.

(b) If in fact the whole of Paul’s extremely diverse literary career occupied so  brief a span, this gives us some objective criterion of how much time needs to be allowed for developments in theology and practice. Though it may at first sight appear extraordinarily short, we should not forget two other canons of measurement. The whole of Jesus’ teaching and ministry (which I believe to have involved at least three fundamental shifts in the way he saw his person and work) [Cf. my book  The Human Face of God, 1973,80-4.] occupied at most three or four years. And the whole development of early Christian thought and practice up to the death of Stephen and the  conversion of Paul, including the first Hellenistic statement of the gospel,  took place within something like the same period.

The working assumption we made to trust Acts until proved otherwise has been very substantially vindicated.

The recent tendency to turn Luke into a ‘theologian’s theologian’, is, I believe, a misguided exercise and detracts from appreciation of his stated purpose and, within his own terms, still profoundly theological understanding of events.

hard’ pieces of evidence are: (a) the prophecies of the fall of Jerusalem in Luke; (b) the dependence (according to the most widely held solution of the synoptic problem) of the gospel of Luke upon that of Mark; and (c) the fact that Acts ends where it does.

What we should expect, but do not get, are such clear predictions (whether genuine or not) as we find of the death of Peter in John 21.18f. and II Peter 1.14.

Matthew represents the gospel for the Jewish-Christian church, equipping it to define and defend its position over against the arguments and institutions of the main body of Judaism. But, in contrast with the Judaizers, it is a Jewish-Christian community open to the Gentile mission and its tensions. For while Matthew contains some of the most Judaistic (5.18f.; 10.5; 15.26; 18.17;23.2f.) texts in the gospels, it also contains the most universalistic (21.43;24.14; 28.19). Antioch again seems a likely locale (cf. e.g. the tension there described in Gal. 2.11-14), though the tradition behind it is  surely Palestinian.Luke (followed by Acts) is, in contrast, essentially the gospel for that imperial  world evangelized by Paul ‘from Jerusalem to Rome* (Rom. 15.19-24), though not repudiating any more than Paul did its deep roots in Judaism and the Septuagint.Mark (in whatever order it comes) is the gospel for the ‘Petrine centre’,

serving a mixed community like the church in Rome which owes its origin and ethos exclusively to neither wing but which has its own problems and pressures. The gospel of John must also, I believe, be seen as an integral part of the same interconnected scene, being fashioned, out of a similar process, for the church’s mission among Greek-speaking Jews first in Palestine and then in the diaspora. But I shall be deferring consideration of it to a later chapter. All these gospels will doubtless have continued to go through different states (what we might anachronistically call editions) as the needs grew and  changed. This is probably least true of

Luke, whose gospel is the nearest equivalent to a modern book written and published for a single individual and at a particular moment in time: ‘I have decided (•δοξε) to write … for you’, he says to Theophilus (1.3). As the Muratorian Canon puts it, Luke ‘composed [the Gospel] in his own name on the basis of report’.

We have looked at the arguments for dating it after 70 on the ground of its possible references to the Jewish war and the fall of Jerusalem. The addition to the parable of the great supper in 22.7 (‘The king was furious, he sent troops to kill those murderers and set their town on fire’) we agreed could, but by no means necessarily must, have been supplied ex eventu.But from the examination of the apocalyptic discourse in ch.24 we concluded that there was no case for thinking that it was written for the interval between the fall of Jerusalem and the parousia: rather the opposite.

Indeed there was no reason for supposing that it reflected even the  beginning of the war: the flight to Pella prior to its outbreak is actually  contradicted by the instructions to take to the hills of Judaea. Is this conclusion borne out or overturned by the evidence of the rest of the gospel?

Matthew’s gospel shows all the signs of being produced for a community (and by a community) that needed to formulate, over against the main body of Pharisaic and Sadducaic Judaism, its own line on such issues as the interpretation of scripture and the place of the law, its attitude toward the temple and its sacrifices, the sabbath, fasting, prayer, food laws and purification rites, its rules for admission to the community and the discipline of offenders, for marriage, divorce and celibacy, its policy toward Samaritans and Gentiles in a predominantly Jewish milieu, and so on.

These problems reflect a period when the needs of co-existence force a clarification of what is the distinctively Christian line on a number of practical issues which previously could be taken for granted. It corresponds to the period when the early Methodists were compelled by events to cease to regard themselves as methodical Anglicans, loyal to the parish church and its structures as well as to their own class meetings. At this stage all kinds of questions of organization, ministry and liturgy, doctrine and discipline, law and finance, present themselves afresh, as a ‘society’ or ‘synagogue’ takes on the burden of becoming a ‘church’. But uneasy co-existence does not necessarily imply an irrevocable break: indeed John Wesley claimed that he

lived and died a priest of the Church of England. It is in some such interval that the gospel of Matthew seems most naturally to fit. Its are not the problems of the first careless, expansionist years. Yet for all the tension there is not the altercation of two estranged and separated camps, such as followed the defeat of Judaism and is reflected in the Epistle of Barnabas, the consolidation of rabbinic Judaism  at Jamnia, and the formal ban on Christians from the synagogue. One may agree with Reicke when he says: ‘The situation presupposed by Matthew corresponds to what is known about Christianity in Palestine between ad 50 and ca. 64.’

After the martyrdom of James the Lord’s brother in 62, which itself has left no echo in the New Testament (as we might have expected if so much of it had been written later),  [It rates a long chapter in Eusebius, HE 2.23, who gives an extensive quotation from Hegesippus, as well as being recorded by Josephus,

Eusebius records, on the authority of Hegesippus, that he was succeeded as bishop of Jerusalem by Symeon, the son of Clopas, Joseph’s brother. There is much in this tradition that is evidently hagiographical. But it seems likely that the succession would be kept within the family, the lineage necessarily for a Jew being traced through the father’s side. Moreover, if a name was being invented later, one would have expected one to be supplied from among those mentioned in scripture. But the ‘Mary wife of Clopas’ mentioned in John 19.25, and referred to in this connection by

Eusebius, who is probably (though not certainly) to be identified with ‘the other Mary’ (Matt.27.61) at the cross and tomb, is described as the mother of James and Joseph (Mark 15.40; Matt.27.56), or of the one (Mark 16.1; Luke 24.10), or the other (Mark 15.47), but never of Symeon. If Symeon was the son who after 62 achieved leadership of the mother church one might at least have expected his mention, especially in the Palestinian tradition. For Mark goes to the trouble of naming the sons of Simon of Cyrene, Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15.21), perhaps because, like their mother, Rufus was a member of the Christian congregation in Rome (Rom.16.13), and Matthew alone identifies Salome with the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Matt.27.56, as well as introducing her in 20.20). For what little it is worth, it suggests again that the first gospel is prior to this date. In this case we have pushed Matthew back at any rate before 62, which is exactly the date to which we were driven for Acts, with Luke a little earlier. This would mean that the final stage of the formation of the synoptic gospels roughly coincided with the end of the 50s. Our argument so far would therefore yield the following provisional schema:

  1. Formation of stories- and sayings-collections (‘P’,’Q:, ‘L’, ‘M’): 30s and 40s +
  2. Formation of ‘proto-gospels’: 40s and 50s +
  3. ormation of our synoptic gospels: 50-60 +`1

One must therefore, I believe, be prepared to take seriously the tradition that Mark, at whose home in Jerusalem Peter sought refuge before making his hurried escape (Acts 12.12-17) and whom later in Rome he was to refer to with affection as his ‘son’ (I Peter 5.13), accompanied Peter to Rome in 42 as his interpreter and catechist,

[For a wider sense of ‘interpreter’ than ‘translator’. Coming from a family of some standing in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 12.121.), John Mark had both a Jewish and a Roman name, suggesting a foot in both cultures. Cf. Silas, alias Silvanus, who was a leading Jerusalem disciple (Acts 15.22) and a Roman citizen (i6.37f.) and, like Mark, served both Paul (Acts 15.40; I Thess. 1.1; II Thess. 1.1; II Cor. 1.19; etc.) and Peter (I Peter 5.12).] and that after Peter’s departure from the capital he acceded to the reiterated request for a record of the apostle’s preaching, perhaps about 45.

Mark himself  was certainly back in Jerusalem by the end of the famine visit, in 46 or 47 (Acts 12.25). We have no record of his being in Rome again till the mid-6os (to anticipate the date and place of I Peter) [In 58, according to our chronology, he was in Asia Minor (Col.4.10;II Tim4.11).], though this silence proves nothing, since from ch.15 onwards Acts is solely concerned with Paul’s companions, among whom it is made clear at that time Mark was not (Acts 15.37-9).

Where then does this leave us? The ‘unordered’ transcripts of Peter’s preaching to which Papias refers, anticipating the form critics, as ‘a set of separate lections intended for public exposition and for instruction’) could well correspond to what earlier we called ‘P’.

At what stage or stages Mark wrote up these notes into hisstatement of ‘the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God’, to use his own title (1.1), we shall never know. Luke could well have seen and used this too in some stage of its development as one of the earlier ‘accounts’ to which he refers. If our argument in the last chapter was correct, there would have been no need for him to have waited to find the gospel till he reached Rome in 60; he had direct access to Mark at Caesarea (Col.4.10, 14; Philem.24). It is possible indeed that the final form of the Markan gospel may not have taken shape till after the Lukan and could reflect the needs of the Roman church as it faced the threat of the Neronian persecution

We have noted how much could happen within three years of the crucifixion – and we are allowing a further thirty for the full flowering of the synoptic tradition. There is nothing, I believe, in the theology of the gospels or Acts or in the organization of the church there depicted  that requires a longer span, which was already long enough, if we are right, for the creation of the whole Pauline corpus, including the Pastoral Epistles. Of course, if Acts is held to reflect a long look back on church history and

the distant perspective of another century, then the development of the rest of the New Testament can and will be stretched to fit in. But if the production of the synoptic gospels and Acts does in fact cover the years 30 to 60 + which the latter records (the gradual committal to writing occupying perhaps the period 40 to 60+), then this in turn provides a valuable yardstick by which to assess the chronology of the documents that remain for us still to consider.

The final stages of the three synoptic gospels as we have them would then have occupied the latter 50s or early 60s. In any case, whatever precise pattern of synoptic interdependence will prove to be required or suggested by the evidence, all could quite easily be fitted in to comport with the writing of Acts in 62+.

The objection will doubtless still be raised that all this allows too little time for the development in the theology and practice of the church presupposed by the gospels and Acts. But this judgment is precariously subjective. It is impossible to say a priori how long is required for any development, or for the processes, communal and redactional, to which scholarly study has rightly drawn attention. We have noted how much could happen within three years of the crucifixion – and we are allowing a further thirty for the full flowering of the synoptic tradition. There is nothing, I believe, in the theology of the gospels or Acts or in the organization of the church there depicted John A. T. Robinson – Redating the New Testament that requires a longer span, which was already long enough, if we are right, for the creation of the whole Pauline corpus, including the Pastoral Epistles.

The epistle of James is one of those apparently timeless documents that could be dated almost anywhere

The lack of opposition, or indeed distinction, between Christianity and Judaism is in marked contrast, for instance, to the gospel of Matthew, with which it has so much else in common. There are no signs such as we noted in that gospel of the church having to formulate or justify its own stand over against the main body of non-Christian Judaism. There is no polemic or even apologetic directed towards Judaism – merely attacks on the exploiting classes in the manner of the Old Testament prophets or of Jesus himself. There is no sense of ‘we’ and ‘they’ such as we find, say, on the subject of sacrifice in Heb.13.10 (‘our altar is one from which the priests of the sacred tent have no right to eat’) or fasting in Did. 8.1 (where ‘the hypocrites’ keep the second and fifth days of the week, Christians the fourth and sixth). Still less is there any indication of a permanent breach with a Judaism desolated by national defeat, such as marks the Epistle of Barnabas.

he is writing for both Christians and Jews and is deliberately ambiguous in his choice of phrases. For he is still conscious of being of one body with his unbelieving compatriots.

There is no suggestion throughout the epistle of a Gentile presence.

There are no signs of heresy or schism, as are inveighed against in the later Paul and the Johannine epistles; no marks of incipient gnosticism

On the doctrinal side, there is equally no sign of christological sophistication or controversy. ‘

if we put to the epistle another test of later development, namely, the state of concern for liturgy and the ministry. In contrast again with the Didache, there are no instructions about worship or the sacraments

The debate about what ‘justified’ a man before God was already being argued within Judaism

We now know that the Qumran community interpreted Hab.2.4 (‘the righteous man will live by being faithful’) to include both deeds and faith in the teacher of righteousness as the interpreter of the law (1QpHab.8.1-3). The discussion in James takes its place within the ongoing Jewish and Christian debate as to how to combine the conviction, on which Paul was equally insistent, that while a man might be justified through faith he would be judged by works

He is also insisting, as Paul does, to Christians that ‘the only thing that counts is faith active in love’ (Gal. 5.6), ‘faith that has shown itself in action’ (I Thess.1.3; cf. I Cor.13.2); for ‘faith divorced from deeds is barren …, lifeless as a corpse’ (James 2.20, 26). Yet though the starting-point of the debate is Jewish and the common ground is indisputable, it is difficult to believe that there is no connection with the Christian battle Paul is waging in Galatians and Romans.

There is no one else who could so speak without need of introduction or explanation. Similarly, when the writer of the epistle of Jude introduces himself as ‘brother of James’ (1.1), nothing more requires to be said. The very simplicity of the address speaks forcibly against pseudonymity.

why produce a non-polemical Jewish-Christian epistle that is not even taking the position of the Judaizers but simply giving a call, as the neb heads it, to ‘practical religion’? And if it was to oppose Paul and all his works, why is he not more specifically attacked and why is there no stress on the unique and unrepeatable status of the writer as the brother of the Lord himself?

There is the relatively weak external evidence for the epistle’s acceptance in the early church. Yet this cannot, it would be agreed, be decisive against arguments from the internal evidence, since citation and attestation are so fortuitous a matter. Even those like Origen and Eusebius who refer to the doubts about the epistle in parts of the church themselves accept it and use it as scripture

Much the most serious objection is the language in which the epistle is written. For it combines being one of the most Jewish books in the New Testament with what has been described as a ‘high koine’ Greek style. At any stage, indeed, this is a conjunction that requires explanation, and the difficulties do not disappear by relegating them to the second century or an unknown author. But the combination would certainly appear to be made more difficult by the supposition that the author was a first-century ‘Galilean peasant’

is in fact no reason why Jesus or the first apostles or James should not have spoken Greek as well as their native Aramaic. It is no longer possible to refute such a possibility by recalling that these were usually people of modest origins. It has now been clearly demonstrated that a knowledge of Greek was in no way restricted to the upper circles, which were permeated with Hellenistic culture, but was to be found in all circles of Jewish society, and certainly in places bordering on regions where Greek was much spoken, e.g. Galilee.

Certainly James’ position, as we see it later in Acts 21.18-29, as head of the church in a city visited by thousands of Greek-speaking Jewish pilgrims would have made this highly desirable, if not essential.

‘the persecutions mentioned in 1.2f., 12f.; 2.6; 4.6; 5.10f. refer to Christians outside Palestine, but none are known prior to Paul’s time’. But this presupposes that the address to ‘the twelve tribes dispersed throughout the world’  applies only to Christians living outside Palestine. On the contrary, as we have  argued, it would appear to be a designation for ‘the whole Israel of God’, and the conditions referred to point time and again to those of Palestine. Moreover, the violent persecution that followed the death of Stephen had ‘scattered’ Christians not only throughout Judaea and Samaria (Acts 8.1, 4) but to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch (11.19). It is to such ‘scattered’ Christians facing trials of many kinds that the epistle of James is addressed (1.1f.).

Since there is no reference to the fall of Jerusalem or the Jewish revolt and since James was put to death in 62, this latter date provides a natural terminus ad quem. If the passage about faith and works reflects argument with Paul, then it would seem to come from about the same time as Romans or a little after. This was the position of F.J. A. Hort and Parry, who dated James c.60. It has been the mediating position taken by a number of English scholars and also by P. Feine, whose work Kummel revised and at this point reversed, and by Klijn. It was also the view that I originally accepted. One advantage of it is that it enables us, if we wish to, to think of James as already having been in the Greek diaspora. For in I Cor.9.5 Paul asks, with reference to missionary travel, ‘Have I no right to take a Christian wife about with me, like the rest of the apostles and the Lord’s brothers, and Cephas?’, and it seems he would hardly have put the Lord’s brothers before Cephas unless, as in Gal.2.9, they included James. But there is no evidence that James was married, unlike Jude, and it is in any case highly speculative. The real difficulty of this dating is that it presupposes that James was written at a time (on our reckoning, about that of Ephesians) when the issue of Jew and Gentile in the church and the resulting antagonism between Jews and Christians very much dominated the scene and when Paul, as a direct result of it, lay imprisoned in Caesarea. Yet the epistle makes absolutely no reference even to the  existence of the Gentile mission, let alone to the tensions it occasioned for both Jews and Christians. I agree with Reicke in finding this impossible. I am therefore driven, against my initial expectation, to take seriously the third and still more conservative position.

This places the epistle of James, as its ‘primitive’ character at so many points would suggest, very early indeed, before the controversy about circumcision and the terms of Gentile admission. This does not mean that there was by then no Gentile mission, only that it had not as yet become divisive. For there was doubtless a period, as both Paul (Gal. 2.2) and Luke (Acts 13-14) indicate, when missionary work went on among Gentiles on a scale that provoked no crisis of principle. It was only when ‘certain persons who had come down from Judaea began to teach the brotherhood that those who were not circumcised in accordance with Mosaic practice could not be saved’ (Acts 15.1) that conflict broke out. This can be dated fairly exactly to c. 48. Now James seems to have occupied some position of leadership in Jerusalem, if not from c. 35 (cf. Gal. 1.19), at least since 42 (or at the latest 44) when Peter went into hiding (cf. Acts 12.17, ‘report this to James’). But the indications are that the epistle is more likely to belong to the end of this period than to its beginning. To address a pastoral homily to the whole church (such as it then was) presupposes that James had already established the spiritual authority to do so, without having, apparently, any need to assert it. The argument too whether justification is by faith or works, even if conducted still within a Jewish frame of reference, could very well reflect garbled reports (cf. Gal. 2.4) of ‘the gospel’ that Paul ‘preached to the Gentiles’ during his first mission of 47-48, which he subsequently felt it desirable to clear, privately, with James and the others in Jerusalem (Gal. 2.2). Moreover, if anything in James’ letter (e.g., as we have suggested, 2.10) had been taken to mean that Christians must observe the whole law or nothing – and the need for an official denial (Acts 15.24) makes this more than possible – then it is likely to have been written not long before the incident of Acts 15.1. Perhaps therefore we should date the epistle of James early in 48 – not later, and possibly a year or so earlier: let us say 47-8. In this case the similarities of language with James’ speech and the apostolic letter in Acts 15, though notprobative, are certainly interesting.

When we come to the question of the date, or dates, of their deaths, we are equally in the dark. There are two separate issues: (a) Did the Neronian persecution follow immediately upon the fire of Rome?; and (b) Did Peter and/or Paul perish in that first assault? If we could answer ‘Yes’ to both these questions, our chronological problems would be over and everything could be dated in 64

So indelibly etched upon the common memory is the association between the fire of Rome and the persecution of Christians that it comes as a surprise to realize that the entire connection rests upon one unsupported piece of evidence – a single chapter in Tacitus’ Annals (15.44). To this important, and excellent, source we must return in detail. But first it is worth stressing the point that it stands alone not only in classical but in Christian literature – until it itself is quoted. In classical literature the only other reference to the persecution of Christians is in Suetonius’ Lives of the Twelve Caesars, which because it rests so obviously on independent tradition is important corroborative testimony. But the persecution is brought into no connection with the fire which by itself, of course, is often mentioned

subsequently). The fire is  described in Nero 38, but the persecution of Christians is alluded to briefly in Nero 16 among a variety of public acts, chiefly legislative. As Hort dryly observed,’It comes between regulations about what might be sold in the cooks’ shops and others about restraining the license of charioteers and the factions of clowns.’ More remarkably there is no memory of its association with the fire preserved in any early Christian writer. None of the early references to the Neronian persecution, in Clement of Rome, Melito of Sardis, Tertullian, Lactantius, Eusebius or Jerome, makes any mention of the fire. The first link is in Sulpicius Severus, whose Chronicle was completed c. 403 and which quotes Tacitus. In Eusebius’ Chronicle the two events are separated by four years

Tacitus: So far, the precautions taken were suggested by human prudence: now means were sought for appeasing deity, and application was made to the Sibylline books; at the injunction of which public prayers were offered to Vulcan, Ceres, and Proserpine, while Juno was propitiated by the matrons, first in the Capitol, then at the nearest point of the sea-shore, where water was drawn for sprinkling the temple and image of the goddess. Ritual banquets and all-night vigils were celebrated by women in the married state. But neither human help, nor imperial munificence, nor all the modes of placating Heaven, could stifle scandal or dispel the belief that the fire had taken place by order. Therefore, to scotch the rumour, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians. Christus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilatus, and the pernicious superstition was checked for a moment, only to break out once more, not merely in Judaea, the home of the disease, but in the capital itself, where all things horrible or shameful in the world collect and find a vogue. First, then, the confessed members of the sect were arrested; next, on their disclosures, vast

numbers were convicted, not so much on the count of arson as for hatred of the human race. And derision accompanied their end: they  were covered with wild beasts’ skins and torn to death by dogs; or they were fastened on crosses, and, when daylight failed, were burned to serve as lamps by night. Nero had offered his gardens for the spectacle, and gave an exhibition in his circus, mixing with the crowd in the habit of a charioteer, or mounted on his car. Hence, in spite of a guilt which had

earned the most exemplary punishment, there arose a sentiment of pity, due to the impression that they were being sacrificed not for the welfare of the state but to the ferocity of a single man. It is quite clear from this account that a considerable interval of time must have elapsed before in desperation Nero rounded on the Christians.

Edmundson’s Church in Rome: demonstrates that it is no objection that Tacitus’ treatment of the events of the year 65 appears to begin only at ch. 48, since it is this historian’s practice, like that of others, ‘to group together so as to form a single and complete episode in his narrative a series of events having close connection with one another but really spread over a considerable space of time’.

Soon calamities in heaps began on every side to oppress the wretched state, for in the following autumn so great a pestilence fell upon the city that according to the registers [in the temple] of Libitina there were thirty thousand funerals.Edmundson comments:

These last words are a direct quotation from Suetonius, who however as usual gives no date to the pestilence. This is however given by Tacitus, who thus concludes his narrative of the events of 65 AD.: ‘The Gods also marked by storms and diseases a year made shameful by so many crimes. Campania was devastated by a hurricane … the fury of which extended to the vicinity of the City, in which a violent pestilence was carrying away every class of human beings. … Houses were filled with dead bodies, the streets with funerals.’


None of this adds up to a demonstration that the persecution of Christians was in 65. It could have been later, though the plausibility of linking it with the crime of arson would steadily have diminished as the interval grew. But it may help to reinforce the strong inherent probability that it could hardly have been earlier. Tentatively then we may answer our first question by dating this initial assault upon the church in the spring of 65.

(b) Did Peter and/or Paul perish in this first attack? One could get the impression from I Clem. 5f. that Peter and Paul were actually in the van of the martyrs, but it is doubtful whether anything more than eminence causes their names to be put first. The other sources, when they mention names at all, do not discriminate, with the exception of Sulpicius Severus, who says: Thus a beginning was made of violent persecution of Christians. Afterwards also laws were enacted and the religion was forbidden. Edicts were publicly published: ‘No one must profess Christianity.’ Then Paul and Peter were condemned to death.

The former was beheaded, Peter was crucified.We shall have to come back to the legal enactments in another context.The separation in so late a document of the deaths of the apostles from the initial violence would scarcely be significant if it were not for the somewhat confused evidence of the Chronicle of Eusebius. In his History he mentions no dates, despite dating other events in the chapters that precede and follow. In the Chronicle we have varying evidence in the two versions. The Armenian puts the fire of Rome (or rather ‘many fires in Rome’) in 63 and Nero’s ‘beginning of the persecution of Christians in which Peter and Paul suffer martyrdom at Rome’ in 67. This however is rendered doubtful by a previous entry for 66, when Linus is recorded as succeeding Peter as Bishop of Rome. In Jerome’s Latin version ‘Nero sets fire to most of Rome’ in 64, and the ‘first persecution of Christians by Nero in which Peter and Paul perished gloriously in Rome’ is in 68, and in the same year  ‘Linus becomes Bishop of Rome after Peter’

The one thing that emerges clearly is that Eusebius does not associate the persecution with the fire (in both versions they are four years apart), but does associate the deaths of Peter and Paul with the general persecution. It is questionable whether Eusebius had any basis for his dating except guesswork, and on the date of the general Neronian persecution he was almost certainly wrong by some three years.

The evidence of Sulpicius Severus, though late, could be based on better sources.

His reference to decrees is, as we shall see, borne out by Tertullian. Unlike Eusebius, he certainly had access to Tacitus, whose account he clearly echoes. But

Tacitus had nothing about the death of Peter and Paul, and this may be the reason for Sulpicius’ adding the notice of it apparently as a separate item at the end, following the decrees. In any case, if he intended an interval after the initial onslaught, there is absolutely no indication of its duration. It could have been but a few weeks.

  1. As far as the death of Peter is concerned, the evidence points to its being associated with the mass violence of 65. Death by being ‘fastened to crosses’ is among the horrors listed by Tacitus, and the ‘Quo Vadis?’ legend.

There is no question at any rate that the epistle claims to be by the apostle Peter (1.1) and purports therefore to be written during his lifetime. It is addressed to ‘those  of God’s scattered people who lodge for a while in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia’, and, in contrast with the epistle of James, the Christian diaspora evidently now includes a majority (probably) who were once Gentiles (1.14, 18; 2.9f.; 3.51.; 4.3). The other thing that is reasonably certain is that it was written, or purports to have been written, from Rome. The ‘greetings from her who dwells in Babylon, chosen by God like you’ (5.13) is almost universally agreed to be a disguise for the church in Rome. The pseudonym is indisputable in the book of Revelation (14.8; 16.19; 17.5; 18.2, 10, 21) as it is in other late-Jewish and Christian writings (II Bar.10.1f; 11.1; 67.7; II Esd.3.1f., 28, 31; Orac. Sib.5. 143, 159f.), and it was so understood here as early as Papias.

There is no need to spend time discussing alternative locations in Mesopotamia or Egypt. The only question is why the disguise was felt to be necessary – as it never is, for instance, in the writings of Paul. The obvious answer is that it was resorted to for the same reason as in the Apocalypse, namely, that of security (however thin the veil). But this at once leads into a discussion of the main, and indeed the only, circumstantial evidence in the epistle which is relevant to its dating, the menace of persecution that everywhere pervades it.

Let it be said at once that this evidence proves nothing by way of dating. The references are such as could be explained by the kind of harassment at the hands of

Jews and local magistrates that meets us constantly in Acts and Paul, and which

might have occurred at any time or place. This has been emphasized by a number of recent writers…Once we rule out the possibility of identifying these sufferings with  some particular persecution, we are left with no direct indication as to the date.

The situation reflected in the letter could have happened at any time in the first or second century wherever a Christian group was found.

Indeed F. L. Cross goes so far as to say that ‘the supposed references to persecution

are false trails’,  since he argues that the theme of suffefering is supplied by the church’s liturgical season rather than by external events.

Alhough these are salutary warnings against identifying the references with any datable official persecution — and still more against the dogmatism of precluding a date because there is no record of a persecution in that particular area — it does seem that there is perhaps more to be said. For the preoccupation with suffering, and with Christian behaviour under it, is unique to I Peter. There is nothing quite like it in the Pauline epistles, or in any others, with the exception perhaps of Hebrews.

Above all there is a wariness with regard to the state authorities (2.131.) that suggests that Christians must be particularly careful to afford them no handle. If they have to suffer, they must be sure not to put themselves the wrong side of the law …as doves, is entirely compatible with advocating and encouraging all proper respect  for the state and its powers (2.13-17; cf. 3.15). The situation here is not that reflected in the book of Revelation, where the time is past when Christians can expect that such respect will bring them justice. Moreover, in contrast again with the Apocalypse, there is as yet no evidence of martyrdom or banishment, or indeed of any physical violence. Though hostility would obviously not be limited to insulting words (cf. 2.20, of the beating of slaves), the attack upon them ‘as Christians’ seems to have consisted primarily of slander and calumny.

To sum up, there is no evidence of open state persecution. Yet there is a sense of tension with regard to the civic authorities which is missing from even the latest epistles of Paul and the end of Acts. I believe therefore that those are right who look for some climacteric to which a date may be put. Can we be more specific? Three main possibilities have been suggested, the situations under Trajan, Domitian and Nero.

  1. We may begin with that under Trajan because we have a parallel which looks almost too good to be true. In his oft-quoted letter to the Emperor Pliny the younger, who was governor of Bithynia-Pontus, a province specifically mentioned in the address of I Peter, asks whether, in dealing with those brought before him ‘as Christians’, ‘punishment attaches to the mere name apart from secret crimes, or to the secret crimes connected with the name’; and he cites the oath by which Christians bound themselves, ‘not for any crime, but not  to commit theft or robbery or adultery’. This seems to parallel closely the situation  described in 4.14-16: If Christ’s name is flung in your teeth as an insult, count yourselves happy. … If you suffer, it must not be for murder, theft, or sorcery, nor for infringing the rights of others. But if anyone suffers as a Christian, he should feel it no disgrace, but confess that name to the honour of God.

both from Pliny’s practice and from the Emperor’s reply it is presupposed that Christianity is already a religio illicita

The placing of I Peter under Domitian is really a compromise for those who can put it at neither of the other dates. Thus Kummel, who has already ruled out apostolic authorship, writes: The reign of Domitian should probably be taken as the time of writing, since the mention of the persecution ‘as Christians’ (4.16) is not sufficient ground for going down as late as the beginning of the second century, or even to the time of the persecution under Trajan. 90-5 is, therefore, the most probable time of composition.

The reason, of course, for selecting the last years of Domitian’s reign is that this is the only other period apart from the latter 60s associated in the tradition with the persecution of the church. What in fact this persecution amounted to we must examine more closely when we come to the book of Revelation, which is usually connected with it. But there is no evidence that it affected Asia Minor – and in this it is in exactly the same position as the Neronian persecution – except for the evidence of the Apocalypse. But equally, if the Apocalypse comes from the times of Nero, then its evidence, including the use of the pseudonym ‘Babylon’, would support a similar date for I Peter. For the moment therefore we must leave this evidence on one side.

In any case, as we have seen, the state of affairs in I Peter is clearly not yet that of the Apocalypse. Reicke  makes the point that sacrifices to the emperor are not mentioned in First Peter as a problem confronting the Christians. If the epistle had been written during Domitian’s persecution that well-known, grave issue could not have been  passed over.

This is, of course, an equally valid objection to the Trajanic date, since Pliny specifically mentions ‘supplication with incense and wine’ to the statue of the emperor as an alternative to execution; and of this there is no hint in I Peter. Indeed it is scarcely credible that under either Trajan or Domitian the writer could have linked ‘reverence to God’ and ‘honour to the emperor’ in the positive and unqualified manner of 2.17.

With a date under Nero the issue of authorship becomes a decisive factor – though in fact it is equally tied to the other two hypotheses, which are viable only on the assumption of pseudonymity or original anonymity (the name of Peter being subsequently attached).

Apart from the obviously trumped-up charge of arson, there are two counts mentioned. One is ‘hatred of the human race’ (odium humani generis; cf. Tacitus’ comment on the Jews in Hist.5.5, ‘adversos omnes alios hostile odium’). This is clearly a catch-all indictment (and the word ‘convicti’ seems to imply that it was framed as a legal charge) such as can succeed only if it can feed on, and foment, latent popular resentment and hostility (as with Hitler’s incrimination of the Jews after the Reichstag fire). And this is precisely the kind of lurking, or rather prowling (5.8), hostility that I Peter reflects. Secondly, says Tacitus, ‘first those were arrested who confessed’ (primum correpti qui fatebantur). The context shows that this cannot mean confessed to arson, of which it is made clear they were innocent, but to their faith. [This is generally agreed among the commentators. Jackson in the Loeb edition translates ‘the confessed members of the sect’.] The situation was the same as with Pliny: ‘I asked them whether they were Christians, and if they confessed, I asked them a second and third time with threats of punishment’ – though Nero’s procedures were certainly not designed to give them an incentive to recant, but rather to inform on their co-religionists. Admission to being a Christian was all that was needed. And, says the author of I Peter, let commission of this crime be all that they can find against you: ‘If anyone suffers as a Christian, he should feel no disgrace, but confess that name to the honour of God (4.16). The parallel with the time of Nero is as close as with that of Trajan

But there is the further consideration, which many commentators have noted, that the epistle reads like material composed in the first instance as a homily – or more than one homily. The unity of the epistle is not our direct concern, but the resumption at 4.12, after a doxology, with matter that appears to reflect a more imminent or actual situation of persecution has suggested to some that two letters have been combined. Absence of any textual evidence for this (in contrast to the very varied position of the doxology at the end of Romans) must weigh against any theory of literary division; but that the material represents addresses given on different occasions or to different groups is entirely plausible. Yet here the implications of the place of delivery are more relevant. For if it is material prepared in the first instance for speaking (however much it was adapted subsequently), then the situation it reflects will primarily be that of Rome rather than the obscurer parts of Asia Minor. There have indeed been attempts to pin the occasion down still more specifically, notably by Cross, A Paschal Liturgy, building on, and applying to the Passover, the baptismal setting of I Peter argued by Perdelwitz, Bornemann, Windisch, Streeter, Beare and Preisker, references to whose works are given in who, however, makes no attempt to draw out the geographical implications for the situation of suffering, which, as we have seen, he regards as a false trail. There is no need here to go into the details of his theory that I Peter is originally material composed for the bishop’s part at a paschal baptismal liturgy in Rome.

The most striking phrase is that in 4.12 about ‘the fiery ordeal that is Upon you’ . It is indeed difficult to apply this to a general situation in every part of Asia Minor north and west of the Taurus mountains. Hence the theories that it may have been added for a particular province or church, though there is nothing else to suggest or confirm this. We must be wary of taking the metaphor too literally, since the π•ρωσις takes up the metaphor of the assayer’s fire in 1.7 (though why it was chosen there is still relevant). The use of the symbolism of ‘the fire of testing’  for the eschatological ordeal occurs also in Did. 16.5, as, of course, in Paul (I Cor. 3.15) and elsewhere. Nevertheless ‘the fiery trial’ would be a grimly appropriate image for the Neronian terror, sparked off as it was by the fire of Rome and culminating in ‘Christians fastened on crosses, and … burned to serve as lamps by night’. If this part of the epistle does reflect a more circumstantial account of what had already begun in Rome (though not yet in Asia Minor), there could also be an echo of it in 5.8. There in a vivid metaphor (cf. I Cor.i5.32; II Tim. 4.17) the Christians’ •ντ•δικος, or adversary in court, is viewed as the devil (incarnate in the imperial power?) who, ‘like a roaring lion prowls around looking for someone to devour’.

Tacitus does not indeed specify the lions of the amphitheatre, but he does say that the Christians were ‘covered with wild beasts’ skins and torn to death by dogs’.

Finally, with great hesitation, I offer a suggestion on which nothing turns and which indeed I throw out mainly for a classicist with more knowledge than myself to refute or confirm. The phrase in the following verse, 5.9, translated in the neb, ‘remember that your brother Christians are going through the same kinds of suffering while they are in the world’, or, in the rsv, ‘throughout the world’, has long struck me as odd. From opposite extremes of the critical spectrum Bigg and Beare agree that ‘this clause is full of difficulties; almost every word offers a problem’.

Yet neither of them, nor as far as I have discovered anyone else, observe the oddness in the phrase •νκ•σ•ω. It has to be paraphrased to mean either ‘while still in the world’ or ‘in the rest of the world’ or ‘in the whole world’. Yet when Paul wants to say this to Rome, he says it quite clearly: •ν•λωτ• κ•σ•ω. (Rom. 1.8). Could it possibly be a stock phrase (without the article) to mean the opposite of ‘in town’? And if so is it a Latinism reflecting the usage of the place where Peter’s successor still makes his allocution ‘urbi et orbi’? [I confess I have made no progress in tracing this phrase back to the first century, but I am grateful for the negative results of my friends, particularly Dr Robert Sharpies of the Department of Latin, University College, London.] Was there anywhere else except ‘the City where one could speak of the provinces as ‘the world’ without qualification? [This usage for Rome (as for London) is of course well established. Cf. the derivation of the name Istanbul, which is a corruption of the modern Greek for ε•ςτ•νπ•λιν.] If so, it would be a further subtle pointer to the original context of the phraseology being supplied not by Asia Minor but by Rome. The objection to this whole thesis is that it is inconceivable how, in Moule’s words, a liturgy-homily, shorn of its rubrics … but with its changing tenses and broken sequences all retained, could have been hastily dressed up as a letter and sent off (without a word of explanation) to Christians who had not witnessed its original setting.

one must bear in mind that, as I read them, the circumstances are far from normal. The homily turned into a circular letter is dispatched, via Silvanus, ‘our trusty brother, as I hold him’, with the message ‘I am saying very little in writing’ (5.12), because, like Tychicus in Eph.6.21, he will ‘tell all’ (π•νταγνωρ•σει). [Cf. Acts 15.27, also of Silvanus: ‘We are therefore sending Judas and Silas, who will themselves confirm this by word of mouth’.] The situation is one of great urgency and danger, in a city that must already be disguised as ‘Babylon’, as the Neronian terror breaks. When would this be? We shall not be far wrong, I think, if we guess the spring of 65.

a writing in which the sense of the active presence of the Spirit has fallen into eclipse as it has in First Peter betrays by that indication alone that it is the product of a later generation. It is utterly inconceivable that to Peter, or to Silvanus for that matter, the doctrine of the indwelling Spirit was wholly unknown, or was not of the first importance for the moral life of the Christian. Seldom can the argument from silence have been made to cover so much. One might as well argue the same for Colossians, which does not refer to the Holy Spirit once.

A close study of the document itself reveals no motive, theological, controversial, or historical, which explains it as a forgery. It denounces no heresy. It supports no special system of doctrine. It contains no rules as to Church life or organization. Its references to the words and the life of Christ are unobtrusive. It presents no picture of any scene in St Peter’s earlier life, and does not connect itself with any of the stories

current in the early Church about his later years. Why, moreover, should a forger … represent Silvanus as the amanuensis or the bearer of St Peter’s letter, though in the Acts he nowhere appears as in any way connected with that apostle, but both in the Acts and in three Epistles (I and II Thess., II Cor.) as the companion of St Paul? Why, above all, should a forger give to Pauline thoughts and to Pauline language a prominent place in an Epistle bearing the name of St Peter?

If the epistle were by an intimate associate of Jesus we should expect more direct references to his life and words.

It has been well remarked that Paul never writes, nor could ever have written, such words, with their implied contrast in status between writer and readers. Selwyn cites

Hoskyns and Davey’s comment on the similar word of Jesus to the twelve in John 20.29: Those who have not seen and yet have believed are what they are because there once were men who believed because they did actually see.The other passage is the highly ambiguous one of 5.1: I appeal … as … a witness of Christ’s sufferings, and also a partaker in the splendour that is to be revealed. It is difficult to believe that this refers merely to the common experience of all Christians described in 4.13 (‘It gives you a share in Christ’s sufferings … and when his glory is revealed your joy will be triumphant’). A ‘witness’ would naturally imply more, as in Peter’s words in Acts 1.22 and 2.32. And this is fortified by Selwyn’s interpretation of the following phrase, ‘who have also had experience of the glory that is to be revealed’, as a reference to the transfiguration viewed (as G. H. Boobyer has cogently argued) [G. H. Boobyer,

St Mark and the Transfiguration Story, 1942; ‘The Indebtedness of II Peter to I Peter’ in A. J. B. Higgins (cd.), New Testament Essays: Studies in Memory of T. W. Manson, Manchester 1959,43. Cf. my Jesus and His Coming , 133.] as an anticipated vision of the parousia.

It is said that the Paulinism of the doctrine is incompatible with the known position of Peter. This ‘Paulinism’ has in any case been much exaggerated, when, as Selwyn says, ‘we reflect that the Epistle is without allusion to what are commonly regarded as the characteristic ideas of St Paul’ – and he lists justification; the contrast between faith and works, gospel and law; the distinctive Pauline connotations of grace and sin, the atonement and the body of Christ; and much in the ethical field. IUf Peter had read Romans (which if it was sent to Rome some eight years before is more than likely) and indeed other Pauline epistles (as II Peter 3.15 at any rate says that he had), there is no reason why he should not reflect the thinking of one who was on all the evidence the more creative theologian.

I see therefore no reason from the evidence of the authorship to go back on the previous assessment of a date for the dispatch of the letter somewhere around the end of April 65.

II Peter cannot be considered except in conjunction with the epistle of Jude, with which, all would agree, it has a literary connection of some kind.

Jude follows James, whose brother he claims to be (and there is general agreement that it is of this James that the claim is made), in calling himself simply a ‘servant of Jesus Christ’ (1.1; cf. James 1.1, ‘servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ’) and in giving no other details either about himself or of those with him, or of the place of origin or destination of the letter. In fact it is even less informative. While there are clues in James that point, as we saw, to a Palestinian milieu, there is nothing in Jude that affords any hint of where the author is living. And while James at least indicates that the destination of his epistle is not a single locality, Jude appears to be addressing a particular group of Christians but gives absolutely no indication of where they might be.

The one thing that is clear is the occasion of the epistle, which was of sufficient  urgency to make him turn aside from other more leisurely literary activity: My friends, I was fully engaged in writing to you about our salvation –  which is yours no less than ours – when it became urgently necessary to  write at once and appeal to you to join the struggle in defence of the faith, the faith which God entrusted to his people once and for all. It is in danger from certain persons who have wormed their way in (3f.).

The whole of the rest of the epistle, up to the notable doxology in 24f., is given over to an attack on these anonymous persons, referred to constantly as ‘these men’. Almost all that can be said about them is summarized in the opening description: They are the enemies of religion (•σεβε•ς); they pervert the free favour of our God into licentiousness (•σ•λγειαν), disowning (•ρνο••ενοι) Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord.

Their menace, in other words, is religious, moral and doctrinal. It is also clear from

the terms in which they are condemned and the warnings given from the past, that

both they and the writer and presumably those to whom he is writing belong to a

dominantly, if not exclusively, Jewish-Christian milieu within the Hellenistic world.

Yet we are a long way from the ‘primitive’ atmosphere of the epistle of James, where no problems of heresy or schism have seriously arisen. Here we are in a silver-age situation, where reversion and perversion are the dangers and where purity of doctrine and discipline are imperilled. It is evident too that the menace arises from a sort of gnosticizing Judaism. Like those in Corinth with whom Paul had to deal, these men ‘draw a line between spiritual and unspiritual persons’, despising others as ψυχικο• (19; cf. I Cor.2.6-3.4; 8.1-3). Like them too, they take liberty for licence (4; cf. I Cor.6.12; 10.23) and end up slaves of sensuality (8, 10, 16, 23; cf. I Cor.6.9-20; II Cor.12.21). Like them, they ‘eat and drink without reverence’ at the Christian love-feast (12; cf. I Cor.11.17-43). Like them again, they flout the authority of those set over them in the Lord (8, 12; cf. I Cor.4.8-13; 9.1-12) and themselves claim leadership (cf. II Cor.ii.i3; 12.11). As ‘shepherds who take care only of themselves’ (12) they earn the condemnation of Israel’s self-styled leaders (cf. Ezek.34.8).

Yet though there are these reflections of the situation in Corinth in the mid-50s, things are evidently far further gone. In Pauline terms, the parallels are more with the Pastoral Epistles, where we have the same falling back upon the authorized deposit of ‘the faith’ (3, 20; cf. I Tim.1.3; 4.6; II Tim.1.13f.; 2.2; Titus 1.9) – though even this was for Paul by no means a wholly new emphasis (cf. Rom. 6.17; 10.8; 16.17; I Cor.11.2; Gal.1.23; 6.10; Eph.4.5; Phil.1.27; I Thess.2.13; II Thess.2.15; We read that they ‘deny Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord’ (4). But whether this was by faithlessness, like those referred to in Heb.6.6 and 10.29 or II Tim. 2.12f. (cf. Titus 1.16; Rev.2.13), or by doctrinal error, like those attacked in Col.2.8 and I John 2.22f. and 5.6-12, or by dishonouring conduct, it is impossible to tell.

that they believed in other mediators or a second God or Demiurge is eisegesis rather than exegesis. Their threat seems to have been far more moral and religious than theological. If there is a parallel with other known sectarian groups it is not (as many earlier commentators tended to argue without our present knowledge of the gnostic texts) with the later forms of heresy listed by Irenaeus such as the Carpocratians,

[for the differences here, cf. already Zahn, INT II, 292f.] but with those gnosticizing libertines attacked in the letters to the seven churches of  the Apocalypse who ‘hold to the teaching of Balaam’ (Rev.2.14; cf. Jude 11) and  ‘pollute their clothing’ with immorality (Rev.3.4; cf. Jude 23).There are no other distinctive characteristics of second-century Christianity. There  is no stress on the authority of the organized ministry, or even reference to it (in  marked contrast at this point with the Pastoral Epistles), and the  agape or love-feast  still appears to be one with the eucharistic assembly. There are those[E.g. Zahn, INT ll, 252-5.] who have found in Jude 5 a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem

This could indeed imply that the apostolic age was now closed, but it cannot be said that it necessarily does so. From one who makes no claim to be an apostle (or indeed to kinship with Jesus, which later interest in the person of Jude would surely have exploited

The general tone of the Epistle harmonizes best with a date somewhat  late in the apostolic age. We shall not be far wrong if we suppose that it  was written within a year or two of the Pastoral Epistles (assuming their  genuineness), the Apocalypse (assuming the earlier date),

it is impossible to be certain whether the recipients are Jewish or Gentile  Christians, the prevailing atmosphere, as in Jude, is still that of the Pastoral Epistles, reflecting the same usage of  π•στιςa nd σωτ•ρ and ε•σ•βια, with particular stress on true insight and knowledge (•π•γνωσις and γν•σις) (1.2f, 5f., 8; 2.20; 3.18), which characterizes not only the Pastorals (I Tim.2.4; 6.20; II Tim.2.25; 3.7; Titus 1.1) but Colossians(1.9f; 2.2f.; 3.10) and Ephesians(1.17; 3.19; 4.13) and, in verbs rather than nouns, the Johannine epistles (passim but especially I John 2.2of.). The epistle’s most distinctive phrase in this regard is ‘partakers of the divine nature’ (θε•αςκοινωνο• φ• σεως ) in 1.4, but it has been shown that this, like the whole so-called ‘Asian’ style in which II Peter is written, in no way lies outside the  range of first-century Hellenistic Judaism.

As in Jude, we are in the sphere of a  gnosticizing Judaism, countered by warning examples from Israel’s history (2.1-16).

We are not dealing with the developed systems of second-century Christian heresies. Summing up the teaching common to both epistles, Zahn concluded: [INT II, 283.]

While there were numerous parties and sects representing libertinistic theories and practices in the second and third centuries, there is none that so closely resembles the seducers described in II Peter and Jude as the libertinistic movement with which we become acquainted in I Corinthians, and as the Nicolaitans of whom we learn hints in Revelation.

So far then there would be nothing to cause us to date II Peter any later than Jude.

The intimation upon which it is based, ‘as our Lord Jesus Christ has shown me’, appears (whether factually or fictionally) to be that alluded to in John 21.18f., where Jesus foretells that Peter will die an unchosen death when he has grown old (•

τανγηρ•σης). By the seventh decade of the century this latter condition could already be said to obtain, but the concern to leave a record of his teaching behind him might be prompted by the expectation of an unprepared as much as by that of an imminent death. All we can say is that these are the words of a man for whom death is much in mind, and this would fit the 60s as the period when they were either written or supposed to be written. What he had in mind to leave, so that ‘after I am gone you will have means of remembering these things’, is equally unclear. Some have seen in this a reference to St Mark’s gospel (and the origin of the Papias legend). But the gospel of Mark can hardly be described as a reminder of ‘these things’, that is, the teaching of the present epistle (cf. 1.12). It would appear too to demand a writing by Peter (as the later pseudepigrapha like the Preaching of Peter and the Gospel of Peter supplied). Kelly  thinks that ‘almost certainly the reference is to the epistle itself, though he admits that the future, σπουδ•σω (according to the most probable reading), is difficult. It would naturally suggest a further document. For our purposes we may be content to suspend judgment, noting only that if a forger is at work he has laid some very elusive clues.

It is generally accepted that the wording of the account of the transfiguration is independent of any of our gospel texts. The omission of the injunction ‘hear him’, common to them all, and of any reference to Moses and Elijah or to the three tents (σκηνα•), which one would have thought irresistible after the σκην••ατος of 1.14, tells heavily against the use of the synoptists by a later hand. The only other touch, ‘the holy mountain’, which is said to betray veneration of the sacred site (for which there is in fact no evidence till much later), is hardly decisive for dating. As regularly with Zion or Sinai in the Old Testament, any mountain with which theophany is associated is for the Jew ‘holy’. The really significant parallel for daring purposes is that with the Apocalypse of Peter. This document is usually put in the first half of the second century, perhaps c. 135. on the transfiguration (15-17), which includes a highly elaborated account of the vision of the appearances of Moses and Elijah and quotes Peter’s comment  verbatim from the version in Matt.17.4: ‘My Lord, wilt thou that I make here three tabernacles, one for thee, one for Moses and one for Elias?’. By contrast its only verbal contact with the account in II Peter is the reference (and that in the Ethiopic version only) to ‘the holy mountain’. If there is dependence either way, it seems quite clear that the Apocalypse is the later document.

The second passage, II Peter 3.1-4, raises more difficulties. The writer starts with a reference, apparently, to I Peter: This is now my second letter to you, my friends. In both of them I have been recalling to you what you already know, to rouse you to honest thought.

Remember the predictions made by God’s own prophets, and the commands given by the Lord and Saviour through your apostles (3.1f.). The relation to I Peter must engage us later. At this stage one need only say that if the writer is a Christian from a subsequent age then the reference must be to I Peter, since this is the only other Petrine letter of which there is any record in the tradition. Yet it is very far from obvious that the content of the two epistles is the same, and, if the allusion here is to I Peter 1.10-12 (the only likely passage), then the content of the prophecies there is the sufferings of Christ, not, as in the verses that follow in II Peter, the state of affairs at the end of the world. Again the pseudepigrapher does not lay his trail at all obviously. The phrase in v.2, ‘your apostles’, certainly reads oddly (quite apart from the tortuous grammar of the Greek) from one claiming himself to be an apostle, and it has seemed to most commentators to reflect the post-apostolic age. Yet we may say this with certainty only if it is agreed that Eph.2.20 and 3.5

‘your apostles’ need not, though it probably does, mean more than ‘your missionaries’

By the 60s a whole generation had elapsed. Naturally the difficulty did not then disappear.   But this is when the question must have been at its most acute, and there is no necessary reason to look to a later age.  The theme of the master’s delay, reflected in the church’s adaptation of the parables, is already to be found in the ‘Q,’ material of Matt.24.28 = Luke 12.45, and also in Matt.25.5, whose final editing we have seen no reason to place much after 60

With the rest of II Peter’s eschatology, including the coming of the day of the Lord as a thief (3.10; cf. Rev.3.3; 16.15), the laying bare of the earth and all that is in it (3.10; cf. Rev.6.12-17; 16.20; etc.), and the creation of new heavens and a new earth (3.13; cf. Rev.21.1-4), this theme finds its nearest parallel in the book of Revelation (20.1-6), rather than in the extravagances of subsequent apocalypses, whether Jewish or Christian (including the Apocalypse of Peter)

We need not spend time at this hour refuting the Tubingen thesis that the genuine Peter could never have spoken of Paul in terms other than of hostility. It is however relevant to ask whether a second-century writer would not have adopted an attitude either of attack or adulation (rather than bewildered affection). Typical of later descriptions are ‘the blessed Paul’ (I Clem. 47.1; Ep. Polyc.n.3) or ‘the blessed and glorious Paul’ (Ep. Polyc.3.2). ‘Dear brother’ and similar expressions are confined elsewhere in the New Testament to living fellow-workers (e.g. Eph.6.21; Col. 4.7, 9; Philem.16) and Paul himself is so addressed by James in Acts 21.20. The expression therefore sounds as if it comes from a contemporary, whether it does or not. Indeed Mayor, who himself  argues for pseudepigraphy, says: There are many difficulties in the way of accepting the genuineness of this epistle; but the manner in which St Paul is spoken of seems to me just what we should have expected from his brother Apostle.

the further back II Peter is pushed into the first century (where all the parallels suggest it belongs), the harder it is, as with the Pastorals, to satisfy the basic condition of pseudepigraphy, namely, that the readers should, willingly or unwillingly, accept the deception. Indeed a comparison with the problem of the Pastorals is instructive. There we argued for the important difference between pseudepigraphy proper and the view that the letters or charges were composed for Paul in his name and with his authority. Under the former hypothesis the persons of Timothy and Titus and all the details of news and travel plans are part of the fiction (or genuine fragments incorporated to enhance the fiction). Under the latter hypothesis the persons and situations are entirely genuine but, for whatever reason, Paul may have got someone else to write the letters on his behalf, though probably dictating the personal messages.

To sum up, then, we may say that Jude and II Peter were written, in that order, to predominantly Jewish-Christian congregations in Asia Minor c. 61-2. Whether Peter then set out for Rome as he hoped or was delayed in Jerusalem to assist, as Eusebius suggests, ‘with all the surviving apostles and disciples of the Lord’ in finding a successor to James, we cannot say. But there is nothing improbable about that. By 64-5 at any rate he was evidently in the capital, from where, we have argued, he adapted preaching material, prepared for the church in Rome under the urgent shadow of the Neronian persecution in the spring of 65, for dispatch as an encyclical to different and more mixed congregations in northern Asia Minor, which there is no firm evidence to suggest that he had ever visited.

Whereas a moral tract like the epistle of James could reasonably omit all reference to the temple and its fate without its silence being significant, the whole theme of Hebrews is the final supersession by Christ of the levitical system, its priesthood and its sacrifices. The destruction of the sanctuary which physically brought this system to an end must surely, if it had occurred, have left its mark somewhere.

It is generally accepted that there is no such reference or allusion; and yet the epistle to the Hebrews is among those books of the New Testament regularly set, as Harnack was content to put it without seeing need for further specification, ‘under Domitian’.

Whereas in the gospels it is the positive references to the events of 70, albeit in the future, which have led scholars to infer that they must be reflected in retrospect, in Hebrews ironically it is the absence of references on which the issue turns. The exercise consists not in explaining the ‘prophecies’, but in explaining away the silence.

The fact that the entire levitical system is spoken of throughout the epistle in the present tense, with no hint that it lies now in ruins, is said to have no chronological significance. It is indeed true that many of the present tenses are timeless descriptions of ritual arrangements (e.g. 5.1-4; 8.3-5; 9.6f.; 10.1). Josephus writing well after the destruction of the temple gives a long account of the system in similar terms

If, he says, the levitical system had really been able to bring perfection, John A. T. Robinson – Redating the New Testament (1976) these sacrifices would surely have ceased to be offered, because the worshippers, cleansed once for all, would no longer have any sense of sin. But instead, in these sacrifices year after year sins are brought to mind (10.2f.; cf.10.11,18). Had the sacrifices in fact ceased to be offered, it is hard to credit that these  words could have stood without modification or comment. For their termination would have proved his very point.

The nearest parallel to the Epistle to the Hebrews in early Christian literature is the Epistle of Barnabas, whose theme too is the relationship of Christianity to the ritual ordinances of Judaism. It makes the point explicitly that the temple was destroyed by the Romans as a consequence of the Jewish rebellion (16.4). Had this event occurred by the time that Hebrews was written, it would have dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s of everything its author was labouring to prove.

he quite extraordinary severity of tone with regard to those who fall away after baptism. For when men have once been enlightened, when they have had a taste of the heavenly gift and a share in the Holy Spirit, when they have experienced the goodness of God’s word and the spiritual energies of the age to come, and after all this have fallen away, it is impossible to bring them again to repentance; for with their own hands they are crucifying again the Son of God and making mock of his death (6.4-6;  neb margin). There are similar passages of equal severity in 10.26-31 and 12.15-29.

This language is unparalleled in the New Testament and indeed outside it until the Novatianist controversy over the lapsed at the time of the Decian persecution in 250.

It is explicable surely only if it is occasioned not by  everyday post-baptismal failure but, as later, by apostasy under exceptional and dangerous circumstances, involving the betrayal of fellow-Christians. The only situation in the first century which would fit this for which we have evidence is the Neronian persecution in Rome.

The author of the Shepherd of Hermas, also written from Rome, appears to allude some years later to the same crisis and to the divisions it evoked,

The writer’s reiterated plea is for ‘firmness to the end’ (Heb.3.14) in the face of ‘testing’. For this he appeals not only to the ‘day of testing’ in the wilderness (3.8f.) and to the Old Testament heroes of faith (especially 11.17,36f.) but supremely to Jesus

The Jews were protected by the privilege of religio licita so long as they kept the peace, and this privilege they had forfeited by their intra-synagogal disputes. The most plausible explanation of the whole episode is that Christian propaganda had been introduced into the synagogues at Rome and had created considerable ferment. [Op. cit., 41; cf. 71.]

If so, then the writer seems to be looking back to the 40s, when these Christian Jews could have been among those converted by the mission preaching of Peter and Mark. And this would fit with an earlier passage where the author appears to link himself with his readers in attributing their Christianity to those who themselves had heard Jesus:

We are bound to pay all the more heed to what we have been told for fear of drifting from our course. … For this deliverance was first announced through the lips of the Lord himself; those who heard him confirmed it to us

Origen may have said the last word on the subject when he made his famous remark, ‘But who wrote the epistle, in truth. God knows.’

before accepting this date at its face value one must recognize that Irenaeus is making three statements:

  1. that the author of the Apocalypse and of the fourth gospel are one

and the same person;

  1. that this person is the apostle John; and
  2. that the Apocalypse was seen at the end of Domitian’s reign.

it is difficult to credit that a work so vigorous as the Apocalypse could really be the product of a nonagenarian, as John the son of Zebedee must by then have been, even if he were as much as ten years younger than Jesus. So if Irenaeus’ tradition on authorship is strong, his tradition on dating is weakened, and vice versa.

Clement’s disciple Origen writes in his Commentary on Matthew that ‘the emperor of the Romans, as tradition teaches, condemned John to the isle of Patmos’, adding that John does not say who condemned him. This does not of course prove that Origen did not know, but the absence of a name is again to be noted, especially since Origen does name Herod as having beheaded John’s brother James

The fact that the condemnation is seen as the direct act of the emperor may link up with the tradition preserved earlier by Tertullian that John’s banishment was from Rome, where Peter suffered a death like his Master [i.e., crucifixion], where Paul was crowned with the death of John [the Baptist] [i.e., execution],where the apostle John, after being plunged in burning oil and suffering nothing, was banished to an island.

First there is the situation presupposed by chs.1-3, together with the coda of 22.6-21; and secondly there is the situation presupposed by the main body of the book, the visions of 4.1-22.5. In the former the scene is set in Asia Minor; in the latter the focus, in so far as it is upon earth at all, is in Rome and to a lesser extent in Jerusalem.

In this the book of Revelation corresponds to what we observed in I Peter. There we argued that while the opening and closing verses were directed towards the recipients of the epistle in Asia Minor, the background for understanding the homiletic material which makes it up was to be located rather in Rome. In fact the parallels between these documents are instructive. Both are dominated by a political situation that calls for the symbolic pseudonym of ‘Babylon’ and by an eschatological situation that compels the hope that the consummation cannot now be long delayed (I Peter 4.7; Rev.1.7; 3.11; 22.6f.,12,20). Both also presuppose that persecution has gone a good deal further in Rome than in Asia. Yet there are differences too. The area of Asia Minor is different, northern in I Peter, western in Revelation; and the author of the latter clearly reveals an informed personal acquaintance with place and circumstance of which the author of the former shows no sign. Above all the whole situation is considerably further advanced. In I Peter the judgment is only now beginning with the household of God, even in Rome (4.17); in Revelation Babylon is already gorged with the blood of the apostles and prophets and people of God (16.6; etc.). In Asia Minor too things have clearly gone beyond the verbal abuse that in I Peter mainly characterized the attack on Christians – though still in Revelation the pressure for some consists of slander, with the suffering (confined to a symbolic ten days in jail) yet to come (2.91.); and in all the churches there is as yet but one martyr to record

(2.13). But what has decisively changed is the attitude to the state – from one of guarded reverence to one of open hostility. Yet there is nothing here so far to demand an interval of more than a few years the other side of that fiery ordeal which Peter had already recorded as starting (4.12) and which we saw good reason to identify with the Neronian  progrom of 65.

A further instructive parallel is provided by the situation presupposed in Jude and II Peter, which we gave grounds for supposing to be addressed to Jewish Christians in some part of Asia Minor in 61-2. At that time indeed there was no hint of persecution, but there was plenty of evidence of insidious attack from gnosticizing, Judaizing heretics who were making false claims to leadership of the church and were scoffing at the Christian hope. We have already seen that the nearest parallels both for the gnosticizing tendencies and for the eschatological teaching in these epistles is not with second-century literature but with other New Testament writings to be dated in the late 50s and 60s – and with the book of Revelation. The themes in common with the last are sufficiently striking to merit more extended treatment.

In both, the false teachers are accused of the error of Balaam (Jude 11; II Peter 2.15; Rev.2.14), which in Revelation is closely associated with the teaching of the Nicolaitans (2.6,15). In both Christians are described as being lured into immorality (II Peter 2.14, 18; 3.17; Rev.2.20), into contaminating their clothing (Jude 23; Rev.3.4), and into disowning their Master (Jude 4; II Peter 2.1; Rev.2.13). There is the same contrast between the true and false. The heretical teachers are claiming to be shepherds and apostles of Christ’s flock (Jude 1.1f.; Rev.2.2), and there is a similar appeal to remember the teaching of the true apostles (Jude 17; II Peter 1.12; 3.if.; Rev.3.3), who are the foundation of the church and of its faith (Jude 3; Rev.21.14). The eschatological symbolism too shows remarkable parallels, with the day of Christ being likened not only, as in the common Christian tradition, to the thief (II Peter 3.10; Rev.3.3; 16.15) but uniquely in these two documents to the morning star (II Peter 1.19; Rev. 2.28; 22.16). In both the existing heavens and earth disappear (II Peter 3.10; Rev. 6.14; 16.20; 20.11) to be replaced by new (II Peter 3.13; Rev.21.1); in both the fallen angels are chained in the depths of hell (Jude 6; II Peter 2.4; Rev.20.1-3, 7), and appeal is made to the theme of a thousand years (II Peter 3.8; Rev.20.2-7). All this could doubtless have come from almost any period, and if II Peter and Jude are not early the argument falls. Yet there is good reason to suppose that the Apocalypse too presupposes a time when the final separation of Christians and Jews had not yet taken place. For is it credible that the references in Rev.2.9 and 3.9 to those who claim to be Jews but are not’ could have been made in that form after 70?.

against a date in the 60s from the fact that Laodicea, almost totally destroyed in the earthquake of 60-1, is addressed as an affluent church. But the city took pride in having rebuilt itself without waiting for help from imperial funds,[Tacitus,

Am. 14.27; cf. Orac. Sib.4.197f.: ‘Miserable  Laodicea, thee too an earthquake shall one day raze in precipitate ruin, but  thou shalt stand built up again as a city.’] and by the end of the decade might well have boasted, How well I have done! I have everything I want in  the world (Rev.3.17).  Ironically Moffatt  holds that it is irrelevant to connect this with the reconstruction after the earthquake because by the 80s ‘the incident is too far back’!

According to Eusebius, Domitian was the second after Nero to stir up persecution against Christians, and he quotes Melito of Sardis to the same effect. Yet while Eusebius speaks of the death and banishment of ‘no small number of well-born and distinguished men at Rome’, he does not mention the deathof a single Christian.

[In his Chronicle he says sweepingly, ‘Many Christians martyred and Flavia Domitilla and Flavius Clemens banished.’ In fact Flavius Clemens was executed (Suetonius, Dom. 16).] He records that ‘Flavia Domitilla, the daughter of a sister of Flavius Clemens, [Another confusion. She was the wife of Clemens and niece of Domitian.] who was one of the consuls of Rome at that time, was committed

by way of punishment to the island of Pontia because of her testimony for Christ.’ He also says that the descendants of Jude, on the ground that they were of the family of David, were brought before the Emperor; but he ‘in no way condemned them, but despised them as men of no account, let them go free, and by an injunction caused the persecution against the church to cease’.

recent studies have been strongly in the direction of showing that ‘the evidence for a widespread Christian persecution under Domitian is late [and] probably exaggerated’

.When this limited and selective purge, in which no Christian was for certain put to death, is compared with the massacre of Christians under Nero in what two early and entirely independent witnesses speak of as ‘immense multitudes’, it is astonishing that commentators should have been led by Irenaeus, who himself does not even mention a persecution, to prefer a Domitianic context for the book of Revelation

Here is the key; and anyone who has intelligence may work out the number of the beast. The number represents a man’s name, and the numerical value of its letters is six hundred and sixty-six (13.18).

Though there can be no final certainty, far the most widely accepted solution to the conundrum is that the figure represents the sum of the letters in Hebrew (or Aramaic) (the language evidently in which this barbarous Graecist thought) of the name ‘Neron Caesar’

though few doubt that the primary reference of ‘the beast’ in Revelation is to Nero, there is still a reluctance to date from his time the decree to worship the emperor or his statue

The period of forty-two months, or 1260 days, or three and a half years, is, of course, a stock time for the reign of evil, derived  again from Daniel (7.25; 12.7,11f), and is not to be taken as prediction before or after the event. Yet both here and in 12.6 and 14 (where for the same period the woman, the church or true Israel who gives birth to the Messiah, flees into the wilds to ‘a place prepared for her by God’ to be sustained out of the reach of the serpent), it looks as if the reference is to the flight from Jerusalem enjoined in the synoptic apocalypses. [There is a most interesting parallel to this in the Ascension of Isaiah, which merits reproduction: After it [the world] is consummated, Beliar the great ruler, the king of this world, will descend, who hath ruled it since it came into being; yea, he will descend from his firmament in the likeness of a man, a lawless king, the slayer of his mother [i.e., Nero; cf. Orac. Sib.4.121; 5.145, 363]: who himself (even) this king will persecute the plant which the Twelve Apostles of the Beloved have planted.

Yet if Jerusalem had actually  been destroyed, it is surely incredible that the worst judgment upon it should be that in a violent earthquake (and not by enemy action) ‘a tenth of the city fell’ (11.13). [Contrast the earthquake ‘like none before it in human history’ which marks the complete destruction of Babylon in 16.17-20.]

It is indeed generally agreed that this passage must bespeak a pre-70 situation. But the solution has been to date the oracle (or oracles) of ch.11 and 3-13 are separate fragments.] (like that of ch.12) earlier than the book as a whole and to see them as originally Jewish rather than Christian.

The resort of commentators to treating anything that will not fit a Domitianic date as the incorporation of earlier material, though (for reasons they do not explain) without subsequent modification, is invoked still more arbitrarily in the passage to which we must now return in ch.17, which is crucial for any more precise determination of the date of the book. The central verses are 17.9-11, which supply ‘the clue for those who can interpret it’ to the vision of the scarlet woman, whose name is Babylon, ‘the great city that holds sway over the kings of the earth’: The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They represent also seven kings (or emperors), of whom five have already fallen, one is now reigning, and the other has yet to come; and when he does come he is only to last for a little while. As for the beast that once was alive and is alive no longer, he is an eighth – and yet is one of the seven, and he is going to perdition.

Much ink has been spilt over this passage, but the issues are succinctly summed up in Beckwith’s note on the subject. On the assumption that the words have a reference to Roman history, there are two questions to dispose of in advance: (i) With whom does the list of the emperors begin? and (ii) Are the three emperors of 68-9 between Nero and Vespasian (Galba, Otho and Vitellius), who lasted only a few months each, to be included in the count?The first question is theoretically in doubt but may be settled quite quickly. Though the Roman empire (following upon the republic) is normally regarded as starting with Augustus, Julius Caesar, who claimed the title ‘imperator’, was emperor de facto and is included in Suetonius’

Lives of the Twelve Caesars.

More importantly, from  our point of view, the comparable lists of kings in Orac. Sib.5.12 and II Esd.12.15 (where the second reigns the longest and must be Augustus)

[Josephus, Ant.18.32, also describes him as ‘the second emperor of the Romans’.] begin with Caesar. The same appears to be true of the calculation in the Epistle of Barnabas (4.4), where the tenth king is probably Vespasian, starting from Caesar. But in Revelation it is clear that the first king must be Augustus. Otherwise Nero would be the sixth; and if one thing is certain it is that Nero is dead and not ‘now reigning’.

The second question can also, I believe, be resolved with reasonable certainty. The sole ground ever given for excluding the three emperors of 68-9 is that Suetonius is interpreted as speaking disparagingly of them as ‘rebellious princes’ who constituted a kind of interregnum.

more straightforward, is to give up the whole business of trying to trace any reference to specific emperors at all and view the whole thing as purely symbolic. The sixth king is then the last but one before the end-time, whoever he may happen to be. But this way of cutting the knot does less than justice to two factors.The first is that, as virtually all agree, there must be a reference to Nero redivivus in the beast that ‘once was alive and is alive no longer but has yet to ascend out of the abyss before going to perdition’

There are some characters in history (Frederick Barbarossa and Hitler are other examples) who have been so feared or hated in their lifetimes that men cannot really believe that they have seen the last of them. At one level of their minds they know that they are dead, yet at another they cannot accept it. In what form these characters will reappear depends not on the passage of time but on the pattern of credulity. It did not take long for Herod to think that Jesus might be John the Baptist risen from the dead, and there is no ground for supposing that Christians, who shared the same ambiguity about whether Nero was really dead (contrast Rev. 13.3,12 and i4 with 17.8 and 11), should not very soon have envisaged him emerging from the abyss – which for this author is in any case primarily the abode of evil rather than the place of the departed. [Cf. Rev. 11.7, where the beast coming up out of the abyss is modelled on the beasts in Dan.7.2f. coming up out of the sea.]

The simplest hypothesis is to take literally the indication of 17.10 that Galbais on the throne and to put the book late in 68, some six months after the suicide of Nero, when, with the public collapse of the structure of authority, he imminent end of ‘Babylon’ and all it stood for might plausibly have seemed in sight. This case is strongly argued by Henderson writing as a Roman historian. [Nero, 439-43. So also Torrey, op. cit., 58-89.] Apart from its fitting 17.1 of. (and he fails to see any reason why Galba, Otho and Vitellius should not be counted – especially Galba), he believes (a) that 9.14-16 and 16.12, with their reference to hordes coming from the east across the Euphrates, reflect the early expectation of Nero’s return with the host of the king of Parthia, whose frontier with the Roman empire was formed by that river; [Cf. Tacitus, Hist.1.2; Suetonius, Nero 57; and many of the references in the Sibylline Oracles given above. But it has to be admitted that the dating of the Parthian scare cannot with certainty be established so early. Cf. Peake, Revelation, 128, who criticizes Henderson at this point.] (b) that 11.2 (where the approaches to the temple area are in heathen hands) and 20.9 (where the hosts of Gog and Magog ‘lay siege to the camp of God’s people and the city that he loves’) suit the current situation in Judaea; (c) that 17.16f. clearly imply internecine strife and civil war, which had ‘an excellent basis of probability in the general outlook at the end of ad 68, but no such basis at all under Vespasian or Domitian’; and (d) that in 18.17f. the account of the burning of Rome, while ‘the sea-captains and voyagers, the sailors and those who traded by sea, stood at a distance and cried out as they saw the smoke other conflagration’, is based on memories of the fire of Rome some four years earlier. [Mr James Stevenson, the editor of A New Eusebius, has made the same point to me. He believes the description is coloured by the view from the port of Ostia. Similarly Eckhardt, Der Tod des Johannes,63, who notes that the doom-song pronounced over Tyre in Ezek. 2 7, on which so much of the rest of Rev.18 is modelled, contains no reference to a fire. He suggests that the transition to the past tense in vv. 170-19 reflects actual memories.]

I have quoted Edmundson at some length [He has still further parallels to offer (177-9) of earthquakes, pestilence, hurricane, and volcanic eruption, but these inevitably carry less conviction since they are not unique historical events.] because it is a case that has been almost entirely ignored. [The only discussion of it I know is in Peake,  Revelation, 82f., 951., who is impressed but rejects it in favour of the traditional dating, adding (96): ‘It may be granted that the case for a date in the reign of Domitian has sometimes been over-stated. … The indications of earlier date are not to be denied’.

Henderson, Five Roman Emperors, 45, welcomes Edmundson’s support for his own early dating but does not say if it has shifted him from late 68 to early 70.]

It has its weak spots like any other, but a number of his points are impressive. The sack and burning of Rome in 69 is a more convincing parallel than the fire of 64, and the proximity of the foreign troops to the temple area in 11.2 would suit the early months of 70 better even than 68. Above all the turning of the external evidence is clever – if not too clever. Yet to start the count of the emperors with Claudius is strained.

But, whatever the details of the events reflected, the Apocalypse is, I believe, intelligible only if, as Tertullian says, its author had himself been ‘a partaker of the sufferings’ (1.9)  in Rome during and after the Neronian persecution.  [This is strongly maintained by Eckhardt, though his case that John had also been in Jerusalem in 68-9 (after his exile in Patmos; cf. the ‘I was’ of 1.9) seems  to me much more doubtful.] In comparison with this, the precise dating (late 68 or early 70) is of secondary significance. There is in any case no need to suppose that all his visions, any more than those of the Old Testament prophets, came to him at once. Nevertheless there is, I suggest, much to be said for the hypothesis that in exile the seer was using his imagination, under the influence of scripture and the Spirit,to reflect upon the terrible events of the latter 60s, both in Rome and in Jerusalem, and then dispatching his warning of what could lie ahead of them to those Asian churches whose spiritual state concerned him so intimately. [Selwyn, Christian Prophets, 212-21, held that Rev. 4-22 was written in Rome under Galba in 68-9 and Caused the author’s banishment, by Domitian, in the early part of 70 to Patmos, where he then wrote chapters 1-3 as a covering letter to the Asian churches. This is by no means impossible. Yet the continuity of ch.1 with 4.1ff. and the unemended state of 17.10 (‘one is now reigning’) militate against it.] As it turned out, it was Jerusalem that fell in the autumn of 70 and Babylon that survived. The universal martyrdom of the Christian church did not materialize, neither did the shortly promised  parousia. He himself was to be released before long, and he could well, as Clement’s legend has it, have lived on to a ripe old age organizing the troublesome congregations of Asia Minor.

The Gospel and Epistles of John

That the apostle John lived to a great age, into the reign of Trajan and that he was the last evangelist to write [Irenaeus,  Adv. haer. 3.1.1, Clement, apud Euseb.  HE 6.14.7; and Eusebius himself, he 3.24.7.] are both well attested in the tradition. But that he wrote as a very old man is an inference which only appears late and accompanied by other statements which show that it is clearly secondary and unreliable.

The story of the dating of the fourth gospel in modern scholarship is an extraordinarily simple one. On the one hand, the conservatives have not had

occasion (at any rate until very recently) to shift their position and have consistently put the gospel in or about the last decade of the first century. [Even H. P. V. Nunn, who polemizes against every other aspect of modem criticism of the gospel, accepts without question that the gospel and epistles of John were written ‘late in the first century or early in the second century’

On the other hand, the radical critics like Baur began by dating it anything up to 170 [The terminus ad quem was its first citation by name c.180 by Theophilus of Antioch,  Ad Autolyc.2.22.] and have since steadily come down.

The decisive factor has been the discovery in Egypt of a papyrus fragment (P 52) of the gospel itself from the first half of the second century

Kummel summarizes the present situation, [INT, 246.] If John was known in Egypt in the first quarter of the second century, the beginning of the second century is a terminus ad quern. On the other hand, John’s knowledge of Luke is extremely probable, so it could not have been written before ca. 80-90. The assumption that John was written probably in the last decade of the first century is today almost universally accepted

The reason for it given by Kummel is John’s use of Luke. Similarly, Barrett writes with assurance: A terminus post quem may easily be fixed. John knew Mark; he not only knew it but had thoroughly mastered its contents, and expected his readers also to be familiar with them. There is wide agreement that Mark was written either not long before, or soon after, ad 70. We must allow time for Mark to reach the place in which John was written and to be studied and absorbed. This brings us to a date certainly not earlier than ad 80; 90 would perhaps be a safer estimate.

[Op. cit., 108. It is interesting that Zahn, who argues strongly for apostolic authorship, makes an almost identical assessment, namely, that the presupposing of the synoptists by John brings the earliest date for the composition of the gospel down to ‘the year 75, probably to some time between 80 and 90’ ( INT III,  335).]

Yet the confidence with which these statements can be made has diminished dramatically in the twenty years since Barrett wrote. For he is now in a minority of Johannine scholars in holding to what used to be the critical orthodoxy, [For a recent reaffirmation of C. K. Barrett’s position, cf. ‘John and the Synoptic Gospels’, ExpT  85, 1973-4, 228-33. He rightly observes: ‘If the traditional date of the gospel is correct one wonders where the evangelist can have lived if indeed he knew none of the earlier gospels’ (233). But he does not think to question ‘the traditional date’.] represented for instance by Streeter [], that John certainly used Mark, probably Luke and possibly Matthew. The work of P. Gardner-Smith [P. Gardner-Smith,  St John and the Synoptic Gospels, Cambridge 1938.] and Dodd [C. H. Dodd, Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel, Cambridge 1963.] has convinced most recent scholars that, whatever the cross-fertilization between the traditions, John is not dependent upon the synoptists for his material and therefore does not for this reason have to be dated after them. But there is no need here to argue the case afresh, since it is not of itself decisive for dating purposes. Even if it could be shown that John could not have been written until after the publication of Mark, Luke or Matthew, we have already argued that there is no compelling reason to date these later than the early 60s.

Published in his eightieth year, Dodd’s great study Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel marked a watershed in Johannine studies……. I doubt very much whether a writer whose work we must place late in the first  century and in a Hellenistic environment, could have invented such a persuasive  account of a trial conducted under conditions which had long passed away. It is pervaded with a lively sense for the situation as it was in the last half-century before the extinction of Judaean local autonomy. It is aware of the delicate relations between the native and the imperial authorities. It reflects a time when the dream of an independent Judaea under its own king had not yet sunk to the level of a chimaera, and when the messianic idea was not a theologumenon but impinged on practical politics, and the bare mention of a ‘king of the Jews’  stirred violent emotions; a time, moreover, when the constant preoccupation of  the priestly holders of power under Rome was to damp down any first symptoms of such emotions. These conditions were present in Judaea before ad  70, and not later, and not elsewhere. This, I submit, is the true Sitz im Leben of the essential elements in the Johannine trial narrative. This narrative is far from being a second-hand rechauffe of the Synoptics. While there is evidence for some degree of elaboration by the author, the most probable conclusion is that in substance it represents an independent strain of tradition, which must have been formed in a period much nearer the events than the period when the Fourth Gospel was written, and in some respects seems to be better informed than the tradition behind the Synoptics, whose confused account it clarifies. [Ibid., 120.]

Essentially the same point is made of his material on the topography of Jerusalem

The Gentiles (τ• •θνη) are never mentioned in the gospel, [Cf. my ‘Destination and Purpose’, 109-12.] and there is no other sign of contact with the Gentile mission as described in Acts or ofthe controversies it occasioned.

The Sitz im Lebenof such tradition must have been within a Jewish environment such as that of the primitive Church, and in all probability it belongs to an early period. Once the Church, by that time mainly Gentile, had ceased to have relations with the synagogue, such discussions would no longer be kept alive, and only isolated traces of them remain, embedded in the gospels. [Ibid., 333.]

But again, we may ask, why and how this fossilized piece of Judaic tradition in a Hellenistic document of the late first century?

Finally, perhaps the most interesting and perplexing example of all is Dodd’s suggestion that the predictions by Jesus of his going away and coming back in 14.3 and 16.16 antedate the development (already found in Mark) of such sayings into predictions of either resurrection or parousia

I believe in fact and have argued [The Human Face of God, 186-90; ‘The Use of the Fourth Gospel for Christology Today’ in Lindars and Smalley,  Christ and Spirit in the NT, 69-74.] that we are nearer in this gospel to the original parabolic source of this father-son language and its Hebraic understanding in terms of character rather than status than in any other part of the New Testament.

So universally is it taken for granted that the fourth gospel reflects the situation obtaining between Jews and Christians after 70 that it may seem bold – or even naive – to question it. [Thus, in his latest treatment of the subject, The Gospel of John and Judaism, 1975, 40-58, C. K. Barrett simply takes over the traditional date of the gospel without further argument and proceeds to compare it with the Judaism of that period.For a statement of the contrary case, cf. Cribbs, JBL 89, especially 47-51.] The absence of reference to the Sadducees is frequently said to reflect their demise after 70: yet the chief priests and their party are certainly not absent, but still very much in the saddle. John never speaks of the scribes either – yet they certainly did not disappear after 70, but rather came to their own. In fact he appears remarkably well informed about the parties and divisions of Judaism before the Jewish war

The cleansing of the temple with which, uniquely, it is associated in John occurs not in the politically explosive context of the synoptists at the close of the ministry, where it foreshadows the end of the nation, but is focused entirely upon Jesus’ all-consuming concern under the influence of the Baptist’s preaching for the religious purity of Israel. [For an expansion of this, cf. my ‘His Witness is True’ in Moule and Bammel, op. cit.]

There is to be sure the explicit prophecy of Roman intervention placed on the lips of the Jewish leaders in 11.471.: This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone like this the whole populace will believe in him. Then the Romans will come and sweep away our temple and our nation.

Yet this is an unfulfilled prophecy. They did not leave him alone, and still the Romans came. Caiaphas indeed is represented in retrospect as prophesying truer than he knew – but this is not that the temple and nation would be swept away but that Jesus should die for the people rather than the whole nation be destroyed (11.49-52). It is in fact remarkable that there is nothing in John corresponding to the detailed prophecies of the siege and fall of Jerusalem

in the ancient world this was an appropriate description for anyone over forty or fifty: in fact Peter would presumably have been in or near his sixties when he died. With regard to the  beloved disciple, it might today be a reasonable inference that if it was supposed of someone that he would never die it would indicate that he was hanging on interminably. But the perspective of the early Christians was very different: whether or not one would die depended on whether the parousiawould supervene first.

The nearest parallels for the pre-existence Christology of John’s prologue are to be found in Philippians and Colossians (which  we dated in 58), and also in Hebrews (67) and Revelation (68+).

Johannine thought-forms are themselves more difficult to date than the gospel. This is certainly true of the five main backgrounds surveyed by Dodd [Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, 10-130.] – the Hermetic literature,  Philonic Judaism, rabbinic Judaism, gnosticism and Mandaism. Of these only the evidence from Philo may be pinned down to a period which can constitute a probable background, as opposed to a possible environment, for the ideas of the fourth gospel. The material from the other milieux, whatever their influence, cannot be used for dating the gospel. Philo, even if he could be shown to be a direct source, died not later than c. 50, and cannot therefore argue for a late date. In fact it is coming to seem much more likely that Philo and John shared a common background in the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament, to which Philo gave a philosophic twist entirely absent from John.

I do not therefore believe that there is anything in the language even of the Johannine prologue which demands a date later than the 60s of the first century.

The other link between the Johannine epistles and II Peter and Jude [Oddly there is also a common reference to Cain (3.12; Jude 11) – the only Proper name in I John.] is the notable absence of any reference to persecution – beyond the hatred that Christians must always expect from ‘the world’

If then tentatively we put the Johannine epistles in the early 60s and the epilogue in the latter 60s, with the prologue (perhaps) some-where between, this would fit well with the many points of contact between the epistles and the distinctive features of the prologue and epilogue when compared with the body of the gospel. We have already suggested that the opening of I John reads like a preliminary sketch for the Logos theology of the prologue. There are obvious similarities. In both ‘that which was from the beginning’ was ‘the word of life’, and ‘the life was manifested’ (I John 1.1f.; John 1.1,4,14). Yet in the first epistle there is still not the absolute or fully personal use of ‘the Word’ found in the gospel prologue, and the latter is far more carefully constructed and richly orchestrated.

The Johannine epistles are intelligible only on the assumption that their readers, who have evidently been their writer’s pastoral charge from ‘the beginning’ (2.7,24; 3.11; II John 6), have been nurtured in ‘Johannine Christianity’. The fundamentals alike of faith and morals to which they are being recalled are clearly the kind of teaching embodied in the fourth gospel.

since those early days much water has passed under the bridges. Considerable evangelistic labour had been put in: Take care, pleads the writer in II John 8, that you do not lose ‘all that we worked for’. I John 2.12-14 presupposes an established Christian community with a full range of age-groups; II and III John a number of Christian centres, thick enough on the ground for travelling Christian missionaries to have no need to live off the heathen (II John 1, 13; III John 5-9). Heresy and schism alike have assumed dangerous proportions, and there is the same silver-age stress on sound doctrine, especially in II John 9f., that we meet in the Pastorals and again in Jude and II Peter. We shall hardly be wrong therefore in surmising that at least a decade has passed since ‘the form of teaching to which they had been handed over’, to use Paul’s phrase (Rom. 6.17), had been in their possession. If then epistles do come from the early 60s we are back at any rate to the early 5os for some form of the gospel message

Brownlee, though himself still supposing the gospel to have been translated and ‘put together from the manuscripts left behind by the original evangelist’, says: The Gospel according to John is in my view substantially the testimony of the apostle John…. If what one is looking for as apostolic is a fresh and independent witness, John has it – and not as fabrications of the imagination stemming from some later period of the Gospel tradition, but as the voice of a living witness from the cultural context of the early decades of Christianity in Palestine

The evidence therefore for the person we are seeking, so far from ruling out a relatively poor and uneducated Palestinian, points suspiciously towards the kind of man that John, son of Zebedee, might have been. [For a forceful statement to the contrary, cf. Parker, ‘John the Son of Zebedee and the Fourth Gospel’, JBL 81, 1962, 35-43. But it is possible to dispute many of his points (as I do below), and the  psychological gap between the picture of the son of Zebedee in the synoptists and the presumed author of the fourth gospel is certainly no greater than that between their different portraits of the same man Jesus. The omission from the fourth gospel of all mention of the apostle John unless he is the author is much more difficult to explain, as is its distinctive designation of the Baptist as ‘John’ without qualification or fear of confusion. Parker’s own preference for John Mark as author (‘John and John Mark’, JBL 79, 1960, 97-110) seems to me to raise many more problems than it  solves.]There is in fact no reason to suppose that his family was particularly poor and uneducated. His mother Salome (cf. Mark 15.40 with Matt. 27.56) was among those who ministered to Jesus in Galilee (Mark 15.41), as Luke adds (8.3), ‘out of their possessions’. In Zahn’s words,[INT III, 187.] As regards its prosperity and social position, the family of Zebedee is to be compared with that of Chuza (Luke 8.3), the financial officer of Herod, or even of Joseph of Arimathea, [In the different traditions Salome, Joseph of Arimathea (‘a man of means’, Matt. 27.57) and Nicodemus are all associated with procuring the spices for the burial of Jesus (Mark 16.1; John 19.39), which, if John’s quantities are in any way to be trusted, must have cost a considerable sum.] rather than that of Joseph and Mary (Luke2.24; Cf.2.7).

The often observed fact that Zebedee’s household ran to ‘hired servants’ (Mark 1.20) suggests that his status may not have been incomparable with that of the father of the prodigal in the parable (Luke 15.11-32), who also had two sons as well as a number of hired servants and was evidently a man of moderate substance (15.12,221., 29). In more than one of John’s parables the point of contrast is between the position in the household of servants and sons (8.35; 15.15), and the ‘hireling’ of 10.12 is the same word as is used for the hired servants in Mark 1 .20.

It is often said (e.g. by Dodd [htfg, 6, 245f.; cf. Parker, ‘John the Son of Zebedee’, JBL81, 37,41f.]) that the fourth gospel shows an ‘indifference’ to the Galilean ministry which counts against its author being a Galilean. But this is surely an exaggeration. Purely statistically the word ‘Galilee’ actually occurs more often in John than in any other gospel. For all the additional Jerusalem material, it is clear that Galilee is still Jesus’s base, where he ‘remains’ and from which he ‘goes up’ for the feasts (cf. especially 7.1-9); and the basic pattern of the story ‘from Galilee to Jerusalem’ (Acts 10.37; cf. Luke 23.5), with its watershed in Galilee (ch.6), is unaffected.

We might therefore hazard the following very rough and tentative timetable:

30-50 Formation of the Johannine tradition and proto-

gospel in Jerusalem

50-55 First edition of our present gospel in Asia Minor

60-65 II, III and I John

65 + The final form of the gospel, with prologue and


A Post-apostolic Postscript

The possibility, if not the probability, must indeed be faced that there was not a steady stream of early Christian writings but that an intense period of missionary, pastoral and literary activity, culminating in the desolation of Israel and the demise of all the ‘pillars’ of the apostolic church except John, was followed by one of retrenchment and relative quiescence. A ‘tunnel period’ in which there was no evidence of literary remains would therefore be perfectly explicable – in fact more explicable, and less extended, than that which the traditional dating has presupposed prior to the emergence of the gospels in written form

possible stable point of reference is provided by the so-called Epistle of Barnabas, which is held by the majority of scholars, with greater or lesser assurance, to be datable around 130. But here there is much more dispute, and a consideration of it will introduce discussion of a number of factors relevant to the larger scene.

This Epistle is noteworthy as the first Christian document explicitly to mention the fall of Jerusalem in the past tense: Because they [the Jews] went to war it [the temple] was pulled down by  their enemies

But since there is no mention of the  final Jewish rebellion and the reconstruction of Jerusalem as a pagan city under Hadrian (132-5), it is generally agreed that it is to be placed somewhere between these (wide) limits. But where?

in Revelation in 68 the sixth emperor is on the throne, and by 100 in II Esdras twelve have already reigned, here the tally to date is ten.

I Baruch (in the Apocrypha) claims to be written in ‘the fifth year after the Chaldeans had captured and burnt Jerusalem’ in 586 Bc (1.2; cf. II Kings 25; Jer.52). Yet it is clear that this is but a thin disguise for the similar action of the Romans in ad 70, and the book, whatever earlier material it may

incorporate, thus dates itself in 75. The Jews are urged to ‘pray for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and for his son Belshazzar’ (sc. Vespasian emperor of Rome and his son Titus) (1.11). [Contrast the very different attitude towards Domitian in II Esd.11.36-46.] There are allusions to recent calamities notably absent from the New Testament apocalypses – to parents eating their children in the extremities of the siege (2.3), [Cf.Josephus, BJ 6.201-3. There is no such reference in our accounts of the events of 586.] to the burning of the city (1.2), and to the deportation of captives to Rome (4.6,15f.,31f.; 5.6). The references to the doom of ‘Babylon’ in 4.30-5 are strikingly similar to those in Rev.18, but here the fall of Rome is seen as direct retribution for the sacking of Jerusalem (‘The same city that rejoiced at your downfall and made merry over your ruin shall grieve over her own desolation’, 4.33) in a way that we should expect but significantly do not get in Revelation. There is possibly also a reference to the Christians in 4.3, ‘Do not give up your glory to another or your privileges to an alien people’, corresponding to the reference to the Jews in the Epistle of Barnabas

that the Epistle of Barnabas should come from these traumatic years following the fall of Jerusalem is entirely possible; and several of those who put it in the reign of Hadrian or suspend judgment admit that the internal evidence would naturally suggest an earlier dating. [Cf. Eltester, IDB , 358: ‘Even though the letter suggests an earlier dating’; J. Lawson, A Theological and Historical Introduction to the Apostolic Fathers, New York 1961, 201: ‘The evidence would well accord with the early date [70-79].’] Indeed there are many other pointers to this.

From early times the Epistle achieved near-canonical status, being included with the Shepherd of Hermas immediately after the book of Revelation in Codex Sinaiticus. Yet it makes no claims to apostolic authorship characteristic of later pseudepigrapha. In fact the writer disavows even the authority of a ‘teacher’, addressing his audience simply as ‘one of yourselves’ (1.8; 4.6,9).

In sum, there is nothing here that could not have been written, as Lightfoot said, about 75. It does not begin to reach the heights of the New Testament, and the church was obviously right to exclude it from the canon. But in date there is no reason to think of it coming far behind. With the Epistle of Barnabas must be considered its nearest associate, the Shepherd of Hermas. This again has regularly been placed in the middle of the second century, but solely on the ground of one piece of external evidence, the Muratorian Fragment on the Canon: [There is a similar reference in the fourth century Liberian Catalogue (cf. Lightfoot, AF I.I, 254)  but it evidently goes back to the same common source.] Very lately in our times Hermas wrote ‘The Shepherd’ in the city of Rome while his brother Pius, the bishop, was sitting in the chair of the Church of the city of Rome, and therefore it ought to be read; but it cannot, to the end of time, be placed either among the prophets who are complete in number, nor among the Apostles, for public lection to the people in

church. Pius was bishop of Rome from c.140-155.The Muratorian Canon is usually held to be the work of Hippolytus and to come from Rome c.180-200, [Cf. Lightfoot,

AF 1.2, 405-13, who dated it before 185-90; Hennecke, NT Apoc.1,42-5.] though recently it has been asserted to be not a second-century Roman product but a fourth-century eastern list.

Edmundson himself dates the Shepherd of Hermas in the first decade of the reign of Domitian (81-91),  [Ibid., 203f., 215-21. W.J. Wilson, ‘The Career of the Prophet Hermas’, HTR 20, 1927, 21-62, while agreeing that Zahn discredited the testimony of the Muratorian Canon for a date c. 140, opted with him, Salmon and Bigg for one c.95, but only because of the reference to Clement, who was simply assumed to be bishop at the time. Similarly Streeter, FG,528, put it c.100.]

pointing out that the allusions to past sufferings correspond closely with the records of the Neronian persecution (Vis.3.2.1; Sim.8; 9.19.1; 9.28). A fair amount of time has elapsed, which now makes possible a forgiving attitude towards previous betrayals (Vis.2.2.4; Sim.9.26.6). Yet the references to the Christian ministry still presuppose a relatively early period. Thus Vis.3.5.1 speaks of the apostles and bishops and teachers and deacons, who walked after the holiness of God, and exercised their office of bishop and teacher and deacon [Note that he does not say bishop, presbyters and deacons, as in Ignatius.] in purity and sanctity for the elect of God, some of them already fallen on sleep, and others still living.This passage appears to imply that some of the original generation of church leaders were still alive.

In Did.9.1-9 the eucharistic cup still precedes the bread, as in I Cor.10.16 and Luke 22.17-19. Audet argues that the terminology relating to baptism (7.1; 9.5) is similarly primitive, and that the regulations about food (6.3) presuppose a period and a milieu where the dietary question is still genuinely posed: We are in the first Christian generation born of the Gentile mission, at little distance, it seems, in time if not in space, from I Cor.8-10; Rom.14;

Col.2.16, 20-3; and I Tim.4.3. [Didache,199.] Above all, we are in an age of itinerant apostles, prophets and teachers (11-13), where ‘apostles’ designate not a closed body but any men commissioned as missionary preachers and ‘prophets’ exercise a high charismatic ministry (10.7; 13.3) more honoured than that of local appointments. It is still the world reflected in such incidents as that of Acts 19.13-20, where strolling Jewish exorcists might be encountered by any congregation. But we are also ‘at a

point of transition from the ministry of prophets and teachers to that of bishops

and deacons’ [Ibid., 195. Similarly Streeter, PC,149-52.] when the former are

not available for regular ministry in the local church: Appoint for yourselves therefore bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men who are meek and not lovers of money, and true and approved; for unto you they also perform the service of the prophets and teachers. Therefore despise them not for they are your honourable men along with the prophets and teachers (15.1f.).

This is not the later transition from a presbyteral to a monepiscopal ministry but the much earlier one from the primacy of the charismatic to the recognition (and that by congregational appointment) of an established ordained ministry. It is a transition already presupposed by Philippians (1.1) and the Pastorals

The objections therefore to placing I Clement in 70 cannot be regarded as decisive. Its references to Hebrews in the exhortation of Ch. 36, so far from arguing, as has been claimed, a late date for Hebrews, on the ground that I Clement quotes from a recent document, would be entirely natural if Hebrews had been addressed to the Roman church but two or three years earlier. And there are other positive indications which Edmundson adduces in favour of an early date:

  1. The continued use in the liturgical passage of 59.2-4 of the primitive description of Jesus as πα•ς, the servant or child of God, common to the Acts speeches and the Didache.
  2. The fact that, as Lightfoot recognizes, [AFI.1,353.] the quotations from the gospel tradition ‘exhibit a very early type’. The author does not introduce them (as he does citations of the Old Testament) with the words ‘It is written’ or ‘The scripture says’. Indeed on the only two occasions (13.1f.; 46.7f.) he cites such material he employs precisely the same formula that Luke places on the lips of Paul in Acts 20.35: ‘Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, which he spake.’ And once more in all probability the quotations are not from our gospels but from oral tradition or ‘some written or unwritten form of ‘Catechesis” … current in the Roman Church’. [NT in the Apostolic Fathers (see n. 70 above), 61. Similarly, W. K. Lowther-Clarke, I Clement,1937, 1.1f.; Koester, op. cit., 12-19; Grant and H. H. Graham in Grant,

The Apostolic Fathers II, ad locc.; D. A. Hagner, The Use of the Old and New

Testaments in Clement of Rome, Leiden 1973, 171.]3. In a later letter to Soter, Bishop of Rome, Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, says:This day, therefore, we spent as a holy Lord’s day, in which we read your epistle; from the reading of which we shall always be able to obtain admonition, as also from the former epistle written to us through (δι•) Clement.[Quoted Eusebius, HE 4.23.11.]

To conclude, there would seem to be very little against the following sequence:

The Didache  40-60

I Clement early 70

The Epistle of Barnabas c. 75

The Shepherd of Hermas -c. 85

It is that the consensus of the textbooks, which inform the student within fairly agreed limits when any given book of the New Testament was written, rests upon much slighter foundations than he probably supposes.

The conclusion must be that, as with authorship, the external evidence is only as good as the internal, and cannot prevail over it. Indeed in contrast with the evidence for authorship, which sometimes, I believe, has to be taken seriously (e.g. on Mark, Luke-Acts, the gospel and epistles of John, and, in one instance, Hebrews), the external testimony on dating, with the single exception of the Apocalypse (where it is significant though far from unanimous), is virtually worthless

  1. Closely connected with the last is the evidence of first attestation by nameto the existence of a New Testament book in the early church. The first thingthat needs to be said is that one is dealing here almost totally with an argument from silence. The one exception that can be dated within the first century is the explicit reference in I Clement to I Corinthians (though described simply as Paul’s ‘epistle’ to that church). This does nothing to help with the dating of I Corinthians, which if it is genuine (as no one now doubts)  must in any case have been written years earlier.

That the Apocalypse is first mentioned by Justin in 150 does nothing to help us decide whether it was written in the late 60s or the mid-90s. And the same applies to the dating, say, of the gospels and epistles of John, or even of Jude and II Peter. The gap is usually in any case so great – and the bridge so thin – that an extra thirty years or so can make little difference

it is relevant to remind ourselves how precarious is their foundation. Indeed I would think it safe to say that there is no certain argument for dating to be drawn from the use of any one New Testament book by any other – and this applies even where there is undoubted literary interrelationship, e.g., between the synoptic gospels or between Jude and II Peter. Moreover, with the exception of the clear allusions to Hebrews and I Corinthians in I Clement (36,47,49), I doubt whether any of the references in the four sub-apostolic writings which we have ventured to set in the first century can

unquestionably be said to show dependence on any of our canonical New Testament books or on each other. This does not of course prove that the apostolic or later writers wrote in mutual ignorance or isolation (which is highly improbable), nor is it in itself any argument for early datings. It is merely a salutary warning against misplaced dogmatism based on arguments from literary dependence.

  1. A similar chastening would seem to be appropriate in the assurance withwhich scholars have pronounced on prophecy after the event.

This is not of course to say that subsequent reflection on events or the later experiences of the church have not shaped or conditioned the gospel tradition as we have it. John’s looking back on the manner of Jesus’ death, or of Peter’s, obviously presupposes the former and in all probability the latter. Equally the predictions of the rejection, crucifixion and resurrection of the Son of Man in the synoptic tradition are clearly influenced in lesser or greater degree by the knowledge of what happened.

It is quite another matter to say that these sayings or stories have simply been created by the history of the church and then put back into the mouth or the life of Jesus, or to say that Jesus could not have foretold what would befall his followers or his nation. Moreover, in Christian apocalyptic, whether set on the lips of Jesus or of John, there is no hint of the convention of pre-casting predictions so as to make it appear that occurrences within the readers’ time were fore-known from the distant past. While the Christian prophet might indeed shape his oracles, as John evidently did, out of his own experiences, the very limits of those experiences indicate where events had not yet reached. Thus, there is  nothing in Revelation that speaks of the fall of Jerusalem or that certainly reflects anything beyond the late 60s, just as there is nothing in the predictions of Paul in Acts that certainly reflects the situation beyond the point at which its story ends — or the subsequent organization of the Roman Empire or of the Christian church.

Then there is the apparently almost wilful blindness of investigators to the seemingly obvious. Thus Harnack chided scholars – and himself – for failing to take seriously the explanation which stared them in the face of why Acts  ends where it does.

One has been that the period of oral tradition preceded, and was in turn succeeded by, the period of written tradition. In a broad sense this is obviously true. Where it becomes dangerous is when it hardens into two presumptions, (a) The first is that the writing down of traditions did not begin until after a considerable stretch of oral transmission – the transition being  marked, it is also often assumed, by the passing of the first apostolic generation or by the fading of the hope of an early parousia.

The second presumption is that once the period of writing did begin the traditions were transmitted, and mutually influenced, almost exclusively by the processes of literary dependence, as one writer ‘used’, ‘copied’ or ‘altered’ another. On the contrary, there is every reason to think that both oral and literary processes went on concurrently for most of the first hundred years of the Christian church.

A second assumption has been that Aramaic-speaking Christianity was prior to Hellenistic Christianity. Again in a general sense this is true. But I believe it is misleading, if the deduction is then drawn that Greek was not spoken in Palestine from the very earliest days of the church and indeed that the spiritual majority was not in the first instance made up of those who also (or most naturally) spoke Greek, whether they were from Galilee, Jerusalem or the Diaspora. The mere fact that all the surviving Christian literature is in Greek while all the surviving Qumran literature is in Hebrew (or to a small extent in Aramaic) must say something about the relative provenance of the two movements. The testimony of the New Testament itself, not to mention the growing weight of contemporary evidence from outside it, suggests that the assumption that Hellenistic Christianity, with the use of the Septuagint, was a secondary phenomenon confined to the Gentile churches is far too facile. Certainly the assumption that Peter would have needed Greek only in addressing Gentiles, or James would not have been able to write it at all, or that the Johannine tradition must have passed through the medium of translation, demands challenge and scrutiny. This does not in itself affect the question of dating, but, unless questioned, the assumption tends to work uncritically in the direction of identifying what is Hellenistic with what is late. There is nothing inherently impossible about the notion that both the epistle of James and the first draft of the gospel of John could be very Jewish and very early and be written in Greek.

The third assumption I would mention primarily concerns authorship, though it regularly recurs in conjunction with dating. This is that there was an indefinite number of totally unrecorded and unremembered figures in the history of early Christianity who have left absolutely no mark except as the supposed authors of much of its greatest literature. This creates relatively minor problems when the writings in question are either anonymous or of secondary significance. Thus, who wrote the Epistle of Barnabas or II Clement or even the epistle to the Hebrews can ultimately be left unanswered without the overall picture being affected – though it is noticeable that all attempts to answer these questions in the early church turned upon names, like those of Paul or Luke, Barnabas or Clement, that we have already heard of: no one thought to postulate ex nihilo some forgotten spiritual genius….Pseudonymity is invoked as if it were an accepted and acceptable way of life at a date and to an extent for which we simply have no evidence

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