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Acts, therefore, was written after that period, not before it.
Revelation refers to five “kings” who have fallen and to one who “is” at the time of speaking (Rev. If, then, we can identify these “kings”—a big “if” but not, I think, an impossible one—we will have a criterion for dating at least this part of the book.
Bruce explains the methods used for dating the New Testament and stresses the importance of avoiding criteria that are too speculative and subjective.
Secondly, because the central fact of the Christian faith, the Incarnation—which defies human comprehension—demands solid historical support if it is to win the allegiance of sober-minded people. And we confess with him, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” But again, if our records of this pivotal event in human history cannot be trusted, our faith is vulnerable indeed. For the past century or so, New Testament critics have assumed a date of around A. But if O’Callaghan’s work holds up—and it really is too early to predict one way or the other—we will have strong evidence that Mark was in circulation in Palestine a whole generation earlier than anyone had imagined, and the suggestion of an earlier source would be pointless.
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© Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals Inc, 600 Eden Rd, Lancaster PA 17601, USA.© 1972 F.
Texts and scraps of texts that have survived 2,000 years of weather and war are simply too far and few between.
So we have to look for other criteria by which to date the New Testament.
But, for the most part, the traditional view that the New Testament books were written in the first century by their purported authors (rather than “ghost-written” a century later by propagandists of the church) is not supported by such sensational finds.
We will avoid such dubious conclusions if we rely as far as possible on more objective criteria for dating the New Testament books. But that admittedly would be both speculative and subjective—a far cry from the objective criteria I have advocated in this article! Bruce [was] professor of biblical criticism and exegesis at the University of Manchester, England, and [was] a consulting editor of ETERNITY.
When this is done, it does not seem to make much difference whether the scholars engaged in the exercise are evangelical or not, For example, while many evangelical scholars continue quite happily to date the Gos¬pel of John in the 90s of the first century A. He is author of The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Bruce, “On Dating the New Testament,” Eternity 23 (June 1972): 32-33.
The Gospel would be close enough to the events it records to stand on its own merits.
If O’Callaghan’s findings lead to a major revision of New Testament critical views, it will not be the first time that uncovered ancient texts or fragments have jolted the scholars.
Two major events of the second half of the first century, which help us date some of the New Testament books, are: the fall of Jerusalem in A. 70 and the first outright attack by the Roman Empire on Christians in A. We have only to compare Romans 13 with Revelation 13 to realize that the former is as clearly before A. ”—the implied answer being “No one.” But then the Apostle adds: “But even if you were to suffer for righteousness’ sake”—expressing this as a remote contingency.