Dating the Testaments
By: Wendell Krossa
Dating the New Testament and related sources
To provide more context for understanding the insight on unconditional and how Christianity rejected that and retreated to a primitive retaliation viewpoint.
The following are approximate dates for the original publication of the various New Testament books and related sources. Mark was the first New Testament gospel to be written. Matthew and Luke borrowed common material from Mark. They also used common material from some other source, known as Q (from Quelle, German for “source”). Q is considered to be the very first gospel of Jesus and it went through several later revisions.
50s CE (Common Era)
The dating of the original Q source (the very earliest gospel of Jesus, serene and hopeful in tone, non-retaliatory, non-apocalyptic) is early 50s CE. Some researchers suggest 40-50 CE, others 30-70 CE. This original gospel of Jesus contains his core message of non-retaliation or unconditional treatment of all people, both good and bad (the statements of Matthew 5:38-48, similar to the material in Luke 6 that contain a clear rejection of eye for eye justice, and any form of payback or punishment).
Paul wrote Thessalonians also in the early 50s CE and this begins the “stunning shift” away from the original non-retaliation message of Jesus and back to a strong retaliation perspective. In Thessalonians Paul speaks repeatedly of the coming of the Lord, of people heaping up sins to the limit; of the Lord punishing men for sin; of destruction coming on people; there being no escape and of unbelievers suffering wrath. His views on apocalyptic retaliation and punishment were already well developed. Paul strongly condemned anyone who held to any other gospel that differed from his Christ mythology. He may have been condemning those who held to the original Q source which was the original gospel of Jesus himself.
Paul also wrote I Corinthians somewhere in the mid to late 50s CE (53-57). Galatians was written in the late 50s CE (56-57); 2 Corinthians somewhere between 53-57 CE, and Romans between 56-58 CE.
Q2 (threatening and vengeful) was written in the 60s CE, perhaps before the Jewish War of 66 CE. This stunning shift from the original Q (non-retaliatory, non-apocalyptic in tone) to this later revision of Q, now strongly retaliatory and apocalyptic in tone, may have resulted from the destruction of the Jewish Temple. Some have suggested that the Jews viewed that temple destruction as an act of vengeance from God and therefore abandoned Jesus’ new insight on God as non-retaliatory. They then returned to their traditional view of God as retaliatory and punitive. This was a retreat to primitive eye for eye justice, a retreat to views of payback/punishment justice, and atonement theology.
Paul wrote Ephesians somewhere between 58-62 CE, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon between 61-63 CE. 1 Timothy was written between 64-65 CE; Titus was written in the same time frame. 2 Timothy was written between 66-67 CE (note also that there are challenges to Paul’s authorship of these books). Some say Mark was written between 60-70 CE, others say in the 70s.
Q3 was apparently written around 75 CE, and in this revision Jesus is viewed as near deity. This shows the progressive development of the Christ myth or Paul’s Christology and his view of Jesus as approaching the status of a God-man. This is all part of the larger shift away from the actual teaching of Jesus to a message that focuses on Jesus himself, a message that deifies the man. It is part of the overall shift away from the original non-retaliation message of Jesus to the strong retaliation message of the Christ myth.
80s CE and beyond
Matthew was written in the 80s CE; John in the 90s CE; and Luke/Acts was written in the early 2nd Century. The Gospel of Thomas is up for debate. one credible scholar arguing that it was written before 90 CE, others (most) arguing it was written in the 2nd Century, maybe somewhere between 140-180 CE.
Note: Paul was a forceful person and he is primarily responsible for shaping the teaching of Christianity. His views dominated all others and he is largely responsible for the rejection of the original gospel of Jesus (non-apocalyptic, non-retaliatory) for his own gospel of Christ that is strongly apocalyptic and retaliatory. The New Testament is mostly Paul’s writing or the writing of those who supported his views. Christianity is Paul’s religion, not the religion of Jesus.