These early dates are based on historical events including: Nero’s persecution in AD 64, the death of Paul in ~AD 65, the death of Peter in AD ~67, the Judean war with Rome in AD 66–70, and the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in AD 70. Most of the New Testament books do not indicate that the destruction of Jerusalem had happened yet, and so some scholars date the New Testament before AD 70. This article considers the probable dates for NT books.
Matthew – AD 34–58
– The author of Matthew wrote before the Gospel of Luke in which Luke referred to previously written narratives by “eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” of which most likely include Matthew and Mark (Luke 1:1–3; cf. 1 John 1:1–4). Matthew noted Caiaphas as the High Priest in the present tense, yet Caiaphas was removed in AD 36 (Matt 26:3).
Mark – AD 35–58
– John Mark was in the company of Peter earlier in Acts (Acts 12:6–25). According to early church history, Mark wrote the teachings of Peter. Luke’s Gospel must include the Gospel of Mark among the previously written texts as Luke drew from Mark verbatim (Luke 1:1–3). Mark may have also written his text before Caiaphas was removed in AD 36, because Mark wrote without noting the name of current High Priest.
James – AD 47–49
– James’s epistle was most likely written when James was a visible leader in Jerusalem, yet before the council of Jerusalem when apostles and elders addressed the subject of circumcision (Acts 15). In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, Paul also noted that James was an apostle and the brother of Jesus (Gal 1:19). While James’s epistle complements Paul’s law of the Spirit as “the law of liberty,” James did not address circumcision indicating an earlier date. James was martyred ~AD 62.
Galatians – AD 47–49
– The apostle Paul addressed believers including those going to the Law of Moses over the Gospel of Christ in his letter to the Galatians. These circumstances developed after Paul’s first missionary journey throughout Galatia, and after Paul and Barnabas brought this same controversy from Antioch to Jerusalem. Paul is silent about the very helpful decision noted in the epistle to Antioch from the council in Jerusalem that revealed circumcision as not a command of the New Testament (Acts 14:23–28; 15; 16:4).
1 & 2 Thessalonians – AD 49–51
– Paul wrote his epistles to the Thessalonians while in Corinth on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1–18). According to 1 Thessalonians, Paul wrote this first letter when Timothy was reunited with Paul from Macedonia as described in Acts (1 Thess 3:1–6; cf. Acts 17:15; 18:5–8). He wrote his second letter to the Thessalonians soon after 1 Thessalonians.
1 & 2 Corinthians – AD 53–56
– Paul noted that he wrote his first letter to the Corinthians from Ephesus in which he stayed there for some time between AD 53–55 (Acts 19:21–22; 1 Cor 16:8). Paul wrote his second epistle from Macedonia soon in AD 55–56 after 1 Corinthians as indicated in 2 Corinthians.
Romans – AD 57
– Paul wrote to the church in Rome upon his second visit to Corinth during his third missionary journey. This is also indicated by Paul’s reference to Erastus the treasurer of Corinth and sending Phoebe from Cenchreae a port near to Corinth (Romans 16; cf. Acts 18:5–8; 20:1–3).
Luke – AD 58–62
– Luke wrote his Gospel supplementing previously written Gospels (Luke 1:1–3). Luke wrote this Gospel by drawing from eyewitnesses of Jesus (Luke 1:1–3). With the extent of time that Luke spent with Paul in Judea, Luke most likely began his Gospel in Judea (Acts 21–26). Luke finished his Gospel before Paul cited it as “Scripture” in 1 Timothy 5:18.
Acts – AD 60–63
– Luke wrote Acts after Luke’s Gospel and finished Acts with Paul under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:30–31). Because of the account of the beginning of the Church in Judea, Luke would have started this writing with those same Judean witnesses that he used for His Gospel.
John – AD 58–65
– John wrote this Gospel as a witness (John 19:35; 21:24). He wrote noting the present existence of the pool of Bethesda before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (John 5:1–3). John clearly supplements the other Gospels without the same details but John does mention these institutions by alluding to them (ex. Jesus’s baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and baptism in Jesus’s name). John’s Gospel was written earlier than John’s epistles, because John and Peter both mention writing at about the same time as one another this before Peter’s death (2 Pet 1:16–21; 1 John 1:1–4). John did mention Jesus’s prediction of Peter’s martyrdom that would have occurred ~AD 65–67 (John 21:19).
1 Peter – AD 58–63
– Peter wrote from Rome and his first epistle must have been before John could note the writings of the apostles in 1 John (1 Pet 5:12–13; cf. 2 Pet 1:16–21; 1 John 1:1–4). Peter wrote from Rome about persecutions that arose at the beginning or during the persecution under the emperor Nero (1 Pet 4:12–19; 5:6–11, 13).
Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon – AD 60–63
– These letters were written during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome as indicated by the apostle Paul in His writings (Acts 28:30–31; cf. Eph 3:1; 4:1; 6:20; Phil 1:7, 13–16; Col 4:10; Phile 1:1, 9–10, 13, 23).
1 Timothy – AD 60–64
– Paul was likely in Macedonia when he wrote Timothy in Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3). This would occur after Paul imprisonment from AD 60–62 (cf. Acts 28:30). Paul could have written this epistle about AD 55 following the events following the riot in Ephesus in Acts 19 (cf Acts 20:1–4).
Titus – AD 58–65
– When Paul wrote Romans, Titus was in Corinth (2 Cor 8; 12:17–18). Paul was not in prison when he wrote this epistle to Titus. There are no records of Paul having a prolonged work in Crete as Paul sent Titus to the island of Crete (cf. Acts 27:8). Either Paul wrote Titus after his imprisonment in Rome about AD 60–62.
Hebrews – AD 60–64
– The Pauline author of Hebrews wrote before there was widespread bloodshed of Christians via Nero’s persecution in AD 64 or the suffering of Jews in the Judean War in AD 66 (Heb 12:4). The text speaks of the temple, priests, and sacrifices still occurring in Jerusalem dating the text before the Judean war in AD 66 and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
2 Timothy – AD 64–67
– Paul’s final epistle was written just before his death while in prison in Rome (2 Tim 1:8; 4:6–8). This writing is dated according to historical accounts of the time of Paul’s death.
1–3 John – AD 61–66
– In 1 John, John said that “we,” the apostles, were writing, which included Peter’s epistles and Paul’s as later noted in Peter’s second epistle (2 Pet 1:16–21; 1 John 1:1–4). John most likely moved to Ephesus before or at the beginning of the Judean War.
2 Peter – AD 63–67
– Peter’s second letter was written just before his death (2 Pet 1:13–15; 3:2, 15–16). This farewell is also dated according to the historical time of just before Peter’s death.
Jude – AD 64–69
– Jude most likely wrote his epistle in fulfillment of 2 Peter rather than Peter warning of an event already happened from Jude (2 Pet 2). In AD 55, Paul referenced Jesus’s brothers including Jude traveling in the proclamation of the Gospel (1 Cor 9:5).
Revelation – AD 69–79
– Revelation was written as its was revealed to John (Rev 10:4; 14:13; 19:9; 21:5). This revelation came to John before Jerusalem’s destruction in AD 70 (Rev 11:1–2) and during the sixth Emperor of Rome (Rev 17:9–10).
All of these writings are quoted by early church writers. In 180, Irenaeus, who knew John’s disciple Polycarp, quoted from every New Testament book while also excluding and opposing Gnostic writings. Origen listed the 27 books in his commentary on John.
*Also see article on the first-century formation of the New Testament collection to understand the affirmation of these writings and their chronology as a whole.
Please forgive me. I didn’t have time to carefully read all the other comments. I have a few thoughts.
Revelation must be dated before 70 A.D. In fact, logic would dictate even earlier since to be prophetic it needed to be written long enough before the siege of Jerusalem to make the warning passages useful to Christians so they could flee to the mountains.
The First Jewish–Roman War (66–73 CE) would mean that it could have been written in the early 60’s. I would suggest early 69 A.D. if that allowed enough time for it to reach those in Judea, but probably even earlier.
A quick search couldn’t find an “early date” for John’s exile to Patmos, so I’ll just rely on logic.
The date of Revelation above “69-79” may have a typo with the 79 supposed to be 70.
What about a Postmillennial view?
No. I left the date of Revelation open as during the reign of Vespasian because John said that he wrote during the 6th king unless John was referring to Claudius (AD 41-54). Can you make a case for that?
I’ll let those better equipped do that for me:
Before Jerusalem Fell (BOOK) (by Ken Gentry)
Dating the Book of Revelation: Clarifying Tommy Ice’s Clarifications
Jul 31, 2012 by Gary DeMar
The Date of Revelation: Geisler vs. Geisler
Jul 25, 2007 by Gary DeMar
Or simple logic would make the case that any book written AFTER the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. would reference that destruction.
You might argue that every book written after 9/11 doesn’t reference that event, but I’m guessing just about every book written about terrorism, the Bush Presidency, New York City, military actions, etc. is likely to include some reference. Additionally, many fiction books use the 9/11 story as the basis for some part of the book.
It simply defies common sense for New Testament authors to completely ignore possibly the biggest event of the 1st century A.D. after Christ’s life. Yet they only make reference to it as a future event.
The accurate dating of Revelation is critical to our understanding of eschatology — whether one is Dispensational or Amillennial. 70 AD is clearly the demarcation as the early dating invalidates what is taught by so many Dispensational pastors today such as the prophetic frenzy with regards to blood moons and such.
I don’t see how it is critical, but it does make sense.
It is critical in the sense that a whole lot of mainstream churches are preaching a false theology regarding end times prophesy.
Popular teachers are fixated on Blood Moons and ancient harbingers. They exegete the Bible from this morning’s newspaper — especially those that relate to the Middle East.
Even 9/11 is prophetically connected to the Shemitah judgements against ancient Israel.
We are admonished to beware the false prophets for they will lead astray many such as those who ardently believed Harold Camping’s prediction that Christ would return on May 21, 2011.
Dispensationalists date Revelation in the 90’s AD well after the climatic destruction of Jerusalem. In so doing they can defend their premillennial interpretation of John’s vision.
Amillennials understand that the OT books of Daniel and Ezekiel are apocalyptic and parallel to the NT Apocalypse (Revelation). This can only be true if the book was written prior to the destruction of the Temple otherwise it would make no sense to the churches to whom it was sent.
While the church, today, engages in fanciful discussions about the Mark of the Beast (Revelation 13:18) it is fairly certain that John’s readers understood his cryptic reference.
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Amen. I agree. However, I know many amillennialists who believe that John wrote Revelation in about 96 AD. If you have any more insight on this, I am eager to read your observations. God bless.
R.C. Sproul said that the dating of Revelation has specific relevance to our understanding of the Millennium. If we believe that the Apocalypse was significant to 70 AD then the Amillennial view is the more defensible position. If, however, we hold a futurist view — tribulation, antichrist and rapture — then the premillennial view is more agreeable.
I believe that the prophesy of Christ (as recorded in Matthew 24) was fulfilled “in that generation” — that is, 70 AD. With regards to the rapture, Christ says He will raise us up on the last day (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54). Four times Christ says there is a “last day” which I believe is a reference to the Second Coming. Peter calls it the “day of the Lord” when the heavens are burned up (2 Peter 3:10). And Christ says that the hour is coming when all will hear his voice and be resurrected either to life or judgement. (John 5:28-29).
This Amillennial view of the “last day” does not allow for “left behind” scenarios of mid-trib rapture where planes fall out of the sky because the crew has been mysteriously “caught up”. That makes for thrilling movies , but it is not Biblical.
I am curious about Amillennials who accept a late-date because the apologetic presuppositions of Amillennialism can only be supported if we believe that Revelation was written as a warning to the church pre-AD 70.
Was it the Great Tribulation? Over one million Jews were killed, and many thousands taken captive. There was mass starvation such that mothers ate their own children. The brutal horror unleashed by Rome was merciless. Josephus wrote that no city in the history of the world suffered the death and destruction that Rome inflicted upon Jerusalem.
Sounds eerily similar to the words of Christ:
“For then there will be great tribulation such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, and never will be.” (Matthew 24:21)
In context, Jesus is prophetically speaking of Jerusalem since we would agree (whether Amillennial or Premillennial) that the Jewish people have suffered terrible evil; but the destruction of the Temple was the end of all that Judaism rested upon.
Scott, thank you for being so gracious. I miss the Church of Christ.
Thank you. You present the truth well. It is very smooth and easy to accept. While I deduce that John wrote Revelation in 69 AD, I have not thoroughly relied upon this conclusion. I have some things to reconsider when I speak about Revelation in October.
Well said. With regard to Matthew 24, Adam Clark said it was fulfilled in the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. He call Josephus account of the event the ‘perfect commentary on Matthew 24.
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Scott. I favor an early dating of Matthew. But it appears Matt 26:3 is not in the present tense. Both KJV and NIV use past tense – “was” — 3 Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas.
Do you have any source that confirms a present tense was involved?
Excellent question. The phrase is misinterpreted “the high priest, who was called Caiaphas”, but in Greek for “was called” is legomenou, which is a participle in the present tense and should be “the high priest, who is called Caiaphas”. You can use Robinson’s Morphological Analysis Code for Matthew 26:3. There are no variants that I found for this translation.