In discussions about the NT, I often get asked about when the different books were written. It helps, for example, to know that the gospels were written at least 35 years after Jesus’s death, and that some of the letters were much later still.
Dating biblical books is very difficult. If you browse around, you’ll get contradictory numbers. Many sites and study bibles have this tendentious need to pretend that the books of the bible were written by the people who’s names are on them. And this gives totally improbable datings. Even sites that reflect the scholarly consensus on authorship vary wildly. (Wikipedia, for example, gives totally different dates on individual books that it does on its summary Dating of the Bible page) In a future post I will talk about how we date books: the kinds of criteria we use, and where they apply. These criteria often contradict one another, making dating even harder.
Still, in there interests of doing more than just waving my hands, here is my list of dates. Bear in mind that all of these dates are likely to be wrong. I haven’t put the ‘circa’ on everything, but it should be everywhere. In general I’ve tried to give as small a range as I can, or one date, even if there are good reasons to doubt that, but in many cases there is just no good reason to pick any particular date within the range.
|Date||Book||Very Brief Notes|
|33||Possible date of Jesus’s crucifixion.|
|50‑52||1 Thessalonians||Shows signs of immaturity in theology and in form compared to Paul’s later letters.|
|50‑55||Galatians||A few scholars put Galatians as the first epistle, because of the impossibility of reconciling its chronology with that in Acts.|
|53‑57||1 Corinthians||Dating depends on the Acts chronology for when Paul is in Ephesus.|
|55‑57||2 Corinthians||Probably 2 letters combined — Paul is still in Ephesus but follows 1 Corinthians.|
|55‑58||Romans||Again depends on the Acts chronology for when Paul is in Corinth.|
|62||Philemon||Assuming Paul’s mentioned emprisonment is at Rome.|
|62||Philippians||A complex and therefore fragile line of reasoning gives this date.|
|68‑70||Hebrews||A book about priesthood and priestly duties, but doesn’t mention the destruction of the temple in 70.|
|70||Mark||During the First Jewish War, before the destruction of the temple.|
|80‑85||Matthew||Uses Mark, but shows many theological and mythic developments.|
|85‑90||Luke||I’m guessing that Luke had access to at least a proto-Matthew (my synoptic thoughts are worth a separate post).|
|85‑90||Acts||I suspect that Acts may have been written in an initial form well before Luke (maybe c. 70) and was tweaked into its final form as the ‘second volume’ to Luke later. If not, then it was most likely written around these dates.|
|80‑100||Colossians||80-100 is the catch-all for books that were forged in Paul’s name, we have almost no independent way of dating them, except that we know that some of them were being quoted in the early C2.|
|80‑100||2 Thessalonians||If 2 Thess is authentically by Paul (I suspect not, but it isn’t that clear), then it is 52-54.|
|80‑100||2 Timothy||Very likely to be by a different person than 1 Timothy, seems to have more knowledge of Paul the man, so likely earlier. Could just perhaps be authentic (c.60-65).|
|80‑100||1 Peter||Another forged letter that is therefore difficult to anchor.|
|85‑100||Ephesians||Depends on Colossians, and is therefore later. Probably by another different author.|
|95||Revelation||Date based on the assumption that it alludes to Domitian.|
|90‑100||1-3 John||All three seem to have been written by the same person, difficult to separate.|
|95‑100||John||This date allows theological development, and is traditionally attested.|
|70‑150||James||There seems to me to be very few good arguments that can narrow these dates down.|
|100‑120||1 Timothy||Seems to be written in a C2 theological context, is probably used by Polycarp in c. 130.|
|100‑120||Titus||1 Timothy and Titus seem to be dependent, but isn’t clear in which direction.|
|90‑150||Jude||To small to contain many clues, but seems to depend on the apocrypha, and seems to have a dependency relationship with 2 Peter 2.|
|100‑150||2 Peter||Probably depends on Jude. Seems to be written to a C2 church context.|
Comments, arguments or corrections are welcome.