Prior to these findings, German critical scholars from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had argued that the New Testament was written by unknown authors in the second century. But this new evidence reveals that its books were all written in the first century. Historian Paul Johnson writes:
The late nineteenth-early twentieth-century notion that the New Testament was a collection of late and highly imaginative records can no longer be seriously held. No one now doubts that St. Paul’s epistles, the earliest Christian records, are authentic or dates them later than the A.D. 50s.
Archaeologist William Albright concluded that the entire New Testament was written at “very probably sometime between about 50 A.D. and 75 A.D.”
Cambridge scholar John A. T. Robinson argues for even earlier dates. He believes that most of the New Testament was written between A.D. 40 and 65. Robinson bases his conclusion primarily on the fact that all the New Testament books are silent about the destruction of Jerusalem. Such a key event would certainly have been mentioned by them had it occurred prior to their writings.
Further evidence for early dating is that the deaths of Peter and Paul in A.D. 66 aren’t mentioned in any book. There is an incredible amount of detail written about their lives in the New Testament; why not their deaths? That convinces many scholars that their deaths hadn’t yet occurred at the time of the writings.
The consensus of most scholars today is that the letters of Paul begin in the early 50s, and the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark & Luke) were written in the early to mid-60s. Estimates on other books range from A.D. 40-95, but the consensus is that all New Testament writings were composed in the first century.
These conclusions mean that the New Testament accounts about Jesus were written anywhere from seven to 30 years after his death, when thousands of eyewitnesses would have been alive to falsify the reports if they were wrong. Yet no such challenge to these eyewitness accounts exists.
Evidence for the reliability of the New Testament exceeds that of all other ancient history. John A. T. Robinson writes, “The wealth of manuscripts, and above all the narrow interval of time between the writing and the earliest extant copies, make it by far the best attested text of any ancient writing in the world.”
In fact, the New Testament has far more manuscripts dated far earlier than the Gospel of Barnabas as the chart below reveals.
Compare The New Testament and the Gospel Of Barnabas
|Date of Original||A.D. 40-95||A.D. 400-1500|
|Earliest Verified Copies||A.D. 117-138||A.D. 400-1500|
|Gap from Original||22-98 years||Undetermined|
|Years after Christ||7-30||370-1,470|
|Number of Manuscripts in Original Language||5,600+||None|
|Number of Manuscripts in All Languages||24,000+||3|
|Citations in other Historical Documents||36,000+||2|
Whereas the “secret Bible” called the Gospel of Barnabas was written 400-1500 years after Christ, most scholars believe the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written in the first century, within one generation of his life.
As one reads the New Testament, it becomes apparent that the writers made every attempt to honestly record the life, words and events surrounding Jesus. Luke, the writer of both the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, puts it this way,
“Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught”
The early writing of the New Testament strongly suggests that we can know what Jesus taught and what he was really like from the words of those who knew him, the eyewitnesses. One eyewitness, the apostle Peter, wrote:
“For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes”.
Peter and the other eyewitnesses boldly proclaimed “Jesus as Lord” at the risk of losing their lives. Perhaps the legacy of their unswerving commitment is the most compelling evidence of all that the New Testament, not the Gospel of Barnabas, presents the real Jesus.
Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?
The eyewitnesses to Jesus Christ actually spoke and acted like they believed he physically rose from the dead after his crucifixion. If they were wrong then Christianity has been founded upon a lie. But if they were right, such a miracle would substantiate all Jesus said about God, himself, and us.
But must we take the resurrection of Jesus Christ by faith alone, or is there solid historical evidence? Several skeptics began investigations into the historical record to prove the resurrection account false. What did they discover?
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© 2012 JesusOnline Ministries. This article is a supplement to Y-Jesus magazine by Bright Media Foundation & B&L Publications: Larry Chapman, Chief Editor.