Radio Debate with Craig Evans on the Dating of the Gospels

Last Thursday I took part in a radio debate, sponsored by First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Houston, TX. The debate was moderated by reverend Evan McClanahan, and my debate partner was evangelical biblical scholar Craig Evans. The topic of the debate was 1) the date(s) when the canonical Gospels were written, and 2) how the dating of the Gospels affects their historical reliability.

FELC

The audio recording of the debate can now be viewed on YouTube, and is available below:

Overall, I greatly enjoyed the debate, and I think that Dr. Evans and I had both a generous and constructive discussion. If you have any thoughts about the debate, feel free to share them in the comments below!

-Matthew Ferguson

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33 Responses to Radio Debate with Craig Evans on the Dating of the Gospels

  1. Joe Seeker says:

    Awesome! Congrats on scoring a gig with someone like Craig Evans. I’ve suggested to Justin Brierley of Unbelievable podcast that you and David Marshall on the Gospels as bioi would be a good discussion (not that you’d want to have any more dealings with Marshall), but have heard naught as of yet. Have you? In any case, sorry I missed you when you were in SF (I live nearby). Glad this debate will be available shortly after as I will be in Fresno for the day hearing Ehrman speak at a lunch lecture and in the evening. So enough rambling. I greatly appreciate your work, am cheering for you (for the PhD and for this debate). Good luck and be well!

    Vincent

    >

    • Thanks, Vincent. While I would be glad to go on Unbelievable? at some point in the future, I won’t ever agree to holding a debate with David Marshall, until he first publicly apologizes for his rude and petulant behavior, and then obtains a graduate degree in a relevant academic field. Since I doubt that Marshall will do either of those things, I don’t think that he is worth holding a debate with. There are frankly more knowledgeable, eloquent, and polite Christians out there to engage with, such as Craig Evans, who I would rather focus my time on.

  2. Shannon says:

    Very cool! Looking forward to it.

  3. supdep says:

    Good luck Matthew from Australia, I hope it goes well. I’ll certainly be following up the recording.

  4. Jeff Cate says:

    Very nice debate. Both you and Craig touched on many of the key issues in a limited amount of time and in a very professional manner. Several issues that came up that I personally want to revisit.

    Evans mentioned that Mark 13 says nothing of the “fire” in Jerusalem in 70 CE which Josephus emphasizes (Evans said 10-12x), and he saw that as evidence of the lack of specific details in Mk 13 that should be expected in an ex eventu prophecy. But OTOH, Matthew and Luke written post-70 don’t include mention of the fire either.

    The lack of anti-temple rhetoric (or at least predictions about Jerusalem’s destruction) is an intriguing aspect of Paul’s letters. But Paul has temple replacement language (1 Cor 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16). I want to look to see if Jewish writers (Philo, Josephus, Mishnah, DSS, etc.) speak of temple replacement in similar ways, and if so, how and to what extent.

    I also want to personally revisit the issue of Luke-Acts being dependent on or at least aware of Josephus’ Antiquities as you argued. Years ago, when I looked into this matter, seems like each time there is a possible connection between Luke-Acts and Josephus, Luke-Acts conflicts with Josephus… which makes me wonder if Luke-Acts is dependent on pop knowledge of the same events and not Josephus. I want to revisit this in my own studies.

    Thanks for a productive debate. Both of you were well-prepared and the presentations were tightly-packed with key information. All the best to you with your continued studies.

    • Thanks for these thoughts! I have some tests to grade today, and I have been super busy with graduate work. But I’ll get back to your comment in the near future, since I would like to talk more about these good issues that you raise, and also discuss a few of my own thoughts about last Thursday.

      • robert2016 says:

        when they say that marks prophecy would have been altered to say that the fire brought down the temple, isn’t the assumption here that the scribes who copied mark knew that the fire brought down the temple?

        • robert2016 says:

          i meant to say:

          is not the apologist assuming that mark or those who copied mark knew that the fire destroyed the temple? is it not possible that mark knew that it was destroyed but did not know the MAIN cause of destruction?

          • Sure, that could be the case. If Mark was composed at Rome (as Adam Winn argues) around the early-70’s CE (and perhaps even by a Gentile author), then he may not have known the specific details of the Temple’s destruction in Jerusalem.

            On the other hand, I just don’t think that Mark’s description is intended to be literal or veristic to begin with. The fig tree, for example, is an obvious metaphor. The statement that no stone will be left upon another could be taken as a literal prophecy (and even that hasn’t happened, since there is still the Western Wall), but I think it is just hyperbole. The anti-Temple motifs in Mark 11-13 use a variety of images and tropes to symbolize the Temple’s destruction, and I don’t think any are intended as a literal description of events.

            What scholars like Adam Winn argue is that the heavy anti-Temple rhetoric in Mark makes the most sense in a post-70 CE setting. It is absent from earlier Christian authors, like Paul. If Vespasian was using the destruction of the Temple as part of imperial propaganda, however, it would make sense that Christians would want to capitalize on this propaganda by making Jesus predict the event in advance. No Christian authors, in texts that we can indisputably date to pre-70 CE, provide any reference to Jesus making such a prediction.

            But furthermore, the reference to the Temple in Mark is only one of the clues that puts it during the reign of Vespasian. Other examples are the reference to paying imperial taxes to Caesar (which did not exist in Judea prior to 70 CE) in Mk. 12:13-17, and what could be reference to a healing miracle performed by Vespasian (where he cured a blind man by spitting in his eye) in Mk. 8:22-25.

            On the other hand, I do see Evans’ point that we sort of lack a “smoking gun,” as it were, for Mark specifically referring to the Temple’s destruction in 70 CE. If Mark had described the destruction in more detail, as Josephus did, we might be able to indisputably date Mark post-70. But, I also think that the author primarily describes the prediction through rhetorical devices and symbolism, so the exact details might not be expected, even post-70.

            One thing I will say, however, about something that I didn’t get time to cover in the debate, is that I would at least date Mark to after the death of Paul (c. 67 CE). Not only do we have patristic evidence for this, since even Irenaeus (Against Heresies 3.1.1) implies that the gospel was written after Paul’s death, but also there are no clear references to the canonical Gospels in the undisputed Pauline epistles. I think Paul’s complete silence about any verses from Mark and Luke makes a better case for placing their composition after his death, than the absence of Paul’s death in Acts (which seems to be alluded to, anyway, at the end of Acts 20) making a case for composition in the early-60’s CE. As such, I am okay with placing Mark in the late-60’s and not post-70, but I would never place the text as early as Crossley does (in the 40’s) and not in the 50’s or early-60’s, either.

          • mr.sonic says:

            “(and even that hasn’t happened, since there is still the Western Wall)”

            is the western wall a wall to a building?

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Wall

    • robert2016 says:

      “Evans mentioned that Mark 13 says nothing of the “fire” in Jerusalem in 70 CE which Josephus emphasizes (Evans said 10-12x), and he saw that as evidence of the lack of specific details in Mk 13 that should be expected in an ex eventu prophecy. But OTOH, Matthew and Luke written post-70 don’t include mention of the fire either.”

      but if memory is correct, then matthew has his jesus say a parable in which god is said to burn the city.

      • Can you name the passage in Matthew about this?

        I plan to say more about the details of Jerusalem’s destruction at some point in the near future, but right now I am very busy with graduate work, so I don’t have time to address this at the moment.

        • brucealderman says:

          I think he’s referring to the parable of the wedding banquet in Matthew 22. Verse 7 says, “The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city,” which doesn’t really fit in the context of the parable, and is not found in Luke’s version of the same story (Luke 14:15-24).

      • Jeff Cate says:

        Yes, correct. Matt 22.7 mentions burning (but the loose parallel in Luke 14.21 does not). I meant the Olivet Discourse (Mk 13; Mt 24-25; Lk 21) in the Synoptics. Thanks for the clarification.

    • Hey Jeff,

      Sorry for my very belated response! The last couple months have been crazy busy, and I just now have a chance to follow up on this. Here are some of my thoughts about the debate:

      1. Regarding the vagueness of the details on the destruction of Jerusalem in Mark 13, and the use of Old Testament language/imagery, I’m not sure that this is a good argument that the prophecy must have been written pre-factum. What I thought about after the debate is that the use of OT motifs is actually common in the NT, including for events that we *know* are post-factum. Take Jesus’ crucifixion, for example. Everyone agrees that Mark was writing post-factum on Jesus’ crucifixion, but consider the ample use of OT language/imagery in Mark 15. The reference to casting lots for Jesus’ garments is lifted directly from Psalm 22:18. Jesus’ last words are lifted from Psalm 22:1. The midday darkness probably references several OT verses (cf. Joel 2:1-2; Amos 5:18-20; Zephaniah 1:14-15). As such, simply because OT language/imagery is used in describing the Temple’s destruction, I’m not sure that this is a good argument for saying that it was written pre-factum. It would, of course, be nice to have references to the fire or other more concrete details, but perhaps the author of Mark used metaphor (e.g. the fig tree) to make the post-factum prophecy less obvious?

      A point that I emphasized during the debate is that the internal evidence, such as whether Mark writes about the 70 CE destruction of Jerusalem, is rather ambiguous and it depends greatly on *interpretation*. Scholars can likewise disagree on these interpretations, which is why I tend to place less stock in the internal evidence. The external evidence of the 2nd century CE is less disputable (not to say that it isn’t still complicated), which is why I favor the external evidence, which places a terminus ante quem for the texts in the early-2nd century CE. I’m not sure we can *prove* they were written earlier, because we only have interpretive evidence, but I am open to earlier dates.

      2. As for the lack of anti-Temple rhetoric in Paul’s letters and its first appearance in Mark, here is what Adam Winn writes about it (taken from private correspondence):

      “If Mark’s audience was primarily Gentile, the question that must be asked is what interest did Gentile Christians have in the Jewish Temple? That the evangelist devotes a major section of the gospel to the Jewish Temple and its future suggests that his Gentile readers must have had some interest in it. But such an interest stands in stark contrast with the evidence we see throughout the New Testament. In Paul’s undisputed letters, which are without question our best window into the interests and concerns of early Gentile Christianity, we see no interest in or concern for the Jerusalem Temple. In fact, the only “temple” that Paul refers to is the church itself, which he identifies as God’s temple. But even in such an identification, the Jerusalem Temple plays virtually no role. Paul never makes a case that the Jerusalem Temple is corrupt and thus needs to be replaced by the people of God. He never even uses language of “newness” when describing the church as the God’s temple, i.e., the church is the “new” temple of God. In identifying the church as God’s temple, Paul never presents the church as taking on the cultic functions of the temple. It seems that the Jerusalem Temple played virtually no role in Paul’s missional and pastoral work among Gentile churches, even in instances in which Paul identifies those churches with God’s temple. And while the value of the book of Acts for reconstructing Paul’s missionary work is debated, it is noteworthy that the temple plays no role in Acts’ depiction of Paul’s proclamation of the gospel to the Gentiles (particularly given the fact that the temple seems to play a prominent role in other parts of the book of Acts). Thus, all the existing evidence that we have portrays an early Gentile Christian church that has no interest in the Jerusalem Temple.”

      3. Regarding Luke’s use of Josephus, Richard Pervo devotes a whole chapter to it in Dating Acts (pp. 149-199). I’d be happy to discuss the individual instances of inter-dependence that he lists, but I will say one thing, though. Evans argued that the use of Luke’s other sources, such as Mark, are more obvious, whereas we don’t see as obvious a use of Josephus. I think this fails to take into account the differences between the *mimetic* and *informatic* use of sources. The mimetic use of sources is when an author overtly follows the outline of an earlier narrative and sometimes even copies whole verses and passages. This is how Luke uses Mark, and why there is a large amount of direct material shared with Mark. An author does not have to engage in mimesis of a source, however, to still use a source. The informatic use of sources is when an author uses a literary or documentary source for details and information. During this process, the author might even change how that source depicts things, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t used as a source. An example of each use of sources can be seen in Lucan’s Pharsalia. Scholars generally agree that Lucan performed mimesis on Livy, by copying his sequence of events in Caesar’s civil war (at least what we know of them from the Periochae). Nevertheless, it is also probable that Lucan used Caesar’s commentaries, too, but he uses them in a different way. Some have argued that he actually diverges from Caesar’s commentaries by including material that Caesar leaves out (e.g. the crossing of the Rubicon). So, you don’t have to perform mimesis on a source to still use a source, and I don’t argue that Luke engaged in mimesis of Josephus, rather than that he may have used his history for information.

      4. A point I left out of this debate, which I didn’t think of until afterward, is an anachronism in all of the Synoptic Gospels that dates to post-70 CE. This is the reference to paying the Roman denarius to Caesar in Mark 12:17, Matthew 22:21, and Luke 20:25. Prior to the reign of Vespasian, Roman taxation was not collected in Judea (Julius Caesar banned the use of Roman publicans in 47 BCE, and instead the Jewish government paid Roman tribute after collecting taxes through a native system), nor was the use of the denarius widespread. Coin hoards dating to that period contain vastly more Tyrian shekels and not many many denarii. This changed after the destruction of Jerusalem and the reign of Vespasian, when the silver currency was changed to the denarius and the tax system was changed. As such, the connection that is made between the Roman taxation and the silver denarius in the passages above is anachronistic, since it was not the practice during Jesus’ lifetime, and instead reflects post-70 CE tax practices. I write more about this here:

      https://adversusapologetica.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/matthew-the-%CF%84%CE%B5%CE%BB%CF%8E%CE%BD%CE%B7%CF%82-toll-collector-and-the-authorship-of-the-first-gospel/

      This could be evidence of a post-70 CE date of composition for the Gospels. Or, could it be that it is a geographic error rather than a chronological error, in that the authors of the Gospels innacurately imputed tax practices in other Roman provinces during the 50’s-60’s CE onto the practices in Judea? Nevertheless, this is still a candidate for a post-70 CE anachronism in the Gospels.

      Those are my post-debate thoughts.

  5. Andrew Schefe says:

    Just finished listening to the debate and would like to congratulate you on your performance.
    It’s one thing to have all the prerequisite knowledge, but to present it as cogently as you did in such a forum is always impressive.
    I must say I was pleasantly surprised by Dr Evans even handed and charitable responses to the case you were making ( even if he did veer into apologetic territory from time to time).

  6. Travis R says:

    Hi Matthew,
    Congratulations. You both did a great job and it’s refreshing to hear such a congenial and intelligent debate. I hope you’re able to participate in more events like this in the future. Here are my thoughts:

    I’m split on the question of dating. I think it’s quite possible that Mark is a pre-70 work, and this is largely accommodated by an agreement with Evans’ on the existence of sects which were looking forward to a “third temple”. It seems reasonable that Jesus and his followers, as an apocalyptic sect, were among those who believed that the current temple would be destroyed as part of the imminent eschaton. This stems from a recognition that the temple did not align with Ezekiel’s vision and was not fit to serve as the final product. The “third temple” would be introduced in the end times and built by God himself (some good discussion of this here). The destruction in AD 70 may have simply been a fortuitous coincidence that supported the apocalyptic hopes of the burgeoning Christian movement.

    On the other hand, your point about Luke’s elaboration of the destruction of Jerusalem relative to Mark’s scant description is one of many indicators that point toward it being a post-70 work. I think that the absence of Paul and/or Peter’s death from Acts is a weak argument for an early date as there is no reason to think that Acts was intended to describe events any further than was necessary to bring the church to Rome and, as you noted, there actually is strong implication of Paul’s death in Acts 20.

    I also fully agree with all of your remarks regarding the reliability of the Gospels. Very well done. Evans didn’t seem to disagree much either and essentially admitted that there is a personal leap of faith to go from recognizing a historical core to granting reliability about the supernatural and theological content.

    Again, very well done – it almost doesn’t seem appropriate to call it a debate. It was more like a friendly discussion. I look forward to hearing you participate in more discussions in the future.

  7. DagoodS says:

    Listened to the debate on the Podcast over the weekend. A few comments..

    Positive:

    1. The Tone. Greatly enjoyed a debate where the two participants were so respectful of each other. Rather than the normal bite and jab, there was recognition of the viability of the other’s position.

    2. The learning. One of the first debates in a long, long time, where I actually learned something. And not just something—a whole lot of something! I had never heard the arguments regarding Direct Speech in Luke/Acts. I had not heard the Essenes and the Qumran Community predicted the Temple fall (although I am aware they desired it, or at least the then-current Temple leadership). I like that Dr. Evans emphasized the fire of the Temple not being mentioned. (more on this in a minute.)

    3. The scholarly approach. I may have missed it, but the take-away I ended with, was that the difference in dating was a matter of decades, with Matthew being in the range of 70 CE – 125 CE (mid Second Century) whereas Dr. Evans was a little sooner, with a range of 60 – CE to maybe 100 CE. Although not specifically stated.

    4. Both agreed the dates are close enough to allow some reliability.

    5. Although there is so much more that could be said on the topic, I thought for such a limited time, both participants covered a lot of ground. Sure, one could nitpick and say, “You could have said this….” or “I would have responded with that….” but such sentiments would come at the cost of losing other valuable responses.

    Well done.

    Negatives,

    1. Your phone.

    2. The moderator. Pastor Evan McClanahan sounded like the discussion was out of his element. I was heartened when Dr. Evans avoided the whole “Acts doesn’t mention Paul’s death in 64 CE, and Mark was written before Acts, so all the Synoptics are before 60 C.E.” And just as I was glad for the more in-depth argument….along comes McClanahan to joust with this tired Apologetic. Ugh.

    Further, McClanahan’s summation of claiming the current trend of dating is for earlier dates (maybe amongst Christian apologists—I have no idea whether historians are moving the dates at all) and firing off, “Matthew is bucking the trend…” It left the impression the whole biblical field is moving toward dating the gospels earlier (Dr. Evans didn’t even claim that), except a few crazy outliers. Like atheists and mythical Jesus folks.

    And finally wanting to hear a debate on how many angels can dance on the head of a pin…er…I’m sorry….”Who wrote the Book of Hebrews?” caused me to just shake my head. Like he missed the whole point of the discussion. (Hint: It has to do with historical analysis, not theological.)

    Good discussion overall.

  8. robert2016 says:

    why does matthew have his jesus make a parable which says that god will BURN the city and kill inhabitants? i am unable to listen to the debate , but was the text in matthew discussed?

  9. C Murdock says:

    You may not consider this terribly constructive criticism, but in future debates are you planning on using Skype or some other such service instead of a phone? I don’t know how much of this was on your end and how much on 90.1 FM KPFT’s hardware, but the audio quality was so low it was difficult for me to follow what you were saying.

    • I bought a headset to prepare for the debate, which I thought would be enough, but alas the audio quality was not very good.

      Next time I am just going to get a microphone, because I have learned that phones just don’t have high enough audio quality.

      That said, I think everything that we said was clearly stated. The problem was that Evans had a microphone, so his voice came in louder and clearer than mine.

      I think with some editing software, however, we can adjust the audio to even out our volume and make things sound better. I’m planning on doing so, at some point in the near future, when I upload this video to my own YouTube channel.

      Though, if anyone would like to volunteer to edit the audio recording of the debate, I would gladly accept the offer!

    • Okay, I have now uploaded a new video of the debate to this post, in which I have edited the audio. It’s still not perfect, but I was able to remove some of the echo and static noise caused by my phone. Hopefully it is easier to follow what I am saying now.

  10. I would like to add a small point of clarification to a statement that I make at 22:16 in the video.

    At that part I mention how Herodotus does not write about the Peloponnesian War and the interceding years following the Persian Wars, which leaves a gap of several decades between the end of his history’s narrative and the present moment of his composition.

    This is, indeed, the case. Herodotus ends book 9 of his history at around 478 BCE during the siege of Sestos. The preceding books likewise discuss events in the 480’s and early-470’s BCE, as this outline summarizes:

    https://www.mcgoodwin.net/pages/otherbooks/herodotus.html

    It is unknown when Herodotus died, but it happened sometime around 420 BCE, as O.J. Todd explains in “On The Date of Herodotus’ Death,” which leaves a gap of about 50 years between that moment and the end of Herodotus’ narrative.

    There are also other cases where ancient authors would close their historical narratives a few decades away from their own time. Suetonius, for example, in his De Vita Caesarum, writes about the Roman emperors Julius Caesar through Domitian. But, even though Suetonius was writing during the reign of Hadrian, he chose not to include biographies of the emperors Nerva and Trajan, thus ending his biographical collection a number of decades earlier than the present moment.

    When Dr. Evans and reverend McClanahan asked why the author of Acts did not write about things like the great fire in Rome of 64 CE, the persecution under Nero, the Civil War of 69 CE, etc., my point was that ancient historians, like Herodotus and Suetonius, would often end their narratives a number of decades earlier than the present moment. I don’t think that it is a sound assumption, therefore, that simply because the narrative of Acts ends around 63 CE that the author must have been writing at around that time.

    That said, I forgot to point out that Herodotus does briefly allude to the Peloponnesian War and events following the 470’s CE at a few points in his narrative. For example, in book 7, chapter 137, Herodotus briefly alludes to a war between the Athenians and the Spartans; however, he also states:

    “This happened many years after the king’s expedition, and I return now to the course of my history.”

    This indicates that Herodotus had no intention of extending “his history” down to the decades in which these events happened. Instead, he ended his narrative several decades earlier, which is also what I think the author of Acts may have done by ending his narrative in c. 63 CE. Even though the narrative of Acts ends decades earlier, however, there may be references to later events, like Herodotus, that point toward a compositional date after 63 CE, such as the author’s possible awareness of Paul’s death in Acts 20:36-38 and the destruction of Jerusalem in Luke 21:5-38.

    • Patrick says:

      Matthew Ferguson: “There are also other cases where ancient authors would close their historical narratives a few decades away from their own time. Suetonius, for example, in his De Vita Caesarum, writes about the Roman emperors Julius Caesar through Domitian. But, even though Suetonius was writing during the reign of Hadrian, he chose not to include biographies of the emperors Nerva and Trajan, thus ending his biographical collection a number of decades earlier than the present moment.

      When Dr. Evans and reverend McClanahan asked why the author of Acts did not write about things like the great fire in Rome of 64 CE, the persecution under Nero, the Civil War of 69 CE, etc., my point was that ancient historians, like Herodotus and Suetonius, would often end their narratives a number of decades earlier than the present moment. I don’t think that it is a sound assumption, therefore, that simply because the narrative of Acts ends around 63 CE that the author must have been writing at around that time.”

      I think your analogy is not appropriate. The problem is not the idea that the author of Acts may have written his accounts of certain events decades later after these events had happened, but that he didn’t write about events that one may expect appearing in his account if he knew about them. This applies to the outcome of Paul’s trial in Rome or to Paul’s death. To use your example of Suetonius’ accounts concerning Roman emperors, if Suetonius wrote only about the early years of Domitian’s reign, but would have mentioned the later years of Domitian’s reign and Domitian’s death, one may reasonably conclude that Suetonius wrote his account during Domitian’s reign and not decades later.

      • Dear Patrick Sele,

        “I think your analogy is not appropriate. The problem is not the idea that the author of Acts may have written his accounts of certain events decades later after these events had happened, but that he didn’t write about events that one may expect appearing in his account if he knew about them. This applies to the outcome of Paul’s trial in Rome or to Paul’s death.”

        The difficulty with your objection is whether we should “expect” Paul’s death to appear in the narrative at all, especially if the author of Acts only had the intention of writing about events up until 63 CE. As both Herodotus and Suetonius show, ancient historians would often close their narratives several decades before the present moment. Why should I expect Paul’s death to be included in the narrative, if it was designed to end several years earlier? And, regardless, there are plausible allusions to Paul’s death, such as in Acts 20:36-38, so that even if the narrative closes several years earlier, there still seem to be hints of the outcome.

        “To use your example of Suetonius’ accounts concerning Roman emperors, if Suetonius wrote only about the early years of Domitian’s reign, but would have mentioned the later years of Domitian’s reign and Domitian’s death, one may reasonably conclude that Suetonius wrote his account during Domitian’s reign and not decades later.”

        I think you are missing a couple points here. To begin with, the way that Suetonius structures his biographies, he begins with the birth of each emperor and ends with their death. If there was a biography in Suetonius’ De Vita Caesarum that lacked a narrative of death, therefore, that would be very odd, indeed, since none of the other biographies lack this detail. You might be able to explain such an oddity by arguing that Suetonius was writing during the reign of that emperor. However, the book of Acts does not narrate the life of each of its characters up until their deaths, so it is not an oddity for these details to be missing. The only apostle mentioned to die at all is James the son of Zebedee in Acts 12:2 (and briefly, at that). It is therefore not a structural expectation in Acts that it will follow Paul all the way to the scene of his death. Acts is not a book about the deaths of the apostles, but rather the spread of the Christian church to Rome.

        But, furthermore, your objection needs to address things that Suetonius could have narrated, if knew about them, but yet left out of his narrative. Suetonius mentions the emperor Nerva coming to power, for example, in Life of Domitian 1.1; however, Suetonius does not write a biography about the reign of Nerva. The reason why is that Suetonius closes his narrative around 96 CE, even if one could argue that we should “expect” him to narrate later things that he knew about in the following years, such as the reign of Nerva.

        To argue that Acts should have included Paul’s death in the narrative, therefore, you have to argue why the author could not have simply ended the narrative at 63 CE. There are plenty of ancient historians who ended their historical works before major events that they could have included in the narrative. I don’t think that the Acts ending in 63 CE, and failing to mention certain later events, therefore, prevents it from still being written in the 80’s to early-2nd century CE.

        Likewise, you can even reverse this argument from silence. Why doesn’t Paul mention any material from the Gospels in his undisputed letters? Possibly because they weren’t written yet. So, arguments from silence can cut both ways. Also worth noting is that Irenaeus (Against Heresies 3.1.1) even suggests that Mark wrote his gospel after the deaths of Peter and Paul (c. 67 CE), which would actually put Mark in the 67-75 CE timeframe in which most scholars think it was written. Since most scholars also think that the author of Luke-Acts used Mark, that would likewise put the text after Paul’s death. (Granted, I don’t think that Irenaeus’ testimony is accurate, but it is worth noting that even some patristic sources don’t think that Mark was written as early as the 50’s.)

      • robert2016 says:

        “but that he didn’t write about events that one may expect appearing in his account if he knew about them”

        i think dagoods addressed this :

        I was responding to your claim that “even if Paul really believed, when he wrote the letter to the Romans, that Christians would be safe from harm by the Roman government if they did the right thing, there is absolutely no reason to think that the author of Acts believed that, especially if he was writing after 70 AD.” (emphasis added) I was showing you that there is a perfectly logical reason to think that the author of Acts might have constructed his narrative with that idea in mind even if he wasn’t as certain about it as he might have liked to have been, and even if circumstances had change since Paul wrote his letter to the Romans. That reason is that powerless groups have often treated their oppressors as if they were benefactors for a variety of pragmatic reasons, e.g., the desire to avoid harsher treatment, the hope of winning acceptance, and the futility of resistance.

        Standing alone, the fact that a book doesn’t mention an important event doesn’t prove that it was written before the event occurred. World War I was a very important event, but it isn’t mentioned in Gone with the Wind. That doesn’t give us any reason to doubt that Gone with the Wind was written after World War I, however, because Gone with the Wind is a story about the Civil War and we wouldn’t expect it to mention World War I.

        In Luke-Acts, the overall purpose of the story is to show how a Jewish Messiah became the savior of the gentiles. A theme within that story (I believe Dagoods used the phrase “underlying theme” and you used the phrase “a recurring theme”) is “Jews Bad; Romans Good. Christianity on Roman’s side.” However just as Gone with the Wind doesn’t use wars later than the Civil War (even though the author knows about them) to demonstrate the effect of war on civilians, Luke-Acts doesn’t demonstrate the badness of the Jews with the later Roman-Jewish war (even though he knows about it). The author had already completed his overall purpose of showing how a Jewish Messiah became the gospel of salvation to the gentiles.

        “Jews Bad; Romans Good. Christianity on Roman’s side” is a theme of Acts, but it is not the only theme of Acts or the predominant theme of Acts. It is a subsidiary theme. Even if the Roman-Jewish war might have supported this theme, it would be inconsistent with many elements of the story: (1) the event occurred eight years after the logical ending point of the story; (2) the event occurred more than 1300 miles away from the geographical point at which the story ended; (3) the event did not involve any of the characters that the story had been following. The fact that the event might support one particular subsidiary theme in the story wouldn’t warrant its inclusion.

  11. Biblical scholar James McGrath has also listened to and written positively about my recent debate with Craig Evans on his blog. McGrath remarks:

    “It is a wonderful example of how mainstream scholars, whether atheists or religious believers, have major points of agreement, because they use the same secular methods of inquiry. They called it a “debate” but it wasn’t that in the sense that an interaction between a mythicist and a professional historian, or a young-earth creationist and a scientist, would be a debate, across radically different views and radically different methods and assumptions.”

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2016/02/dating-the-gospels.html

    • Andrew Schefe says:

      I notice he couldn’t help but to include a snide allusion to Richard Carrier in his post ( again).
      From what I’ve read, you seem to hold Richard in pretty high regard, what do you think of Dr McGrath (as well as Ehrman’s) complete dismissal of his latest book?

      • Hey Andrew,

        Richard Carrier is a good friend of mine, and I hold him in high regard for his knowledge of ancient history and his work in naturalist philosophy. I disagree with his latest book on a number of points, which I will likely discuss here at some point (though, not for a while, since I have a ton of other projects to work on). But, that said, Carrier’s academically published case for Mythicism is certainly the strongest defense of the theory, to date.

        Nevertheless, I think that Carrier made a big mistake when he responded to Bart Ehrman the way he did. Sure, this is a country of free speech, and if Richard wants to use words like “sucks” (he claims he has a blue collar manner of speaking), then that it is his choice. But, I think it has the effect of poisoning his own well when dealing with more mainstream biblical scholars. If he had been more polite in his response to Ehrman, I think there would probably be less bad blood between them.

        As for James McGrath, he and I met at the SBL in Atlanta last year. He is a nice guy, but he also seems to like to act as the bulldog against Mythicists (he may get this from James Dunn). Once more, if Carrier had responded to McGrath differently, I think he would have come off looking better in certain circles (he still looks fine among a lot of his fan base). But, that said, Carrier’s responses to McGrath have also been substantive and interesting, and I think that McGrath made a number of mistakes in underestimating Carrier.

        The comparison between YEC and Mythicism I think is only a half truth. Sure, the vast majority of biblical scholars doubt Mythicism, just as the vast majority of scientists doubt YEC. But, things like evolution and an old Earth are supported by a vast amount of evidence spanning multiple scientific fields. Jesus’ existence, in contrast, is supported by our interpretation of a handful of ancient texts. I do think that the balance of evidence points toward a historical Jesus, but the evidence for his life is vastly smaller than the evidence speaking against YEC.

        I discuss Richard Carrier’s ideas here when I agree with him. I note when I disagree with him, such as on Mythicism. And I note when I think Richard could have done something better, such as his response to Ehrman. But, overall, Richard is a very interesting and knowledgable guy, so I am very glad to have him as a friend, and I hope he keeps doing the work that he has been doing.

  12. robert2016 says:

    Matthew 22:7

    7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

    burned their city?

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