The rebellious and lawless argue that the Bible is not a persuasive reason to believe in God and the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ, because–they claim–the gospels were written approximately 100 to 150 years after Jesus’ death. They falsely assume that translations of the Bible are translations from translations, when that is never true. Every translation team considers all available information, and starts with the original language texts. Doubters further allege slanderously, that is, without a shred of evidence, that the Church changed the scriptures (but only compiled individual scrolls into an overall bound volume).
So, when were the gospels written?
Is it true that the gospels were written 100 to 150 years later by people who did not witness the events described?
While unbiased scholarly research should be focused on this, the following seems undeniable:
The key is this: Who is this “most excellent Theophilus?”
From 37 A.D. to 41 A.D. (four to eight years after Jesus’ death and resurrection) Theophilus was the High Priest of Israel. I had assumed, like everyone, that Theophilus must have been some random Roman. No. He was the High Priest only a few years after Jesus was crucified and glorified.
What we fail to appreciate is that Israel was under Roman occupation. Rome had to approve all government officials, including key religious officials. Therefore, it became fashionable to adopt Greek or Roman names, similar to Africans adopting English names under British colonization.
The Gospel of Luke begins:
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; 4 so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.
And the Book of Acts begins:
The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach,2 until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. 3 To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.
So the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts reveals that:
(1) They were written for someone who was High Priest 4 to 8 years after Jesus’ crucifixion.
(2) It is obvious that the purpose of writing to the High Priest was because he was, at that point, still High Priest at the time of the writing.
(3) At the time Luke was written, it was not the first account written. Luke is not the first Gospel written.
(4) The Gospel of Luke was written based upon eyewitnesses to the events reported, including those who were eyewitnesses “from the beginning” of Jesus’ ministry.
We know that the early Christians–all Jews until Peter went to the house of Cornelius, shocking the early Church that any non-Jew was capable of being a Christian–were very concerned with convincing their fellow Jews that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. Moreover, they were being persecuted because of the idea that Jesus was not. The Apostle Paul wrote the book of Hebrews to try to persuade their fellow Jews to become Christians.
Therefore, whether Theophilus was especially interested in Christianity (or “The Way”) or not, it was a high priority for the early Church to present a defense of Christianity to the Jewish religious hierarchy, carrying out their perceived duty to God and in the hopes of winning over their countrymen.
But “scholars” (that is, atheists) tell us that the Gospels were written 100 to 150 years later. You will find overwhelming numbers of references reciting this as an established fact.
Yet as soon as we dig a little deeper, we discover three serious problems with this. Although most reference cite no reason, the references that do identify reasons explain the conclusion as follows:
(1) Miracles are impossible, so therefore Jesus could not have known the future. It is an article of faith among these “scholars” that when Jesus foretold the destruction of the temple 40 years in the future, in 71 A.D., the account must have been written after 71 A.D. Why? Because miracles are impossible. Jesus could not know the future. Therefore, the “scholars” explicitly argue, the Gospels had to be written after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. The evidence? Supernatural revelation is not possible. Therefore, Christians put events falsely into Jesus’ mouth, lying and saying that Jesus foretold events, when He did not. Christians must have falsified the accounts.
In other words, these “scholars” are atheists. Their jumping off point is that God doesn’t exist, supernatural miracles don’t exist, Jesus was just a man, and Christianity is just a social phenomenon. Therefore, Q.E.D., the gospels had to be written after the fact, because Jesus could not have known ahead of time what was going to happen.
If you dig deeply enough, this logic is explicitly stated by the “scholars.” But most accounts offer only a superficial summary and don’t explain the reasons for the “scholars’” analysis.
(2) The Gospels are remarkably consistent, especially Mark, Luke, and Matthew (John addresses some different topics, but is not inconsistent). This indicates that eyewitnesses all saw and heard the same things.
But the “scholars” turn this on its head: The consistency cannot be because independent writers all wrote similar things because the reports are true. Oh, no. There must be an intermediate “Q document” (Quelle or source) from which the Gospels were cribbed. There is no evidence that a “Q Gospel” ever existed, except the repetition of the idea over centuries. The only reason for imagining a “Q document” is that otherwise we would have to confront the amazing consistency of the Gospels as evidence that the Gospels are actually true.
So “scholars” merely assume that the early Church cheated and the writers copied from an intermediate document. This requires that a fair amount of time must have elapsed for the intermediate steps.
(3) For some reason, the idea that the Apostle John wrote Revelations on the Isle of Patmos around 80 A.D. seems to persuade people that the other parts of the New Testament were also written in that time period.
It is fortunate that Christian believers do not need to rely only upon old books to know with absolute certainty that God is real and alive and that He is the Jesus, the Christ, God who came to Earth as a man.
In general, doubters assume that Christians believe only because they were conditioned by their parents and we have no reason other than pure momentum. The bottom line, of course: We are stupid and they are oh so smart.