When Was The New Testament Written?

No. I believe that there was a core around which many legends accumulated because they made the story better, i.e. more fit to the purpose of the writers. I think there’s a considerable literature on how different details fit those purposes. Thus the core would include a preacher from Nazareth, but in order to be messiah his birth must be moved to Bethlehem. And so on.

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Can you two clarify and ensure that we’re on the same page? There was a religion that we’ll call Christianity, that existed shortly after (maybe within a year or two of the death of Christ.)

When were the “core documents” written? The earliest forms of the NT books we see now?

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I wasn’t referring to any documents. By “a core” I referred to the actual (perhaps) existence of a preacher from Nazareth, possibly named Yeshua, who inspired Christianity. Of course the story would have been much embellished in the telling.


Thanks John. I’m getting closer to understanding, but not quite there. Can you comment on these points inline so that I can better understand your position? First, because this could all be moot, do you believe that Jesus Christ was a historical figure? I just noted your reference to “a preacher from Nazareth, possibly named Yeshua, who inspired Christianity.” Beyond that…

  1. Do you, as @John_Dalton suggested, believe that there was a religion we now recognize as Christianity within a year or two after Jesus died? (JD, apologies if I did not accurately recap your belief.)
  2. Do you believe that there were fundamental books (Matt., Mark, Luke, John, Acts, etc.) that existed contemporaneously with that religion (#1 above)? Or that there was exclusively an oral tradition to begin and books were only written later?
  3. Do you believe that these books were then embellished later, or that they were inaccurate when penned?

“Believe” is a poor term to use. I think such little evidence as there is suggests a historical figure at the core of the legend.

I don’t know of any evidence to that effect, but it seems reasonable that Yeshua had followers, and that they formed a variant Jewish sect initially.

I know of no evidence on this, but I will speculate. It seems likely that an oral tradition came first. I think that the gospels, etc., were probably written down considerably later. They may have gone through several versions, both written and oral, before the versions we know of came to be.

Question does not compute.


I don’t know if it was a year or two or not, but my understanding is that groups of Jesus followers formed early, as shown by the apparent existence of writings like Q and material drawn on by Mark. Paul’s writings also show signs that he joined an existing movement. Paul’s letters date to about 50, but Mark must have been completed after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 69. The other writings came later. Here’s a good rundown


This was a great book on the subject in my opinion:

FWIW, it’s a straight-up historical take, “myth” being used in that sense. It’s not some kind of atheist screed


For an interesting alternative viewpoint see:

Redating the New Testament


Is there a consensus as to when the Gospels and Paul letters were written?

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As for the gospels, Mark is generally considered the first written, with Matthew and Luke using parts of it in their compositions. The apocalyptic language used in parts suggests that it was written with the knowledge of the Judeo-Roman war and Jerusalem’s destruction

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See the book linked in my earlier post.

I hope to check it out some time. That’s just one viewpoint however.

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Also (and I know that I might incur the wrath of some Calvinists, and, maybe all Protestants here) some scholars seem to believe that at least parts of Epistle of James are a letter to Paul to correct his misconseptions about ‘faith without work’ so James’ writings might be as old as Paul’s.

Or so I’ve read somewhere, I might be wrong.

Apologies for the terminology. I was trying to determine where the bedrock for the conversation lies. So, it seems that the Jesus that we know and love is not considered at all to be a historical figure by you.

I’m curious as to what these early followers would be following in your opinion. It seems that the Yeshua you have described is rather unremarkable. Surely anyone can have followers, but what do you suppose was the catalyst for the incredible growth of the religion?

It seems that you have very little confidence in the ability of the oral tradition to maintain a narrative. Do you believe that this is justified?

When I picture the events you describe in the quote above, it reminds me of the process of evolution. A particular species, the story, begins. It grows and adapts over time, changing slowly. It spreads geographically where the process continues. Oral changes become written word. The written word changes. Eventually, the story becomes many different stories. Each one having adapted to the culture and surroundings of the local geography such that the “stories” have become entirely different species. As is so with evolution, the adaptations can happen in various degrees and with various frequency, such that the species (the stories) would vary dramatically from location to location. The main controlling factors would be the degree to which each local culture would allow the story to change, and still accept it, similar to how a particular mutation would either be beneficial, negative or neutral for an animal or plant.

Is this similar to what you see?

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I’m curious why you think history is a science?


Hahaha… you mean such literature exists!! :rofl:

Thanks for the tip. I ordered both books (yours and @Mung’s) … Thanks for the tips!

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woot! Here’s another one for you:

Before Jerusalem Fell

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@Mung you flagged for spam. Will do what we can to fix it, but stop posting so many links to the same domain.

That domain being amazon. But ok. :slight_smile:

I had a big what the heck just happened moment. lol. Thanks for taking care of it.

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I just whitelisted amazon. In general though, it is better to explain why each book is being reccomend. That slows down the post, and is more likely to be enaged and helpful. None of us are looking for an amazon wishlist.

Can you please help us out by posting just the paragraphs from the book that you see as adding insight into the discussion.

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