Was The New Testament Written by the Eyewitnesses or After All Eyewitnesses Were Dead?
Critics claim that the New Testament was written so long after the events of Jesus� life that all the eyewitnesses had died and thus the accounts are not accurate. Can we answer this claim? Do we have any reason to believe that the New Testament was written within the lifetime of eyewitnesses? Yes we do. Let�s start with a timeline of the events we�ll be talking about.
4 to 1 BC � Jesus is born
30 to 35 AD � Jesus is crucified and resurrected
50 to 95 AD � The New Testament is written
Here are some reasons for dating the New Testament books early:
� Jesus had predicted that the Jewish temple would be destroyed. This happened in 70AD yet none of the gospels - even John which was written last - mentions it. The idea that, not one, but four different gospel writers would not mention this fulfilled prophecy is simply hard to believe. Some critics argue that the destruction of the temple is mentioned in chapters like Matthew 24 but those verses are clearly talking about the Great Tribulation because they mentioned Jesus returning and reigning forever. It�s foolish to suggest that four different writers were smart enough to fool everyone into thinking Christianity was true yet all were stupid enough to say that Jesus had returned and was reigning
� Around 95AD the early church father Clement quotes either directly or indirectly nearly every book of the Bible
� Throughout church history the authors of the gospels have never been disputed. They have always been Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. This is very important because had these books been written by anonymous authors many years later we would find two things:
1) There would be several different traditional authors to each book
2) They would be named after more important people
For point #1 we point out that there is not one different author suggested anywhere in church history for many of the gospels. Not one. It�s only recent modern �scholars� that claim the authorship of the gospels is in dispute. The early church always knew who wrote them. We can prove this out. Compare the gospels to the book of Hebrews which is anonymous. While the gospels have only one author per book, Hebrews has no less then half a dozen different traditional authors!
As far as point #2 goes, note that three of the four gospel writers aren�t important people in the New Testament (John is the exception). Compare this to books that are known frauds� The Gospel of Peter, The Gospel of Mary, The Gospel of Thomas, all well-known figures. People who forge books would put famous people�s names on them to give them credibility. The gospels don�t follow this pattern.
The gospels claimed to be written either eyewitnesses (Matthew, John) or people who had access to eyewitnesses (Mark, who served as Peter�s secretary and Luke who had access to Paul and the other apostles). And it was nearly two thousand years before anyone disputed this
Now let�s see if we can find reasons to date some books earlier then 70AD:
� Paul, who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament, wrote his works between 50-55AD. These dates are not seriously disputed. So, if nothing else, we can say most of the Bible can be traced back as early as 15 to 20 years of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus
� Peter and Paul were both martyred around 66AD yet the New Testament does not mention their deaths. After Jesus they are the two most important people in Church history and yet not so much as one verse is devoted to their deaths? Even stranger is that Acts, which is the �sequel� to the gospel of Luke, ends with Paul in jail. So from this we can conclude that Paul was still alive by the end of Acts. Now if Paul died in 66AD then Acts must have been written before that. If Acts was written before 66AD then Luke must have been written even earlier then that. And since critics say that Luke was written after Mark and Matthew then they both must have been written very early. That means at least three of the four gospels were written before 66 AD and most likely all were written before 70AD
� James, who authored the book of the Bible after the same name was martyred in 62AD
So before 70AD have at least Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians , 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Philemon, James, 1 Peter, and 2 Peter all written.
Now let�s take a different approach to prove our point. The fatal mistake the critics make is they assume that there was 30 or more years of silence between the death of Jesus and the birth of Christianity. Jesus, they reason, died and long after all the eyewitnesses were gone the New Testament was written. I think we can show this wasn�t the case and that the apostles were preaching about Jesus from the beginning.
As we said before, the earliest New Testament writings come from Paul in the early 50�s. So right here we have the two-thirds of the New Testament written within 15 to 20 years of the crucifixion. What�s important is what Paul wrote. He doesn�t talk much about Jesus life the way the gospels do. His writings build on the foundation of the gospels. He assumes you�ve already heard the gospel account.
Also notice to whom he�s writing to. He writes to churches and elders and instructs them on theology, church conduct, the importance of the resurrection (even challenging people to verify the resurrection by talking to the eyewitnesses!), and corrects false teaching. So from Paul�s writings we learn:
� He writes to people who knew the gospel story and he is teaching them how to apply the gospels to their lives
� Christianity is so far advance that it�s organized to the point where there are churches in many areas far away and they have elders
� The churches were having to deal with false teachers who were coming to their churches
So within 15-20 years of the crucifixion Christianity has gained a following, spread throughout different regions, organized meeting places for believers, established a hierarchy within the church, and has been around long enough to develop problems with false teachers. You can�t do all this overnight. And you can�t do it at all if people hadn�t heard, and checked out for themselves, the claims of the gospel.
Later on, with the rise of the false teachers the need arose for the gospels to be written so future generations would know the truth about the good news of the salvation that is found in Jesus Christ.