Copyright 1994 - 2018 Bill's Bible Basics
Authored By :
Published On :
November 21, 2010
Last Updated :
November 21, 2010
Dating Of New Testament, Anglican Bishop John A. T. Robinson, Questions Concerning Destruction Of Jerusalem And The Temple, Jesus' Prophecy Concerning The Temple, Paul's Pre-Destruction Perspective In 2 Thessalonians 2, William F. Albright's Views, John W. Wenham, Augustinian Hypothesis, The Synoptic Gospels, Paul's Paradise Account In 2 Corinthians 12, Apostle John Was Caught Up Into Paradise, Unspeakable Words No Man Can Utter, Why Knowing When The New Testament Was Written Is Important, A Profound Change In Our Understanding Of Endtime Prophecy?, The 144,000 Sealed Servants Of God Of The Tribes Of Israel, Paul's 2 Thessalonians 2 Admonition: That Day Shall Not Come, Genealogies And 144,000, Unbelieving Jews And False Messiah, Our Citizenship In Heaven, Members Of God's Royal Household, The Apostle Paul's Aversion To Divisive Genealogical Debate, Paul's Wish For Oneness & Spiritual Unity In Body Of Christ, The Legalistic, Argumentative, Divisive Scribes & Pharisees, Jesus Posed A Threat To Established Jewish Religious Order, High Priest Caiaphas And The Jews Conspire To Murder Jesus, Jewish Elders Pressured Pilate To Murder Jesus By Mob Rule, Jerusalem & Temple Destroyed - 70 AD By Roman General Titus
There is another interesting possibility which has occurred to me, which might help to explain why, even in Paul's time, certain Christian Disciples debated about genealogies. It is commonly believed by many modern Christians that the Book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John, or maybe by some other individual named John -- depending on who you want to believe -- towards the end of the First Century around 90-100 AD. However, while it may not be common knowledge, there are certain Bible scholars who do not accept this date as being accurate. For example, in his 1976 work titled "Redating The New Testament", controversial former Anglican bishop and noted Cambridge lecturer, John A. T. Robinson, proposed that much of the New Testament may have been written prior to 65 AD.
More specifically, based on Robinson's own textual criticism of the New Testament, he posited that the Gospel of Matthew may possibly have been written from 40 AD to after 60 AD, the Gospel of Mark between 45-60 AD, the Gospel of Luke before 57 AD to sometime after 60 AD, and the Gospel of John from 40 AD to sometime after 60 AD. One of his reasons for adopting this position was his own observation that, if other scholars were correct, and the majority of the New Testament was written at a later date, it seemed odd to him that there was so little mention of the fiery destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD, by the Roman legions under the command of General Titus, who was the son of Emperor Vespasian.
Allow me to mention that the reason why Robinson's comments are so profound, is because prior to adopting this position, like so many scholars of his time, Robinson was convinced that neither the Apostles nor Paul had actually written the New Testament. In fact, the consensus of that time was that the New Testament was written as much as one hundred years after the actual time of Jesus Christ and His Apostles. Dr. Robinson would later write that in his view, the scholarship which had led to such a misguided conclusion, was based on a "tyranny of unexamined assumptions" which had been fueled by an "almost willful blindness." Obviously, Robinson's change of perspective was not warmly embraced by his peers. In fact, he was declared anathema by certain Christians. Robinson's change of views was reported in the March 21, 1977 edition of Time magazine, not quite six years before his death.
While I can't agree with Robinson on everything that he ever wrote, I can concur with him on this particular point, being as I've likewise wondered about this issue myself. If we stop to consider how important the Temple was to the Jews, and the fact that in Matthew chapter twenty-four, Jesus clearly told His Apostles of its coming destruction, one must wonder why they didn't write about these events after-the-fact; that is, if the New Testament was really written at a later date. In other words, assuming that you had lived during that time as a Jew, had been chosen by Jesus, and had heard Him foretell of the destruction of the temple, and then later witnessed the event yourself, wouldn't you want to write about it, if for no other reason than to confirm that Jesus' prophecy had been fulfilled to the letter? Wouldn't this fact add to the credibility of our Savior for future generations? Here are the verses from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke where this prophecy is discussed:
"And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down."
Matthew 24:1-2, KJV
"And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down."
Luke 21:5-6, KJV
Thus, as John A. T. Robinson observed, and most people will agree, the discussions in the Gospels concerning the Temple are clearly written from the perspective of the Temple not having been destroyed yet. As we saw in part one, in writing about the coming "son of perdition", who will perform signs and lying wonders, and sit in the Temple and declare himself "God", Paul likewise wrote from the very same pre-destruction perspective. Absolutely no one in the New Testament writes as if he is looking back towards 70 AD. Why is that? There is another major reason why they may not have done so, but I'll be addressing this issue in a separate article sometime in the future, God willing.
John A. T. Robinson was not alone in his assertion that the Books of the New Testament were written considerably earlier than what had been traditionally accepted by Bible scholars up until that time. In 1955, noted Biblical archeologist Dr. William F. Albright wrote the following:
----- Begin Quote -----
"We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after circa A.D. 80."
----- End Quote -----
However, later, after additional archeological evidence had been uncovered in the forthcoming years, Professor Albright revised his previous statement and declared that the Books of the New Testament were written "probably sometime between circa A.D. 50 and 75."
Another Anglican Bible scholar who followed in the footsteps of John A. T. Robinson was John W. Wenham. In 1992, Wenham published his work "Redating Matthew, Mark And Luke: A Fresh Assault On The Synoptic Problem", in which he affirmed his belief that the Gospel of Matthew was the very first Gospel that was written, and that it was written by Levi; that is, Matthew the tax collector. Wenham also believed that Mark's Gospel was written after Matthew's Gospel, and that it was written by Mark the Evangelist, who certain scholars propose was not the same person as John Mark. Wenham believed that this was followed by the Gospel of Luke, which was written by Luke the Macedonian physician.
This order of writing the Gospels is commonly referred to as the Augustinian Hypothesis, being as it was first proposed by Augustine of Hippo, who was a Church bishop during the early part of the Fifth Century. Most people know the bishop as Saint Augustine. To continue then, John W. Wenham became convinced that these three Gospels -- which are referred to as the Synoptic Gospels due to their similarities in content and structure -- were written considerably earlier than what traditional scholarship has supposed.
There are a number of other Bible scholars and theologians who embrace the view that the New Testament was not written as late as certain more liberal theologians seem to think, but I hope that the evidence which I have presented here is sufficient to convince you that this is indeed so. Another set of verses which may lend support to the idea that the Book of Revelation may have been written much earlier than what has been commonly accepted, is found in Paul's second Epistle to the Corinthians. Consider the following:
"I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter."
2 Corinthians 12:2-4, KJV
No modern reader of the Bible knows with absolute certainty of whom Paul was writing, being as Paul doesn't identify the person by name. However, in my view, there is a very strong possibility that Paul may have been referring to the Apostle John, who was most certainly "caught up into paradise", as we can easily see by the following verses that are found in the fourth chapter of the Book of Revelation:
"After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne . . ."
Revelation 4:1-2a, KJV
There is another big clue contained in Paul's words which, in my view, points to John as being the man to whom Paul is referring. Please notice that Paul very specifically writes "and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter". Immediately after reading those words, I was reminded of the following verses in the Book of Revelation:
"And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices. And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not."
Revelation 10:3-4, KJV
In my view, Paul's words and these verses fit together like a hand in a glove, because John was specifically told not to reveal what he had just heard the Seven Thunders speak. Also, please notice that both sets of verses even utilize the very same Greek verb -- laleo -- which in our English language is translated as "utter".
If Paul was actually writing about the Apostle John, and if, as some theologians believe, Paul was beheaded by the Romans around the year 67 AD -- there exists no clear historical or Biblical proof to confirm this belief -- then this means that John may have received the Book of Revelation as early as the year 53 AD, or even earlier, and not later around 90-100 AD. I cannot overemphasize the significance of this possibility.
Some of you reading this may be wondering why I am dedicating so much time to discussing the issue of when the Books of the New Testament were written. As John A. T. Robinson realized, and I assume other scholars as well, proposing dates that are considerably earlier than those which have been accepted by traditional Bible scholars, carries with it some profound, serious and complex ramifications. As Robinson noted, if his assumptions are correct -- and I personally do believe that they are more accurate -- then in his words, it necessitates "the rewriting of many introductions to -- and ultimately, theologies of -- the New Testament." In other words, if many or all of the New Testament Books were written earlier than what some scholars have proposed, it opens a whole new door to how we can understand them; particularly those which are prophetic in nature, such as Matthew chapter twenty-four, Luke chapter twenty-one, 2 Thessalonians 2, and the entire Book of Revelation.
I will tell you right now, that this possibility is so mind- boggling, and so far-reaching, that it motivated me to begin writing a new article concerning this very topic, which, as I explained at the beginning of this series, ultimately led me to writing this current series. In short, sometime in the future -- I can't promise how soon -- you can expect another article from me, which may seriously challenge your current understanding of Endtime Bible prophecy. Even before writing it, I sense that I personally will be forced to abandon some long-held beliefs, in light of the new understanding of the Scriptures -- more specifically, of Endtime prophecy -- that the Lord has already begun to reveal to me.
When I do release the upcoming series, I pray that your mind and heart will be open to whatever God -- through His Word -- may choose to reveal to us, even if it results in your having to significantly modify, or maybe even totally abandon, your current understanding of Endtime events. You will need to ask yourself how far you are willing to go if your current views regarding the Endtime are Scripturally proven to be false. It will really come down to how much you really want to know the truth, no matter the price. Personally, I don't desire to be deceived. If I have been wrong about certain things, then I want to know about it. How about you?
Please be thinking about this issue. In the meantime, allow me to give you one example which is directly related to this current series. If it is indeed true that the Revelation of John the Divine was written considerably earlier than what is commonly believed, it adds an interesting perspective to the seventh chapter of the Book of Revelation, where we read that 144,000 members of the Tribes of Israel are sealed by God in order to protect them from the Divine Plagues that are about to fall upon the Earth. This is an issue which I also discuss in the series "The Woman In The Wilderness And The 144,000".
You need to realize that in Paul's day, some members of the Christian Church were very much convinced that the end of the known world was close at hand, and that Jesus Christ would be returning very soon. Does that sound familiar to you? Thus, to enlighten them concerning these issues, and put things in proper perspective, the Apostle Paul wrote his second letter to the Thessalonian brethren, for example, where he writes in part:
"Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;"
2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, KJV
Now, consider this: If you lived during that time, and if you were a Christian believer of Jewish descent, and if the Book of Revelation had already been given to John, and if you were aware of the contents of chapter seven where it states that only 144,000 Israelites would be sealed, would you not want to know with certainty about your genealogical records? Wouldn't you want to know what tribe you belonged to, in order to possibly gauge what your chances were of being included in the 144,000? As I said, this is simply a personal theory which I obviously cannot conclusively prove; but if there is any truth to it, it would certainly help to explain why some of the brethren were so concerned with genealogies at that time.
Even if the theory is wrong, I believe that the rest of the information that is contained in this series makes it easier to understand why keeping track of genealogies in Paul's day would remain so important to the Jews who had not accepted Christ as the one and only true Messiah. As we have already seen, those Jews who had rejected Christ were still waiting for a messiah; and the only way that they could ascertain whether or not he was a direct descendant of the bloodline of King David, was by examining his genealogical records.
As I first noted in my 1998 article "The Heavenly Vision: Have You Got It?", for those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and who have been born again in the Spirit, matters which pertain to physical birth are really of little significance, as are issues which pertain to national identity and citizenship; because as members of God's Kingdom, and like the Saints of old, we seek "a better country, that is, an heavenly". As we are taught in the Word, once we have been washed in the Blood of the Lamb, and have been spiritually born anew, we are new creatures with a new life in Jesus. We are members of God's Royal Household, and that is all that really matters. Old things are passed away, all things have in fact become new, and we are one in Christ Jesus, as we see by the following verses:
"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:"
John 1:12, KJV
"According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,"
Ephesians 1:4-5, KJV
"For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together."
Romans 8:15-17, KJV
"But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city."
Hebrews 11:16, KJV
"Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;"
Ephesians 2:19, KJV
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
2 Corinthians 5:17, KJV
"For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for YE ARE ALL ONE IN CHRIST JESUS."
Galatians 3:27-28, KJV
"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus."
Galatians 3:26, KJV
Once we begin to understand how important our oneness in the Savior was to the Apostle Paul, it becomes a lot easier to understand why Paul would have an aversion to genealogical debates. In other words, debates of that kind were divisive in nature. They did absolutely nothing to promote the unity and spiritual oneness of Jewish and Gentile believers. As I have shared before, the Apostle Paul made plain his desire for spiritual unity in the Body of Christ when he penned the following words in his first Epistle to the Corinthians:
"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."
1 Corinthians 1:10, KJV
In contrast, as we have already seen, the unbelieving Jews, such as the legalistic Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees who rejected Christ, were always looking for ways to divide the young, new Christian Church. What they had begun with their arguments with Jesus concerning the Sabbath, paying taxes to Rome, healing on the Sabbath day, eating with unclean hands, and a multitude of other legalistic issues, they continued to do with the new Christian Church. Debates concerning the necessity of circumcision was just one of their tactics. It has occurred to me that there may have been another reason why the unbelieving Jews may have used Jewish genealogies as another tool to sow division amongst the early Christian Disciples.
If there is one thing that the New Testament Scriptures make very clear, it is that the unbelieving Jewish Elders viewed Jesus as a threat to their own position of power. This fact was made very clear by the high priest Caiaphas when he said to his fellow Jews:
"Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not."
John 11:49b-50, KJV
"Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people."
John 18:14, KJV
Please understand that while Jesus died in order to obtain the Salvation of the Jewish nation, and in fact of the whole world, this is not why Caiaphas made that statement. It is commonly believed that his true concern was that unless the situation with Jesus was brought under control, the Romans might begin to view Jesus, along with His growing number of followers, as a serious threat to Roman authority. If this were to happen, the Jewish Elders were sure that merciless Rome would pounce upon Israel, and remove them from power, which they obviously did not want to happen. Thus, the Jews of the Sanhedrin conspired to murder Jesus, as is made very plain in verses such as the following:
"Then assembled together the CHIEF PRIESTS, AND THE SCRIBES, and the ELDERS OF THE PEOPLE, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, And consulted that they might TAKE JESUS BY SUBTILTY, AND KILL HIM. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people."
Matthew 26:3-5, KJV
"Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover. And the CHIEF PRIESTS AND SCRIBES SOUGHT HOW THEY MIGHT KILL HIM; for they feared the people."
Luke 22:1-2, KJV
"And therefore did the JEWS PERSECUTE JESUS, AND SOUGHT TO SLAY HIM, because he had done these things on the sabbath day. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God."
John 5:16-18, KJV
"After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the JEWS SOUGHT TO KILL HIM . . . Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? WHY GO YE ABOUT TO KILL ME? The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who GOETH ABOUT TO KILL THEE? . . . Then said some of them of Jerusalem, IS NOT THIS HE, WHOM THEY SEEK TO KILL?"
John 7:1, 19-20, 25, KJV
"I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but YE SEEK TO KILL ME, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now YE SEEK TO KILL ME, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham."
John 8:37-40, KJV
"Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore HE THAT DELIVERED ME UNTO THEE HATH THE GREATER SIN. And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar."
John 19:10-12, KJV
". . . My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be DELIVERED TO THE JEWS: but now is my kingdom not from hence."
John 18:36b, KJV
"And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, WHOM YE SLEW AND HANGED ON A TREE."
Acts 5:27-30, KJV
In the end, as many Christians know, the unbelieving Jewish Elders used that very same political ploy -- that is, that Jesus was a traitor and a threat to Rome -- to pressure the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate, into doing their dirty work for them, by crucifying the Messiah. When that ploy failed to work, because neither Herod nor Pilate found any guilt in Jesus, those same vile Jews resorted to mob rule, and scared Pilate into doing their bloody bidding, by painting Pilate as disloyal to Rome, if he did not crucify Jesus.
While the unbelieving Jewish Elders at the time believed that Christ's Crucifixion had resolved the immediate problem with Rome, little did they realize that through their heinous act of murdering the Son of God, they had in fact sealed their fate, and ensured that the Wrath of God would soon fall upon their nation, and sweep them from power. As you may realize, about forty years later, exactly as Jesus had prophesied in Matthew chapter twenty-four, and in other Gospel chapters, Jerusalem -- including their precious Temple -- was utterly destroyed by Roman forces under the leadership of General Titus, who was the son of Emperor Vespasian, in 70 AD. God's vengeance upon those antichrists was sure and complete. As we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews:
"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God . . . For our God is a consuming fire."
Hebrews 10:31, 12:29, KJV
Please go to part three for the conclusion of this series.
⇒ Go To The Next Part . . .