Month: November 2015

The Dating Game: New Testament Edition

Many arguments about the reliability of the New Testament documents hinge on when they were written.  This makes sense: documents written shortly after the events they describe might be reliable, while texts written centuries after everyone described is dead are more likely to be legendary than accurate.  Fortunately, biblical scholars are (almost all) very confident about when the books of the New Testament were written, dating some of them within a year or two.  But should we believe the dates the experts propose?   Some might be inclined to do so based on the greater training of NT scholars, but as a historian, I wish to explore some of the reasons given for the dates, and evaluate for myself how valid those reasons are.  My conclusion from doing so is that we know a lot less about when New Testament documents were written than the scholars claim.  This claim is neither for nor against the truth of the Christian faith as reported in the New Testament; the documents might as easily be older than scholars claim as newer.  It is simply a statement of the lack of evidence, leading to a more humble and open view of the past. (more…)

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Peter’s Amicus Brief

In a local Bible study group, we just read 1 Peter, and this time through I was struck by how consistently the theme of judicial persecution of Christians remains near at hand through the whole letter.  Indeed, seeing more of the letter in light of this consistent theme forced me to revise my understanding of several passages.  These re-assessed verses include every reference to suffering in the letter, as well as two very famous verses, the one most often cited by Evangelicals as the clarion call for apologetics (1 Peter 3:15) and the one warning about the devil’s activity (1 Peter 5:8).  I thought I’d chart here some of this new (to me) reading of Peter’s letter in light of persecution. (more…)