Monday, November 03, 2008

The Dating Game VII: Dating of Matthew and Luke

In the previous post in this series, we looked at the case for Mark's dating in the post 70 period, suggesting that the predictions of the destruction of the temple function to underline the authority of Jesus as the one who successfully predicted what the reader knew had now happened. The repeated and pervasive emphasis on the temple and its destruction is most plausible in this post-70 period. It is worth investing time on this question because if Mark was written after 70, and if Matthew, Luke and John are all familiar with Mark, then they too post-date 70. But does a closer look at the later Gospels correlate with this picture? For J. A. T. Robinson (Redating the New Testament), it was the lack of reference to 70 anywhere in the New Testament that proved decisive in his attempts at redating:
The fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, and with it the collapse of institutional Judaism based on the temple - is never once mentioned as a past fact. It is, of course, predicted; and these predictions are, in some cases at least, assumed to be written (or written up) after the event. But the silence is nevertheless as significant as the silence for Sherlock Holmes of the dog that did not bark.
The claim is unimpressive, though, given that most of the documents in question are either written in the pre-70 period (Paul’s letters) or set in the pre-70 period (Gospels-Acts). What is remarkable is that documents set a generation before 70 appear to speak so clearly about the destruction of the Temple. For Robinson,
That Jesus could have predicted the doom of Jerusalem and its sanctuary is no more inherently improbable than that another Jesus, the son of Ananias, should have done so in the autumn of 62.
The problem for this perspective is that Jesus ben Ananias’s prophecy occurs in a document that post-dates 70, Josephus’s Jewish War. As with Mark, it is important to ask the question about the literary function of the prediction in the narrative, here in a document that climaxes with the story of Jerusalem’s destruction. Indeed, a comparison between Jesus ben Ananias in Josephus and Jesus of Nazareth in Matthew and Luke provides further striking parallels. The oracle Matthew 23.37-39 // Luke 13.34-35 has marked similarities with the oracle in Jewish War 300-1, the same threefold focus on the people, the city, the temple. Jesus ben Ananias cries “a voice against Jerusalem . . .” and Jesus laments “Jerusalem, Jerusalem”. Jesus ben Ananias singles out “the holy house” and Jesus says “Behold your house is forsaken.” Jesus ben Ananias raises “a voice against this whole people” just as Jesus exclaims, “how often would I have gathered your children.” Moreover, the same context in Josephus features a portent of voices being heard in the temple saying “we are departing from hence” (μεταβαίνομεν ἐντεῦθεν, War 6.299), similar to the implication here in Matthew and Luke that God has left the temple – “Behold your house is forsaken and desolate” (Matt. 23.38). Such prophecies and portents function similarly in each of the texts and they point to a post-70 dating.

1 comment:

Chris Weimer said...


Post-70? That's it? I hope we get a little more specificity, yes? And what do you make of Luke possibly using Josephus?

All the best,

Chris Weimer

PS - See you in a couple of weeks!