Some critical scholars have attempted to strengthen their contentions by separating the actual events from the writings by as much time as possible.For this reason radical scholars (for example, the Jesus Seminar) argue for late first century or even second century dates for the original manuscripts. Sherwin White has demonstrated, using documents from antiquity even less well-attested and with much wider composition-to-earliest-copy spans than the New Testament documents, even two generations are too short a span to allow the mythical tendency to prevail over the hard historic core of the oral tradition (Sherwin-White, 190).More recent dating proposals have reflected the impact, among both liberal and conservative scholars, of various lines of evidence which indicate earlier dates for the New Testament documents.For example, the notorious death-of-God proponent John A. Robinson (1976) contended that all 27 documents were composed prior to 70AD.By around 300, nearly every verse in the New Testament was cited in one or more of over 36,000 citations found in the writings of the Church Fathers (Geisler and Nix 108, 155).The distribution of those writings are important evidence because of their early date, the wide geographic distribution of where these authors lived, where their recipients lived, and the large number of New Testament references they contain. The Outline of History (Garden City, NY: Garden City Publishing, 1921).More recently, influential Roman Catholic scholar Raymond E.Brown (1997) proposed a date range for the New Testament documents that spanned approximately 80 years: from 5051AD for 1 Thessalonians, to 130AD for 2 Peter although favoring a first-century date for almost all documents other than 2 Peter and 2 John (Introduction, 396, 457, 762). Earle Ellis (1995), reflecting views accepted and espoused by many conservative Biblical writers, has proposed that the New Testament documents were the result of four streams of apostolic sources: Peter, James, John, and Paul.
We wish this series to help everyone understand the process of the Bible's history as a document and why we can have confidence in its message. Albright had previously written, in light of archaeological discoveries (his area of scholarly expertise), that [t]hanks to the Qumran discoveries [the Dead Sea Scrolls], the New Testament proves to be in fact what it was formerly believed to be: the teaching of Christ and his immediate followers between circa 25 and circa 80 A. Interestingly, Albrights assessment is not unique among unlikely sources of such assessments.
For example, every New Testament book is quoted by the Apostolic Fathers (as the early Christian writers down to 150AD are commonly known).
Almost every book of the New Testament is explicitly cited as Scripture by these early writers.
Those who would question the integrity of the New Testament texts, by the same token destroy confidence in the integrity of any ancient document which has been handed down through the copying process. The Authenticity of 2 Peter, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42.4 (1999), 645-671. On the Form, Function, and Authority of the New Testament Letters.
Specific Instances and Particulars While it is not possible in this short article to include a detailed explication of the date and authorship of every New Testament book, some samples will have to suffice for the present.
This stream of evidence is, of course, in addition to the various manuscript copies in Greek (to say nothing of early translations) of the New Testament documents.