How late might the gospels be?

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Irish1975
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How late might the gospels be?

Post by Irish1975 » Fri Jan 12, 2018 7:33 pm

Longstanding consensus among NT scholars has it that Mark was written circa 70. Maybe 65-80 if you ask around. But although the Jewish-Roman war provides a clear basement for dating Mark, I have never understood what specific evidence or criteria historians have used to establish a ceiling: how late could it be?

There seems to be recent acknowledgment that Luke-Acts, and particularly Acts, reflect a reaction against Marcion, and therefore probably stem from the mid-2nd century. Why not the same for Matthew and John? Is it conceivable that Mark too was written in the 2nd century?

Obviously, the bulk of scholars in the 19th and 20th centuries had theological reasons for dating the gospels as early as possible. That's less the case today (and not historical anyhow). And with the decline of form criticism, and the increased recognition of Mark's literary inventiveness over the whole structure of his narrative, there seems to be less reason to date him early.
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Ben C. Smith
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Re: How late might the gospels be?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Fri Jan 12, 2018 8:17 pm

Irish1975 wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 7:33 pm
Longstanding consensus among NT scholars has it that Mark was written circa 70. Maybe 65-80 if you ask around. But although the Jewish-Roman war provides a clear basement for dating Mark, I have never understood what specific evidence or criteria historians have used to establish a ceiling: how late could it be?
I think that the generational prophecy put onto Jesus' lips has a lot to do with the dating for all three synoptic gospels:

Mark 9.1: 1 And Jesus was saying to them, "Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power."

Mark 13.30: 30 "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place."

Matthew includes similar prophecies, and some interpret Luke as doing the same; and people seem to like to leave 10-20 years between gospels, just for good measure. So, if one deems it unlikely that an evangelist would put this generational prophecy on Jesus' lips after the last person of the adult generation presumed to be alive during Jesus' lifetime had died, then dates before around 90 start to look very attractive for Matthew and Luke (assuming, as most do, Marcan priority), with Mark coming 10-20 years before them.

Matthew especially, with his notice that the advent of Jesus would come "immediately" after the tribulation just described (24.29), some scholars are reluctant to date too terribly long after 70, the latest reasonable date for the abomination of desolation as Matthew describes it, ensuring that Mark remains even closer to 70 (again, on the assumption of Marcan priority).

That this generational prophecy left a mark seems fairly certain:

John 21.21-23: 21 So Peter seeing him says to Jesus, "Lord, and what about this man?" 22 Jesus says to him, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!" 23 Therefore this saying went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?"

2 Peter 3.3-9: 3 Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, 4 and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation." 5 For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, 6 through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. 7 But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. 8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

At any rate, these are some of the data driving that date for Mark of 65-80. I know people are able to dispose of this generational prophecy in various ways; Christians, for example, have been doing it since the death of the alleged first generation, apparently.
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Charles Wilson
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Re: How late might the gospels be?

Post by Charles Wilson » Fri Jan 12, 2018 8:44 pm

Teeple:

"In [John] 12: 42 the editor alludes to the Pharisees' exclusion of the Christians from the synagogues; this excommunication began about A. D. 90. As we have concluded, one of his sources, S, was written around the year 95. On the other hand, the redactor wrote before the famous John Rylands library fragment, P52 was produced, because that papyrus contains R's insertion in 18:32. The date of P52 is the second quarter of the second century, and considering the respective points of view of E and R, E probably wrote after G was written, but several decades may separate the work of E and R. Therefore E probably wrote around A.D 100-110, and R probably around 125-135."

There is a lot to agree with here, even if you don't agree with Teeple's use of Source, Editor or Redactor. The use of "Holy
Spirit" identifies with Domitian: Therefore post-95 ish. The Damnatio of Domitian pushes this a little farther. The so-called "Sign's Gospel" is supplanted by this. BTW, the use of Otho (and Claudius in Acts) provides filler for the story of Verginius Rufus with the Empty Tomb Motif (Pliny the Younger and Tacitus).

All of this pushes the earliest date for the NT as a Theme for the New Religion to around 110, more probably to the 120/125 end.

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Re: How late might the gospels be?

Post by Bernard Muller » Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:47 pm

I have a lot of material about dating the gospels:

http://historical-jesus.info/41.html (dating of Mark's gospel)
http://historical-jesus.info/57.html (dating of Matthew's gospel)
http://historical-jesus.info/62.html (dating of Luke & John's gospels)http://historical-jesus.info/63.html (dating of Acts)

About the external evidence, see http://historical-jesus.info/gospels.html

Also relevant:
Against a 2nd century dating of 'Acts': http://historical-jesus.info/73.html
One argument in favor of proving Marcion's gospel (of the Lord) was written after Luke's gospel: http://historical-jesus.info/53.html

Cordially, Bernard
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neilgodfrey
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Re: How late might the gospels be?

Post by neilgodfrey » Fri Jan 12, 2018 11:46 pm

I wish I could recall the brave author who published the following and I will certainly update my comment when/if I recover their identity.

A major factor in the dating of the gospels is the consideration of oral tradition being a key source for their narratives. The later the gospels the less credible they are as historical biographies. With the Gospel of Mark there is frequently some weight given to the existence of the "rumour" that Peter himself was somehow behind it. For them to maintain some generational link (supported further by Ben Smith's point above) to hold historical validity they need to be dated as close to 70 as possible/reasonable.

However, if we remove the oral tradition model as a source for the gospels (a notion that is laughable to some members here and in opposition to abundant historical research that supposedly "proves" oral tradition rather than merely proposes methods and characteristics of oral tradition IF there had been an oral tradition) then we lose a principle reason for dating the gospels close to 70. (There are other reasons for the approx 70 date but that's another question and needs to be balanced against proposals for a late date.)

What I find problematic about the usual arguments suggesting that authors would hardly put a demonstrably false prophecy into Jesus' mouth is that the original prophecy was surely a borrowing of standard metaphorical images for apocalyptic scenarios from the OT. Isaiah and other books evidently speak of heavens collapsing etc as metaphors for political demise of kingdoms/nations. Nowhere are they literal, as far as I am aware -- except in readers' minds when reading the gospels.

Daniel (and Mark was heavily influenced by Daniel) speaks of the establishment of an independent Maccabean kingdom as effectively a coming of the Son of Man to set up his kingdom on earth.

The destruction of Jerusalem was indeed the end of the old cosmos, apocalyptically/metaphorically speaking.

It was within a generation of the death of Jesus, so yes, it happened at the right time -- according to the setting of the gospel narrative.

One can understand how the author of Mark also linked the fall of Jerusalem with its spiritual replacement by the "church" or "people of Christ". They were now the sole surviving spiritual temple of God, as per the epistles, etc.

The Gospel of Mark strikes me as bending over backwards to hint-hint, nudge-nudge, biff-biff to readers that its message, especially its miracles and parables are all symbolic. Yet for some reason the Olivet Prophecy is universally taken as literal -- despite several other hints/nudges/biffs that part of it was symbolic of the Passion. And from that literal reading arises so many other sins and problems and questions and controversies.

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Re: How late might the gospels be?

Post by Paul the Uncertain » Sat Jan 13, 2018 12:40 am

Irish1975
... [with] the increased recognition of Mark's literary inventiveness over the whole structure of his narrative, there seems to be less reason to date him early.
Sorry. I didn't follow that. I am a full-bore fan of Mark's literary inventiveness. I don't see how his being a good writer argues for him being earlier or later.

Conversely, I don't see how a former perception that Mark was a poor writer would have made him seem earlier. If I recall correctly, Augustine thought that Mark was a mere derivative summary of the other Gospels, which would tend to place Mark later, not earlier. But other people who presumably still thought little of Mark's skill reordered their estimated composition dates, and placed Mark earliest among the Gospels. That's as opposed to his second-place, and so middling, "canonical order," also presumably estimated by people who were unimpressed with his skill.

Off-hand, then, appreciation of skill level and estimation of temporal priority seem to be more-or-less independent of one another. It might be helpful, then, to flesh out that argument a bit?

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MrMacSon
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Re: How late might the gospels be?

Post by MrMacSon » Sat Jan 13, 2018 12:52 am

Irish1975 wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 7:33 pm

Longstanding consensus among NT scholars has it that Mark was written circa 70. Maybe 65-80 if you ask around. But although the Jewish-Roman war provides a clear basement for dating Mark, I have never understood what specific evidence or criteria historians have used to establish a ceiling: how late could it be?

There seems to be recent acknowledgment that Luke-Acts, and particularly Acts, reflect a reaction against Marcion, and therefore probably stem from the mid-2nd century. Why not the same for Matthew and John? Is it conceivable that Mark too was written in the 2nd century?

Obviously, the bulk of scholars in the 19th and 20th centuries had theological reasons for dating the gospels as early as possible. That's less the case today (and not historical anyhow). And with the decline of form criticism, and the increased recognition of Mark's literary inventiveness over the whole structure of his narrative, there seems to be less reason to date him early.
I'm pretty sure the early datings are mostly based on people following assertions made by Adolf von Harnack's Date of the Acts and the Synoptic Gospels, 2011, saying [single inverted commas mine] -

"Internal indications... place no impediment in the way of assigning St Mark at the latest to the sixth decade of the first century, as is 'required' by the date we have assigned to St Luke"

Others have used Acts as a base, or the absence of mention of the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD -
(1) Argument from 'internal indications of dating'. Italian Biblical scholar and Orientalist, Giuseppe Ricciotti, takes as his starting point the conclusion of the Acts of the Apostle1s ...

Dating The Books Of The New Testament
From Part I, Chapter 5, of: Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine
by Archbishop M. Sheehan, revised. by Rev. Peter Joseph, St Austin Press, (London 2001)

https://www.kwl.com.au/blog/sacraments/ ... testament/



1 Others have also used Acts as 'the starting point -
The research demonstrated that by looking at the Book of Acts of the Apostles as the key starting point, the synoptic gospels were most likely composed before 70 CE, therefore, supporting scholars who argue for an earlier date.

http://digitalcommons.fiu.edu/cgi/viewc ... ontext=etd

eta: There's more eg. -

J.C. O'Neill is a big supporter of Acts using the works of Justin Martyr. Consequently, in O'Neill's The Theology of Acts in its Historical Setting, he dates the composition date of Acts to be between 115 CE to 130 CE, in order to reflect the connection between Justin Martyr and Acts.

There have been scholars who have done extensive reviews and assessments on such a connection. Two such scholars are H.D.F. Sparks and G. Schneider [who] have evaluated and analyzed O'Neill's work, strongly disagree[ing] with such a connection. For starters, Justin Martyr was alive between the years of 100 CE to 165 CE. This means he was born after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 CE. Just as it is unlikely for the author of Acts to have used Josephus' works due to the time period when Josephus was alive and writing his texts, it is unlikely for the author of Acts to have used the writings of Justin Martyr, mainly because, as we have discussed previously, Acts was written before 70 CE and Justin Martyr is writing well after that year (Fitzmyer, 53-54 and Robinson, 87-89).

Another argument against a connection between Acts and Justin Martyr is the differences in their 'types of Christology'. For example, Harnack argues that the Christology found in Acts is more primitive than the one found in Justin Martyr. As such, this places Acts before the works of Justin Martyr.

Furthermore, scholars who argue against an Acts and Justin Martyr connection point out that the 'comprehension of Jesus' death' is also primitive (Fitzmyer, 53-54 and Harnack, 109). Even though "Luke connected this death with the forgiveness of sins, he had in no sense attained to the heights of Pauline doctrine" (Harnack, 109).
Continuing from the first source -

2) Argument from history. Anglican bishop J.A.T. Robinson, well-known for the theological liberalism of his book Honest to God (1963), in an epoch-making work Redating the New Testament, came to the conclusion that the late dating of the Gospels by the school of ‘form criticism’ is totally dependent upon “the manifold tyranny of unexamined assumptions.” Robinson begins his study by noting that in the entire New Testament, “the single most datable and climactic event of the period—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.”

(3) Argument from early patristic tradition combined with internal comparison of the Gospels. Anglican canon, and Professor of New Testament Greek, John Wenham, arguing from the likenesses and differences between the Synoptic Gospels, and early tradition regarding their order and place of writing ...

(4) Argument from Jewish oral and written tradition. Swedish Biblicist, Birger Gerhardsson, demonstrates the reliability of the sayings of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels from the teaching and memorisation methods of the Jewish rabbis and disciples at the time of Christ.

5) Argument from Hebrew basis of the texts. French scholar Jean Carmignac was struck by the Semitisms (Hebrew or Semitic way of writing and speaking) of the Greek text of St Mark’s Gospel

Dating The Books Of The New Testament
From Part I, Chapter 5, of: Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine
by Archbishop M. Sheehan, revised. by Rev. Peter Joseph, St Austin Press, (London 2001)

https://www.kwl.com.au/blog/sacraments/ ... testament/
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MrMacSon
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Re: How late might the gospels be?

Post by MrMacSon » Sat Jan 13, 2018 1:00 am

Irish1975 wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 7:33 pm
There seems to be recent acknowledgment that Luke-Acts, and particularly Acts, reflect a reaction against Marcion, and therefore probably stem from the mid-2nd century. Why not the same for Matthew and John? Is it conceivable that Mark too was written in the 2nd century?
That started in the 19th century with Waite, I think, then John Knox in the mid 20th c., and then his student Joseph B Tyson -

Joseph B Tyson (2006) Marcion and Luke-Acts: a defining struggle. University of South Carolina Press.
  • makes a case for Luke and Acts being a response to Marcion, rather than Marcion's gospel being a rewrite of Luke.

In recent years Markus Vinzent, Matthias Klinghardt, & BeDuhn [see next post] have argued most if not all the gospels arise from or via Marcion -

Vincent M (2014) 'Marcion and the Dating of the Synoptic Gospels' (Studia patristica supplement 2) Leuven: Peeters.
  • Summary: Are the Synoptic Gospels at odds with Early Christian art and archaeology? Art and archaeology cannot provide the material basis 'to secure the irrefutable inner continuity' of the Christian beginnings (Erich Dinkler); can the Synoptic Gospels step in? Their narratives, however, are as absent from the first hundred and fourty years of early Christianity as are their visual imageries. 'Many of the dates confidently assigned by modern experts to the New Testament documents', especially the Gospels, rest 'on presuppositions rather than facts' (J.A.T. Robinson, 1976). The present volume is the first systematic study of all available early evidence that we have about the first witness to our Gospel narratives, Marcion of Sinope. It evaluates our commonly known arguments for dating the Synoptic Gospels, elaborates on Marcion's crucial role in the Gospel making and argues for a re-dating of the Gospels to the years between 138 and 144 AD.
"One of the most important insights of my 'Marcion and the Dating of the Synoptic Gospels' (2014) was the discovery that Marcion’s Gospel existed in two different versions, first as a pre-published, presumably stand-alone draft, and secondly as a published edition with the framing of the Antitheses and the 10 Pauline Letters. How did I derive to this conclusion? The key text in this respect is Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem IV 4,2 which, in a second step, I’d like to put into the broader frame of Tertullian’s discussion of Marcion’s Antitheses and his Gospel in Adversus Marcionem IV 1-5, so that we can follow Tertullian’s arguments ..." continued - http://markusvinzent.blogspot.com.au/20 ... ospel.html
"Vinzent’s book doesn’t simply assert priority of Marcions’ Gospel over the canonical text of Luke, but asserts that Marcion’s Gospel preceded all the canonical Gospels." Larry Hurtado blog-post comment
"Vinzent’s views are unique in the renewed debates concerning Marcion’s Gospel in that he believes that Marcion wrote the first Gospel ever written and that all four of our canonical Gospels used Marcion’s Gospel as a source. In his own words, “Marcion, who created the new literary genre of the ‘Gospel’ and also gave the work this title, had no historical precedent in the combination of Christ’s sayings and narratives” (p. 277).
"Vinzent essentially attempts to construct his case on two foundations: first, and foremost, on the basis of his reading of several important sources for and works on Marcion’s Gospel; and second, on the basis of what Vinzent presumes to be the content and readings of Marcion’s Gospel."
- Dieter Roth https://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2015 ... n-marcion/

Matthias Klinghardt (2015) Das älteste Evangelium und die Entstehung der kanonischen Evangelien (German) Francke a Verlag, publisher
  • title translation: The oldest gospel, & the emergence of the canonical Gospels

    Volume I: Investigation | Volume II: Reconstruction, Translation, Variants
  • (via Google Translate) "Volume I: The oldest gospel is The Gospel, which was in the 2nd century by Marcion and [which] others received. The exact reconstruction of this text, as well as proof that all canonical gospels are dependent on him, allow significant insights for important fields of New Testament scholarship: The origin, tradition, and history of the Gospels, the New Testament textual history, the emergence of the canon of the New Testament, and the history of Christianity in the 2nd century. Volume 1 contains the investigation that determines the relationship between Luke and the oldest gospel, and a model for the development of the Gospels up to the canonical four gospels book designs.

    Volume II: The reconstruction of the oldest Gospel is the basis of the examination of the canonical Gospels tradition of/for the oldest version to the canonical four gospels book. Volume 2 contains the meticulous reconstruction of the Gospel with the establishment of the text, the distortion of the witnesses, and the interpretations. In the explanation of each reconstruction decision shall be fully explained and the single logia and pericopes Überlieferungsweg traced. This is complemented by a reconstruction translation and a list of variants of the canonical Gospel of Luke, which touch with the text of the oldest gospel."
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MrMacSon
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Re: How late might the gospels be?

Post by MrMacSon » Sat Jan 13, 2018 1:37 am

.
"The April 2017 issue of New Testament Studies [Vol 63, Issue 2] contains brief essays on the topic of Marcion's Gospel by Matthias Klinghardt, Jason Beduhn, and Judith Lieu, all titled 'Marcion's Gospel and the New Testament: Catalyst or Consequence?'

via http://sanctushieronymus.blogspot.com.a ... ament.html --

"Matthias Klinghardt and Jason BeDuhn both argue that 'Marcion's Gospel' preceded both Marcion and Luke and was in fact the earliest Gospel written.
  • [That is different from the view of Markus Vinzent, who thinks that Marcion himself actually wrote the earliest Gospel: for a critical interaction with Vinzent's book, see Dieter Roth's March 2015 comments here].

In his April 2017 article, Klinghardt argued that
  • "in almost every single instance the direction of the editorial process runs from the Marcionite Gospel to Luke. Some passages - such as the beginning of the gospel or the account of the Last Supper - confirm this editorial direction beyond any doubt. True, there are indeed a few examples where the editorial process could run in either direction, but none of these examples requires, or even suggests, a reversal of the Marcionite priority. (319)"

With regard to how the other Gospels - especially Matthew and Mark - fit into the picture -
  • "The most obvious consequence of the priority of the Marcionite Gospel over Luke relates to the Synoptic Problem: when taking this 'pre-Lukan gospel' into account, the model of the inter-gospel relations changes profoundly. Most remarkably, this model disposes of the need for 'Q'; the Two-Source Theory becomes entirely redundant; and the other models in discussion - such as the Farrer-Goulder-Goodacre hypothesis or the Neo-Griesbach Theory - are irrelevant. (320)"

Klinghardt suggests that the Marcionite Gospel is first, on which Mark depended. Matthew used both Mark and the Marcionite Gospel. John used the previous three, and Luke used all the previous four.
  • "The search for the 'historical Jesus', therefore, becomes a completely different, if not an impossible, task" (321).
  • "although it is not impossible that a gospel existed before the middle of the second century, there is simply not even the slightest shred of evidence for any written gospel prior to that time" (322).

Klinghardt notes that many of the readings attributed to Marcion's Gospel show up as variant readings in the textual tradition of Luke, leading him to conclude that
  • "this gospel was not the arbitrary product of a mean-spirited heretic but, quite simply and obviously, an older text utilised by many, including Marcion himself. And that text was, quite simply and obviously, edited by Luke" (322).



BeDuhn says -
  • "Once we ... objectively examine the texts of the two gospels, it becomes immediately clear that Marcion's Gospel cannot be an ideologically motivated redaction of Luke, for the simple reason that the two gospels are practically identical in ideology." (324)
BeDuhn sees Luke as a Marcionite-neutral redaction of the Marcionite Gospel, which perhaps took place prior to Marcion. He says:
  • "...it could even be suggested that Luke is a second edition of Marcion's Gospel by the same author."
BeDuhn also thinks that the Two-Source hypothesis may be correct, once Luke is replaced in the equation with the Marcionite Gospel; and the reconstruction of Q would proceed along those new lines.

In his article BeDuhn offers an interesting discussion of the divergent concepts of the collection of books promoted by Marcion and his opponents. He assumes that Marcion had a clearly defined canon.



Lieu argues that our complete ignorance of Marcion and his Gospel from any source other than via his opponents should make us cautious.
  • "It is, therefore, misleading to suppose that Marcion's Gospel has survived and is available for comparative analysis, as one might with the canonical gospels. Although attempts to reconstruct Marcion's Gospel multiply, claims to achieve any precision must be treated with considerable scepticism." (330)
[Elsewhere she rather positively judges Roth's work.]
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andrewcriddle
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Re: How late might the gospels be?

Post by andrewcriddle » Sat Jan 13, 2018 2:20 am

Papias, writing probably in the time of Hadrian, says
The Elder also said this, “Mark, being the interpreter of Peter, whatsoever he remembered he wrote accurately, but not however in the order that these things were spoken or done by our Lord. For he neither heard the Lord, nor followed him, but afterwards, as I said, he was with Peter, who did not make a complete [or ordered] account of the Lord’s logia, but constructed his teachings according to chreiai [concise self-contained teachings]. So Mark did nothing wrong in writing down single matters as he remembered them, for he gave special attention to one thing, of not passing by anything he heard, and not falsifying anything in these matters.”
Either this account is basically true, in which case a 1st century origin of Mark follows, or the real origins of Mark had been lost before Papias wrote. This is unlikely if Mark had originated relatively recently before Papias wrote. Hence a 1st century origin of Mark also seems to follow.

(The account of Mark in Papias seems slightly disparaging, it was probably not an invention to legitimize Mark.)

The idea that Acts is post-Marcion raises problems in terms of the knowledge shown of 1st century Mediterranean life. The implications of this knowledge have probably been exaggerated by conservatives, but do IMO make a post-Trajan date for Acts unlikely.

Andrew Criddle

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