What is the earliest written part of the New Testament? Watch

Arran90
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#1
Report Thread starter 2 months ago
#1
What is the earliest written part of the New Testament? Around what year was it first published?
0
reply
londonmyst
Badges: 18
Rep:
?
#2
Report 2 months ago
#2
The earliest texts are believed to be the Epistles; seven letters written between about 50 and 62 AD to newly established Christian communities by St Paul.
New Testament scholars often enjoy debating chronological sequencing order amongst each other.
0
reply
Tootles
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#3
Report 2 months ago
#3
(Original post by Arran90)
What is the earliest written part of the New Testament? Around what year was it first published?
Obolinda

The earliest complete book is believed to be 1 Thessalonians, which was a letter sent between 50 and 60 AD.

However, textual criticism also yields evidence that the passion narrative in Mark's Gospel (or possibly the entirety of that Gospel writing) could date to the late 30s.

There is another book, too, which was debated for inclusion in biblical canon but which ultimately wasn't included, called the Didache, which contains the earliest known Christian catechism, eucharistic prayers, and directions for life in general, which has a wide range for estimated dates of authorship, with most scholars believing it was written between 70-120, but some evidence indicating that it might have been written around the year 40.

As londonmyst says, though, this is debated often, and there probably won't ever be firm dates, unless someone thought so seal autographs (a term for an original document written in the author's own hand) in lead caskets in cool dark places, and they come to light.

Textual criticism is a hell of a drug.
Last edited by Tootles; 2 months ago
2
reply
Leviathan1611
Badges: 18
Rep:
?
#4
Report 2 months ago
#4
I've heard it was 1 Thessalonians. I don't know about year it was published.
0
reply
Arran90
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#5
Report Thread starter 2 months ago
#5
(Original post by londonmyst)
The earliest texts are believed to be the Epistles; seven letters written between about 50 and 62 AD to newly established Christian communities by St Paul.
(Original post by Tootles)
The earliest complete book is believed to be 1 Thessalonians, which was a letter sent between 50 and 60 AD.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are known as the Synoptic Gospels because they are fairly similar to each other whereas John is considerably different. Mark is the shortest Synoptic Gospel and is generally believed to be the earliest of the three. Matthew and Luke appear to have used Mark as a source along with another publication referred to as Q.

The exact date of publication of any of these four Gospels is unknown and it's possible that they were written in dribs and drabs over a period of several decades before arriving in their current form.

If the seven letters by Paul (or at least one of them) were written at a time when the four Gospels were documents of the future, yet to be published, then what publications did Paul use as sources of information in order to write his letters? Did Paul ever have access to Q?
0
reply
Tootles
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#6
Report 2 months ago
#6
(Original post by Arran90)
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are known as the Synoptic Gospels because they are fairly similar to each other whereas John is considerably different. Mark is the shortest Synoptic Gospel and is generally believed to be the earliest of the three. Matthew and Luke appear to have used Mark as a source along with another publication referred to as Q.

The exact date of publication of any of these four Gospels is unknown and it's possible that they were written in dribs and drabs over a period of several decades before arriving in their current form.

If the seven letters by Paul (or at least one of them) were written at a time when the four Gospels were documents of the future, yet to be published, then what publications did Paul use as sources of information in order to write his letters? Did Paul ever have access to Q?
First off: please stop saying "publication". These weren't written and then packed off to a publisher to be imprinted and bound and sold at papershops and airports, or put through people's letterboxes like circulars. A lot of the New Testament started as letters that were written by someone, and then read by the recipient to the congregations, and eventually copied and shared with other congregations. They weren't "published"; they were circulated - and circulated secretly, might I add, as Christianity was illegal and punishable by death.

The Quelle Document / Q Source is conjecture, its existence unproven, and thus is necessarily discounted from serious discussion. Probably what people take for Q is a set of oral traditions, anyway, which would account for why (a) there are differences between the Gospel accounts, and (b) no copies of or references to Q has ever been found.

Textual analysis can reveal a lot about when a text was written. The Gospels can be dated through their specific usage of language (grammar, syntax, and so on), and through events and people they name.

Textual critics concluded that at least John's Gospel was probably written in episodes several decades ago. It's clear, when you look at the Greek text of Matthew's Gospel, that it was assembled from a number of sources - again, probably oral traditions. There is also evidence that John's Gospel was originally much shorter (the so-called "Signs Gospel"), which was later added to.

Luke was likely written by a single author, and written in pretty much the same state in which we have it now. Mark certainly was very close.

St Paul may or may not have had access to a written Gospel account. It wouldn't have been necessary though: he was already a clever person, and even literate people were probably only comparable with a primary school child of today. Thus, they would have had fantastic long-term memories - as many dyslexics of today have. So St Paul, who joined with the Apostles in person, certainly heard first-hand accounts of much of his ministry from the others, concerning the life, passion, death, and raising of Christ - and remembered them. Doubtless he could have written a better Gospel account than any of the others, but for some reason, he didn't seem to feel the need.

It's generally believed that, even if all the Gospels had been written and reached their current state by around 70, they were not in wide circulation among the Christian Church until after the year 120 or so, and that their teaching of the Gospel until that point would have been recitations of an oral tradition; the only written scripture used in services being the Septuagint.
Last edited by Tootles; 2 months ago
1
reply
londonmyst
Badges: 18
Rep:
?
#7
Report 2 months ago
#7
(Original post by Tootles)
First off: please stop saying "publication". These weren't written and then packed off to a publisher to be imprinted and bound and sold at papershops and airports, or put through people's letterboxes like circulars. A lot of the New Testament started as letters that were written by someone, and then read by the recipient to the congregations, and eventually copied and shared with other congregations. They weren't "published"; they were circulated - and circulated secretly, might I add, as Christianity was illegal and punishable by death.

The Quelle Document / Q Source is conjecture, its existence unproven, and thus is necessarily discounted from serious discussion. Probably what people take for Q is a set of oral traditions, anyway, which would account for why (a) there are differences between the Gospel accounts, and (b) no copies of or references to Q has ever been found.

Textual analysis can reveal a lot about when a text was written. The Gospels can be dated through their specific usage of language (grammar, syntax, and so on), and through events and people they name.

Textual critics concluded that at least John's Gospel was probably written in episodes several decades ago. It's clear, when you look at the Greek text of Matthew's Gospel, that it was assembled from a number of sources - again, probably oral traditions. There is also evidence that John's Gospel was originally much shorter (the so-called "Signs Gospel"), which was later added to.

Luke was likely written by a single author, and written in pretty much the same state in which we have it now. Mark certainly was very close.

St Paul may or may not have had access to a written Gospel account. It wouldn't have been necessary though: he was already a clever person, and even literate people were probably only comparable with a primary school child of today. Thus, they would have had fantastic long-term memories - as many dyslexics of today have. So St Paul, who joined with the Apostles in person, certainly heard first-hand accounts of much of his ministry from the others, concerning the life, passion, death, and raising of Christ - and remembered them. Doubtless he could have written a better Gospel account than any of the others, but for some reason, he didn't seem to feel the need.

It's generally believed that, even if all the Gospels had been written and reached their current state by around 70, they were not in wide circulation among the Christian Church until after the year 120 or so, and that their teaching of the Gospel until that point would have been recitations of an oral tradition; the only written scripture used in services being the Septuagint.
PRSOM
1
reply
londonmyst
Badges: 18
Rep:
?
#8
Report 2 months ago
#8
(Original post by Arran90)
If the seven letters by Paul (or at least one of them) were written at a time when the four Gospels were documents of the future, yet to be published, then what publications did Paul use as sources of information in order to write his letters? Did Paul ever have access to Q?
A vast variety of theories abound in relation to the possibility of a Q source/Quelle document.
No such source has ever been discovered.
Many new testament scholars fiercely debate whether Q ever existed; if so in what form and to what extent its content can be discerned within the Synoptic Gospels.
Oral tradition, a single document or collection of texts.
There is insufficient evidence to attempt to substantiate any of the theories.
0
reply
Arran90
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#9
Report Thread starter 2 months ago
#9
(Original post by Tootles)
First off: please stop saying "publication". These weren't written and then packed off to a publisher to be imprinted and bound and sold at papershops and airports, or put through people's letterboxes like circulars. A lot of the New Testament started as letters that were written by someone, and then read by the recipient to the congregations, and eventually copied and shared with other congregations. They weren't "published"; they were circulated - and circulated secretly, might I add, as Christianity was illegal and punishable by death.
They are commonly (even by most Christians) referred to as books but, as you have stated, were actually letters.

Were the letters to the named communities addressed to existing Christians (who were Jewish in origin and therefore familiar with the Jewish scriptures) or were they addressed to gentiles who were unfamiliar with the Jewish scriptures?

St Paul may or may not have had access to a written Gospel account.
May or may not have!?!

There's quite a lot of material in the four Gospel accounts relating to prominent events of the life and activities of Jesus that is not mentioned by Paul.

It's generally believed that, even if all the Gospels had been written and reached their current state by around 70, they were not in wide circulation among the Christian Church until after the year 120 or so, and that their teaching of the Gospel until that point would have been recitations of an oral tradition; the only written scripture used in services being the Septuagint.
This further reinforces my belief that the Gospels and the writings of Paul were, to a considerable degree, parallel developments.
0
reply
Tootles
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#10
Report 2 months ago
#10
Why are you asking questions and then responding to answers as though you think you know more than the people who are answering? Are you here to ask and learn, or to show off? You did this on your thread about the Revelation, too.
(Original post by Arran90)
They are commonly (even by most Christians) referred to as books but, as you have stated, were actually letters.

Were the letters to the named communities addressed to existing Christians (who were Jewish in origin and therefore familiar with the Jewish scriptures) or were they addressed to gentiles who were unfamiliar with the Jewish scriptures?
All of the above. Jews would have been intimately familiar with at least the Law and the Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Baruch, Ezekiel, and Daniel), and they would have known at least some of the Psalms by heart. Gentiles would have become familiar with all of them through their being read in churches.

May or may not have!?!
May or may not have. We have no way of knowing, and speculation won't change that. Thus, it's not worth pondering. It would be like me trying to work out what books you have read from what you write and how you write it.

There's quite a lot of material in the four Gospel accounts relating to prominent events of the life and activities of Jesus that is not mentioned by Paul.
This proves exactly nothing. Those events weren't relevant to what St Paul was writing, and so he didn't write them.

This further reinforces my belief that the Gospels and the writings of Paul were, to a considerable degree, parallel developments.
Far cleverer and more knowledgeable and experienced people than you have determined the Pauline Epistles to have been composed before all the (canonical) Gospels by around two decades, with the possible exception of Mark, as I said before. What you believe is, thus, wrong (as far as scholars currently believe).

There may have been one or several Gospel account(s) predating the canonical ones, but as we have no evidence for their existence, and will likely never find them (unless, as I said, someone had the forethought to preserve them in an airtight casket), such talk serves no purpose whatsoever, beyond distracting us from problems we can actually solve.

You cannot assert your feelings in a scholarly/academic arena. You'll just be laughed at and sent packing.
0
reply
Arran90
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#11
Report Thread starter 2 months ago
#11
(Original post by Tootles)
All of the above. Jews would have been intimately familiar with at least the Law and the Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Baruch, Ezekiel, and Daniel), and they would have known at least some of the Psalms by heart. Gentiles would have become familiar with all of them through their being read in churches.
So the letters were directed at (former?) gentiles who already attended churches rather than gentiles who did not attend churches but instead followed their traditional beliefs.

May or may not have. We have no way of knowing
That's the problem. Nobody knows for sure exactly what sources of information Paul used in order to write his letters.

Far cleverer and more knowledgeable and experienced people than you have determined the Pauline Epistles to have been composed before all the (canonical) Gospels by around two decades, with the possible exception of Mark, as I said before. What you believe is, thus, wrong (as far as scholars currently believe).
My own experience is that the letters by Paul and the four Gospels represent two different and distinct trains of thought in addition to covering different topics.

Factoring out whether or not Q existed, the situation is further complicated that many (possibly even more than 100) other Gospels also existed in addition to the four Canonical Gospels but most were destroyed following the Council of Nicea with only fragments of a few remaining.

These gospels could potentially have been studied by Paul as well as used by churches.

Acts was completed around 90 AD and it's generally believed that the majority of it was written by (the author of) Luke. It contains the very first mention of Paul in the NT, along with his conversion, but it does not make any mention of the existence of any of the letters he wrote or their contents. Neither does it report on the death of Paul around 70 AD at the latest.

You cannot assert your feelings in a scholarly/academic arena. You'll just be laughed at and sent packing.
The biggest difference between us is that I'm not a Christian (so I'm approaching the subject with a somewhat neutral perspective) whereas you are a committed Christian and a follower of the Pauline Creed.
0
reply
Tootles
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#12
Report 2 months ago
#12
(Original post by Arran90)
So the letters were directed at (former?) gentiles who already attended churches rather than gentiles who did not attend churches but instead followed their traditional beliefs.
The letters were directed at Christians. By the time the epistles were being written and read, it didn't matter whether they were Messianized former Jews or gentile converts, because they had the same faith, worshipped together, practised the same traditions, and read from the same scriptures.

That's the problem. Nobody knows for sure exactly what sources of information Paul used in order to write his letters.
He personally knew the apostles who remained after Christ's death/resurrection/ascension. That is the opposite of a problem.

My own experience is that the letters by Paul and the four Gospels represent two different and distinct trains of thought in addition to covering different topics.
Your own experience? Read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and then say St Paul was writing in a different school.

Factoring out whether or not Q existed, the situation is further complicated that many (possibly even more than 100) other Gospels also existed in addition to the four Canonical Gospels but most were destroyed following the Council of Nicea with only fragments of a few remaining.

These gospels could potentially have been studied by Paul as well as used by churches.
The purpose of the First Oecumenical Council was to debunk Arianism and Gnosticism, which was the main agenda pushed through those other Gospel accounts - which we know because scores of them survived through the Nag Hammadi Library. St Paul may have known about them, but there's nothing even remotely Gnostic in his epistles, which means that even if he did know about them, he disregarded them.

Sidenote: I have read a few of them, and can confirm that they are fundamentally incompatible with Christianity.

Acts was completed around 90 AD and it's generally believed that the majority of it was written by (the author of) Luke. It contains the very first mention of Paul in the NT, along with his conversion, but it does not make any mention of the existence of any of the letters he wrote or their contents. Neither does it report on the death of Paul around 70 AD at the latest.
Because those details weren't relevant to that piece of writing; adding them into the Acts would have only served to distract the reader from the message it was conveying.

The biggest difference between us is that I'm not a Christian (so I'm approaching the subject with a somewhat neutral perspective) whereas you are a committed Christian and a follower of the Pauline Creed.
I approach textual criticism and biblical scholarship with a merely truth-seeking goal. You'll find that same attitude in most biblical scholars and critics. If I had the attitude you seem to think I do, I'd be saying that John wrote his Gospel account very soon after the events it describes; that Matthew did the same; that Mark wrote what St Peter dictated to him, and that Luke, coming later and not being an apostle, asked around and worked as though he was a journalist - which are the classical beliefs on the matter.

As it is, I've studied this as a scholar,without vested interests other than in learning. It does not behove you to accuse me of having other motives. I have reported to you the current findings of biblical scholarship, which you could find very quickly should you look, and my own informed opinions, which - were you to ask other people with some scholarship of their own - you would find are the same conclusions that others draw. Our faith notwithstanding, we seek the truth and regularly accept it when we find previous conclusions to be wrong.

Also, there is no "Pauline Creed". This underlines your lack of knowledge in the area. If you're going to ask questions such as these, you'd be far better off reading and taking on board the answers than arguing.

I will ask again: what is your motive in asking these things? It doesn't appear to be a desire for knowledge.
0
reply
Arran90
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#13
Report Thread starter 2 months ago
#13
(Original post by Tootles)
This proves exactly nothing. Those events weren't relevant to what St Paul was writing, and so he didn't write them.
Paul makes no mention of the birth of Jesus; the life and prominent activities of Jesus; the miracles performed by Jesus; or the empty tomb. Neither does Paul clearly place Jesus within history or connect him with other prominent historical figures at the time such as King Herod or Pontius Pilate.

One could argue that everybody who received Paul's letters knew about this already, so Paul saw no point in telling them what they already knew, but Paul mentions the crucifiction and the resurrection multiple times which presumably is something that the recipients should have had full knowledge of and there was very little need for Paul to re-iterate it.

This discrepancy does raise questions as to whether Paul's omissions about the life and activities of Jesus were genuinely because he knew that the recipients of his letters already knew about it or whether he had no knowledge of them himself and did not know much more than the crucifiction and the resurrection.

The Jesus described by Paul is not the miracle worker of Jesus from the Gospels.
(Original post by Tootles)
Your own experience? Read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and then say St Paul was writing in a different school.
Paul never mentions anything about Sermon on the Mount. Did he even know about it?


1 Thessalonians may well be the earliest complete 'book' of the NT to be published / disseminated but what really matters for the purpose of this discussion is CONTENT of individual 'books' rather than complete 'books' themselves. It is quite possible that Sermon on the Mount predates 1 Thessalonians by decades and was a document in its own right before its incorporation into the Gospel of Matthew. It may even predate much of Mark.
0
reply
Tootles
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#14
Report 2 months ago
#14
(Original post by Arran90)
Paul makes no mention of the birth of Jesus; the life and prominent activities of Jesus; the miracles performed by Jesus; or the empty tomb. Neither does Paul clearly place Jesus within history or connect him with other prominent historical figures at the time such as King Herod or Pontius Pilate.

One could argue that everybody who received Paul's letters knew about this already, so Paul saw no point in telling them what they already knew, but Paul mentions the crucifiction and the resurrection multiple times which presumably is something that the recipients should have had full knowledge of and there was very little need for Paul to re-iterate it.

This discrepancy does raise questions as to whether Paul's omissions about the life and activities of Jesus were genuinely because he knew that the recipients of his letters already knew about it or whether he had no knowledge of them himself and did not know much more than the crucifiction and the resurrection.

The Jesus described by Paul is not the miracle worker of Jesus from the Gospels.

Paul never mentions anything about Sermon on the Mount. Did he even know about it?


1 Thessalonians may well be the earliest complete 'book' of the NT to be published / disseminated but what really matters for the purpose of this discussion is CONTENT of individual 'books' rather than complete 'books' themselves. It is quite possible that Sermon on the Mount predates 1 Thessalonians by decades and was a document in its own right before its incorporation into the Gospel of Matthew. It may even predate much of Mark.
Why don't you go over to Reddit and try and make these points at r/academicbiblical? I'd love to see how long you last there.
0
reply
Arran90
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#15
Report Thread starter 2 months ago
#15
(Original post by Tootles)
Why don't you go over to Reddit and try and make these points at r/academicbiblical? I'd love to see how long you last there.
Historians have spent countless hours over the centuries debating and arguing the NT and its origins.

Some historians believe that James is the oldest 'book' in the NT and it was written around 45 AD. The current version is written in a formal and highbrow style of Greek, so it's unlikely that it was written by a Jewish person at the time, but it could be a (subsequently polished up?) translation from an original text written in Hebrew or Aramaic.

What has bugged me, and numerous other historians, is that the (majority of the) NT is written in Greek despite only a small handful of Jewish people from the time of Jesus having any knowledge of the language, and there was also no evidence of any significant desire amongst the Jewish people to learn Greek. The vast majority of the oral traditions, along with the mythical Q document, would have been in Hebrew or Aramaic. It is unclear exactly how many were written down in Hebrew or Aramaic and whether, assuming documents actually existed, attempts were subsequently made to destroy them. It is also possible that Mark and much of Matthew were originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic, although Luke was most likely written in Greek from the outset.
0
reply
Tootles
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#16
Report 2 months ago
#16
(Original post by Arran90)
Historians have spent countless hours over the centuries debating and arguing the NT and its origins.

Some historians believe that James is the oldest 'book' in the NT and it was written around 45 AD. The current version is written in a formal and highbrow style of Greek, so it's unlikely that it was written by a Jewish person at the time, but it could be a (subsequently polished up?) translation from an original text written in Hebrew or Aramaic.

What has bugged me, and numerous other historians, is that the (majority of the) NT is written in Greek despite only a small handful of Jewish people from the time of Jesus having any knowledge of the language, and there was also no evidence of any significant desire amongst the Jewish people to learn Greek. The vast majority of the oral traditions, along with the mythical Q document, would have been in Hebrew or Aramaic. It is unclear exactly how many were written down in Hebrew or Aramaic and whether, assuming documents actually existed, attempts were subsequently made to destroy them. It is also possible that Mark and much of Matthew were originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic, although Luke was most likely written in Greek from the outset.
Again, why do you ask if you're then going to "correct" me?

Koiné Greek was the common tongue, spoken throughout the Roman Empire. Anyone wanting to write a document for masses of people to read would have written it in Greek, however bad their Greek was (like Mark, who had terrible Greek but still managed to get his ideas across), because everyone in that part of the world would have known at least enough Greek to just about pick out what was being said. This is the same as how English is the common tongue throughout the world today; most people know some English, even if it isn't their native language.

"Some" historians also think the New Testament was originally written in Aramaic, and survives as what we now call the Pesh'itta - though that's writen in Syriac, rather than Palestinian or Nazarene Aramaic, so that theory falls over really quickly.

Hebrew was pretty much a dead language by the first century, surviving only in Jewish liturgical usage, but certainly not in everyday speech. Think of it like Latin today.

Note: Peshi'tta doesn't have an apostrophe in it, it just looked too much like a naughty word for the profanity filter.
Last edited by Tootles; 2 months ago
0
reply
Arran90
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#17
Report Thread starter 2 months ago
#17
(Original post by Tootles)
Koiné Greek was the common tongue, spoken throughout the Roman Empire. Anyone wanting to write a document for masses of people to read would have written it in Greek
By the gentiles, yes. By the Jews, no.

Christianity had its origins in the Jewish communities and the majority of the early followers of Jesus were Jewish with only a small number of gentile converts. Only after Paul became active and started writing letters was there a determined effort to propagate Christianity to the masses of gentiles.

Therefore early sources would not have been in Greek but in Aramaic or Hebrew. There was far less requirement by the followers of Jesus to have written material in Greek before 50 AD.

A (not so good?) theory exists that Matthew was originally written in Aramaic for a Jewish audience and Luke was written in Greek for a gentile audience.

like Mark, who had terrible Greek but still managed to get his ideas across
The original was then most likely written in the language Mark used to think in - probably Aramaic - then translated to Greek either by himself or another Jewish person with mediocre knowledge of Greek.

Hebrew was pretty much a dead language by the first century, surviving only in Jewish liturgical usage, but certainly not in everyday speech. Think of it like Latin today.
Hebrew was still better known and understood by Jewish people than Greek was at the time of Jesus even if its uses were restricted to liturgical and formal documents whilst Aramaic was the everyday language.
0
reply
Tootles
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#18
Report 2 months ago
#18
(Original post by Arran90)
By the gentiles, yes. By the Jews, no.

Christianity had its origins in the Jewish communities and the majority of the early followers of Jesus were Jewish with only a small number of gentile converts. Only after Paul became active and started writing letters was there a determined effort to propagate Christianity to the masses of gentiles.

Therefore early sources would not have been in Greek but in Aramaic or Hebrew. There was far less requirement by the followers of Jesus to have written material in Greek before 50 AD.

A (not so good?) theory exists that Matthew was originally written in Aramaic for a Jewish audience and Luke was written in Greek for a gentile audience.



The original was then most likely written in the language Mark used to think in - probably Aramaic - then translated to Greek either by himself or another Jewish person with mediocre knowledge of Greek.



Hebrew was still better known and understood by Jewish people than Greek was at the time of Jesus even if its uses were restricted to liturgical and formal documents whilst Aramaic was the everyday language.
Tell me: where are you gettting your information from?
0
reply
X

Quick Reply

Attached files
Write a reply...
Reply
new posts
Back
to top
Latest
My Feed

See more of what you like on
The Student Room

You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

Personalise

Would you turn to a teacher if you were being bullied?

Yes (35)
25.18%
No (104)
74.82%

Watched Threads

View All