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Dating the Bible

The oldest surviving Hebrew Bible manuscripts - including the Dead Sea Scrolls - date to about the 2nd century BCE (fragmentary) and some are stored at the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem. The oldest extant complete text survives in a Greek translation called the Septuagint, dating to the 4th century CE (Codex Sinaiticus). The oldest extant manuscripts of the vocalized Masoretic Text (the basis of modern editions), date to the 9th century CE.[1] With the exception of a few biblical sections in the Prophets, virtually no biblical text is contemporaneous with the events it describes.[2]

Internal evidence in the texts suggests dating the individual books of the 27-book New Testament canon in the 1st century CE. The first book written was probably 1 Thessalonians, written around 50 CE.[3] The final book (in the ordering of the canon), the Book of Revelation, is said[by whom?] to have been written by John of Patmos during the reign of Domitian (81-96).[4]

Since the original recording of the scriptures, various scribes have made numerous copies of the written originals, which are no longer extant. Copies have been made of those copies, resulting in several text types. Archaeologists have recovered about 5,500 New Testament manuscripts: either fragments or complete books.[5] The earliest extant fragment of the New Testament is the Rylands Library Papyrus P52, a piece of the Gospel of John dated to the first half of the 2nd century. Dating the composition of the texts relies primarily on internal evidence, including direct references to historical events - textual criticism and philological and linguistic evidence provide more subjective indications.

The Hebrew Bible


The first five books of the bible in Judaism are called the Torah, meaning "instruction" (it was translated to nomos/law in the Septuagint), and are regarded as the most important section of the Scriptures, are attributed to have been written between the 16th century and the 12th century BCE by Moses, but scholars now believe that they were actually written by four main sources known as JEDP. This modern explanation of authorship is justified by variations in writing styles, differences in language choice especially in reference to God, tones in writing, contradictory and repetitious segments, and that the books refer to Moses in third person as well as describing his death. Followers of the Copenhagen School place its origins in 5th century Yehud Medinata.[6][need quotation to verify]

Deuteronomy is treated separately from Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. The process of its formation probably took several hundred years, from the 8th century to the 6th BCE.[7] It began as no more than the set of religious laws which today make up the bulk of the book; later it was extended in order to be used as the introduction to the comprehensive history of Israel written in the early part of the 6th century; and later still it was detached from the history, extended yet again, and used to conclude the story told in Genesis-Exodus-Leviticus-Numbers.[8]

Nevi'im (Prophets)

Main article: Nevi'im
of Nevi'im
Scholarly dating
Book of Joshua ca. 625 BCE by the Deuteronomist (called D) working with traditional materials
Book of Judges ca. 625 BCE by the Deuteronomist (called D) working with traditional materials
Books of Samuel ca. 625 BCE by the Deuteronomist (called D) working with traditional materials
Books of Kings ca. 625 BCE by the Deuteronomist (called D) working with traditional materials
Book of Isaiah Three main authors and an extensive editing process:

Isaiah 1-39 "Historical Isaiah" with multiple layers of editing, 8th century BCE
Isaiah 40-55 Exilic(Deutero-Isaiah), 6th century BCE
Isaiah 56-66 post-exilic(Trito-Isaiah), 6th-5th century BCE

Book of Jeremiah late 6th century BCE or later
Book of Ezekiel 6th century BCE or later
Book of Hosea 8th century BCE or later
Book of Joel unknown
Book of Amos 8th century BCE or later
Book of Obadiah 6th century BCE or later
Book of Jonah 6th century BCE or later
Book of Micah mid 6th century BCE or later
Book of Nahum 8th century BCE or later
Book of Habakkuk 6th century BCE or later
Book of Zephaniah 7th century BCE or later
Book of Haggai 5th century BCE or later
Book of Zechariah 5th century BCE or later
Book of Malachi Early 5th century BCE or later

Ketuvim (Writings)

Main article: Ketuvim
of Ketuvim
Scholarly dating[citation needed]
Psalms The bulk of the Psalms appear to have been written for use in the Temple, which existed from around 950-586 BCE and, after rebuilding, from the 5th century BCE until 70 CE.[citation needed]
Book of Proverbs Some old material from the ancient sages, some later material from the 6th century BCE or later, some material borrowed from the ancient Egyptian text called the Instructions of Amenemopet[citation needed]
Book of Job 5th century BCE
Song of Songs or Song of Solomon scholarly estimates vary between 950 BCE to 200 BCE[citation needed]
Book of Ruth 6th century BCE or later
Lamentations 6th century BCE or later
Ecclesiastes 4th century BCE or later
Book of Esther 4th century BCE or later
Book of Daniel ca. 165 BCE[9][10]
Book of Ezra-Book of Nehemiah 4th century BCE or slightly later
Chronicles 4th century BCE or slightly later

Deuterocanonical books

Deuterocanonical books are books considered by the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy to be canonical parts of the Christian Old Testament but are not present in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and Protestant Bible.

of Deuterocanon
Scholarly dating
Tobit 2nd century BCE
1 Maccabees ca. 100 BCE
2 Maccabees ca. 124 BCE
3 Maccabees 1st century BCE or 1st century CE
4 Maccabees 1st century BCE or 1st century CE
Wisdom during the Jewish Hellenistic period
Sirach 2nd century BCE
Letter of Jeremiah unknown
Additions to Daniel 2nd century BCE
Baruch during or shortly after the period of the Maccabees

The New Testament

The following table gives the most widely accepted dates for the composition of the New Testament books, together with the earliest preserved fragment for each text.

Book Dates determined by scholars Earliest Known Fragment
Gospel of Matthew 70-110 CE[11] <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>104 (150–200 CE)
Gospel of Mark 60-70 CE <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>45 (250 CE)
Gospel of Luke 60-90 CE <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>4, <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>75 (175–250 CE)
Gospel of John 80-95 CE <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>52 (125–160 CE)
Acts 60-90 CE <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>29, <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>45, <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>48, <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>53, <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>91 (250 CE)
Romans 57–58 CE <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>46 (late 2nd century or 3rd century CE)
Corinthians 57 CE <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>46 (late 2nd century or 3rd century CE)
Galatians 45-55 CE <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>46 (late 2nd century or 3rd century CE)
Ephesians 65 CE <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>46 (late 2nd century or 3rd century CE)
Philippians 57–62 CE <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>46 (late 2nd century or 3rd century CE)
Colossians 60 CE +[citation needed] <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>46 (late 2nd century or 3rd century CE)
1 Thessalonians 50 CE[3] <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>46 (late 2nd century or 3rd century CE)
2 Thessalonians 50-54 CE[12][13] <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>92 (300 CE)
Timothy 60-100 CE[citation needed] Codex Sinaiticus (350 CE)
Titus 60-100 CE[citation needed] <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>32 (200 CE)
Philemon 56 CE[citation needed] <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>87 (3rd century CE)
Hebrews 63-90 CE[citation needed] <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>46 (late 2nd century or 3rd century CE)
James 50-200 CE[citation needed] <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>20, <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>23 (early 3rd century CE)
First Peter 60-96 CE[citation needed] <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>72 (3rd/4th century CE)
Second Peter 60-130 CE[citation needed] <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>72 (3rd/4th century CE)
Epistles of John 90-110 CE[14] <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>9, Uncial 0232, Codex Sinaiticus (3rd/4th century CE)
Jude 66-90 CE[citation needed] <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>72 (3rd/4th century CE)
Revelation 68-100 CE[4] <math>\mathfrak{P}</math>98 (150–200 CE)

See also


  1. ^ Evans, Craig A. (2008). "Introduction". In Evans, Craig A.; Tov, Emanuel. Exploring the Origins of the Bible: Canon Formation in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective. Acadia Studies in Bible and Theology. Baker Academic. ISBN 9781585588145. Retrieved 2015-05-16. The oldest Masoretic manuscripts date from the late ninth century CE (e.g., Codex Cairensis [C] on the Prophets). 
  2. ^ Bernstein 1996, p. 134
  3. ^ a b Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, Anchor Bible, 1997. pp. 456-466.
  4. ^ a b Robert Mounce. The Book of Revelation, pg. 15-16. Cambridge: Eerdman's.
  5. ^ Robert Stewart, The Reliability of the New Testament: Bart Ehrman and Daniel Wallace in Dialogue p17
  6. ^ Ska, Jean-Louis, "Introduction to reading the Pentateuch" (Eisenbrauns, 2006) pp.217 ff.
  7. ^ Miller, Patrick D., "Deuteronomy" (John Knox Press, 1990) pp.2–3
  8. ^ Van Seters, John, "The Pentateuch: a social-science commentary" T&T Clark, 2004) p.93. Google Books. 23 August 2004. ISBN 978-0-567-08088-2. Retrieved 3 October 2010. 
  9. ^ Dillard and Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament, Apollos 1995, pp. 329-350.
  10. ^ Miller, Stephen R. (1994). Daniel (null ed.). Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman & Holman. p. 94. ISBN 978-0-8054-0118-9. 
  11. ^ Duling 2010, p. 298-299.
  12. ^ "The New Testament (Recovery Version)" pg. 959, ISBN 1-57593-907-X (economy edition, black)
  13. ^ Earl D. Radmacher, (Th.D.), Ronald B. Allen (Th.D.), H. Wayne House, (Th.D., J.D.). "NKJV Study Bible (Second Edition)" pg. 1903.
  14. ^ Kim 2003, p. 250.

Further reading

External links