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John A.T. Robinson

John A.T. Robinson
"Arthur Thomas"

Anglican | Bishop of Woolwich | Dean of Trinity College | New Testament scholar

Jesus and His Coming (1967) | Honest to God (1963) | The Body (1952) | A.T. Robinson Remembered | J.S. Spong Remembers


Charles H. Spurgeon

(On Matthew 24:15-21, the Abomination of Desolation)

"This portion of our Saviour's words appears to relate solely to the destruction of Jerusalem. As soon as Christ's disciples saw "the abomination of desolation," that is, the Roman ensigns, with their idolatries, "stand in the holy place," they knew that the time for their escape had arrived; and they did flee to the mountains."

(Matthew: The Gospel of the Kingdom. . p. 215.)

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Re-dating the


John A.T. Robinson


"One of the oddest facts about the New Testament is that what on any showing would appear to be 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. "

For my father
arthur william robinson
who began at Cambridge just one hundred years ago
to learn from Lightfoot, Westcott and Hort,
whose wisdom and scholarship remain the fount
of so much in this book

and my mother
mary beatrice robinson
ho died as it was being finished
and shared and cared to the end.

Remember that through your parents you were born;
What can you give back to them that equals their gift to you?

All Souls Day, 1975






I really have no more to say than thank you — to my long-suffering secretary Stella Haughton and her husband; to Professor C. F. D. Moule from whose New Testament seminar so small a seed has produced so monstrous a manuscript, on which he gave such kindly judgment; to my friends, Ed Ball, Gerald Bray, Chip Coakley, Paul Hammond and David McKie, who advised or corrected at many points; and finally to Miss Jean Cunningham of the SCM Press for all her devoted attention to tedious detail.

John Robinson

Trinity College



AF Apostolic Fathers
Ant. Antiquities
AP Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha
ASTI Annual of the Swedish Theological Institute
ATR Anglican Theological Review
Bb Biblica
BJ Bellum Judaicum
BR Biblical Research
BZ Biblische Zeitschrift
CBQ Catholic Biblical Quarterly
CH Church History
Chron. Chronologie der Altchrislichen Litteratur (see p.4 n. 8)
CN Conjectanea Neotestamentica
CQR Church Quarterly Review
DR Downside Review
EB Encyclopedia Biblica
ed(d). editors(s), edited by
EGT Expositor's Greek Testament
EQ Evangelical Quarterly
ET English Translation
ExpT Expository Times
FG The Four Gospels
HBC Handbook of Biblical Chronology
HDB Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible
HE Historica Ecclesiastica
HJ Heythrop Journal
HJP History of the Jewish People
HNT Handbuch zum Neuen Testament
HTFG Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel
HTR Harvard Theological Review
HUCA Hebrew Union College Annual
IB Interpreter's Bible
ICC International Critical Commentary
IDB Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible
INT Introduction to the New Testament
JBC Jerome Biblical Commentary
JBL Journal of Biblical Literature
JEA Journal of Egyptian Archeology
JRS Journal of Roman Studies
JSS Journal of Semitic Studies
JTS Journal of Theological Studies
KEKNT Kritisch-exegetischer Kommentar über das Neue Testament
NCB New Century Bible
n.d. no date
NEB New English Bible
n.f. neue Folge
NovTest Novum Testamentum
n.s. new series
NT New Testament
NT Apoc. New Testament Apocrypha
NTC New Testament Commentary
NTI New Testament Introduction
NTS New Testament Studies
OT Old Testament
par(s). parallel(s)
PC The Primitice Church
PCB Peake's Commentary on the Bible
PL Patrologia Latina
PP Past and Present
RB Revue Biblique
RBén Revue Bénédictine
RE Review and Expositor
RHPR Revue d'Histoire et de Philosophie Religieuses
RHR Revue d' Histoire des Religions
RSR Recherches de Science Religieuse
RSV Revised Standard Version
SBT Studies in Biblical Theology
ST Studia Theologica
TLS Times Literary Supplement
TLZ Theologische Literaturzeitung
TR Theologische Rundschau
tr. translated
TU Texte and Untersuchungen
USQR Union Seminary Quarterly Review
VC Vigiliae Christianae
VE Vox Evangelica
v.l. varia lectio
ZNW Zeithchrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft
ZTK Zeithchrift für Theologie und Kirche
ZWT Zeithchrift für wissenschaftliche Theologie



Dates and Data


WHEN WAS THE New Testament written? This is a question that the outsider might be forgiven for thinking that the experts must by now have settled. Yet, as in archaeology, datings that seem agreed in the textbooks can suddenly appear much less secure than the consensus would suggest. For both in archaeology and in New Testament chronology one is dealing with a combination of absolute and relative datings. There are a limited number of more or less fixed points, and between them phenomena to be accounted for are strung along at intervals like beads on a string according to the supposed require­ments of dependence, diffusion and development. New absolute dates will force reconsideration of relative dates, and the intervals will contract or expand with the years available. In the process long-held assumptions about the pattern of dependence, diffusion and development may be upset, and patterns that the textbooks have taken for granted become subjected to radical questioning.

The parallel with what of late has been happening in archaeology is interesting.  The story can be followed in a recent book by Colin Renfrew. [C. Renfrew, Before Civilization: the Radiocarbon Revolution and Prehistoric Europe, 1973.]   As he presents it, there was in modern times up to about the middle of this century a more or less agreed pattern of the origins and development of European civilization. The time scale was set by cross-dating finds in Crete and Greece with the established chronology of the Egyptian dynasties, and the evidence from Western Europe was then plotted by supposing a gradual diffusion of culture from this nodal point of Aegean civilization, to the remotest, and therefore the most recent, areas of Iberia, France, Britain and Scandinavia. Then in 1949 came the first radio-carbon revolution, which made possible the absolute dating of prehistoric materials for the first time. The immediate effect was greatly to extend the time span. Renfrew sums up the impact thus [Ibid., 65f.]:

The succession of cultures which had previously been squeezed into 500 years now occupied more than 1,500. This implies more than the alteration of a few dates: it changes the entire pace and nature of the cultural development. But ... it did not greatly affect the relative chronology for the different regions of Europe: the megalithic tombs of Britain, for instance, were still later than those further south. ... None of the changes ... challenged in any way the conventional view that the significant advances in the European neolithic and bronze age were brought by influences from the Near East. It simply put these influences much earlier.

There were indeed uncomfortable exceptions, but these could be put down to minor inconsistencies that later work would tidy up. Then in 1966 came a second revolution, the calibration of the radio­carbon datings by dendrochronology, or the evidence of tree-rings, in particular of the incredibly long-lived Californian bristle-cone pine. This showed that the radiocarbon datings had to be corrected in an upward (i.e. older) direction, and that from about 2000 bc back­wards the magnitude of the correction rose steeply, necessitating adjustments of up to 1000 years.  The effect of this was not merely to shift all the dates back once more:  it was to introduce a fundamental change in the pattern of relationships, making it impossible for the supposed diffusion to have taken place. For what should have been dependent turned out to be earlier.

The basic links of the traditional chronology are snapped and Europe is no longer directly linked, either chronologically or culturally, with the early civilizations of the Near East. [Ibid., 105.]

The whole diffusionist framework collapses, and with it the assumptions which sustained prehistoric archaeology for nearly a century. [Ibid., 85.]

This is a greatly oversimplified account, which would doubtless also be challenged by other archaeologists. Nothing so dramatic has happened or is likely to happen on the much smaller scale of New Testament chronology. But it provides an instructive parallel for the way in which the reigning assumptions of scientific scholarship can, and from rime to time do, get challenged for the assumptions they are. For, much more than is generally recognized, the chronology of the New Testament rests on presuppositions rather than facts. It is not that in this case new facts have appeared, new absolute datings which cannot be contested - they are still extraordinarily scarce. It is that certain obstinate questionings have led me to ask just what basis there really is for certain assumptions which the prevailing consensus of critical orthodoxy would seem to make it hazardous or even impertinent to question. Yet one takes heart as one watches, in one's own field or in any other, the way in which established positions can suddenly, or subtly, come to be seen as the precarious constructions they are.  What seemed to be firm datings based on scientific evidence are revealed to rest on deductions from deductions. The pattern is self-consistent but circular. Question some of the inbuilt assumptions and the entire edifice looks much less secure.

The way in which this can happen, and has happened, in New Testament scholarship may best be seen by taking some sample dips into the story of the subject. I have no intention of inflicting on the reader a history of the chronology of the New Testament, even if I were competent to do so. Let me just cut some cross-sections at fifty-year intervals to show how the span of time over which the New Testament is thought to have been written has expanded and contracted with fashion.

We may start at the year 1800.   For till then, with isolated excep­tions, the historical study of the New Testament as we know it had scarcely begun. Dating was dependent on authorship, and the authorship of the various New Testament books rested on the traditions incorporated in their titles in the Authorized Version - the Gospel according to St Matthew, the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians, the Revelation of St John the Divine, and so on. All were by apostles or followers of the apostles and the period of the New Testament closed with the death of the last apostle, St John, who by tradition survived into the reign of the Emperor Trajan, c. 100 ad.  At the other end the earliest Christian writing could be calculated roughly to about the year 50.  This was done by combining the history of the early church provided in Acts with the information supplied by St Paul in Gal. 1.13-2.1 of an interval of up to seventeen 'silent' years following his conversion, which itself had to be set a few years after the crucifixion of Jesus in c. 30. The span of time for the composition of the New Testament was therefore about fifty years - from 50 to 100.

By 1850 the picture looked very different.  The scene was dominated by the school of F. C. Baur, Professor of Church History and Dogmatics at Tübingen from 1826 to 1860. He questioned the traditional attribution of all but five of the New Testament books. Romans, I and II Corinthians and Galatians he allowed were by Paul, and Revelation by the apostle John. These he set in the 50s and late 60s respectively. The rest, including Acts and Mark (for him the last of the synoptists, 'reconciling' the Jewish gospel of Matthew and the Gentile gospel of Luke), were composed up to or beyond 150 ad, to effect the mediation of what Baur saw as the fundamental and all-pervasive conflict between the narrow Jewish Christianity of Jesus' original disciples, represented by Peter and John, and the universalistic message preached by Paul. Only a closing of the church's ranks in face of threats from the Gnostic and Montanist movements of the second century produced the via media of early Catholicism. The entire construction was dominated by the Hegelian pattern of thesis, anti­thesis and synthesis, and the span of time was determined more by the intervals supposedly required for this to work itself out than by any objective chronological criteria. The fact that the gospels and other New Testament books were quoted by Irenaeus and other church fathers towards the end of the second century alone set an upper limit. The end-term of the process was still the gospel of John, which was dated c. 160-70.  The span of composition was therefore more than doubled to well over a hundred years - from 50+ to 160+.

By 1900 this schema had in turn been fairly drastically modified.  The dialectical pattern of development had come to be recognized as the imposition it was [For the story, cf. W. G. Kummel, The New Testament: The History of the Investigation of its Problems, ET 1973, 162-84.]. A major factor in the correction of Baur's picture of history was the work of J.B. Lightfoot, who was appointed a professor at Cambridge in 1861, the year following Baur's death [Lightfoot's achievement is particularly well brought out by S. C. Neill, The Interpretation of the New Testament, 1861-1961, Oxford 1964, 33-60.]. By the most careful historical investigation he succeeded in establish­ing the authenticity of the first epistle of Clement, which he dated at 95-6, and of the seven genuine epistles of lgnatius, between no and 115. In each of these both Peter and Paul are celebrated in the same breath without a trace of rivalry [I Clem. 5; Ignatius, Rom. 4.3.], and he demonstrated how ground­less were Baur's second-century datings. This achievement was acknowledged by the great German scholar Adolf von Harnack (1851-1930), who in 1897 published as the second volume of a massive history of early Christian literature [A. Harnack, Geschichte der altchristlichen Litteratur bis Eusehius, Leipzig 1893-7, vol. II (cited hereafter as Chron.).] his Chronologic der altchristlichen Litteratur bis Eusebius. Harnack's survey, which has never been repeated on so comprehensive a scale [For a survey of surveys, cf. 0. Stahlin in W. Schmid and 0. Stahlin (cdd.), Geschichte der griechische Literatur, Munich 1961, 11.2, esp. 1112—1121.], gives a good indication of where critical opinion stood at the turn of the century. It still carried many of the marks of the Tiibingen period and continued to operate with a span of well over a hundred years. Isolating the canonical books of the New Testament (for Harnack covered all the early Christian writings, a number of which he placed before the later parts of the New Testament), we have the following summary [Chron.717-22. A comparable picture is to be found a few years earlier in A. Julicher's Einleitung in das neue Testament, Tubingen 1894, though he put Mark after 70 and the Pastoral Epistles (I and II Timothy and Titus) at I25+.] (ignoring qualifications and alternative datings at this point as irrelevant to the broad picture):

48-9 I and II Thessalonians
53 I and II Corinthians, Galatians (?)
53-4 Romans
57-9 Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians (if genuine), Philippians
59-64 Pauline fragments of the Pastoral Epistles
65-70 Mark
70-5 Matthew
79-93 Luke-Acts
81-96 ('under Domitian') I Peter, Hebrews
80-110 John, I-111 John
90-110 I and II Timothy, Titus
93-6 Revelation
100-30 Jude
120-40 James
160-75 II Peter

It is to be observed that the gospel of John has reverted to somewhere around the turn of the first century and no longer represents the terminus ad quern. Mark and Acts have been set much further back, and Harnack was subsequently to put them a good deal earlier still.

A similar but slightly more contracted scheme is to be found in the article on New Testament chronology by H. von Soden in the con­temporary Encyclopaedia Biblica [Encyclopaedia Biblica, edd. T. K. Cheyne and J. S. Black, 1899-1903, I, 799-819.] His summary dates are:

50-60+ The Pauline Epistles
70+ Mark
93-96 Hebrews, I Peter, Revelation
-100 Ephesians, Luke, Acts, John, I-III John
100-33 Jude, Matthew, the Pastoral Epistles

The individual articles in the same Encyclopaedia reveal however how volatile opinion was at that time. Acts is still put well into the second century and John shortly before 140. No date for II Peter is given, but even I Peter is put at 130-40. Above all, while I and II Corinthians are set in the mid-50s, Romans and Philippians are put in 120 and 125! But the articles on the latter two were written by the Dutch scholar W. C. van Manen (1842-1905), who regarded all the Pauline epistles (and indeed the rest of the New Testament literature) as pseudonymous, or written under false names.

Yet while the radical critics were still oscillating wildly, conservative, yet still critical, opinion of the period was content to settle for a span of composition between 50 and 100+, with the single exception of II Peter at c. 150. This was true both of English scholarship reflected in Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [Dictionary of the Bible, ed. J. Hastings, Edinburgh 1898-1904.] and of American represented by B. W. Bacon's Introduction to the New Testament [B. W. Bacon, Introduction to the New Testament, New York 1900.]. Indeed the most conservative dating of all was by the German Theodore Zahn (1838-1933) whose Introduction to the New Testament [T. Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament, originally Leipzig 1897-9, ET Edinburgh 1909.] a monument of erudition and careful scholarship, set all the books between 50 and 95, including II Peter.

By 1950 the gap between radical and conservative had narrowed considerably, and we find a remarkable degree of consensus. There is still marginal variation at the upper limit, but the span of composition has settled down to a period from about 50 to 100 or no, with the single exception again of II Peter (c. 150). This generalization holds of all the major introductions and comparable surveys, English, American and Continental, Protestant and Catholic, published over the twenty years following 1950. [R. G. Heard, An Introduction to the New Testament, 1950; H. F. D. Sparks, The Formation of the New Testament, 1952; A. H. McNeile, An Introduction to the Study of the New Testament, revised by C. S. C. Williams, Oxford 1953 (cited henceforth as McNeile-Williams); W. Michaelis, Einleitung in das neue Testament, Bern 1954; A. Wikenhauser, New Testament Introduction (Freiburg 21956), ET New York 1958; A. Robert and A. Feuillet, Introduction to the New Testament (Tournai 1959), ET New York 1965; D. Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 1961-5, 31970; Peake's Commentary on the Bible, revised, ed. M. Black, 1962; The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, New York 1962; R. M. Grant, A Historical Introduction to the New Testament, i963;W. G. Kummel, Introduction to the New Testament (Heidelberg i963),ET 1966; 21975; W. Marxsen, Introduction to the New Testament (Gutersloh 1963), ET Oxford 1968; E. F. Harrison, Introduction to the New Testament, 1964; R. H. Fuller, A Critical Introduction to the New Testament, 1966; W. D. Davies, Invitation to the New Testament, New York 1966; A. F. J. Klijn, An Introduction to the New Testament, ET Leiden 1967; D.J. Selby, Introduction to the New Testament, New York 1971.]

The prevailing position is fairly represented by Kummel, who tends to be more radical than many Englishmen and more conservative than many Germans.  His datings, again omitting alternatives, are:

50-1 I and II Thessalonians
53-6 Galatians, Philippians, I and II Corinthians, Romans
56-8 Colossians, Philemon
c.70 Mark
70-90 Luke
80-90 Acts, Hebrews
80-100 Matthew, Ephesians
90-5 I Peter, Revelation
90-100 John
90-110 I-III John
-100 James
c.100 Jude
100+ I and II Timothy, Titus
125-50 II Peter

In this relatively fixed firmament the only 'wandering stars' are Ephesians, I Peter, Hebrews and James (and occasionally the Pastor­als and Jude), which conservatives wish to put earlier, and Colossians and II Thessalonians, which radicals wish to put later.  So once more the span (with one exception) is back to little more than fifty years.

But before closing this survey I would draw attention to the latest assessment of all, Norman Perrin's The New Testament: An Introduction [N. Perrin, The New Testament: An Introduction, New York 1974.],  since it could suggest a return to a wider spread. His approximate datings are:

50-60 I Thessalonians, Galatians, I and II Corinthians, Philippians, Philemon, Romans
70-90 II Thessalonians, Colossians, Ephesians, Mark, Matthew, Luke-Acts, Hebrews
80-100 John, I-III John
90-100 Revelation
90-140 I Peter, James, Pastoral Epistles, Jude, II Peter [The order of this last group is only a guess. No dates are given, except that I Peter is about the end of the first century and II Peter c. 140.]

Perrin represents the standpoint of redaction criticism, which goes on from source criticism (dealing with documentary origins) and form criticism (analysing the formative processes of the oral tradition) to emphasize the theological contribution of the evangelists as editors. There is no necessary reason why its perspective should lead to later datings. Indeed other representatives of the same viewpoint who have written New Testament introductions, Marxsen and Fuller, have taken over their precursors' datings. Moreover, the gospels, with which the redaction critics have been most concerned, all remain, including the fourth, within what Perrin calls 'the middle period of New Testament Christianity', 'the twenty-five years or so that followed the fall of Jerusalem'. Yet subsequent to this period he sees a further stage, extending into the middle of the second century, in which the New Testament church is 'on the way to becoming an institution'. If we ask why it is only then becoming an institution, the answer is bound up with his 'theological history of New Testament Christianity' [Op. cit, 39-63.]. The course of this he traces from 'Palestinian Jewish Christianity', through 'Hellenistic Jewish Mission Christianity', 'Gentile Christianity' and 'the apostle Paul', to 'the middle period', and finally into 'emergent Catholicism'. Yet these categories, taken over from Rudolf Bultmann and his successors, have of late come in for some stringent criticism not only from England [I. H. Marshall, 'Palestinian and Hellenistic Christianity: Some Critical Comments', NTS 19, 1972-3, 271-87; 'Early Catholicism' in R. N. Longenecker and M. C. Tenney (edd.), New Dimensions in New Testament Study, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1974, a 17-31.] but from Ger­many itself [M. Hengel, 'Christologie and neutestamentliche Chronologic' in H. Baltens-weiler and B. Reicke (edd.), Neues Testament und Geschichte: Oscar Cullmann zum 70. [Geburtstag, Zurich and Tubingen 1972, 43-67; Judaism and Hellenism, ET 1974.], none of which Perrin acknowledges. The entire developmental schema (closely parallel to the 'diffusionist framework' in archaeology), together with the time it is assumed to require, begins to look as if it may be imposed upon the material as arbitrarily as the earlier one of the Tiibingen school.  It is premature to judge. But certainly it cannot itself be used to determine the datings which are inferred from it. It must first be submitted to a more rigorous scrutiny in the light of the independent data.

Indeed what one looks for in vain in much recent scholarship is any serious wrestling with the external or internal evidence for the daring of individual books (such as marked the writings of men like Lightfoot and Harnack and Zahn), rather than an a priori pattern of theological development into which they are then made to fit. [Perrin's particular schema is in itself fairly arbitrary. It is hard to see by what criteria of doctrine or discipline I and II Peter are both subsumed under the head­ing of 'emergent Catholicism'; in fact in the analysis of the marks of this phe­nomenon (op. cit., 268-73) I Peter is scarcely mentioned. Moreover, while he acknowledges his deep indebtedness to E. Kasemann for his estimate of II Peter ('An Apologia for Primitive Christian Eschatology', Essays on New Testament Themes, ET (SBT 41) 1964, 169-95), he ignores Kasemann's equally strong con­tention ('Ketzer und Zeuge', ZTK 48, 1951, 292-311) that III John reflects a second-century transition to Ignatian monepiscopacy. (Of the Johannine epistles he merely says, 249: 'We are now in the middle period of New Testament Chris­tianity.') He does not explain why I Clement's concern for apostolic succession and Ignatius' plea for unity around the monarchical bishop (quintessential interests, one would have thought, of 'emergent Catholicism') receive no mention in New Testament documents supposedly later than they are.]  In fact ever since the form critics assumed the basic solutions of the source critics (particularly with regard to the synoptic problem) and the redaction critics assumed the work of the form critics, the chronology of the New Testament documents has scarcely been subjected to fresh examination.
No one since Harnack has really gone back to look at it for its own sake or to examine the presuppositions on which the current consensus rests. It is only when one pauses to do this that one realizes how thin is the foundation for some of the textbook answers and how circular the arguments for many of the relative datings.  Disturb the position of one major piece and the pattern starts disconcertingly to dissolve.

That major piece was for me the gospel of John.  I have long been convinced that John contains primitive and reliable historical tradition, and that conviction has been reinforced by numerous studies in recent years. But in reinforcing it these same studies have the more insistently provoked the question in my mind whether the traditional dating of the gospel, alike by conservatives and (now) by radicals, towards the end of the first century, is either credible or necessary.  Need it have been written anything like so late?   As the arguments requiring it to be set at a considerable distance both in place and time from the events it records began one by one to be knocked away (by growing recognition of its independence of the synoptists and, since 1947  by linguistic parallels from the Dead Sea Scrolls), I have wondered more and more whether it does not belong much nearer to the Palestinian scene prior to the Jewish revolt of 66-70.

But one cannot redate John without raising the whole question of its place in the development of New Testament Christianity.  If this is early, what about the other gospels?   Is it necessarily the last in time?  Indeed does it actually become the first? - or are they earlier too?  And, if so, how then do the gospels stand in relation to the epistles? Were all the Pauline letters penned, as has been supposed, before any of the gospels? Moreover, if John no longer belongs to the end of the century, what of the Johannine epistles and the other so-called Catholic Epistles which have tended to be dated with them?  And what about the book of Revelation, which, whatever its connection with the other Johannine writings, everyone seems nowadays to set in the same decade as the gospel?

It was at this point that I began to ask myself just why any of the books of the New Testament needed to be put after the fall of Jerusalem in 70.   As one began to look at them, and in particular the epistle to the Hebrews, Acts and the Apocalypse, was it not strange that this cataclysmic event was never once mentioned or apparently hinted at?  And what about those predictions of it in the gospels - were they really the prophecies after the event that our critical education had taught us to believe?  So, as little more than a theological joke, I thought I would see how far one could get with the hypothesis that the whole of the New Testament was written before 70.   And the only way to try out such a hypothesis was to push it to its limits, and beyond, to discover what these limits were.  Naturally, there were bound to be exceptions - II Peter was an obvious starter, and presumably the Pastorals - but it would be an interesting exercise.

But what began as a joke became in the process a serious pre­occupation, and I convinced myself that the hypothesis must be tested in greater detail than the seminar-paper with which it started would allow. The result is that I have found myself driven to look again at the evidence for all the accepted New Testament datings.  But so far from forcing it to a new Procrustean bed of my own making, I have tried to keep an open mind.  I deliberately left the treatment of the fourth gospel to the last (though increasingly persuaded that it should never be treated in isolation from the other three, or they from it) so as not to let my initial judgment on it mould the rest of the pattern to it.   Moreover, I have changed my mind many times in the course of the work, and come through to datings which were not at all what I expected when I began.   Indeed I would wish to claim nothing fixed or final about the results. Once one starts on an investigation like this one could go on for years.  Problems that one supposed in one's own mind were more or less settled (e.g. the synoptic problem) become opened up again; and almost all the books or articles that have been written on the New Testament (and many too on ancient history) threaten to become relevant.  But one has to stop somewhere.  I am much more aware of what I have not read.  But this will have to do as a stone to drop into the pond, to see what happens.

Naturally if one presumes to challenge the scientific establishment in any field one must be prepared to substantiate one's case in some detail.  So I have tried to give the evidence and provide the references for those who wish to follow them up.  However, short of making it one's life's work (and frankly chronology is not mine), one must delimit the task.  I have not attempted to go into the theoretical basis of chronology itself or to get involved in astronomical calculations or the complex correlation of ancient dating systems. [Cf.J. Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, Princeton 1964, for the single most useful survey; also T. Lewin, Fasti Sacri: A Key to the Chronology of the New Testament, 1865; J. van Goudoeuver, Biblical Calendars, Leiden 21961; A. K. Michels, The Calendar of the Roman Republic, Princeton, NJ, 1967; E. J. Bickermann, Chronology of the Ancient World, 1968; A. E. Samuel, Greek and Roman Chronology, Munich 1972; E. Schiirer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, revised ET, Edinburgh 1973, vol.1. Appendix III ('The Jewish Calendar').]   These things are too high for one who finds himself confused even when changing to summer time or crossing time zones!  Nor have I entered the contentious area of the chronology of the birth, ministry and death of Jesus, since it does not seriously affect the dating of the books of the New Testament.

Nor have I found it necessary to be drawn into the history of the canon of the New Testament, since, unless one has reason to suppose that the books were written very late, how long an interval elapsed before they became collected or acknowledged as scripture is but marginally relevant.  Above all, I have not ventured into the vast field of the non-canonical literature of the sub-apostolic age, except to the extent that this is directly relevant to the dating of the New Testament books themselves. Without attempting to survey this literature, both Jewish and Christian, for its own sake (which would have taken me far beyond my competence), I have simply devoted a postscript to it, in so far as by comparison and contrast it can help to check or confirm the conclusions arrived at from the study of the New Testament.

Finally, in a closing chapter I have sketched some of the conclusions and corollaries to be drawn - and not to be drawn - from such a study.  My position will probably seem surprisingly conservative - especially to those who judge me radical on other issues. But I trust it will give no comfort to those who would view with suspicion the application of critical tools to biblical study - for it is reached by the application of those tools.  I claim no great originality - almost every individual conclusion will be found to have been argued previously by someone, often indeed by great and forgotten men – though I think the overall pattern is new and I trust coherent. Least of all do I wish to close any discussion. Indeed I am happy to prefix to my work the words with which Niels Bohr is said to have begun his lecture-courses:  'Every sentence I utter should be taken by you not as a statement but as a question.' [Quoted by J. Bronowski, The Ascent of Man, 1973, 334.]


The Significance of 70

ONE of the oddest facts about the New Testament is that what on any showing would appear to be 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.  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. S. G. F. Brandon made this oddness the key to his entire interpretation of the New Testament: [S. G. F. Brandon, The Fall of Jerusalem and the Christian Church, 1951; 2I957; 'The Date of the Markan Gospel', NTS 7, 1960-1, 126-41; Jesus and the Zealots, Manchester 1967; The Trial of Jesus, 1968.]  everything from the gospel of Mark onwards was a studied rewriting of history to suppress the truth that Jesus and the earliest Christians were identified with the revolt that failed.   But the sympathies of Jesus and the Palestinian church with the Zealot cause are entirely unproven and Brandon's views have won scant scholarly credence.  [Cf. the devastating review of Jesus and the Zealots by Hengel, JSS 14, 1969, a 31-40; and his .Die Zeloten, Leiden 1961; Was Jesus a Revolutionist?,' ET Philadelphia 1971; Victory over Violence, ET 1975; also W. Wink, 'Jesus and Revolution: Reflection on S. G. F. Brandon's Jesus and the Zealots', USQR 26, 1969, 37-59; O. Cullmann, Jesus and the Revolutionaries, ET New York 1970; and especially the forth­coming symposium edited by C. F. D. Moule and E. Bammel, Jesus and the Politics of his Day, Cambridge 1977(?). P. Winter makes the important point that 'nothing that Josephus wrote lends any support to the theory that Jesus was caught up in revolutionary, Zealotic or quasi-Zealotic activities. ... The relatively friendly attitude of Josephus towards Jesus contrasts with his severe stricture of the Zealots and kindred activist groups among the Jews responsible for encouraging the people to defy Roman rule' (Excursus II in Schurer, HJP I, 441).] Yet if the silence is not studied it is very remarkable. As James Moffatt said,

We should expect ... that an event like the fall of Jerusalem would have dinted some of the literature of the primitive church, almost as the victory at Salamis has marked the Persae. It might be supposed that such an epoch-making crisis would even furnish criteria for determining the dates of some of the NT writings. As a matter of fact, the catastrophe is practically ignored in the extant Christian literature of the first century.  [j. Moffatt, Introduction to the Literature of the New Testament, Edinburgh 31918, 3. This is quoted by L. H. Gaston, No Stone on Another: Studies in the Fall of Jerusalem in the Synoptic Gospels (Nov Test. Suppl. 23), Leiden 1970, 5, who continues: 'There is no unambiguous reference to the fall of Jerusalem anyplace outside the gospels.]

Similarly C. F. D. Moule:

It is hard to believe that a Judaistic type of Christianity which had itself been closely involved in the cataclysm of the years leading up to ad 70 would not have shown the scars - or, alternatively, would not have made capital out of this signal evidence that they, and not non-Christian Judaism, were the true Israel. But in fact our traditions are silent. [C. F. D. Moule, The Birth of the New Testament, 1962, 123.]


Explanations for this silence have of course been attempted.  Yet the simplest explanation of all, that perhaps ... there is extremely little in the New Testament later than ad 70 [Moule, op. cit., 121.] and that its events are not mentioned because they had not yet occurred, seems to me to demand more attention than it has received in critical circles. 

Bo Reicke begins a recent essay with the words:

An amazing example of uncritical dogmatism in New Testament studies is the belief that the Synoptic Gospels should be dated after the Jewish War of ad 66-70 because they contain prophecies ex eventu of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in the year 70. [B. Reicke, 'Synoptic Prophecies on the Destruction of Jerusalem', in D. W. Aune (ed.), Studies in New Testament and Early Christian Literature: Essays in Honor of Alien P. Wikgren (NovTest Suppl. 33), Leiden 1972, 121-34.]


In fact this is too sweeping a statement, because the dominant con­sensus of scholarly opinion places Mark's gospel, if not before the beginning of the Jewish war, at any rate before the capture of the city.  [Cf. the summary of opinions in V. Taylor, St Mark,21966, 31. He himself opts, with many others, for 65-70. Kummel, INT, 98, hedges his bets: 'Since no over­whelming argument for the years before or after 70 can be adduced, we must con­tent ourselves with saying that Mark was written ca. 70.] Indeed one of the arguments to be assessed is that which distinguishes between the evidence of Mark on the one hand and that of Matthew and Luke on the other. In what follows I shall start from the presumption of most contemporary scholars that Mark's version is the earliest and was used by Matthew and Luke. As will become clear [Cf. pp. 92-4 below.], I am by no means satisfied with this as an overall explanation of the synoptic phenomena. I believe that one must be open to the possibility that at points Matthew or Luke may represent the earliest form of the common tradition, which Mark also alters for editorial reasons. I shall therefore concentrate on the differences between the versions without prejudging their priority or dependence. The relative order of the synoptic gospels is in any case of secondary importance for assessing their absolute relation to the events of 70. Whatever their sequence, all or any could have been written before or after the fall of Jerusalem.

Let us then start by looking again at the discourse of Mark 13. It begins:

As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples exclaimed, 'Look, Master, what huge stones! What fine buildings!'  Jesus said to him, 'You see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.'

     When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives facing the temple he was questioned privately by Peter, James, John, and Andrew. 'Tell us,' they said, 'when will this happen? What will be the sign when the fulfilment of all this is at hand?' (13.1-4).


The first thing to notice is that the question is never answered. In fact no further reference is made in the chapter to the destruction of the temple. This supports the judgment of most critics that the discourse is an artificial construction out of diverse teachings of Jesus, with parallels in various parts of the gospel tradition, and linked somewhat arbitrarily by the evangelist to a subsequent question of interest to the church, such as Mark regularly poses by the device of a private enquiry by an inner group of disciples (cf. 4.10; 7.17; 9.28). We need not stop to wrestle with the complex question of how much goes back to Jesus and how much is the creation of the community. 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 [Josephus, BJ, 6. 300-9. In citing Josephus I have followed the notation and, unless otherwise indicated, the translation in the Loeb Classical Library.]. Even if, as most would suppose [Josephus, BJ, 6. 300-9. In citing Josephus I have followed the notation and, unless otherwise indicated, the translation in the Loeb Classical Library.],0 the discourse represents the work of Christian prophecy reflecting upon the Old Testament and remembered sayings of Jesus in the light of the church's experiences, hopes and fears, the relevant question is, What experiences, hopes and fears ?

The mere fact again that there is no correlation between the initial question and Jesus' answer would suggest that the discourse is not being written retrospectively out of the known events of 70. Indeed the sole subsequent reference to the temple at all, and that only by implication, is in 13.14-16:

But when you see 'the abomination of desolation' usurping a place which is not his (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judaea must take to the hills. If a man is on the roof, he must not come down into the house to fetch anything out; if in the field, he must not turn back for his cloak.

It is clear at least that 'the abomination of desolation' cannot itself refer to the destruction of the sanctuary in August 70 or to its desecra­tion by Titus' soldiers in sacrificing to their standards [Josephus, BJ 6. 316.]. By that time it was far too late for anyone in Judaea to take to the hills, which had been in enemy hands since the end of 67 [Brandon, who argues for this, JTS 7, 133f., merely omits any reference to the injunction to take to the hills.]. Moreover, the only tradition we have as to what Christians actually did, or were told to do, is that preserved by Eusebius [HE 3. 5.3. Quotations from this work are from the translation and edition by H.J. Lawlor and J. E. L. Oulton, 1927-8.] apparently on the basis of the Memoirs of Hegesippus used also by Epiphanius. [Adv. haer. 29.7; 30.2; de mens. et pond. 15.2-5. For the case for a common source in the Hypommmata of Hegesippus, cf. H.J. Lawlor, Eusebiana, Oxford 1912, 27-34, who prints the full texts (101f.).] This says that they had been commanded by an oracle given 'before the war' to depart from the city,15 and that so far from taking to the mountains of Judaea, as Mark's instruction implies, they were to make for Pella, a Greek city of the Decapolis, which lay below sea level on the east side of the Jordan valley. [According to Epiphanius' version, the flight was made just before the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem itself. At that stage escape was indeed still possible. Speaking of November 66 Josephus says: 'After this catastrophe of Cestius many distinguished Jews abandoned the city as swimmers desert a sinking ship' (BJ 2.556). But an earlier reference (Ant.20.256) to the period between the arrival of Gessius Florus as procurator in 64 and the beginning of the war in 66 fits better a popular exodus and the Eusebian dating: 'There was no end in sight. The ill-fated Jews, unable to endure the devastation by brigands that went on, were one and all forced to abandon their own country and flee, for they thought it would be better to settle among gentiles, no matter where'. If the Christian Jews were among them, then the λησταί (Josephus' word for the Zealots) would have been the cause for the Christians' dissociation from the revolt rather than, as Brandon thought, their attachment to it. This seems altogether more likely.]  It would appear then that this was not prophecy shaped by events and cannot therefore be dated to the period immediately before or during the war of 66-70. [This point is made strongly, perhaps over-strongly, by Reicke, op. cit., 125. For a defence of the Pella tradition, against the criticisms of Brandon, Fall of Jerusalem, 168-78, cf. S. S. Sowers, 'The Circumstances and Recollection of the Pella Flight', TZ 26, 1970,305-20.]

What apparently the instruction is shaped by (whether in the mind of Jesus or that of a Christian prophet speaking in his name) is, rather, the archetypal Jewish resistance to the desecration of the temple-sanctuary by an idolatrous image under Antiochus Epiphanes in 168-7 bc. This was 'the abomination of desolation ... set up on the altar' (I Mace. 1.54) referred to by Daniel (9.27 [LXX]; 11.31; 12.11), and it was in consequence of this and of the local enforcement of pagan rites that Mattathias and his sons 'took to the hills, leaving all their belongings in the town' (I Mace. 2.28). It is here that we should seek the clue to the pattern of Mark 13.14-16. Moreover the influence of the book of Daniel is so pervasive in this chapter [As well as in this passage, it is echoed in 13.4 (Dan. 12.7); 13.7 (Dan. 2.28); 13.19 (Dan. 12.1); and 13.26 (Dan. 7.13).] that it is hard to credit that what is regularly there associated with the abomination of desolation, namely, the cessation of the daily offering in the temple (Dan.8.13; 9.27; n.3i; 12.11) would not have been alluded to if this had by then occurred, as it did in August 70. [Josephus, BJ 6.94.]

It is more likely that the reference to 'the abomination of desola­tion standing where he ought not' (to stress Mark's deliberate lack of grammatical apposition) is, like Paul's reference to 'the lawless one' or 'the enemy' who 'even takes his seat in the temple of God' (II Thess.2.1-12), [There is here the same transition between neuter and masculine: τὸ κατέχον (v.6), ὁ κατέχων (v. 7).] traditional apocalyptic imagery for the incarnation of evil which had to be interpreted ('let the reader understand'; cf. Rev. 13.18) according to whatever shape Satan might currently take. It is indeed highly likely that such speculation was revived, as many have argued [E.g. B. W. Bacon, The Gospel of Mark, New Haven, Conn., 1925, 53-68.], by the proposal of the Emperor Gaius Caligula in 40 to set up his statue in the temple (which was averted only by his death). [Josephus, Ant. 18. 261-309. For the horror and alarm which this raised among Jews, cf. Philo, Leg. Ad Gaium, 184-348.] Paul was evidently still awaiting the fulfilment of such an expectation in 50-1 (to anticipate the date of II Thessalonians), where 'the restrainer' holding it back is probably to be interpreted as the Roman Empire embodied in its emperor (ὁ κατέχων being a play perhaps on the name Claudius, 'he who shuts'). His expulsion of the Jews from Rome in 49 could be reflected in the phrase of I Thess. 2.16 about retribution having overtaken them εἰς τἐλος ('with a view to the end'?). [A suggested interpretation I owe to Dr E. Bammel.] The only other datable incident to which 'the abomination' might conceivably refer in retrospect is the control of the temple not by the Romans but by the Zealots temporarily in 66 and permanently in 68, which Josephus speaks of in terms of its 'pollution'. [BJ 2.422-5; 4.147-92; 5.IQ. So M.-J. Lagrange, S. Matthieu, Paris 1927, 462; R. T. France, Jesus and the Old Testament, 1971, 227-39; W.J. Houston, New Testa­ment Prophecy and Christian Tradition, unpublished D.Phil, thesis for the University of Oxford, 1973. Cf. F. F. Bruce, 'Josephus and Daniel,' ASTI 4, 1965, i53f.] This would be the very opposite of Brandon's thesis, with the Zealots filling the role of antichrist. But it does not explain the masculine singular (as a vaticinium ex eventu should require) and again it is too late for a pre-war flight, and perhaps for any.

One is forced to conclude that the reference in Mark 13.14 to 'the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not' is an ex­tremely uncertain indicator of retrospective dating. G. R. Beasley-Murray ends a note on the history of the interpretation of this verse with the words:

It would seem a just conclusion that the traditional language of the book of Daniel, the Jewish abhorrence of the idolatrous Roman ensigns, attested in the reaction to Pilate's desecration, [The reference is to an incident in Caesarea in a6 (Josephus, Ant. 18. 55-9; BJ 2.169-74; Philo, Leg. ad Gaium 299-305) and therefore well before Jesus' supposed utterance. Cf. P. L. Maier, 'The Episode of the Golden Roman Shields at Jerusalem', HTR 6a, 1969, 109-21.]  and Jesus' insight into the situation resulting from his people's rejection of his message, supply a sufficient background for this saying. [G. R. Beasley-Murray, A Commentary on Mark Thirteen, 1957, 72 (cf. 59-72).]

Marxsen, writing from a very different standpoint, regards the phrase as a vague reference to the forthcoming destruction of the temple and is forthright in saying: 'From Mark's point of view, a vaticinium ex eventu is an impossibility.' [W. Marxsen, Mark the Evangelist, ET Nashville, Tenn., 1969, 170 (cf. 166-89); similarly E. Trocme, The Formation of the Gospel according to Mark, ET 1975, 104f., 245. He thinks Mark 1-13 was written c. 50 (259).]

With regard to Mark 13 as a whole the most obvious inference is that the warnings it contains were relevant to Christians as they were facing duress and persecution, alerting them to watchfulness against false alarms and pretenders' claims, promising them support under trial before Jewish courts and pagan governors, and assuring them of the rewards of steadfastness. Doubtless the phrasing has been in­fluenced and pointed up by what Christians actually experienced, but, as Reicke argues in the second half of his essay ['Synoptic Prophecies', 130-3.], there is nothing that cannot be paralleled from the period of church history covered by Acts (c. 30-62). As early as 50 Paul can say to the Thessalonians:  'You have fared like the congregations in Judaea, God's people in Christ Jesus. You have been treated by your countrymen as they are treated by the Jews' (I Thess. 2.14).  Unless the flight enjoined upon 'those who are in Judaea' is purely symbolic (of the church dissociating itself from Judaism) - and with the detailed instructions and the prayer that it may not be in winter (Mark 13.18) there is no reason to assume it is figurative any more than the very literal dissolution of Herod's temple - then the directions for it must surely belong to a time when there still were Christians in Judaea, free and able to flee. Finally, we are in a period when it could still be said without reserve or qualification on the solemn authority of Jesus:      'I tell you this: the present generation will live to see it all' (13.30).

In fact there is, as we said, wide agreement among scholars that Mark 13 does fit better before the destruction of the temple it purports to prophesy. This is relevant as we turn now to Matthew and Luke. What will be significant are differences from Mark: otherwise the same presumption will continue to hold.

We will take Matthew first, since he is closest to the Markan tradition.  But the first relevant passage in his gospel is not in fact in Markan material but in that which he has in common with Luke, the parable of the wedding feast (Matt.22.1-10 = Luke 14.16-24), where Matthew inserts the following:

The others seized the servants, attacked them brutally and killed them. The king was furious; he sent troops to kill those murderers and set their town on fire (22.6f.).

There can be little doubt that these verses are secondary to the parable. [Matthew has also tacked on the (originally separate) parable of the wedding garment (22.11-14).] They form part of an allegorical interpretation of the suc­cessive servants (Luke has one only) in terms of the prophets and apostles sent to Israel, as in the immediately preceding parable of the wicked husbandmen (Matt. 21.33-45). [Cf. especially 22.4, 6 with 21.35f.] The introduction of a military expedition while the supper is getting cold is particularly inappropriate. Luke has also allegorized the parable, to match the Jewish and Gentile missions of the church, by introducing two search-parties, first to the streets and alleys of the city and then to the high­ways and hedgerows. The secondary character of all these features is now further established by their absence from the same parable in the Gospel of Thomas (64). This version also supports the supposition, which we should independently deduce from his usage elsewhere (Matt.18.23; 25.34, 40), that it is Matthew who has brought in the figure of the king as the subject of the story: Luke and Thomas both simply have 'a man'. It is therefore as certain as anything can be in this field that the crucial verse, 'The king was furious; he sent troops to kill those murderers and set their town on fire', is an addition, probably by the evangelist. The sole question is, When was it added and does it reflect in retrospect the destruction of Jerusalem (to which it must obviously allude)?

It has to be admitted that this is the single verse in the New Testament that most looks like a retrospective prophecy of the events of 70, and it has almost universally been so taken. It is the only passage which mentions the destruction of Jerusalem by fire. Yet, as K. H. Rengstorfhas argued,  [K. H. Rengstorf, 'Der Stadt der Morder (Mt 22.7)' in W. Eitester (ed.), Judentum-Urchristentum-Kirche: Festschrift fur Joachim Jeremias (ZNW Beiheft 26), 1960, 106-29 (especially 125f.).] the wording of Matt. 22.7 represents a fixed description of ancient expeditions of punishment and is such an established topos of Near Eastern, Old Testament and rabbinic literature that it is precarious to infer that it must reflect a particular occurrence. He concludes that it has no relevance for the dating of the first gospel. And this conclusion is borne out in a further study by Sigfred Pedersen [S. Pedersen, 'Zum Problem der vaticinia ex eventu (eine Analyse von Mt 21.33-46 par; 22.1-10 par)',.ST19, 1965, 167-88.], who believes that this and the preceding parable of the wicked husbandmen are fundamentally shaped by material from the Old Testament, especially Jeremiah.  The most he will say is that if Matthew is writing after 70,  then we must see this as a contributory occasion for the addition (which of course no one would deny).

Moreover, if Matt. 2 2.7 did reflect the happenings of 70 one might expect that it would make a distinction that features in other post eventum 'visions', namely, that while the walls of the city were thrown down, it was the temple that perished by fire. Thus the Jewish apocalypse II Baruch clearly reflects the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans, though it purports to be the announcement to the prophet Baruch of a coming Chaldean invasion. It recognizes that the city and the temple suffered separate fates:

We have overthrown the wall of Zion and we have burnt the place of the mighty God (7.1). [I.e. the temple. For this sense, cf. II Mace. 5.17-20; John 11.48; Acts6.14; 21.28; etc.]

They delivered ... to the enemy the overthrown wall, and plundered the house, and burnt the temple (80.3).

If one really wants to see what ex eventu prophecy looks like,  one should turn to the so-called Sibylline Oracles (4.125-7):

And a Roman leader shall come to Syria, who shall burn down Solyma's [Jerusalem's] temple with fire, and therewith slay many men, and shall waste the great land of the Jews with its broad way. [Tr. R. H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament II, Oxford 1913,395.]

It is precisely such detail that one does not get in the New Testament.

Finally, in Matthew's parable the king clearly stands for God. In the war of 66-70 the king who sent the armies to quell the rebels was Nero, followed by Vespasian. Reicke says:

The picture of God sending his armies to punish all guests not willing to follow his invitation was in no way applicable to the war started by Nero to punish the leaders of rebellion against Roman supremacy. [Op.cit., 123.]

He argues indeed that there is every reason to assume that the final redactor of the parable would have altered the reference if he had been writing after 70. This, I believe, is putting it too strongly, since undoubtedly Christians came to see the destruction of Jerusalem as God's retribution on Israel, whoever the human agent. [Cf. later (c. 300) Eusebius, HE 3.5.3: 'The justice of God then visited upon them [the Jews] all their acts of violence to Christ and his apostles, by destroying that generation of wicked persons root and branch from among men'; also (c. 400) Sulpicius Severus, Chron. 2.30. But evidence for this is remarkably absent from earlier writings where one might expect it, e.g. the Epistle of Barnabas or Justin's Dialogue with Trypho.]  Yet the correspondence does not seem close enough to require composition in the light of the event.

Nevertheless, the conclusion must, I think, stand that on the basis of Matt. 22.7 alone it is impossible to make a firm judgment.  It could reflect 70.  [R. V. G. Tasker, St Matthew (Tyndale NTC), 1961, 206, suggests that the verses may have been marginal comment (subsequently embodied in the text) added after 70 to draw attention to the judgment on Israel for persecuting the Christians. The weakness in this suggestion is of course the lack of any textual evidence.]  On the other hand, it need not. One must decide on the evidence of the distinctive features in Matthew's apocalypse in chapter 24.

The first observation to be made is how few these are. As K. Stendahl says, 'He does not have any more explicit references than Mark to the Jewish War or the withdrawing of the Christians from Jerusalem'.  [PCB, 793. Cf. Marxsen, Mark the Evangelist, 198, who himself has no doubt that Matthew is later than 70: 'If we begin by inquiring into the time of Matthew's composition, we encounter the startling fact that chap. 24 is scarcely ever used in evidence. It is rather on the basis of 22.7 that the Gospel is assumed to have originated after ad 70.']   Apart from minor verbal variations he follows the tradition common to Mark, with only the following differences of any significance:

1. In 24.3, the purpose of the discourse is broadened to answer the disciples not merely on the date of the destruction of the temple ('Tell us, when will this happen ?') but on the theme to which the chapter (and the one following) is really addressed: 'And what will be the signal for your coming and the end of the age?' It is significant, however, that the former question does not drop out, as might be expected (especially since Matthew has no more answer to it than Mark) if at the rime of writing it now related to the past whilst the parousia was still awaited.

2. In 24.9-14, the prophecies of persecutions ahead found in Mark 13.9-12 are omitted, being placed by Matthew in Jesus' mission charge to the disciples during the Galilean ministry (10.17-21).   Whatever the motives for this, the effect is to see the predictions fulfilled earlier rather than later, and evidently they are not intended by Matthew to have any reference to the sufferings of the Jewish war. In their place Matthew has warnings against division and defection within the church, which are presumably relevant to the state of his own community but have no bearing on the question of date.

3. In 24.15, the cryptic reference to 'the abomination of desolation' is specifically attributed to the prophet Daniel (which was obvious anyhow), and Matthew has the neuter participle ἑστος for the masculine ἑστηκ ὀτα (as the grammar demands), and ἐν τλοπῳ ἁγλιῳ for the vague ὅπου οὐ δεῖ. Despite the lack of article, '(the) holy place' must mean the temple (evidently intended by Mark's allusion), and the choice of phrase may again reflect the scriptural background already referred to:

How long will impiety cause desolation, and both the holy place and the fairest of all lands be given over to be trodden down? (Dan. 8.13)


They sat idly by when it [Jerusalem] was surrendered,
when the holy place was given up to the alien (I Mace. 2.7).


Yet none of Matthew's changes affects the sense or makes the application more specific (in fact the neuter participle does the opposite). Again he does not mention the reference in Daniel to the cessation of the daily sacrifices. If Matthew intended the reader to 'understand' in the prediction events lying by then in the past he has certainly given him no help. Moreover, as Zahn said long ago [INT,571.], in view of Matthew's appeal to conditions in Jerusalem 'to this day' (27.8; cf. 28.15), one would have expected him of all people to draw attention to the present devastation of the site.

4. In 24.20, there occurs the only other change in the decisive paragraph about Judaea, with the addition of the words in italics:

    Pray that it may not be winter when you have to make your escape, or Sabbath.

'When you have to make your escape' merely specifies what must be meant in Mark.  The reference to the sabbath could again contain an allusion back to the fact that when the faithful of Judaea took to the hills after the original 'abomination of desolation' their first encounter with the enemy was on the sabbath and because of scruples which they later abandoned they were massacred without resistance (I Mace. 2.29-41). But it is more likely to refer to the obstacles to movement on the sabbath for Jewish Christians who were strict observers of the law. In any case it bespeaks a primitive Palestinian milieu and a community-discipline stricter than that recommended in Matthew's own church (cf. Matt. 12.1-14). It is certainly not an addition that argues for a situation after 70.  Indeed it is one of those points of difference where, unless one is committed to over-all Markan priority, it looks as though Mark has omitted an element in the tradition no longer relevant for the Gentile church.

5. Matthew's material without parallel in the Markan tradition (24.26-8; 24.37-25.46) has no reference to the fall of Jerusalem but, like the additional signs of the parousia in 24.30f., solely to 'the consummation of the age'. Yet his version of the 'Q,' material in 24.26, 'If they tell you, "He is there in the wilderness", do not go out', clearly shows that in his mind the scene is still in Judaea (in the Lukan parallel in 17.23 it could be anywhere).   It is significant therefore that in 24.29, 'the distress of those days' (i.e., on the assumption of ex eventu prophecy, the Judaean war) is to be followed 'immediately' (εὐθέως) by the coming of the Son of Man, whereas in Mark 13.24 it is promised vaguely 'in those days, after that distress'.   Normally Matthew edits out (if this is the relationship between them) Mark's incessant use of εὐθύς. Never elsewhere does he alter a Markan phrase to εὐθέως. [Though he adds the word, without significant change of sense, in 27.48. B. W. Bacon, 'The Apocalyptic Chapter of the Synoptic Gospels', JBL 28, 1909, a, argued (without a shred of evidence) that εὐθύς could 'easily' have been in the original text of Mark 13.24 - though this would still not explain why Matthew retained it.]   This makes it extraordinarily difficult to believe that Matthew could deliberately be writing for the interval between the Jewish war and the parousia.  So conscious was Harnack [Chron., 653f.] of this difficulty that he insisted that the interval could not be extended more than five years (or ten at the very most), thus dating Matthew c. 70-5.  He would rather believe that Matthew wrote before the fall of Jerusalem than stretch the meaning of εὐθέως further. It seems a curious exercise to stretch it at all!   Even E. J. Goodspeed, [E. J. Goodspeed, An Introduction to the New Testament, Chicago 1937, 176.] who put Luke at 90, said of Matthew,  'A book containing such a statement can hardly have been written very long after ad 70'  (though his elastic was prepared to extend to 80). The only other way of taking this verse retrospectively is to say that 'the coming of the Son of Man', though not 'the consummation of the age', did occur with the fall of Jerusalem. [Cf. A. Feuillet, 'La synthese eschatologique de saint Matthieu', RB 55-6, 1949-50, 340-64, 62-91, 18o-211 (especially 351-6); 'Le sens du mot parousie dans l'evangile de Matthieu' in W. D. Davies and D. Daube (edd.), The Background of the New Testament and its Eschatology: In Honour of C. H. Dodd, Cambridge 1956, 261 —80; Gaston, No Stone on Another, 484; also (somewhat differently) France, Jesus and the OT, 227-39; and G. B. Caird, Jesus and the Jewish Nation (Ethel M. Wood Lecture), 1965.]  But it is a fairly desperate expedient to seek to distinguish these two (joined by Matthew by a single article in 24.3) in face of the usage of the rest of the New Testament.

Finally, Matthew retains unaltered Jesus' solemn pronouncement, 'The present generation will live to see it all' (24.34), preserving also (as the equivalent of Mark 9.1) the saying, 'There are some standing here who will not taste of death before they have seen the Son of Man coming in his kingdom' (16.28). Most notoriously of all, he has, alongside the apocalyptic material from the Markan tradition which he sets in his mission charge, the promise, 'Before you have gone through all the towns of Israel the Son of Man will have come' (10.23).  [This again could well be a saying which Mark has omitted from the common tradition as irrelevant to his Gentile readers.]   If, on the usual reckoning, the evangelist is writing some 50-60 years after the death of Jesus, it is surely incredible that there are no traces of attempts to explain away or cover up such obviously by then unfulfillable predictions. One would equally expect modifications to prophecies after the non-event.

Indeed, I think that it needs to be asked much more pressingly than it is why warnings and predictions relating to the crisis in Judaea should have been produced or reproduced in such profusion after the events to which they referred. Just as Jesus' parables were reapplied to the life of the church and to the parousia when their original setting in the crisis of his ministry was no longer relevant [Cf. C. H. Dodd, The Parables of the Kingdom, 1935, and J. Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus, ET 3I972.], so one might suppose that instructions given, or pointed up, for earlier situations would, if remembered at all afterwards, have become related more timelessly to the End. Alternatively, if subsequent occasion required, they might have been brought out and subjected to recalculation (the way that Jeremiah's unfulfilled prediction of the seventy years' duration of the exile is reapplied 'on reflection' in Dan. 9.1-27). But the period of composition commonly assigned to both Matthew and Luke (80-90) was, as far as we know, marked by no crisis for the church that would reawaken the relevance of apocalyptic.  [B. H. Streeter, The Four Gospels, 1924, 516-23, associated it with the rumours of the return of Nero redivivus. But there is no other evidence connecting this myth with the gospel tradition, even if we could date it with certainty (see pp. 245f. below). Moreover Streeter's argument depends on his omission (with the Sinaitic Syriac) of 'standing in the holy place' from Matt. 24.15.]   I fail to see any motive for preserving, let alone inventing, prophecies long after the dust had settled in Judaea, unless it be to present Jesus as a prognosticator of uncanny accuracy (in which case the evangelists have defeated the exercise by including palpably unfulfilled predictions). It would seem much more likely, as the form critics have taught us to expect, that these sayings, like the rest, were adapted to the use of the church when and as they were relevant to its immediate needs.

There is one other passage common to Matthew and Luke which it will be convenient to mention briefly before turning to Luke.   This refers to the murder of Zechariah 'between the sanctuary and the altar'.   In Matthew (23.35), but not Luke (i 1.51), he is called 'son of Berachiah', and this has been held [E.g. by J. Wellhausen, Einleitung in die drei ersten Evangelien, Berlin 2I9II, 118-23. To the contrary, Zahn, INTII, 589f.] to contain an allusion to the murder by two Zealots 'in the midst of the temple' of a certain Zacharias, son of Baris (v.L, Beriscaeus) in 67-8. [Josephus, BJ4, 334-44.]   But the identification rests on a rather remote resemblance of names, and this Zacharias, not being a priest, would have been unlikely to have been 'between the sanctuary and the altar.'   On Jesus' lips it makes entirely good sense to interpret the reference, with the Gospel according to the Hebrews [According to Jerome, in Matt. 23.35.], as being to the murder of Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest (II Chron. 24.20-2), whom Matthew, like some of the rabbis, has evidently confused with Zechariah son of Berechiah, the prophet (Zech.i.i).   [So e.g. A. H. McNeile, St Matthew, 1915; J. M. Creed, St Luke, 1930; H. St J.Thackeray, Josephus, Loeb Classical Library, 1928, ad locc.]  In any case it is far too uncertain a piece of evidence to carry any weight by itself.

Finally, then, we turn to Luke.  His parallel to the Markan apocalypse must be taken closely with another earlier passage relating to Jerusalem and it will be convenient to set them out together.

When he came in sight of the city, he wept over it and said, 'If only you had known, on this great day, the way that leads to peace! But no; it is hidden from your sight. For a time will come upon you, when your enemies will set up siege-works against you; they will encircle you and hem you in at every point; they will bring you to the ground, you and your children within your walls, and not leave you one stone standing on another, because you did not recognize God's moment when it came' (19.41-4).

But when you see Jerusalem encircled by armies, then you may be sure that her destruction is near. Then those who are in Judaea must take to the hills; those who are in the city itself must leave it, and those who are out in the country must not enter; because this is the time of retribution, when all that stands written is to be fulfilled. Alas for women who are with child in those days, or have children at the breast!  For there will be great distress in the land and a terrible judgment upon this people. They will fall at the sword's point; they will be carried captive into all countries; and Jerusalem will be trampled down by foreigners until their day has run its course (21.20-4).

The latter passage replaces, and at some points echoes, that in Mark 13.14-20 beginning, 'But when you see "the abomination of desolation" ...'. Its relation to it must be considered shortly. But first let us look at what Luke himself actually says.

At first sight it seems clearly to be composed (or at any rate pointed up) in the light of the siege of 68-70. For here indeed is the greater specification we expect but fail to find in Matthew. The details, says Kummel, 'correspond exactly to the descriptions which contemporary accounts offer of the action of Titus against Jerusalem'.[INT, 150. Similarly, among many others, R. Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition, ET Oxford 1963, 123.]

Yet this is far from indisputable. In an article written now thirty years ago but strangely neglected, Dodd argued strongly and circumstantially that no such inference could be drawn. [C. H. Dodd, 'The Fall of Jerusalem and the "Abomination of Desolation" ', JRS, 1947, 47-54; reprinted in his More New Testament Studies, Manchester 1968, 69-83.]

These operations are no more than the regular commonplaces of ancient warfare. In Josephus's account of the Roman capture of Jerusalem there are some features which are more distinctive; such as the fantastic faction-fighting which continued all through the siege, the horrors of pestilence and famine (including cannibalism), and finally the conflagration in which the Temple and a large part of the city perished.  It is these that caught the imagination of Josephus, and, we may suppose, of any other witness of these events. Nothing is said of them here.  On the other hand, among all the barbarities which Josephus reports, he does not say that the conquerors dashed children to the ground. [The youths under the age of seventeen were sold into slavery (BJ 6.418).] The expression ἐδαφιοῦσιν σε καὶ τὰ τἐκνα σοῦ ἐν σοίis in any case not based on anything that happened in 66-70: it is a commonplace of Hebrew prophecy. [Op-cit.49f. (74f.)]


Dodd then proceeds to show in detail how all the language used by Luke or his source is drawn not from recent events but from a mind soaked in the Septuagint.

So far as any historical event has coloured the picture, it is not Titus's capture of Jerusalem in ad 70, but Nebuchadrezzar's capture in 586 bc. There is no single trait of the forecast which cannot be documented directly out of the Old Testament. [Ibid., 52 (79). Cf. earlier (though Dodd does not refer to it) C. C. Torrey, The Composition and Date of Acts (Harvard Theological Studies, I), Cambridge, Mass., 1916, 691., who concludes: 'Every particle of Luke's prediction not provided by Mark was furnished by familiar and oft-quoted Old Testament passages.']

It has justly been said that if this article had appeared in the Journal of Theological Studies rather than the Journal of Roman Studies New Testament scholars would have taken more notice of it. It is still ignored in Kummel's extensive bibliography, and no recognition is given to the case it argues. Interestingly, it had no influence on Reicke's article cited above [Though it is cited with approval by Pedersen, ST 19, 168.], which independently reaches much the same position.

But the absence of any clear reference to 70 does not settle the question of what Luke is doing in relation to the Markan material.  Indeed on this Dodd and Reicke come to opposite conclusions. Reicke, with the majority of critics, thinks that Luke 21.20-4 is an editing of Mark: Dodd holds that it is independent tradition into which the evangelist has simply inserted verbatim two phrases from Mark: 'Then those who are in Judaea must take to the hills' (21.21 a) and 'Alas for women who are with child in those days, or who have children at the breast!' (21.23a). [In 21.20 the reference to the 'desolation' of Jerusalem derives, Dodd argues, not from Mark (and Daniel) but from the frequent use of the word in this context by Jeremiah.]  The latter alternative seems to me the more probable [Cf. my Jesus and His Coming, 1957, 122-4. Similarly T. W. Manson, The Sayings of Jesus, 1949, 328-37; Taylor, Mark, 512; Gaston, op. cit., 358.],  if only because the introduction of 'Judaea' in 21.21a upsets the reference of ἐν μέσω αὐτῆς in 21b, which must be to Jerusalem αὐτῆς  21.20). But, whether or not this was material which Luke had prior to his use of the Markan tradition, he has clearly now united the two.  Is the effect of their combination to suggest or to require a later date?

Luke has preferred to concentrate on the destruction of the city rather than the temple, the last reference, veiled or unveiled, to the sanctuary having disappeared, despite his retention of the opening question about the fate of the temple buildings (2I.5-7). [Luke broadens the audience ('some people were saying') but not, like Matthew, the question.]  The answer therefore is even less precise, though there is now a definite reference to devastation and not simply to desecration. Reicke indeed argues that by replacing Mark's 'abomination of desolation standing where he ought not' with 'Jerusalem surrounded by armies' Luke actually makes it more certain that he is not writing after the event.   For

if the Gospel of Luke is supposed to have been composed after the historical siege of Jerusalem in ad 70, the evangelist must be accused of incredible con­fusion when he spoke of flight during that siege, although the Christians were known to have left Judaea some time before the war even began in ad 66. ['Synoptic Prophecies', 127.]

The last clause goes beyond the evidence, for Luke may not have known it.
Nevertheless the point stands against a vaticinium ex eventu. Things did not in fact turn out like that. Indeed they could not, for there was no escaping once the city had been encircled.

But the saying about getting out and not going back in, which in Luke 21.21 is applied to the city, has probably nothing in origin to do with a siege. In Mark and Matthew it relates to a man's house, as in the closely parallel saying which Luke himself preserves in 17.31:

On that day the man who is on the roof and his belongings in the house must not come down to pick them up; he, too, who is in the fields must not go back.


As when Mattathias and his sons 'took to the hills, leaving all their belongings behind in the town', the context seems more likely to be local harassment than a military siege. If, as is entirely possible, Jesus himself did utter some such urgent exhortations to vigilance and rapid response,  [Cf. the whole of Luke 17.2 0-3 7; also 12.35-13.9; Mark 13.33-6; Matt. 24.37-25.30.]  they were almost certainly independent of any programme of future events. If subsequently they were incorporated by the church into instructions for Christians in Judaea and combined with other words of his about the desolation of the city, [Cf. Matt.23.37-9 = Luke 13.34f Without Mark's story of the widow's mite, Matthew makes this saying lead directly into the programme of ch. 24.]  this does not mean that they were edited after or even during the war. In fact there is nothing that requires them to be restricted to the events of the latter 60s. The 'wars and rumours of wars' between nations ἔθνος ἐπ΄ θνος  and kingdoms (Mark 13.71. and pars) have no obvious reference to Vespasian's campaign against the Jewish extremists.  [Cf. Reicke, op. cit., 130f., who instances rather the wars of Rome against the Parthians in 36 and 55 which inspired the Jewish nationalists to violent activities.]In Luke this is 'wars and insurrections' (ἀκαταστασίας ) (21.9).  The latter word appears here to have the same meaning as στἀσις, which is used by Luke (23.19, 25), as by Mark (15.7), of the Barabbas incident, and in the context (cf. Luke 21.8) seems to refer to risings led by messianic pretenders, such as he also records from the 40s and 50s in Acts (5.36f.; 2I.38).  [στἀσις refers also, of course, to purely civil disturbances (Acts 19.40; 23.10; 24.5), as presumably do the ἀκατασταςίαι II Cor. 6.5.] There is no ground for assuming that he is alluding specifically to the Jewish revolt of 66-70, let alone writing after it.

None of this in itself decides the issue of when the synoptic gospels were written. In fact, despite the arguments he puts forward, Dodd (followed by Gaston and Houston) thinks that Luke and Matthew were composed after 70. Reicke, although regarding Luke 21 as secondary to Mark, concludes that 'Matthew, Mark and Luke wrote their Gospels before the war began'. [Op. cit., 133.] That issue must be considered in due course on its own merits. The one conclusion we can draw so far is to agree with Reicke's opening statement that it is indeed 'an amazing example of uncritical dogmatism' that 'the synoptic gospels should be dated after the Jewish War of ad 66-70 because they contain prophecies ex eventu of the destruction of Jerusalem'. Indeed on these grounds alone one might reverse the burden of proof, and re­issue Torrey's challenge, which he contended was never taken up:

It is perhaps conceivable that one evangelist writing after the year 70 might fail to allude to the destruction of the temple by the Roman armies (every reader of the Hebrew Bible knew that the Prophets had definitely predicted that foreign armies would surround the city and destroy it), but that three (or four) should thus fail is quite incredible. [Wink, USQR 26, 48, poses a similar question to Brandon who wishes to put Mark after 70: 'Is it really conceivable that Mark should fail to mention, even by allusion in a single instance, an event so traumatic that it is alleged to be the sole motification for his undertaking to write his gospel?'] On the contrary, what is shown is that all four Gospels were written before the year 70. And indeed, there is no evidence of any sort that will bear examination tending to show that any of the Gospels were written later than about the middle of the century. The challenge to scholars to produce such evidence is hereby presented.  [C. C. Torrey, The Apocalypse of John, New Haven, Conn., 1958, 86, quoting his earlier book, The Four Gospels, New York 21947.]

But before we can even consider that piece of bravado it is necessary to establish some sort of scale of measurement by which the progress of affairs in the Christian church 'about the middle of the century' can be assessed. And the best, indeed the only, way of discovering any fixed points is to turn to the evidence provided by the life and writings of Paul.


The Pauline Epistles

'on the subject of the chronology of St Paul's life originality is out of the question.'  So Lightfoot began his lectures at Cambridge in 1863.  [J. B. Lightfoot, 'The Chronology of St Paul's Life and Epistles', Biblical Essays, 1893, 215-33.  It is remarkable that of the more than 700 pages of Harnack's Chronologie only 7 (233-9) are devoted to the life and letters of Paul, most of which are spent in trying (unsuccessfully I believe) to fix the date of Festus' accession. Other surveys include:  Zahn, WTIll, 450-80; C. H. Turner, 'Chronology of the New Testament: II. The Apostolic Age', HDB I, 415-25; M. Goguel, 'Essai sur la chronologic Paulinienne', RHR 65, 1912, 285-359; D. Plooij, De chronologie van het leven van Paulus, Leiden 1918; K. Lake, 'The Chronology of Acts' in F. J. Foakes Jackson and K. Lake (edd.), The Beginnings of Christianity, 1920-33 (hereafter Beginnings), V, 445-74;  G. B. Caird, 'The Chronology of the New Testament: B. The Apostolic Age', IDB I, 603-7; G. Ogg, The Chronology of the Life of Paul, 1968 (with a bibliography to date); J. J. Gunther, Paul: Messenger and Exile: A Study in the Chronology of his Life and Letters, Valley Forge, Pa., 1972.] It might seem a discouraging start to any re-examination. In fact it is not strictly true. Since then there has been at least one find of major importance for fixing the chronology of St Paul, the discovery of an inscription at Delphi, published in 1905, which enables us to date fairly accurately Gallio's proconsulship of Achaia (Acts 18.12). It has had the effect of shifting Lightfoot's dates a couple of years or so earlier. Moreover, there has been at least one highly original reconstruction of the sequence of events, John Knox's Chapters in a Life of Paul  [John Knox, Chapters in a Life of Paul, New York 1950. Knox's work has been followed up by J. C. Hurd, 'Pauline Chronology and Pauline Theology' in W. R. Farmer, C. F. D. Moule, R. R. Niebuhr (edd.), Christian History and Interpretation: Studies Presented to John Knox, Cambridge 1967, 225-48; and C. Buck and G. Taylor, St Paul: A Study of the Development of his Thought, New York 1969.] - which, ironically, brushes aside the new piece of evidence. [Or rather he locates it in Paul's last visit to Corinth, not (as Acts says) his first.  Buck and Taylor do the same.] Yet the relative fixity of the Pauline datings remains. If we ignore eccentric solutions and the penumbra of disputed epistles, one can say that there is a very general consensus on the dating of the central section of St Paul's ministry and literary career, with a margin of difference of scarcely more than two years either way. This is nowhere near the case with any other part of the New Testament - the gospels, the Acts, the other epistles, the Apocalypse. The Pauline epistles constitute therefore an important fixed point and yardstick, not only of absolute chronology but of relative span, against which to measure other developments.

Having said this, however, it is important to remember Lightfoot's other preliminary warning: 'It may be as well to premise at the outset that as regards the exact dates in St Paul's life absolute certainty is unattainable.' [Ibid.] There is not only a margin of disagreement but a margin of error to be allowed for.  I shall be giving a number of fairly precise-sounding dates, which on balance seem to me the most probable. But the reader should be warned that they are always more specific than the evidence warrants. A shift of a year or two in either direction — and sometimes more - is entirely possible, without the over-all position being affected. Mention may be made in advance of a number of factors which cause uncertainty and allow room for genuine difference of judgment even when (as is rarely the case) the evidence itself is fairly hard. [For further discussion of these factors, which of course affect much more than this chapter, cf. Finegan, HBC.]

1. The sources, Roman, Jewish and Christian, are largely unco­ordinated and share no common canon of chronology such as is presupposed by any modern historian. The evidence, for instance, from Tacitus, Josephus and Acts has to be set together from different systems of time measurement and then reduced to our (quite arbitrary) bc and ad.

2. The actual calendar years begin at a bewilderingly different number of points - e.g. (ignoring internal changes with periods and places) the Jewish in the spring, the Macedonian (which was spread to the Greek-speaking world by the conquests of Alexander the Great) in the autumn, the Julian (the official calendar of the Roman empire and still ours today) in midwinter. (The same applies to the time the day was reckoned to begin, but this is not so relevant to the epistles as to the gospels.)

3. Dates are designated not by the calendar but by the year of office of some king or official. This does not, of course, usually commence neatly with the calendar year. There is the additional uncertainty whether the 'first' year of, say a particular emperor is the residue of that year from the day of his accession (assuming, too, that that follows immediately on the demise of his predecessor) or whether it is counted from the next new year's day. For instance, is what we call ad 55 the second or the first year of Nero, who was proclaimed emperor on 13 October 54?

4. When we are dealing with intervals, there is the uncertainty whether the reckoning is inclusive (with parts of the day or year being counted as wholes) or exclusive. For instance, 'on the third day' (Matt.16.21; Luke 9.22; I Cor.15.4) in all probability means the same as 'after three days' (Mark 8.31), whereas we should say it was 'after two days'. The question arises which usage a particular New Testament writer (e.g. Paul or Luke) is following.

With such latitude it is obviously possible, by taking all the doubt­ful decisions one way, to interpret the same piece of evidence to yield a rather different date from that which would be obtained by taking them all the other way. And when the evidence itself is doubtful or patient of more than one meaning, the divergence can be still greater. Thus it is fairly easy to expand or contract intervals to suit the requirements of a particular theory. Ultimately dating is almost always a matter of assessing the balance of probabilities.

There is one further methodological decision which is of great importance in this area, namely, the credence to be given to the evidence of Acts in relation to that of Paul. There can be no dispute that Paul writing in his own name is the primary witness, and the author of Acts, whom for convenience we shall call Luke (the date and authorship of Acts will occupy us in the next chapter), a secondary witness. When they conflict we are bound to prefer Paul. But most of the time they do not conflict. Indeed Kummel, who does not think Acts could have been written by a companion of Paul  [INT, 184.], says nevertheless that

the sequence of Paul's missionary activities that can be inferred from his letters is so remarkably compatible with the information from Acts that we have good grounds for deriving the relative chronology of Paul's activity from a critical combination of the information from Paul's letters with the account in Acts. [WT, 254, supporting what he calls the convincing proof of T. H. Campbell, 'Paul's "Missionary Journeys" as reflected in his Letters', JBL 74, 1955,80-7.]

So we shall follow the procedure of trusting Acts until proved otherwise and allow this procedure to be tested by the results it yields. [For the general relation of Acts to history, cf., among others, W. M. Ramsay, St Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, 1920; H. J. Cadbury, The Book of Acts in History, New York 1955; E. Trocme, Le 'livre des Actes' et I'histoire, Paris 1957; R. R. Williams, 'Church History in Acts: Is it reliable?' in D. E. Nineham (ed.), Historicity and Chronology in the New Testament, 1965, 145-60; R. P. C. Hanson, Acts (New Clarendon Bible), Oxford 1967, 2-ai; W. W. Gasque, 'The Historical Value of the Book of Acts: An Essay in the History of New Testament Criticism', £(3,41, 1969,68-88; E. Haenchen, Acts, ET Oxford 1971,90-103. For a classical historian's assessment, cf. A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, Oxford 1963, 189: 'For Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming. Yet Acts is, in simple terms and judged externally, no less of a propaganda narrative than the Gospels, liable to similar distortions. But any attempt to reject its basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted.']

We must however recognize that Acts itself is very uneven in the chronological details it supplies - and it is not of course primarily interested in being a chronicle but an account of the Spirit in action. Thus there are some stages of Paul's life that are treated very summarily. The longest stay of his career in one place, in Ephesus, which Acts itself says lasted three years (20.31), occupies but a single chapter (19.2-20.1), whereas the period from Paul's final arrival in Jerusalem to the end of his first court-hearing, which lasted just over a fortnight and where the passage of time is detailed very precisely, [Acts 21.18 ('next day'); 21.26 ('next day'); 21.27 ('before the period of seven days was up'); 22.30 ('the following day'); 23.11 ('the following night'); 23.12 ('when day broke'); 23.32 ('next day'); 24.1 ('five days later').] occupies three and a half chapters (21.17-24.23). We should have no idea from Acts that Paul visited Corinth three times (II Cor.13.1), the second visit having to be fitted somewhere into the thinly covered Ephesian period. This must make arguments from the silence of Acts very precarious, particularly since Acts never mentions Paul writing a single letter and omits all reference to Titus, one of his most constant emissaries. Furthermore, Luke intersperses detailed datings with vague statements such as 'in those days', 'about that period', 'after some (or many) days' or 'for a time'.  [The vague and untranslatable ἱκανός is one of his favourite words.] At least when he generalizes we know it and may treat the indications of time freely; when he does not we may have the more confidence in him.If he discriminates, so can we.

With these preliminary observations, let us first try to get an outline framework of Paul's life into which we can then fit his letters - though naturally the letters also provide primary evidence for the framework.

The most reliable fixed point from which we can work both backwards and forwards is supplied by the inscription to which I have already referred. This enables us to date the proconsulship of Gallio in Achaia, before whom, according to Acts 18.12-17, Paul was summoned towards the end of his first visit to Corinth. With increasing certainty we may say that Gallic entered upon his office in the early summer of 51 [For the text of the inscription, which reproduces a letter from Claudius to the city of Delphi mentioning Gallio, cf. E. M. Smallwood, Documents illustrating the Principates of Gains, Claudius and Nero (no. 376), Cambridge 1967, 105; or briefly C.K. Barrett, The New Testament Background: Selected Documents, 1956, 48f. For the dating, cf. A. Deissmann, Paul: A Study in Social and Religious History, ET 2I926, 261-86; Lake, Beginnings V, 460-4; Finegan, HBC, 316-19; Ogg, op. cit., 104-11; and, for the most recent discussion, A. Plessart, Fouilles de Delphes (Ecole Francaise d'Athenes) III. 4 (nos. 276-350), Paris 1970, 26-32 (especially 31); B. Schwank, 'Der sogenannte Brief an Gallic und die Datierung des I Thess.', BZ. n.f. 15, 1971, 265f.] and that Paul appeared before him soon afterwards, probably in May or June. [That the Jews 'tried their luck' (Deissmann, op. cit., 264) with the new proconsul by bringing Paul before him when Gallio had but recently arrived is, however, only a presumption.] By that time Paul had been in Corinth for at least eighteen months (Acts 18.11) and probably longer - for this period appears to be reckoned from the time of Paul's full-time preaching (18.5) and his residence with Titus Justus (18.7). Prior to that he had lodged and earned a living with Aquila and Priscilla (18.1-4). So his arrival in Corinth is probably to be dated in the autumn of 49. This would fit well with the statement of 18.2 that Aquila 'had recently arrived from Italy because Claudius had issued an edict that all Jews should leave Rome', which is usually dated in 49. [On the authority of Orosius, Hist. adv. pagan. 7.6.15. For the evidence, which is not as firm as one could wish, cf. Lake, Beginnings V, 459f.; Finegan, HBC, 319; Ogg, op. cit., 99-103; Bruce, 'Christianity under Claudius', BJRL 44, 1961-2, 313-18.] To allow for the visits of Acts 15.36-17.34, Paul and Barnabas must have set out from Antioch at least in the early spring of 49. This in turn probably puts the Council of Jerusalem late in 48, allowing for the vaguely defined but apparently quite extensive interval of 15.30-6.

Working backwards from this we find the chronology of Acts, as we might expect, increasingly uncertain. The incidents of 11.27-12.25, introduced by such nebulous time-references as 'during this period' (11.27) and 'about this time' (12.1), appear to be arranged topically rather than chronologically.  The famine of 11.27-30 seems to correspond with that recorded by Josephus [Ant. 20.101.] as coming to its climax in 46 (or perhaps a year earlier or later), [Cf. K. S. Gapp, 'The Universal Famine under Claudius', HTR 28, 1935, 258-65; Lake, Beginnings V, 454f.; Ogg, op. cit., 49-55; Gunther, op. cit., 36-40. K. F. Nickle, The Collection: A Study of Paul's Strategy (SBT 48), 1966, 29-32, puts it as late as 48.] whereas the death of Herod Agrippa I, which Luke relates after it (though he does not make Barnabas and Paul return to Antioch till after Herod's death), occurred in 44. [Josephus, Ant. i9.35of. We shall have occasion later (p. 113 below) to suggest that Luke may also have run together the arrest of Peter and the death of Herod, the former occurring perhaps two years earlier in 42.] If then the famine-relief visit of Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem in Acts 11.30-12.25 is to be dated c. 46, then the first missionary journey described in Acts 13-14 would occupy 47-8,   [Ogg, op. cit., 58-71, estimates this as lasting c. 18 months; but the estimates vary - and are in the last resort only calculated guesses.] with the controversy and council-meeting of Acts 15 coming later in 48.  So far there are no serious problems.

It is when we come to tie up the Acts story with Paul's own statements in Gal. 1-2 that the difficulties begin. There Paul relates two visits to Jerusalem - and two only - to make contact with the apostles. At this point we must give absolute priority to Paul's own account, not merely because he is writing in the first person, whereas Luke is at this stage clearly dependent on sources (and can be shown to be chronologically unreliable), but because Paul is speaking on oath (Gal. 1.20) and any slip or dissimulation on his part would have played into the hands of his opponents. Indeed we may say that the statements of Gal. 1-2 are the most trustworthy historical statements in the entire New Testament.

After first describing his conversion, Paul goes on:

When that happened, without consulting any human being, without going up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before me, I went off at once to Arabia, and afterwards returned to Damascus.

Three years later (ἒπειτα μετὰ τρία ἒτη) I did go up to Jerusalem to get to know Cephas. I stayed with him a fortnight, without seeing any of the other apostles, except James the Lord's brother. What I write is plain truth; before God I am not lying.

Next (ἒπειτα) I went to the regions of Syria and Cilicia, and remained unknown by sight to Christ's congregations in Judaea. ...

Next, fourteen years later (ἒπειτα διὰ δεκατεσσάρων ἐτῶν), I went again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus with us (Gal. 1.17-2.1).

The first question is whether the fourteen years are to be counted from the first visit or from his conversion.  There is no way of being certain, but the natural presumption is that Paul is detailing a sequence (ἒπειτα ... ἒπειτα ... ἒπειτα — exactly as in I Cor.15.5—8)  and that the two intervals of three years and fourteen years are intended to follow on each other. [So Zahn, WTlll, 452, strongly.] Moreover, the 'again' of 2.1, if part of the true text (as it surely is), would naturally refer the reader back to the former visit, not to the conversion. No one, I believe, would begin by supposing otherwise, though once the other way of taking it is suggested there is no way of disproving it.

The second question is whether the reckoning is to be regarded as inclusive or exclusive.  Again we cannot be sure, but Jewish usage would indicate the former. 'After eight days' in John 20.26 is evidently intended to refer to the following Sunday (not Monday), and is rightly rendered in the neb 'a week later'. When Paul says he stayed with Peter for fifteen days (Gal.1.18) the neb is again surely correct in rendering it 'a fortnight'. So we may begin by assuming that 'after three years' means in the third year following, or what we would call after two years. Similarly, 'with the lapse of (διά, cf. Acts 24.17) fourteen years' probably means thirteen years later.

The third question (and much the most difficult) is which visit of Acts it is to which the visit of Gal. 2.1 corresponds. If it is the second (that of Acts 11), then it must have occurred c. 46; if it is the third (that of Acts 15), then it would on our calculation have been in 48. On the assumption that the two intervals are sequential and the reckoning is inclusive, then 13+2 from 46 would bring us back to 31 for Paul's conversion; if from 48, then to 33. Though we cannot be absolutely certain, it looks as if the most likely date for the crucifixion is 30 - the only serious alternative astronomically and calendrically being 33. [The case is argued in detail and I believe convincingly by A. Strobel, 'Der Termin des Todes Jesu', ZNW 51, 1960, 69-101; and independently by Finegan, HBC, 285-301. Gunther, op. cit., 19-24, comes to the same conclusion.] Even on the former dating, 31 would be almost impossibly early for Paul's conversion if all the developments of Acts 1-8 are to be accounted for. [Despite Gunther, op. cit., 168f., who however provides no solid grounds for it.] If then the equation of Gal. 2.1 with Acts 11.30 is preferred, the two intervals have to be run concurrently, bringing the date for the conversion to 33. This is the same date as is reached by equating the visits of Gal. 2.1 and Acts 15 if the intervals are non-concurrent. (Of course if the time-reckoning is not inclusive, or the famine was really before the death of Herod in 44, or the crucifixion was in 33, then the equation with the earlier visit is out of the question.) The initial chronological probability must therefore favour identifying the visit of Gal. 2 with the subsequent council visit of Acts 15.

However, before examining the points for and against this, we may pause to look at the equation of the first visits of all recorded in Gal.1.18-24 and Acts 9.26-30.  There is no serious dispute that these must refer to the same occasion, yet it is worth bearing in mind how divergent the accounts are. Luke suggests that Paul went to Jerusalem direct from Damascus after no great interval (Acts 9.20-6), and indeed from Paul's subsequent account of the matter in Acts 22.17 we could gather that he returned to Jerusalem at once. There is no hint of his going off to Arabia or of a two- to three-year gap. Moreover in Gal.1 he is insistent that he saw only Peter and James and remained unknown by sight to the congregations in Judaea. In Acts 9 he is introduced by Barnabas (who is not mentioned in Gal.1) to the apostles, moves freely about Jerusalem, debating 'openly' with the Greek-speaking Jews; while in 26.20 he says that he turned 'first to the inhabitants of Damascus, and then to Jerusalem and all the country of Judaea' (though Paul himself agrees in Rom. 15.19 that he started his preaching 'from Jerusalem'). Subsequently, according to Acts 9.30 he went to Caesarea and thence direct to Tarsus. According to Gal.1.21 he went to 'the regions of Syria' - presumably including Antioch — 'and Cilicia'.[According to Knox, Chapters, 85, he also visited Galatia, Macedonia, Greece and Asia (and possibly elsewhere) before going up to Jerusalem - but somehow omitted to mention them!] Acts however says that it was much later (11.25f.) - we should gather a year before the famine visit in 46 - that he was fetched by Barnabas from Tarsus to Antioch. None of these discrepancies is fatal or sufficient ground for not identifying the first visit of Galatians with the first of Acts.[P. Parker, 'Once More, Acts and Galatians', JBL 86, 1967, 179-82, equates the first visit of Galatians with the second of Acts, and D. R. de Lacey, 'Paul in Jerusalem', NTS 20, 1973-4, 82-6, the second visit of Galatians with the first of Acts. But neither is convincing.] As Kirsopp Lake, who holds no particular brief for the reliability of Acts, remarks, 'Their disagreement in descriptions is not really any proof that they do not refer to the same things.'[K. Lake, The Earlier Epistles of St Paul, 1911, 273.] But it is a warning against expecting too much coincidence in the accounts of the later visits or dismissing their equation if we do not find it.

Comparing then the details of Gal. 2 with Acts n and 15, what do we find? With Acts 11 the correspondences are not in fact great. [For presentations of this case, cf. Ramsay, St Paul, 48-60; Lake, Earlier Epistles, 274-97; A. W. F. Blunt, Galatians, Oxford 1925, 77-84; Bruce, 'Galatian Problems: i. Autobiographical Data', BJRL 51, 1969, 302-7; Gunther, op. cit., 30-6. For a conspectus of the debate, cf. C. S. C. Williams, Acts (Black's NTC), '957, 24-30; D. Guthrie, Galatians (NCB), 1969, 29-37. C. H. Talbert, 'Again: Paul's Visits to Jerusalem', NovTest 9, 1967, 26, tabulates seven different possible positions. Though I have come down firmly for one in the text, I am aware of the strength of other alternatives.] There Paul and Barnabas go up from Antioch to Jerusalem, but they are alone, they meet none of the apostles, only the elders (Acts 11.30; contrast the repeated 'apostles and elders' of 15.2, 4, 6, 22f), and they are not recorded as having conversations or debate with anyone. Other possible points of convergence are (a) that Paul describes himself as having gone up by 'revelation' (Gal.2.2) and, on the assumption that this means by an inspired utterance (as in I Cor.14.6, 26), it could be a reference to the prophecy of Agabus (Acts 11.28) which gave rise to the visit; and (b) that Gal.2.10 could refer to the famine relief that occasioned it, if Paul's comment on the charge 'remember the poor' is interpreted to mean 'which was the very thing I had made, or was making, it my business to do'. But neither is the obvious translation of the aorist ἐστούδασα which would naturally refer to a resolve from that moment on.[E. de W. Burton, Galatians (ICC), Edinburgh 1921, 115, argues that it positively excludes this interpretation; but cf. to the contrary D. R. Hall, 'St Paul and Famine Relief: A Study in Galatians 2.10', Exp T82, 1970-71,309-11.]  Moreover, the only other reference to 'the poor' at Jerusalem in Paul's epistles is to the collection towards the close of his ministry (Rom.15.26). Since we know he wrote to the Galatians about that (I Cor.16.1), it is natural to take the reference to point forward to it.

With Acts 15 on the other hand, as Lightfoot observed in his extended note on the subject, the correspondences are considerable. [J. B. Lightfoot, Galatians, 1865; <i874, 122-7; cf. H. Schlier, Galater (KEKNT 7), Gottingen "1951, 66-78; Ogg, op. cit., 72-8; Parker, JBL 86, 175-9.] There is the same tension between Judaizing Christians and the church at Antioch over the same issue (the requirement of circumcision), with the same persons (Paul, Barnabas, and Titus in Galatians; Paul, Barnabas and 'some others' in Acts) going up from Antioch to Jerusalem, and back, to meet the same people (James, Peter and John in Galatians; [As we have seen, for whatever reason, Titus is never mentioned by name in Acts.] James, Peter with the apostles and elders in Acts) with the same essential result (recognition of the non­necessity of circumcision, with corollaries for mutual respect and support). The actual meetings described are indeed different; the one is a private consultation, the other a public council, and no attempt should be made to identify the two. Indeed, as Lightfoot pointed out, Paul's own form of expression in Gal.2.2, 'I laid it before them (αὐτοῖς), but privately to the men of repute', 'implies something beside the private conference'. It is simply that the occasion provided by the gathering of so many church leaders gives the opportunity for confirming previous missionary policy toward Gentiles and planning future division of labour. [One of the difficulties in equating Acts 11.30 with Gal.2.2 is that Paul is not recorded as having begun his preaching to Gentiles until Acts 13. But this could be put down to the silence of Acts; and a combination of 11.20 and 25f. might suggest such activity earlier.]The differences of emphasis between the two accounts, from inside and outside, are certainly no greater than the divergences between Paul's and Luke's accounts of the first, post-conversion visit, which have not prevented the vast majority of scholars from equating them. Indeed, as Knox, who is certainly not biased towards harmonizing Acts and the epistles, points out, there can be 'little doubt' that Acts 15 and Gal. 2 describe the same occasion, and 'it seems fair to say that no one would have thought of the possible identification' of the visit of Gal. 2 with that of Acts 11 were it not for other difficulties. [Op. cit., 63.]

For Knox these other difficulties are with 'the usual Pauline chronology' - such as we are following. I am not in fact persuaded of them; but the greatest difficulty for Knox, and therefore the strongest argument for resorting to his reconstruction, turns on another point (the date of Festus' accession) to which we shall come later. Meanwhile there are, of course, very real difficulties for those who (unlike Knox but like myself) wish to fit the visits of Gal.1-2 into the framework of Acts.

The first is why Paul passes over in apparently damaging silence the second visit described by Acts 11.30-12.25. This has led many to excise this visit as unhistorical or as a doublet in Luke's sources of the visit of Acts 15. But this is an arbitrary way of cutting the knot, for which there is no evidence nor indeed other probability (the two visits are, as we have seen, very different in purpose and detail). The most likely reason for Paul's silence is surely that there was no occasion for him to mention this visit. As Lightfoot succinctly stated it years ago,

His object is not to enumerate his journeys to Jerusalem, but to define his relations with the Twelve; and on these relations it had no bearing.

Secondly, it is said, Why does not Galatians refer to the decrees of Acts 15.28f.? One of the corollaries of equating Gal.2 with Acts 11 is that it is possible to date Galatians before the council-visit of 48 and therefore to explain Paul's lack of reference to it. Yet this is not a necessary corollary, and the date of Galatians must be determined, in due course, on its own merits. Indeed, Caird goes so far as to say, 'This rider has done more to discredit than to commend the theory to which it has been attached.' [idB I,606.]  For Paul had no reason to quote the decrees. The decrees presupposed in what they did not say (cf. Acts 15.19: 'no irksome restrictions ... but') the non-necessity of circumcision, on which Paul affirms the concurrence of the Jerusalem apostles (Gal.2.3). What the decrees did say was that when Gentiles and Jews eat together the former must be prepared to make certain concessions to the conscience of the latter. But this is not at issue in Galatians. As Lightfoot put it again,

The object of the decree was to relieve the Gentile Christians from the burden of Jewish observances. It said, 'Concede so much and we will protect you from any further exactions.' The Galatians sought no such protection. They were willing recipients of Judaic rights; and St Paul's object was to show them, not that they need not submit to these burdens against their will, but that they were wrong and sinful in submitting to them.

More explanation indeed is needed for why he does not mention the decrees in I Corinthians and Romans, where he not merely passes them over in silence but actually sets aside the prohibition of eating meat offered to idols (I Cor.10.25-29; Rom.14). The answer of course is that the decrees were devised for a local, predominantly Jewish-Christian church situation 'in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia' (Acts 15.23) - not even for Galatia. In a cosmopolitan city like Corinth or Rome, where the conditions in the markets were very different, they were simply no longer practicable. In Galatians the only reference to meals is not to conditions to be observed when Jews and Gentiles eat together, but to their refusal to do so (Gal.2.11-14). And that for Paul was a matter not of concession but of principle, to which the decrees were irrelevant - quite apart from the fact that, as Lightfoot says again,

by appealing to a decree of a Council held at Jerusalem for sanction on a point on which his own decision as an Apostle was final, he would have made the very concession which his enemies insisted upon.

To sum up, whatever the differences in the accounts - and there is no need to deny or minimize them - I find the case for equating the visits of Gal. 2 and Acts 15 more compelling than any alternative. It also enables us to take the two intervals, 'after three years' and 'after fourteen years', in sequence rather than concurrently. For 33 is certainly a possible date for Paul's conversion - though we are still free to run the intervals together and to put the date later if we wish.[The upper limit is c. 37, if the incident in Acts 9.25 of Paul's escaping from Damascus in a basket is equated, as it must be, with his description of the same thing in II Cor.11.321. under 'the commissioner of king Aretas' and if this occurred just before his going to Jerusalem two (or three) years after his conversion. For Aretas' reign ended in 39 or 40. But the incident could have come earlier.]

We have now sketched what is at least a credible and coherent chronology of Paul's life up to the time of his appearance before Gallio in 51. After that point it is impossible to tell how long a period Luke intended by the 'some (or many) days' (Acts 18.18) that Paul stayed on in Corinth. But there seems no good reason to stretch it to months.[With Ramsay, op. cit., xxxiii-iv, and F. F. Bruce, Acts, 1954, 377; New Testament History, 1969, 301, They make Paul winter in Corinth. But the addition in the Western and Antiochene texts of Acts 18.21 ('I must at all costs keep the approaching feast in Jerusalem'), which makes Paul wish to hasten back in time for Passover (?), is almost certainly secondary.] It looks likely that he was back in Antioch by winter, before setting out once more for Asia Minor - after an unspecified delay (18.23) - when travelling again became possible in the spring.

At this point the Acts narrative enters a thin patch. As we have seen, it is not much help for filling in the three years in Ephesus that it itself requires, quite apart from placing the mass of experiences which Paul relates as having occurred to him by the time of writing II Cor, 11.2 3-2 7 (though these of course are not to be placed exclusively in the Ephesus period):

Are they servants of Christ? I am mad to speak like this, but I can outdo them. More overworked than they, scourged more severely, more often imprisoned, many a time face to face with death. Five times the Jews have given me the thirty-nine strokes; three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I have been shipwrecked, and for twenty-four hours I was adrift on the open sea. I have been constantly on the road, I have met dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my fellow-countrymen, dangers from foreigners, dangers in towns, dangers in the country, dangers at sea, dangers from false friends. I have toiled and drudged, I have often gone without sleep; hungry and thirsty, I have often gone fasting; and I have suffered from cold and exposure.

Then there is the evidence of an additional visit to Corinth and probably to southern Illyricum (or Dalmatia, our Jugoslavia) (Rom.15.19) before Paul returns to Jerusalem for the last time. Since a chronological sequence of events is lacking, it will be best to see if we can set a terminus ad quern for this period and then work backwards. Unfortunately the evidence is nowhere near so firm for the end of it as it is for the beginning.

The crucial date is when Porcius Festus succeeded Felix as procurator of Judaea (Acts 24.27).  This is a fact of Roman history which one might think could be securely established. But unfortunately there is (as yet) no inscription to settle the matter and the testimony of the historians is conflicting and inconclusive. Since, however, much turns on it, it is necessary to examine it in some detail.

There is general agreement that Felix himself had succeeded Cumanus in 52, but Tacitus  [Ann. 12.54.] differs from Josephus [Ant. 20.137; BJ. 2.247.] in saying that by then Felix had already shared the title of procurator with Cumanus for some time.  It is not impossible to harmonize the accounts; but it is agreed that in this matter Josephus is more likely to be right, [So Zahn, INT III, 470; Lake, Beginnings V, 464f.; Ogg. op. cit., 149; Haenchen, Acts, 68-70.] and this throws our first doubt on the accuracy of Tacitus. Josephus is also clear that Felix was recalled under Nero, who had confirmed him in office on his accession as emperor in 54. Later he records that the Jews of Caesarea sent complaints to Nero about him, and 'he would undoubtedly have paid the penalty for his misdeeds against the Jews had not Nero yielded to the urgent entreaty of Felix's brother Pallas, whom at that time he held in the highest honour'. [Ant. 20.182.] Now according to Tacitus [Ann. 13.14.] Pallas fell from office as chief of the imperial treasury at a date that it is possible to calculate as late 55 - though this depends on juggling with discrepancies between Tacitus and Suetonius and is very far from certain. [Cf. Lake, BeginningsV, 466; Ogg, op. cit., 155-8.] So, it is argued, 55 would be the latest date for the recall of Felix if Pallas was to protect him.

Eusebius, in the Latin version of his Chronicle (the Greek original is lost) gives the date of Festus' succession as the second year of Nero, i.e., 56 [Ed. A. Schoene, Eusebii Chronicorum Libri Duo II, Berlin 1866, 152-5-Harnack, Chron., 238, supporting the date of 56, had to admit 'a little error' of one year on Tacitus' part. For whether Harnack changed his mind on this in favour of a later dating, see below p. 91.] - though in the Armenian version it is put in the last year of Claudius (54), which is impossible if, as Eusebius himself agrees in his History, [HE 2.22.I] he also served under Nero.

Now, if Festus arrived as early as 55, then the phrase in Acts 24.27, 'when two years had passed' (διετίας δὲ πληρωθείσης),  must be referred not to Paul's time in prison but to Felix's term of office. For it is agreed that Paul could not possibly have arrived in Jerusalem as early as the summer of 53, [Harnack had no such problem, as, prior to the discovery of the Gallic inscription, he could simply push all the dates two years earlier.] having only set out on his third journey, which included two to three years in Ephesus alone, in the spring of 52. But there are difficulties in taking it this way. Assuming the phrase to mean 'when his two years were up', we have to argue, with Haenchen, that Felix had only two years in office, and that therefore, though appointed in 52, he did not arrive till 53 and left again in 55. Certainly we should not get this impression from Josephus, who records a long list of events, which must have occupied a considerable time, while Felix was procurator, not only before but also after Nero's accession in 54. [Ant. 20. 148-81; BJ 2.248-70.] They include (and that not at the beginning of Nero's reign) the rising of the Egyptian, which according to Acts 21.38 already lay in the past (πρὸ τούτων τῶν ἡμέρων) when Paul was first arrested under Felix. Moreover, though the phrase in Acts 24.27 could refer to Felix's time in office, it is virtually certain that Luke did not intend it to do so, for he has already made Paul congratulate Felix on having administered justice in the province 'for many years' (24.10). In its context too it is much more natural to take it of Paul's stay in prison ('He had high hopes of a bribe from Paul, and for this reason he sent for him very often and talked with him. When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus'). Indeed those who want to interpret it the other way have to say that, while Luke thought it applied to Paul, 'this does not exclude the possibility that a source spoke of a two-year term of office for Felix.' [Haenchen, Acts, 661. It is to be observed how totally hypothetical and insubstantial this statement is.] Yet here we are in the midst of a very detailed section of Acts where Luke shows no sign of relying on second-hand material. The only other recourse, if one is committed to 55, is to say with Knox [Chapters, 66,84f.] that Paul after all did arrive two years earlier in 53, and with that abandon the entire chronological framework of Acts (and the Gallic date) and start again without it. It is however somewhat ironical that the pressure to do this should be occasioned by a moment in Paul's career which is mentioned solely by Acts and whose dating is far less certain than the fixed point which Knox discards. [Cf. the review of Knox by Ogg, "A New Chronology of Saint Paul's Life', ExpT64., 1952-3, 120-3.]

In fact the date 55 rests upon two fairly weak supports. The first is the conclusion that if Felix was saved by the intercession of Pallas it must have been before the latter was dismissed from the treasury, assuming that this was in 55. [Schurer, HJP I, 466; Zahn, /AT III, 473; and Ogg, Chronology, 1581., are convinced that Josephus is simply mistaken on Pallas.] But it is far from certain that this was the decisive turning-point. As Caird says,

It is plain that Nero had always disliked Pallas and intended to dismiss him from the moment he became emperor, so that it is hard to see why Pallas' influence with Nero should have been greater before his dismissal than after it. For Pallas was not disgraced; he was able to make his own terms with Nero, was exempt from the scrutiny normally undergone by retiring Roman officials, and was allowed to keep the vast fortune he had accumulated as secretary of the treasury under Claudius.[IDE I, 604.]

Secondly there is the self-conflicting evidence of Eusebius, though it is highly doubtful if he had anything to go on at this point apart from his reading of Josephus. [Cf. especially Schurer, 'Zur Chronologic des Lebens Pauli', ZWT 41, n.f. 6,1898, 21-42; HJP I, 466.] Caird also adopts an ingenious way of accounting for this. In the Armenian version of the Chronicle Eusebius puts Festus' arrival in the fourteenth year of Claudius and the tenth of Agrippa II. The former, as we have seen, must be wrong, since Eusebius himself was well aware that Felix was recalled by Nero. But, says Caird,

It is a mistake which becomes intelligible if we assume that the second figure was the only one that stood in Eusebius' source. Knowing that Agrippa I had died in 44, Eusebius assumed that 45 was the first year of his son, Agrippa II, and therefore identified the tenth year of Agrippa II with 54, the fourteenth of Claudius. Actually, as we know from Josephus (BJ 2.284), the beginning of Agrippa's reign was reckoned from Nisan I, ad 50, so that his tenth year began on Nisan I, ad 59. There is thus good reason for believing that, according to Eusebius' source, Festus became procurator in the summer of 59. [IDB 1, 604f. Yet this argument, which goes back to Plooij, Chronologic, 60f, and behind him to K. Erbes, 'Die Todestage der Apostel Paulus und Petrus und ihre romischen Denkmaler', TU 19. i, Leipzig 1899, 27, was already criticized by Lake, Beginnings V, 472, on the ground that the shift in years should apply not only to the date of Festus' appointment but also to that of Felix. But this would bring forward the latter into the reign of Nero, which is impossible.]

This would allow him three years in office (59-62), which would match the relatively small space which Josephus devotes to him compared with Felix.[Ant. 20.182-96; 57 2.271.] The older writers gave him still less, opting for 60, though allowing 59 as entirely possible.[Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, 217-20; Schurer, HJP I, 466; Zahn, INT III, 469-78. Ogg, op. cit., 160-70, indeed puts it as late as 61.] 59 is also the date favoured by a number of scholars [A. R. S. Kennedy, 'Palestinian Numismatics', Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly, 1914, 198; Ramsay, St Paul, xiv-xx; Gadbury, Acts in History, 10; Bruce, JVT History, 327; Gunther, Paul, 140!. Goguel and Plooij also opt for 59.] on the grounds that a new issue of provincial coinage for Judaea in the fifth year of Nero may point to a change of procuratorship before October 59. [Cf. F. W. Madden, History of Jewish Coinage, 1864, 153. A. Reifenberg, Ancient Jewish Coins, Jerusalem 2I947, 27, supports this.] Yet this inference is very far from certain. [Pilate became procurator in 26 and as far as we know issued no new coins till 29/30 (Madden, op. cit., 147-9). This point is made by Haenchen, Acts, 71, and Ogg,op.cit., 170.]

From the external evidence the conclusion must be that no firm date can be given. [This was also the outcome of Turner's very careful investigation (HDB I, 417-20). He opted for 58. But he wrote before the Gallic date was fixed.] 59 seems as likely as any other, putting Paul's arrival in Jerusalem at 57. But the actual date must be decided, if we can, from what the New Testament story itself requires. What is methodologically unsound on the evidence before us is to fix an upper limit (as we can fix the lower with a reasonable degree of confidence) and then adjust the material to this Procrustean bed. So, with the ends open, let us then return to the longest and most important stretch of Paul's work represented by what Acts depicts as the third missionary journey.

We left him setting out again for Asia Minor in all probability in the spring of 52 (18.23). [Ogg, op. cit., 132-4, 'assumes' (!) that Paul was ill for the whole of 52 and did not set out till June 53. He then has him spend more than a year in Galatia, reaching Ephesus only in the autumn of 54. But Ogg has an interest in stretching the chronology, as we shall see later that Barrett has an interest in contracting it. There is no objective evidence from Acts - or the epistles - for such a long-drawn-out progress.] Confining ourselves first to the Acts outline, we should conclude that he arrived at Ephesus (19.1); say, in the late summer of 52. He based his teaching on the synagogue there for three months (19.8) before withdrawing his converts and starting daily discussions in the lecture-hall of Tyrannus, which went on for the next two years (19.10). This would bring us, on our chronology, nearly to the end of 54. There is then an undated incident (19.13-20), followed by a typically vague Lukan time-reference:

When things had reached this stage (ὡς δὲ ἐπληρώθη) Paul made up his mind to visit Macedonia and Achaia and then go on to Jerusalem; and he said, 'After I have been there, I must see Rome also'. So he sent two of his assistants, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he himself stayed some time longer (χρόνον) in the province of Asia (19. 21f.).

This is followed by the story of the silversmiths' riot (19.23-41), introduced by the words 'about that time'. This is the same formula used in 12.1 of Herod's action against James and Peter, which we have already had reason to think is misplaced in relation to the famine visit. All we can say therefore is that the riot probably took place towards the end of Paul's stay in Ephesus, perhaps in the first half of 55. In any case further time must be allowed for the dispatch (with the coming of spring ?) of Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia and for Paul's continued stay in Asia, which would bring us naturally to the early summer of 55.  This would fit very well with Paul's assertion to the Ephesian elders at Miletus (20.31) that 'for three years, night and day' he had not ceased to have the most intimate contact with them.

Then, to round off the Acts story as far as Jerusalem, we will follow him from Ephesus:

When the disturbance had ceased, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-bye, and set out on his journey to Macedonia. He travelled through those parts of the country, often speaking words of encouragement to the Christians there, and so came into Greece. When he had spent three months there a nd was on the point of embarking for Syria, a plot was laid against him by the Jews, so he decided to return by way of Macedonia (20.1-4).

He set sail from Philippi after the Passover season (20.6), making all speed so as 'to be in Jerusalem, if he possibly could, on the day of Pentecost' (20.16) - and there is no reason to suppose that he did not achieve his object.

For the journey from Philippi onwards we are in a narrative recounted by Luke in the first person plural (20.6-21.18) and the notes of time are characteristically precise. But prior to that there is no indication of time apart from the three months' stay in Greece (i.e., Achaia). From Acts alone there would be nothing to suggest that if Paul left Ephesus for Macedonia in the summer of 55 he should not have reached Corinth by the end of that same year, left the following March, and arrived in Jerusalem in May 56.

But at this point we must turn to the evidence of Paul himself, and in particular that of the Corinthian correspondence which covers much of this period.

First it is important to notice how it confirms as well as supplements (and stretches) the Acts framework. In II Cor.1.19 Paul speaks to the Corinthians of the gospel which he had originally proclaimed to them, adding 'by Silvanus and Timothy, I mean, as well as myself. This strikingly confirms Acts 18.5 when Silas (Silvanus) and Timothy join Paul in preaching at Corinth for eighteen months on his first visit to the city. It is significant too that Paul does not mention Apollos in this connection, who according to Acts 18.20-19.1 arrived in Corinth only after Paul's first visit. II Cor.11.7-9 taken with I Thess.2.2; II Thess.3.1, 6; and Phil.4.15f. also confirm the sequence of Acts 16.12-18, viz. Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth. [Cf. Campbell,JBL, 74,82f.]

Paul himself also speaks of his intention to revisit Corinth via Macedonia, having already sent Timothy ahead to prepare the way; and the details and timing again fit well with the plan outlined in Acts 19.2 if. In I Cor. 16.5-11 he says:

I shall come to Corinth after passing through Macedonia - for I am travelling by way of Macedonia - and I may stay with you, perhaps even for the whole winter, and then you can help me on my way wherever I go next. I do not want this to be a flying visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I shall remain at Ephesus until Whitsuntide, for a great opportunity has opened for effective work, and there is much opposition.

If Timothy comes, see that you put him at his ease; for it is the Lord's work that he is engaged upon, as I am myself; so no one must slight him. Send him happily on his way to join me, since I am waiting for him with our friends.

Earlier Paul had made it clear that he had planned for Timothy to go as far as Corinth, and he promised: 'I shall come very soon, if the Lord will' (4.17-19). At this stage he had evidently not finally decided whether to accompany the bearers of the collection to Jerusalem himself: 'If it should seem worth while for me to go as well, they shall go with me' (16.31.); and he leaves his further destination open: 'You can help me on my way wherever I go next' (16.6). Indeed there is a tentativeness about his plans ('If the Lord permits', 'if the Lord will') which suggests that in Acts 19.2 if. Luke is summarizing in the light of subsequent events. Nevertheless there can be little doubt that I Corinthians was written in the spring of Paul's last year in Ephesus, round about Easter-time, which the references to Passover in 5.7f. would support:

The old leaven of corruption is working among you. Purge it out, and then you will be bread of a new baking, as it were unleavened Passover bread. For indeed our Passover has begun; the sacrifice is offered - Christ himself. So we who observe the festival must not use the old leaven, the leaven of corruption and wickedness, but only the unleavened bread which is sincerity and truth.

Paul plans to stay on in Ephesus till Pentecost in the early summer, by which time Timothy should be back to report on the situation he has found. So far all is straightforward.

Then the upsets begin. For some reason or other (perhaps because of Timothy's report) Paul apparently changed his original plan, and then later went back on the second - though the details are far from certain.[The best recent discussion is by C. K. Barrett, II Corinthians (Black's NTC), 1973, introduction and ad locc. I find his general solution convincing, though his time-table intolerably constricted.] In II Cor.1.15f. he says,

I had intended to come first of all to you and give you the benefit of a double visit. I meant to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and after leaving Macedonia, to return to you, and you would then send me on my way to Judaea. [It could mean 'I had originally intended to come to you' (neb margin), but this would not explain the double visit.]

In other words, instead of going to Corinth via Macedonia (as proposed in I Cor.16.5) he had decided to go to Corinth direct (by sea), then do his work in Macedonia, and return to Corinth (by land) en route for Jerusalem, which was by that stage fixed in his mind as his next destination. It is fairly clear that he did pay the first of these two visits (his second in all), since in II Cor.12.14 and 13.1f. he speaks of his second visit and says that his next will be his third. It is also clear that he abandoned the plan to come straight back to Corinth after his work in Macedonia. 'It was out of consideration to you', he says in II Cor.1.23, 'that I did not come again to Corinth'; [οὐκέτι. The neb's 'after all' suggests that he never paid the visit at all, which is contradicted by II Cor.13.2.] for, he explains later, 'I made up my mind that my next visit to you must not be another painful one' (2.1). In place of the visit he wrote them a letter, 'out of great distress and anxiety' (II Cor.2.3), which, he says, he does not now regret, even though he may have done so (7.8). [Lightfoot and earlier commentators identified this letter with I Corinthians, but it is almost universally agreed that it does not fit its tone. Lightfoot indeed put the second visit to Corinth in Paul's first year at Ephesus, prior even to the 'previous letter' mentioned in I Cor.5.9 (Biblical Essays, 222). But then it is surely incredible that this visit should have left no trace in I Corinthians.] It is not clear from where he wrote the letter, but evidently it had been sent via Titus, whose report on its effect Paul awaited anxiously (2.13). By that time he was in the Troad (τὴν Τρωάδα, not simply Troas), in north-west Asia minor (2.12). How he got there -via Macedonia, as planned, or from Ephesus — we do not know. He went there to preach the gospel, and a considerable opening beckoned him, but because he could find no relief of mind he 'took leave of the people there and went off to Macedonia' (2.13). This appears to be the departure, however spun out, that Acts refers to in 20.1, though of course Acts records no intermediate visit to Corinth. By that time it must have been autumn at least, and it has been convincingly suggested that Paul waited at Troas for as long as there was hope that Titus might still arrive there by boat from Corinth. [W. L. Knox, St Paul and the Church of the Gentiles, Cambridge 1939, 144; Bruce, NT History, 315.] When winter put an end to shipping across the Aegean it was clear that he would be coming by land. So Paul set out to meet him.  Yet, he says,

Even when we reached Macedonia there was still no relief for this poor body of ours: instead, there was trouble at every turn, quarrels all round us, forebodings in our heart (7.5).

Eventually, however, Titus did arrive, and with joyful news (7.6f.), which made Paul write off to Corinth again from Macedonia (9.2). He sent Titus back (8.6, 17), presumably with the letter and certainly with two other 'brothers' (8.18-24), to complete the collection which earlier he had initiated (8.6) and which Paul had told the Macedonians was ready (as it should have been) 'last year' (8.10; 9.2). Clearly by now we are in the year following the instructions which Paul had given concerning this in I Cor.16.1-3 - and there seems little point in seeking to argue (with Barrett) that, since the new year (in all probability on Paul's calendar) began in the autumn, II Corinthians could have been written in the October of what to us is the same year (55). Rather, Paul appears to be writing in the first part of 56. And he promises to come again himself when time has been given for the collection to be prepared (9.4f.).

It remains to ask whether he fulfilled this promise at once or after yet further delay. This depends on the relation we believe II Cor.10-13 to bear to II Cor.1-9. Many have felt that its tone is so different that the two sections cannot form continuous parts of the same letter. It has often indeed been suggested with much plausibility that chs.10-13 are a part of the severe or sorrowful letter which Paul sent earlier. Yet in 12.14 and 13.1 he says in no uncertain terms that he is intending to visit the Corinthians, whereas the earlier letter had explained why he was not coming (2.3). Moreover, it looks as if the reference in 12.17, 'I begged Titus to visit you and I sent our brother with him', must be to the same mission mentioned in 8.17-24. The only question is whether in each case the aorist is an epistolatory aorist (meaning 'I am sending') or whether (as the neb takes it) in the second passage Paul is now looking back, in a separate and subsequent letter, on this previous mission. In this case we have to assume, with Barrett, [So too, Bruce, I and II Corinthians (NCB), 1971, 166-70.] that there was further trouble and that Paul writes yet again, threatening this time to come and deal with the situation unsparingly (13.2, 10). There is no need for us here to decide this question. But if we do posit an interval between the two sections of II Corinthians, then the second part must come from yet later in 56. It becomes the more incredible that everything can be fitted into the previous year, if Paul is to have three months in Achaia before leaving for Jerusalem in March. It appears far more likely that most of 56 was spent in Macedonia and 'those parts' (Acts 20.1) and that this was also the occasion when, as he reports in Romans, Paul 'completed the preaching of the gospel ... as far round as Illyricum' (Rom.15.19). For 'now', he says, he has no further scope in these parts (Rom.15.23) and can thus press on beyond, as previously he had hoped to do (II Cor.10.15f.). But first he must go to Corinth to 'finish the business' of the collection before delivering it under his own seal to Jerusalem (Rom.15.28). Even then he was prevented by a plot of his Jewish opponents from sailing direct (Acts 20.3), but accompanied by the delegates of the congregations (Acts 20.4; cf. II Cor.8.18-24) he set off once more through Macedonia.

It looks therefore as if we should allow a further year for Paul's final preparations than the bare summary of Acts 20.2 would suggest. [Plooij, Ogg and Bruce agree.] He writes to the Romans in 15.22 that he has been 'prevented all this time' from coming to them, and certainly he would appear to have run up against frustrating delays and changes of plan of which Acts gives no hint. Only when the Acts narrative once again supplies a detailed timetable, as it does from 20.6 to the end, may we safely assume that there are no substantial gaps.

If then we may conclude that Paul probably arrived in Jerusalem for the last time at the end of May 57, the next period of his career is fairly certain. Matters came rapidly to a head. Within twelve days (Acts 24.11), or a little longer, [See n. 9 above.] he had been arrested, tried, and remanded in jail at Caesarea, where he was to stay for two years (24.23-27) till the arrival of the new procurator provided occasion for his case to be reopened. As we saw earlier, the date of this cannot be fixed with certainty from the external sources, but the possible, if not probable, date of 59 fits precisely. Within a fortnight of Festus taking up his appointment (25.1, 6) Paul is in court again and, threatened with being returned to Jerusalem, makes his dramatic appeal to Caesar (25.9-12). A further appearance before Agrippa and Bernice follows, after an interval of' some days' (25.13f., 23). There is no precise indication of when Paul was finally put on board for Italy (27.1), but evidently it was (as we should expect) in the late summer. 'Much time' had already been lost by the time they were in Crete (27.9) and with the equinoctial gales the 'danger season' for sailing had begun (September 14-November 11). [Vegetius, De rei milit. 4. 39.] Indeed 'even (καὶ) the Fast' (i.e. the Day of Atonement) had passed - or the Fast 'as well' as the equinox (September 23 or 24), which was reckoned to be the last safe day for shipping. [Caesar, Bell. Gall. 4.36; 5.23.] It has convincingly been argued that this may also afford some confirmation of the year. [W. P. Workman, 'A New Date-Indication in Acts', ExpT n, 1899-1900, 316-19. Plooij, op. cit., 86-8; Bruce, Acts, 506; and Gunther, op. cit., 141, support this.] For there would have been no point in this further time-reference if the Day of Atonement was not late that year or at any rate later than the equinox. Of the years in question only 59 really fits, when it fell on October 5. [The only other possible year is 57, when it fell on September 27. In 61, which Ogg favours, it was as early as September 12, when the danger season had not even begun. He admits this, but slurs over it.] Moreover unless they did not leave Crete till well into October, taking something over a fortnight (27.13-28.1) to reach Malta in November, a three months' stay in Malta (?November, December, January) would not have been sufficient to see the winter out.  Even so it is difficult to stretch it to March 10, when Vegetius says the seas opened [De rei milit. 4. 39.], though Pliny allows that sailing could start from February 8. [Nat. hist. 2.47.] In any case 'after three months' (28.11) must be taken to mean what it means for us and not 'after two months' - and this may provide a key to Luke's usage in similar statements of interval when we are in no position to check him (e.g. 24.1; 25.1; 28.13, 17). A further two to three weeks were to see them in Rome. There, from the spring of 60 to the spring of 62, Paul spent two full years (28.30) under open arrest. Beyond that we cannot go with any certainty, though we shall return to the discussion later. [Pp. 140-150 below.]

At this point we may summarize our conclusions about the outline of Paul's career, remembering that the absolute datings cannot be more than approximate:




First visit to Jerusalem


Second (famine-relief) visit to Jerusalem


First missionary journey


Council of Jerusalem


Second missionary journey


Third missionary journey


Arrival in Jerusalem


Imprisonment in Caesarea


Imprisonment in Rome.

Within this framework let us now try to fit his letters.

/ Thessalonians.  According to I Thess.3.6 Paul is writing just after Timothy arrived from Thessalonica, whither Paul had sent him when he was in Athens (3.1f.). According to Acts 18.5 Timothy and Silas rejoined Paul in Corinth. The presumption therefore is that the letter was written by Paul, with the other two (1.1), from Corinth towards the beginning of the eighteen-month period that ended in the summer of 51 (Acts 18.11).  Acts however elides two journeys of Timothy.  He and Silas had been left behind in Beroea with instructions to join Paul with all speed at Athens, where he waited for them (17.15f.). Evidently they (or Timothy at least) did do this, but were then sent back to Thessalonica.  By the time they returned Paul had moved on to Corinth and set up with Aquila. Once again Acts appears to summarize more complex travels, but the overall situation is not in doubt. Precisely how long an interval is required after Paul's original visit to Thessalonica in the summer of 49 is disputed; but neither Kummel [INT, 257-60.], nor Ernest Best [E. Best, I and II Thessalonians (Black's NTC), 1972, 7-13.], who take into account all the most recent scholarship on the matter, sees reason to question the traditional placing. We may therefore accept early 50 as the most probable date for the Epistle.

II Thessalonians.  To go into the challenges that have been made to the authenticity and integrity of this epistle and to its order in relation to I Thessalonians would take us far afield. The arguments are set out in all the commentaries. Suffice it here to say again that, after full examination of all the theories, both Kummel [INT, 263-9.] and Best [Op. cit., 37-59.] come down decisively in favour of the traditional view that Paul wrote II Thessalonians, with Silas and Timothy (1.1), from Corinth within a short time of I Thessalonians, either late in 50 or early in 51.  The hypothesis of pseudonymity, despite the authentication of the personal signature in 3.17, would require a date at the end of the first century. Yet, as Kummel says, 2.4  ('he ... even takes his seat in the temple of God') 'was obviously written while the temple was still standing'. [The authenticity of II Thessalonians is defended by F. W. Beare, IDB IV, 626, even though he would question both Ephesians and I Peter and is doubtful about Colossians.] There is no sound reason for not accepting the usual dating. [The attempt by Buck and Taylor, St Paul, 146-62, to establish absolute dates for Pauline chronology, not from Gallic, but from placing II Thess.a.i-12 three and a half years (as in Dan.12.11-13) after Caligula's frustrated attempt to set up his statue in the temple, i.e. in 44 (with I Thessalonians in 46) is so subjective as to be almost unanswerable.]

/ Corinthians. We have already argued that this was written from Ephesus about Passover-time (March-April) when Paul had been nearly three years in Ephesus and was beginning to make plans to move on. There is wide agreement that this must, as we have reckoned, have been in 55. [Thus, summarizing other scholarship, C. S. C. Williams, PCB, 954; S. M. Gilmour, IDB I, 692.] It is surprising therefore that Barrett makes it 54 or even 53. [C. K. Barrett, I Corinthians (Black's NTC), 1968, 5; II Corinthians, 4f.] The reason becomes clear when we realize that he is one of those who is convinced that everything must be adjusted to allow Paul to appear before Festus in 55. (He cannot of course have arrived in Jerusalem by 53, so the 'two years' of Acts 24.27 have, as we have seen, on this view to be referred to Felix.) Barrett agrees that Paul came to Ephesus in the late summer of 52, but he has to make him leave again by the early summer of 54. He argues that the 'three years' of Acts 20.31 is not inconsistent with the two years and three months of 19.8 and 10. But it is difficult to see how it can be consistent with less than two years - quite apart from the fact that the two dated spells in Acts do not claim to cover all Paul's time at Ephesus (cf. 19.22). It seems much easier to take the space of 'three years, night and day' to mean what it says and put I Corinthians in the spring of 55. Barrett has subsequently to compress all the further journeys and letters of Titus and Paul to Corinth and the work in the Troad and Macedonia (let alone Illyricum) into the remaining months of the same year - and this despite the fact that he believes that II Cor.10-13 reflects yet further trouble and a fifth letter in all. It is more natural to reckon that his dealings with the church there dragged on well into 56 and the early part of 57.

II Corinthians. The first part of this epistle at any rate (i.e. chs.1-9) is written from Macedonia, in all probability in the early part of 56. If chs.10-13 belong to a subsequent letter, then they must come from later that same year, shortly before Paul descends upon Corinth for the last time to winter there (13.1-10). In any case we can safely place the whole of II Corinthians in 56.

Romans. Paul is writing shortly before setting off for Jerusalem (15.25), while staying with Gaius in Corinth (16.23; cf. I Cor. 1.14) and completing the work on the collection (15.26-8). It can confidently be dated during the three months spent in Achaia (Acts 20.3), early in 57.[Notwithstanding J. R. Richards, 'Romans and I Corinthians: Their Chronological Relationship and Comparative Dates', NTS 13, 1966-7, 14-30.] The only issue is whether the final ch.16 is part of the letter sent to Rome or, as many have argued,  a covering letter for dispatching a version of it at the same time to Ephesus. [E.g. T. W. Manson, 'The Letter to the Romans', Studies in the Gospels and Epistles, Manchester 1962, 225-41.]  As this does not affect the date, it is not directly our concern. But since the destination of the chapter determines the use of its material elsewhere, I simply register my conviction, with that of most recent commentators, that, despite the evidence of textual dislocation, it belongs to Rome with the rest of the Epistle. [E.g. C. H. Dodd, Romans (Moffatt NTC), 1932; C. K. Barrett, Romans (Black's NTC), 1937; and even J. C. O'Neill, Romans (Pelican NTC), Harmondsworth 1975, who believes that remarkably little else is an original part of the epistle. So too, Kummel, INT, 314-20.]

Galatians presents much more uncertainty. The view that we have taken that the visit to Jerusalem in Gal.2 corresponds to the council visit of 48 means that it cannot be written before that date. There would in any case be no initial reason to think that it was, since the closest contacts of the epistle are with II Corinthians and still more with Romans. It is however difficult to be more precise. We do not even know for certain the location of the recipients, whether in the Roman province of Galatia, which included the churches in Pisidia and Lycaonia founded on Paul's first missionary journey (Acts 13-14) and revisited on the second (16.1-5), or the territory of Galatia further north (which could be referred to in 16.6 and 18.23.) [For a balanced survey of the arguments, cf. Guthrie, NTI, 450-7.] The weight of scholarly opinion appears to favour the former, [Cf. F. F. Bruce, 'Galatian Problems: North or South Galatians?', BJRL 52, 1970,243-66.] with which on balance I would side, though Kummel [INT, 296-8.] and J. A. Fitzmyer [J. A. Fitzmyer, Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1968, 236f.] still argue for the latter view, championed by Lightfoot. [Galatians, 18-31. Similarly, strongly, Moffatt, ILNT, 90-101.] Fortunately we do not have to decide this issue for the purposes of dating, since both options remain open unless we wish to put Galatians before the council of Jerusalem and therefore before the second missionary journey. If in Gal. 4.13, as is probably the contrast intended in II Cor.1.15, τὸ πρότερον means 'on the first of my two visits' (rather than simply 'formerly' or 'originally', as it certainly could mean), then the epistle must be written at least after the visit of Acts 16.6 (in 49), if not after that of 18.23 (in 52). [To refer the second visit to the return journey in 14.21-23 is possible, though forced.] The reference in Gal. 1.6 to the Galatians having turned 'so quickly' (ταχέυς) from the true gospel is sometimes taken as an argument in favour of an earlier rather than a later date. But such an expression, even if it has a temporal sense and does not mean 'hastily' or 'suddenly' (cf. II Peter 2.1), is highly relative.

The undoubted affinities with II Corinthians and Romans, [Cf. Lightfoot, Galatians, 44-50; C. H. Buck, 'The Date of Galatians', JBL 70, 1951, 113-22; Buck and Taylor, op. cit., 82-102.] though certainly not decisive for dating, have inclined the majority of scholars who do not wish for other reasons to put Galatians back in 48 to place it either during Paul's time in Ephesus (52-5) or between II Corinthians and Romans, perhaps on his travels in northern Greece, in 56. [So e.g. Moffatt, ILNT, 102; Sanders, PCB, 973; Fitzmyer, JBC, 237.] The greeting in 1.2, 'I and the group of friends now with me', perhaps suggests that Paul is not writing from an established Christian congregation like Ephesus or Corinth, and there are no personal messages at the end (contrast I Cor. 16.191. and Rom.16). It is more like what we find in II Corinthians (written in Macedonia), where he simply sends greetings from 'all God's people' (13.13). Again, though he longs to be with the Galatians (Gal. 4.20), he appears to be in no position even to propose a visit - and this would, on balance, count against a place so accessible as Ephesus. A further possible pointer may be found in I Cor.16.1: 'About the collection in aid of God's people: you should follow my directions to our congregations in Galatia.' Clearly our epistle to the Galatians contains no such directions and it must either have been written before the project (i.e., well prior to I Corinthians) or later on.  In favour of the latter there is one of the parallels between Galatians and II Corinthians. In II Cor. 9.6 Paul says, in relation to the collection, 'Remember, sparse sowing, sparse reaping; sow bountifully, and you will reap bountifully'. In Gal. 6.7-10 he writes:

Make no mistake about this: God is not to be fooled; a man reaps what he sows. ... So let us never tire of doing good, for if we do not slacken our efforts we shall in due time reap our harvest. Therefore, as opportunity offers, let us work for the good of all, especially members of the household of the faith.

It is possible (though no more than possible) that Paul is here reproving the Galatians for their lack of liberality in the same cause.

I would conclude therefore, with Lightfoot and others, that Galatians most probably comes from the period between II Corinthians and Romans, which we have already argued covers most of 56. [Galatians, 36-56; E. H. Askwith, The Epistle to the Galatians: An Essay on its Destination and Date, 1899, a valuable and forgotten book which combines this dating (as I would) with a south Galatian destination and an identification of the visits of Gal. 2 and Acts 15; Buck, J.B.Z, 70,113-22; C. E. Faw, 'The Anomaly of Galatians', BR 4,1960,25-38.]  But this conclusion is much less sure than that for the other epistles so far discussed.  Indeed Knox has suggested that, so far from being the first of Paul's writings, it may have been among the last, written from prison. [IDB II, 342f.; cf. Hurd in Farmer, Moule and Niebuhr, Christian History, 241-3.]  However, the absence of the slightest reference to his 'bonds' (particularly in a letter which has so much to say about freedom) makes this very arbitrary. Yet it is a salutary warning. For Philippians, which carries the same greeting, 'the brothers who are now with me' (Phil.4.21; cf. Gal.1.2), and which many have put last of all, has equally forcibly been argued to come from the period of Paul's Ephesian ministry (where indeed Knox puts it) because of its common themes with Galatians, Corinthians and Romans.

This brings us to the so-called captivity epistles, and we may start with Philippians, which, it is generally agreed, stands apart from the other three, Colossians, Philemon and (assuming its authenticity) Ephesians. The dating of all these is almost entirely dependent on the judgment made about their place of writing. Three locations have been canvassed, Ephesus (52-5),  Caesarea (57-9) and Rome (60-2), and none has finally prevailed over the others. Rome has been the traditional one for all four, but many scholars have wished to discriminate and allocate different letters to different places. It will be well to say at the beginning of the discussion that complete certainty cannot be established on the evidence available and that it is a matter of assessing probabilities. Whatever conclusions we finally reach, other alternatives cannot be ruled out.

With regard, then, to Philippians, we may note that of all the captivity epistles this is the one for which the hypothesis of an Ephesian origin has won greatest support. [Cf. e.g. the survey by Bruce, 'The Epistles of Paul', PCB, 9321.; and Guthrie, JV77, 149: 'There is a much greater inclination to attribute Philippians than the other Captivity Epistles to Ephesus.' For the Ephesian hypothesis in general, cf. especially W. Michaelis, Die Gefangenschaft des Paulus in Ephesus und der Itinerar des Tinotheus, Gutersloh 1925; Die Datierung des Philipperbriefs, Giitersloh 1933; G. S. Duncan, St Paul's Ephesian Ministry, 1929. On the other side, C. H. Dodd, 'The Mind of Paul: II', New Testament Studies, Manchester 1953, 85-108; Guthrie, JV77,472-8. It is notable that Dodd does not even consider the alternative of Caesarea.] Indeed it can at first sight be fitted neatly into the Acts narrative at this point.  In Phil. 2.19-24 Paul says that he hopes to send Timothy soon, confident that he himself will come before long. In Acts 19.22 he sends Timothy and Erastus ahead of him to Macedonia, of which Philippi was 'a city of the first rank' (Acts 16.12), while he stays on for a time in Asia. Referring apparently to the same situation, Paul speaks in I Cor.16.5-11 of Timothy having gone before him to Corinth. And he will wait in Ephesus for his return, just as in Phil.2.19 he hopes that Timothy will bring him news of the church at Philippi. [Kummel correctly points out, INT, 330f., that Paul himself does not say that he is sending Timothy to Corinth via Macedonia (only that he is planning to come that way himself) and that Acts 19.22 does not indicate that Paul expects Timothy back before his own departure. But these would be negligible differences if every­thing else fitted.] On the other hand, there is not the slightest hint in Acts or I Corinthians that Paul is or has been in prison. On the contrary, he is a free agent planning his future travels (Acts 19.21; I Cor.16.6-8) and fully stretched by his evangelistic opportunities (I Cor.16.9). He sends greetings from the churches of Asia and from Aquila and Prisca and the congregation at their house (I Cor.16.19). The cri de coeur of Phil.2.20, that, apart from Timothy,

there is no one else here who sees things as I do and takes a genuine interest in your concerns; they are all bent on their own ends, not on the cause of Christ Jesus,

fits neither Acts 19.22, 'he sent two of his assistants, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia', nor I Cor.16.11f., 'I am waiting for him with our friends' (who include Apollos).

Of course, it is always possible to say that the imprisonment of Paul and the sending of Timothy occurred independently, before or after the events of which we have record. But this merely exposes the main weakness of the hypothesis of an Ephesian captivity, that it rests on no direct evidence whatsoever - merely unspecified references to φυλακαί in II Cor.6.5; 11.23 and Rom.16.7 (cf. I Clem.5.6, which mentions seven imprisonments of Paul). No description of Paul's many troubles and dangers in Ephesus or Asia (Acts 19.23-20.1; I Cor.15.32; 16.9; II Cor.1.8f.; and [perhaps] Rom.16.3f.) includes imprisonment. Moreover, the imprisonment referred to in Philippians must have been an extended one (1.13f.) (and based on a capital charge, 2.17) - having lasted long enough even by the time of writing for the Christians in Philippi to have heard about it and sent Epaphroditus with relief, and then for Epaphroditus to have recovered from a near fatal illness, of which they had also had time to get news (2.25-30).

Another difficulty is that in Philippians there is no reference whatever to the collection for the poor, in which Macedonia was so prominent (II Cor.8.1-5; 9.1-4; Rom.15.26f.). On the contrary, stress is laid upon the Philippians' collection for Paul's personal needs (Phil. 2.25, 30; 4.10-19), which he is especially sensitive to dissociate from the other collection (II Cor.8.i6-24; 12.13-18; Acts 20.33-35). It looks then as if Philippians must come from a period well before or well after the project that occupied so much of Paul's time and thought in the two years (at least) prior to 57. And if it came before it must be well prior to the spring of 55, when the Corinthians are already assumed to know about the collection (I Cor.16.1-4). This scarcely fits the impression which we get from Philippians that Paul's relations with that church have by then extended over many years (1.5; 4.10f., 15f.). Nor does it comport with his expressed desire for death (1.20-26), which is very different from what he is looking forward to even in Romans. It seems altogether easier to place it later.

The only advantages indeed of an Ephesian locale for Philippians would seem to be: (a) the affinity of language with the other epistles in the central section of Paul's ministry. But the parallels are spread amongst all the Pauline epistles; [Cf. C. L. Mitton, The Epistle to the Ephesians, Oxford 1951, 322-32.] and, as with Galatians, this is a fairly uncertain criterion. (b) The shorter distance required for the journeys described to and from Philippi (Phil. 2.19-30). But it is generally conceded that this latter cannot be decisive. For the rest, the references to the praetorium in 1.13 and the servants of the imperial establishment ('Caesar's household') in 4.22, though not impossible in Ephesus, point more obviously to Rome or Caesarea.

Certainly these latter two references would seem to favour Rome, though again it is agreed even by the advocates of this hypothesis that they cannot be decisive. Indeed, if it is in Rome, then the phrase ἐν ὃλω τῶ πραιτωρίω must be taken, with Lightfoot, [J. B. Lightfoot, Philippians, 31873, 97-102.] to refer to the members of the Praetorian guard, whom Paul it is supposed influenced by rota, and not a building - since according to Acts 28.30 he is in his own hired lodging. This is not however how it is used anywhere else in the New Testament (Matt.27.27; Mark 15.16; John 18.28, 33; 19.9; Acts 23.35). An alternative is to say that it refers to a later stage in Paul's Roman captivity when he has been moved into the praetorium to stand trial - though Lightfoot insisted that 'in Rome itself a "praetorium" would not have been tolerated'. But then we lose all contact with the evidence and can invent any circumstance that suits us (as at Ephesus).

In Caesarea, [For this case, cf. E. Lohmeyer, Philipper (KEKNT 9), Gottingen 81930, 3f., i4f., 41; L. Johnson, 'The Pauline Letters from Caesarea', ExpT68, 1956-7, 24-6; Gunther, op. cit., 98-107.] on the other hand,  Paul is specifically said to be in the praetorium of Herod's palace, the headquarters of the procurator of Judaea (Acts 23.55).  Moreover, the sense of Phil. 1.16f. is correctly rendered in the neb by 'as I lie in prison'. He is in jail. And yet, according to Acts 24.23, Felix 'gave orders to the centurion to keep Paul under open arrest [ἂωεσις (cf. Josephus, Ant. 18.235) 'apparently means leave to communicate with friends and receive food' (Lake and Cadbury, Beginnings IV, 304).] and not to prevent any of his friends from making themselves useful to him' - a statement which fully fits the description of his conditions in Phil. 2.25-30; 4.10-19. Furthermore a hearing has already taken place (1.7), which suits the situation at Caesarea following the appearance before Felix; but by the time Acts ends there has been no hearing in Rome. It has been objected that at Caesarea Paul was not facing the possibility of death, since he could always appeal to Caesar. Yet it is constantly made clear that his life is in danger from the Jews (Acts 21.31, 36; 22.22; 23.30; 25.3, 24; 26.21), a fate from which he is protected only by Roman custody. If he had really brought a Greek into the temple, then, even as a Roman citizen, he would under Jewish law have been liable to death. In fact he says to Festus, 'If I am guilty of any capital crime, I do not ask to escape the death penalty' (25.11). Yet he knows, like the authorities, that he is innocent of this (23.29; 25.10, 25; 26.31; 28.18) and therefore has every ground for expecting discharge (26.32) - which, it is suggested, he could have bought at any time (24.26). His appeal to the emperor is only a last desperate recourse when it looks as if Festus is going to hand him back as a sop to the Jews (25.11). At the time of writing to the Philippians his confidence was that he would be alive and free to visit them once more (Phil. 1.24-26; 2.24) on his projected journey back west (Rom. 1.13; 15.23-29; Acts 19.21; 23.11). That he had any plans for returning east from Rome is entirely hypothetical - though of course we can never prove that he did not change his mind. The only evidence is for journeys further west still, whether planned or accomplished.

Further support for Caesarea as the place of writing is the bitter polemic in Phil. 3.1-11 against the Jews, who are much more fiercely attacked even than fellow-Christians who betray the gospel (1.15-18; 3.18f.).  This fits the fanatical and unrelenting Jewish opposition Paul encountered in Jerusalem and Caesarea (Acts 21.37-26.32; cf. 28.19). There may have been such bitterness later in Rome, but the only evidence we have is of Jews who are conspicuously fair to Paul, even if sceptical and obtuse (28.21-28).

I would agree therefore with Kummel [1NT, 329.] in thinking that Caesarea as the place of origin for Philippians has been too quickly abandoned, and it is certainly preferable to Ephesus. Rome has little to be said against it, precisely because the evidence is so thin. Reicke, who argues, as we shall see, strongly for the Caesarean locale of the other captivity epistles, still places Philippians in Rome. [B. Reicke, 'Caesarea, Rome and the Captivity Epistles', in W. W. Gasque and R. P. Martin (edd.), Apostolic History and the Gospel: Biblical and Historical Essays Presented to F. F. Bruce, 1970, 277-86; 'The Historical Setting of Colossians', RE 70, '973>429-38.] He urges, rightly, that on grounds of personalia it does not belong with the rest. Yet I believe the best hypothesis may turn out to be that all these epistles come from the same place but at different times. But before deciding on a date for Philippians, we should turn to the other letters.

Colossians, Philemon and Ephesians.  At once we are up against the problem of authenticity, not for the last time. There is virtually no one now who denies the genuineness of Philemon.[John Knox, Philemon among the Letters of Paul, Nashville, Tenn., 2I959, makes its genuineness a corner-stone of his case against Ephesians. Cf. also Bruce, 'St Paul in Rome: 2.The Epistle to Philemon', BJRL 48, 1965, 81-97.] There are those, especially in Germany, [for names, cf. Kummel, INT, 340.] who question Colossians on stylistic and theological grounds. But the close and complex interrelationship of names with Philemon points strongly to the fact that the two epistles were dictated by the same man at the same time and sent to Colossae by Tychicus, in company with Onesimus (Col. 4.7-9; Philem.12). Reicke summarizes the connections thus:

Greetings were conveyed from and to nearly the same persons in both letters, but their names were by no means given in the same order so that any hypothesis of dependence can<not> be plausible (Philem.1f., 23f.; Col.1.7; 4.7-19). In particular, the fact that Epaphras of Colossae appears in both writings, though in different contexts (Philem.23; Col.1.7; 4.9), is a remarkable evidence of a common background. ... This complex of relations cannot be understood as the result of artificial imitation. [RE 70, 434. Cf. also the different way Archippus comes into Philem. 2 and Col. 4.18.]

After a careful weighing of the pros and cons Kummel ends by saying 'all the evidence points to the conclusion that Colossians ... is to be regarded as Pauline', [INT, 340-6; similarly Goodspeed, INT, 102-4; C. F. D. Moule, Colossians and Philemon (Cambridge Greek Testament), 1957, 13f.] and I would agree.

Ephesians presents a difficult problem to handle here. To argue in any detail the question of Pauline authorship would take us far from our primary purpose, which is to establish a chronology. If it is not Pauline, then there are two alternatives: either it is by an amanuensis or agent writing on the apostle's behalf at the same date; or it is strictly pseudonymous, claiming to be Pauline but coming (probably) from towards the end of the first century. The former alternative has commanded little support (though it has recently been argued by Gunther, who believes that the author was Timothy) [Op. cit., 130-8. The absence of Timothy's name from the address (in contrast with Colossians, Philemon and Philippians) has to be put down to self-effacing modesty! M. Goguel, Introduction au Nouveau Testament, Paris 1923-6, IV.2, 474f., suggested an original homily by Tychicus, with subsequent additions attributing it to Paul. From the point of view of dating, these theories are interesting as testimony to the difficulties felt in regarding Ephesians simply as a late pseudepigraph.] and it does not affect the date anyway. It is really a straight issue between attributing it to Paul [Cf. most recently and massively, A. van Roon, The Authenticity of Ephesians, Leiden 1974, and M. Barth, Ephesians, New York 1974.] and to a second-generation Paulinist imitating and expounding his theology. [Major presentations of this thesis are: E. J. Goodspeed, The Meaning of Ephesians, Chicago 1933; INT, 222-39; The Key to Ephesians, Chicago 1956; and Mitton, Ephesians.] The pros and cons are summarily set out by Sanders and Nineham [In F. L. Cross (ed.), Studies in Ephesians, 1956, 9-35.] and assessed by Guthrie [NTI, 479-508.] (who comes down in favour of Paul), Kummel [INT, 357-63.] (who comes down against), and H. Chadwick [PCB,980f.] (who regards the issue as evenly balanced).

Short of going over the whole evidence afresh, I can only express my own considered conviction. In contrast with most of the other judgments in this book, which have been modified, often radically, in the process of writing it, I have never really doubted the Pauline authorship of Ephesians. [Cf. my study The Body (SBT5), 1952, 10.] It has always struck me as noteworthy that in what has remained a classic English commentary on Ephesians, [J. Armitage Robinson, St Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, 1903. Note the title.] Armitage Robinson, who was in close touch with Harnack and contemporary German scholarship [Harnack left the matter open in his Chron., 239, but in his later 'Die Addresse des Epheserbriefs des Paulus', Sitzungsberichte der koniglich preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin 1910, 696-709, argued that it represented Paul's letter to the Laodiceans mentioned in Col.4.16.Julicher, Einleitmg, 1124-8, declared a verdict of 'non liquet' (though the edition revised by E. Fascher, 71931, 138-42, subsequently came down against). Zahn, INT I, 491-522, vigorously defended Pauline authorship.]  and certainly not conservative for his day (and whose very late dating of the Didache I shall subsequently disagree with completely), [See ch. x below.] never even raised the question of authorship. Features of style and theology which have struck others as impossible for Paul [Thus Nineham, Historicity and Chronology, 27, holds that key words in Colossians and Ephesians are used 'to convey completely different ideas' (italics his). This at any rate is an exaggeration.] apparently to him, with as extensive a knowledge of the early Christian literature as any Englishman since Lightfoot, seemed entirely at home.  In a nicely balanced article Cadbury asks the question: [H.J. Cadbury, 'The Dilemma of Ephesians', NTS 5, 1958-9,91-102 (101).]

Which is more likely, that an imitator of Paul in the first century composed a writing ninety or ninety-five per cent in accordance with Paul's style or that Paul himself wrote a letter diverging five or ten per cent from his usual style?

Moreover there is the question of what sort of imitator. If he were a scissors-and-paste copyist and conflator, it would be relatively simple. Yet everyone agrees that his relationship to the genuine Paul is more subtle than that. He is so near (especially to Colossians) and yet apparently so far. The only thing he does reproduce virtually verbatim from Colossians is the note in 6.21f. (= Col.4.7f.) about the sending of Tychicus to convey Paul's news. Why this, and no other personalia, should have been inserted to add verisimilitude is inexplicable. Moreover, as Dodd says, 'Does one find such faithful dependence and such daring originality in one and the same person?' [In the Abingdon Bible Commentary, 1929, 1225, favouring Pauline authorship.] For he is a spiritual and theological giant, and these men do not appear and disappear without leaving any other trace, especially in that singularly flat sub-apostolic age from which the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas are typical samples.  Even if, with the majority of scholars, we regard the Pastoral Epistles and II Peter as pseudonymous, we are not in these cases dealing with original and creative productions. The only comparable unknown author is the writer to the Hebrews. But he is not imitating anyone, and in any case, I believe, belongs firmly within the apostolic age. [See ch. vii below.] Here as so often the case is cumulative and to some extent circular. If on other grounds half the literature of the New Testament is to be located in the last quarter of the first century, then the epistle to the Ephesians will seem to stand in good company. If on the other hand it is isolated there, it will look very exposed.

I propose therefore to proceed as though Ephesians comes from Paul, and to see how it fits in if it does. There is not in fact much that turns on it for chronology, since its dating (if genuine) is derivative from Colossians and Philemon rather than vice versa. If, therefore, anyone prefers to regard it as an exception and set it outside the series altogether, the consequences for the rest are not decisive. If then all three epistles are by Paul, there can be no doubt that they were written closely together and sent by Tychicus on the same journey, with Ephesians being composed in all probability shortly after Philemon and Colossians, almost certainly as a general homily to the Asian churches. This is strongly supported by the absence of 'in Ephesus' from the best manuscripts of Eph.1.1 and the lack of local details or personal messages. Where, and therefore when, may we say that they were written?

Again the same three options are open. Only, of course, if Ephesians was not sent to Ephesus (and the inclusion of that church in the general circulation is difficult to deny) is Ephesus itself a credible source of origin. Indeed all the previous objections and more arise to this hypothesis. Mark and Luke are with Paul (Col.4.10, 15; Philem. 24). Yet according to Acts (15.37-39) Mark had not accompanied Paul to Ephesus, and the absence of any 'we' passage for the Ephesus period, let alone any account of an imprisonment, tells strongly against Luke's presence there (assuming for the moment the Lukan authorship of Acts). Indeed the only real argument for Ephesus is again its geographical proximity, [Colossians is indeed assigned to Ephesus by the Marcionite Prologue, but the value of this statement is negatived by its assignation of Philemon (which clearly belongs with it) to Rome.] which considerably eases Paul's request to Philemon to have a room ready for him should he be released (Philem.22) and, according to some, the arrival there of the runaway slave Onesimus. But that Onesimus would have been most likely to flee to Ephesus, a mere hundred miles away, to escape detection seems to others less credible. As Dodd says, 'If we are to surmise, then it is as likely that the fugitive slave, his pockets lined at his master's expense, made for Rome because it was distant, as that he went to Ephesus because it was near.' [New Testament Studies, 95.] We cannot tell. Moreover, though arguments from theological development are notoriously dangerous, there are strong grounds for thinking that the elaboration of the doctrine of the church as the body of Christ, with Christ as its head, found in Colossians and Ephesians follows rather than precedes its much more tentative formulation in I Corinthians and Romans (written on or after Paul's departure from Ephesus). It has not seemed to anyone to come earlier: the only question is whether it is so much later as to require an author other than Paul.

We are back then with Caesarea or Rome. The latter has been the traditional location, and the only argument has been whether these epistles precede or follow the somewhat different situation pre­supposed by Philippians. There is nothing finally against Rome, and from the 'we' passages Luke can certainly be presumed to have been there. But the lack of obstacles again is largely due to the fact that we know so little about Paul's prospects there that we can create what conditions we like - for instance, that he is expecting release and plans to travel east (though the idea of asking from Rome for a guest­room to be prepared in Colossae has always stretched credibility).

The case for Caesarea has recently been stated again by Reicke with much persuasiveness. [Opp. cit. (n.101 above). I am much indebted to him also for valuable suggestions in conversation and correspondence. Johnson and Gunther (opp. cit., 11.98) also argue that these epistles come from Caesarea.] Of the people with Paul, Timothy (Col.1.1; Philem.1), Tychicus (Col.4.7; Eph.6.21), Aristarchus (Col.4.10; Philem. 24) and Luke (Col.4.14; Philem.24) all travelled with the collection (Acts 20.4; cf. 20.6 for the 'we') and may be presumed, like Trophimus (20.4; 21.29), to have reached Jerusalem together (21.17f.) and to have stayed with Paul at any rate for a time to see him through the troubles which their presence brought him (21.27-29). Aristarchus, described as a fellow-prisoner in Col.4.10, indeed is still with Paul (as is Luke) as he sets out for Italy (Acts 27.2). [Lightfoot, Philippians, 34, argued that Aristarchus did not go all the way to Rome but was put off at Myra for his home in Thessalonica. But the case is highly speculative. Dodd, New Testament Studies, 91, goes so far as to call it an 'irresponsible conjecture'. It is to be noted that Lightfoot then has to make Aristarchus come later to Rome (on no evidence whatever) if Colossians is to be written from there.] Meanwhile Epaphras has joined Paul from Colossae (Col.1.7; 4.12) and has apparently also been arrested (Philem.23). [Unless συναιχμάλωτος is purely figurative (so Moule, Colossians, i36f.). But cf. E. Lohmeyer, Kolosser (KEKNT 9), Gottingen 81930, ad loc., to the contrary.]  Reicke argues that there is no reason why he should have been arrested in the mild conditions of the Roman detention but that in Caesarea he could well have shared the danger to the other Hellenistic companions of Paul, who once more laments how little support or comfort he has had from the Jewish Christians (Col.4.11). [Kummel, INT, 347, takes this to mean that there were only a few Jewish Christians and therefore as an argument against Caesarea (a location, however, which he does not reject). But, as in Phil.2.15-18, all that Paul implies is that the Jewish Christians were very doubtful fellow-workers.] The fact that Tychicus rather than Epaphras is taking the letters and news (Col.4.7; Eph.6.21) may reflect the fact that the latter was not free to leave. Yet it would be natural by then for Tychicus to go back, since he came from those parts (Acts 20.4). [Gunther, op. cit., 102, makes the point that Col. 4.7 implies that the Colossians would receive Tychicus before the Laodiceans did (4.15f.): 'Since Colossae is south-east of Laodicea it is legitimate to assume that Tychicus was coming from that direction. Such would be the case if he were proceeding from Caesarea via Attalia, but hardly from Rome or Ephesus.'] Onesimus would also return with him (Col. 4.9), far less of an undertaking in either direction than the journey from Rome.  Paul, too, as we have seen, could reasonably have been expecting release from Caesarea and would naturally hope to revisit Colossae, as well as Philippi, on his way west.

Reicke also makes the interesting suggestion that the political situation at that time in Jerusalem and Caesarea throws light on the language of Ephesians. ['Caesarea, Rome and the Captivity Epistles', 281f.] According to Acts 21.28f. Paul had been unjustly accused of bringing Greeks into the inner sanctuary (τὸ ἱερόν) of the temple. On the wall which marked it off from the court of the Gentiles were inscriptions, fragments of which survive to this day, giving warning of the death-penalty for any foreigner transgressing this line. [Josephus,BJ 5. 193f.; Ant. 15.417.]  Reicke draws attention to the particularly virulent animosity at this time between Jews and Gentiles in Caesarea, leading later to an appeal to the emperor, with each party denying the other the right of citizenship (ἰσοπολιτεία); [Josephus, Ant. 20. 173f.] and he observes how closely these themes are reflected in the language of Ephesians:

Paul speaks of  (a) the ethnic dividing wall (Eph.2.14b), which has been removed in Christ, and the new temple (2.20); (b) the animosity between Jews and Gentiles (2.14c; 16b; cf. Col.1.21), which has been changed into peace through Christ (2.15b, 17); (c) the divine citizenship (2.19), which in Christ belongs also to the Gentiles (3.6), as well as the fact that every nationality (πατριά) on earth has its origin in God the Father (3.15;cf. Col.3.11).

No one of course is to say that such language could not have been written in Rome, but in the Caesarean context its appropriateness is striking. As Reicke says, 'If the epistle is a forgery, then the author had unusually accurate information to hand.' It is also a strong argument, as with the epistle to the Hebrews, against a date after 70. For by then the situation had been obliterated by events, and Paul's spiritual point could scarcely have been made without reflecting the fact that the infamous dividing wall had quite literally been 'broken down'.

In his second article, 'The Historical Setting of Colossians', Reicke has extended his argument by drawing attention to the links of personalia not only between Colossians, Philemon and Ephesians but with II Timothy, venturing the conclusion that this also was written (whether by Paul or on his behalf) about the same time from Caesarea. [Johnson and Gunther make the same suggestion (though Gunther, op. cit., 107-14, argues that only the fragment II Tim.4.9-22a comes from Caesarea). The three appear to have written independently of each other.] I confess that when I first read this I thought it incredible. For, unlike Ephesians, I had never believed the Pastoral Epistles to be Pauline, nor contemplated that if they did fall within his lifetime (as I was prepared to accept) they could be fitted into any other period but a presumed further stage of missionary activity after the close of the Acts story. Until halfway through the writing of this book I had planned to deal with them in a separate and subsequent chapter. I am persuaded however that here as elsewhere one must be prepared to suspend previous assumptions and be open to the evidence wherever it may point.

The issue of authorship is relevant for our purposes only in relation to chronology; and with regard to dating two questions may be isolated:

(a) Is there anything that requires, or makes probable, a date for the Pastoral Epistles outside the lifetime of the Apostle, whether or not genuine fragments from an earlier period are incorporated in them?
(b) If there is not, how may they be fitted into his career, whether he composed them personally or not?

(a) For the former it would have to be established that the vocabulary, the church organization and the theology presupposed by the epistles could not come from the 50s or 60s of the first century but only from the end of the first century or the beginning of the second - if not later. Without going into the detail needed to determine this, I can only say that I do not regard the case as proven. There is nothing decisive to require us to say that the distinctive vocabulary of the Pastorals could only have come from the second century. On the contrary, it has been shown that nearly all the words in question are to be found in Greek literature by the middle of the first century and that half of them occur in the Septuagint, with which Paul was well acquainted. [Cf. R. F. M. Hitchcock, 'Tests for the Pastorals', JTS 30, 1928-9, 2781.; W. Michaelis, 'Pastoralbriefe und Wortstatistik', ZNW 28, 1929, 69-76; F. J. Badcock, The Pauline Epistles and the Epistle to the Hebrews in their Historical Setting, 1937, 115-27; D. Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles and the Mind of Paul, 1956, 3gf.; B. Metzger, 'A Reconsideration of Certain Arguments against the Pauline Author­ship of the Pastoral Epistles', ExpT 70, 1958-9, 91-4.]

With regard to the organization of the church, the Pastorals do not presuppose monarchical episcopacy (on the second-century Ignatian model), but rather the equivalence of bishop and presbyter (cf. I Tim.3.if.; 5.17; Titus 1.5-7), and they demand nothing more elaborate than the local ministry of 'bishops and deacons' of Phil.1.1 [Cf. Jeremias, 'Zur Datierung der Pastoralbriefe', ZNW 52, 1961, 101-4; and earlier Zahn, INT II, 89-99, and R. St J. Parry, The Pastoral Epistles, Cambridge 1920, lix-lxxx. Even Goodspeed, WT, 337, who puts the Pastorals as late as 150, has to admit that they do not show the 'fully developed polity' of later Catholicism already present in Ignatius.] Timothy and Titus themselves are travelling delegates of Paul, not residential archbishops with fixed territorial assignments. While therefore concern for orderly ministry and appointments in the church could argue a later date, there is nothing that requires a second-century setting - or indeed anything subsequent to the pastoral solicitude already shown by Paul, according to Luke, in his speech to the Ephesian elders at Miletus (Acts 20.28-31).  Parry [Op. cit., Ixxviii.] concludes an extensive examination with the words:

There is no substantial reason in the character of the organisation implied in the Pastoral Epistles for assigning them to a date later than the lifetime of S. Paul.

With regard to doctrine too, the type of gnosticizing Judaism attacked in the Pastorals betrays no more elaboration than that refuted in Colossians (if anything less) and certainly bears no comparison with the fully-blown gnostic systems of the second century, which we now know so much better at first hand. Indeed Kummel, [INT, 379; cf. earlier Zahn, INT11, 99-121.] who believes that the way in which this false teaching is countered is uncharacteristic of Paul, is nevertheless emphatic that there is

not the slightest occasion, just because the false teachers who are being opposed are Gnostics, to link them up with the great Gnostic systems of the second century. ... The Jewish-Christian-Gnostic false teaching which is being combated in the Pastorals is ... thoroughly comprehensible in the life span of Paul.

The preoccupation with purity of doctrine, the quotation of hymns and teaching formulae, and the stress on 'the faith' rather than 'faith', though certainly more marked in these epistles, represent but shifts in emphases already present in other parts of Paul and the New Testament. [Cf. Guthrie, NTI, 604-6; Parry, op. cit., xc-cx.] None of them rules out a first-century date; and unless a date well after the death not only of Paul but of Timothy and Titus is presupposed it is hard to imagine a situation in which the fiction would either have deceived or have been taken for granted. We may contrast the situation presupposed by II Thessalonians, where Paul warns of the effect of 'some letter purporting to come from us' (2.2) and is most insistent to add the authentication of his personal signature: 'In my own hand, signed in my name, PAUL; this authenticates all my letters; this is how I write' (3.17; cf. I Cor.16.21;Gal.6.11;Col.4.18).

The inherent difficulties of the alternative theories, whether of total fabrication - with purely fictional messages, like 'I am hoping to come to you before long' (I Tim. 3.14) - or the incorporation of genuine (but highly-fragmented) fragments, do not directly concern us. [The major statement of this latter theory is P. N. Harrison's, The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles, Oxford 1921, whose second thoughts arc to be found in Paulines and Pastorals, 1964. There are many other fragment theories, but no two agree on all the same passages (cf. Guthrie, NTI, 590f.).] All one can say is that the case which makes a second-century composition necessary or even probable has very far from established itself. Indeed Reicke has pointedly argued that the call for 'petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings' for 'sovereigns and all in high office, that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in full observance of religion and high standards of morality' (I Tim.2.1f.; cf. Titus 3.1) betokens an attitude towards authority and its beneficent effects which would be inconceivable after the Neronian persecution (we may contrast the Apocalypse). Among the recent commentators it is interesting that J. N. D. Kelly, the patristic scholar, [J. N. D. Kelly, The Pastoral Epistles (Black's NTC), 1963.] should judge that the Pastorals could not come from the second century, while, writing in the same year, Barrett, the Pauline scholar, should judge that they could not come from Paul. [C. K. Barrett, The Pastoral Epistles (New Clarendon Bible), Oxford 1963.] Perhaps both may be right.  At any rate there would seem to be a detectable swing back, if not to apostolic authorship,  at any rate to taking seriously the second set of questions relating to dating. [Cf. E. E. Ellis, 'The Authorship of the Pastorals: A Resume and Assessment of Current Trends', EQ.32, 1960, 151-61; and Kelly, op. cit., 30: 'The strength of the anti-Pauline case has surely been greatly exaggerated.']

(b) The presupposition here is that Timothy and Titus are the same real persons who meet us in the rest of the New Testament and that they are being addressed by Paul in genuine pastoral situations, whether directly at his dictation or through someone writing on his behalf or by a combination of the two. It is not necessary for our present purpose to come to a decision on the purely literary issue. But, whether the style is Paul's own or not,  this is the position taken by such scholars as Jeremias, [J. Jeremias, Die Briefe an Timotheus und Titus, Gottingen 6I953, 7f.] Kelly, Moule [C. F. D. Moule, 'The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles', BJRL 47, 1965, 430-52. He suggests that Paul used Luke as his agent. For the same thesis, cf. A. Strobel, 'Schreiben des Lukas? Zum sprachlichen Problem der Pastoralbriefe', NTS 15,1968-9,191-210.]  and Reicke, as well as by the more conservative Guthrie [D. Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles and the Mind of Paul; The Pastoral Epistles (Tyndale NTC), 1957; and NTI, 584-622, 632-4.] and by the majority of Roman Catholics. [E.g. C. Spicq, Les Epitres Pastorales (Etudes Bibliques), Paris 1947, cxix; P. Benoit in the Jerusalem Bible, 1966, 264; G. A. Denzer, 'The Pastoral Letters', JBC, 351f., and the literature there cited.]  I believe it to be open to fewer difficulties than any theory that requires the letters to be pseudonymous, whether in whole or part. Whether Paul penned them himself must remain questionable. There are very real differences from his usual style and theology (though also many more similarities); but I am not persuaded that there is anything he could not have written. [Moule, BJRL, 432, instances I Tim.1 .8: 'We all know that the law is an excellent thing [Paul may well be quoting his opponents here; cf. the οἲδαμεν of I Cor.8.1, 4] provided we treat it as law.' But this is surely his position elsewhere. If we treat the law as a means of salvation, it is worse than useless; but as a dyke against the lawless and sinful (I Tim.i,9f.) it is admirable (cf. Rom. 7.12, 14; 13.1-6). Zahn, INT II, 121, ironically quotes I Tim.1.9 in support of Pauline authorship and comments, 'Nowhere in these Epistles do we find sentences that sound so "un-Pauline" as I Cor.7.19'!] Yet the Pastorals were after all composed for a very distinctive purpose. Paul would not be the last church leader whose style (and indeed subject-matter) in an ad clerum differed markedly from his already highly diverse and adaptable manner of speaking and writing for wider audiences.  He himself claims to 'have become everything in turn to men of every sort' (I Cor.9.22). But the issue of authorship for its own sake may here be left on one side. Our concern is with the occasions and circumstances which the letters might fit if they do belong to his period.

The consensus among those who wish to place the Pastorals within Paul's lifetime is that they cannot be made to fit any part of his career covered by Acts. They are therefore located in the gap between his (inferred) release from custody in Rome in 62+ and his execution there some years later.  This view was first propounded, as far as we know, by Eusebius [HE 2.22.2-8.] and is based by him on nothing else than deductions from II Timothy. But the complexity of Paul's itinerary and the divergence between the proposed schemes vividly illustrate how totally hypothetical this construction is. [E.g. Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, 223: First journey eastward: He revisits Macedonia (Philippi) (Phil. 2.24), Asia and Phrygia (Colossae) (Philem.22). Journey westward: He founds the church of Crete. Visits Spain, Gaul (?) (II Tim.4.10 V.I.), and Dalmatia (?) (II Tim.4.10). Second journey eastward; He revisits Asia and Phrygia (II Tim. i.i5f.), visits Ephesus (I Tim.1.3); here probably he encounters Alexander the coppersmith (I Tim. 1.20; II Tim.4.14). Leaves Timothy in charge of the Ephesian church. Revisits Macedonia (Philippi) (I Tim.1.3) and Achaia (?) (Athens and Corinth). Writes I Timothy. Visits (perhaps revisits) Crete, and leaves Titus in charge of the church there (Titus 1.5). Returns to Asia. Writes Epistle to Titus. Visits Miletus (II Tim.4.20), sails to Troas (II Tim.4.13), is at Corinth (II Tim.4.20) on his way to Nicopolis to winter (Titus 3.12). Arrested (probably at Corinth) and carried to Rome. Titus joins him there. Writes II Timothy. Timothy shares his imprisonment (Heb. 13.23). Martyrdom of Paul. Guthrie, NTI, 598f.: 'The Pastorals tell us that Paul again visited Asia (Troas, II Tim. 4.13, and Miletus, II Tim. 4.20) although it is not necessary to suppose that he visited Ephesus on the strength of I Tim. 1.3. But he urged Timothy to stay there when he was en route for Macedonia. At some time he paid a visit to Crete, where he left Titus, but his main activity appears to have been in Macedonia and Greece. From the Captivity Epistles we may surmise that he visited the Lycus valley, no doubt on the same occasion as he urged Timothy to remain at Ephesus, and that he paid his promised visit to Philippi... . He may have been rearrested in the western districts of Macedonia or Epirus (which is mentioned in Titus 3.12) and taken to Rome.' Denzer, JBC, 351: 'He might have gone to Crete first. When he left Crete, Titus might have remained there as his legate (Titus i .5). From Crete, Paul might have gone to Asia Minor. When he left Ephesus for Macedonia, Timothy remained as his legate (I Tim. 1.3). Possibly, Paul passed through Troas on his way to Macedonia (II Tim.4.13), and there wrote I Timothy and Titus. Paul then perhaps spent the winter at Nicopolis in Epirus (Titus 3.12). The following spring he might have returned to Ephesus, according to his plan (I Tim.3.14; 4.13). It would seem that he was then arrested in the region of Ephesus (II Tim.1.4). In the course of Paul's voyage to Rome as a prisoner, the ship might have stopped at Miletus and Corinth (II Tim.4.20). During his imprisonment in Rome, Paul wrote II Timothy. In this letter, Paul is without hope of being released; he expects to be condemned and to suffer martyrdom in the near future (II Tim.4.6-8).']

Since there are no controls, we can make Paul do anything, go anywhere, and the sole evidence for any of the journeys (let alone for their dating) is that surmised from the documents themselves - on the odd assumption, judging from his previous experience, that all Paul's hopes and plans were fulfilled. It is interesting that those who suppose that the fragments represent genuine travel-plans do not think of placing them here, but, by dint of judicious selection and drastic dissection, slot them into the Acts framework - though even so they do not agree together. [In his Problem of the Pastoral Epistles, 115-27, Harrison isolated five fragments and placed them as follows: (1) Titus 3.12-15 in western Macedonia; (2) II Tim. 4.13-15, 20, 21a in Macedonia; (3) II Tim.4.16-18a (18b?) in Caesarea; (4) II Tim.4.0-12, 22b, and (5) II Tim.1.16-18; 3.10f.; 4.1, 2a, 5b, 6-8, 18b, 19, 21b, 22a in Rome (before the end of Acts). Duncan, op. cit. (n. 94), 184-225, scattered all his fragments among or between different imprisonments in or near Ephesus. Subsequently Harrison, Paulines and Pastorals, 106-28, converted to an Ephesian origin for Colossians and Philemon, reduced his fragments to three and located them as follows: (1) Titus 3.12-15, in western Macedonia; (2) II Tim. 4.9-15, 20, 2ia, 2ib in Ephesus; (3) II Tim.i.i6-i8; 3.iof.; 4.1, 2a, 5b-8, 16-19, 31 b, 22a in Rome.] But this is testimony to the fact that some external control is felt to be necessary for any plausibility. Those who believe that the travel plans are all part of the fiction do not explain why the inventor of them should not have aimed at greater verisimilitude. One would have expected him to quarry the details from existing sources (as the author of Ephesians is supposed to have drawn on Colossians for the journey of Tychicus), or at any rate to have seen that they matched. The very difficulty of squaring them with any itinerary deducible from Acts or the other Pauline epistles is a strong argument for their authenticity.

An attempt was indeed made some time ago by Vernon Bartlet to fit them, with the rest of the captivity epistles, into the first imprisonment of Paul in Rome between 60 and 62. [Vernon Bartlet, 'The Historic Setting of the Pastoral Epistles', The Expositor, 8th series, 5, 1913, 28-36, 161-7, 256-63, 325-47, especially 326-39.] But quite apart from the hypothetical nature of any journeys back east from Rome, Bartlet's reconstruction is open to at least three weaknesses: (1) He does not attempt to explain why, if I Timothy and Titus were written from prison, they contain no references to Paul's 'bonds', like all the other prison epistles. (2) He is hard put to it to account for Paul's referring back after some five years to his instruction to Timothy to stay on in Ephesus (I Tim.1.3 = Acts 20.1) when so much else has happened to both of them in the interval. (3) He can do nothing with II Tim.4.20 ('Erastus stayed behind at Corinth, and I left Trophimus ill at Miletus'), which he has to explain, rather tamely, as a misplaced fragment of a much earlier, and entirely hypothetical, letter.

With the other alternatives so unsatisfactory, it is at least worth exploring one more, and I do so by taking up the suggestive hint dropped by Reicke in the second of the two articles to which I referred (n. 101 above).

He draws attention to the names in common between Colossians and Philemon (which he has already argued were written from Caesarea) and II Timothy. [Though the personalia in Philippians are different, both Johnson, ExpT 68, 25, and Gunther, op. cit., 97, suggest that 'those who belong to the imperial establishment' in Phil. 4.22 could well be represented in the predominantly Latin names of Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, and Claudia, unique to II Tim.4.21.] Demas, Luke and Mark reappear in different contexts (Col.4.10, 14; Philem.24; II Tim.4.10f.). Moreover, in II Tim.4.12 the sending of Tychicus to Ephesus (Eph.6.21f.; cf. Col.4.7-9) is again mentioned, but this time in the past tense. Timothy, associated with the writing of Colossians and Philemon, but not of Ephesians, is by now away on Paul's behalf apparently some­where near Troas in Mysia, north-west of Ephesus (II Tim.4.13). Mark, for a possible visit from whom Paul had previously prepared the Colossians (Col.4.10), is to be collected from the same parts (II Tim. 4.11). Reicke's suggestion is that it is Mark who is to take II Timothy, which, he argues, is an open pastoral letter for reading aloud in the various churches visited. The names and places mentioned in it reflect his itinerary:

A reference to the belief found in Timothy's mother and grandmother was inserted (II Tim. 1.5), for they lived in the city of Derbe (Acts 16.1), through which Mark had to pass on his way from Caesarea to Colossae (Col.4.io). For the same reason the Christians, to whom Mark would come in other cities of Lycaonia, were reminded of Paul's earlier troubles in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra (II Tim. 3.11).  After the visit to Colossae (Col.4.10), Mark was expected to make the Christians of Ephesus familiar with the epistle of Timothy. He should especially let the house of Onesiphorus know about Paul's appreciation of this man (II Tim. 1.16-18; 4.19) and make sure that people in Asia realised the danger of the new heresy (1.15; 2.16-3.9). [We might add 4.14f., if (as Reicke subsequently agrees) Alexander the coppersmith is the same Alexander put forward in Acts i9.33f. by the silversmiths and workers in allied trades (19.25) of Ephesus. He is mentioned, in conjunction with Hymenaeus (who also appears in II Tim.2.18), in I Tim.1.20, which we shall argue comes from shortly after that incident.] After this it was planned that Mark should meet Timothy in Mysia (4.11) and go back with him via Troas (4,13). Paul needed their help since his only collaborator was presently Luke (4.11). [RE 70,438.]

Reicke adds, 'It is questionable whether any member of the early church would have found it worthwhile to restore or construct such antiquities in a later situation.'

Obviously such a reconstruction is hypothetical (and I shall question its detail), but at least it is not grounded on air. And once we make it, other connections open up. Above all, 'my first defence' (τῆ πρώτη μου ἀπολοωία) in II Tim.4.16 will now refer not to some entirely undocumented court appearance in Rome but, like the ἀπολοωία mentioned in Phil.1.7 and 16, to the hearings in Jerusalem and Caesarea, which in Acts 22.1 Paul specifically introduces as μου τῆς νυνὶ ἀπολοωίας and which Felix adjourns in 24.22. As soon as this identification is made, other correspondences are recognizable. II Tim.4.17a, 'But the Lord stood by me and lent me strength, so that I might be his instrument in making the full proclamation of the Gospel [Cf. earlier Rom.15.19: 'I have completed the preaching of the gospel of Christ from Jerusalem as far round as Illyricum.'] for the whole pagan world to hear,' reflects with considerable precision Acts 23.11, 'The following night the Lord appeared to him and said, "Keep up your courage: you have affirmed the truth about me in Jerusalem, and you must do the same in Rome"', while II Tim.4.17b, 'And thus I was rescued out of the lion's jaw', will refer to Paul's narrow escape from ambush the following day (Acts 23.12-35). [Cf. M. Dibelius, Die Pastoralbriefe (HNT 13), Tubingen 81966, 95, who saw the strength of the case for Caesarea. Harrison, The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles, 121f., also recognized these parallels in his earlier placing of II Tim.4.16-18 in Caesarea - though he confused the issue by supposing, apparently, that only the speech of Acts 22.1-29 represented the 'first defence'. But later he put the fragment in Rome, where no hearing is recorded at all.] Even the phrase in II Tim.1.3, 'God, whom I, like my forefathers, worship with a pure conscience' echoes the speech Paul made before Felix in Acts 24.14 and 16: 'I worship the God of our fathers ... and keep at all times a clear conscience.' Either the correspondences arise from the facts, or the author of the Pastorals is using Acts. But in that case why did he not draw on Acts for the travel-notes - or at least not make them so hard to harmonize?

If then we equate the captivity in II Timothy with that at Caesarea, Onesiphorus' services on Paul's behalf (II Tim.1.16f.) will fall into line with those of Epaphroditus (Phil. 2.25-30) and of Onesimus (Philem.11-13), who were among the friends permitted to 'make themselves useful to him' (Acts 24.23). But here we meet the first of two objections to the whole reconstruction. For apparently, according to II Tim.1.17, Paul was not in Caesarea but in Rome, where Onesiphorus 'took pains to search me out when he came to Rome'. So fatal to his theory of an Ephesian imprisonment did Duncan find this verse that he was reduced to the desperate expedient of emending the text to ἐν Πριήνη or ἐν Λαοδιλία. [Paul's Ephesian Ministry, 189. Here Harrison could not follow him (Paulines and Pastorals, 93-5). Badcock, Pauline Epistles and Hebrews, 115-2 7, who also wished to put II Timothy in Caesarea (with Ephesians - though not Colossians and Philemon, which he located in Ephesus) was reduced in 1.17 to emending 'Rome' to 'Antioch' (of Pisidia), as well as placing 4.20 much earlier. Unfortunately his book is spoilt throughout by a tissue of speculation. E. G. Selwyn, I Peter, 1946, 392, referring to it with approval, says: 'I hesitate to express any opinion either as to the date or the genuineness of the Pastoral Epistles as they stand; but the view that the greater part of a Timothy was written during St Paul's imprisonment in Caesarea seems to me to merit careful consideration'. Gunther, op. cit., 95, 177, though placing II Tim.4.9-22a in Caesarea, is compelled, without any supporting evidence, to see 1.15-18 (and 4.6f.) as a fragment of a later letter to Timothy from Rome.] But though it has regularly been taken to mean that Paul was in Rome when Onesiphorus came to see him, I am indebted to Reicke for an interpretation which I believe in the context makes better (though admittedly less obvious) sense. [To be included in his forthcoming article in TLZ,, 'Chronologic der Pastoralbriefe'.]

Onesiphorus was evidently a man of some substance, whose household in Ephesus was the centre of notable church work (II Tim.1.16, 18; 4.19). In the last of these passages his name is linked with those of Prisca and Aquila, who, as we know, were in business (Acts 18.3) and are to be found at short intervals in a succession of places. Though hailing originally from Pontus, Aquila with his wife were, prior to 49, living in Rome (18.2). From 49 to 51 they were in Corinth (18.2-11), in 52 (18.26) and again in 55 (I Cor.16.19) in Ephesus, in 57 in Rome, where they had a house (Rom.16.3-5), and finally back once more in Ephesus (II Tim.4.19). It is not unreasonable to suppose that Onesiphorus was also an itinerant Jewish businessman, of the sort so vividly described by James, who say to themselves: 'Today or tomorrow we will go off to such and such a town and spend a year there trading and making money' (James 4.13). It was on some such business trip that we may guess that Onesiphorus found himself in Rome (μενόμενος ἐν Ῥώμη). As was his wont, for Paul said he had 'often' relieved his needs (II Tim.1.16), he looked out for Paul, expecting him to be there, since the apostle had made no secret of his intention to go on to Rome after visiting Jerusalem (Acts 19.21; Rom.1.15; 16.22-9). He failed to find him; but hearing he was in prison, he determined to search him out. He was 'not ashamed', says Paul, (though his business interests might have prompted otherwise?) to visit one who was 'shut up like a common criminal' (II Tim.1.16; 2.9). He made strenuous efforts to track him down (σπουδαίως ἐζήτησεν), and eventually found him. If Paul had been in a Roman jail, it is hard to believe that with his well-placed Christian contacts Onesiphorus would have had difficulty in being directed to him. Paul's extravagant gratitude (II Tim.1.16, 18) seems to demand something more, and this would indeed be explained if Onesiphorus had made it his business to go out of his way to Caesarea to visit him before returning to Ephesus. At any rate the reference to Onesiphorus being in Rome cannot of itself be allowed to settle the question of Paul's being there, if the evidence points in another direction. We must judge the location of the epistle on its own merits.

The second difficulty is occasioned by II Tim.4.20, 'I left Trophimus ill at Miletus'. For if this refers to Paul's brief stay at Miletus on the way to Jerusalem (Acts 20.15-38), Trophimus had not been left behind, for he was subsequently seen with Paul in the city (21.29). The easiest (perhaps too easy) solution would be to say that in a highly confused situation, of which there were garbled reports and rumours (21.27-40), Luke has simply mixed up the twin delegates from Asia (20.4) and confused Tychicus with Trophimus. It would be a pardonable error.

But Paul may not be referring to the journey up to Jerusalem. It is assumed both here and in Titus 1.5 that 'I left' (ἀπέλιπον) must imply that Paul himself was present. In Titus, as we shall see, there is no reason to suppose this to be implied. When speaking of his own personal possessions, as in II Tim.4.13 ('the cloak I left with Carpus at Troas'), this of course is so. But Paul is also speaking in these letters very much as the director of operations, with 'the responsibility', as he puts it in II Cor.11.28, 'that weighs on me every day, my anxious concern for all our congregations'. He is like a general reporting on the movements of his commanders in the field (cf. the metaphor of II Tim. 2.4: 'A soldier on active service ... must be wholly at his commanding officer's disposal') or the head of a missionary society giving news of his staff. 'Demas has deserted and gone to Thessalonica: Crescens to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is here with me. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. Erastus has stayed in Corinth. [Perhaps because he now has a permanent post there, if Rom. 16.23 (written at Corinth) refers to the same man (cf. also Acts 19.22). Harrison argues persuasively for this in 'Erastus and his Pavement', Paulines and Pastorals, 100-5. He believes that owovop.os means something more like 'clerk of works' than the neb's 'city treasurer'. H. J. Cadbury, 'Erastus of Corinth', JBL 50, 1931, 42-58, comes down on the whole against the identification.] Trophimus I have had to leave ill at Miletus.  Perhaps Trophimus was on his way back to Ephesus with his fellow-delegate Tychicus: we do not know. [A possible alternative would be to take ἀπέλιπον in 4.19f. to mean 'they left' (for the history of this interpretation, cf. Zahn, WT II, 26) and refer it, with Johnson, ExpT68, 25, to Onesiphorus and his family, who after visiting Paul (1.17) were taking Trophimus back home with them to Ephesus, while Tychicus was sent independently on Paul's work. Yet there is no reason to think that Onesiphorus' family was with him at the time and the subject for the plural verb is both remote and difficult.] Reicke suggests that Timothy is notified so that he may call in on him at Miletus, after Troas and Ephesus, on his way home (cf. the sequence in 4.13, 19, 20).

The one thing of which we can be reasonably sure is that Paul is reporting on recent events, not only for Timothy's benefit (who would have known of the first hearing of Paul's case from being at Jerusalem and Caesarea), [This is a genuine difficulty, but not so hard surely as positing, with Johnson, op. cit., 26, another defence before Felix (why then is it called the first?) unrecorded by Acts, or referring it, with Gunther, op. cit., 109f., to the first defence under Festus (Acts 25.6-12). The latter solution would confine the writing of II Timothy to the few days (25.13) between that and the second ἀπολογία (26.1, 24) before Festus and Agrippa. Moreover it totally fails to explain why Paul does not inform Timothy of the major new turn in events - namely, his appeal to Caesar and the transfer of his case to Rome (25.11f.).] but for the leaders of the congregations, to whom the letter would be read out - for all the Pastoral Epistles end with greetings to the church as well as to the individual (I Tim.6.21; II Tim.4.22; Titus 3.15). This brings us back to our main question, the date of II Timothy, which, if our hypothesis is right, must be considered in close conjunction with that of the other letters from the Caesarean jail.

We may begin again with Philippians, which as we saw stands apart from the rest not only in style and content but in personalia. If it comes from the same place, it must be either before or after the rest. I had originally thought it came last, and indeed most scholars who see them written from the same imprisonment (Lightfoot was an exception [Philippians, 29-45. He rested his case, somewhat dubiously, on the resemblances with earlier epistles, especially Romans.]) have put it after Colossians and Ephesians, because it speaks of Paul looking forward to death. [So Lohmeyer, Kolosser, 141., who sets Colossians and Philemon as well as Philippians in Caesarea. But he does not reckon with II Timothy.]  Yet it is not at all natural to put it after II Timothy (as Reicke has to, since he locates Philippιans in Rome), which reads if anything does like a last will and testament.

I am now persuaded, especially after reading Johnson's article already quoted, [ExpT68, 24-6. His argument is unhappily mixed up with highly speculative theories that stichometrical analysis shows the 'two years' in Rome of Acts a8.3of. to be misplaced from the two years at Caesarea in 24.26 and γενόμενος ἐν Ῥώμη in II Tim.1.17 to be an interpolation.] that it is the first of the letters from Caesarea. He argued that the Philippians, who saw Paul and his party off on their journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20.6), would with their characteristic forwardness (Phil.4.15-18) have lost no time in collecting for Paul's needs once they had heard of his imprisonment. The journey from Philippi to Caesarea in Acts 20.6-21.8 did not require longer, even with stopovers, than the six weeks between Passover and Pentecost, and there is no reason why, once the news had got back, Epaphroditus should not have arrived with their supplies by the autumn of 57. He then fell dangerously ill, for long enough for the Philippians to get news of it and for Epaphroditus to hear that they had done so. By the time Paul feels he must send him back (Phil.2.25-30), with the letter, we may judge that winter has passed and that we are in the spring of 58. Timothy is associated with the writing of it (1.1) and Paul hopes shortly to send him too, so soon as ever he can see how things are going with him (2.19, 23). Timothy is still with Paul when he writes Colossians and Philemon but not, apparently, Ephesians (even though the three letters are taken together by Tychicus). However he writes to Timothy to inform him of Tychicus' dispatch to Ephesus (II Tim. 4.12) and asks him to collect the cloak which he had left with Carpus at Troas, together with his books and note-books (4.13), and to bring them before winter (4.21).  Paul had doubtless deliberately deposited them there as he set out on foot for Assos in the warmth of late spring (Acts 20.131.), fully expecting to pick them up on his way back after delivering the collection. Now he faces the prospect of a second winter without them in prison and is understandably pressing to have them in time. Reicke assumes that Timothy is in Mysia near Troas, but there is nothing actually to suggest this, nor anything to say that Mark should meet him there. It seems more natural to suppose that Paul writes to Timothy in Philippi (where he has sent him) and asks him to call in at Troas, and later at Miletus and Ephesus, on the route back to Caesarea that both of them had followed before (Acts 20.6-21.8). He is to pick up Mark, perhaps from Colossae, where Timothy, as joint-author of the letter to that church, would not need to be told he was due to be (Col.4.10). [This involves abandoning Reicke's assumption that Mark is the carrier of II Timothy, but that is only a guess.]

If so, we may reconstruct the following time-table for the year 58:


Philippians written and dispatched via Epaphroditus to Philippi.


Philemon and Colossians written.


Timothy sent to Philippi.


Ephesians written and dispatched with the other two letters via Tychicus to Asia Minor.


Mark sent to Colossae.


II Timothy written and dispatched to Philippi.

Reicke argues that Paul's appeal in Philem.9 as 'an ambassador of Christ Jesus and now his prisoner' indicates that this betokens a new situation and that Paul had therefore 'quite recently' been arrested. [More likely than 'old man', especially if Eph.6.20, 'an ambassador in chains', is Pauline. Anyhow no inference for dating can safely be drawn from Paul's age.]  But this is surely to read a great deal into one word. [So too when he argues, RE 70,435, that it could 'only' fit Caesarea.] For Onesimus has already had time to become Paul's spiritual child in prison (Philem.10f.) and indeed to begin, like Timothy, to 'be at his side in the service of the Gospel like a son working under his father' (Phil.2.22; cf. I Tim.1.2; II Tim.1.2). Moreover time must be allowed for Epaphras to have come from Colossae bringing news of the state of that church, to which, after some thought and prayer, Paul responds (Col.1.7-9). I believe that 58 is the earliest likely date.  It is also probably the latest. For, like the rest of the news in II Timothy, the sending of Tychicus would appear to be quite recent. Anyhow by the following year Paul was already in late summer awaiting shipment to Rome: the request to have his cloak before winter would have been too late.

The only good reason for putting II Timothy later in Paul's career (unless we judge from 1.17 that it must come from Rome) is the sense it conveys that, as he sees it, the end is at hand - combined with our knowledge that it was not yet so. Yet already, according to Acts 20.24, he had said at Miletus in the spring of 57:  'I set no store by life; I only want to finish the race and complete the task which the Lord Jesus has assigned to me, of bearing testimony to the Gospel of God's grace.' But things dragged on for him. At first he had every reason to assume that his case would last no longer than it took Lysias to come down from Jerusalem to Caesarea (Acts 24.22) and that he could expect early release. Until then he had had, as far as we know, no experience of more extended detention than being locked up on the order of local magistrates, which (if the incident at Philippi in Acts 16.19-40 is any sample) would not have lasted more than a night or so (16.35), even without the intervention of the earthquake. The word describing these experiences, φυλακαί, custody (II Cor.6.5; 11.23), is never used in the captivity epistles, where it is always δέσμοι; and the situation thus reflected is indeed different. As the weeks and months pass at the imperial headquarters, Paul's confidence ebbs. In Philippians, though he cannot yet see the outcome, he is sure that he will live to be with them again before long (1.25f; 2.24). In Philemon he hopes, in answer to their prayers, to be granted to them (22). In Colossians and Ephesians he says merely that Tychicus will tell them all the news, and prays that he may be given the right words when the time comes (Col.4.7-9; Eph.6.19-22). By the time of II Timothy only the prospect of death appears to await him, hope of release having faded: he is deserted, and men must come to him (1.12; 4.6-13). As he was to explain later (Acts 28.19), he had 'no option' left - except his last card, appeal to the emperor.

To bear out the interconnections - and the mutual order - of Philippians and II Timothy, it is interesting to observe how he takes up the language of 'finishing the race' (τελειώσω τὸν δρόμον) which, according to Luke's report (Acts 20.24), had come into his speech at Miletus. (Earlier he had used the same metaphor but spoke of running rather than finishing: I Cor. 9.24-6; I Tim. 6.12.  We may set the phrases out in parallel columns:



II Timothy

What I should like is to depart (ἀναλῦσαι) (1-23).

The hour for my departure (ἀναλύσεως) is upon me (4.6).

If my life-blood is to crown the sacrifice (εἰ καὶ σπένδομαι) (2.17).

Already my life-blood is being poured out on the altar (ἢδη σπένδομαι) (4.6).

 I have not yet reached perfection (οὐκ ... ἢδη τετελείωμαι)  but I press on (3-I2).

 I have run the great race, I have finished the course (τὸν δρόμον τετέλεκα) (4-7).

I press toward the goal to win the prize (3.14).

Now the prize awaits me (4.8).

It is hard to resist the conclusion that both epistles reflect the mind of the same man, at not too great an interval and in that sequence.

So we may put Philippians in the spring of 58, Philemon, Colossians and (a little later) Ephesians in the summer of 58, and II Timothy in the autumn of 58.

But what finally of the other Pastoral Epistles, I Timothy and Titus? Working backwards from II Timothy, let us take Titus first.

We last heard of Titus in Corinth, whither he had been sent from Macedonia to reorganize the collection (II Cor.8; 12.17f.). By the time Paul writes Romans early the next year, he is evidently no longer there - or he would certainly have featured, like Timothy, in the greetings of Rom. 16.21-3. Paul is finishing off the business of the collection himself (15.28). It could well have been at this stage that he had sent Titus to Crete, for which Cenchreae, the port of Corinth (cf.16.1f.), was the natural point of embarkation. He was sent, as Paul reminds him in Titus 1.5, to set right the shortcomings of the church there (τὰ λείποντα : not what remained to be done after some hypothetical visit of Paul's) [Cf. Titus 3.13, 'See that they are not short (λείπη) of anything'.] and to appoint local presbyters.  Paul explains that he had deliberately left him behind, instead of taking him with the rest (as Titus of all people had surely earned the right to expect) as one of the delegates to Jerusalem.  This is just the opposite of what he had done earlier when, he explains to the Thessalonians, 'we decided to be left in Athens alone and sent Timothy' (I Thess.3.1).  So he writes Titus a charge, for public recitation, to reinforce his original instructions (1.5) and promises him a replacement (3.12).

When is Paul writing? There is no hint that he is in prison. [Failure to recognize this vitiates Gunther's reconstruction of the epistle (op. cit., 114-20) as coming from the same time as II Timothy.] Any time in the first half of 57 would fit. Reicke has made the plausible suggestion that Paul writes to Titus en route to Jerusalem, perhaps from Miletus, whence a boat could easily go to Crete and where we know his mind was occupied with similar matters. Indeed he may well have used material prepared for his charge to the Ephesian elders. Themes common to the speech and the epistle are the warnings to elders,  who are also ἐπίσκοποι (Acts 20.18, 28; Titus 1.5-9), against those who like wild beasts will ravage the flock from within and by distortion of the truth break up the family of God (Acts 20.291.; Titus 1.10-12) and an insistence on the example of honest work (Acts 20.33f; Titus 3.8, 14). Paul has with him Artemas as well as Tychicus (Titus 3.12), one of whom (and the uncertainty argues strongly for authenticity) he promises to post to Crete. Presumably it was Artemas, of whom we hear nothing more, since Tychicus was sent subsequently to Ephesus. When the replacement arrives, Titus is to hasten to join Paul in Nicopolis, where, he says, he has decided to spend the winter. This would be the same winter of 57, for Paul was fully intending at this point, having delivered the collection, to come back west to Italy and Spain (Rom.15.28). And there is no suggestion that he planned to go by sea, as eventually he was forced to. On the contrary, he would follow his usual practice of going over the ground he had covered. Naturally he would go via Asia Minor (Philem. 22), stopping at Troas to pick up his cloak and other valuables (II Tim.4.12f.). Then he would call in at Philippi (Phil.2.24), before taking the Via Egnatia to consolidate the work in Illyricum and the north-west begun the previous year. He would winter with Titus on the coast at Nicopolis in Epirus, and thence cross the Adriatic, when the spring weather allowed, for southern Italy and Rome. But, alas, as it turned out, Titus had to go to Dalmatia alone (II Tim.4.10) and Paul was to spend the winter languishing in a Palestinian jail.

What finally of / Timothy?  With far fewer personal details than the other two, it is correspondingly difficult to locate. There is no more suggestion than in Titus that Paul is or has been in prison. The only clear clue is in 1.3, where he says to Timothy, 'When I was starting for Macedonia, I urged you to stay on at Ephesus.' It is natural to look to Acts 20.1, where Paul sets out for Macedonia from Ephesus after the silversmiths' riot, and natural, too, as we have said, to surmise that the Alexander mentioned in 1 .20 recalls the same incident. Unfortunately, as we have seen, Luke's notice in Acts 20. if. condenses a considerable amount of time and activity which it is impossible to reconstruct accurately. During the interval Paul probably went to Corinth and back and certainly spent some time in the neighbourhood of Troas.  From where he would have written to Timothy we cannot know. Perhaps it was from Corinth, if he did travel there via Macedonia, as he originally planned (I Cor.16.5) - though probably he went direct (II Cor.1.16). More likely it was from the Troad, where he had gone for missionary work, which turned out to present many openings (II Cor.2.12). At the time of writing he is still hoping to come to Timothy before long, though he recognizes the possibility of delay (I Tim.3.i4f.). The next time in fact they meet, owing to Paul's restless determination to push on (instead of returning to Ephesus?) in order to make contact with Titus (II Cor. 2.13), is evidently in Macedonia, where Timothy joins Paul in the sending of II Corinthians (1.1). It looks therefore as if the autumn of 55 is the most likely space for I Timothy. Indeed the farewell exhortation for which Paul assembled the disciples in Acts 20.1 may be the occasion mentioned in I Tim.1.3, where the same word is used (παρακαλέσας, παρακάλεσα). The letter will then reinforce on paper as a pastoral charge the gist of this address, whose substance could indeed be incorporated in I Tim.2.1-3.13 (beginning παρακαλῶ οῦν). I Timothy more than any other epistle stresses the aspect παραγγελία or pastoral 'order' (1.3, 5, 18; 4.11; 5.7; 6.13, 17), which had been a distinctive feature of Paul's apostolic method from the beginning (I Thess.4.11; II Thess.3.4, 6, 10, 12; I Cor.7.10; 11.17).  We should not therefore see anything un-Pauline or indeed novel here. If the dating seems surprisingly early we must not forget that at this stage Timothy is evidently still quite junior and is working closely under Paul's supervision. Earlier the same year he had felt it necessary to say to the Corinthians:

If Timothy comes, see that you put him at his ease; for it is the Lord's work that he is engaged upon, as I am myself; so no one must slight him. Send him happily on his way to join me, since I am waiting for him with our friends (I Cor.16.10f.).

Now he writes to his protégé in very similar terms:

Let no one slight you because you are young, but make yourself an example to believers in speech and behaviour, in love, fidelity, and purity. Until I arrive ... make these matters your business and your absorbing interest, so that your progress may be plain to all (I Tim.4.11-15).

It is not difficult to believe that these words were written six months apart.

Each of these three epistles appears to embody directions for an immediate pastoral occasion. We tend to assume that Paul is appointing Timothy and Titus to extended supervision over designated areas. But in fact the instructions relate to specific short-term tours. In II Timothy Timothy is to do his best to come back as soon as possible (II Tim. 4.9); Titus is to be relieved whenever Paul can arrange for a replacement (Titus 3.12); and I Timothy is written only for the brief interval during which Timothy is to stay on at Ephesus until Paul himself can come (I Tim.3.14; 4.13). [The same word that is used in Acts 18.18 for Paul staying on 'for some days' at Corinth.] They do not presuppose, nor do they require, long gaps. They are more like the charges composed by a modern missionary bishop for an archidiaconal visitation lasting weeks or months rather than years. It is not unknown for a busy bishop to have these written for him.  But in any case their style is determined much more by their form and content than by their date. If Paul had need for such specialized and formal communications there is no reason why he should not have put them together, or had them put together, probably out of material prepared (as Acts would suggest) for spoken exhortations to church leaders, in amongst, rather than after, his other correspondence. So it should not surprise us if they were not composed, as is usually assumed, in a bloc by themselves. Nor is there valid recourse to explain the change of style by the passage of years. For if our conclusions are right, the whole of Paul's extant correspondence (not forgetting that as early as II Thess.3.17 he spoke of 'all my letters') appears to fall within a period of nine years - indeed apart from his early letters to the Thessalonians within the astonishingly short span of four and a half years.

To clarify this we may end with a summary of the resultant dates:

50 (early)

I Thessalonians

50 (or early 51)

II Thessalonians

55 (spring)

I Corinthians

55 (autumn)

I Timothy

56 (early)

II Corinthians

56 (late)


57 (early)


57 (late spring)


58 (spring)


58 (summer)






58 (autumn)

II Timothy

It must be stressed again that the absolute datings could be a year or so out either way and that the schema is more tentative than it looks. But the importance of these conclusions, which, except for the Pastoral Epistles, are not particularly controversial, is threefold:

(a) They provide a reasonably fixed yardstick or time scale against which to set other evidence.

(b) If in fact the whole of Paul's extremely diverse literary career occupied so brief a span, this gives us some objective criterion of how much time needs to be allowed for developments in theology and practice. Though it may at first sight appear extraordinarily short, we should not forget two other canons of measurement. The whole of Jesus' teaching and ministry (which I believe to have involved at least three fundamental shifts in the way he saw his person and work) [Cf. my book The Human Face of God, 1973,80-4.] occupied at most three or four years. And the whole development of early Christian thought and practice up to the death of Stephen and the conversion of Paul, including the first Hellenistic statement of the gospel, took place within something like the same period. [Cf. R. B. Rackham, Acts, 61912, Ixix.] Indeed Hengel, in his important article 'Christologie und neutestamentliche Chronologic', [In Baltensweiler and Reicke, News Testament und Geschichte, 43-67.] argues strongly that the crucial stage in the church's basic understanding of Christ and his significance was represented by the four to five 'explosive' years between 30 and 35. These years included the tension between the groups in Jerusalem (c.31-2), the murder of Stephen and the dispersion of the church apart from the apostles (c.32-3), the conversion of Paul (c.32-4), and the first missionary work in Judaea and Samaria, Phoenicia, Damascus and Antioch (c.33-5). By the time of his first extant epistle (I Thessalonians) Paul's Christology, Hengel maintains, is in all fundamentals complete, having reached its essential shape in the years prior to any of his missionary journeys. Speaking of the period up to the council of Jerusalem in 48 (and his dates agree with ours), he says: 'Fundamentally more happened christologically in these few years than in the following 700 years of church history, [Hengel, op. cit., 58; cf. his Son of God, ET 1976, 2.] A priori arguments from Christology to chronology, and indeed from any 'development' to the time required for it, are almost wholly unreliable.

(c) The working assumption we made to trust Acts until proved otherwise has been very substantially vindicated. There is practically nothing in Luke's account that clashes with the Pauline evidence, and in the latter half of Acts the correspondences are remarkably close. Even in the speeches attributed to Paul, and especially those at which Luke can be presumed to have been present (Acts 20 and 22-5), there are parallels to suggest that they are far from purely free compositions. This conclusion must also be relevant as we turn now to consider how close in date Acts stands to the events which it records.


Acts and the Synoptic Gospels

WITH the Pauline chronology is bound up the question of Acts, and so of Luke and the other synoptists. Whether, according to the unanimous external tradition, Luke is the author of the third gospel and the Acts of the Apostles is not directly our problem.  Though a second-century date clearly rules out a companion of Paul, the middle ground of 80-90 for which most recent critics opt need not. In fact Goodspeed argues for the authorship of Luke only if Acts is put late (c. 90). [INT, 197-204.]On the other hand, the earlier the joint work is dated the less reason there is for questioning the ascription.

For if it is not by Luke, then it is by some other unknown figure who stood as close to the events and for whom Paul was equally clearly the hero. It is possible to deny, on theological grounds, that the author could have been a close associate of Paul's and yet to come to exactly the same dating as those who think that he was. [Kummel, INT, 147-9, 179-87, and G. W. H. Lampe, PCB, 820f., 882f.]  I do not propose therefore to go into the question of authorship, but simply record that with the majority of English scholars I see no decisive reason against accepting the traditional ascription. [For a balanced assessment of the points at issue, cf. C. S. C. Williams, Acts, introduction. In favour of Lukan authorship: Streeter, FG, 540-62; E. E. Ellis, Luke (NCB), 1966, 40-52. Against: Haenchen, Acts, 112-16; Kummel, INT, 147-50, 174-85]

If an author for the Gospel, in particular, were being invented or guessed at there would have been the strongest possible reason for fastening on an apostle or at any rate a disciple of the Lord. Moreover, the style of the 'we' sections of Acts (16.10-17; 20.5-15; 21.1-18; 27.1-28.16) is, as Harnack showed, the style par excellence of the writer of the whole when freely composing in his own hand. [A. Harnack, Date of Acts and the Synoptic Gospels, ET 1911, ch. i; cf. his earlier Luke the Physician, ET 1907, ch. 2. Goodspeed and Williams here concur.] There is no real ground for arguing that he is here using a source or travel-diary other than his own. The discrepancies with Pauline teaching have in my judgment been much exaggerated, [Emphasized by Haenchen, Acts, 112-16.] and room must be allowed for two facts,  (a) Acts is presenting Paul for the most part addressing those outside the church, in contrast with the epistles which deal with concerns between Christians. The only speech in Acts addressed by Paul to Christians is that to the elders at Miletus in 20.17-38, which we have already seen contains some remarkable parallels with the later Pauline writings. [Pp. 80f. above.] In Rom.1.18-2.16 Paul shows how far he is prepared to go in accepting pagan presuppositions in addressing those outside the law; there is no fundamental contrast with the speech put into his mouth at Athens in Acts 17.22-31. [For the historical setting of this, cf. T. D. Barnes, 'An Apostle on Trial', JTS n.s.20, 1969,407-19.] (b) The author of Acts is an independent lay mind of Gentile upbringing who presents himself (Luke 1.1-4) primarily as an historian, not a professional theologian. [For the most recent assessment of Luke's intention, in the light of the Hellenistic parallels, cf. W. C. van Unnik, 'Once more St Luke's Prologue', Neotestamentica 7, 1973, 7-26, and the literature there cited.]  Thus, Acts 13.39 ('It is through him that everyone who has faith is acquitted of everything for which there was no acquittal under the Law of Moses') is a typical 'lay' summary of a theologian's position: inadequate in precision of statement (for it could be taken to imply that for some things justification by the law was possible), but sufficient in general intention.  The recent tendency to turn Luke into a 'theologian's theologian', is, I believe, a misguided exercise and detracts from appreciation of his stated purpose and, within his own terms, still profoundly theological understanding of events.  Absence of reference to the epistles of Paul cannot be regarded as a decisive objection. [E.g. H. Conzelmann, The Theology of St Luke, ET 1960. For a balanced corrective, cf. I. H. Marshall, Luke: Historian and Theologian, Exeter 1970. For a survey of recent views, cf. C. K. Barrett, Luke the Historian in Recent Study, 1961; 'Philadelphia 1970.] For Luke is not writing his 'life and letters' any more than he is writing a biography of Jesus,  and Paul himself sees his letters as stopgaps or preparations for the visits, and these are what Acts records.  On the other hand, silence on the very existence of the epistles is, as Kummel says, [INT, 186; cf. Zahn, INT lll, 125f.] a formidable objection, amongst many others, to a second-century date. [Cf. Harnack, whose knowledge of the field of early Christian literature was second to none: 'It is a perfect mystery to me how men like Overbeck and now again P. W. Schmidt can set the Acts of the Apostles in a line with the works of Justin Martyr! St Luke's Christology simply cries out in protest against such procedure; nor is the case different with other characteristics of this writer' (Dale of Acts, 109). He might now have added John Knox, Marcion and the New Testament, Chicago 1942, ch.5, who argues for a date of Acts c. 140, andJ. C. O'Neill, The Theology of Acts, 1961, ch.1, who dates it between c.115 and 130.] It is unbelievable that a later writer should not have made use of them for his reconstruction or at least alluded to them.

When we come to the issue of dating proper, we may note in passing that one argument, namely, the supposed dependence of Acts on Josephus' Antiquities, [Stressed, for instance, by F. C. Burkitt, The Gospel History and its Transmission, Edinburgh 1906, 109f.] which would require a date after 93, seems to have been almost totally abandoned. [Cf. F. J. Foakes Jackson, Acts (Mofiatt NTC), 1931, xivf.; Kummel, INT, 186; Lampe, PCB, 883; Manson, Studies in the Gospels and Epistles, 641. Writing in 1910, Harnack regarded this point as having been 'settled thirty-four years ago by Schurer'. Quoting the latter's summary, 'Either St Luke had not read Josephus, or, if he had read him, he had forgotten what he had read',Harnack said: 'Schurer here exactly hits the mark' (Date of Acts, 114f.).] Apart from general considerations of the time required for the development of the theological and historical perspective of Luke-Acts, which are notoriously subjective, and in turn depend on other datings, the three 'hard' pieces of evidence are: (a) the prophecies of the fall of Jerusalem in Luke; (b) the dependence (according to the most widely held solution of the synoptic problem) of the gospel of Luke upon that of Mark; and (c) the fact that Acts ends where it does.

The first, (a), we have already examined and concluded that these prophecies afford no ground for supposing that they were composed or even written up after the event.  Rather, the contrary. This does not of course mean that they could not have been incorporated, without change (though this in itself would need explanation), into a gospel written later. But in themselves they provide no evidence for a later dating.  Indeed they afford a presumption (from unfulfilled prophecy) of a dating not simply before the fall of the city in 70 but before the flight of Christians to Pella prior to the beginning of the war in 66.

The second, (b), depends for its force on the fact (if it is a fact) that Luke is subsequent to Mark and, of course, on the dating of Mark. The main reason for supposing Luke to have been written after 70 even by those (like Dodd) who agree that the prophecies do not demand it is that the dating of Mark forces Luke later. This, however, must be considered on its own merits in conjunction with the wider synoptic problem. It will be convenient then to look first at the third piece of evidence, relating to the ending of Acts.

(c) The closing words of Acts are:

He [Paul] stayed there [in his own lodging in Rome] two full years at his own expense, with a welcome for all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the facts about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and without hindrance (28.30f.).

The question is: why does the account stop at this point?  As Harnack said,[Date of Acts, 95f.]

Throughout eight whole chapters St Luke keeps his readers intensely interested in the progress of the trial of St Paul, simply that he may in the end completely disappoint them —  they learn nothing of the final result of the trial!  Such a procedure is scarcely less indefensible than that of one who might relate the history of our Lord and close the narrative with his delivery to Pilate, because Jesus had now been brought up to Jerusalem and had made his appearance before the chief magistrate in the capital city!

Various reasons have been advanced to explain this ending. [For a summary of suggested solutions, cf. Lake and Cadbury in Beginnings IV, 349f.; for Lake's own proposals, V, 326-32. R. P. C. Hanson, 'Interpolations in the "Western" Text of Acts', NTS 12, 1965-6, 224-30, suggests merely that Luke did not need to go on because his (Roman) readers knew the rest. But presumably they also knew about the two previous years.] It is said that it suits Luke's apologetic purpose to close with Paul preaching 'openly and without hindrance' to the Roman public.  But this must surely have been rendered less than cogent for Theophilus by glossing over in silence the common knowledge that he and Peter and 'a vast multitude' of other Christians in the city had within a few years been mercilessly butchered.  There is no hint of the Neronian persecution, which because of its excesses won considerable sympathy for the Christians, as Tacitus says. [Am. 15.44.]  Nor for that matter is there any hint of the death of James the Lord's brother in 62, which took place at the hands of the Sanhedrin against the authority of Rome. The high priest Ananus seized the opportunity of an interregnum in the procuratorship after the death of Festus to exercise capital jurisdiction for which the Sanhedrin had no authority. Agrippa took immediate steps to put himself and the Jewish people in the right with Rome by removing Ananus from office before the new procurator arrived. [Josephus, Ant. 20. 200-3.]  No incident could have served Luke's apologetic purpose better, that it was the Jews not the Romans who were the real enemies of the gospel. Yet there is not a hint of James ever falling foul of the Jewish authorities, unlike his namesake, James the brother of John (Acts 12. if.) Nor is there any shadow in Acts of the impending Jewish revolt, let alone of the destruction of Jerusalem to bear out the earlier prophecies of the Gospel. When last we hear of them, the representatives of Judaism, alike of church (24.21.; 25.1-5) and state (25.13-26.32), are living in a condition of courteous, if suspicious, detente with Rome.  One could never guess from Acts what was to break within a few years.

Other explanations, that Acts was left unfinished (yet never supplied with an ending such as was deemed necessary for Mark) or that Luke intended a third volume (for which there is no evidence whatever - and in any case why break there? ), are recourses of desperation. [So Zahn, INT III., 58-61.] Harnack wrote again: [Date of Acts, 96f.]

For many years I was content to soothe my intellectual conscience with such expedients; but in truth they altogether transgress against inward probability and all the psychological laws of historical composition. The more clearly we see that the trial of St Paul, and above all his appeal to Caesar, is the chief subject of the last quarter of Acts, the more hopeless does it appear that we can explain why the narrative breaks off as it does, otherwise than by assuming that the trial had actually not yet reached its close. It is no use to struggle against this conclusion. [Even Manson, op. cit., 67, who thinks Mark early enough to accommodate such a date for Acts (see below, p. 111), struggles against this conclusion to the extent of saying that Luke perhaps did not himself know the outcome of Paul's trial, or, granted that he must have heard of his martyrdom if it had occurred 'anywhere near the dates usually given for it', is ready to appeal to Luke's silence as evidence that it did not!]

Harnack is still worth quoting, not merely because he is one of the great ones in the field, whose massive scholarship and objectivity of judgment contrast with so many who have come after him, but because on this subject he was forced slowly and painfully to change his mind. In his Chronologic, itself, as he says in his preface, [Chron; vi, dated 31 May 1896.] the product of fifteen years' study, he dated Luke-Acts with some confidence between 78 and 93. [Chron., 250.]  By the time he wrote his Acts of the Apostles he personally felt that an earlier date was far more probable but cautiously deferred to the weight of contrary opinion: [A. Harnack, The Acts of the Apostles, originally Leipzig 1908; ET 1909.]

Therefore for the present we must be content to say: St Luke wrote at the time of Titus [79-81] or in the earlier years of Domitian [81-96], but perhaps even so early as the beginning of the seventh decade of the first century.

But three years later in his Date of Acts and the Synoptic Gospels [Originally Neue Untersuchungen zur Apostelgeschichte, Leipzig 1911; ET, 90-135.] he concluded without reservation that it is 'in the highest degree probable' that Acts was written at the stage at which the narrative terminates, i.e., on our reckoning, if not his, in 62. [I raise the question, without having been able to document the answer, whether Harnack may not have changed his mind on this too. According to his Chronologic, Paul left Jerusalem in 56, arrived in Rome in 57, and the two years' detention there would have ended in 59. Yet in The Date of Acts he argues for a date in the early 60s and quotes (92) with approval a fellow German scholar who, on the basis of his own previous statement in The Acts of the Apostles, dated it in 62. Despite the English title of his second book, he never actually dates Acts. But it certainly looks as though, without mentioning it, he had moved away from his previous (unsatisfactory) argument for an early dating for Festus' accession. Bammel agrees and tells me it was probably due to Schurer's article, INT 41, 21-42, replying to his Chronologic a year later.] He argues that in 28.30 the aorist ἐνέμεινεν, rather than an imperfect, suggests that the period of Paul's relative freedom was now closed, but that if he had left Rome Luke could hardly have failed to mention it.  He therefore thinks that Acts was written very soon after this time of unhindered evangelism was over and Paul was removed to the praetorium to begin the process of his trial.  [Parry, The Pastoral Epistles, xvf, while agreeing with Harnack's conclusion on the date, argues that the implication of the aorist is that Paul left Rome after two years. But neither inference can be more than a guess, and indeed even to press the implications of the tense at all is hazardous. See below p. 141.]

If the outcome of that trial (or a subsequent one) was already known, it is surely incredible, as Harnack says, that no foreshadowing or prophecy of it after the event is allowed to appear in the narrative. For earlier Agabus, besides foretelling a famine (Acts 11.28), pro­phesies that Paul would be bound by the Jews in Jerusalem and handed over to the Gentiles (21.11);
and Paul himself is represented as knowing in advance that he was destined to appear safe before the emperor, with the lives of all that were sailing with him (27.24). Yet the only hint he gives of his ultimate fate is that 'imprisonment and hardships' await him and that his friends at Miletus would 'never see his face again' (20.24f, 38).  What we should expect, but do not get, are such clear predictions (whether genuine or not) as we find of the death of Peter in John 21.18f. and II Peter 1.14.


Harnack goes on to adduce numerous positive indications of an early dating of Acts derived from the primitive character of its terminology. [Date of Acts, 103-14.] But none of these is proof against the argument that ' Luke is using the language of his sources or consciously archaizing. Nor may we draw any certain conclusion from the notable absence from Acts of subsequent changes in Roman administration and law.[Cf. Sherwyn-White, Roman Society and Roman Law, especially 85, 120-2,172-93.] Nevertheless, the burden of proof would seem to be heavily upon those who would argue that it does come from later, and there is nothing, as far as I can see, in the theology or history of the Gospel or Acts that requires a later date if the prophecies of the fall of Jerusalem do not. [Cf. Reicke, 'Synoptic Prophecies', 134: 'The only reasonable explanation for the abrupt ending of Acts is the assumption that Luke did not know anything of events later than 62 when he wrote his two books.'J. Munck, Acts (Anchor Bible), New York 1967, xlvi-liv, added the weight of his authority to a dating at the beginning of the 60s, concluding: 'It is simply not possible to use relative chronologies based on internal comparison among the gospels as arguments against an early date for Luke-Acts, until the datings proposed either by source critics or members of other schools can be demonstrated beyond cavil to have a firmer foundation than is at present the case' (liv). Gf. earlier Rackham, Acts, 1-lv; Torrey, Composition and Date of Acts, 66-8; Bruce, Acts, 10-14.]  From the internal evidence of the two books we should therefore conclude (as did Eusebius) [HE 2. 22.6.] that Acts was completed in 62 or soon after, with the Gospel of Luke some time earlier. [C. S. G. Williams, 'The Date of Luke-Acts', ExpT 64, 1952-3, 283f, and Acts, 12f., argues that Acts is early but Luke late. But this is an unnecessary expedient, which reverses the author's clear indication that the first volume of his work was already with Theophilus by the time that he undertook the sequel (Acts 1.1). There is no reason to believe that 'Proto-Luke' (as Williams argues) was ever a sufficiently finished product to leave its author's hands.]  But what of the repercussions of this for the daring of the other synoptists, and in particular of Mark, which, on the prevailing hypothesis of the priority of Mark, Luke was using?  It is the difficulty of squaring this conclusion with the dominant view that Mark comes from the latter 6os (if not later) that has weighed most heavily against its acceptance.


At this point one comes up against the synoptic problem and its solution. In some circles there has of late been a vigorous revival, led by W. R. Farmer, [W. R. Farmer, The Synoptic Problem, New York and London 1964.]  of the hypothesis first formulated by J.J. Griesbach in 1783 that Mark represents a conflation of Matthew and Luke, Luke himself being dependent on Matthew. In this case there is no problem as far as the dating of Mark is concerned, since it can be put as late after Luke as desired. But a similar question then arises with the dating of Matthew which on this hypothesis Luke used, and this for most scholars would present even greater difficulties. It has even been argued that Luke was written first of all, though this has not commended itself widely. [R. L. Lindsay, A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark, Jerusalem n.d. [1969], and A New Approach to the Synoptic Gospels, Jerusalem. 1971.]   In any case, the question of relative order is secondary to that of absolute dating. Reicke, working with the hypothesis of Markan priority, is prepared to date all three synoptists before 60, whereas the great majority of its other representatives put all of them later. On the other hand Farmer thinks them all to be late (with Mark possibly even in the second century), [Op.cit.,227] while another exponent of the Griesbach hypothesis, J. B. Orchard, [J. B. Orchard, Matthew, Luke and Mark, 1976.] would see Matthew as composed in the 40s with Luke and Mark in the early 60s.

This is not the place to become involved in the synoptic problem for its own sake.  It is also a time when the state of opinion with regard to it is more fluid than it has been for fifty years. The consensus frozen by the success of the 'fundamental solution' propounded by Streeter has begun to show signs of cracking. [FG, chapter 7.] Though this is still the dominant hypothesis, incapsulated in the textbooks, its conclusions can no longer be taken for granted as among the 'assured results' of biblical criticism. It is far too early yet to say what new patterns or modifications of older patterns will establish themselves. The main thing required is a suspension of former dogmatisms and an admission that none of the various hypotheses so confidently advanced as overall solutions may satisfy all the facts. As E. P. Sanders concludes in his careful study, The Tendencies of the Synoptic Tradition,

The evidence does not seem to warrant the degree of certainty with which many scholars hold the two-document hypothesis. It would also seem to forbid that a similar degree of certainty should be accorded to any other hypothesis. ...
I believe our entire study of the Synoptic Gospels would profit from a period of withholding judgments on the Synoptic problem while the evidence is resitted. ... I rather suspect that when and if a new view of the Synoptic problem becomes accepted, it will be more flexible and complicated than the tidy two-document hypothesis.[E. P. Sanders, The Tendencies of the Synoptic Tradition, Cambridge 1969, 278f. In the context of his argument the author italicized the first sentence.]

With that judgment I should fully concur, and it has been borne out for me by a test-study I have recently made on a small but representative sample, the parable of the wicked husbandmen in Mark i a. 1-12 and pars.  [See my article, 'The Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen: A Test of Synoptic Relationships', NTS 21, 1974—5, 443—61.] Though its conclusions do not depend upon any particular dating nor is the dating dependent on them, I would refer the reader to it to indicate at one point how the fresh openness for which I am pleading is not simply based on a vague impression but demanded by a detailed analysis of the evidence. My conclusion is that we must be open to seeing that the most primitive state of the triple, or 'Markan', tradition (as indeed most scholars would agree in relation to the double, or 'Q', tradition) is not consistently or exclusively to be found in any one gospel, to which we must then assign overall temporal priority. Rather I believe that there was written (as well as oral) tradition underlying each of them, which is sometimes preserved in its most original form by Matthew, sometimes by Luke, though most often, I would judge, by Mark. Hence the strength of the case for the priority of Mark, which is nevertheless overstated when this gospel is itself regarded as the foundation-document of the other two. The gospels as we have them are to be seen as parallel, though by no means isolated,  developments of common material for different spheres of the Christian mission, rather than a series of documents standing in simple chronological sequence. This still allows the possibility that Matthew, say, may have been affected by Mark in the course of the redactional process, or indeed Luke by Matthew, without requiring us to believe that one is simply to be dated after the other.


We have been accustomed for so long to what might be called linear solutions to the synoptic problem, where one gospel simply 'used' another and must therefore be set later, that it is difficult to urge a more fluid and complex interrelation between them and their traditions without being accused of introducing unnecessary hypotheses and modifications. But if we have learnt anything over the past fifty years it is surely that whereas epistles were written for specific occasions (though they might be added to or adapted later), gospels were essentially for continuous use in the preaching, teaching, apologetic and liturgical life of the Christian communities. They grew out of and with the needs. One can only put approximate dates to certain states or stages and set a certain terminus ad quern for them, according to what they do or do not reflect. And at any stage in this development one must be prepared to allow for cross-fertilization between the on­going traditions. This does not at all mean that all interrelationships are equally probable or that rigorous sifting of various hypotheses to explain them is not required. But in dealing with the dating of the gospels one is dealing not so much with a succession of points in time as with potentially overlapping spans of development in which oral and literary processes went on together and in which the creative hand of the individual evangelist is not to be isolated from the continuing pressures of community use. And one has always to make allowance for the fact that the external evidence which speaks of the 'writing' or 'putting out' of the gospels, even if it reflects good tradition, cannot with confidence be assigned to any one stage or state of this process.


With these general observations, which can only be ratified by specific studies, I would venture to sketch what would appear to be a plausible account of how and when the gospel traditions took shape.


We may begin with the earliest external testimony which we have, the well-known words of Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis in the early part of the second century, whom Irenaeus described as 'a hearer of John and a companion of Polycarp, a man of primitive times'. [Adv. haer. 5. 33.4; cited Eusebius, HE 3. 39.1.] Papias is quoted by Eusebius, [HE 3.39.15. For recent discussions of this, cf. H. E. W. Turner, 'The Tradition of Mark's Dependence upon Peter', Exp T 71, 1959-60, 260-3; Martin, Mark: Evangelist and Theologian, 52f., 80—3.]  first of all, with regard to Mark:

This also the elder used to say. Mark, indeed, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote accurately, howbeit not in order, all that he recalled of what was either said or done by the Lord. [Lawlor and Oulton here translate ωενόμενος 'having been', implying that he was the 'late' interpreter of Peter, who was by then dead. But it is best not to prejudge this.] For he neither heard the Lord, nor was he a follower of his, but, at a later date (as I said), of Peter; who used to adapt his instructions to the needs [of the moment], but not with a view to putting together the dominical oracles in orderly fashion:
so that Mark did no wrong in thus writing some things as he recalled them. [For an attractive alternative interpretation of χρείαι (adopted by Farmer, op. cit., 266-70, and Orchard) to mean brief biographical apophthegms for instructional purposes, cf. R. O. P. Taylor, The Groundwork of the Gospels, Oxford 1946, 29f.) 75-90. He takes Papias to mean: 'Peter drew up his lessons with a view to supplying maxims and anecdotes to be learnt in order to be quoted' (30).] For he kept a single aim in view: not to omit anything of what he heard, nor to state anything therein falsely. And, then, immediately afterwards [HE 3.39.16.], concerning Matthew: So then, Matthew compiled the oracles in the Hebrew language;  but everyone interpreted them as he was able.

Papias here distinguishes the ad hoc instructions (διδασκαλίας) used for preaching and teaching, which were adapted to the requirements of the occasion, and the more orderly collection (σύνταξιν) of the sayings of the Lord (τῶν κυριὰκῶν λογίων). The former were reflected, so he believed, in the recollections of Mark, the latter in the compilation (συνετάξατο) of Matthew. The former were, we may suppose, judging from the content of St Mark's gospel, primarily stories ('of what was either said or done by the Lord') culminating in the passion story, the latter primarily sayings. These two elements are recognizably the building bricks of all the matter represented in different proportions in our synoptic gospels. Without pressing any hard and fast distinction, we may judge that the dominant context in the life of the church for the preservation of the first was kerygma or preaching, that for the second didache or teaching. The needs of the former are reflected in such summaries as that in Acts 10.37-41:

I need not tell you what happened lately all over the land of the Jews, starting from Galilee after the baptism proclaimed by John. You know about Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we can bear witness to all that he did in the Jewish country-side and in Jerusalem. He was put to death by hanging on a gibbet; but God raised him to life on the third day, and allowed him to appear, not to the whole people, but to witnesses whom God had chosen in advance - to us, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.

The needs of the latter will have led to such collections of sayings (and how far and when they were written down is quite secondary) as we have learnt to label for convenience 'Q' and (to the extent that they are sayings rather than stories) 'M' and 'L'.  [For this category of sayings-collections within and beyond our canonical gospels, cf. J. M. Robinson, 'Logoi Sophon: On the Gattung of Q.', in J. M. Robinson and H. Koester, Trajectories through Early Christianity, Philadelphia 1971, 71-113.] This first stage must have gone back to the earliest days of the Christian mission and the instruction of converts in the 30s and 40s, and was doubtless perpetuated after the demand for more complex formulations arose.

Secondly, out of these stories and sayings (under the influence of a variety of motives, evangelistic, apologetic, catechetical, disciplinary and liturgical) one may see emerging for the first time documents which could in a proper sense be described, not indeed as 'gospels' in the plural, a use not to be found until the last quarter of the second century, but as 'the gospel' in writing.
[For the evidence cf. G. W. H. Lampe (ed.), A Patristic Greek Lexicon, Oxford 1961—8, εὐαγγέλιον.] This is the usage that appears to be reflected in the Didache: [All translations of the Apostolic Fathers are fromJ. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, 1891. His five-volume edition of the same title, 21889-90, will be distinguished by inclusion of the volume number.]

As the Lord commanded in his Gospel, thus pray ye: Our Father ... (8.2).

But concerning the apostles and prophets, so do ye according to the ordinance of the Gospel. Let every apostle, when he cometh to you, be received as the Lord ... (11.3).

Reprove one another, not in anger but in peace, as ye find in the Gospel (15.3).

But your prayers and your almsgivings and all your deeds so do ye as ye find it in the Gospel of the Lord (15.4).

The reference is evidently to some document familiar and accessible to the readers. Though closest to the Matthean tradition, the quotations cannot be demonstrated to depend on the canonical gospel of Matthew. The dating of the Didache is notoriously uncertain and we shall return to it in ch. x. Here I shall anticipate the findings of J.-P. Audet's massive and detailed investigation that though these passages come in his judgment from the second stage of its composition they still reflect a period before our gospels were completed and throw valuable light on their prehistory. [J.P. Audet, La Didache: Instructions des Apotres (Etudes Bibliques), Paris 1958.] We may for the sake of argument call this document proto-Matthew.  Its milieu is clearly Palestinian or Syrian and many have seen the most probable locale both of the Didache and of Matthew to be Antioch.
It is likely to have represented the first formulated statement of 'the gospel' used by the apostles, teachers and prophets to whom the Didache refers (10.7-15.2),  and whom Acts also mentions in connection with Antioch and its missionary work (13.1-3; 14.14). Inasmuch as Paul went out in the first instance as the delegate of this church, we may suppose that this was primarily the tradition of the 'words of the Lord' which he took with him, and it would explain the otherwise rather unexpected affinity alike in doctrine and in discipline between Paul and Matthew, [Cf. B. C. Butler, 'St Paul's Knowledge and Use of St Matthew', DR 60, 1948, 363-83; Dodd, 'Matthew and Paul', NT Studies, 53-66; D. L. Dungan, The Sayings of Jesus in the Churches of Paul, Oxford 1971.] especially in early writings like the Thessalonian epistles. [Cf. J. B. Orchard, 'Thessalonians and the Synoptic Gospels', Bb 19, 1938, 19-42; J. A. T. Robinson, Jesus and His Coming, 1957, 105-11.]  (To the implications of this for the dating of Matthew I shall return.)

If this is the case, it would go a long way to explain the external tradition that Matthew was the first gospel. It has been widely recognized, even by advocates of the priority of Matthew, that this cannot be true of our canonical Matthew, which quite apart from its possible (indeed probable) dependence on Mark, shows every sign of incorporating some of the latest developments in the synoptic tradition. It is scarcely sufficient, either, to make it refer to the λόγια mentioned by Papias as collected by Matthew in the Hebrew tongue, which are much more likely to relate to a pre-gospel stratum like 'Q. [For a strong statement of this, cf. Manson, Studies in the Gospels, 75-82.] But it might reflect the composition which for the sake of a label we have called proto-Matthew. This could have some relationship to what is referred to by Irenaeus (assuming he had any tradition independent of Papias) when he reports that 'Matthew published a gospel in writing (γράφην ἐξήνεγκεν εὐαγγενίου) among the Hebrews in their own language', though clearly what is being quoted by the Didache and used at Antioch is in Greek.  [Adv. haer. 3.1.1. The Greek is cited in Eusebius, HE 5.8.2. For further discussion of this passage, see below p. 110.] This stage may coincide with the needs of the missionary expansion from Antioch in the second half of the 40s, described in Acts 13 and 14.

What such a document contained it is, of course, impossible to be sure. All that the Didache, as its name implies, is interested in citing is material relating to liturgical, ethical and disciplinary instruction. But the Didache, or 'the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles', refers to it, with deference, as 'the Gospel of the Lord' (or 'his Gospel'), as though it were clearly different from teaching and nothing else. Dogmatism about what a gospel 'must' have included at this stage is clearly out of place. The 'Gospel of Thomas' is indeed no more than a collection of sayings, but this title (confined to its colophon: at the beginning it describes itself as 'the secret words'), like that of 'The Gospel of Truth', may reflect the polemical usage of heretical circles in the second century. It could represent 'a flag under which various kinds of writings circulated at a time when the canonical gospels and hence the title "gospel" had gained wide acceptance in the orthodox church'. [J. M. Robinson in Robinson and Koestcr, op. cit., 76.] Indeed this is what Irenaeus suggests. ['For indeed they go on to such great audacity as to entitle what they themselves only recently wrote as "The Gospel of Truth", although it agrees at no point with the gospels by the apostles, so that not even the gospel can be among them without blasphemy. For if what they publish as of truth is the gospel, but is dissimilar to those handed down to us by the apostles, persons who so wish can learn (as is shown from the writings themselves), that what was handed down from the apostles is not the gospel of truth' (Adv. haer. 3.11.9; quoted by J. M. Robinson, op. cit., 77).]  Within the main stream of the church's tradition there is no suggestion that 'the gospel' centred on anything but what was 'proclaimed', the kerygma - and that found its focus in the death and resurrection of Christ. [Cf. F. F. Bruce, 'When is a Gospel not a Gospel?', BJRL 45, 1962-3, 310-39: 'A Gospel without a passion narrative is a contradiction in terms' (324).] This is true of 'the gospel' that Paul himself received in the earliest days (I Cor.15.1-4), and it is still true when 'the gospel' comes to have the overtones of a written book set alongside the Old Testament: 'Give heed to the Prophets, and especially to the Gospel, wherein the passion is shown to us and the resurrection is accomplished'. [Ignatius, Smyrn. 7.2; cf. Philad. 8.2 (cf. 9.2). Koester, Synoptische Uberlieferung bei den apostolischen Vdtern, Berlin 1957, 6-12, argues that in Ignatius the reference of 'the gospel' is still oral, though he agrees that there is a transition to written form in Did. 15.31. It is remarkable that neither these passages nor those in the Didache are mentioned by Koester in his discussion of the origins of the 'Gattung' gospel in Robinson and Koester, op. cit., 158-66, nor again by W. Schneemelcher in his survey of the history of the term 'Gospel' in E. Hennecke (ed.), New Testament Apocrypha, ET 1963-5,1, 71-84.]  It is a fair assumption then that what the Didachist deferred to as 'the Gospel' contained, as well as the matter which he was interested in citing, the story of Jesus up to and including his death and resurrection.

Now there is no evidence to suggest that the Matthean tradition, unlike the Lukan and the Johannine,  ever contained passion material (except of a suspiciously secondary strain) independent of that which it shares with Mark. [E.g. stories like that of Pilate's wife's dream (Matt.27.19), his hand-washing (27.24f.), and the guards at the tomb (27.62-6; 28.11-15).] Whatever the relationship between our Matthew and our Mark, it is clear that there was common material (evidently, from the degree of verbal agreement, in written form) which, as I read the evidence, goes back behind them both and which Matthew on some occasions at least still preserves in its most primitive state. [I have argued this of Matt. 26.64 = Mark 14.62 = Luke 20.69 in my Jesus and His Coming, 43-50. I contended there, on the assumption of the priority of Mark, for subsequent alterations to the Markan text. But the evidence for this is not strong, and I would prefer now to attribute the secondary features in Mark to editorial activity.] And this passion material is of a piece with other material in a common order of which the same is true.  We normally call this 'the Markan tradition',  since it is represented most distinctly and usually, I would judge, most originally in our second gospel.  But I am persuaded that it goes back behind both our first two gospels (and indeed the third). It may well be that it bears, as Papias believed, through Peter a special relationship to Mark, just as the sayings collection bore a special relationship to Matthew, without this 'P' tradition (if we may so call it) any more than the 'Q' material being exclusively identified with the gospels of Mark and Matthew as we now have them. [In this I venture to follow my uncle J. Armitage Robinson, who, according to R. H. Lightfoot, History and Interpretation in the Gospels, 1935, 27, used this symbol in his lectures at Cambridge, with 'Q' simply as the next letter in the alphabet for the sayings-collection. (This is without prejudice to whether this was the origin of the symbol 'Q,', which appears improbable; cf. Moule, Birth of the NT, 84.) 'P' may carry the overtones of 'preaching' or 'Petrine' if desired, but I would not wish to identify it simpliciter either with Peter's preaching or with Mark's gospel.] All we can say with reasonable confidence is that it was these two streams that united, with other distinctively Palestinian matter, to produce (in Greek) what I have called proto-Matthew and what the Didachist speaks of as 'the Gospel' in his area. This in itself carries no implications for the priority either of our Matthew or of our Mark, though it suggests, as Papias implies, that the 'P' material was both apostolic and early. Indeed in his version of the tradition there is no tying of it to Peter's preaching mission in Rome,  but rather to Peter's general evangelistic practice (ἐποιεῖτο), such as Paul must certainly have intended to include in his reference to the common apostolic proclamation: 'whether it be I or they' (I Cor. 15.11).[Cf. Gal. 2.9 ('we and they'); I Cor.1.2 ('theirs and ours'); and Manson, op. cit., 192-4.]

Elsewhere there were doubtless other attempts to set down in writing presentations of the gospel in a form that lay between preachers' notes and collections of sayings on the one hand and finished gospels on the other. Luke in his preface refers indeed, no doubt with some exaggeration, to a quantity of such:

Many writers have undertaken to draw up an account (διήγησιν) of the events that have happened among us, following the traditions (καθῶς παρέδοσαν) handed down to us by the original eyewitnesses and servants of the Gospel. And so I in my turn, your Excellency, as one who has gone over the whole course of these events in detail, have decided to write a connected narrative (καθεξῆς γράψαι) for you (1.1-3).

The fact that he contrasts these attempts at an 'account', alike with the traditions that lie behind them and with his own connected narrative, may suggest that we are here dealing with the stage of what we have labelled proto-gospels, written statements of the gospel for local use which, in retrospect, were 'accurate' but were felt to lack 'ordered presentation'. Indeed it may well be that the production to which the Elder gave this description was not Mark's gospel as we now have it (which does not strike us as lacking order) but a summary of Peter's mission-preaching, which was to become later a proto-gospel for the Roman church. But it is Luke himself who has provided occasion, in what Streeter called 'proto-Luke', for the supposition of a stage in the construction of the gospels which would correspond in a modern work to a first draft. What, again, this consisted of, if it was ever a self-subsistent document, will never be known; but it certainly fits much of the evidence (as Streeter argued) to suppose that Luke used the 'P' material as a secondary source to supplement the 'account' he in his turn had begun to put together 'following the traditions handed down' to him ('Q' and 'L') as a tentative statement of the gospel for the Gentile mission.

Whatever these precursors, the next stage is the formulation, in response to the changing and growing needs of the church, of the gospels as we know them, basically in their present form, though not necessarily in their final state.

Matthew represents the gospel for the Jewish-Christian church, equipping it to define and defend its position over against the arguments and institutions of the main body of Judaism. But, in contrast with the Judaizers, it is a Jewish-Christian community open to the Gentile mission and its tensions. For while Matthew contains some of the most Judaistic (5.18f.; 10.5; 15.26; 18.17;23.2f.) texts in the gospels, it also contains the most universalistic (21.43;24.14; 28.19). Antioch again seems a likely locale (cf. e.g. the tension there described in Gal. 2.11-14), though the tradition behind it is surely Palestinian.

Luke (followed by Acts) is, in contrast, essentially the gospel for that imperial world evangelized by Paul 'from Jerusalem to Rome* (Rom. 15.19-24), though not repudiating any more than Paul did its deep roots in Judaism and the Septuagint.

Mark (in whatever order it comes) is the gospel for the 'Petrine centre', serving a mixed community like the church in Rome which owes its origin and ethos exclusively to neither wing but which has its own problems and pressures.

The gospel of John must also, I believe, be seen as an integral part of the same interconnected scene, being fashioned, out of a similar process, for the church's mission among Greek-speaking Jews first in Palestine and then in the diaspora. But I shall be deferring consideration of it to a later chapter.

All these gospels will doubtless have continued to go through different states (what we might anachronistically call editions) as the needs grew and changed. This is probably least true of Luke, whose gospel is the nearest equivalent to a modern book written and published for a single individual and at a particular moment in time: 'I have decided (ἒδοξε) to write ... for you', he says to Theophilus (1.3). As the Muratorian Canon puts it, Luke 'composed [the Gospel] in his own name on the basis of report'. [Cadbury's translation, Beginnings II, 211. Cf. Manson, op. cit., 52f.] Unlike the others it does not seem to have been put together at the request, or for the purposes, of a group. Yet the evidence for an original beginning with the formal dating at 3.1 suggests an earlier state, and the whole work - with the collecting of the material for Acts - may have occupied Luke for many years (cf.1.3: 'as one who has gone over the whole course of events in detail'). Mark may have gone through more than one recension. Thus I have suggested there are grounds for supposing that its present eschatology (represented in ch.13) developed from one which originally viewed the parousia as an exaltation scene in Galilee (prefigured at the transfiguration), such as we still find in Matt. 28.16-18. [Jesus and His Coming, 128-36; cf. Trocme, Formation of Mark, ch.4; he argues that chapters 14-16 belong to the 'second edition' (c. 85).]  Indeed I am happy to discover that Goodspeed [INT, 156.] also thought that this passage incorporated the 'lost ending' of Mark - or rather, let us say, the 'P' material missing, for whatever reason, from the end of the second gospel. Later I shall be arguing that there were at least two 'editions' of John (the second with the prologue and epilogue added), and most scholars have detected more. But it is Matthew that gives evidence of the longest formation history. It has often been observed that Matthew is a 'collector', accumulating diverse layers of tradition (e.g. of eschatology in 10.23; 24.29-31; 26.64; 28.20), which may reflect different states or stages of composition. If (as those who abandon the 'two-document' hypothesis have to assert) Luke knew and used Matthew, and there was not merely a relationship through 'P' and 'Q', then it could be easier to explain the absence from Luke, or the lack of influence upon Luke, of some of the more secondary features of the special Matthean material and editorial additions on the hypothesis of an earlier 'edition' of Matthew than by Luke's deliberate omission of Jewish features that did not interest him. These would include such things as the quotation-formulae, the ecclesiastical and Petrine additions, some quasi-legendary stories, the allegorization and embellishment of many of the parables, the apocalyptization of the eschatology, and the 'prologue' of the first two chapters answering the questions, for apologetic with Judaism, of the genealogical and geographical origins of the Messiah. The 'school of Matthew', to use K. Stendahl's phrase, may well have continued for some time the process of bringing forth things old and new (13.52). [K. Stendahl, The School of St Matthew, Uppsala 1954.] Matthew could therefore in a real sense turn out to be both the earliest and the latest of the synoptists. This is interestingly reflected in a judgment of Harnack's, who was certainly no advocate of the priority of Matthew in the usual sense:

That the synoptic gospel which was most read should have received the most numerous accretions, and should be the latest in date, is nothing remarkable, but only natural. Moreover, it remains, in regard to form, the oldest 'book of the Gospel'; the others have obtained the rank and dignity of such a title because they have been set by the side of St Matthew's gospel, which from the first, unlike the others, claims to be an ecclesiastical book.[Date of Acts,  134f. He goes on: 'As the place of origin of the first gospel, Palestine alone can come into consideration.' I would agree as far as the material is concerned, though the concern for the Gentile mission perhaps suggests a more cosmopolitan place of redaction.]

The process of what Harnack calls 'accretions' continued for a long time in the textual tradition. [The doxology to the Lord's Prayer (Matt. 6.13) is an obvious example.] But can we say when Matthew reached its present canonical form?


We have looked at the arguments for dating it after 70 on the ground of its possible references to the Jewish war and the fall of Jerusalem. The addition to the parable of the great supper in 22.7 ('The king was furious, he sent troops to kill those murderers and set their town on fire') we agreed could, but by no means necessarily must, have been supplied ex eventu. But from the examination of the apocalyptic discourse in ch.24 we concluded that there was no case for thinking that it was written for the interval between the fall of Jerusalem and the parousia: rather the opposite. Indeed there was no reason for supposing that it reflected even the beginning of the war: the flight to Pella prior to its outbreak is actually contradicted by the instructions to take to the hills of Judaea. Is this conclusion borne out or overturned by the evidence of the rest of the gospel?

Matthew's gospel shows all the signs of being produced for a community (and by a community) that needed to formulate, over against the main body of Pharisaic and Sadducaic Judaism, its own line on such issues as the interpretation of scripture and the place of the law, its attitude toward the temple and its sacrifices, the sabbath, fasting, prayer, food laws and purification rites, its rules for admission to the community and the discipline of offenders, for marriage, divorce and celibacy, its policy toward Samaritans and Gentiles in a predominantly Jewish milieu, and so on. These problems reflect a period when the needs of co-existence force a clarification of what is the distinctively Christian line on a number of practical issues which previously could be taken for granted. It corresponds to the period when the early Methodists were compelled by events to cease to regard themselves as methodical Anglicans, loyal to the parish church and its structures as well as to their own class meetings. At this stage all kinds of questions of organization, ministry and liturgy, doctrine and discipline, law and finance, present themselves afresh, as a 'society' or 'synagogue' takes on the burden of becoming a 'church'.  But uneasy co-existence does not necessarily imply an irrevocable break: indeed John Wesley claimed that he lived and died a priest of the Church of England. It is in some such interval that the gospel of Matthew seems most naturally to fit. Its are not the problems of the first careless, expansionist years. Yet for all the tension there is not the altercation of two estranged and separated camps, such as followed the defeat of Judaism and is reflected in the Epistle of Barnabas, [For the dating of this, see below, ch. x.] the consolidation of rabbinic Judaism at Jamnia, and the formal ban on Christians from the synagogue. [For a discussion of this, cf. pp. 272-4 below.] One may agree with Reicke when he says:  'The situation presupposed by Matthew corresponds to what is known about Christianity in Palestine between ad 50 and ca. 64.' ['Synoptic Prophecies', 133.]

Two illustrations will indicate that the old status quo is still in operation.

Matthew is more concerned than any other evangelist with the relationship of Christianity to the temple, the priesthood and the sacrifices. Typical is a passage peculiar to this gospel in the middle of a discussion, common to the other synoptists, on the sabbath law:

Or have you not read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and it is not held against them? I tell you, there is something greater than the temple here. If you had known what that text means, 'I require mercy, not sacrifice', you would not have condemned the innocent (12.5-7).

Matthew alone has the same quotation from Hos.6.6, 'I require mercy, not sacrifice' also in 9.13, while it may perhaps be significant that he does not have that from I Sam.15.22 cited in Mark 12.33, where love of God and neighbour is declared to be 'far more than any burnt offerings or sacrifices'. Matthew's concern, like that of the author to the Hebrews, is evidently to present Jesus as the substitute for Christians of all that the temple stands for. Yet there is no more suggestion in the one than the other that the levitical system is not still in active operation. Indeed Matthew has seven references to the Sadducees (compared with one each by Mark and Luke), warning against their influence. [See especially Matt.16.1-12.In the other gospels (Mark 8.11-15; Luke 12.1) it is the Pharisees (and in Mark also Herod) who are singled out for warning.]  Since this was a group whose power disappeared with the destruction of the temple, preoccupation with them argues strongly for an earlier period.

The same applies to Matthew's characteristic interest in the Christian community's attitude to the half-shekel tax for the upkeep of the temple (17.24-7). The teaching of Jesus is taken to be that even though Christians may rightly consider themselves free of any obligation to the system, the tax should be paid, 'as we do not want to cause difficulty for these people'. This certainly does not argue a situation of open breach, but rather a concern not to provoke one. In any case, it clearly points to a pre-70 milieu. For after that date this tax had to be paid to the temple treasury of Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome [Josephus BJ 7.218.] and would have had no bearing on the Jewish question Jesus is represented as settling. [To be distinguished from the very different issue of the payment of tribute to Caesar (Mark 12.13-17 and pars).] As H. W. Montefiore has said,

The difference between Jesus' voluntary payment of the upkeep of the Jewish Temple and the Christians' payment under duress for the upkeep of a pagan shrine is very great indeed. It is almost impossible to see how a story about the former could have been constructed in order to give a precedent about the latter. ... It is easier to suppose that an earlier saying had been adapted to meet the need of Christians in the period after ad 70. [H. W. Montefiore, 'Jesus and the Temple Tax', NTS 11, 1964-5,65.]

It is surely easier still, unless we start, as he does, by saying 'it may be assumed that St Matthew's Gospel was written sometime between ad 70 and ad 96', to suppose that this 'adaptation' (which he describes as 'far too inappropriate' for invention) did not need to be made at all. The saying (which basically, he argues, goes back to Jesus) was very relevant to the pre-70 situation of the Jewish-Christian church: it was quite irrelevant afterwards.  As the Mishnah specifically says, [The laws concerning] the Shekel dues ... apply only such time as the Temple stands.' [Shek. 8.8. All translations of the Mishnah are from H. Danby, The Mishnah, Oxford IW9. Oxford 1933.]

Finally, there are two arguments which carry no weight in themselves but which may confirm an early date for Matthew if this is on other grounds probable.

In a study of the parallels between the apocalyptic material in Thessalonians and the synoptic gospels, [Jesus and His Coming, 105-11.] I recorded what then seemed to me the bizarre conclusion that the closest connections were between what appeared to be the earliest material in the epistles and the latest developments in the synoptic tradition, the editorial matter in Matthew. Of these developments, characteristic of the distinctively Matthean treatment both of 'P' and 'Q' material, I wrote:

The tendencies which produced them set in much earlier than the Gospels by themselves would lead us to expect. Already, it appears, by the year 50, the Church was thinking in a manner reflected in the Synoptic material only in its latest strands. [Op. cit., 105.]

Dating Matthew, as I then did, well after the fall of Jerusalem, I attributed this to an (unexplained) time lag.  But what if these tendencies were already those of the Matthean community and its version of the gospel by the time Paul left Antioch after the council of Jerusalem in 49? [Orchard, Bb 19, 39, draws the conclusion that Paul knew Matt.23.31-25.46 and that "this passage is something absolutely primordial and must be dated somewhere between 40 and 50 ad'. But this goes with his belief in the priority of Matthew in its present form and seems to me to be pushing the evidence much too far.] For the same connections are to be found with the apocalypse in the Didache (16), which we have already had occasion to associate with this period and place. Obviously these arguments for dating are circular, and we shall have to return to the dating of the Didache in particular. But the evidence of Thessalonians at any rate shows that this way of thinking was rife in the year 50.
The marks of it in Matthew 24 cannot therefore be used to require any later date for that gospel.

Secondly, there is an argument from silence to which no importance can be attached on its own but which is perhaps just worth including since it supports the same conclusion.  After the martyrdom of James the Lord's brother in 62, which itself has left no echo in the New Testament (as we might have expected if so much of it had been written later), [It rates a long chapter in Eusebius, HE 2.23, who gives an extensive quotation from Hegesippus, as well as being recorded by Josephus, Ant. 20. 200-3.] Eusebius records [HE 3.11; 3.32. 1-6; 4.22.4.], on the authority of Hegesippus, that he was succeeded as bishop of Jerusalem by Symeon, the son of Clopas, Joseph's brother. There is much in this tradition that is evidently hagiographical. But it seems likely that the succession would be kept within the family, the lineage necessarily for a Jew being traced through the father's side. Moreover, if a name was being invented later, one would have expected one to be supplied from among those mentioned in scripture. But the 'Mary wife of Clopas' mentioned in John 19.25, and referred to in this connection by Eusebius [HE 3.11.], who is probably (though not certainly) to be identified with 'the other Mary' (Matt.27.61) at the cross and tomb, [Cf. A. Meyer and W. Bauer in Hennecke, NTApoc. 1,425f.] is described as the mother of James and Joseph (Mark 15.40; Matt.27.56), or of the one (Mark 16.1; Luke 24.10), or the other (Mark 15.47), but never of Symeon.  If Symeon was the son who after 62 achieved leadership of the mother church one might at least have expected his mention, especially in the Palestinian tradition. For Mark goes to the trouble of naming the sons of Simon of Cyrene, Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15.21), perhaps because, like their mother, Rufus was a member of the Christian congregation in Rome (Rom.16.13),  and Matthew alone identifies Salome with the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Matt.27.56, as well as introducing her in 20.20). For what little it is worth, it suggests again that the first gospel is prior to this date. In this case we have pushed Matthew back at any rate before 62,  which is exactly the date to which we were driven for Acts, with Luke a little earlier. This would mean that the final stage of the formation of the synoptic gospels roughly coincided with the end of the 50s. Our argument so far would therefore yield the following provisional schema:

  1. Formation of stories- and sayings-collections
    ('P', 'Q:, 'L', 'M'): 30s and 40s +

  2. Formation of 'proto-gospels': 40s and 50s +

  3. Formation of our synoptic gospels: 50-60 +

But how, finally, does Mark fit into this, from the question of whose dating we started?

It is a curious phenomenon that for the gospel that was least read or esteemed in the early church there is more tradition relating to its date of composition than any other. For the rest there are statements about the sequence in which they were written, which for the most part merely reflect or rationalize the canonical order. The only exception is that of Clement of Alexandria, who is reported by Eusebius [HE 6. 14.5.] to have inserted into his Hypotyposeis 'a tradition of the primitive elders' that 'those gospels were first written which include the genealogies' (i.e. Matthew and Luke). As Mark was honoured as the first bishop of Alexandria there would seem to be no motive there in deliberately putting his gospel last of the synoptists. But this tradition can scarcely be used, as it is by Farmer, [Op. cit., 226.] in support of his hypothesis that Mark represents a literary conflation of Matthew and Luke, since the same tradition went on to say of the origin of the gospel of Mark [HE 6.14.6f.]:


When Peter had publicly preached the word at Rome, and by the Spirit had proclaimed the Gospel, that those present, who were many, exhorted Mark, as one who had followed him for a long time and remembered what had been spoken, to make a record of what was said; and that he did this, and distributed the Gospel among those that asked him. And that when the matter came to Peter's knowledge he neither strongly forbade it nor urged it forward. [The text here is probably corrupt. The Greek reads ὃπερ ἐπιγνόντα τὸν Πέτρον προτρεπτικῶς μύτε κωλῦσαι μύτε κωλῦσαι μύτε προτρέψασθαι. The repetition προτρεπτικῶς ... προτρέψασθαι is odd to say the least. An amendment πνευματικῶς has been suggested, in line with the similar statement ('by revelation of the Spirit') in HE 2.15.2 (cited p. 108 below). The Latin version has 'postmodum' ('later').]

It is natural to regard this tradition as being the same as that quoted from Papias earlier: [Pp. 95 above.] indeed elsewhere Eusebius says that Papias 'corroborates' the testimony. [HE 2. 15.2.] Yet the matter common to both is actually limited to the bare fact of Mark being a follower of Peter who wrote down what he recalled of his teaching. It is Clement who links it to a particular preaching mission in Rome, and to the production and distribution of a book to which Peter's reaction is recorded - clearly implying that Peter was still alive (though absent) at the time of its writing. [Thus contradicting the implication Lawlor and Oulton find in Papias' statement that Mark's link with Peter lay in the past.]  Both passages however tend to damn Mark's efforts with faint praise, and Peter's neutral attitude towards it may reflect no more than the church's doubts about the value of St Mark's gospel for the canon. In his other account of it  Eusebius relates a more enthusiastic response, which suggests a desire to re­inforce the apostolic authority of the second gospel: [HE 2.15.1f.; quoting Clement, Hypotyp. 6.]

So brilliant was the light of piety that shone upon the minds of Peter's hearers [in Rome], that they were not content to be satisfied with hearing him once and no more, nor with the unwritten teaching of the divine message; but besought with all kinds of entreaties Mark, whose Gospel is extant, a follower of Peter, that he would leave them in writing also a memoir of the teaching they had received by word of mouth; nor did they relax their efforts until they had prevailed upon the man; and thus they became the originators of the book of the Gospel according to Mark, as it is called. Now it is said that when the apostle learnt, by revelation of the Spirit, what was done, he was pleased with the men's zeal, and authorized the book to be read in the churches.

Jerome also mentions the authorization of the gospel by Peter, citing Clement and Papias, but he is evidently merely copying Eusebius without checking his references. [De sir. ill. 8. Indeed elsewhere (Ep. 120 ad Hedib. 11) he has Peter narrating as Mark writes! Origen (apud Euseb. HE 6.25.5) says that Mark wrote 'in accordance with Peter's instructions'.] For the two passages conflict.  Moreover the affirmative response of the apostle is introduced by the words, 'now it is said' (φασί), suggesting that Eusebius is at this point reporting popular tradition rather than Clement's words. The passages, particularly the second, tell us nothing reliable about Peter's attitude to the gospel of Mark, but they both presuppose, if there is anything in them at all, that Peter was alive, though no longer present in Rome, when it was first committed to writing.

Moreover there are two further passages extant from Clement himself which describe Mark as writing while Peter was still in Rome.  The first is preserved only in Latin translation:

Mark, the follower of Peter, while Peter was preaching (praedicante) publicly the gospel at Rome in the presence of certain of Caesar's knights and was putting forward many testimonies concerning Christ, being requested by them that they might be able to commit to memory the things which were being spoken, wrote from the things which were spoken by Peter the Gospel which is called according to Mark. [Adumbr., on I Peter 5.13.]

The other passage (whose genuineness has yet to be established, though it seems to be coming to be accepted as Clement's) is from a letter of Clement recently published: [Text and translation from Morton Smith, Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark, Cambridge, Mass., 1973, 446-53. Reviewing the book, R. M. Grant, ATR 56, 1974, 58, writes: 'Smith definitely proves that the incomplete letter ... was written by Clement.']

As for Mark, then, during Peter's stay in Rome (κατὰ τὴν τοῦ Πέτρου ἐν Ῥώμη διατριβήν) wrote an account of the Lord's doings, not, however, declaring all of them, nor yet hinting at the secret ones, but selecting what he thought most useful for increasing the faith of those who were being instructed. But when Peter died a martyr, Mark came over to Alexandria,  [According to Eusebius, HE 2.16.1, 'It is said that this Mark journeyed to Egypt and was the first to preach [there] the Gospel, which also he had written; and that he was the first to form churches at Alexandria itself.' Eusebius, evidently relying on hearsay tradition, places this immediately after his account of the writing of the gospel in Rome during the reign of Claudius. In 2.24 he says 'Now when Nero was in the eighth year of his reign [i.e. 62], Annianus succeeded, first after Mark the evangelist, to the ministry of the community at Alexandria.' He does not actually say that the change was due to Mark's death. But Jerome (De vir. ill. 8) takes it so: 'Taking the gospel which he had completed, he came to Egypt, and proclaiming Christ first in Alexandria, established the church in such doctrine and continence of life that he induced all the followers of Christ to follow his example.' After describing Mark as a teacher ('doctor') there, he concludes: 'But he died in the eight year of Nero and was buried at Alexandria, Annianus succeeding him.' This dating is clearly incompatible, not only with what Clement says about Mark's going to Alexandria after Peter's martyrdom, but with Irenaeus* tradition (also preserved by Eusebius, HE 5.8.3) that Mark outlived Peter and Paul (see below p. no). More importantly, it is irreconcilable with I Peter 5.13 (also adduced by Eusebius, HE 2.15.2, as evidence of Mark's stay with Peter in Rome), if, as in all probability (see ch.vi below), this epistle comes from 65. Whatever the truth about Mark's association with Alexandria, Eusebius' dating is evidently unreliable.] bringing both his own notes (ὑπομνήματα) and those of Peter, from which he transferred to his former book the things suitable to whatever makes for progress towards knowledge (γνῶσιν). Thus he composed a more spiritual Gospel for the use of those who were being perfected. [Clement goes on: 'Nevertheless, he yet did not divulge the things not to be uttered, nor did he write down the hierophantic teaching of the Lord, but to the stories already written he added yet others and, moreover, brought in certain sayings (λόγια) of which he knew the interpretation would, as a mystagogue, lead the hearers into the innermost sanctuary of that truth hidden by seven veils. Thus, in sum he prepared matters, neither grudgingly nor incautiously, in my opinion, and, dying, he left his composition to the church in Alexandria, where it even yet is most carefully guarded, being read only to those who are being initiated into the great mysteries.']

The gospel for catechumens of which Clement speaks is evidently our canonical Mark, for he refers subsequently to a passage inserted into its text between 10.34 and 35, which he quotes verbatim. So this new fragment supports the dating of Mark during Peter's lifetime, though it could also help to explain other traditions now to be examined which seem to put it after the death of Peter.

There is first the so-called Anti-Marcionite Prologue (dated by D. de Bruyne [D. de Bruyne, 'Les plus anciens prologues latins des Evangiles', RBen 40, 1928, 193-214.] and Harnack [A. Harnack, 'Die altesten Evangelien-Prologe und die Bildung des Neuen Testaments', Sitzmgsberichte der preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Phil-hist. Klasse, 1928, 322-41; cf. Bacon, 'The Anti-Marcionite Prologue to John', JBL 49, '930, 43-54; W. F. Howard, 'The Anti-Marcionite Prologues to the Gospels', ExpT 47, 1935-6, 534-8; Manson, Studies in the Gospels and Epistles, 48-51.]  in 160-80, but perhaps much later) [R. G. Heard, 'The Old Gospel Prologues', J TS n.s. 6, 1955,1-16; Haenchen, Acts, 10f.] which says of Mark:

He was the interpreter of Peter. After the death (post excessionem) of Peter himself he wrote down this same Gospel in the regions of Italy.

Then there is the statement of lrenaeus: [Adv. haer. 3.1.1; as quoted in Eusebius, HE 5. 8.2-4, who supplies the Greek.]

Matthew published a Gospel in writing also, among the Hebrews in their own language,  while Peter and Paul were preaching the Gospel and founding the church in Rome." [Cf. Harnack: 'The genitive absolute is not temporal; it does not imply that the gospel of St Matthew was written at that time; it simply contrasts the ministry of the two great Apostles with that of St Matthew'. He argues (Date of Acts, 130f.), following Dom John Chapman ('St Irenaeus on the Dates of the Gospels', JTS 6, 1905, 563-9), that the purpose of this passage in the context of Irenaeus' argument was not to provide chronology but 'to prove that the teaching of the four chief apostles did not perish with their death, but that it has come down to us in writing'.] But after their decease (ἒξοδον) Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter - he also transmitted to us in writing the things which Peter used to preach. And Luke too, the attendant of Paul, set down in a book the Gospel which Paul used to preach. Afterwards John, the disciple of the Lord, the same who leant back on his breast - he too set forth the Gospel, while residing at Ephesus in Asia.

It is very doubtful if Irenaeus had access to any independent tradition [Harnack regarded the testimony of Irenaeus as having been derived from Papias and the Anti-Marcionite Prologue. Dependence on the former is certain.] and his chronology merely reflects the canonical order. He evidently meant ἒξοδον to refer to the death of Peter and Paul (as must be its primary meaning in II Peter 1.15). Yet neither this nor the 'excessionem' of the Anti-Marcionite Prologue need originally have meant more than 'departure'. Manson, after examining the matter carefully, concluded:

If Peter had paid a visit to Rome some time between 55 and 60; if Mark had been his interpreter then; if after Peter's departure from the city Mark had taken in hand - at the request of the Roman hearers - a written record of what Peter had said; then the essential points in the evidence would all be satisfied. [Op. cit., 40. He is quoted and supported by Bruce, NT History, 375, and Martin, Mark, 53.]

He added:

If there is anything in this, it suggests that the date of Mark may be a few years earlier than is usually thought likely. A date before 60 would be quite possible. [Cf. his concluding words, 45: 'The composition of the Gospel may be put several years earlier than the date commonly accepted.']

But what of the date of Peter's visit to Rome? Manson's estimate seems merely to be a guess. For if we are to take any of this tradition seriously we must also take into account Eusebius' clear statements that the preaching visit from which all this followed occurred in the reign of Claudius (4I-54). [HE 2.14.6; 17.1. There is no indication that he derived this part of the tradition from Clement, who mentions no date for the visit.]  Peter is said to have come to Rome on the heels of Simon Magus, whom Justin (himself from Samaria and a resident of Rome) twice tells us arrived in Rome in the days of Claudius Caesar [Apol. 1. 26 and 56.] - though he does not mention Peter. There is obviously much legend here, [Eusebius repeats {HE 2.13.3) what has been demonstrated to be Justin's error in supposing that the inscription in Rome 'Simons deo sancto' was evidence of his presence there. In fact it evidently referred to an altar to Semo Sanctus, a Sabine god. Cf. Lawlor and Oulton, ad loc., op. cit., II, 65.]  fully exploited later in the Pseudo-Clementines. [Recog. 3.63.] But that Simon met Peter in Rome is attested by Hippolytus [Refut. 6.15.] (also from the same city),  and there would seem no good ground for denying that Peter could have gone to Rome during Claudius' reign. [Cf. Harnack, Chron., 244: 'Whether the old tradition that brings Peter to Rome already under Claudius is completely unusable is to me questionable.']  We know that he had in all probability been in Corinth during the early 50s for long enough for some there to regard him as their leader  (I Cor.1.12; 3.22; cf. 9.4)   [Cf. later Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, apud Euseb. HE 2.25.8, who says that Peter and Paul both taught at Corinth.] - though we should never have guessed this from Acts. It is possible too that Paul's reluctance to go to Rome earlier because he did not wish to build on another's foundation (Rom. 15.20) may reflect a knowledge of Peter's work there [Cf. Lake, Earlier Epistles, 378f.] - though it is inconceivable that Peter could still have been in the city at the time of the writing of Romans (in 57) without being mentioned in the letter or its greetings.

In the Latin version of his Chronicle, [The Armenian version dates it in the third year of Caligula (39), which is quite impossible.] followed by Jerome, [De vir. ill. i.] Eusebius indeed dates Peter's arrival in Rome in the second year of Claudius (42), making him 'bishop' of Rome for 25 years. Clearly this does not imply continuous residence - not even Eusebius can have thought that — but it might be compatible with general apostolic oversight, in the same sense that he is said to have been 'bishop' of Antioch at an earlier stage. [Origen, In Luc. 6; Eusebius, HE 3.36.2; Jerome, De vir. ill. i. The Liber Pontificalis and Gregory, Epp, 7.40, have this lasting seven years. G. Edmundson, The Church in Rome in the First Century, 1913, 77, argues that these were the seven years 47-54 (prior to Peter's second visit to Rome) during which he made Antioch the centre of his work (cf. Gal.2.11).] The natural reaction of scholars has been to dismiss the dating of this visit as groundless. [E.g. B. H. Streeter, The Primitive Church, 1929, 10-14.] But there is a sizable body of evidence, both in inscriptions and literary tradition, to suggest an association of Peter with Rome a good deal longer than the brief stay at the end of his life  [At the earliest this could not have begun till after the last year covered by Acts (62), and the very latest date for Peter's martyrdom is 68. But it was probably a good deal less. Cf. pp. 140-50 below.] (for which last the case is agreed to be very strong). [Cf. e.g. H. Lietzmann, Petrus und Paulus inRom, Berlin 2I927; O. Cullmann, Peter: Disciple, Apostle, Martyr, ET 21962, ch.3; E. Dinkier, 'Die Petrus-Rom-Frage', TO 25, 1959, 189-230.]  It is assembled by G. Edmundson in his Bampton Lectures for 1913, The Church in Rome in the First Century, [Op. cit., 47-56.] a scholarly study which has been almost completely ignored, having had the bad luck to be swamped by the first world war.   [It was not even reviewed in the Journal of Theological Studies (uniquely for Bampton Lectures?) or in the Journal of Roman Studies. It received a brief notice of contents only in ExpT 25, 1913-14, 242f., and but little more in TLZ 40, 1915,9-11, where W. Bauer dismissed it as showing 'more learning than critical sense'.] He proceeds to sift the various traditions and by careful historical methods reaches surprisingly conservative conclusions. [Op. cit., 59-86. He has the great merit of citing his sources, with references, in the original.]  He believes, and his position has a good deal of support from Harnack,  [Chron., 243f. For a recent statement of the same case, cf.J. W. Wenham, 'Did Peter go to Rome in ad 42?', Tyndale Bulletin 23, 1972,94-102.] that there are in fact sound reasons for accepting a visit by Peter and Mark to Rome after Peter's disappearance from Jerusalem in 42. [This date would fit with what Harnack took seriously as the 'very old and well attested' tradition (Clement, Strom. 6.5.43, quoting the lost Kerygma Petri; Apollonius [c. 200], 'relying on tradition', apud Euseb. HE 5.18.14; Ada Petri 5; etc.) that the apostles were to stay in Jerusalem for twelve years after the crucifixion. The narrative of Acts would indeed suggest that the death of James and the flight of Peter took place just before the death of Herod Agrippa I, i.e. in 44. But there is nothing to indicate that what was seen by the church as a judgment of God for his attack on the apostles followed immediately upon it. (The argument propter hoc ergo instanter post hoc is a familiar one. Cf. Hegesippus, on the death of James the Lord's brother, apud Euseb. HE 2.23.18: 'He has become a true witness both to Jew and Greeks that Jesus is the Christ. And immediately Vespasian attacked them.' Josephus sets a five-year gap between the two events.) The time links in this section of Acts are, as we have seen, very vague. The 'about this time' of Acts 12.1 is almost certainly referring to a moment before the 'during this period' of 11.27, since the famine did not take place till c. 46, after the death of Herod. There is ground therefore for thinking that Edmundson may be right in dating the death of James and the imprisonment of Peter in the spring of 42 as part of Herod's attempt to ingratiate himself with the Jews (cf. Josephus, Ant. 19.2931.) on his return to Jerusalem from Rome late in 41, where he had been instrumental in promoting the peaceful accession of Claudius and been rewarded with a large extension to his kingdom (Ant. 19.265-77; BJ 2.206-17). His residence at Caesarea and death there (Acts 12.19-23) did not occur till 44, 'after the completion of the third year of his reign over the whole of Judaea' (Ant. 19.343-51; BJ 2.219). It looks as if Luke may have elided the two in the transitional καὶ of Acts 12.19. Peter's departure to 'another place' in 12.17 is of course entirely vague, but if he was to put himself beyond Herod's new jurisdiction he would have had to have left Palestine.] This visit could have lasted a couple of years, [Eusebius' Chronicle makes Peter go to Rome in the second year of Claudius and to Antioch two years later.] till Herod's death in 44 made Judaea safe again. Peter was back in Jerusalem in any case by the time of the council in 48: Edmundson thinks by 46, but he identifies Gal. 2.1-10 with the famine visit. He then goes on to argue ingeniously but I believe persuasively that Peter and Barnabas went on to Rome for a second time in 55 from Corinth [Cf. I Cor. 9.6 for the Corinthians' acquaintance with Barnabas. He was also, of course, a cousin of Mark's (Col. 4.10), which makes a further connection.] after the death of Claudius in October 54 (when Jews, expelled by him from Rome in 49, were once more free to return) for a supplementary visit to strengthen the church there and to appoint elders. [Such as are mentioned later in I Peter 5.1-4, where the apostle (1.1) addresses them fraternally as a 'fellow-elder'. For a discussion of this epistle and its Roman location, see ch.VI below.] By 57 Paul felt himself at liberty to propose a passing visit to Rome (Rom. 15.23f), put off many times (Rom. 1.13; 15.22), because by then again there was no danger of interfering with 'another's work'. Edmundson's argument is scrupulously documented, and if he gives more credence to what lies at the bottom of the traditions than most it is certainly not without judicious weighing of the evidence.

One must therefore, I believe, be prepared to take seriously the tradition that Mark, at whose home in Jerusalem Peter sought refuge before making his hurried escape (Acts 12.12-17) and whom later in Rome he was to refer to with affection as his 'son' (I Peter 5.13), accompanied Peter to Rome in 42 as his interpreter and catechist,  [For a wider sense of 'interpreter' than 'translator' cf. Zahn, INT II., 454-6; R. O. P. Taylor, Groundwork of the Gospels, 20-30, 36-45. Coming from a family of some standing in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 12.121.), John Mark had both a Jewish and a Roman name, suggesting a foot in both cultures. Cf. Silas, alias Silvanus, who was a leading Jerusalem disciple (Acts 15.22) and a Roman citizen (i6.37f.) and, like Mark, served both Paul (Acts 15.40; I Thess. 1.1; II Thess. 1.1; II Cor. 1.19; etc.) and Peter (I Peter 5.12).] and that after Peter's departure from the capital he acceded to the reiterated request for a record of the apostle's preaching, perhaps about 45.  [For a similar date, though not place of origin, for the gospel, cf. W. C. Alien, StMark, 1915, 51.] Mark himself was certainly back in Jerusalem by the end of the famine visit, in 46 or 47 (Acts 12.25). We have no record of his being in Rome again till the mid-6os (to anticipate the date and place of I Peter) [In 58, according to our chronology, he was in Asia Minor (Col.4.10; II Tim4.11).], though this silence proves nothing, since from ch.15 onwards Acts is solely concerned with Paul's companions, among whom it is made clear at that time Mark was not (Acts 15.37-9).

Where then does this leave us? The 'unordered' transcripts of Peter's preaching to which Papias refers (perhaps, as Edmundson said [Op. cit., 67.], anticipating the form critics, as 'a set of separate lections intended for public exposition and for instruction') could well correspond to what earlier we called 'P'. [For evidence of Petrine reminiscences embodied in the Markan tradition, cf. Manson, Studies in the Gospels, 40-3, who took seriously and elaborated the suggestions ofC. H. Turner in C. Gore, H. L. Goudge and A. Guillaume (edd.), A New Commentary on Holy Scripture, 1928, 47-50. D. E. Nineham, St Mark (Pelican NTC), 2I968, 26f., while conceding 'the fact that much of the information in the Gospel is of a kind that seems unlikely to have come from anyone but Peter', stresses that 'St Mark's material bears all the signs a/having been community tradition and cannot therefore be derived directly from St Peter or any other eyewitness' (italics his). But these two statements are not incompatible.] This record certainly cannot simply be equated with our present gospel of Mark, which reflects wider and more developed church tradition. But the earlier document could well, as Clement said, have been 'distributed' by Mark 'among those who asked him'. It is not at all improbable that it should have been among the 'traditions' which Luke lists in his prologue as having been 'handed down to us by the original eyewitnesses and servants (ὑπηρέται) of the Gospel' (1.2), the two categories by which in Acts he describes, respectively, Peter (1.21f.) and Mark (13.5). [Cf. Edmundson, op. cit., 68: 'He would find the Marcan lections, embodying as they did the teaching of St Peter, almost certainly in the possession of such a leader among the Hellenist teachers as Philip the Evangelist, who was residing at Caesarea at the same time as Luke' (cf. Acts 21.8: 'We went to the home of Philip the Evangelist, who was one of the Seven, and stayed with him'). It looks too as if Luke may have got from him the traditions in Acts 8.5-40 (which also link Philip both with Caesarea [8.40] and with Peter and Simon Magus [8.9-24]) and possibly 6.1-8.3 and 10.1-11.18 (so Zahn, INT III, 128).] At what stage or stages Mark wrote up these notes into his statement of 'the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God', to use his own title (1.1), we shall never know. Luke could well have seen and used this too in some stage of its development as one of the earlier 'accounts' to which he refers. If our argument in the last chapter was correct, there would have been no need for him to have waited to find the gospel till he reached Rome in 60; he had direct access to Mark at Caesarea (Col.4.10, 14; Philem.24). It is possible indeed that the final form of the Markan gospel may not have taken shape till after the Lukan and could reflect the needs of the Roman church as it faced the threat of the Neronian persecution [So e.g. Martin, Mark, 65-70.] - though there is certainly nothing specific enough to require this. Or it could be, if Farmer should turn out to be right, that Mark represents the first harmony of the gospels, conflating Matthew and Luke. In this case it would be the last of the synoptists - though there is still nothing to suggest that it reflects the fall of Jerusalem or even the flight to Pella before the war. [For trenchant criticism of the theory of Marxsen, Mark the Evangelist, 102-16, that it comes from Galilee (so 'fluidly' interpreted as to include Pella!) in the period 66-70, cf. Martin, Mark, 70-5.]

Perhaps we shall conclude that the evidence for Mark's association with Peter or with Rome is altogether too tenuous to be trusted. In this case we shall simply be thrown back on guesswork and have to fit Mark into whatever chronology we are led to for Matthew and Luke. But this I am persuaded would represent excessive scepticism. For if we trust, however critically, the clues that have been left (and, I said, there are a surprising number of them for Mark), then I believe that they point independently to the same span of development at which we arrived provisionally for Matthew and Luke. It may well be (as Papias' imperfect tense would suggest) that Peter's preaching material was committed to writing by Mark independently of any specific visit to Rome (by which time Clement says he had already 'followed him for a long time') [Eusebius, HE 6. 14.6.], and it could have been combined with the sayings collections and the independent Matthean and Lukan traditions at almost any stage. But on the assumption that Mark initially put pen to paper after the first preaching mission of Peter in Rome (c.45), gave it limited circulation as what we called 'P', and subsequently put it out in more ordered form as 'proto-Mark', this would fit well with the dates already suggested for the first drafts of the Matthean and Lukan gospels. The final stages of the three synoptic gospels as we have them would then have occupied the latter 50s or early 60s. [C. F. Nolloth, The Rise of the Christian Religion, 1917, 12-24, also put all the synoptic gospels between 50 and 60, arguing for the same basic dependence on the 'two ancient documents' that we called 'P' and 'Q'. He is one of the few scholars to refer, en passant, to Edmundson's work.]
In any case, whatever precise pattern of synoptic interdependence will prove to be required or suggested by the evidence, all could quite easily be fitted in to comport with the writing of Acts in 62+.

The objection will doubtless still be raised that all this allows too little time for the development in the theology and practice of the church presupposed by the gospels and Acts. But this judgment is precariously subjective. It is impossible to say a priori how long is required for any development, or for the processes, communal and redactional, to which scholarly study has rightly drawn attention. We have noted how much could happen within three years of the crucifixion - and we are allowing a further thirty for the full flowering of the synoptic tradition. There is nothing, I believe, in the theology of the gospels or Acts or in the organization of the church there depicted that requires a longer span, which was already long enough, if we are right, for the creation of the whole Pauline corpus, including the Pastoral Epistles. Of course, if Acts is held to reflect a long look back on church history and the distant perspective of another century, then the development of the rest of the New Testament can and will be stretched to fit in. But if the production of the synoptic gospels and Acts does in fact cover the years 30 to 60 + which the latter records (the gradual committal to writing occupying perhaps the period 40 to 60+), then this in turn provides a valuable yardstick by which to assess the chronology of the documents that remain for us still to consider.


The Epistle of James

The Epistle of James

the writings reviewed so far, those of Paul, Acts and the synoptic gospels, all of which are linked through the person of Luke,  constitute virtually three-quarters of the New Testament. Yet, apart from the possibility of a Petrine background to St Mark, none is associated with any of the so-styled 'pillars' of the early church whom Paul met in Jerusalem - James, Cephas and John. The literature attributed to these figures is a good deal more problematic, both in regard to date and authorship, than anything we have hitherto considered. The literary problem, in the narrow sense of who precisely penned the documents we now have, is not our direct concern. Authorship is relevant only as attribution, whether genuine or fictional, is a factor in assessing the probability of a particular dating. In practice the two issues are intimately connected. Yet methodologically we shall start from the question of chronology and ask how the traditional ascription of the writings relates to this. We may take the three names mentioned - James, Cephas and John - in the order Paul lists them, including others on the way, like Jude and the author to the Hebrews, as they become relevant.

The epistle of James is one of those apparently timeless documents that could be dated almost anywhere [Cf. K. and S. Lake, An Introduction to the New Testament, 1938, 164: 'As far as its contents go, it might, as has been said, have been written any time from the second century bC to the eighteenth century ad' !] and which has indeed been placed at practically every point in the list of New Testament writings. Thus Zahn [Zahn boldly gives it pride of place as the first book to be treated in his INT (I, 73-151). His dating (c. 50) would be earlier still on our chronology since he docs not put the council of Jerusalem till 52.] and Harnack [Chron., 485-9. He dates it 120-140.], writing in the same year, 1897, put it first and last but one - at an interval of nearly a hundred years!  It contains reference to no public events, movements or catastrophes. The 'conflicts and quarrels' it speaks of are the perennial ones of personal aggressiveness (4.1f.), not the datable wars and rumours of wars between nations or groups. Its calendar is determined by the natural cycle of peace-time agriculture (5.7)  and the social round of petit-bourgeois society (4.11-5.6). There are no place names, and no indication of destination or dispatch, whether in address or greetings. In fact there are no proper names of any kind except that of James himself in the opening verse and stock Old Testament characters like Abraham and Isaac, Rahab, Job and Elijah. As a form of literature too it stands in that almost undatable tradition of Judaeo-Christian practical wisdom which includes Proverbs, Ecclesiasticus, the Wisdom of Solomon, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, the Qumran Manual of Discipline, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas, and the Didache.  Yet though the links, backwards and forwards, are evident, there is no decisive evidence for literary dependence in either direction that could fix the epistle of James in time or space. [For the fullest list of (possible) literary connections, see J. B. Mayor, The Epistle of James, 1892, 31910, Ixx-cxxvii. Cf. more briefly, the introductions to R.J. Knowling, St James, 1904; J. H. Ropes, St James (ICC), Edinburgh 1916; Reicke, James, Peter and Jude (Anchor Bible), New York 1963; E. M. Sidebottom, James, Jude and 2 Peter (NGB), 1967.] The only clear frontier which this stream of tradition crosses is that between Judaism and Christianity - and even this boundary is less marked here than in any other genre of literature. Indeed there is general agreement that James is only just across the line, and some have argued that originally it belonged on the Jewish side of it. [So F. Spitta, Zur Geschichte und Litteratur des Urchristentums II, Gottingen 1896, 1-239; L. Massebieau, 'L'Epitre de Jacques, est-elle l'oeuvre d'un Chretien?', RHR 32, 1895, 249-83. Cf. A. Meyer, Das Ratsel des Jakobusbriefes, Giessen 1930, who argued that it is a Christian adaptation of an allegory on Jacob's farewell address to his twelve sons!] There are only two explicit references to Jesus Christ (1.1; 2.1), and it has been held - without the support of any textual evidence - that these are interpolations. However scholars from very different standpoints agree in thinking that the Christian character of the epistle is much more pervasive of the whole than anything that could be added or subtracted by isolated phrases. [So Harnack, Chron., 4891.; Mayor, James, cxciii-ccv; Zahn, INT I, 141-6; Knowling, James, xv-xxiv; H. Windisch, Die katholischen Briefen (HNT 15), Tubingen 2I930, 3; Reicke, James, Peter and Jude, 9f.; Kiimmel, INT, 407-10; Guthrie, NTI, 756f.; Moule, Birth of the NT, 166.] It is manifestly Christian, yet the marks of difference are not emphasized nor the lines of demarcation clearly drawn.

This absence of any clear-cut frontier between Christianity and Judaism introduces the first of many points at which the epistle is primarily significant for what it does not mention or contain. And these have chronological implications as important as the specific references that we look for and lack. Arguments from silence are notoriously suspect, but cumulatively they can be impressive as pointers. One or two things not referred to may be insignificant and explicable. But when none of the indicators are present which we should expect from a particular period we may be reasonably confident that we should be looking elsewhere.

The lack of opposition, or indeed distinction, between Christianity and Judaism is in marked contrast, for instance, to the gospel of Matthew, with which it has so much else in common. There are no signs such as we noted in that gospel of the church having to formulate or justify its own stand over against the main body of non-Christian Judaism. There is no polemic or even apologetic directed towards Judaism - merely attacks on the exploiting classes in the manner of the Old Testament prophets or of Jesus himself. There is no sense of 'we' and 'they' such as we find, say, on the subject of sacrifice in Heb.13.10 ('our altar is one from which the priests of the sacred tent have no right to eat') or fasting in Did. 8.1 (where 'the hypocrites' keep the second and fifth days of the week, Christians the fourth and sixth). Still less is there any indication of a permanent breach with a Judaism desolated by national defeat, such as marks the Epistle of Barnabas. Not only does the fall of Jerusalem receive no mention (for which arguably there would be no occasion), but the reference to rich landowners withholding the wage of their reapers (5.1-6) is noted by many commentators as reflecting a situation in Palestine which disappeared for good with the war of 66-70. And it is Palestine which such climatic and social conditions as are mentioned would suggest is the background of the writer, whatever the location of his readers. Though many of the allusions would be relevant throughout the Mediterranean, some have been seen to apply more peculiarly to Palestine (e.g., 1.11; 3.11f.; 5.7, 17f). Thus, the reference to 'the former and the latter rains' (5.7), so familiar from the Old Testament (Deut.11.4; Jer.5.24; Joel 2.23; Zech.10.1), would seem to point specifically to the climate of Palestine and southern Syria. [Cf. especially. Ropes, James, 295-7; and D. Y. Hadidian, 'Palestinian Pictures in the Epistle of James', ExpT 63, 1951-2, 227f.]

The author appears to be a Christian voice addressing Israel, like one of its own prophets or teachers, from within. Indeed it has seriously, but not I think convincingly, been argued [McNeile-Williams, INT, 206-8.] that he is writing for both Christians and Jews and is deliberately ambiguous in his choice of phrases. For he is still conscious of being of one body with his unbelieving compatriots. The local Christian gathering is spoken of as a 'synagogue' within Judaism (2.2; cf. Acts 6.9). The basis of everything he says is the fundamental Jewish doctrine of the unity of God (2.19), who is invoked as 'the Lord of Sabaoth' (5.4). Abraham is 'our father' (2.21) - and there is no need to add, as Paul must, 'according to the flesh' (Rom. 4.1), for no such distinction arises. The appeal is to the Jewish law and its giver (2.9-11; 4.1 if.), and there is not a hint that the Christian message represents anything but its fulfilment. Social justice, prayer, alms-giving and sick-visiting are the (characteristically Jewish) scope of Christian good works. Hell is represented by Gehenna - only here in the New Testament outside the teaching of Jesus. There is indeed nothing that conflicts with or goes beyond the best of main-stream Judaism. [For the strong Jewish colouring of the whole epistle, cf. especially W. O. E. Oesterley, James in W. R. Nicoll (ed.), The Expositor's Greek Testament, 1897-1910, IV, 393-7, 405f'., 408-13]  Even when the inspiration of James' message is clearly the teaching of Jesus, there is no suggestion of its being offered or defended on his authority. In fact never once - in contrast with Paul's usage - is a 'word of the Lord' appealed to or cited.

Even the source of the opposition that Christians have to face is not apparently organized Judaism (as in Paul), let alone the civic authorities (as in I Peter) or the state machine (as in Revelation). Those who 'drag you into court and pour contempt on the honoured name by which God has claimed you' (2.61.) are doubtless Jews; but they are attacked not because they are Jews (as already in I Thess.2.14), but because they are rich. The readers of the epistle are harassed and oppressed, facing 'trials of many kinds' (1.2), yet in the same way that the righteous poor always are, and the reassurance given is that of the psalmist that 'the rich man shall wither away as he goes about his business' (1.11). Christians indeed are particularly subject to such treatment because of 'the name' (2.7; cf. Acts 5.41) - yet apparently, as in Acts (24.5, 14; 28.22), as a sect or party within Judaism comparable with αἱρέσεις of the Sadducees (5.17) or Pharisees (15.5; 26.5). In fact there is nothing in James that goes outside what is described in the first half of Acts. There too it is the Jewish aristocracy that opposes this new lower-class movement (Acts 4-5) and it is 'the women of standing who were worshippers' together with 'the leading men of the city' who are incited to persecute it (13.50). The court actions against Christians (James 2.6) do not go further than anything described in Acts 8.1, 3; 9.2 (cf.26.10f.); 11.19 - intact, not as far. For the πειρασμοί in James seem to come, not from any wave of terror or organized persecution, but from the regular opposition which any Christian must be prepared to expect and accept with patience and joy, as part of that faithful belonging to the true Israel of God to which the epistle is addressed.

The wording of the address, to 'the Twelve Tribes dispersed throughout the world' (1.1), has been variously interpreted. It recalls the phrase in Acts 26.7, 'our twelve tribes', for whose hope Paul, as a Christian and a Jew, saw himself on trial, and of which Jesus had appointed his apostles 'judges' (Matt.19.28). The διασπορά does not appear here, as in John 7.35, to be contrasted with metropolitan Judaism, nor, as in I Peter 1.1, to stand for scattered Christians, many if not most of whom had never been Jews (cf. I Peter 2.10). Like 'the twelve tribes that inhabit the whole world' in the Shepherd of Hermas (Sim. 9.17.1f.), it is a way rather of describing 'the whole Israel of God', for whose peace Paul prayed (Gal. 6.16). James is addressing all who form the true, spiritual Israel, wherever they are. And he can address them in such completely Jewish terms not because he is singling them out from Gentile Christians but because, as far as his purview is concerned, there are no other Christians. In Zahn's words, 'the believing Israel constituted the entire Church [INT 1,77.] - and that was true only for a very limited period of Christian history.

There is no suggestion throughout the epistle of a Gentile presence. Even the peripatetic businessmen who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go off to such and such a town and spend a year there trading and making money', are evidently Jews (like Aquila and Priscilla) who, as pious Israelites, should preface their plans with the phrase, 'If it be the Lord's will' (4.13-17). There is no discussion of the Christian's relation to heathen masters, such as concerns Paul (Col.3.22-5; Eph.6.5-8) and Peter (I Peter 2.18-20). Even within the church there is no sign of a Gentile mission, no mention of its claims, no evidence of the conflicts and tensions arising from it. Above all there is no hint of Judaizing, as opposed to Jewish, attitudes. For these become relevant only in the context of a demand that Gentile Christians shall 'live like Jews' (Gal. 2.14). There is not a mention in the epistle of the issues that formed the heart of this controversy - of circumcision, dietary rules and ritual law. There is no discussion of the Christian's attitude to the temple, the sacrifices, or 'the customs handed down ... by Moses' (contrast the altercation in Acts 6.13f.). Equally there is no reference to the characteristic dangers of a Gentile environment such as fornication and the pollution of idols (Acts 15.20). [Contrast the early compromise of Did. 6.3 (reflecting the situation in the mixed society of Antioch?): 'Concerning eating, bear that which thou art able; yet abstain by all means from meat sacrificed to idols; for it is the worship of dead gods.'] We are dealing with Jewish abuses and temptations. As Knowling says, [James, xiii. So, in further detail, Zahn, INT 1, 90f.]

The sins and weaknesses which the writer describes are exactly those faults which our Lord blames in his countrymen ... the excessive zeal for the outward observance of religious duties, the fondness for the office of teacher, the false wisdom, the overflowing of malice, the pride, the hypocrisy, the respect of persons.

They are the faults which John the Baptist and Paul also found characteristic of the Jew, the fatal trust in religious privilege and the gap between profession and practice (Matt.3.7-10 and par; Rom.2.17-24). The sins attacked are not particularly sophisticated, nor such as could have arisen only in second-generation Christians. There are no warnings against relapse or loss of early love, which feature so markedly in Hebrews and the Apocalypse and even in Galatians. There are no signs of heresy or schism, as are inveighed against in the later Paul and the Johannine epistles; no marks of incipient gnosticism, [Allusions to gnostic tendencies have been seen e.g. in the antithesis between the true and false wisdom (3.13-18), in the word ψυχική (3.18), and in the use of τέλειος (1.4, 17, 25; 3.2). But none of these need imply anything more than can be found in the Jewish wisdom literature or in Philo or, for example, in I Cor. 2.12-14; 15.44-6. Cf. particularly Ropes, ad locc.]  whether speculative or even, as we might expect in this epistle, moral (with the tell-tale swing between asceticism and licence), such as is characteristic of Jewish Christianity in the latter half of the New Testament (Colossians, the Pastorals, the epistles of John, Jude and II Peter).

On the doctrinal side, there is equally no sign of christological sophistication or controversy. 'Our Lord Jesus Christ of glory' (2.1) is the epistle's most theologically advanced statement. There is no reference to the death or resurrection of Christ, and one is left with what one commentator describes as 'the impression of an almost pre-crucifixion discipleship'. [Sidebottom, James, Jude and 2 Peter, 14.] A 'patient and stout-hearted' trust is urged in the speedy coming of the Lord (5.7-11), but there is no elaborated eschatology nor any hint of reappraisal prompted by the delay of the parousia. Equally there is no preoccupation with doctrinal orthodoxy -rather its depreciation (2.19) - and no defence of 'the faith once delivered', such as marks the Pastorals and Jude. Indeed, as Ropes points out, [James, 37.]

The post-apostolic notion sometimes ascribed to James, of Christianity as a body of doctrine to be believed ('the faith', 'fides quae creditur'), and correspondingly of faith as an 'intellectualistic' acceptance of propositions, is not at all the 'dead' faith of which James speaks. [He adds in a footnote at this point: 'This error is common and has led to many unwise inferences about relative dates.'] The demons' faith in one God stands, in fact, at the opposite pole from this 'intellectualism'; for as a faith in God's existence and power it is sincere and real, its fault lies in its complete divorce from love or an obedient will.

When we make a comparison with the Apostolic Fathers the positive traits which give definite character to the thinking of every one of them are all lacking in James.

The same applies if we put to the epistle another test of later development, namely, the state of concern for liturgy and the ministry. In contrast again with the Didache, there are no instructions about worship or the sacraments, and James' 'manual of discipline', to use Reicke's designation of its brief finale in 5.12-20, [James, Peter and Jude, 8.] contents itself with simple injunctions on swearing, ministry to the sick, mutual confession, prayer, and the reclamation of erring brothers. There is no reference to orders of Christian ministry like bishops and deacons (contrast Phil.1.1, the Pastorals and again the Didache), merely to elders (5.14), which were evidently taken over direct from Judaism (cf. Acts 4.5, 8, 23; 6.12; etc. of Judaism; 11.30; 14.23; 15.2; etc. of the church), and to teachers (3.1; cf. Acts 13.1; Heb.5.12). But the last do not seem to be part of a hierarchy of ministries (as e.g. in I Cor.i2.28; Eph.4.n; Did. 13.2; 15.1f.; Hermas, Vis.3.5.1 et passim). Rather James' injunction against wanting to become teachers seems to be more in line with Jesus' quashing of the desire to be called 'rabbi' and 'teacher' and thus win honour from men (Matt. 23.6-11). 'The greatest among you', Jesus goes on, 'must be your servant' (23.12); and it is simply as 'a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ' (James 1.1) that James, even though he does stand in the relationship to them of teacher (3.1), chooses to address his readers. The simplicity of the address suggests no crisis of authority or need to resort to credentials, such as Paul was driven to at Corinth. Its unaffected spiritual directness is all part of the uncomplicated but decisive message he conveys. Like his master, he speaks with authority: he does not cite authorities - not even that of his master.

Yet there is no doubt that it is Jesus' teaching, particularly as found in the Sermon on the Mount and the Matthean tradition, that lies behind everything James says. [The parallels are set out by Mayor, James, Ixiif., with the comment: 'Close as is the connection of sentiment and even of language in many of these passages, it never amounts to an actual quotation.' For simple comparison, cf. Sidebottom, James, Jude and 2 Peter, 8-11I.] But he appears to be quoting from or referring his readers to no written book (in contrast, again with Did. 15.31., 'as you find in the Gospel'). No case can be demonstrated for literary dependence on our gospel of Matthew [M. H. Shepherd, 'The Epistle of James and the Gospel of Matthew', JBL 75, 1956, 40-51, argues the case for dependence, putting James into the second century, but admits that there is no proof.] (or indeed on Luke and John). [For the parallels here, cf. Knowling, James, xxi-iv.] His contacts rather are with the pre-Matthean Palestinian tradition. [So Sidebottom, James, Jude and 2 Peter, 141.] As Ropes says with some perceptiveness, 'James was in religious ideas nearer to the men who collected the sayings of Jesus than to the authors of the Gospels': what is conspicuous, for all the common matter, is the 'omission of some of the chief motives which have produced the Synoptic Gospels'. [James.sg.]

Indeed, James exhibits not one distinctly marked individual theological tendency which would set him in positive relation to any of the strong forces either of the apostolic or of the post-apostolic period. [Ibid., 37.]

These words have still greater significance today than when Ropes was writing at Harvard during the first world war. For almost all the 'motives' and 'tendencies' subsequently fastened on by the form critics and redaction critics appear to have bypassed James. The influences - kerygmatic, apologetic, polemical, liturgical and the rest - which have rightly been seen as selecting and shaping the traditions about Jesus to the uses of the church can scarcely be illustrated by any convincing examples from this epistle. Factors such as Jeremias isolates as moulding the parabolic teaching of Jesus, like allegorization, [Ropes, ibid., 37, also drew attention to 'the entire absence of allegory' as one of the most notable contrasts between James and the sub-apostolic literature -particularly the Shepherd of Hermas, to which in other respects it stands closest.] or the changed situation of the church in the Hellenistic world, or the Gentile mission, or the delay of the parousia, do not feature in James.  Even the evidence for common catechetical patterns, which should above all be relevant to his subject-matter, is far weaker than in the other New Testament epistles. In the essay of over a hundred pages which Selwyn devotes to this in his commentary on I Peter, [Op. cit., 363-466.] the material he can garner from James is extraordinarily meagre. In his central section on the General Catechumen Virtues he admits that 'James is difficult to bring into the picture' [Ibid., 407.] and the common citation in I Peter 5.51. and in James 4.6, 10 of Prov. 3.34 ('God opposes the arrogant and gives grace to the humble') and the conclusions drawn from it 'can be accounted for without reference to any underlying code'. [Ibid., 426.]  The remaining scattered verses containing topics in some way common to other New Testament epistles (James 1.3, i2, 18, 21, 27; 3.13-18; 4.71.; 5.7-11) provide no evidence for the teaching patterns to be found, for example in I Thess. 5, Col. 3, Eph. 5-6, and I Peter 5. The one issue of controversy which could, on the face of it, be used to place the epistle within the developing life of the church is the debate between faith and works in 2.14-26.  But the reference of this is far from self-evident, as the divergence between the commentators has shown. Some have seen it as a direct reply to Paul's teaching on justification by faith; others, since it so crudely misinterprets him, as a riposte from a later age when the controversy was no longer under­stood. On the other hand, others have viewed the relationship just the other way round, with what Paul says in Galatians and particularly in Romans as a rebuttal of James; while yet others have seen no direct connection between them at all.

We may begin with the truth in the last position. It is natural, in view of later controversy, to assume that what we are overhearing is an internal Christian debate. But in the first instance James, here as elsewhere, is evidently taking up an attack, begun by Jesus and the Baptist before him, on the inadequacies of contemporary Judaism. Being a hearer of the word without doing the works, or claiming the heritage of Abraham without the fruits to show for it, or merely saying 'I go' or 'Lord, Lord' - these are the failings constantly con­demned in the gospels (Matt.3.8-10; 7.16-27; 12.33-5; 21.28-31; 25.31-46; etc.). The debate about what 'justified' a man before God was already being argued within Judaism, and Jesus' words about this (Matt. 12.37; Luke 16.15; 18.14) precede the controversy within the church. [For a defence of this last statement, cf. Jeremias, 'Paul and James', ExpT 66, 1954-5) 368-71, who however takes a different view of the relation of James to Paul from that argued below.] Was it works (as in Prov.24.12 and Jer.32.19) or was it faith (as in Gen. 15.6 and Hab.2.4) that would see a man through at the last ? The inseparability of the two for salvation is stressed in I Mace. 2.5 if. (where first among 'the works' of the fathers is cited, as in James, Abraham's faithfulness in temptation) and later in II Esd.7.34; 9.7; 13.23. [For the Jewish rather than the Christian background to this debate, cf. Knowling, James, xli-v, and Oesterley, EGT IV, 411-13 and ad loc.] We now know that the Qumran community interpreted Hab.2.4 ('the righteous man will live by being faithful') to include both deeds and faith in the teacher of righteousness as the interpreter of the law (1QpHab.8.1-3). The discussion in James takes its place within the ongoing Jewish and Christian debate as to how to combine the conviction, on which Paul was equally insistent, that while a man might be justified through faith he would be judged by works. And the faith from which James, like Jesus (cf. Mark 5.34; 9.23; 11.22-4; etc.), takes his departure is the common Jewish faith in God (2.19, 23).  He is not, like Paul, contrasting the works of the law with faith in Christ (Gal. 2.16).  He is saying, with Paul, to his fellow-Jews that 'it is not by hearing the law, but by doing it, that men will be justified before God' (Rom.2.13); that being a Jew has value 'provided you keep the law; but if you break the law, then circumcision is as if it had never been' (2.25); and that 'the true Jew is the one who is such inwardly, and the true circumcision is of the heart' (2.29).  He is also insisting, as Paul does, to Christians that 'the only thing that counts is faith active in love' (Gal. 5.6), 'faith that has shown itself in action' (I Thess.1.3; cf. I Cor.13.2); for 'faith divorced from deeds is barren ..., lifeless as a corpse' (James 2.20, 26).

Yet though the starting-point of the debate is Jewish and the common ground is indisputable, it is difficult to believe that there is no connection with the Christian battle Paul is waging in Galatians and Romans.  This is especially true when in Rom.4.at. and James 2.23f. Paul and James cite precisely the same scripture, 'Abraham put his faith in God and that faith was counted to him as righteousness' (Gen. 15.6), and draw from it diametrically different conclusions. The question arises, Who is answering whom? - though the degree of correspondence (let alone of mutual understanding) is not such as requires one to have read the other or be quoting from his epistle. It is impossible to be dogmatic on this (and the interrelationship will obviously depend on wider judgments about dating and authorship). But I am impressed by Mayor's contention that Paul's reasoned argument in Rom. 4.2-5 (that 'if Abraham was justified by anything he had done, then he has ground for pride', whereas the very word 'counted' excludes any notion of credit) reads more intelligibly as an answer to James rather than vice versa. As a reply to Paul's position James' argument totally misses the point; for Paul never contended for faith without works. But as a reply, not indeed to James, but to the use made of him by the Judaizers in a subtly different context (that of the basis of salvation for Gentiles'), the argument of Rom.4 is very effective. If, as Mayor says, James is writing after Paul,

How inconceivable is it that he should have made no attempt to guard his position against such an extremely formidable attack! Again if St James was really opposed to St Paul and desired to maintain that man was saved, not by grace, but by obedience to the law of Moses, which was incumbent alike on Gentile and on Jew, why has he never uttered a syllable on the subject, but confined himself to the task of proving that a faith which bears no fruit is a dead faith? [James, xcviii. Zahn, INT I, 124-8, sees the dependence lying in the same direction.]

The answer to this last question, as the whole of the rest of the epistle bears out, is that James is not concerned with the controversy between Jews and Gentiles in the church. Yet, whatever its original intention or context, what he had to say clearly was brought into and applied to that controversy. In fact it has plausibly been suggested that, when 'certain persons who had come down from Judaea began to teach the brotherhood that those who were not circumcised in accordance with Mosaic practice could not be saved' (Acts 15.1), what they were doing, 'without' indeed, as James and the apostles say, 'any instructions from us' (15.24), was pushing to its logical conclusion teaching like that in James 2.10: 'If a man keeps the whole law apart from one single point, he is guilty of breaking all of it.'  At any rate it is certainly in reaction to 'certain persons come from James' (Gal.2.12) that Paul has later to insist that 'no man is ever justified by doing what the law demands, but only through faith in Christ Jesus' (2.16).  But this argument depends on the assumption that the epistle is by the same James and is as early as its primitive features have suggested. The issue of authorship can be postponed no longer.

The sole indication of who the writer was is the bald greeting in 1.1: 'From James the servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ'. It is also this alone that turns what is otherwise a pastoral homily into a letter;  for there are no greetings or even a grace at the end. There have been those, including Harnack, [Chron., 489f.] who have regarded the opening verse as a later addition. [So too L. E. Elliott-Binns, Galilean Christianity (SBT 16), 1956, 471.; unlike Harnack, he regards the work itself as very primitive. There seems no positive evidence for his association of it with Galilee, though admittedly it breathes a rural rather than a metropolitan air.] But there is no textual evidence for this, and, as many have pointed out, the play on words χαίρειν and χαράν connecting vv.1 and 2 speaks against it.  It has found little support either amongst those who would defend the authorship of James or amongst those who would not. There is general agreement too that whether the ascription is genuine or not the James intended must be James the Lord's brother, who alone of the five men of that name in the New Testament is regularly referred to without further specification. As Kummel says,

Without doubt James claims to be written by him, and even if the letter is not authentic, it appeals to this famous James and the weight of his person as authority for its content. [Kummel, INT, 412.]

There is no one else who could so speak without need of introduction or explanation. Similarly, when the writer of the epistle of Jude introduces himself as 'brother of James' (1.1), nothing more requires to be said. The very simplicity of the address speaks forcibly against pseudonymity. For if this device was felt to be necessary to give the epistle 'apostolic aegis  [I use the term without prejudice to whether James was actually regarded as an apostle or not. Gal.1.19, 'without seeing any other of the apostles, except (or but only) James the Lord's brother', is notoriously ambiguous. Certainly by the Pauline test (I Cor.9.i) James had 'seen the Lord' (cf. I Cor.15.7: 'Then he appeared to James, and afterwards to all the apostles'). In I Cor.9.5 'the rest of the apostles' are distinguished from 'the Lord's brother' - but also from Cephas.] it is incredible that he was not described as 'the brother of the Lord' or 'bishop of Jerusalem' [As in a spurious letter of James, translated from the Armenian by P. Vetter, Literarische Rundschau, 1896, 259; cf. Ep. Petr.1.1: 'Peter to James, the lord and bishop of the holy church' (Hennecke, NTApoc. II, 111).]  or even, as later in the address of the pseudo-Clementine Letter to James, 'bishop of bishops'.  If it is reasonable to ask why, if he stood in this special relationship to Jesus, he mentions nothing of his life, death or resurrection, it is still more difficult to explain why such details were not inserted later, to add credence and verisimilitude.  For the Gospel of the Hebrews [Hennecke, NT Apoc. I, 165.] elaborates the personal appearance to James, mentioned casually in I Cor.15.7, and the legendary description of James 'the Just' given by Hegesippus [Quoted by Eusebius, HE 2. 23. 4-18.] shows the lengths that hagiography had reached by the second century.  Yet, as Zahn says,  [INT I, 140.] the epistle 'does not bring out a single one of those characteristics by which James is distinguished in history and legend.' In fact the argument for pseudonymity is weaker here than with any other of the New Testament epistles. At least the Pastorals and the Petrines are claiming to be written by men calling themselves apostles, and a case can be made for their being put out in the name of authorities from the past to say things that require to be said in the conflicts or controversies of a later age. But why produce a non-polemical Jewish-Christian epistle that is not even taking the position of the Judaizers but simply giving a call, as the neb heads it, to 'practical religion'? And if it was to oppose Paul and all his works, why is he not more specifically attacked and why is there no stress on the unique and unrepeatable status of the writer as the brother of the Lord himself? It would seem easier to believe that it was the work of another completely unknown James. [Moffatt, ILNT, 472-5, sees the objections to pseudonymity and indeed to every other alternative so forcibly that he is reduced to concluding: 'The phenomena of criticism upon the Jacobean homily are perplexing, but they are not to be taken as discrediting the science of New Testament literary research' (475)!]

Before considering the very real objections to the attribution of the epistle to a brother of Jesus, there are the parallels to be taken into account with the Acts story and in particular with the speech of James and the apostolic letter in Acts 15.  Much has been made of these and indeed on purely statistical grounds the number of verbal parallels between these brief passages and the short epistle of James is remarkable. [All possible connections with Acts 15, and with James' words in Acts 21.24, are set out by Mayor, James, iiif.]  The initial salutation (James 1.1; Acts 15.34) is used by no other apostolic writer, the only other occurrence in the New Testament being in the address of Lysias to Felix in Acts 23.26.  The phrase 'listen, my brothers' (James 2.5) is paralleled in Acts 15.13, 'men and brothers, listen'. The expression 'the ... name which was called upon you' (James 2.7) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament except in the quotation from Amos 9.12 in Acts 15.17. In James 1.27 there is the exhortation to the Christian to 'keep himself untarnished by the world' and in Acts 15.29 the closing injunction, 'If you keep yourselves free from these things you will be doing right.'  There are also a number of isolated words in common: ἐπισκέπτεσθαι (James 1.27; Acts 15.14), ἐπιστρέφειν (James 5.19f.; Acts 15.19), ἀγαπητός (James 1.16, 19, 25; Acts 15.25).

None of these parallels is however particularly impressive in itself. χαίρειν is a stock epistolatory greeting in Hellenistic practice. It is used frequently in letters in Maccabees, including those by Jews (I Mace.12.6; II Mace.1.10), and in verbal greetings by Christians in II John 10f. 'Men and brothers, listen' (Acts 15.13) is again a fixed formula and in fact is more exactly paralleled in Stephen's speech in Acts 7.2 and Paul's in Acts 22.1 than in James 2.5. The calling of the name of God upon his people is so regular an Old Testament usage (e.g., Deut.28.10; Isa.63.19; etc.) as to be quite unremarkable in a Jewish writer (cf. II Mace. 8.15: 'called by his holy and glorious name'). The idea of keeping oneself holy or unspotted finds closer parallels in I Tim.5.2 2 and 6.14 than in James. Both ἐπισκέπτεσθαι and ἐπιστπέφειν are used in markedly different contexts in Acts and James and represent in fact characteristic Lukan usage rather than anything distinctive of James; while ἀγαπητός is overwhelmingly common in all the New Testament epistles (Paul, John, I and II Peter, Jude). Nothing therefore can be built on such parallels. All that can be said is that they certainly do not stand against the writing of James by someone in the main stream of apostolic Christianity.

But what of the objections to James' authorship, which to many modern commentators have seemed decisive? They may be considered under three headings.

1. The attitude to the law in the epistle is not, it is said, that which fits the position of James. If by this position is meant the legalistic attitude adopted by Paul's Judaizing opponents, then even at the height of the controversy there is nothing in Paul or Acts to identify James with it. In Galatians Paul distinguishes the attitude of James himself (2.9) from that of 'certain persons ... from James' (2.12). In Acts too it is made clear that James is no Judaizer (15.13-21), and he decisively dissociates himself from 'some of our number' who speak 'without any instructions from us' (15.24). Later also James welcomes the news of Paul's missionary activity and seeks to disarm the misrepresentation of him by his own more zealous adherents (21.18-26).

If, on the other hand, the point of the critics is that 'keeping the law' means for James observing its ritual requirements (as in Acts 21.24), then, to be sure, the emphasis in the epistle is very different. For there the stress is entirely on moral righteousness. If the epistle is set in the context of the controversy described in Acts and Galatians and its crucial passage, 2.18-26, is viewed as James' answer to Paul, then indeed we are dealing not only with quite a different concept of faith but with quite a different understanding of law and works. However, if we set it not against the debate over the admission of Gentiles to the church but against the kind of Jewish formalism condemned by Jesus, then James' understanding of the law is entirely consistent. So far from its being, as Harnack supposed [Chron., 486.], a notion of law 'which he has distilled for himself', his is that inner delight in the perfect law of liberty which inspired Ps.119 (cf. especially vv. 7, 32, 45) and which Paul himself would have been the first to say was the mark of 'the true Jew' (Rom.2.25-29). Even subsequently circumcision and ritualism were not the heart of the matter for James. When that issue arose, circumcision was waived as a condition of church membership (Acts 15.19, 28), and ritual observance was urged as a matter not of principle but of tact, in a way that Paul himself was perfectly prepared to fall in with (21.21-26). The attitude to the law in the epistle can scarcely therefore be urged as an objection to Jacobean authorship, though it is certainly an argument against placing it in the context of the Judaizing controversy.

2. There is the relatively weak external evidence for the epistle's acceptance in the early church. Yet this cannot, it would be agreed, be decisive against arguments from the internal evidence, since citation and attestation are so fortuitous a matter. Even those like Origen and Eusebius who refer to the doubts about the epistle in parts of the church themselves accept it and use it as scripture. [For a summary of this evidence, cf. Kummel, INT, 405f; Guthrie, NTI, 736-9.]  Moreover, the reasons for questioning or neglecting it, whether in the early church or later by Luther, are by no means simply to be identified with the issue of authorship. As Sparks puts it [Formation of the NT, 129.],

The fact that the Epistle is a Jewish-Christian document, whoever wrote it, may have been in itself sufficient to discredit it in the eyes of Gentile Christians; while its essentially practical attitude would inevitably make it seem of little consequence to those whose main interests were theological. Accordingly, its neglect by the early Church is by no means an insuperable barrier to accepting the Lord's brother as the author.

The conclusion must be that this evidence does not point decisively in either direction: it cannot be used to establish or to discredit apostolic authorship.

3. Much the most serious objection is the language in which the epistle is written. For it combines being one of the most Jewish books in the New Testament with what has been described as a 'high koine' Greek style. At any stage, indeed, this is a conjunction that requires explanation, and the difficulties do not disappear by relegating them to the second century or an unknown author. But the combination would certainly appear to be made more difficult by the supposition that the author was a first-century 'Galilean peasant'.

This is an issue that will present itself again in the cases of Peter and John, but there it may be softened by putting down the style of I Peter to Silvanus (I Peter 5.12) and the Greek of the fourth gospel (which in any case is not that idiomatic) to a writer other than his apostolic source. These possibilities we shall examine in due course. But in James there is no suggestion of another hand at work. The epistle presents a test case of whether a non-literary lower-class Palestinian in the period before 70 could or would have spoken or written such good (though still limited and Semitic) Greek. [For the limitations of James' Greek, cf. Zahn, INT I, 117f. He certainly does not have the facility of a genuinely bilingual man like Paul.]  It is so seen in the most extensive study of this issue to date, J. N. Sevenster's Do You Know Greek? How Much Greek Could the First Jewish Christians have Known? He devotes virtually his entire introduction to the question posed by the epistle of James. [J. N. Sevenster, Do you Know Greek? (Nov Test Suppl. 19), Leiden 1968, 3-21.]

He dismisses recourse to the hypothesis of a secretary (to whom there is no allusion in any form) as highly improbable. He thinks pseudonymity (in the absence of any deliberate pose) or attribution to an otherwise unknown writer equally unlikely. So he is left with the question, Could James have written such Greek? He assembles and sifts the now considerable evidence from literary and archaeological sources, outside and inside Palestine, at different cultural levels. His conclusion is that there is in fact no reason why Jesus or the first apostles or James should not have spoken Greek as well as their native Aramaic.

It is no longer possible to refute such a possibility by recalling that these were usually people of modest origins. It has now been clearly demonstrated that a knowledge of Greek was in no way restricted to the upper circles, which were permeated with Hellenistic culture, but was to be found in all circles of Jewish society, and certainly in places bordering on regions where Greek was much spoken, e.g. Galilee. [Op. cit., 190. Cf. among others all coming to much the same conclusion: G. Dalman, Jesus-Joshua, ET 1929, 1-7; J. Weiss, The History of Primitive Christianity, ET 1937, 165f; he makes the point that 'the crowd on the temple square expected that Paul would address them in Greek (Acts 22.2) and were agreeably surprised when he spoke to them in Aramaic'; S. Lieberman, Greek in Jewish Palestine, New York 1942; R. O. P. Taylor, Groundwork of the Gospels, 91-105; R. H. Gundry, 'The Language Milieu of First Century Palestine', JBL 83, 1964, 404-8; and The Use of the Old Testament in St Matthew's Gospel, Leiden 1967, 174-8; N. Turner, Grammatical Insights into the New Testament, Edinburgh 1965, 174-88; J. A. Fitzmyer, 'The Languages of Palestine in the First Century ad', CBQ 32, 1970, 501-31; J. Barr, 'Which Language did Jesus Speak?', BJRL 53, 1970-1, 9-29 (especially 91.); Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism, especially I, 58-65, 103-6 (he speaks of 'the Judaism of Palestine as "Hellenistic Judaism" '); A. W. Argyle, 'Greek among the Jews of Palestine in New Testament Times', NTS 20, 1973-4, 87-9; he draws the analogy: 'To suggest that a Jewish boy growing up in Galilee would not know Greek would be rather like suggesting that a Welsh boy brought up in Cardiff would not know English.']

He argues that Christian Jews often probably had a better knowledge of Greek (certainly they were from the start more cosmopolitan than the Qumran covenanters) and that there is no reason why a church-leader like James (or Peter) could not have taken the trouble, like Josephus, to acquire a reasonable command of literary Greek.  Indeed Zahn, who long ago argued strongly in the same direction [INT1, 34-72.], made the point that Greek-speaking Christians were probably in the majority in the earliest period.

According to the notices of Acts, which are the only sources we have, the membership of the Church from the start consisted predominantly of Hellenists. The first three thousand converts (Acts 2.41) to gather about the personal disciples of Jesus, who were mainly Galileans, were not natives of Jerusalem and Palestine. From the names of their home countries one must infer that the language 'in which most of them were born' was Greek. [Ibid., 43.]

And these 'devout Jews drawn from every nation' were permanent residents (κατοικοῦντες; Acts 2.5, 14) in Jerusalem, not temporary visitors up for the feast (contrast the παροιλεῖς Ἰερουσαλήμ; of Luke 24.18). Of their seven leaders appointed subsequently (Acts 6.5) only Nicolas of Antioch is described as a foreigner or as a proselyte: they were indigenized, born Jews who spoke Greek. It was only with the growing accession of 'Hebrews' or Aramaic-speaking converts that the 'Hellenists' or Greek-speaking majority felt their position in the church threatened (Acts 6.1). Zahn maintained that it would have been impossible for the early Christian leaders to have fulfilled the immediate duties of their office, such as are described in Acts 8.14-25 or 9.32-11.18, let alone done anything beyond Palestine, 'without a good deal of readiness in speaking Greek' [Ibid., 45.]. Certainly James' position, as we see it later in Acts 21.18-29, as head of the church in a city visited by thousands of Greek-speaking Jewish pilgrims would have made this highly desirable, if not essential.

Sevenster's cautious conclusion [Op. cit. 191.] with regard to the epistle of James is that:

Even though absolute certainty cannot be attained on this point; in view of all the data made available in the past decades the possibility can no longer be precluded that a Palestinian Jewish Christian of the first century ad wrote an epistle in good Greek.

Or, as the most recent writer puts it [Argyle, NTS 20,89.]:

There may be valid arguments against the ascription of apostolic authorship to I Peter and James, but the linguistic argument can no longer be used with any confidence among them.

Clearly this is as far as the evidence from language can take us. It can prove nothing, but equally it holds open the possibility of apostolic authorship, and with it of early dating.

So finally we come back to the question of chronology from which we started. There are three main possibilities.

1. The epistle comes from an unknown Christian (whether or not he is claiming to be James the brother of the Lord) from the first half of the second century or the end of the first. Harnack argued [Chron., 485-91.], as we have seen, for a date as late as 120-140 on the ground that the degeneracy of the church implies a state of affairs comparable only with that envisaged in the Shepherd of Hermas. [He takes James a.6f., 'Are not the rich your oppressors? Is it not they who drag you into court and pour contempt on the honoured name by which God has claimed you?', to refer to internecine quarrels between churchmen. But it is not implied that these oppressors are Christian: it is 'you' over whom 'the name' has been called, not 'they'. Contrast Hermas, Sim. 8.6.4: 'These are the renegades and traitors to the Church, that blasphemed the Lord in their sins, and still further were ashamed of the Name of the Lord, which was invoked upon them.' For the differences between James and Hermas, cf. Mayor, James, cxcf.] Quite apart from when that document should be dated [See pp. 319-22 below.], I agree with Mayor, in his very astringent analysis of Harnack's position [James, clxxviii-cxcii.], that what he calls this hangover of 'the old Tubingen tradition, from which he has receded in regard to many of the other documents of the New Testa­ment' is incredible. There is no situation in the reign of Hadrian, whether before or after the final Jewish revolt under Bar-Cochba in 132, that begins to fit the many signs of primitiveness noted earlier. Yet a date of 125-50 is still favoured by A. E. Barnett in the article on James in The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, on the ground that the author of the epistle knew Romans, I Corinthians, Galatians and Ephesians ('which means that he knew them as members of a published collection') as well as Matthew, Luke, Hebrews, I Peter, Hermas and Clement! There seems to be no limit to the circularity of arguments from literary dependence. [Contrast Kummel, INT, 410: 'No clearly perceptible literary connection with other early Christian writings exists.']

More soberly, Reicke agrees [James, Peter and Jude, 5f.] that there is no polemic against Paul in the epistle, which must, he argues, have come into existence 'before Paul's ministry, or a considerable time after'. He goes on, 'It is practically impossible, however, that the work is pre-Pauline', and he concludes that it comes from the reign of Domitian, c.90. [Kummel, INT, 414, will be no more specific than 'toward the end of the first century' - arguing from 'the conceptual distance from Paul'. But how long is that? Earlier critics were for the same reason putting it in the middle of the second century. Conceptual distance is hardly amenable to quantitative measurement.]  The absence of any reference to the defeat of Judaism or to the final break between the church and the synagogue (the supposed evidence for which in the fourth gospel is also said to point to the reign of Domitian!) [See below pp. 272-4.]  seems to me to make this supposition highly improbable. But what are the reasons he gives for an early date being 'practically impossible'? The first is that 'the persecutions mentioned in 1.2f., 12f.; 2.6; 4.6; 5.10f. refer to Christians outside Palestine, but none are known prior to Paul's time'. But this presupposes that the address to 'the twelve tribes dispersed throughout the world' applies only to Christians living outside Palestine. On the contrary, as we have argued, it would appear to be a designation for 'the whole Israel of God', and the conditions referred to point time and again to those of Palestine. Moreover, the violent persecution that followed the death of Stephen had 'scattered' Christians not only throughout Judaea and Samaria (Acts 8.1, 4) but to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch (11.19). It is to such 'scattered' Christians facing trials of many kinds that the epistle of James is addressed (1.1f.). The other details in the epistle adduced by Reicke as indicating a stage of development 'a considerable time after' Paul's ministry would seem to prove nothing. Denunciations of the rich (1.2-7; 4.13-5.6) are as old as Jesus and as the prophets before him. The need to distinguish between the true wisdom from above and that which is 'earth-bound, sensual and demonic' (3.15) could come from any time in the period of late Judaism. The need to be patient 'for the coming of the Lord is near' (5.8) can scarcely be said to require an advanced date (especially from a scholar who would now put all the synoptic gospels, with their much more specific injunctions, before the Jewish war!), while the instructions about bringing back 'those who stray from the truth' (5.19f.) might have come straight out of the teaching of Qumran or of Jesus.

If therefore the arguments for a later date are not compelling there are two further positions, both of which are compatible with apostolic authorship, though naturally they do not require it.

2. Since there is no reference to the fall of Jerusalem or the Jewish revolt and since James was put to death in 62, [Josephus, Ant. 20. 200f. Hegesippus (apud Euseb. HE 2.23.18) says that Vespasian's attack on the Jews (in 67) followed 'immediately' upon it, but this, as we have seen, is probably a case of translating sureness of judgment into temporal immediacy - or of running together sources. Josephus' circumstantial account of the opportunity afforded by the interregnum between Festus and Albinus is certainly to be preferred. In his Chronicle Eusebius himself dates it in 62.] this latter date provides a natural terminus ad quem. If the passage about faith and works reflects argument with Paul, then it would seem to come from about the same time as Romans or a little after. This was the position of F.J. A. Hort [F. J. A. Hort, Judaistic Christianity, Cambridge and London 1894, 148f.; St James, 1909, xxivf.]  and Parry, [R. St J. Parry, A Discussion of the General Epistle of St James, 1903,99f.] who dated James c.60. [G. H. Rendall, The Epistle of St James and Judaic Christianity, Cambridge 1927, 87, argued that it comes just before Romans, between 49 and 55.]  It has been the mediating position taken by a number of English scholars [E.g. A. T. Cadoux, The Thought of St James, 1944; C. L. Mitton, The Epistle of James, 1966, who interestingly believes James wrote James, but not Paul Ephesians nor Peter I Peter; and Sidebottom, James, Jude and 2 Peter, 19f.] and also by P. Feine [P. Feine, Einleitung in das neue Testament, Leipzig 5I930, 200.], whose work Kummel revised and at this point reversed, and by Klijn. [INT, 151.]  It was also the view that I originally accepted. One advantage of it is that it enables us, if we wish to, to think of James as already having been in the Greek diaspora. For in I Cor.9.5 Paul asks, with reference to missionary travel, 'Have I no right to take a Christian wife about with me, like the rest of the apostles and the Lord's brothers, and Cephas?', and it seems he would hardly have put the Lord's brothers before Cephas unless, as in Gal.2.9, they included James. [Kummel, INT, 290, allows the force of this as a conjecture.]But there is no evidence that James was married, unlike Jude, and it is in any case highly speculative. [Cf. Hegesippus (apud Euseb. HE 3.20.1),who however gives a very different impression of James as an extreme ascetic (HE 2.23.5f.). In all the references to the dominical family (HE 3.1 if., 19, 20.1-8, 32.6; 4.22.4) no mention is made of any progeny of James.] The real difficulty of this dating is that it presupposes that James was written at a time (on our reckoning, about that of Ephesians) when the issue of Jew and Gentile in the church and the resulting antagonism between Jews and Christians very much dominated the scene and when Paul, as a direct result of it, lay imprisoned in Caesarea. Yet the epistle makes absolutely no reference even to the existence of the Gentile mission, let alone to the tensions it occasioned for both Jews and Christians. I agree with Reicke in finding this impossible. I am therefore driven, against my initial expectation, to take seriously the third and still more conservative position.

3. This places the epistle of James, as its 'primitive' character at so many points would suggest, very early indeed, before the controversy about circumcision and the terms of Gentile admission. This does not mean that there was by then no Gentile mission, only that it had not as yet become divisive. For there was doubtless a period, as both Paul (Gal. 2.2) and Luke (Acts 13-14) indicate, when missionary work went on among Gentiles on a scale that provoked no crisis of principle. It was only when 'certain persons who had come down from Judaea began to teach the brotherhood that those who were not circumcised in accordance with Mosaic practice could not be saved' (Acts 15.1) that conflict broke out. This can be dated fairly exactly to c. 48. Now James seems to have occupied some position of leadership in Jerusalem, if not from c. 35 (cf. Gal. 1.19), at least since 42 (or at the latest 44) when Peter went into hiding (cf. Acts 12.17, 'report this to James'). But the indications are that the epistle is more likely to belong to the end of this period than to its beginning. To address a pastoral homily to the whole church (such as it then was) presupposes that James had already established the spiritual authority to do so, without having, apparently, any need to assert it. The argument too whether justification is by faith or works, even if conducted still within a Jewish frame of reference, could very well reflect garbled reports (cf. Gal. 2.4) of 'the gospel' that Paul 'preached to the Gentiles' during his first mission of 47-48, which he subsequently felt it desirable to clear, privately, with James and the others in Jerusalem (Gal. 2.2). Moreover, if anything in James' letter (e.g., as we have suggested, 2.10) had been taken to mean that Christians must observe the whole law or nothing - and the need for an official denial (Acts 15.24) makes this more than possible - then it is likely to have been written not long before the incident of Acts 15.1. Perhaps therefore we should date the epistle of James early in 48 - not later, and possibly a year or so earlier: let us say 47-8. In this case the similarities of language with James' speech and the apostolic letter in Acts 15, though not probative, are certainly interesting.

This early dating has had surprisingly persistent support. Mayor argues for it strongly, citing many earlier writers, including B. Weiss and Zahn. [For a list of the others, see Mayor, James, cl.] Knowling also supported it, adding other names [James, Ixviii-lxxii.]. More recently it has been favoured in a notable series of articles by G. Kittel, [G. Kittel, 'Die Stellung desJakobus zu Judentum und Heidenchristentum', ZNW 30, 1931, 145-57; 'Der geschichtliche Ort des Jakobusbriefes', ZNW 41, 1942, 71-105; 'Die Jakobusbrief und die apostolischen Vater', ZNW 43, 1950-1, 54-112.] and also by Heard [INT, 167.], Michaelis [Einleitung, 282.] and Guthrie [NTI, 761-4.]. The problem of a letter written in Greek to an audience inside as well as outside Palestine remains. But it is no more difficult then than ten years later, and we shall return to this question in connection with the fourth gospel. [Pp. 293-301 below.] If, as we argued in the previous chapter, the gospel of Matthew, whose tradition is closest to that of this epistle, was also beginning to take shape, in Greek, in a similar milieu at the same time, then the epistle of James will no longer be an anomalous exception. It can take its natural place, alongside other literature in the process of formation in the second decade of the Christian mission, as the first surviving finished document of the church.


The Petrine Epistles and Jude

whether either of the epistles ascribed to Peter or that attributed to Jude are by the apostle or the Lord's brother respectively is again not our primary concern. While the issues of chronology and authorship are, here more than ever, inextricably connected, it is the former that must continue to have priority in determining our approach. The best way therefore will be to adopt the same procedure as with the Pauline epistles. This is to attempt to construct a chronological framework, into which the epistles of Peter can be fitted if they are genuine or into which they will purport to fit if they are not. The epistle of Jude comes into this picture because of its manifest interdependence - one way or the other - with II Peter.

The reconstruction of the chronological framework may be begun where that for Paul left off, with the point at which Acts ends. But mention of Acts merely underlines our previous reliance on it. When it stops, we find ourselves almost wholly lost. Whatever framework is reconstructed, it must be said at once that it is bound to be extremely hypothetical and sketchy, for the evidence is simply insufficient. What we miss in particular are the intervals, which it is Luke's particular contribution to supply. In fact the situation is now reversed. Whereas before we were strong on relative dates but very weak on absolute dates (the pro-consulship of Gallic being about the only really secure one, and that by a fortuitous discovery), we now are strong on absolute dates, but extremely weak on relative ones. Thus we have quite precise datings for two cardinal events, the fire of Rome, which broke out on 19 July 64, and the suicide of Nero, which occurred on 9 June 68. But how, within or around that period, happenings or writings of relevance to the Christian church are to be placed in relation either to each other or to these fixed points is highly problematic.

Let us begin by trying to round off the life of Paul. On the basis of the aorist ἐνέμεινεν rather than the imperfect in Acts 28.30 it will be recalled that Harnack argued that at the end of two years Paul's situation changed: it was not simply that the narrative ceased, for whatever reason. [Cf. L. P. Pherigo, 'Paul's Life after the Close of Acts', JBL 70, 1951, 277-84: 'Since the author of Acts seems to have known the duration of the imprisonment, it certainly seems to follow that he knew also of its termination' (277; italics his).] This could well be true; but the inference is precarious, since the aorist would in any case have been a natural choice of tense: for two years he stayed (ἐνέμεινεν) and during that period he used to receive (ἀπεδέχετο). Nor of course does it tell us how Paul's situation changed - whether, as Harnack guessed, it was because he was then transferred to stand trial (whatever the outcome) or whether, as Lake and Cadbury argued [Beginnings V, 325-36.], the case lapsed because the statutory two-year period expired within which the accusers had to appear. Sherwin-White criticizes the latter theory on the ground that there is no real evidence for such a limit. [Roman Society and Roman Law, 108-19; cf. F. F. Bruce, 'St Paul in Rome', BJRL 46. ' 964, 343-5; Ogg, Chronology of the Life of Paul, l80f.] Paul may have been released by an act of clemency, or simply to clear the lists, but there is no reason to construe Acts to mean that he was released at all. All theories which reconstruct this period either from hopes expressed in the Captivity Epistles or from plans in the Pastorals presuppose that the former come from his Roman imprisonment and the latter (genuinely or supposedly) from the period subsequent to it.  If our previous argument was sound, neither of these presuppositions holds. In particular, the decisive reference in II Tim.4.16 to his 'first hearing' refers not to anything in Rome but to the first trial under Felix in Caesarea. It is difficult to be certain whether any of the later tradition reflects more than deductions from a combination of Paul's hope to visit Spain (Rom. 15.23, 28) and the Pastoral Epistles interpreted as Roman in origin. Certainly it is the latter that supply the basis for everything that Eusebius has to say on the subject. [HE 2. 22.] The fragment of the Muratorian Canon (coming from Rome at the end of the second century?) simply says that 'from the city he proceeded to Spain', [Zahn, INT II, 621., 73-5, and F. F. Bruce, 'St Paul in Rome: 5. Concluding Observations', BJRL 50, 1968, 272f., argue that its remark that Luke omits 'the passion of Peter, as well as Paul's journey when he set out from Rome for Spain' suggests that it is here dependent on the Acts of Peter which includes both of these (Hennecke, NTApoc., II, 279-82, 314-22).] but this could merely be part of the presumption we observed before that (despite the evidence of II Corinthians!) Paul's plans were always fulfilled. Much the most important piece of evidence is that of I Clem. 5.6f., which asserts that, after he had preached both in the east and the west, he reached the 'extreme west' (τ τέρμα τῆς δύσεως). I would agree with Lightfoot [AF I.2, 30f.] and Zahn [INT11, 72. Similarly Phengo, JBL 70, 279-82.] that to interpret this in a writer living in Rome to mean Rome itself is incredible. We must assume it means Spain, and depending on the date and weight we attach to the evidence of I Clement, [It has often been argued that Clement's details may be explained entirely from Acts. But Zahn, INT II, 68-73, is still convincing to the contrary, as is Lightfoot. For a recent defence of Clement's tradition, cf. Dinkier, TR 25, 207-14.] it speaks in favour of a release from Rome and further travel (though only to the west).

Beyond that we are in the dark. Clement clearly refers to Paul having perished in the same persecution as Peter and a 'great multitude of the elect', [I Clem.5f.; cf. the similar phrase in Tacitus, Ann.15,. 44 of the Neronian persecution.] which cannot be other than that under Nero.  [So Tertullian, Scorp. 15.] But Paul appears to have stood alone as he 'gave witness before rulers', and the subsequent tradition, that, whereas Peter was crucified, [Cf. John 21.18f.; Tertullian, Scorp. 15; Praescript. 36, Adv. Marc.4.5. This is independent of the elaboration of the tradition that he was crucified upside down (Acta Petr. 37f.; Origen apud Euseb. HE 3.1.2).] Paul (as a Roman citizen) was executed, strongly suggests that this was as a result of a separate judicial action, not of mass violence such as Tacitus describes. Again, in the first-century Ascension of Isaiah 4.2f. it is only 'one of the Twelve' who 'will be delivered into his [viz. Nero's] hands': there is no mention of Paul. [For the dating of this passage, cf. pp. 239f. below. It could come from not long after the event.] Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, says in c. 170 that Peter and Paul 'having taught together in Italy, suffered martyrdom at (or about) the same time' (κατὰ τὸν αὐτὸν καιρόν). [Quoted by Eusebius, HE 2.25.8. If, as Munck argued (Petrus und Paulus in der Offenbarung Johannis, Copenhagen 1950), the vision of the two witnesses in Rev. 11.3-12 alludes to the deaths of Peter and Paul, this would be early evidence for their simultaneous martyrdom. But this theory is at best extremely hypothetical. Cf. p. 241 below.] This comes to be interpreted, first in the Liberian Catalogue of 354, [For the evidence, cf. Edmundson, The Church in Rome, 149f.] to mean 'on the same day', namely, 29 June. But this day is almost certainly the one which in the year 258 saw some veneration of their joint memories, possibly the translation of their relics from the Vatican and the Ostian Way to a catacomb on the Appian Way for safety during the Valerian persecution.[For a discussion of this, cf. Cullmann, Peter, 123-31; Bruce, BJRL 50, 1968, 273-9.] Indeed, despite the great influence of Jerome (c. 342-420), who said that they suffered in the same year, [De vir. ill. 5. He based it on his own Latin translation of Eusebius' Chronicle (see below pp. 147-50).] the tradition still survived in Prudentius (348-c. 410) [Περιστεφάνων, hymn 12, quoted by Edmundson, op. cit., 150.] and Augustine (354-430) [Serm. 296-7.] that Paul died exactly a year after Peter - [Cf. also the quotation from Acta SS. Jun. 5,4230, in Zahn, INT ll, 76.] evidence which is worthless as a positive indicator but useful as a corrective.

When we come to the question of the date, or dates, of their deaths, we are equally in the dark. There are two separate issues: (a) Did the Neronian persecution follow immediately upon the fire of Rome?; and (b) Did Peter and/or Paul perish in that first assault? If we could answer 'Yes' to both these questions, our chronological problems would be over and everything could be dated in 64. Unfortunately, however, it is not so simple. Indeed if it had been as simple as the textbooks tend to make it, it is difficult to explain how the divergences could have arisen. The presumption must be that there was a tendency to conflate not only the day but the year, and that, other things being equal, preference should be given to the less tidy solution. But let us first look at what evidence there is for answering the two questions.

(a) So indelibly etched upon the common memory is the association between the fire of Rome and the persecution of Christians that it comes as a surprise to realize that the entire connection rests upon one unsupported piece of evidence - a single chapter in Tacitus' Annals (15.44). To this important, and excellent, source we must return in detail. But first it is worth stressing the point that it stands alone not only in classical but in Christian literature - until it itself is quoted. [This is well brought out by E. T. Merrill, Essays in Early Christian History, 1924,ch. 4.]  In classical literature the only other reference to the persecution of Christians is in Suetonius' Lives of the Twelve Caesars, which because it rests so obviously on independent tradition is important corroborative testimony. But the persecution is brought into no connection with the fire (which by itself, of course, is often mentioned subsequently). [E.g. Pliny, Nat. hist. 17.5; Dio Cassius, Hist. 61.16-18.] The fire is described in Nero 38, but the persecution of Christians is alluded to briefly in Nero 16 among a variety of public acts, chiefly legislative. As Hort dryly observed, [F. J. A. Hort, The Apocalypse of St John I-III, 1908, xxv.] 'It comes between regulations about what might be sold in the cooks' shops and others about restraining the license of charioteers and the factions of clowns.' More remarkably there is no memory of its association with the fire preserved in any early Christian writer. None of the early references to the Neronian persecution, in Clement of Rome [I Clem. 5f.], Melito of Sardis [In his Petition to Marcus Aurelius, cited by Eusebius, HE 4.26.9.], Tertullian [Apol 5.3f.; Ad nat. 1.7; Scorp. 15.], Lactantius [De mort. persec. 2.], Eusebius [HE 2.25.] or Jerome [De vir. ill. 5.], makes any mention of the fire. The first link is in Sulpicius Severus, whose Chronicle [Chronic. 2.29.] was completed c. 403 and which quotes Tacitus. In Eusebius' Chronicle the two events are separated by four years.

But we must return to the evidence of Tacitus, which is important enough to be set out in full. After giving a graphic and detailed description of the ravages of the fire and the immediate relief operations for the temporary re-housing of some hundreds of thousands of homeless (Ann. 15.38-41), he proceeds (15.421.) to describe the rebuilding of the capital to a carefully thought-out plan with built-in fire precautions for the future, together with the construction by Nero of a palace for himself of unrivalled magnificence, the celebrated Domus Aurea. [Described by Suetonius, Nero 31.] Then, in 15.44, he goes on:

So far, the precautions taken were suggested by human prudence: now means were sought for appeasing deity, and application was made to the Sibylline books; at the injunction of which public prayers were offered to Vulcan, Ceres, and Proserpine, while Juno was propitiated by the matrons, first in the Capitol, then at the nearest point of the sea-shore, where water was drawn for sprinkling the temple and image of the goddess. Ritual banquets and all-night vigils were celebrated by women in the married state. But neither human help, nor imperial munificence, nor all the modes of placating Heaven, could stifle scandal or dispel the belief that the fire had taken place by order. Therefore, to scotch the rumour, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians. Christus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilatus, and the pernicious superstition was checked for a moment, only to break out once more, not merely in Judaea, the home of the disease, but in the capital itself, where all things horrible or shameful in the world collect and find a vogue. First, then, the confessed members of the sect were arrested; next, on their disclosures, vast numbers were convicted, not so much on the count of arson as for hatred of the human race. And derision accompanied their end: they were covered with wild beasts' skins and torn to death by dogs; or they were fastened on crosses, and, when daylight failed, were burned to serve as lamps by night. Nero had offered his gardens for the spectacle, and gave an exhibition in his circus, mixing with the crowd in the habit of a charioteer, or mounted on his car. Hence, in spite of a guilt which had earned the most exemplary punishment, there arose a sentiment of pity, due to the impression that they were being sacrificed not for the welfare of the state but to the ferocity of a single man. [Tr. J. Jackson, Loeb Classical Library, 1937. For assessments of the passage by classical scholars, cf. B. W. Henderson, The Life and Principate of the Emperor Nero, 1903, 237-53. 434-49; H. Furneaux, The Annals of Tacitus II, Oxford 1907, 416-27.]

It is quite clear from this account that a considerable interval of time must have elapsed before in desperation Nero rounded on the Christians. There is no need to assume that the building works were by then completed: indeed none was finished before Nero's death, and the Domus Aurea was demolished, uncompleted, by Vespasian. Yet in so far as we have any evidence for a connection between the fire and the persecution - and there is no good reason to question it - it is for a delayed reaction. At the very least, an interval of many months must be allowed for the various stages described by Tacitus, which from the time the fire finally died down at the end of July 64 brings us into 65 at the earliest. Yet almost universally, not only in the textbooks, but by giants like Lightfoot and Harnack and Zahn, the Neronian persecution is dated in 64. I myself became convinced that this could not be right, but it is one of the many merits of Edmundson's Church in Rome in the First Century that he exposes in careful argument what he calls this 'fundamental error on the part of almost every writer upon the subject'. [Op. cit., 125; cf. 123-44.] It is characteristic of the neglect of his book that what he says should also have been ignored ever since.

He demonstrates that it is no objection that Tacitus' treatment of the events of the year 65 appears to begin only at ch. 48, since it is this historian's practice, like that of others, 'to group together so as to form a single and complete episode in his narrative a series of events having close connection with one another but really spread over a considerable space of time'. [Ibid., 126.]  He shows how this applies to his compression of the Pisonian conspiracy into the events of 65; it is described as 'no sooner hatched than full-grown', [Ann. 15.48.] though it actually began in 63 [Ann. 14.65.] and might well have led to the death of Nero during the fire of 64. [Ann. I5.50.]  Certainly the ambitious programme for the rebuilding of Rome described under the events of 64 [Ann. 15.42f.] could scarcely have got off the drawing-boards of Severus and Celer by the end of that year.

Among the points Edmundson makes are three which, he argues, help to date the spectacle in Nero's gardens as not earlier than the spring of 65. The first is the weather.

One thing ... may be regarded as certain: that such a nocturnal spectacle would not have been planned so long as the night air was chilly, nor would Nero with his scrupulous care for the preservation of his divine voice [Cf. Suetonius, Nero 20; Pliny, Nat. hist. 19.6; 24.18; Tacitus, Ann. 15.22.]  have appeared at night in the open on a car in the garb of a charioteer in cold weather. [Op. cit., 141.]

The second is an argument, which he admits is speculative, that the account in Ann. 15.58 of 'continuous columns of manacled men dragged and deposited at the garden doors', which greatly exaggerates the actual numbers involved in the trial of the Pisonian conspirators in April 65, may have been confused by merger with the round-up of Christians at the same time. Thirdly, he draws attention to the fact that the Christian historian Orosius, [Hist. adv. pagan. 7.7.] a younger contemporary of Sulpicius Severus, who had access to Suetonius, Tacitus and Josephus, follows his account of the fire and persecution with the words:

Soon calamities in heaps began on every side to oppress the wretched state, for in the following autumn so great a pestilence fell upon the city that according to the registers [in the temple] of Libitina there were thirty thousand funerals.

Edmundson comments:

These last words are a direct quotation from Suetonius, [Nero 39.] who however as usual gives no date to the pestilence. This is however given by Tacitus, who thus concludes his narrative of the events of 65 AD [Ann. 16.13.]: 'The Gods also marked by storms and diseases a year made shameful by so many crimes. Campania was devastated by a hurricane ... the fury of which extended to the vicinity of the City, in which a violent pestilence was carrying away every class of human beings. ... Houses were filled with dead bodies, the streets with funerals.' [Edmundson, op. cit., 143.]

None of this adds up to a demonstration that the persecution of Christians was in 65. It could have been later, though the plausibility of linking it with the crime of arson would steadily have diminished as the interval grew. But it may help to reinforce the strong inherent probability that it could hardly have been earlier. Tentatively then we may answer our first question by dating this initial assault upon the church in the spring of 65. [B. Reicke, The New Testament Era, ET 1969, 249, puts it 'around the beginning of 65'.]

(b) Did Peter and/or Paul perish in this first attack?  One could get the impression from I Clem. 5f. that Peter and Paul were actually in the van of the martyrs, but it is doubtful whether anything more than eminence causes their names to be put first. The other sources, when they mention names at all, do not discriminate, with the exception of Sulpicius Severus, who says: [Chronic. 2.29.3. Tr. J. Stevenson, A New Eusebius: Documents Illustrative of the History of the Church to AD 557, 1957, 6.]

Thus a beginning was made of violent persecution of Christians. Afterwards also laws were enacted and the religion was forbidden. Edicts were publicly published: 'No one must profess Christianity.' Then Paul and Peter were condemned to death. [But Barrett, NT Background, 17, translates 'at that time', thus eliminating the suggested interval.]  The former was beheaded, Peter was crucified.

We shall have to come back to the legal enactments in another context. [P. 234 below.] The separation in so late a document of the deaths of the apostles from the initial violence would scarcely be significant if it were not for the somewhat confused evidence of the Chronicle of Eusebius. In his History [HE 2.25.] he mentions no dates, despite dating other events in the chapters that precede and follow. In the Chronicle we have varying evidence in the two versions. [For convenient comparison in parallel columns, cf. Schoene (ed.), II, 154-7.] The Armenian puts the fire of Rome (or rather 'many fires in Rome') in 63 and Nero's 'beginning of the persecution of Christians in which Peter and Paul suffer martyrdom at Rome' in 67. [Eusebius' dates are expressed in terms of the regnal years of Nero. Working backwards, the last, Nero 14, must be 68, with Nero 1 as 54, and this calculation is supported by Finegan, HBC, 308. Lightfoot, AF I.I, 230, puts all the dates a year earlier; C. H. Turner, 'The Early Episcopal Lists', JTS 1, 1900, 187-92, a year later. Turner ingeniously works out that Eusebius must calculate the regnal year 1 of any emperor from about the 15th September following his accession. Since Nero did not become emperor till October 54 this means that Nero 1= September 55-September 56. But on this calculation Nero 14 becomes September 68-9 and Nero would then not kill himself till 9 June 69 (during the reign of Vitellius!).] This however is rendered doubtful by a previous entry for 66, when Linus is recorded as succeeding Peter as Bishop of Rome. In Jerome's Latin version 'Nero sets fire to most of Rome' in 64, and the 'first persecution of Christians by Nero in which Peter and Paul perished gloriously in Rome' is in 68, and in the same year 'Linus becomes Bishop of Rome after Peter'. The Latin version is recognized to be generally the more reliable, [So Lightfoot, AF I. 1.232; Turner, op. cit., JTS I, 184-7; Finegan, HBC, 155f.] and in the reign of Nero it usually shows greater approximation to the dates supplied by Tacitus or Josephus. Indeed for two only, the earthquake at Laodicea and the murder of Octavia, where it is four and five years out respectively, is there a discrepancy of more than a year or two.

The one thing that emerges clearly is that Eusebius does not associate the persecution with the fire (in both versions they are four years apart), but does associate the deaths of Peter and Paul with the general persecution. There is nothing in Tacitus actually to rule out a four-year interval between the fire and the persecution, though such a gap would have made any connection with the charge of arson incredible. The circumstantial, and much older, evidence of Tacitus must be preferred at this point, with the general persecution beginning, in all probability, in 65. But what of the later date for the apostles' death? There is absolutely no way of being certain, and Lightfoot, despite an exhaustive discussion of the early Roman episcopal succession, [AF 1.1, 201-345.] declined to commit himself to choosing between 64 (as he dated the persecution) and 67 or 68. [af 1.1.]  Wisdom perhaps should dictate leaving it there, and there is certainly no place for Harnack's dogmatic assertion that the martyrdom of Paul in July 64 is 'an assured fact'. [Chron., 240.] But there are certain observations of greater or lesser probability that can be made.

1. It is questionable whether Eusebius had any basis for his dating except guesswork, and on the date of the general Neronian persecution he was almost certainly wrong by some three years. The limitation of a chronicle is that it allows no room for genuine uncertainty. In a history one can slur over one's ignorance; in an annual record one is forced to place things in one year or another. As we have seen, in his History Eusebius offers no date for the persecution, which may suggest that he did not have one. There are two reasons why in his Chronicle he could have decided to put it at the end of Nero's reign. In the Armenian version (and the Latin is similar) his entry for the persecution reads: 'On top of his other crimes Nero was the first to provoke persecutions of Christians; under him the apostles Peter and Paul suffered martyrdom in Rome.' Zahn comments: [INT II, 78.]

Eusebius himself knows no more than what he says, namely, that Peter and Paul died under Nero, and does not intend that 67 shall be regarded as the year in which both apostles died, as is proved also by his remark at the year preceding (66) that Linus succeeded Peter as bishop of Rome. It was only his way of looking at the history, according to which the slaying of the Christians was the climax of Nero's crimes (HE 2.25. 2-5), that caused him in his Chronicum to place the persecution of the Christians at the end of that emperor's reign. [There may also have been the motive we have encountered before, which  reappears in the Acts of Peter and Paul (ed. L. F. K. Tischendorf, Acta Apostolorum Apocrypha, Leipzig 1851, 38), of suggesting that the death of Nero followed speedily upon his killing of the apostles: 'Know ye that this Nero will be utterly destroyed not many days hence and his kingdom given to another'; quoted by Ogg, Chronology of Paul, 199, who also doubts the evidence of Eusebius.]

The other reason, on which Harnack fastened, [Chron., 241f.] is that the year 67 looks suspiciously as if it may be influenced by combining the traditions of a twelve-year stay of the apostles in Jerusalem and a twenty-five year 'episcopate' of Peter over Rome (30 + 12 == 42 + 25 = 67). Unlike the date 42, it is supported by no other evidence than that of Eusebius himself, and is therefore unreliable.

2. The evidence of Sulpicius Severus, though late, could be based on better sources. His reference to decrees is, as we shall see, borne out by Tertullian. Unlike Eusebius, he certainly had access to Tacitus, whose account he clearly echoes. But Tacitus had nothing about the death of Peter and Paul, and this may be the reason for Sulpicius' adding the notice of it apparently as a separate item at the end, following the decrees. In any case, if he intended an interval after the initial onslaught, there is absolutely no indication of its duration. It could have been but a few weeks.

3. As far as the death of Peter is concerned, the evidence points to its being associated with the mass violence of 65. Death by being 'fastened to crosses' is among the horrors listed by Tacitus, and the 'Quo Vadis?' legend, [Acta Petr. 35 (Hennecke, NTApoc. II, 3171.).] to which we shall return, [P. 214 below.]  and to which, Edmundson argues, [Op. cit., 151-3.] considerable credibility attaches, speaks of Peter seeking to save his life by leaving the city, only to be turned back by the vision of Christ to face crucifixion. This suggests that though he escaped the initial round-up mentioned by Tacitus he met his death before the end of the purge. There is no suggestion in any tradition that this was prolonged beyond the year (indeed in 66 Nero went to Greece and did not return till 68). So tentatively we may agree with Edmundson that the death of Peter took place 'some time during the summer of 65'. [Ibid., 152.]

4. By contrast there is nothing specifically to connect the death of Paul with the Neronian pogrom. It was apparently a judicial execution following a trial and could have occurred at any time before, during, or after it. For what little it is worth, the evidence is in favour of Paul's death being somewhat later than that of Peter. [Cf. p. 143, nn. 17-19, above; also Acta Petr. 40, which places Paul's return to Rome from Spain after Peter's death. It has been argued (cf. Cullmann, Peter, 94f.) that since the Old Testament examples of jealousy in I Clem. 4 are in chronological order, the mention of Peter before Paul implies that Peter died first. This is possible; but it would logically follow that both died before the mass of the martyrs, which is specifically denied by Sulpicius Severus. Cullmann never even discusses the question of dates.] But many modern reconstructions, unlike those of the ancients who allowed only for a visit to Spain (which could easily have been fitted in between 62 and the Neronian persecution), [So Gunther, op. cit., 147, who suggests not without plausibility (following Pherigo, JBL 70, 278) that Paul's imprisonment in Rome was terminated by a sentence of relegatio or temporary exile to a place of his choice. This would account for the 'exile' mentioned in I Clem. 5.6, which is otherwise difficult to fit in, and is in line with the tradition in Acta Petr. 1: 'Quartus, a prison officer, ... gave leave to Paul to leave the city (and go) where he wished. ... And when he had fasted for three days and asked of the Lord what was right for him, Paul then saw a vision, the Lord saying to him, "Paul, arise and be a physician to those who are in Spain" ' (Hennecke, NT Apoc. II, 279). Subsequently, in 66, as Edmundson, op. cit., 160-2, points out, Apollonius of Tyana was also banished from Rome and 'turned westwards to the land which they say is bounded by the Pillars' (Philostratus, Vit. Apol.4.47.).] have been affected by the desire to leave time for further journeys east so as to satisfy the supposed requirements of the Pastoral Epistles. [Thus Lightfoot (Biblical Essays, 223) puts Paul's death on these grounds in the spring of 68 (?);  Zahn (INT II, 67) in late 66-June 68;  Edmundson (op. cit., 160-3 and 240) in 67.] There is really no way of telling.  All we can say is that it was near enough to the death of Peter to be regarded by Clement as part of the same attack and later by Dionysius to have occurred 'about the same time'. Probably we shall not be far out in settling for some time in 66, or 67 at the latest.

It must be stressed again that all this is no more than a very tentative reconstruction in the absence of any firm evidence. It can but provide a provisional framework, which may have to be modified by the evidence from the Petrine epistles, to which we must turn.

I peter

There is no question at any rate that the epistle claims to be by the apostle Peter (1.1) and purports therefore to be written during his lifetime. It is addressed to 'those of God's scattered people who lodge for a while in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia', and, in contrast with the epistle of James, the Christian diaspora evidently now includes a majority (probably) who were once Gentiles (1.14, 18; 2.9f.; 3.51.; 4.3). The other thing that is reasonably certain is that it was written, or purports to have been written, from Rome. The 'greetings from her who dwells in Babylon, chosen by God like you' (5.13) is almost universally agreed to be a disguise for the church in Rome. The pseudonym is indisputable in the book of Revelation (14.8; 16.19; 17.5; 18.2, 10, 21) as it is in other late-Jewish and Christian writings (II Bar.10.1f; 11.1; 67.7; II Esd.3.1f., 28, 31; Orac. Sib.5. 143, 159f.), and it was so understood here as early as Papias. [Eusebius, HE 2.15.] There is no need to spend time discussing alternative locations in Mesopotamia or Egypt. [A. Schlatter, The Church in the New Testament Period, ET 1955, 253-7, and J. Munck, Paul and the Salvation of Mankind, ET 1959, 275, are among those who have believed that Peter visited the Babylonian dispersion. But there is no other evidence for this - while there is plenty that he was in Rome.] The only question is why the disguise was felt to be necessary - as it never is, for instance, in the writings of Paul. The obvious answer is that it was resorted to for the same reason as in the Apocalypse, namely, that of security (however thin the veil). But this at once leads into a discussion of the main, and indeed the only, circumstantial evidence in the epistle which is relevant to its dating, the menace of persecution that everywhere pervades it.

Let it be said at once that this evidence proves nothing by way of dating. The references are such as could be explained by the kind of harassment at the hands of Jews and local magistrates that meets us constantly in Acts and Paul, and which might have occurred at any time or place. This has been emphasized by a number of recent writers, [And earlier by Zahn, INT11, 178-85.] for instance Selwyn, [E. G. Selwyn, 'The Persecutions in I Peter', Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas Bulletin, 1950, 39-50.] Moule, [C. F. D. Moule, 'The Nature and Purpose of I Peter', NTS 3, 1956-7, 1-11; Birth of the NT, 114.] Kelly, [J. N. D. Kelly, The Epistles of Peter and Jude (Black's NTC), 1969, 5-11, 29.] Best, [E. Best, I Peter, 1971, 39-42.] and van Unnik. [IDB III, 762.] The last concludes:

Once we rule out the possibility of identifying these sufferings with some particular persecution, we are left with no direct indication as to the date. The situation reflected in the letter could have happened at any time in the first or second century wherever a Christian group was found.

Indeed F. L. Cross goes so far as to say that 'the supposed references to persecution are false trails', [F. L. Cross, I Peter; A Paschal Liturgy, 1954, 42.] since he argues that the theme of suffering is supplied by the church's liturgical season rather than by external events.

But, even granting that there is a liturgical setting, this is surely to present a false either/or. Moreover, though these are salutary warnings against identifying the references with any datable official persecution — and still more against the dogmatism of precluding a date because there is no record of a persecution in that particular area — it does seem that there is perhaps more to be said. For the preoccupation with suffering, and with Christian behaviour under it, is unique to I Peter. There is nothing quite like it in the Pauline epistles, or in any others, with the exception perhaps of Hebrews. But in Hebrews the persecution lies, partly at least, in the past, and the concern is for the danger of relapse it has brought in its train. Here it is potential, imminent or incipient (1.6; 2.12, 19f.; 3.13-17; 4.12-19; 5.8-10). What situation is reflected in Hebrews we must go on to discuss in the next chapter, but that it reflects a particular situation can hardly be doubted.  So in I Peter, at least in 4.12, 'Do not be bewildered by the fiery ordeal that is upon you' (or is happening to you, ὐμῖν γινομένη), it seems evident that something specific is in mind. And while it is not limited to the recipients of the letter (5.9), it is nevertheless a new situation (4.17) for which they are not prepared (4.12). It may not be an official persecution, but it is clear that things are building up to a climax, indeed, in the author's view, to the final climax (4.7). Perhaps the nearest historical parallel to the kind of social and religious harassment that I Peter seems to presuppose is the phenomenon of anti-semitism; and this characteristically manifests itself in waves, erupting from time to time in sharp pogroms (whether or not officially 'inspired'). It is clear too that this persecution of Christians is not the sort that Paul mentions in I Thess.2.14-16, and which Acts chronicles so frequently, as instigated specifically by Jews. Jews may have been involved, but there is nothing to say so. It is pagans who malign them as wrongdoers (2.12) and vilify them as spoil­sports (4.3f.); it is the criminal code and the standards of good citizenship which they must be careful not to offend (2.12, 151.; 3.16f.; 4.14f.), not the Mosaic law or Jewish susceptibilities.

Above all there is a wariness with regard to the state authorities (2.131.) that suggests that Christians must be particularly careful to afford them no handle. If they have to suffer, they must be sure not to put themselves the wrong side of the law (4.141.) and so give excuse to the adversary who is 'looking for someone to devour' (5.8). The parallel today might be a warning to Christians in South Africa to make certain that, if they are going to oppose apartheid (as of course they must), they do not allow themselves to be convicted for doing wrong rather than for doing good. And this approach, of being, in Jesus' words, as wise as serpents and harmless as doves, is entirely compatible with advocating and encouraging all proper respect for the state and its powers (2.13-17; cf. 3.15). The situation here is not that reflected in the book of Revelation, where the time is past when Christians can expect that such respect will bring them justice. Moreover, in contrast again with the Apocalypse, there is as yet no evidence of martyrdom or banishment, or indeed of any physical violence. Though hostility would obviously not be limited to insulting words (cf. 2.20, of the beating of slaves), the attack upon them 'as Christians' seems to have consisted primarily of slander and calumny. As Zahn pointed out : [INT II, 180f.]

Whenever a specific injury is mentioned which they suffered at the hands of the heathen, it is always of this character:- καταλαλεῖν, (2.12; 3.16), λοιδορεῖν (3.9), and ἐπηρεάζειν τὴν ἀγαθ΄θν ἐν ἀναστροφήν (3.16); βλασφημεῖν (4.4) and ὀνειδίζειν (4.14). They are to silence their slanderers by good conduct (2.15); they are to put them to shame (3.16); above all, they are not to answer reviling with reviling, but with blessing (3.9). The very first condition of a comfortable life is to refrain from evil and deceitful words (3.10). Even in the passage where the suffering of Christ is held up as an example especially to slaves, it is not said that he refused to use his power to defend himself against violence (Matt. 26.51-5; 27.40-4; John 18.36; Heb. 12.2f.); but that when he was reviled he reviled not again, and did not give vent to threatening words when he was compelled to suffer (2.23).

To sum up, there is no evidence of open state persecution. Yet there is a sense of tension with regard to the civic authorities which is missing from even the latest epistles of Paul and the end of Acts. I believe therefore that those are right who look for some climacteric to which a date may be put. Can we be more specific? Three main possibilities have been suggested, the situations under Trajan, Domitian and Nero.

i. We may begin with that under Trajan because we have a parallel which looks almost too good to be true.  In his oft-quoted letter to the Emperor [Epp. 10.96. Trajan replies in 10.97.] Pliny the younger, who was governor of Bithynia-Pontus, a province specifically mentioned in the address of I Peter, asks whether, in dealing with those brought before him 'as Christians',  'punishment attaches to the mere name apart from secret crimes, or to the secret crimes connected with the name'; and he cites the oath by which Christians bound themselves, 'not for any crime, but not to commit theft or robbery or adultery'. This seems to parallel closely the situation described in 4.14-16:

If Christ's name is flung in your teeth as an insult, count yourselves happy. ... If you suffer, it must not be for murder, theft, or sorcery, nor for infringing the rights of others. But if anyone suffers as a Christian, he should feel it no disgrace, but confess that name to the honour of God.

Many have concluded with F. W. Beare that 'it would therefore seem unnecessary to look further for the persecution which called forth our letter', [F. W. Beare, The First Epistle of Peter, Oxford 1958, 14. Similarly, J. Knox, "Pliny and I Peter: A Note on I Peter 4.14-16 and 3.15', JBL 72, 1953, 187-9; and A. R. C. Leaney, The Letters of Peter and Jude, Cambridge 1967, 8-10. Streeter, PC, 115-36, saw the epistle as republished (under the pseudonym of Peter) to meet this situation.] and he dates it at the same time. J. W. C. Wand admits that this identification 'seems powerfully attractive'. [J. W. C. Wand, The General Epistles of St Peter and St Jude, 1934, 15.] Yet both from Pliny's practice and from the Emperor's reply it is presupposed that Christianity is already a religio illicita and that this is nothing new -conditions that cannot be presumed from I Peter. [For a careful study of the nature of the early persecutions of Christians, cf. A. N. Sherwin-White, The Letters of Pliny, Oxford 1966, 772-87.] As Moule says, [Birth of the NT, 1 13f. For other points in the same direction, cf. A. F. Walls in The New Bible Dictionary, edd.J. D. Douglas et al., 1962, 975.] it is illegitimate to draw the inference from 4.15 that being a Christian is itself a capital offence comparable with murder. To take care that you suffer unambiguously as a Christian no more implies this than it does in the parallel we suggested from South Africa today. Suffering for 'the name' is of course already to be found in Acts 5.41; 9.14; and Mark 13.13; and the wording of Matt. 5.11, 'How blest are you, when you suffer insults and persecution and every calumny for my sake', is particularly close to the situation in I Peter. The term 'Christian' too had become established well before this date (Acts 11.28; 26.28). [For a survey of the evidence inside and outside the New Testament, cf. Zahn, INT 11, 191-4.] These parallels are the more significant if, as we have argued, Acts and the synoptic gospels are all to be dated before the mid-60s. The Trajanic setting would be compelling if there were any other reason to suggest a second-century date or if no other Sitz im Leben looked possible. Otherwise it cannot be said to be necessary, or indeed probable. (It is notable that the most thorough English commentary on the epistle in recent years, that of Selwyn, does not even mention it - Trajan comes into the index only in a quotation from Dante!) It will be proper therefore to suspend judgment until we have examined the evidence for the other alternatives.

2. The placing of I Peter under Domitian is really a compromise for those who can put it at neither of the other dates. Thus Kummel, who has already ruled out apostolic authorship, writes:

The reign of Domitian should probably be taken as the time of writing, since the mention of the persecution 'as Christians' (4.16) is not sufficient ground for going down as late as the beginning of the second century, or even to the time of the persecution under Trajan. 90-5 is, therefore, the most probable time of composition. [INT, 425.]

The reason, of course, for selecting the last years of Domitian's reign is that this is the only other period apart from the latter 60s associated in the tradition with the persecution of the church. What in fact this persecution amounted to we must examine more closely when we come to the book of Revelation, [Pp. 231-3 below.] which is usually connected with it. But there is no evidence that it affected Asia Minor - [Unless it be the straw at which some have (quite seriously) grasped, that Pliny reports that a number of those he was investigating had given up their Christianity 'some three years before, some a longer time, one or two even twenty years ago' (italics mine). The last date would bring us back to c. 95.] and in this it is in exactly the same position as the Neronian persecution - except for the evidence of the Apocalypse. But equally, if the Apocalypse comes from the times of Nero, then its evidence, including the use of the pseudonym 'Babylon', would support a similar date for I Peter. For the moment therefore we must leave this evidence on one side. In any case, as we have seen, the state of affairs in I Peter is clearly not yet that of the Apocalypse. Reicke [James, Peter and Jude, 72.] makes the point that

sacrifices to the emperor are not mentioned in First Peter as a problem confronting the Christians. If the epistle had been written during Domitian's persecution that well-known, grave issue could not have been passed over.

This is, of course, an equally valid objection to the Trajanic date, since Pliny specifically mentions 'supplication with incense and wine' to the statue of the emperor as an alternative to execution; and of this there is no hint in I Peter. Indeed it is scarcely credible that under either Trajan or Domitian the writer could have linked 'reverence to God' and 'honour to the emperor' in the positive and unqualified manner of 2.17.

There is in fact really nothing to be said for a date in Domitian's reign except as a last resort. I cannot resist quoting Wand's comment in this connection, [Peter and Jude, 16.] since it bears out what I have come to feel at many points in the course of this investigation:

Is there not some danger of Domitian's reign becoming rather overloaded with otherwise undated bits of Christian literature? The Apocalypse, Hebrews and I Clement, to say nothing of Barnabas and the Didache, have all been ascribed to this period. It has in fact become the favourite dumping-ground for doubtful writings with a hint of persecution about them.

But he is too modest in his list. The reign has also been pressed into service to accommodate Ephesians, Luke, Acts, Matthew, John and the Johannine epistles, and by many too James, Jude and the Pastoral Epistles! This is not because all these writings have common factors (not even persecution): they are widely different. Nor is it because we have such detailed information of the circumstances of the reign that we can see how and why they fit in. Indeed, from a Christian point of view, it is one about which we know remarkably little. Hence its attractiveness as a depository: it can accommodate almost anything. So let us pass on, to see whether we are really forced by lack of alternative to bring it into use for I Peter.

3. With a date under Nero the issue of authorship becomes a decisive factor - though in fact it is equally tied to the other two hypotheses, which are viable only on the assumption of pseudonymity or original anonymity (the name of Peter being subsequently attached). Inevitably, however, the arguments that it cannot be by the apostle tend to be held (or are capable of being stated) more decisively, not to say dogmatically, than the arguments that it must be by the apostle. For it is easier to preclude authorship than to prove it. Arguments against apostolicity are therefore often used (e.g. by Kummel) to rule out a Neronian dating without further discussion. Beare, who commits himself to the statement that 'there can be no possible doubt that "Peter" is a pseudonym', [I Peter, 25.] effectively dismisses this date on the sole ground that there is no evidence that this persecution extended to the provinces. [Ibid., 10-13. He appends some other arguments from W. Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire before AD 170, 1893, 196-295, which are about as unsubstantiated as that writer's eccentric conclusion that it was written c. 75-80 by Peter, who lived on into the reign of Vespasian!]  There is, to be sure, no evidence that the persecution of Nero had repercussions in Asia Minor (unless of course the Apocalypse does come - somewhat later -from this period). But the happy accident that so remote a province as Bithynia-Pontus had an exceptionally literary governor in the second decade of the second century whose correspondence has survived and touches at one point on the treatment of Christians can scarcely be used as an argument that silence elsewhere implies that there was nothing of the sort going on. In any case, the kind of suppressed tension which I Peter reflects, in contrast with open state persecution, is hardly likely to have featured prominently in the history books. The issue is whether the terror that erupted under Nero is the sort of which this situation could be the build-up, whether or not it also broke out openly in Asia Minor. And here Tacitus' words in Ann. 15.44 already quoted deserve closer scrutiny. [I am indebted for this comparison to the notable article on I Peter by F. H. Chase in HDB III, 784f Cf. H. Fuchs, 'Tacitus uber die Christen', VC 4, 1950, 65-93.]

Apart from the obviously trumped-up charge of arson, there are two counts mentioned. One is 'hatred of the human race' (odium humani generis; cf. Tacitus' comment on the Jews in Hist.5.5, 'adversos omnes alios hostile odium'). This is clearly a catch-all indictment (and the word 'convicti' seems to imply that it was framed as a legal charge) such as can succeed only if it can feed on, and foment, latent popular resentment and hostility (as with Hitler's incrimination of the Jews after the Reichstag fire). And this is precisely the kind of lurking, or rather prowling (5.8), hostility that I Peter reflects. Secondly, says Tacitus, 'first those were arrested who confessed' (primum correpti qui fatebantur). The context shows that this cannot mean confessed to arson, of which it is made clear they were innocent, but to their faith. [This is generally agreed among the commentators. Jackson in the Loeb edition translates 'the confessed members of the sect'.] The situation was the same as with Pliny: 'I asked them whether they were Christians, and if they confessed, I asked them a second and third time with threats of punishment' - though Nero's procedures were certainly not designed to give them an incentive to recant, but rather to inform on their co­religionists. Admission to being a Christian was all that was needed. And, says the author of I Peter, let commission of this crime be all that they can find against you: 'If anyone suffers as a Christian, he should feel no disgrace, but confess that name to the honour of God (4.16). The parallel with the time of Nero is as close as with that of Trajan, and, assuming that open persecution has not yet broken out, the attitude of wary respect and duly discriminating honour for the authorities, 'whether it be to the emperor as supreme or to the governor as his deputy' (2.14-17), is at this stage entirely explicable. But such language, and even more that of 3.13, 'Who is going to wrong you if you are devoted to what is good?', would be incredible if the Neronian terror had already struck - or even if Paul had by then been executed. [So C. Bigg, The Epistles of St Peter and St Jude (ICC), Edinburgh 1901,85.] And this is perhaps a further indication that the martyrdom of Paul did not precede the persecution.

All that is lacking (unless the Apocalypse supplies it) is specific evidence from Asia Minor. But is the clue to the writer's language to be sought in the epistle's destination - or in its source? There is no suggestion that he speaks from personal acquaintance with his readers. We cannot tell whether he has ever paid them a visit, and he holds out no prospect of one. [There is a somewhat greater probability that Mark sends his greetings (5.13) because he is known to them. Edmundson, op. cit., 12 if, suggests that Mark visited at least some of them after his visit to Colossae (Col.4.10); though cf. II Tim.4.11. In any case there is no ground for thinking, with Edmundson, that he met Peter there. Speculations about the interrelationship at the time of Peter and Paul via Silvanus (Chase, HDB III, 790-2; cf. Zahn, INT 11, 160-2) are fruitless.] Certainly he does not claim to have brought them the gospel: that has been the work of other preachers (1.12). But there is the further consideration, which many commentators have noted, that the epistle reads like material composed in the first instance as a homily - or more than one homily. The unity of the epistle is not our direct concern, but the resumption at 4.12, after a doxology, with matter that appears to reflect a more imminent or actual situation of persecution has suggested to some that two letters have been combined. [So Moule, op. cit., NTS 3, 1-11; cf.J. H. A. Hart, EGTV, 291.]  Absence of any textual evidence for this (in contrast to the very varied position of the doxology at the end of Romans) must weigh against any theory of literary division; but that the material represents addresses given on different occasions or to different groups is entirely plausible. Yet here the implications of the place of delivery are more relevant. For if it is material prepared in the first instance for speaking (however much it was adapted subsequently), then the situation it reflects will primarily be that of Rome rather than the obscurer parts of Asia Minor.

There have indeed been attempts to pin the occasion down still more specifically, notably by Cross, [1 Peter: A Paschal Liturgy, building on, and applying to the Passover, the baptismal setting of I Peter argued by Perdelwitz, Bornemann, Windisch, Streeter, Beare and Preisker, references to whose works are given in the footnotes to Cross, op. cit., 28.] who, however, makes no attempt to draw out the geographical implications for the situation of suffering, which, as we have seen, he regards as a false trail. There is no need here to go into the details of his theory that I Peter is originally material composed for the bishop's part at a paschal baptismal liturgy in Rome. They have been sharply criticized, [E.g. by Moule, NTS 3, 1-11; W. C. van Unnik, 'Christianity according to I Peter', ExpT 66, 1956-7, 79-83; T. C. G. Thornton, 'I Peter, a Paschal Liturgy?', JTS n.s.12, 1961, 14-26.] though I am inclined to think at some points he could have stated his case more cogently and in a form less open to objection. [Rather than the references to suffering being occasioned purely by the church's year, I believe the preacher is using the opportunity this provides to give teaching which is very much related to his hearers' condition. Similarly, the sermon, while presupposing the external actions and imagery of the liturgy, is concerned to draw out the inward and spiritual meaning of the sacramental acts, many striking parallels for which are to be found in the later record of the early Roman rite in Hippolytus' Apostolic Tradition. Thus in 3.3f. the stress is on 'not in outward adornment'. The women have to plait their hair undone for the baptism, refasten the jewellery they have taken off, and put on their new robes: all this is part of the rite - now it has to be done not just externally but 'in the inmost centre of our being'. So in 2.2 the milk they have received is interpreted as spiritual (λογικόν), and in 2.5 the structure of the church and the θυσίαι (oblations?) as πνευματικαί. Finally in 3.21 baptism is seen not as a mere washing away of the bodily pollution but (if this is the right translation) a pledge to God proceeding from a good conscience. But, though the different moments of the rite provide the occasion for the teaching, there is no need (with Cross) to assume that the sermon was tied synchronistically to them.] But whether this theory (or any modification of it) is necessary as an explanation of the epistle (and clearly it is not), it is at least worth considering the implications of some of the phraseology on the assumption that what shaped it was the experience of the writer's own pastoral situation in Rome rather than that of his distant, and highly diverse, readers. I believe there may be several hints of this, especially in the closing section of the epistle, which may have been addressed more specifically to the immediate needs of the local congregation as a whole.

The most striking phrase is that in 4.12 about 'the fiery ordeal that is Upon you' (τῆ ἐν ὑμῖν τυρώσει πρὸς πειρασμὸν ὑμῖν γινομένη). It is indeed difficult to apply this to a general situation in every part of Asia Minor north and west of the Taurus mountains. Hence the theories that it may have been added for a particular province or church, though there is nothing else to suggest or confirm this. We must be wary of taking the metaphor too literally, since the πύρωσις takes up the metaphor of the assayer's fire in 1.7 (though why it was chosen there is still relevant). The use of the symbolism of 'the fire of testing' (τὴν πύρωσιν τῦς δοκιμασίας) for the eschatological ordeal occurs also in Did. 16.5, as, of course, in Paul (I Cor. 3.15) and elsewhere. Nevertheless 'the fiery trial' would be a grimly appropriate image for the Neronian terror, sparked off as it was by the fire of Rome and culminating in 'Christians fastened on crosses, and ... burned to serve as lamps by night'.

If this part of the epistle does reflect a more circumstantial account of what had already begun in Rome (though not yet in Asia Minor), there could also be an echo of it in 5.8. There in a vivid metaphor (cf. I Cor.i5.32; II Tim. 4.17) the Christians' ἀντίδικος, or adversary in court, is viewed as the devil (incarnate in the imperial power?) who, 'like a roaring lion prowls around looking for someone to devour'. Tacitus does not indeed specify the lions of the amphitheatre, but he does say that the Christians were 'covered with wild beasts' skins and torn to death by dogs'.

Finally, with great hesitation, I offer a suggestion on which nothing turns and which indeed I throw out mainly for a classicist with more knowledge than myself to refute or confirm. The phrase in the following verse, 5.9, translated in the neb, 'remember that your brother Christians are going through the same kinds of suffering while they are in the world', or, in the rsv, 'throughout the world', has long struck me as odd. From opposite extremes of the critical spectrum Bigg [Peter and Jude, ad loc.] and Beare agree that 'this clause is full of difficulties; almost every word offers a problem'.  [I Peter, ad loc.] Yet neither of them, nor as far as I have discovered anyone else, observe the oddness in the phrase ἐν κόσμω. It has to be paraphrased to mean either 'while still in the world' or 'in the rest of the world' or 'in the whole world'. Yet when Paul wants to say this to Rome, he says it quite clearly: ἒν ὃλω τῶ κόσμω. (Rom. 1.8). Could it possibly be a stock phrase (without the article) to mean the opposite of 'in town'? And if so is it a Latinism reflecting the usage of the place where Peter's successor still makes his allocution 'urbi et orbi'? [I confess I have made no progress in tracing this phrase back to the first century, but I am grateful for the negative results of my friends, particularly Dr Robert Sharpies of the Department of Latin, University College, London.]  Was there anywhere else except 'the City where one could speak of the provinces as 'the world' without qualification? [This usage for Rome (as for London) is of course well established. Cf. the derivation of the name Istanbul, which is a corruption of the modern Greek for εἰς τὴν πόλιν.] If so, it would be a further subtle pointer to the original context of the phraseology being supplied not by Asia Minor but by Rome.

The objection to this whole thesis is that it is inconceivable how, in Moule's words,

a liturgy-homily, shorn of its rubrics ... but with its changing tenses and broken sequences all retained, could have been hastily dressed up as a letter and sent off (without a word of explanation) to Christians who had not witnessed its original setting. [NTS 3, 4.]

But this objection loses much of its force on two conditions. The first is that one does not press the points in the argument that make it into a liturgy proper [In particular I would question the forced interpretation of νῦν (1.12; 2.10, 25; 3.21) and ἂρτι (1.6, 8; 2.2) to indicate 'a rite in actual progress' (Cross, op. cit., 30). 1 .6 and 8 are surely impossible to take this way in any case.] but treats it more, with Reicke, [James, Peter and Jude, 74f.; cf. Streeter, PC, 123.] as 'a confirmation sermon' comparable, he suggests, with Ephesians (another Asian encyclical). Secondly, one must bear in mind that, as I read them, the circumstances are far from normal. The homily turned into a circular letter is dispatched, via Silvanus, 'our trusty brother, as I hold him', with the message 'I am saying very little in writing' (5.12), because, like Tychicus in Eph.6.21, he will 'tell all' (πάντα γνωρίσει). [Cf. Acts 15.27, also of Silvanus: 'We are therefore sending Judas and Silas, who will themselves confirm this by word of mouth'.] The situation is one of great urgency and danger, in a city that must already be disguised as 'Babylon', as the Neronian terror breaks.  When would this be? We shall not be far wrong, I think, if we guess the spring of 65. Indeed if the paschal associations of I Peter, as of I Corinthians (cf. I Cor.5.7f.; 16.8), are granted, [See Cross, op. cit., 23-7. He cites in particular (and so interprets): 1.3-12, 13-21, 18f.; 2.9f., 11. Cf. A. R. C. Leaney, 'I Peter and the Passover: An Interpretation', NTS 10, 1963-4, 238-51 (especially 244-51).] whatever its literary form, we may be more specific still. Passover that year was late, falling on April 12. If Edmundson is right, who argues for this same dating of I Peter, [Op. cit., 118-44.] the rounding up of Christians after the first 'confessions' became mixed up with the retribution vented on the Pisonian conspirators. This also came to a head, according to Tacitus, in April 65. We may then envisage Silvanus leaving hastily for Pontus on his round of the Asian churches perhaps towards the end of that month. [Cf. F. J. A. Hort, The First Epistle of Peter (1.1-2.17), 1898, 157-85, for the itinerary reflected in the order of the districts named.]

But at this point we must reckon with factors which have seemed to many to make such a dating impossible. They focus mainly on the issue of authorship, but, first, what of any other indications in the epistle, or out of it, which might suggest a later date?

As regards external attestation, there is nothing to suggest that it was not known as early as almost any New Testament book. It is quoted several times (though not by name) in the epistle of Polycarp from the first part of the second century. Possible connections with Ephesians, Hebrews, James and I Clement are (it is now widely agreed) too sketchy or too general for asserting literary dependence either way. In any case the arguments are circular, depending on judgements made of the dates of these other documents. [Thus E.J. Goodspeed, New Solutions of New Testament Problems, Chicago 1927, 115, regards I Peter as a response to Hebrews and puts both of them in the reign of Domitian. C. L. Mitton, 'The Relationship of I Peter and Ephesians', JTS n.s. i, 1950, 67-73, sees I Peter as dependent on Ephesians which, like Goodspeed, he also places in the same reign. Beare, / Peter, 91., 195f., follows him. Kummel, INT, 423, though supporting a late date, dismisses literary dependence on Romans and Ephesians as 'improbable', 'because the linguistic contacts can be explained on the basis of a common catechetical tradition'.]

With regard to the internal evidence, it is remarkable how little even those like Beare who regard an early date as impossible can point to traits of doctrine or organization to support them. In fact, apart from asserting that the epistle's teaching on baptismal regeneration is (at some unspecified date) 'borrowed from the contemporary Hellenistic modes of thought,' [I Peter, 38. He toys (16-19) with theories of associations with the mystery cults of Cybele, especially the Taurobolium. He has to admit that the direct evidence is far too late, but still uses it to give substance to the statement that 'one is inclined to feel that he is indeed in the religious atmosphere of the second century'.] he fastens on the fact that the Spirit of God is mentioned only four times, which he interprets to mean that

a writing in which the sense of the active presence of the Spirit has fallen into eclipse as it has in First Peter betrays by that indication alone that it is the product of a later generation. It is utterly inconceivable that to Peter, or to Silvanus for that matter, the doctrine of the indwelling Spirit was wholly unknown, or was not of the first importance for the moral life of the Christian. [I Peter, 36.]

Seldom can the argument from silence have been made to cover so much. One might as well argue the same for Colossians, which does not refer to the Holy Spirit once.

Cross, on the contrary, as a scholar at home both in the biblical and the patristic periods, has no doubt as to the world to which I Peter belongs. I quote the summary that concludes his study:

First, the theology of I Peter betrays many signs of great antiquity. There is a marked absence of later theologoumena, e.g. in the undeveloped doctrine of the Trinity in 1.2; while there are indications that the ordering of the Christian ministry is that of a very early date. [The only reference to the ministry is in fact in 5.1-4, where the author, despite claiming to be an apostle (1.1), addresses the elders as a fellow-elder, exhorting them as shepherds of the flock under Christ, the chief shepherd, who is also in 2.25 the shepherd and ἐπίσκοπος of their souls. The contrast with the epistles of Ignatius, also from Asia Minor in the reign of Trajan, is very marked. Even if (contrary to the neb) ἐπισκοποῦντες were part of the true text in 5.2, the function of ἐπισκοπή would be that of the presbyters, as in the whole of the New Testament.]  Secondly, the eschatological structure of the thought, with its close inter-penetration of future hope and present realization, suggests the same conclusions. The ethics is still in the atmosphere of the last things, and we find that remarkable co-presence of the End as future and yet as already here, with no suggestion of the clear distinction between the Prote and the Deutera Parousia of Christ as we find it from Justin onwards, which is a mark of very early times. And thirdly, the whole tone of the work. If we ask: 'Does it breathe the spirit of the other Biblical writings which we use day by day in our Christian worship, or is it that of later days whose ethos, however sublime, is not that of the New Testament?' I think that most will have a ready answer; and it is this that matters most. Whether it is the work of Peter or of Silvanus or of someone else I will not here try to say.[Op. cit., 43f. Kelly, another patristic scholar, concurs (Peter and Jude, 30). Moule, NTS 3, 11, after disagreeing with most of Cross's thesis, ends by saying: 'I am in whole-hearted agreement with the last two pages of Dr Cross's lecture, where he argues that at any rate the theology, the ethics and the "tone" of the writing are all in keeping with an early period of the Christian Church's existence.']

In the same way, Moffatt, who argues for a late first - or early second-century date for Ephesians, the Pastorals, Hebrews and James, is equally clear that this period does not fit I Peter:

An early date is favoured by the absence of any heretical tendencies among the readers, the naive outlook on the imminent end (4.17f.), and the exercise of charismatic gifts (4.10); ... and by common consent it has the stamp of primitive Christianity more than any other, not only of the writings in the Petrine New Testament (Gospel, Acts, Epp., Apoc.), but of the post-Pauline writings. [ILNT, 344.]

But what, finally, of the question of authorship, which is our concern only in so far as it rules out or reinforces the daring?

First, it is worth noting that while some, as we have seen, speak as though apostolic authorship (whether direct or through an amanuensis) were out of the question, there are other scholars supporting it here who deny it in other comparable cases. Indeed, if we leave out such questioned but nevertheless widely accepted letters as Colossians and II Thessalonians, this, with the possible exception of James, is the least likely New Testament epistle to be pseudonymous. Even Harnack, [Chron., 457-65.] who decided against apostolicity, nevertheless found the case of pseudonymity 'weighed down' by such insuperable difficulties that, if his own theory were unacceptable, he said that he would opt for Petrine authorship. This theory was of an originally anonymous writing (from between 82 and 93 - though conceivably some twenty years earlier) which was later (c. 150-175) attributed to Peter by the addition of 1.1f. and 5.12-14. These verses are certainly detachable and may well be what originally turned a liturgical sermon into a letter. But there is absolutely no textual or external evidence for the theory, and it leaves most of the problems where they are. It has won little support, [Cf. Beare, I Peter, 24: 'It has no positive evidence to support it, and very little to commend it.'] and, as Chase comments in his perceptive summary and critique of it, [HDB III, 786f.] it is another sign (noticed by Mayor of Harnack's treatment of James) of the remnants of the Tubingen presuppositions from which Harnack at the time had not shaken himself free:

It essentially belongs to a period of transition. It is the product, on the one hand, of the lingering influence of an older criticism, too thoroughly bent upon negative results to retain much delicacy of perception; and, on the other hand, of a keen literary and spiritual sense of the significance of a writer's matter and manner.

The objections to pseudonymity felt by Harnack are nowhere better stated than by Chase himself: [Ibid., 785f.]

A close study of the document itself reveals no motive, theological, controversial, or historical, which explains it as a forgery. It denounces no heresy. It supports no special system of doctrine. It contains no rules as to Church life or organization. Its references to the words and the life of Christ are unobtrusive. It presents no picture of any scene in St Peter's earlier life, and does not connect itself with any of the stories current in the early Church about his later years. Why, moreover, should a forger ... represent Silvanus as the amanuensis or the bearer of St Peter's letter, though in the Acts he nowhere appears as in any way connected with that apostle, but both in the Acts and in three Epistles (I and II Thess., II Cor.) as the companion of St Paul? Why, above all, should a forger give to Pauline thoughts and to Pauline language a prominent place in an Epistle bearing the name of St Peter?

Attempts have legitimately been made to defuse the suggestions of 'forger' (e.g. by Beare [I Peter, 291.] and Leaney [Peter and Jude, 1.1f.]). The question of whether or not pseudonymity was an accepted literary convention which deceived (or attempted to deceive) no one will best be kept for the discussion of II Peter. All one can say here is that whatever the intention, it seems in this case a particularly motiveless exercise, [Kiimmel, INT, 424, concludes: 'The fact of pseudonymity is not contradicted by our inability to perceive the motive for it.' But it is precisely this 'fact' that has to be established and rendered plausible.] which in fact (unlike II Peter) deceived everyone until the nineteenth century.

But what are the improbabilities (Harnack) or impossibilities (Beare and Kummel) in the way of apostolic authorship? Apart from the circumstances of persecution already considered, they may be summarized briefly under three heads.

1. If the epistle were by an intimate associate of Jesus we should expect more direct references to his life and words. This is a very subjective expectation, and ironically it is precisely because II Peter does contain such explicit reference that it is discredited. Certainly the fact that any claims or allusions are so indirect argues more strongly against pseudonymity than authenticity. In any case to say that it is inconceivable that Peter should not 'have referred to the example of Jesus in some way is not merely subjective but wrong. [Kummel, INT, 424.] The reference in 2.23 to the example of Jesus under trial is a clear allusion to the passion story. Indeed it is one of a number of passages which Selwyn [1 Peter, 27-33.] cites as evidence of 'apostolic testimony'. [Cf. also R. H. Gundry, ' "Verba Christi" in I Peter', NTS 13, 1966-7, 336-50, who argues that the underlying allusions to the 'words of Christ' are specially connected with narrative contexts in the Gospels where Peter is an active participant.] None of these, he admits, is unambiguous, and they will strike different people with different force. But two others, I think, are worth repeating. They are 1.8: You have not seen him, yet you love him; and trusting in him now without having seen him, you are transported with a joy too great for words. It has been well remarked that Paul never writes, nor could ever have written, such words, with their implied contrast in status between writer and readers. Selwyn cites Hoskyns and Davey's comment [E. Hoskyns and F. N. Davey, The Fourth Gospel, 21947, 97.] on the similar word of Jesus to the twelve in John 20.29: Those who have not seen and yet have believed are what they are because there once were men who believed because they did actually see. The other passage is the highly ambiguous one of 5.1: I appeal ... as ... a witness of Christ's sufferings, and also a partaker in the splendour that is to be revealed. It is difficult to believe that this refers merely to the common experience of all Christians described in 4.13 ('It gives you a share in Christ's sufferings ... and when his glory is revealed your joy will be triumphant'). A 'witness' would naturally imply more, as in Peter's words in Acts 1.22 and 2.32. And this is fortified by Selwyn's interpretation [I Peter, ad loc.] of the following phrase, 'who have also had experience of the glory that is to be revealed', as a reference to the transfiguration, viewed (as G. H. Boobyer has cogently argued) [G. H. Boobyer, St Mark and the Transfiguration Story, 1942; 'The Indebtedness of II Peter to I Peter' in A. J. B. Higgins (cd.), New Testament Essays: Studies in Memory of T. W. Manson, Manchester 1959,43. Cf. my Jesus and His Coming, 133.] as an anticipated vision of the parousia.  If so, the veiled allusion, in contrast with the unmistakable reference in II Peter 1.16-18, fits with the modesty of the author's whole approach in 5.1 ('I appeal to you as a fellow-elder'), though scarcely with the pretensions of one falsely claiming to be an apostle.

2. It is said that the Paulinism of the doctrine is incompatible with the known position of Peter. This 'Paulinism' has in any case been much exaggerated, when, as Selwyn says, 'we reflect that the Epistle is without allusion to what are commonly regarded as the characteristic ideas of St Paul' - and he lists justification; the contrast between faith and works, gospel and law; the distinctive Pauline connotations of grace and sin, the atonement and the body of Christ; and much in the ethical field. [I Peter, 20f. Similarly Kelly, Peter and Jude, 11-15; and earlier Bigg, Peter and Jude, 16-21; 52-67; Chase, HDB III, 788f.; Wand, Peter and Jude, 17-21.]  For the rest he has persuasively demonstrated that the similarities reflect the common stock of early Christian teaching and catechetical patterns. [I Peter, 365-466.]  In any case, apart from one regrettable but temporary lapse (Gal.2.11-14), neither in the Pauline epistles (cf. especially Gal.2.6-10; I Cor.1.121.; 15.3-11) nor in Acts (cf. especially 15.6-11, where Peter puts the Pauline case) is the Petrine position regarded as fundamentally different from Paul's. If Peter had read Romans (which if it was sent to Rome some eight years before is more than likely) and indeed other Pauline epistles (as II Peter 3.15 at any rate says that he had), there is no reason why he should not reflect the thinking of one who was on all the evidence the more creative theologian. [Cf. Zahn, INT 11, 175-7.] But this is not to deny that he also had a theological position, particularly in regard to the sufferings and death of Christ, distinctively his own [Cf. Cullmann, Peter, 65-9.] - whether or not we allow any weight to the significant connections between I Peter and the Petrine speeches in Acts. [Cf. Wand, Peter and Jude, 26-8; Selwyn, I Peter, 33-6; and most recently S. S. Smalley, "The Christology of Acts Again' in B. Lindars and S. S. Smalley (edd.), Christ and Spirit in the New Testament: In Honour of C. F. D. Moule, Cambridge 1973, especially 84-93. The parallels are certainly more substantial than those between James and Acts.]

(3) Finally, there is the vital question again of language. One objection over which time need not be spent is the fact that the Old Testament quotations follow the LXX rather than the Hebrew text. For, naturally, if a man is writing to Greek-speaking readers he follows 'their' Bible. 'Besides', as van Unnik observes from experience, [IDB III, 764.] 'a foreigner writing in another language will usually stick to the standard translation for literal quotations and not dare to change it to suit his own text.' Beare's assumption [I Peter, 26f.] that there would be no occasion for Peter to have used the Greek scriptures except in addressing Gentiles (and that late in life) is astonishing. But, quotations apart, could Peter have written the Greek of I Peter? Again there is no way of saying dogmatically. Many of the issues are the same as those already discussed in relation to James, though the Greek of I Peter has perhaps a somewhat more 'classical' touch. But against the possibility or at least the probability of this there are two further arguments. The first is that, according to Acts 4.13, Peter and John were described by the high priests as ἀγράμματοι, though whether this means 'illiterate' or more likely, as in the neb, 'untrained' (in the Law) cannot finally be determined. In any case, what struck the authorities was what they were capable of despite this. The second is that according to Papias [Eusebius, HE 3. 39.15.] Peter had Mark as his 'interpreter' (ἑρμηνευτής), though again whether this means 'translator' is uncertain. [For Jerome (see n. 137 below) 'interpretes' meant amanuensis.] In any case, the purpose of the quotation is to stress Mark's closeness to Peter, not to provide information about Peter's linguistic abilities. It is noticeable that in none of Clement of Alexandria's references to this tradition [See above, pp. 108-10.] is this aspect mentioned: Peter preaches 'publicly' in Rome (with no mention of an interpreter) and Mark his follower 'remembers' and subsequently writes down what he said. But even if at one stage Peter used a translator, this incident may come from an earlier period. As we have seen, the only person to date it, Eusebius, places it back in the reign of Claudius, [HE 2. 14.6-15.1.] and in his Chronicle as early as 42. Whatever Peter's educational limitations immediately after Pentecost, it is inconceivable that he can have exercised any kind of leading ministry in Antioch or even Jerusalem, let alone in Rome, without the use of Greek. Whether this means that he could or did write the good Greek of I Peter is, naturally, another matter. Suspension of judgment appears to be the only prudent course, and the fact that eminent authorities can be found on both sides of the argument suggests humility rather than dogmatism.

But, in contrast with the epistle of James, there is the ready way out (on which many have seized) of an amanuensis or ghost-writer in the person of Silvanus (5.13) - not, be it noted, Mark, who is mentioned in the next verse and whom on the basis of Papias' tradition one would have expected a pseudepigrapher to select. [Jerome, Epp.120.11, uses the same word 'interpretes' for the different amanuenses to whom he attributed the diverse styles and vocabulary of I and II Peter. But he does not mention Silvanus or Mark.] But the question is, What is the meaning of διὰ Σιλουανοῦ ... ἒγραψα? Is Silvanus the carrier or the scribe (and therefore by extension the writer) of the letter? It would be safe to say that he is in any case envisaged as delivering the letter and is commended to the churches for this purpose. But did he also write it at Peter's dictation or behest?

On the analogy of the opening verses of I and II Thessalonians, one might expect Silvanus to have shared in the address if he was part-author, or to have added his own greeting, like Tertius in Rom. 16.22, if he was the amanuensis, though obviously these parallels cannot be pressed. The bearer of Romans is evidently Phoebe, who is similarly commended to the congregation (16.1f.), and it is significant that the subscription added to later manuscripts describes the epistle as ἐγράφη ἀπὸ Κορίνθου διὰ Φοίβης. It was her activity, not that of Tertius, that the scribes thought was properly described by the preposition διά. This is one of a number of parallels given by Chase in a careful note on the subject [HDB III, 790.] which seems to have been conspicuously ignored (or misinterpreted) by those who have not agreed with its conclusion. The only other example in the New Testament (also as it happens associated with Silvanus) is in Acts 15.23 where γράφαντες διὰ χειρὸς αὐτῶν must in the context (cf.15.22, 27) refer to the sending of the apostolic letter, via Judas Barsabbas and Silas, and mean, as the neb rightly renders it, 'gave them the letter to deliver'. The same applies to the Epistle of Polycarp 14, 'I write these things to you by (per) Grescens, whom I commended to you recently and now commend to you', and to the only unambiguous instance in the letters of lgnatius: 'I write these things to you from Smyrna by the hand of (διά) the Ephesians who are worthy of all felicitation' (Rom. 10.1). [For discussion of this and the other instances (Philad. 11.2; Smym.l2.1) see Chase.] On the other side only two parallels, as far as I know, have been cited. One is the letter from Dionysius of Corinth [Eusebius, HE 4.23.11.] to the Romans, where he describes I Clement as having been written from the Roman church διὰ Κλέμεντος. But this means not that Clement was the amanuensis of some other author, but the representative of his church. Similarly in the Martyrdom of Polycarp 20 the church in Smyrna writes to the church in Philomelium and elsewhere 'through our brother Marcianus', and he is distinguished from Euarestus who 'wrote the letter' and, like Tertius in this capacity, sends his own greeting. Marcianus again is evidently the spokesman of the church and thus corresponds to Peter rather than Silvanus: he is no one's secretary. So Kummel seems to be right in saying that 'no one has yet proved that γράφω διά τινος can mean to authorize someone else to compose a piece of writing', [INT, 424.]

Until this can be shown, then to rely upon Silvanus as the real composer of the Greek is extremely hazardous. [Selwyn's attempt, 1 Peter, 369-75, to show Silvanus to be the common literary factor between I Peter, I and II Thessalonians, and the decree of Acts 15.29, cannot be said to have succeeded. Cf. the telling criticisms of the whole 'Silvanus hypothesis' by Beare, I Peter, 188-92.]  It could be so. Yet Peter as the author (as the very personal address of 5.1ff. would suggest) must really be prepared to stand on his own feet. The doubts and difficulties will remain, and it seems impossible that they could ever be finally resolved either way. In the last resort I can only say that I find nothing decisive to outweigh the many other considerations to suggest that, whoever actually penned it, the epistle comes from Peter's lifetime and that he is in the fullest sense 'behind' it. I see therefore no reason from the evidence of the authorship to go back on the previous assessment of a date for the dispatch of the letter somewhere around the end of April 65.


Turning to II Peter, we move into a much more complex set of problems and an area of the New Testament that from every point of view, including that of chronology, is a good deal murkier. We cannot expect it to shed much light on anything else; it is a question of what light other things can shed on it. II Peter cannot be considered except in conjunction with the epistle of Jude, with which, all would agree, it has a literary connection of some kind. What that is, and what is the relationship between them and I Peter, and whether either Jude or II Peter can sustain the claim to be written by the persons in whose name they stand, raise acutely debated issues which may not be burked. But with dating as our primary concern it may be helpful to to come at the matter from a different angle from that which has led to the concentration of the debate on the issue of pseudepigraphy.

Let us begin by leaving on one side for the time being the questions of authorship and literary dependence and look at the documents for the clues they afford which are relevant to placing them in 'period'. I deliberately put it that way, because neither II Peter nor Jude contains any positive indication of absolute dating. It is a question of where they belong in relation to other comparable literature, and more than usually therefore the arguments are in danger of being circular. If this other literature itself is dated late, then these epistles will follow; if early, then the same will be true. Yet II Peter has continued to remain an exception to almost every chronological scheme; and exceptions have value in proving a rule. If it is an exception, to what is it an exception, and why?

In asking what these two documents may have to tell us about dating, without prejudice to their interrelationship, we must begin with one or the other. Since the majority of scholars give priority to Jude over II Peter, let us start with the epistle of Jude, though keeping an open mind on the question.

Jude follows James, whose brother he claims to be (and there is general agreement that it is of this James that the claim is made), in calling himself simply a 'servant of Jesus Christ' (1.1; cf. James 1.1, 'servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ') and in giving no other details either about himself or of those with him, or of the place of origin or destination of the letter. In fact it is even less informative. While there are clues in James that point, as we saw, to a Palestinian milieu, there is nothing in Jude that affords any hint of where the author is living. And while James at least indicates that the destination of his epistle is not a single locality, Jude appears to be addressing a particular group of Christians but gives absolutely no indication of where they might be.

The one thing that is clear is the occasion of the epistle, which was of sufficient urgency to make him turn aside from other more leisurely literary activity:

My friends, I was fully engaged in writing to you about our salvation - which is yours no less than ours - when it became urgently necessary to write at once and appeal to you to join the struggle in defence of the faith, the faith which God entrusted to his people once and for all. It is in danger from certain persons who have wormed their way in (3f.).

The whole of the rest of the epistle, up to the notable doxology in 24f., is given over to an attack on these anonymous persons, referred to constantly as 'these men'. Almost all that can be said about them is summarized in the opening description:

They are the enemies of religion (ἀσεβεῖς); they pervert the free favour of our God into licentiousness (ἀσέλγειαν), disowning (ἀρνούμενοι) Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord (4).

Their menace, in other words, is religious, moral and doctrinal. It is also clear from the terms in which they are condemned and the warnings given from the past, that both they and the writer and presumably those to whom he is writing belong to a dominantly, if not exclusively, Jewish-Christian milieu within the Hellenistic world. Yet we are a long way from the 'primitive' atmosphere of the epistle of James, where no problems of heresy or schism have seriously arisen. Here we are in a silver-age situation, where reversion and perversion are the dangers and where purity of doctrine and discipline are imperilled. It is evident too that the menace arises from a sort of gnosticizing Judaism. Like those in Corinth with whom Paul had to deal, these men 'draw a line between spiritual and unspiritual persons', despising others as ψυχικοί (19; cf. I Cor.2.6-3.4; 8.1-3). Like them too, they take liberty for licence (4; cf. I Cor.6.12; 10.23) and end up slaves of sensuality (8, 10, 16, 23; cf. I Cor.6.9-20; II Cor.12.21). Like them, they 'eat and drink without reverence' at the Christian love-feast (12; cf. I Cor.11.17-43). Like them again, they flout the authority of those set over them in the Lord (8, 12; cf. I Cor.4.8-13; 9.1-12) and themselves claim leadership (cf. II Cor.ii.i3; 12.11). As 'shepherds who take care only of themselves' (12) they earn the condemnation of Israel's self-styled leaders (cf. Ezek.34.8).

Yet though there are these reflections of the situation in Corinth in the mid-50s, things are evidently far further gone. In Pauline terms, the parallels are more with the Pastoral Epistles, where we have the same falling back upon the authorized deposit of 'the faith' (3, 20; cf. I Tim.1.3; 4.6; II Tim.1.13f.; 2.2; Titus 1.9) - though even this was for Paul by no means a wholly new emphasis (cf. Rom. 6.17; 10.8; 16.17; I Cor.11.2; Gal.1.23; 6.10; Eph.4.5; Phil.1.27; I Thess.2.13; II Thess.2.15; 3.6). The danger from false brethren who insinuate themselves (3), though again not new (cf. Gal.2.4), is especially characteristic of the later apostolic age (Acts 20.30; Phil.3.2; II Tim.3.6; I John 2.18f.; 4.1; II John 7f.; Rev.2.20f.; cf. Ignatius, Eph.7.1; 9.1); and they have to be dealt with both firmly and with discrimination (22f.; cf. I Cor.5; II Thess.3.141.; I John 4.1-6; II John 7-11; and Did. 2.7; Ignatius, Smyrn .4.1).

Yet if we ask what precisely these heretics taught it is impossible to form any clear impression. We read that they 'deny Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord' (4). But whether this was by faithlessness, like those referred to in Heb.6.6 and 10.29 or II Tim. 2.12f. (cf. Titus 1.16; Rev.2.13), or by doctrinal error, like those attacked in Col.2.8 and I John 2.22f. and 5.6-12, or by dishonouring conduct, it is impossible to tell. But there is no reference to theoretical speculation and nothing to suggest any of the gnostic systems of the second century. [Kummel, INT, 426, concurs.]
To infer from the phrases 'our only Master and Lord' (4) and 'the only God our Saviour' (25) that they believed in other mediators or a second God or Demiurge is eisegesis rather than exegesis. Their threat seems to have been far more moral and religious than theological. If there is a parallel with other known sectarian groups it is not (as many earlier commentators tended to argue without our present knowledge of the gnostic texts) with the later forms of heresy listed by Irenaeus such as the Carpocratians,
 [for the differences here, cf. already Zahn, INT II, 292f.] but with those gnosticizing libertines attacked in the letters to the seven churches of the Apocalypse who 'hold to the teaching of Balaam' (Rev.2.14; cf. Jude 11) and 'pollute their clothing' with immorality (Rev.3.4; cf. Jude 23).

There are no other distinctive characteristics of second-century Christianity.  There is no stress on the authority of the organized ministry, or even reference to it (in marked contrast at this point with the Pastoral Epistles), and the agape or love-feast still appears to be one with the eucharistic assembly. There are those [E.g. Zahn, INT ll, 252-5.] who have found in Jude 5 a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem: 'Let me remind you how the Lord, having once delivered the people of Israel out of Egypt, next time destroyed those who were guilty of unbelief.' But the natural interpretation in the context [So J. B. Mayor, The Epistle of St Jude and the Second Epistle of St Peter, 1907, ad loc.] is to refer this to the destruction of faithless Israel in the wilderness, as in the closely parallel warning of I Cor.10.5-10. Again, to interpret πάλαι προγεγραμμένοι in Jude 4 of long past Christian writings is wholly arbitrary [Again with Zahn, INT, 251f.]: it evidently refers to the warnings that follow from 'scripture' (as the neb rightly translates). The references in v. 9, apparently, to the Assumption of Moses and in v. 14, certainly, to I Enoch carry in themselves no implication for a late date, since both these documents were in existence well before the middle of the first century - though the free use made of them indicates that they had not come under the later suspicion of apocrypha felt by the church. [Cf. Jerome, De vir. ill. 4.]

The only passage which suggests a post-apostolic situation is that in 17f.:

But you, my friends, should remember the predictions made by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was the warning they gave you: 'In the final age there will be men who pour scorn on religion, and follow their own godless lusts.'

This could indeed imply that the apostolic age was now closed, but it cannot be said that it necessarily does so. From one who makes no claim to be an apostle (or indeed to kinship with Jesus, which later interest in the person of Jude would surely have exploited), [Cf. the story from Hegesippus quoted by Eusebius, HE 3.19f., whose point lies in this link.] it could refer to the sort of warnings of which the later apostolic age is full (Acts 20.29f; I Tim.4.1; II Tim. 3.1-5; 4.3; I John 2.18f. - leaving out of account for the moment II Peter 2.1-3; 3.3). The ἒλεγον ὑμῖν would most naturally refer to oral teaching, as in the parallel warning of Phil. 3.18f.:

As I have often told you (ἒλεγον ὑμῖν), and now tell you with tears in my eyes, there are many whose way of life makes them enemies of the cross of Christ. They are heading for destruction, appetite is their god, and they glory in their shame (cf.Rom.16.18).

But even if reference were to written warnings, none of these other documents (leaving aside the Johannine epistles whose date we have yet to consider), excludes a dating in the 60s. Indeed as a provisional conclusion, on the scanty evidence of the epistle itself, I would concur with the estimate of Chase: [HDB II, 804.]

The general tone of the Epistle harmonizes best with a date somewhat late in the apostolic age. We shall not be far wrong if we suppose that it was written within a year or two of the Pastoral Epistles (assuming their genuineness), the Apocalypse (assuming the earlier date), [I.e., a date from the Neronian rather than the Domitianic persecution. For a discussion of this, cf. ch.viii below.] the First Epistle of St Peter, and the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Beyond that we cannot go until we have taken into account the link with II Peter, to which we must now turn.

II Peter affords as little direct information about its origin and destination as Jude, and its occasion is less specific.
It purports to be

From Simeon Peter, servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the justice of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ share our faith and enjoy equal privilege with ourselves (1.1).

To the significance of 'Simeon Peter', in contrast with 'Peter' in I Peter 1.1, we must return.  But on the face of it the form looks, or is intended to look, both Jewish and primitive. 'Servant and apostle' brings together the 'servant' of James 1.1 and Jude 1 and the 'apostle' of I Peter 1.1, but in itself is a typical apostolic greeting (Rom. 1.1; Titus 1.1) without significance for dating. There are no indications, in contrast with I Peter, of where the epistle was written to or from. The distinction implied in 'those who ... enjoy equal privilege with ourselves' appears to be between readers and apostle, as in I John 1.3 ('so that you and we together may share in a common life'), rather than between Jews and Gentiles, as in Acts 11.17; Col. 1.25-9; Eph.2.11-3.6. Indeed it is impossible to be certain whether the recipients are Jewish or Gentile Christians, though (in contrast again with I Peter) the dominant atmosphere (as in Jude) appears to be Jewish-Christian. In 2.20 the words, 'They had once escaped the world's defilements through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ', have been taken to mean that the converts (or is it the heretics?) have come from what the neb paraphrases in 2.18 as a 'heathen environment'. But the language no more necessarily implies a Gentile origin than when Paul says of his fellow-Jews in Eph.2.3, 'We too were of their number: we all lived our lives in sensuality, and obeyed the promptings of our own instincts and notions', or when the writer of I John speaks to his predominantly Jewish-Christian readers of the evil world and its blandishments from which they have passed.

The prevailing atmosphere, as in Jude, is still that of the Pastoral Epistles, reflecting the same usage of πίστις and σωτήρ and εὐσέβια, with particular stress on true insight and knowledge (ἐπίγνωσις and γνῶσις) (1.2f, 5f., 8; 2.20; 3.18), which characterizes not only the Pastorals (I Tim.2.4; 6.20; II Tim.2.25; 3.7; Titus 1.1) but Colossians(1.9f; 2.2f.; 3.10) and Ephesians(1.17; 3.19; 4.13) and, in verbs rather than nouns, the Johannine epistles (passim but especially I John 2.2of.). The epistle's most distinctive phrase in this regard is 'partakers of the divine nature' (θείας κοινωνοὶ φύσεως) in 1.4, but it has been shown that this, like the whole so-called 'Asian' style in which II Peter is written, in no way lies outside the range of first-century Hellenistic Judaism. [Cf. e.g. Philo and Josephus and in particular the Decree of Stratonicea in Caria to the honour of Zeus and Hecate,  dated ad 22 (Corpus Inscriptionum Graecorum II, 2715). For the references and discussion, cf. A. Deissmann, Bible Studies, ET Edinburgh 1901, 360-8; Mayor, Jude and II Peter, cxxvii-cxxx and ad loc; E. M. B. Green, II Peter Reconsidered, 1961, 23; II Peter and Jude, 1968, 16-19; Reicke, James, Peter and Jude, 146f., 184; Kelly, Peter and Jude, ad loc.] Indeed, like the language of τὸ πλήρωμα in Col. 1.19 and 2.19 or σπέρμα θεοῦ in I John 3.9, it may well be being taken over and given Christian meaning. [Kelly, Peter and Jude, 304, quotes C. H. Dodd's comment, The Johannine Epistles, 1946, on I John3.2, that the writer 'is naturalizing within Christian theology a widely diffused mystical tradition'.]  In content it is not essentially different from the Christian's κοινωνία with the Father and the Son and his transformation into the divine likeness claimed by I John (1.3; 3.2). And this goal is achieved not, as in Platonism and later gnosticism, by escaping from matter as evil, but by moral union, having escaped (ποφυγόντες) from 'the corruption with which lust has infected the world'. The dualism, as in the Johannine writings, is not material and metaphysical but moral and eschatological. [This point is made strongly and correctly by Green, II Peter Reconsidered, 14-21 and II Peter and Jude, 24f., against Kasemann, 'An Apologia for Primitive Christian Eschatology', Essays in New Testament Themes, 169-95, and especially such a remark as: 'It would be hard to find in the whole New Testament a sentence which, in its expression, its individual motifs and its whole trend, more clearly marks the relapse of Christianity into Hellenistic dualism' (179f.).] The use of 'the world' is the same as that in John (e.g. I John 2.15-17) and does not imply any depreciation of the flesh per se. In fact neither in Jude nor in II Peter is there any sign of the ascetical denial of the flesh as evil (in contrast to its indulgence as indifferent) such as we find in Col.2.18f. and I Tim.4.3f.,  [How near the two apparently opposite extremes are is illustrated by the story Eusebius, HE 3.29, quotes from Clement of Alexandria about the founder of the Nicolaitans, who offered his young and lovely wife to others 'to renounce his passion': 'It was self-control ... that taught him to say "abuse the flesh" .'] or of the docetic denial of matter as unreal of the Johannine epistles (I John 4.2; II John 7).  In this again the persons attacked in II Peter as in Jude stand nearer to the libertines of Corinth: they promise freedom but the result is sensual slavery (2.19f.). In fact apart from their questioning of the parousia (3.4; cf.1.16), there is nothing that suggests that the heretics in II Peter were any different from those in Jude or more 'advanced' in their teaching. The 'artfully spun tales' (μήθοι) abjured in 1.16 recall the 'myths' attacked in I Tim.1.4; 4.7; II Tim.4.4; and Titus 1.14, which are linked with an interest in genealogies and angelology, and in the last passage specifically called 'Jewish'. As in Jude, we are in the sphere of a gnosticizing Judaism, countered by warning examples from Israel's history (2.1-16). We are not dealing with the developed systems of second-century Christian heresies. Summing up the teaching common to both epistles, Zahn concluded: [INT II, 283.]

While there were numerous parties and sects representing libertinistic theories and practices in the second and third centuries, there is none that so closely resembles the seducers described in II Peter and Jude as the libertinistic movement with which we become acquainted in I Corinthians, and as the Nicolaitans of whom we learn hints in Revelation. [Rev.2.6, 15. They are evidently closely associated with those who hold to the teaching of Balaam (2.14; cf. II Peter 2.15f.; Jude 11) and with others who falsely claim both to be Jews (2.9; 3.9) and to be apostles of the church (2.2; cf. Jude 12).]

So far then there would be nothing to cause us to date II Peter any later than Jude. It is, however, in the distinctive material of the epistle, particularly in three passages, 1.12-18; 3.1-4; and 3.15f., that the doubts arise. [This point is made strongly and correctly by Green, II Peter Reconsidered, 14-21, and II Peter and Jude, 24f., against Kasemann, 'An Apologia for Primitive Christian Eschatology', Essays on New Testament Themes, 169-95, and especially such a remark as: 'It would be hard to find in the whole New Testament a sentence which, in its expression, its individual motifs and its whole trend, more clearly marks the relapse of Christianity into Hellenistic dualism' (179f.).]

1. Taken at its face value, the first passage actually contains nothing that would in itself require us to put the writing after the death of Peter. Yet it is the passage which has given greatest ground for suspicion that a forger is at work, inserting biographical detail for the sake of specious verisimilitude. Whether or not he is doing so cannot be decided except in relation to the whole question of authorship and pseudepigraphy from which at the moment we are prescinding. But let us examine the details without prejudgment.

I will not hesitate to remind you of this again and again, although you know it and are well grounded in the truth that has already reached you. Yet I think it right to keep refreshing your memory so long as I still lodge in this body. I know that very soon I must leave it; indeed our Lord Jesus Christ has told me so. But I will see to it that after I am gone you will have means of remembering these things at all times.

It was not on tales artfully spun that we relied when we told you of the power of our Lord Jesus Christ and his coming; we saw him with our own eyes in majesty, when at the hands of God the Father he was invested with honour and glory, and there came to him from the sublime Presence a voice which said: 'This is my Son, my Beloved, on whom my favour rests'. This voice from heaven we ourselves heard; when it came, we were with him on the sacred mountain (1.12-18).

Peter (it would be otiose to keep putting the name in inverted commas - any more than Jude or John) here uses the metaphor of the body as a tent (already found in Wisd.9.15 and Philo, and of course widely in pagan literature) which Paul uses in II Cor.5.1-4, and, like Paul, he combines it with that of taking off clothes. In his case, he knows, this putting off is to be ταχινή (swift), which could be interpreted to mean either 'soon' or 'sudden'. Zahn [INT II, 212-14.] argued strongly that it here refers to a sudden end, and this is supported by the only other occurrence of the word in the epistle (2.1) and indeed in the New Testament. The intimation upon which it is based, 'as our Lord Jesus Christ has shown me', appears (whether factually or fictionally) to be that alluded to in John 21.18f., where Jesus foretells that Peter will die an unchosen death when he has grown old (ὃταν γηράσης). By the seventh decade of the century this latter condition could already be said to obtain, but the concern to leave a record of his teaching behind him might be prompted by the expectation of an unprepared as much as by that of an imminent death. All we can say is that these are the words of a man for whom death is much in mind, and this would fit the 60s as the period when they were either written or supposed to be written. What he had in mind to leave, so that 'after I am gone you will have means of remembering these things', is equally unclear. Some have seen in this [E.g. Bigg, Peter and Jude, ad loc.; Mayor, Jude and II Peter, cxlii and ad loc.] a reference to St Mark's gospel (and the origin of the Papias legend). But the gospel of Mark can hardly be described as a reminder of 'these things', that is, the teaching of the present epistle (cf. 1.12). It would appear too to demand a writing by Peter (as the later pseudepigrapha like the Preaching of Peter and the Gospel of Peter supplied). Kelly [Peter and Jude, 315.] thinks that 'almost certainly the reference is to the epistle itself, though he admits that the future, σπουδάσω (according to the most probable reading), is difficult. It would naturally suggest a further document. For our purposes we may be content to suspend judgment, noting only that if a forger is at work he has laid some very elusive clues.

In the descriptive passage that follows, the transfiguration is regarded as an anticipation and pledge of the parousia, in the way that we argued it was, far less explicitly, in I Peter 5.1. It has also been said that the word ἐπόπται, eyewitnesses, echoes the ἐποπταύοντες of I Peter 2.12 and 3.2; but this is very doubtful, since there it simply refers to pagans 'observing' the conduct of Christians. If the word has any overtones, it is more likely to take up the language of the mysteries and the claims of the heretics that in their visions (cf. the dreams or trances of Jude 8) they had direct experience of the deep things of God (cf. Rev. 2.24). But its immediate reference is to apostolic eye­witness, to which I John 1.1-3 also appeals in similar circumstances. It is generally accepted that the wording of the account of the transfiguration is independent of any of our gospel texts. The omission of the injunction 'hear him', common to them all, and of any reference to Moses and Elijah or to the three tents (σκηναί), which one would have thought irresistible after the σκηνώματος of 1.14, tells heavily against the use of the synoptists by a later hand. The only other touch, 'the holy mountain', which is said to betray veneration of the sacred site (for which there is in fact no evidence till much later), is hardly decisive for dating. As regularly with Zion or Sinai in the Old Testament, any mountain with which theophany is associated is for the Jew 'holy'.

The really significant parallel for daring purposes is that with the Apocalypse of Peter. [For the full text, see Hennecke, NT Apoc. II, 668-83.] This document is usually put in the first half of the second century, perhaps c. 135. It is quite palpably dependent on the synoptic gospels, particularly Matthew. [Thus the opening verse contains clear echoes of Matt. 24.3: 'And when he was seated on the Mount of Olives, his own came unto him, and we entreated and implored him severally and besought him, saying unto him, "Make known unto us what are the signs of thy Parousia and of the end of the world." ' The contrast with II Peter is at once evident.] This is true too of its section on the transfiguration (15-17), which includes a highly elaborated account of the vision of the appearances of Moses and Elijah and quotes Peter's comment verbatim from the version in Matt.17.4: 'My Lord, wilt thou that I make here three tabernacles, one for thee, one for Moses and one for Elias?'. By contrast its only verbal contact with the account in II Peter is the reference (and that in the Ethiopic version only) to 'the holy mountain'.  If there is dependence either way, it seems quite clear that the Apocalypse is the later document.  How Harnack can have thought otherwise [Chron., 470-2. He dated the Apocalypse c. 120-40 (or 110-60) and II Peter c. 160 (or 150-175).] must be counted as one of those aberrations of scholarship which fresh discoveries induce, [At the time he only had the Akhmim fragment in Greek to go on, discovered in 1886, though this includes most of the relevant parallels. The complete text, in Ethiopic translation, was found in 1910. For a modem assessment, cf. C. Maurer in Hennecke, NT Apoc. II, 663-8.] and it has long since been abandoned even by those who view II Peter as a second-century document. [Moffatt, ILNT, 367, was a strange exception.] That even conservative scholars like W. Sanday [W. Sanday, Inspiration, Oxford 1893, 347.] can have thought that the two came from the same pen, or like Chase [HDB III, 815f. He is followed by McNeile-Williams, INT, 247.] from the same school at approximately the same date, is incredible. Indeed if this is the sort of thing that was being produced in the first half of the second century it is the strongest possible argument for not placing II Peter there. As the writer of the article on the Apocalypse of Peter in The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible says, [M.S. Enslin, IDB III, 758.] 'one short sample will indicate the nature of the whole', and he quotes:

And some there were there hanging by their tongues: and these were they that blasphemed the way of righteousness, and under them was laid fire flaming and tormenting them. And there was a great lake full of flaming mire, wherein were certain men that turned away from righteousness; and angels, tormentors, were set over them. And there were also others, women, hanged by their hair above that mire which boiled up; and these were they which adorned themselves for adultery.

He comments:

That this writing, in all likelihood in no small part suggested by the canonical Revelation, and the product of perfervid imagination, aided by Orphic and Pythagorean accounts of the future, is not later than the middle of the second century is universally admitted.

He agrees in fact that it is probably earlier than the Gospel of Peter - but interestingly never even mentions II Peter.  Yet the same Dictionary's article on II Peter [J.C. Beker, IDB III, 769.] continues to date this epistle c. 150 ad.! On the basis of this passage of II Peter alone some rethinking of critical presuppositions appears to be called for.

2. The second passage, II Peter 3.1-4, raises more difficulties. The writer starts with a reference, apparently, to I Peter:

This is now my second letter to you, my friends. In both of them I have been recalling to you what you already know, to rouse you to honest thought. Remember the predictions made by God's own prophets, and the commands given by the Lord and Saviour through your apostles (3.1f.).

The relation to I Peter must engage us later. At this stage one need only say that if the writer is a Christian from a subsequent age then the reference must be to I Peter, since this is the only other Petrine letter of which there is any record in the tradition.  Yet it is very far from obvious that the content of the two epistles is the same, and, if the allusion here is to I Peter 1.10-12 (the only likely passage), then the content of the prophecies there is the sufferings of Christ, not, as in the verses that follow in II Peter, the state of affairs at the end of the world. Again the pseudepigrapher does not lay his trail at all obviously.

The phrase in v.2, 'your apostles', certainly reads oddly (quite apart from the tortuous grammar of the Greek) from one claiming himself to be an apostle, and it has seemed to most commentators to reflect the post-apostolic age. Yet we may say this with certainty only if it is agreed that Eph.2.20 and 3.5 (where the apostles are also described as 'holy') could not have come from Paul, writing as an 'apostle of Christ Jesus' (Eph. 1.1). But, as we have seen, it is impossible to be so dogmatic. Moreover 'your apostles' need not, though it probably does, mean more than 'your missionaries' (cf. I Peter 1.12), and Paul (Rom.16.7; II Cor.8.23; Phil.2.25), like Acts(14.14) and the Didache (11.3), continues to use the word in a wider sense. But assuming that it means those of the apostles particularly associated with you, this need not imply the end of the apostolic age, any more than when Paul says to the Corinthians, 'If I am not an apostle to others, at least I am to you' (I Cor.9.2). In I Clem. 44.1 we have a similar usage of 'our apostles' (i.e., in Rome, Peter and Paul; cf.5.3). All one can say is that the phrase itself is compatible with an apostolic or with a post-apostolic date. What is significant is that the apostles are not contrasted in any way with a subsequent ordering of Christian ministry, as in I Clem. 44 (which speaks of their successors) or in the epistles of lgnatius     (especially Rom.4.3:     'I do not enjoin you as Peter and Paul did. They were apostles'). There is no more concern than in Jude with ministerial authority or its perpetuation.

But more serious as an objection to apostolic dating is the state of affairs reflected in the words of the scoffers that follow:

In the last day there will come men  who scoff at religion and live self-indulgent lives, and they will say: 'Where is now the promise of his coming? Our fathers (οἱ παρέρες) have been laid to their rest, but still everything continues exactly as it always has been since the world began.'

I cannot believe that it will do to say with Bigg [Peter and Jude, ad loc.] and Green [II Peter Reconsidered, 29f.; II Peter and Jude, ad loc.] that 'the fathers' here means the ancestors of Israel. The context demands the sense [So Mayor, Jude and II Peter, ad loc., strongly.] that ever since the first generation of Christians died things have continued as they always have been, whereas the specific promise had been given: 'This generation shall not pass away until all these things happen' (Mark 13.30 and pars.). It is true that elsewhere in the New Testament 'the fathers' refers to the Israelites. But in I John 2.131. we have the usage of 'fathers' in contrast with the second and third generation of Christians, which stresses their special relationship as the founder-generation to the ἀρχή, in the way that in Acts 21.16 Mnason as one of the 'originals' is called an ἂρχαιος μαθητής. The death of Christians had always been a problem, as we know from Thessalonians and Corinthians, but the real crisis for the church must have come as that first promised generation was dying out and still nothing had happened. By the 60s a whole generation had elapsed. Naturally the difficulty did not then disappear. [Cf. I Clem. 23.3, quoting what it calls 'scripture': 'These things we did hear in the days of our fathers also, and behold we have grown old, and none of these things hath befallen us' (cf. II Clem. 11.2). But for the date of I Clement, cf. pp. 327-34 below.] But this is when the question must have been at its most acute, and there is no neces­sary reason to look to a later age. The theme of the master's delay, reflected in the church's adaptation of the parables, is already to be found in the 'Q,' material of Matt.24.28 = Luke 12.45, and also in Matt.25.5, whose final editing we have seen no reason to place much after 60.

The details that follow in 3.5-13 of the parousia teaching do not in themselves require a late date. The notion of the destruction of the world by fire, going back a long way in pagan literature, is now paralleled graphically in the Qumran Psalms (1QH 3.29-35). [The passage is quoted in full by Reicke, James, Peter and Jude, 176.]  Moreover Green is justified in pointing out [II Peter and Jude, ad loc. He is here, as often, following Bigg (Peter and Jude, 214).] that the reference to Ps.90.4 is not given a chiliast interpretation (that the world would last for as many thousand years as there were days in creation) such as it regularly receives in later literature (e.g. Ep. Barn.15.4, Justin, Dial.81.3f., and Irenaeus, Adv.haer.5.23.2; 28.3). As he says:

If this Epistle had been written in the second century, when this doctrine was so widespread that it almost became a touchstone of Christian orthodoxy, is it likely that the author could have refrained from making any allusion to it whatever when quoting the very verse which gave it birth?

With the rest of II Peter's eschatology, including the coming of the day of the Lord as a thief (3.10; cf. Rev.3.3; 16.15), the laying bare of the earth and all that is in it (3.10; cf. Rev.6.12-17; 16.20; etc.), and the creation of new heavens and a new earth (3.13; cf. Rev.21.1-4), this theme finds its nearest parallel in the book of Revelation (20.1-6), rather than in the extravagances of subsequent apocalypses, whether Jewish or Christian (including the Apocalypse of Peter).

3. It is the third passage (3.15f.), however, that presents the greatest difficulties of all:

Bear in mind that our Lord's patience with us is our salvation, as Paul, our friend and brother, said when he wrote to you with his inspired wisdom. And so he does in all his other letters, wherever he speaks of this subject, though they contain some obscure passages, which the ignorant and unstable misinterpret to their own ruin, as they do the other scriptures.

We need not spend time at this hour refuting the Tubingen thesis that the genuine Peter could never have spoken of Paul in terms other than of hostility. [Cf. Munck, Paul and the Salvation of Mankind, ch. 3.] It is however relevant to ask whether a second-century writer would not have adopted an attitude either of attack or adulation (rather than bewildered affection). Typical of later descriptions are 'the blessed Paul' (I Clem. 47.1; Ep. Polyc.n.3) or 'the blessed and glorious Paul' (Ep.Polyc.3.2). 'Dear brother' and similar expressions are confined elsewhere in the New Testament to living fellow-workers (e.g. Eph.6.21; Col. 4.7, 9; Philem.16) and Paul himself is so addressed by James in Acts 21.20. The expression therefore sounds as if it comes from a contemporary, whether it does or not. Indeed Mayor, who himself argues for pseudepigraphy, says: [Jude and II Peter, ad loc.]

There are many difficulties in the way of accepting the genuineness of this epistle; but the manner in which St Paul is spoken of seems to me just what we should have expected from his brother Apostle.

Again, the reference to the wisdom given to him implies not more than what Paul claimed for himself (e.g. I Cor.2.6f.; 3.10; Gal.2.9; Eph. 3.1-10). The contrast is striking with the self-depreciatory tone of the second century: 'Neither am I, nor is any other like unto me, able to follow the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul' (Ep. Polyc.3.2).  Moreover, whereas there can be no doubt that when Polycarp refers in the same passage to 'the letter he wrote to you' he means the epistle to the Philippians, the expression in II Peter 3.15 has baffled all the commentators. There is no obvious identification, unless indeed the reference to the Lord's patience with us being our salvation is meant to recall Rom.2.4: 'Or do you think lightly of his wealth of kindness, of tolerance, and of patience, without recognizing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to a change of heart?' [But this is, of course, a Jewish commonplace; cf. e.g. Wisd.11.23.] In fact on this narrow basis alone Mayor argues for a Roman destination. [Jude and II Peter, cxxxvii and ad loc.] Yet there is no other hint that the epistle was written to Rome or from it. Either a genuine letter of Paul's has been lost or the imitator again is laying baffling or careless clues.

But the real problems start with the following phrase, ὡς καὶ ἐν πάσαις ἐπιστολαῖς. It is legitimate, with Zahn, [INT ll, 290.] to point out that it is not (on the most likely reading) ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ἐπιστολαῖς. This would imply 'in every letter he wrote', whereas without the article the phrase could mean little more than et passim - though how much reliance should be placed on the presence or absence of the article in this writer is very doubtful. [Cf. Mayor, Jude and II Peter, xxx: 'I think we must recognize a failure to appreciate the refinements of the Greek article on the part of those whose mother tongue was not Greek and who may have also been influenced by the fact that Latin had no article.' Interestingly he does not even discuss this passage, following the longer reading (with the article) without demur.]  It is not in any case implied that the readers knew all Paul's epistles, nor that these already formed a collection, let alone a canon. Talk here of 'the Pauline corpus' is premature. The present tense, 'whenever he speaks', is not of itself decisive, since Ignatius uses closely parallel language in Eph. 12.2, 'who in every letter makes mention of you in Christ Jesus', though Ignatius combines this with phrases that make it clear that Paul is long since dead: 'who was sanctified, who obtained a good report, who is worthy of all felicitation'. II Peter, in contrast, whether genuinely or fictionally, clearly implies that Paul is still alive. The misinterpretation of Paul's position, of which he speaks, in a gnosticizing, antinomian direction is of course plentifully attested in his lifetime (I Cor.10.23; Rom.3.8; 6.1; etc.), and, despite Paul's disclaimer, we may surmise between the lines of II Cor.1.13f. that his readers did find parts of his epistles hard to understand. So far therefore there is nothing that demands a later date.

The crucial difficulty is the interpretation of the following phrase,  καὶ τὰς λοιπὰς γραφάς, which certainly suggests that the Pauline epistles were already being viewed as 'scripture'. In view of the parallels for γραφή and γραφαί in the New Testament, [They are fully set out by Mayor, ad loc.] it is impossible, I believe, to argue [With Zahn, INT II, 277f., 29of. His arguments are countered by Chase, HDB III.810.] that the books of the Old Testament are not here being bracketed with the letters of Paul. The sole issue is whether the words imply that 'the writings' in question are seen as part of a canon, whether Jewish or Christian. This appears to be much more doubtful, and I would concur with the judgment of Mayor (who nevertheless thinks II Peter very late) when he says: [Jude and II Peter, 168.]

I incline to think that γραφαί is here used to denote any book read in the synagogue or congregation, including the letters of the Apostles (Col.4.16; I Thess. 5.27) as well as the lessons from the Old Testament.

Certainly this would include the kind of apocryphal writings alluded to by Jude, one of which is described as a work of 'prophecy' (14). The work already referred to which is cited in I Clem.23.3 ('these things did we hear in the days of our fathers also ... and none of these things have befallen us') and which Lightfoot tentatively identified with Eldad and Modad, [AF l.2, 80f; cf. Hermas, Vis. 2.3.4.] is introduced with the words ἡ γραφὴ λέγει, and the same passage is designated in II Clem.11.2 ὁ προφητικὸς λόγος. Certainly too if the quotations in James 4.5 ('the spirit which God implanted in man turns towards envious desires') and John 7.38 ('streams of living water shall flow out from within him'), each described as ἡ γραφή, are literal quotations, they do not come from the canonical Old Testament. Moreover texts from what appear to be the Old and New Testaments are already combined as citations of 'scripture' in I Tim.5.18; ['The labourer is worthy of his hire' could well however be a proverbial saying, not a quotation from Jesus.]
Ep.Barn.13.7; I Clem.36; Ep.Polyc.12.1; etc. This does not by any means dispose of the difficulty. Yet Green at least puts up a good case when he argues:
[II Peter Reconsidered, 31.]

For the writer of II Peter, the term ἡ γραφή denotes writings of men in touch with God, ὑπὸ πνεύματος ἁγίου φερόμενοι (1.21). He constantly correlates apostles and prophets - both are led by the Holy Spirit. In chapter I the apostolic testimony to the divine voice, and the divine voice through the Old Testament scriptures, are regarded in the same light. In chapter 2.1ff. the false teachers are accused of wresting the Old Testament; in chapter 3 of wresting Paul.

Most will probably not feel that this is a complete answer. But I am not at this stage attempting to come to a decision one way or the other. Having, however, started with the conviction that the so-called anachronisms in the epistle were almost certainly insuperable, I have been impressed, working through them, how open the verdict has constantly to remain. These passages certainly do not prove a first-century date: but they do not prove a second-century date either. Moreover they leave unresolved the question of authorship - for the absence of demonstrable anachronisms could merely indicate the skill of the imitator. Nor of themselves do they determine the epistle's relationship to I Peter or to Jude. To these wider issues we must now turn. For only then shall we be in a position to resolve more closely the question of dating.

The one thing on which virtually everyone is agreed is that I and II Peter cannot be written by the same hand. Even those who accept the apostolic authorship of both concede, with Jerome, that the difference of style demands an amanuensis with great liberty of expression for the composition of one if not of each - though a difficulty of this theory is that the greatest evidence for Petrine colouring in theology and expression comes in the epistle that might refer to an amanuensis (Silvanus), whereas the other mentions none.

Attempts have been made to minimize the differences between the two. Thus Green [Ibid., 12.] quotes, via Mayor, B. Weiss' judgment that 'the Second Epistle of Peter is allied to no New Testament writing more closely than to his first
(he presumably did not count Jude!).
[A Manual of Introduction to the New Testament, ET 1887, II, 165.] Yet this is also true of the book of Revelation and the gospel of John, but the differences of style and cast of mind have convinced most critics that they cannot be by the same man. Apparently impressive comparisons of word-counts have a habit of breaking down and tend simply to prove how variously statistics can be presented.[Thus Green adduces the findings of A. E. Simms, 'Second Peter and the Apocalypse of Peter', The Expositor, 5th series, 8, 1898, 460-71, that I and II Peter are as close on word-score as I Timothy and Titus, where few would question unity of authorship: I Timothy has 537 words and Titus 399, with 161 in common; I Peter has 543 words and II Peter 399, with 153 in common. It sounds impressive until we look at the figures which Green does not quote from Mayor (Ixix-lxxiv) that show that in the vocabulary of I and II Peter "the number of agreements is 100 as opposed to 599 disagreements, i.e., the latter are just six times as many as the former' (Ixxiv). It looks as if both sets of figures cannot be right (they may not be as far as I know: I have not counted). Yet though the former is for the total number of words and the latter for each individual word (however often it is used), Simms' proportion of 153 shared words out of a combined total for both epistles of 942 is still only a proportion of about 1:6 (indeed slightly less).] One is inclined to apply Kelly's comment [Peter and Jude, 235.] on A. Q,. Morton's disclosure, [A.Q,. Morton, 'Statistical Analysis and New Testament Problems', in The Authorship and Integrity of the New Testament (SPCK Theological Collections 4), 1965, 52f.] also seized on by Green, [II Peter and Jude, 17.]  that the computer reveals the two epistles to be linguistically indistinguishable: 'Most readers of Greek would agree that this conclusion illustrates the limitations of the method.' [On the place and limitations of the computer in biblical criticism, cf. Bruce, BJRL 46(1964), 327-31.]

Of course there are similarities of diction [For a detailed list, see Mayor, Jude and II Peter, Ixix.] - it would be astonishing if there were not - but, with the exception of the opening salutation 'grace and truth be multiplied to you' (I Peter 1.2; II Peter 1.2), most of them are fairly inexact or of the kind that might be found almost anywhere in the New Testament. [The next nearest parallel is between ἀμώμου καὶ ἀσπίλου in I Peter 1.19 and ἂσπιλοι καὶ ἀμώμητοι in II Peter 3.14. But, apart from the fact that one refers to Christ and the other to Christians, the words (in reverse order) are not even the same. ἀ,ώμητος is a hapax legomenon in the New Testament and suggests a different hand. The nearest true parallels for II Peter 3.14 are Col. i.22; Eph. 1.4; I Tim. 6.14.] They certainly do not add up to what Green calls 'the extreme similarity in turn of phrase and allusion'. [II Peter and Jude, 13.] Zahn, surveying the same evidence, concludes that 'the agreements in thought and language' are 'very few'. [INT II, 271.] Since Green cites Mayor's comment that in grammar and style 'there is not that chasm between them which some would try to make out', [Jude and II Peter, civ.] it is only fair to give the full conclusion of his exhaustive examination: [Ibid., cv.]

On the whole I should say that the difference of style is less marked than the difference in vocabulary, and that again less marked than the difference in matter, while above all stands the great difference in thought, feeling, and character, in one word of personality.

I have laboured this because I wish to go on to support Green in his critique of pseudonymity. But that the two epistles can in any immediate sense be the product of the same mind, let alone of the same pen, seems to me highly improbable. Chase, to whom Mayor [Ibid.,ix.] paid the deserved tribute of saying, 'I have found ... his articles on Peter and Jude in Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible by far the best introduction known to me', assessed the matter thus: [HDB III, 813f.]

The difference between the two Epistles [viz., I and II Peter] in literary style and tone and teaching are, as it appears to the present writer, so numerous and so fundamental that no difference of amanuenses or 'interpreters' can account for them unless we are prepared to admit that, in the case of either one or both of these letters, the substance and the language alike were left absolutely in the hands of the apostle's companion.

So what is the alternative?  There would appear only to be one. 'Scarcely anyone nowadays doubts that II Peter is pseudonymous', says Kelly; [Peter and Jude, 235.] 'though it must be admitted', he goes on, 'of the few who do that they defend their case with an impressive combination of learning and ingenuity.' Now if 'their case' is confined to doubting pseudonymity (as opposed to asserting identity of authorship), I believe indeed that there are points to answer which the proponents of pseudonymity pass over too hastily.

There is an appetite for pseudonymity that grows by what it feeds on. Thus M. Rist, ['Pseudepigraphy and the Early Christians' in Aune, Studies in the NT and Early Christian Literature, 75-91 (89).] believing that possibly two-thirds of the New Testament writings are pseudonymous, [As we have seen, van Manen went further and said of the Pauline epistles: 'They are all, without distinction, pseudepigrapha' (EB III, 3625).] says,  'This, alone, [sic] shows the influence of pseudepigraphy in the early church.' [Op. cit., 89. Similarly Nineham, in Cross, Studies in Ephesians, 22, appeals to the 'very common ... practice of pseudepigraphy', citing inter alia, from the New Testament, the book of Revelation (but this makes no claim to be by John the Apostle) and, from outside the New Testament, II Clement and the Epistle of Barnabas. But these latter are anonymous, and do not themselves purport to be by the writers to whom tradition has ascribed them: in this they are comparable with Hebrews, rather than Ephesians or I and II Peter.] If you believe it is everywhere, you cease to have to argue for it anywhere. Perrin writes: 'Pseudonymity is almost a way of life in the world of the New Testament and also in the New Testament itself.' [nti, 119.] Certainly it is among New Testament scholars!  There is also a tendency to lump together very different categories of pseudepigraphy. [Even Mayor, usually so discriminating, is guilty at this point.] Thus Jude, for instance, readily accepts, at any rate for the sake of the argument, that what we call I Enoch was written by 'Enoch, the seventh from Adam' (14). The convention of ascribing apocalypses to patriarchs, like psalms to David or wisdom to Solomon or prophecies to Daniel, was of course fully established. Indeed the novelty about the New Testament Apocalypse is that it is neither anonymous nor pseudonymous. Later, too, not only apocalypses but gospels, acts and epistles were freely ascribed to long dead apostles (and to no one more than Peter). But there is no firm evidence for this until the mid-second century. In heretical circles too there were documents claiming to be by apostles (like the gospels of Thomas and Philip), but these were never accepted as such by the church. If we ask what is the evidence for orthodox epistles being composed in the name of apostles within a generation or two of their lifetime, and for this being an acceptable literary convention within the church, the answer is nil - unless Ephesians, the Pastorals, I and II Peter, Jude, and any other canonical books one cares to add, are their own evidence. In each instance we have examined so far the case cannot be said to have been made. It really is necessary to have at least one hard example established on its own merits before relying on the cumulative argument. II Peter could well be that example and it is certainly the most promising. But, as Green [II Peter Reconsidered, 32-7: II Peter and Jude, 30-5; cf. earlier Zahn, INT II, 270-3.] and Guthrie [D. Guthrie, 'Epistolatory Pseudepigraphy', in NTI, 671-84; 'The Development of the Idea of Canonical Pseudepigrapha in New Testament Criticism', VE i, 1962, 43-59, reprinted in The Authorship and Integrity of the New Testament, 14-39. The latter article is a reply to K. Aland, 'The Problem of Anonymity and Pseudonymity in Christian Literature of the First Two Centuries', J TS n.s. 12,1961, 39-49, also reprinted in Authorship and Integrity, 1-13.] quite legitimately argue,  it would go against the stream of such evidence as we have rather than with it.

There is no doubt of what Paul thought of those who circulated letters claiming to come from him (II Thess. 2.2; 3.17): he knew of no harmless literary convention. Later Green quotes two instances which elucidate the church's attitude at the end of the second century. First, Tertullian [De bapt. 17.] tells us that the author of the Acts of Paul and Thecia was deposed from the presbyterate for the sole reason that he had tried to pass this work off under Paul's name.

The author of these Acts, like the author of II Peter, was orthodox; he, like the author of II Peter, made strenuous efforts after verisimilitude. He was, furthermore, inflamed with the noblest pietas, love of Paul, and it was with the best of intentions that he wrote. Yet he was deposed - for forgery. [II Peter Reconsidered, 34.]

Secondly, Serapion, Bishop of Antioch, wrote a book Concerning the So-called Gospel of Peter, from which Eusebius quotes: [HE 6.12.3.]

For our part, brethren, we receive both Peter and the other apostles as Christ, but the writings which falsely bear their names (ψευδεπίγραφα) we reject, as men of experience (ἒμπειροι), knowing that such were not handed down to us.

Though the motive of his condemnation of it was the docetic heresy that he heard it was spreading, the criterion of his judgment, to which he brought the expertise in these matters that he claimed, was its genuineness as the work of the apostle. And this was the criterion employed a little later by Origen in relation both to II Peter and to II and III John. [Eusebius, HE 6.25.7-10.] He is doubtful of their genuineness; but there is no suggestion that if they had been pseudepigraphs, or he had known them to be such, it would have made no difference. Nor does he or any other Christian writer hint that there had earlier been any such convention. The fathers may have been uncritical (though hardly Origen) and been deceived, but there is no evidence that they were willingly deceived. In view of the significance usually attached to the lack of external testimony for individual books of the New Testament, it is surely much more significant that at no point is there the slightest external testimony to the collusion in innocent falsification to which appeal is so constantly made for documents like Ephesians, the Pastorals, James and I Peter. II Peter and Jude may still be the exceptions, but they have to be demonstrated as such.

Moving then from the general presumption to the particular evidence, what is to be said?

The very weakness of the external attestation for II Peter (albeit far stronger than that for any rejected writing) [For the evidence, cf. the full surveys in Chase, HDB III, 799-807, and Mayor, Jude and II Peter, xcv-cxxiv. Eusebius, HE 3.3.1f., while placing II Peter among ἀντιλεγόμενα, or disputed books, has no hesitation in classing the Acts, Gospel, Preaching, and Apocalypse of Peter among the spurious (τὰ νόθα).] suggests that Origen was not unjustified in doubting its genuineness - though these doubts are the most powerful evidence that the issue was not one that was not thought to matter. Certainly the epistle could be an attempt to silence latter-day scoffers and heretics in the name and authority of the chief of the apostles - although why anyone should resort for this purpose to the mantle of Jude is far from clear. [Cf. Streeter, PC, 179f.: 'Jude is a person so obscure that no one, desiring to give weight to his own views by publishing them under an authoritative name, would ever have thought of him, until and unless he had used up all the greater figures of the Apostolic Age. The epistle must therefore be the authentic work of a Christian leader actually named Judas.' He identifies him with a bishop of Jerusalem early in the reign of Trajan, regarding the words 'brother of James' as a marginal note incorporated into the text. There is of course no evidence for this, but as a last resort it is perhaps less incredible than pseudepigraphy.] But it is fair comment that no other proven pseudepigraphs have this and no other motive. All, including the other pseudo-Petrine literature, had other axes to grind:

They attempted to claim apostolic authority for heretical teaching, or to embody the secret tradition of the apostle concerned, or else to provide a romance, a sort of religious novel, or, perhaps, to answer some of the questions posed by a third generation's insatiable curiosity. [Green, II Peter Reconsidered, 37.]

II Peter does none of these things. Moreover, there are relevant questions to ask of this particular case. Why, for instance, does the author mention Paul in such brotherly terms and yet appear to be entirely uninfluenced by his theology - in marked contrast apparently with the author of I Peter? One would have expected him (like Ignatius and Polycarp) to quote or echo something from all those letters of his he claimed to know. As we have seen, he does not even identify the letter to the church to which he is writing - in contrast again to Clement, who when writing to Corinth reminds his readers of I Corinthians (I Clem.47.1-4) and echoes its teaching (49.5). Were the epistle genuine, 3.15 could indeed allude to a lost letter, as might the reference in 3.1 to his previous epistle (on the analogy of I Cor.5.9). But neither of these options is open to a pseudepigrapher, if he wishes to carry conviction. He must in the latter case have been referring to I Peter. Why then did he make so little use of it? Boobyer [G. H. Boobyer, 'The Indebtedness of II Peter to I Peter' in Higgins, New Testament Essays, 34-53.] makes a strenuous effort to show how he did use it - and on the hypothesis of pseudepigraphy this has to be done. But he himself quotes R. Knopf [R. Knopf, Die Briefe Petri und Juda (KEKNT 12), Gottingen 121912, 254.] and Windisch [H. Windisch, Die katholischen Briefe (HNT 15), Tubingen 31951, 99.] for the judgment that the two epistles have little or nothing in common; and the connections which he finds are strained. Nor, as we have seen, does the author of II Peter make it clear to what other document he might be referring in 1.15 - unless he proposed to compose one himself and never did. To drop hints for the purpose of identification which merely baffle is scarcely a convincing procedure. The argument that the personal references in II Peter are too blatant to be credible (or, conversely, that in I Peter they are too obscure) is inevitably subjective. Moreover, one would expect clues to be laid both of place and personalia which would help to add verisimilitude (like the many such details in the Pastorals or the reference to Tychicus in Eph.6.2if.). But there is nothing - except the curious form of the name 'Simeon Peter' in 1.1, which corresponds neither to the address of I Peter, the natural model for a copyist (as in the salutation of 1.2), nor to that of any later Petrine pseudepigraph. In particular, the absence of any reference to Rome, the obvious place of origin to claim on both historical and ecclesiastical grounds, is puzzling.

It is relevant too to ask about the circumstances in which such a pseudepigraph might be composed. We have already noted a number of points which make a second-century date look unlikely (the contrast with the Apocalypse of Peter and later gnostic systems, the lack of reference to chiliasm, and the absence of any concern for organiza­tion and the ministry). It is noticeable in fact that in recent commentaries the date is steadily dropping. Kelly [Peter and Jude, 336f.] opts for 100-110, Reicke [James, Peter and Jude, 144f.] for c. 90. The latter's choice of the reign of Domitian is this time neither because of references to persecution (of which there are none), nor because of the break between the church and the synagogue (of which again there is no sign - or, for that matter, of any post-70 situation), but ironically because in his reign prior to 95 the church had peace! II Peter and Jude, he thinks, are concerned to preserve a positive attitude to the state against those who would foment rebellion.

Obviously their authors wish to oppose certain propaganda for political freedom, propaganda which they regard as hostile to the social order, and to which the Christians have been exposed by the magnates and their parties. This fits especially well into the latter half of Domitian's reign, during which the aristocrats and the senators of the empire fought with desperation against Domitian's tyranny (Suetonius, Vit. Dom. 10). [Ibid., 145. He adds that the epistle of James 'seems to reflect the same political situation'. Yet it would scarcely be possible to find two documents which on the face of it are much more dissimilar in the conditions they presuppose. However Reicke now tells me that he would like to reconsider all these datings.]

Yet it is not at all 'obvious' that the persons under attack in these epistles were concerned for political freedom. The only evidence is that they 'flout authority' (κυριότητα) and 'insult celestial beings (δόξας)' (Jude 8; II Peter 2.10). Political disaffection could no doubt be so described on the spiritual level, but there is no suggestion that this in fact is what is in mind. On the contrary, it is the spiritual authority of the church they are challenging. They have 'rebelled like Korah' (Jude 11), that is, against the ordinances of God and the leaders of his people (Num.16). [Cf. the 'murmurers' (γογγυσταί) of Jude 16 with Num.16.11 (and I Cor.10.10).] This is what κυριόστης means in Did.4.1, and the rejection of it there is linked with schism (4.3) - as in the split created by the insubordination of Diotrephes in III John 9f. who 'does not accept our authority'. Neither II Peter nor III John is to be dated by reference to the political scene.

Yet the further back II Peter is pushed into the first century (where all the parallels suggest it belongs), the harder it is, as with the Pastorals, to satisfy the basic condition of pseudepigraphy, namely, that the readers should, willingly or unwillingly, accept the deception. Indeed a comparison with the problem of the Pastorals is instructive. There we argued for the important difference between pseudepigraphy proper and the view that the letters or charges were composed for Paul in his name and with his authority. Under the former hypothesis the persons of Timothy and Titus and all the details of news and travel plans are part of the fiction (or genuine fragments incorporated to enhance the fiction). Under the latter hypothesis the persons and situations are entirely genuine but, for whatever reason, Paul may have got someone else to write the letters on his behalf, though probably dictating the personal messages. It has been suggested - I believe improbably - that this agent might be Luke. But it is the relationship that matters, and this relationship is not that of pseudepigraphy, nor is it the role of an amanuensis played by Tertius in Romans (16.22). Transferring the analogy from the Pastorals to II Peter, the distinction is not so clear, because there are no details by which to assess the genuineness of the situation, as distinct from the identity of the writer. But it is an analogy that I believe it is profitable to pursue. For it seems to have been assumed without question that there is no third term between Petrine authorship (whether through an amanuensis or not) and pseudepigraphy. And both of these alternatives, I believe, are open to almost equal objection - though if faced with the choice I think I should have, with even such conservative scholars as Chase, Mayor and Hort, to plump for pseudonymity. [Cf. the characteristic remark of Hort's quoted by Sanday, Inspiration, 347, and cited by Mayor, Jude and II Peter, xxii, that, 'if he were asked he should say that the balance of argument was against the epistle; and the moment he had done so he should begin to think that he might be wrong.']

But at this point I should like to return to the relationship between II Peter and Jude. That there is some literary connection is indubitable, if only because all the parallels between the two epistles are virtually in the same order, as a glance at any reference Bible will show. Three main explanations have been advanced:

  1. Jude is using II Peter (Spitta, [F. Spitta, Die zweite Brief des Petrus und der Brief des Judas, Halle 1885.] Zahn, Bigg);

  2. II Peter is using Jude (the vast majority of other scholars);

  3. Each is using a common source (E. I. Robson, [E. I. Robson, Studies in the Second Epistle of Peter, Cambridge 1915.] Reicke, Green [Especially in his later book, II Peter and Jude, 53-5.]).

The claims for priority can often be argued either way, as in the synoptic gospels (e.g. is smoothness or roughness, expansion or condensation, more likely to be original?). But it would seem that, on the assumption of direct dependence, II Peter is likely to be secondary, if only because it is difficult to see any good reason for writing Jude at all with so little fresh matter to add. The hypothesis of a common source, 'a sermon pattern formulated to resist the seducers of the church', [Reicke, James, Peter and Jude, 190.] is attractive, but like that of 'Q' it is defensible only if it is necessary. There would appear to be no other evidence for such a document as, it is claimed, there is for catechetical summaries, scriptural testimonia, apocalyptic flysheets, or such a moral tract as seems to underlie the 'two ways' material of the Epistle of Barnabas and the Didache. [Cf. pp. 323f. below.] Moreover, what again was the point of producing the epistle of Jude if there was so little material in it independent of its source?

It should also be observed that, though the order of the common matter is the same, the degree of verbal correspondence is a good deal smaller than in those sections of Matthew and Luke that demand a literary and not just an oral connection. The relevant passages are conveniently set out in parallel columns in Moffatt's Introduction to the Literature of the New Testament.[Op. cit., 348-50; also, in translation, in Leaney, Peter and Jude, 101-4. The complete Greek texts of Jude and II Peter are printed in parallel by Mayor, Jude and II Peter, 1-15.] It will be seen at once that, though the themes and many of the words are the same, there is no direct copying. As Guthrie, who supplies the statistics, [NTI, 926f.] says,

If II Peter is the borrower he has changed 70% of Jude's language and added more of his own. Whereas if Jude borrowed from II Peter, the percentage of alteration is slightly higher, combined with a reduction in quantity.

The relationship is much more like that of Ephesians and Colossians. It is the relationship not of a wooden imitator but of a creative re-shaper of the themes - or it represents a single mind writing at much the same time in a somewhat different context. It was the latter alternative that commended itself there, and I am astonished that it has apparently suggested itself to no one here. Let me then propose a hypothesis.

Jude begins by saying that he was fully engaged in writing to his readers about their common salvation when he was forced to break off to send them an urgent appeal to close ranks against the danger of false teachers from within (31.). I suggest that what he was composing, in the name of the apostle, was II Peter. This was to be a general letter and testament, a 'recall to fundamentals' as the neb styles I John. But, corresponding to the briefer II John to a more specific and somewhat less advanced situation, Jude also first wrote off a hurried letter on his own authority to counter the immediate menace of the new heretics. This he then incorporated (for the most part in a single block in ch. 2) in the more studied style of the formal encyclical. This would explain the fact that there is no discernible difference in the situation between the two epistles. Both are written to predominantly Jewish Christians in danger of 'losing their safe foothold' (II Peter 3.17), though not from persecution but from error. This similarity was noted by Mayor: [Jude and II Peter, clxxiv.]

The moral corruption described in the two epistles is the same even in its minutest points; the cause of the corruption is the same, the misinterpretation and misuse of Paul's doctrine of God's free grace (Jude 4; II Peter 2.19; 3.16; cf. Rom.3.5-8). The agents use the same methods and are described in the same terms.

He proceeds to detail them. Yet it does not appear to him to require explanation how or why the situations are identical at an interval, on his reckoning, of at least fifty years. [He dates Jude 'nearer 80 than 70' (cxlv), II Peter in 'the second quarter of the second century' (cxxvii).] Moreover, apart from the less spontaneous and more pretentious level of writing in II Peter which often overreaches itself, the vocabulary and style are indistinguishable. [An equivalent might perhaps be the difference in formality between Galatians and Ephesians.] Mayor again in an exhaustive study of the 'grammar and style of Jude and II Peter' [Jude and II Peter, xxvi-lxvii.] observes no point at which the usage of the two epistles diverges. This is surely very remarkable, especially when compared with the strained efforts to show the similarities between I and II Peter. The only difference is the format in which the message is couched. When writing in his own name Jude says,

Remember the predictions made by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ (Jude 17);

when writing with Peter's apostolic authority he says,

Remember the predictions made by God's own prophets' (II Peter 3.2).

Jude is representing Peter rather than impersonating him. But he leaves his own signature. For he calls him what he called him - Simeon. The only other person who is recorded as retaining this Hebraic use is his brother James (Acts 15.14): it was in the family.

In one sense this hypothesis is merely taking further the alternative at which Chase hinted when he said that no difference of amanuensis would be a sufficient explanation unless 'the substance and the language alike were left absolutely in the hands of the apostle's companion' (italics mine). In other words, he would not be an amanuensis but an agent. The relationship perhaps was best described by Origen, [Apud Euseb. HE 6.25.13f.] who saw this as a possible (though we should think needless) way of holding that the anonymous epistle to the Hebrews could still be Pauline:

I should say that the thoughts are the apostle's, but that the style and composition belong to one who called to mind the apostle's teachings and, as it were, made short notes of what his master said. If any church, therefore, holds this epistle as Paul's, let it be commended for this also. For not without reason have the men of old time handed it down as Paul's. But who wrote the epistle, in truth God knows.

He then goes on to record suggested guesses of who the agent might be - Clement of Rome and (again!) Luke.

Now if such a solution is possible to the problem of the Pastorals, whether or not it is necessary, it cannot be ruled out for II Peter. And in this case one may produce the identity of the agent with a good deal more plausibility. For with Jude the glove fits precisely - even when he is wearing a different hat. Whether Silvanus also stood in the same relationship to I Peter it is impossible to be sure, for we have nothing which comes solely from his pen by which to test it. But it is improbable. For in I Peter 5.12 the 'I' of the writer is clearly distinguished from that of the amanuensis
(if indeed this is what Sia means). The relationship is subtly but fundamentally different. As we have seen, the amanuensis can insert his own greeting (Rom. 16.22; Mart. Polyc. 20.2). But, like the political speech-writer or composer of an episcopal charge, the apostolic delegate must submerge his identity.

The hypothesis would also help to explain the doubts and hesitations over II Peter in the church - in striking contrast with the remarkably good attestation of the minor and apparently less authoritative epistle of Jude. [Cf. Streeter, PC, 179: 'So far as external evidence is concerned, Jude is one of the best authenticated of the catholic epistles.'] For the latter authenticated itself - and there really is no case here for pseudonymity, unless again the Greek is, arbitrarily, deemed to be beyond a brother of the Lord. But II Peter is very puzzling. Try to fit it into the style or the situation of I Peter and it is bound to appear doubtful. Indeed, unless it is written by an agent, it must be written by a pretender - and for that, as we have seen, there is precious little motivation or plausible setting.

What then may we say is the setting of II Peter? I believe that Zahn was correct in refusing to see in 3.1 a reference to I Peter (though I think he was incorrect in dating Jude so much later). For the contents of I and II Peter are patently different, whereas the situation presupposed by Jude and II Peter is the same. The latter epistles are addressed to predominantly Jewish Christians in acute danger not from persecution but heresy; whereas I Peter is addressed to predominantly Gentile Christians in acute danger from persecution but with no mention of heresy nor whiff of a gnosticizing menace. To what then is the allusion in II Peter 3.1, where the epistle is described as being the 'second letter' to the same persons on the same subject? I believe two explanations are possible. Either it will refer to a lost letter, for which indeed there is sufficient precedent in Paul's extended correspondence with the church at Corinth. Or - and this is a solution I commend for serious consideration - it refers to the epistle of Jude, which would certainly qualify as far as description of contents is concerned. [Another possibility that has been canvassed is that II Peter is composite, chs. 1-2 or 2 constituting the previous letter. But for such a division there is no evidence, either in the manuscript tradition or even, as at I Peter 4.12, in the suggestion of a fresh start after a closure.] If then it is asked how the earlier letter could be described as one which the same 'I' sent to the same readers, we should remember that in Jude 3 the author said 'I was fully engaged in writing to you ' what on this hypothesis is II Peter. The references are merely reversed. The principal and his agent are as one man. This may seem strange to us - though is it really so unusual in literary or official circles today? But it was established Jewish doctrine that, as the Mishnah puts it, 'a man's agent is as himself'. [Ber.5.5.]

Whichever alternative is adopted, the necessity is removed, as Zahn saw, for having to find a setting for II Peter after I Peter. The most notable difference between Jude and II Peter on the one hand and the book of Revelation on the other is that, while they all speak of a similar danger from gnosticizing Judaism, the former two breathe no air of persecution. In this they stand much nearer to the attitude to the civic authorities in the Pastorals (cf. I Tim.2.1f.) and the closing chapters of Acts. Indeed the atmosphere of II Peter, with the apostle's warning of danger from error and perversion 'after my departure', is closer than anything else to Paul's speech in Acts 20.29f. and to II Tim.4.6-8. Though in their contexts both μετὰ τήν ἐμὴν ἒξοδον in II Peter 1.15 and μετὰ τὴν ἀφιξίν μου in Acts 20.29 must carry allusion to the apostles' deaths, there is no reason why they should not also mean at the literal level 'after I have left you'. The same applies to 'the time of my departure' (ὁ καιρὸς τῆς ἀναλύσεως μου) II Tim.4.6. II Peter 1.14 has been taken to imply that Peter is writing (or is purporting to write) on the point of death, though, as we have seen, this is by no means necessarily the implication of ταχινή. In any case, we have argued that the similar language of II Tim.4.6-8 (reflected also in Acts 20.24f.) came from 58 - a number of years before Paul's death. May it not be that II Peter also represents that apostle's parting testimony to the Christians of Asia before he leaves for Rome? For there is absolutely no suggestion that II Peter comes from Rome, unlike I Peter. Where he was at the time of its writing or why he had an occasion to use an agent (unless he was on a missionary tour, whereas later he was settled in the capital) it is useless to speculate. Unfortunately, unlike Paul, he had no Boswell in Luke. Yet it seems highly improbable that neither Acts nor Paul's Caesarean correspondence would have mentioned his presence in Jerusalem in 57-9 had he been there. Nor could he credibly have been in Rome in 57 without the exhaustive greetings of Rom. 16 including him. Moreover Acts 28.15-31 could scarcely have been written as it is, especially when the Jews say in 21f, 'We have had no communication from Judaea, nor has any countryman of ours arrived with any report or gossip to your discredit', if Peter was there preaching to 'the circumcision' (cf. Gal. 2.9) either on Paul's arrival in 60, or, in all probability, during the two years following.

If we ask to what area the internal evidence points for the epistle's destination, the only parallels we have for the kind of gnosticizing tendencies found in II Peter and Jude are either in Corinth (I and II Corinthians) or Asia Minor (Acts 20, Colossians, I and II Timothy, I and II John, Revelation 1-3). We may be fairly sure that Peter had been in Corinth in the early 50s (I Cor.1.12; 3.22), and the reference in I Cor.9.5 to him and the Lord's brothers, as examples familiar to the Corinthians of missionaries who had brought their wives, could suggest that even then he had had with him Jude, the only one of the brothers whom we know to have been married. [Cf. again Eusebius, HE 3.19f.; 3.32.5, quoting Hegesippus.] For all along Peter seems to have been particularly closely associated with the Lord's brothers (Acts 1.13f.; 12.17; 15; Gal.1.18f.; 2.9, 11f.; and cf. Mark 16.7 with Matt.28.10; John 20.17). Corinth therefore is a perfectly possible destination for II Peter and Jude - in which case 'your apostles' will be Paul and Silvanus and Timothy (II Cor.1.19), and Peter's disavowal of 'artfully spun tales' in his preaching to them will parallel Paul's disclaimer of 'the language of worldly wisdom' in I Cor. 1.17; 2.1. Nevertheless it seems improbable that Peter would have addressed so distinctive (and divided) a church as Corinth without any hint or mention of it (contrast again I Clement). For II Peter and Jude share the same anonymity of audience as the Johannine epistles and appear to reflect more scattered communities. In date too the emergence, as far as our evidence goes, of such gnosticizing tendencies in Asia Minor in the latter 50s and early 60s better fits the period we are looking for, and the 'Asian' style which II Peter in particular affects [Cf. Deissmann, Bible Studies, 366-8.] points in the same direction.

Let us then surmise that Peter and Jude, wherever they may be (together or apart), are addressing a final word of apostolic testament to Jewish Christians in Asia Minor prior to Peter's departure for Rome for the last time. Can we put any date to this? We have already seen reason to think that he cannot have gone to Rome before 60 (and probably 62). There is ground too for believing that Jude is unlikely to be writing after 62. For he introduces himself simply as 'brother of James'. This in itself give no indication of whether James is alive or dead. But if he had already suffered martyrdom at the hands of the Sanhedrin, an event to whose impact on the Jews even Josephus testifies, [Ant. 20. 200-3.] quite apart from its traumatic effect on Christians, [Cf. again Hegesippus, and the space Eusebius devotes to his testimony in HE 2.23.] it would seem incredible that no hint of the tensions it created or of any posthumous epithet, such as μακάριος (as in I Clem. 47.1) or ἀγαθός (as in I Clem. 5.3) or, particularly in his case, δίκαιος, [Cf. Hegesippus, apud Euseb. HE 2.23.4: 'He received the name of "the Just" from all men, from the time of the Lord even to our own; for there were many called James.'] should have crept into a letter written to Jewish Christians by his own brother. Indeed, as I have said, the most notable absence from these epistles is any reference to persecution, or for that matter any echo of the Jewish war, let alone the fall of Jerusalem. If these facts are taken into account, then 62 becomes a terminus ad quem, and we may date Jude and II Peter in fairly close succession (as Jude 3 indicates) between 60 and 62. [So Bigg, Peter and Jude, 315-17: 'Jude is practically contemporaneous with II Peter.' But then he has to say, quite arbitrarily, that 'the two Epistles were addressed to different Churches'.]  Since Peter is about to leave, we may put them nearer to the end of that period than the beginning, let us say in 61-2.

 Indeed, if the Pastoral Epistles are placed, as Zahn placed them, [INT II., 67. He dated them in 65-6.] in the mid-60s (let alone much later), it is implausible. But if, as we have argued, these come from 56—8, then there is nothing improbable about putting II Peter some five years later. Yet all this is likely to carry conviction only if, as we have also argued, the gospels and Acts too come from before this date, and if the other comparable documents to which we have been referring, the Johannine epistles and Revelation, are not much later. The dating of Peter and Jude is, as I warned at the beginning, bound, on any chronology, to reflect that of other documents. Yet I believe they have more light of their own to shed than their unpromising matter might at first suggest.

To sum up, then, we may say that Jude and II Peter were written, in that order, to predominantly Jewish-Christian congregations in Asia Minor c. 61-2. Whether Peter then set out for Rome as he hoped or was delayed in Jerusalem to assist, as Eusebius suggests, [HE 3.11.] 'with all the surviving apostles and disciples of the Lord' in finding a successor to James, we cannot say. But there is nothing improbable about that. By 64-5 at any rate he was evidently in the capital, from where, we have argued, he adapted preaching material, prepared for the church in Rome under the urgent shadow of the Neronian persecution in the spring of 65, for dispatch as an encyclical to different and more mixed congregations in northern Asia Minor, which there is no firm evidence to suggest that he had ever visited. [Eusebius' statement in HE 3.1.2 that 'Peter, it seems, preached in Pontus and Galatia and Bithynia, in Cappadocia and Asia', is obviously only a guess derived from I Peter 1.1.] The Petrine epistles therefore throw no further light on the closing months or years of Peter's life and do nothing to modify the provisional conclusions which previously we reached.  But whether he or Paul, who appears unlikely to have been martyred by the time of I Peter (cf. 3.13) and may well have been out of Rome at the time (possibly in Spain), perished soon afterwards will have some bearing on the dating of the remaining books of the New Testament yet to be considered.



The Epistle to the Hebrews


apart from the

prophecies of the fall of Jerusalem in the synoptic gospels, there is no other piece of New Testament literature that raises so acutely as does the epistle to the Hebrews the question of its relation to the events of 70. Whereas a moral tract like the epistle of James could reasonably omit all reference to the temple and its fate without its silence being significant, the whole theme of Hebrews is the final supersession by Christ of the levitical system, its priesthood and its sacrifices. The destruction of the sanctuary which physically brought this system to an end must surely, if it had occurred, have left its mark somewhere.


It is generally accepted that there is no such reference or allusion; and yet the epistle to the Hebrews is among those books of the New Testament regularly set, as Harnack was content to put it without seeing need for further specification, 'under Domitian'. [Chron., 718. But he admitted it might be earlier. Cf. 475-9, where he holds open the whole period 65-95.] Indeed the balance of opinion in Introductions to the New Testament or Bible Dictionaries is astonishingly one-sided (much more so than I had imagined), and the consensus cuts across many of the other lines of division between conservatives and liberals (e.g. on I Peter). On a quick round-up of the reference-books listed earlier, all the following give support to a dating after 70: Harnack, Jiilicher, Zahn, von Soden, the Encyclopaedia Biblica (W. Robertson Smith), Bacon, Moffatt, Feine, K. and S. Lake, Goodspeed, Michaelis, Wikenhauser, the Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible, Kummel, Marxsen, Fuller, Klijn, Selby and Perrin. On the other side are only: Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible (A. B. Bruce), Peake's Commentary on the Bible (F. F. Bruce), Guthrie, Grant and Harrison. [Heard, Sparks and McNeile-Williams are undecided, as are A. S. Peake, A Critical Introduction to the New Testament, 1909, and F. B. Clogg, An Introduction to the New Testament, 1937.] Yet this weighting is remarkably unrepresentative of those who lately have studied the epistle more closely, and the difference could reflect the fact that the text-books have not yet caught up on a detectable swing. Thus in recent years the following have all put it, at varying dates and places, before 70: T. W. Manson [T. W. Manson, 'The Problem of the Epistle to the Hebrews', BJRL 32, 1949, 1-17; reprinted in Studies in the Gospels and Epistles, 242-58, to which page references are given.], W. Manson [W. Manson, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 1951.], Spicq [C. Spicq, L'Epitre aux Hebrews (Etudes Bibliques), Paris 1952-3.], Moule [Birth of the NT, 44, following A. Nairne, The Epistle of Priesthood: Studies in the Epistle to the Hebrews, Edinburgh 1913.], Montefiore [H. W. Montefiore, Hebrews (Black's NTC), 1964.], F. F. Bruce [F. F. Bruce, Hebrews, 1964.], J. Hering  [J. Hering, Hebrews, ET 1970.], G. W. Buchanan [G. W. Buchanan, Hebrews (Anchor Bible), New York 1972.] and Strobel. [A. Strobel, Hebraerbrief, Gottingen 1975.]

So, before seeking to be more specific on either destination or date, we may adopt the same method of approach followed in relation to the synoptic gospels. Let us look first at the question of its overall relation to the events of 70 and then at other indications of a more precise placing.

Whereas in the gospels it is the positive references to the events of 70, albeit in the future, which have led scholars to infer that they must be reflected in retrospect, in Hebrews ironically it is the absence of references on which the issue turns. The exercise consists not in explaining the 'prophecies', but in explaining away the silence.

First, however, there is one reference which has been seized on by some as a positive indication of absolute dating. This is the reference in Heb.3.7-4.11 to the forty years of Israel's disobedience, leading to the oath that they should never enter into God's rest. This is interpreted typologically as an allusion to the forty years of Jewish history ad 30-70. Yet there is not a hint of this in the author's exegesis. Indeed he specifically asks the question, 'And with whom was God indignant for forty years?', and answers it: 'With those, surely, who had sinned, whose bodies lay where they fell in the desert' (3.17). There is no suggestion of a secondary application, any more than there is in I Cor.10.1-13, where Paul also adduces Israel's wilderness experiences as a warning to Christians, not as a judgment on contemporary Judaism. In any case this interpretation, which has attracted little support, yields no agreed conclusion as to daring. Zahn [NT11, 320-3, 337f.] deduced from it a date of c. 80, A. B. Bruce [HDB II,337.] one of 70 (just prior to the fall of Jerusalem), while Gaston regards it as 'a very strong argument for a pre-70 date'. [No Stone on Another, 467; W. Manson, op. cit., 55f., inclines in the same direction, saying that the argument 'should not be dismissed'.]

So we may proceed to the negative evidence and to the way in which its apparent force has been turned. This has followed three lines.

1. The fact that the entire levitical system is spoken of throughout the epistle in the present tense, with no hint that it lies now in ruins, is said to have no chronological significance. It is indeed true that many of the present tenses are timeless descriptions of ritual arrangements (e.g. 5.1-4; 8.3-5; 9.6f.; 10.1). Josephus writing well after the destruction of the temple gives a long account of the system in similar terms [Ant. 3.224-57; cf. Contra Apion. 2.77 and 193-8.] and there are later Christian parallels for the same way of speaking.[I Clem.41.2; Ep. Barn.7f.; Ep. Diognet.3. But for the date of I Clement in this connection, cf. pp. 329f. below.] If we were simply dealing with a discussion of scriptural and other ordinances, this would be a complete answer. But it is clear that in some passages at least the writer is appealing to existing realities, whose actual continuance is essential to his argument. If, he says, the levitical system had really been able to bring perfection,

these sacrifices would surely have ceased to be offered, because the worshippers, cleansed once for all, would no longer have any sense of sin. But instead, in these sacrifices year after year sins are brought to mind (10.2f.; cf.10.11,18).

Had the sacrifices in fact ceased to be offered, it is hard to credit that these words could have stood without modification or comment. For their termination would have proved his very point.

2. It has been maintained that some sacrifice did continue after 70. [K. W. Clark, 'Worship in the Jerusalem Temple after ad 70', NTS 6, 1959-60, 269-80. But his use of Hebrews, 'written in the reign of Domitian' (275f.), as evidence for this is clearly circular.] But a recent Jewish investigator sums up the situation thus: [A. Guttmann, 'The End of the Jewish Sacrificial Cult', HUCA 38, 1967, 137-48 (140).]

Although scattered evidence points to the presence of private sacrifices after the fall of the Temple, at least sporadically, ... the Halakhah presupposes the cessation of these. ... The Talmudic evidence for the cessation of the public sacrifices after 70 ce is crystal clear.

Schurer, [HJP I.522f.] after investigating the indications to the contrary, is unequivocal :

In an enumeration of Israel's black days it is stated simply that 17 Tammuz saw the end of the daily sacrifice; [Mishnah, Taan. 4.6. The reference is to August 70; cf.Josephus, BJ 6.94.] and there is nowhere any mention of its being subsequently restored. ... When Christian writers and Josephus, long after the destruction of the Temple, speak in the present tense of the offerings of sacrifice, they are merely describing what was lawful, not what was actually practised. Precisely the same happens in the Mishnah, from the first page to the last, in that all legally valid statutes are presented as current usage, even when as a result of prevailing circumstances their performance was impossible.

But even if there were residual attempts to perpetuate the system, it is surely extraordinary that the body-blow that effectively finished it should have left no impact on the epistle. Above all, whatever else happened, the succession to the high priestly office was unquestionably terminated, and it is difficult to believe that this would not have left some trace on the argument of 7.11-28, which contrasts Christ's high priesthood, which remains for ever, with that which in order to keep going requires continual replacement and daily repetition. If the latter had in fact failed to be replaced, it is hard to think that this would have gone unobserved.

3. It is said, with truth, that in discussing the details of the 'material sanctuary' (9.1-7) the writer is describing not Herod's temple but the scriptural blue-print of outer and inner 'tents' on which the later structure was modelled. [Cf. the diagrams and discussion in Buchanan, Hebrews, 140-5; and Josephus, 575,184-236.]  It is these two chambers that he means by the first and second tents. When therefore he remarks that it is 'symbolic of the present time' that 'the first tent still stands' (9.8f.), [The neb's translation 'the earlier tent' in 9.8 is misleading. It is the same phrase (ἡ πρώτη σκηνή) rendered 'the first tent' in v. 6, and if a paraphrase is needed it should be, as in the rsv in both instances, 'the outer tent'.] he is referring not to the continued existence of the Jerusalem temple but to the externality of the ordinances at present in force (9.10). Nevertheless, he sees these arrangements as temporary 'until the time of reformation' (9.10). They belong to the first covenant; and 'by speaking of a second covenant' God 'has pronounced the first one old; and anything that is growing old and ageing will shortly disappear' (8.13). If it had disappeared it is surely incredible that he would not have used this fact to rub in what he says in his 'main point', namely, that the shadow must soon give way to the reality (8.1-13).  Moreover, though, for the purpose of his allegory, he is talking of the tent rather than the temple, it is clear that he is not merely indulging in abstract argument. For the one is symbolic of the other, and when he insists that 'our altar is one from which the priests who serve the tent have no right to eat' (13.10) there can be no real doubt as to whom he is referring. [So, emphatically, G. A. Barton, 'The Date of the Epistle to the Hebrews', JBL 57, 1938, 195-207. H. Koester, '"Outside the Camp": Hebrews 13.9-14', HTR 55, 1962, 299-315, argues that it refers not to the Jewish priesthood but to any, including Christians, who rely on cultic and ritual performances for salvation. But I do not find him at all convincing at this point.]  As Schlatter correctly expressed it, [The Church in the New Testament Period, 240f.]

It is true that the writer based his warnings not on what actually went on at Jerusalem, but on the utterances of scripture. He expounded 'the Law'. For it was not what the Jew did, but what God commanded - not Jewish practice, but the will of God - which justified the action and made necessary the sacrifice which the author required of the Jewish Christians. ... But the author to the Hebrews was not ... so completely immersed in his texts as to forget contemporary conditions and happenings altogether. Every word is written with an eye on the situation of his readers, and they would hardly have been indifferent as to whether the Temple was still standing and the priests still officiating; or whether the Temple had been destroyed and the sacrificial worship had ceased.[Cf. Montefiore, Hebrews, 3: 'After the destruction of the Jewish Temple in ad 70, and the consequent cessation of the high priesthood, it is inconceivable that the author of Hebrews should have written with such indifference to what actually happened.' Similarly M. Dods, Hebrews, EGT IV, 243; T. W. Manson, op. cit., 251f.; Spicq, Hebreaux I, 254-7.]

The nearest parallel to the Epistle to the Hebrews in early Christian literature is the Epistle of Barnabas,  [For the dating of this, cf. pp. 313-9 below.]  whose theme too is the relationship of Christianity to the ritual ordinances of Judaism. It makes the point explicitly that the temple was destroyed by the Romans as a consequence of the Jewish rebellion (16.4). Had this event occurred by the time that Hebrews was written, it would have dotted the i's and crossed the t's of everything its author was labouring to prove.  For, as Athanasius was to put it centuries later, [De Incarn. 40.]

It is a sign, and an important proof, of the coming of the Word of God, that Jerusalem no longer stands. ... For ... when the truth was there, what need any more of the shadow? ... And this was why Jerusalem stood till then - namely, that they [the Jews] might be exercised in the types as a preparation for the reality.

The argument from silence can of course prove nothing. In this case, however, it can create what I believe is a very strong presumption.  The burden of proof must rest on those who would date the epistle after 70. But the actual date must depend on closer examination of the positive indications in the epistle itself.

The very fact that commentators have differed so widely on both date and place makes it clear that there is nothing that points conclusively to any single solution. The one thing that is clear (for once) is the upper limit on dating. For Hebrews is quoted without question in I Clement (36.2-5, which cites excerpts from Heb.1.3-13) and practically no one wishes to put I Clement later than 96. The reign of Domitian is therefore the terminus ad quem, as well as being for most the terminus a quo (e.g. Kummel). But the reign of Nero is also favoured (e.g. Guthrie), and Montefiore has recently argued for that of Claudius. Of the three most recently discussed destinations, Rome (Kummel and Guthrie, on balance), Jerusalem (Buchanan) and Corinth (Montefiore), Rome is not even listed as a possibility by Montefiore, Jerusalem is the one place 'certainly' ruled out by Kummel, [INT, 399. For the powerful arguments against Jerusalem, cf. Zahn, INT II, 342f.; Guthrie, NTI, 712.] while Buchanan is prepared to consider no alternative!

The first issue upon which a judgment has to be made is the integrity of the epistle. As B. F. Westcott recognized long ago, [B. F. Westcott, Hebrews, 1889,429.] 'the thirteenth chapter is a kind of appendix to the Epistle, like Rom. 15 and 16'. It converts what would otherwise be (and what may have started as) a homily into a letter.

That this last chapter is a postscript is not seriously in doubt.  The only questions are whether it was written to the same persons as the main body of the epistle and by the same author. In the case of Romans, cited as a parallel by Westcott, there is more than enough manuscript confusion to suggest that ch.16 and possibly ch.15 may have been composed for separate recensions or recipients - though no one doubts Pauline authorship, except for the closing doxology of 16.25-7. [Perhaps added by disciples of Marcion to round off the epistle when he truncated it at the end of chapter 14.]  Yet even so the balance would seem in the end to be in favour of the integrity of the entire epistle down at any rate to 16.23. In the case of Hebrews 13 there is not the slightest sign in the manuscript tradition that it did not originally belong with the rest. And though the level of writing is, naturally, different as it moves from sermon to correspondence, there is no evidence for a change of style. Kummel says summarily, 'Nothing suggests the addition of a conclusion by another hand.' [INT, 397.] The allusions in 13.10-16 (to the tent and the high priest, the blood of Jesus, and the city which is to come) echo the themes of the rest of the epistle, and F. V. Filson has made this unity the subject of an entire study. [F. V. Filson, Yesterday: A Study of Hebrews in the Light of Chapter 13 (SET 2.4), 1967; cf. R. V. G. Tasker, 'The Integrity of the Epistle to the Hebrews', ExpT'47, 1935-6, 136-8; C. Spicq, 'L'Authenticite du chapitre XIII de 1'Epitre aux Hebreux', CN 11,1947, 226-36.]  The arguments for separation put forward by Buchanan [Hebrews, ad loc.] depend on internal contradictions to his own, I believe, quite implausible thesis that in chs.1-12 the physical city of Jerusalem is, for the author and his readers, the location of the heavenly city, [He takes 'you have come to mount Sion' (12.22) literally of a migration of diaspora Jews to Jerusalem to await the parousia.] whereas in ch.13 it is not.  [In 13.14 'we have here no abiding city' is taken to refer to the city of Jerusalem.] We may safely, therefore, use what hints there are in ch.13 as evidence for the dating and destination of the whole.

A tantalizing clue to the location of the readers is given in the laconic message of 13.24, which should probably be translated: 'Those who come from Italy (οἱ ἀπὸ τῆς Ἰταλίας) greet you.' It could be understood - as it has been [So e.g. Spicq, Hebrews I, 261-5.] - as a greeting from Italy. But in a letter, say, from London to a congregation abroad it would hardly be natural to write 'those from England' (i.e. all Englishmen) send their greetings. It would be more natural in a letter to London for the Englishmen with the writer to join him in sending their love to those back home. Montefiore (who holds that the epistle was written to Corinth from Ephesus) thinks that it refers to neither, but to Aquila and Priscilla, who are specifically said to have arrived in Corinth originally 'from Italy' (Acts 18.2) and whose greetings Paul also sends from Ephesus to Corinth in I Cor.16.9. [Hebrews, ad loc.; cf. F. Lo Bue, 'The Historical Background of the Epistle to the Hebrews', JBL 75, 1956, 52-7.]  This indeed is quite possible, though the anonymity is odd when the couple are named so freely elsewhere. However, as we have seen, greetings are sent to them also in Ephesus (II Tim. 4.19) and in Rome (Rom. 16.3), where they had a house and were evidently as well known as in Corinth. In fact the most natural supposition to be drawn from the message, that the letter was sent to Rome, is the one, I believe, that yields the most fruitful results. When it is made, a good deal else falls into place. All that we can expect here is not a conclusive demonstration but a hypothesis that gives the most reasonable explanation for the largest amount of the data. I am persuaded that the one that does this is that which postulates that the epistle was written to a group or synagogue of Jewish Christians [With Westcott long ago (Hebrews, xxxv), I find it hard to take too seriously the widely canvassed suggestion that it was addressed to Gentiles (e.g. H. von Soden, Hebraerbrief, Freiburg 1899; E. F. Scott, The Epistle to the Hebrews: Its Doctrine and Significance, Edinburgh 1922; J. Moffatt, Hebrews [ICC], Edinburgh 1924). Buchanan's commentary has the merit of bringing out once again the depth of immersion in rabbinic and sectarian Judaism presupposed both in the author and his audience. As F. F. Bruce says, PCB, 1008, 'Had they been Gentile Christians who were inclined to lapse, their only response to such an argument as "Now if perfection had been obtainable through the Levitical priesthood ..." (7.11) would have been: "We never thought it was!'" Cf. W. Manson, Hebrews, 18-23, who also makes the point that there are no signs of Jew-Gentile conflict or of pagan aberrations.] within the church of Rome  [So also e.g. Harnack, Zahn,Julicher, Dods, Edmundson, Peake, W. Manson, F. F. Bruce and Filson.]  in the late 60s.

We may start from the quite extraordinary severity of tone with regard to those who fall away after baptism.

For when men have once been enlightened, when they have had a taste of the heavenly gift and a share in the Holy Spirit, when they have experienced the goodness of God's word and the spiritual energies of the age to come, and after all this have fallen away, it is impossible to bring them again to repentance; for with their own hands they are crucifying again the Son of God and making mock of his death (6.4-6; neb margin).

There are similar passages of equal severity in 10.26-31 and 12.15-29.

This language is unparalleled in the New Testament and indeed outside it until the Novatianist controversy over the lapsed at the time of the Decian persecution in 250. It is explicable surely only if it is occasioned not by everyday post-baptismal failure but, as later, by apostasy under exceptional and dangerous circumstances, involving the betrayal of fellow-Christians. The only situation in the first century which would fit this for which we have evidence is the Neronian persecution in Rome. Describing it, Tacitus, it will be recalled, spoke of the 'information' given by those who confessed which led to the conviction of their fellow-believers. Clement, reflecting on the same sad story from the Christian side, speaks of

a vast multitude of the elect, who through many indignities and tortures, being the victims of jealousy, set a brave example among ourselves (I Clem.6.1).

And he attributes the persecution and death of the pillars of the church, Peter and Paul, to the same jealousy, envy and strife (I Clem.5). In the course of an extended discussion, Cullmann comments: [Peter, 89-109 (102).]

This in the context of our letter can only mean that they were victims of jealousy from persons who counted themselves members of the Christian Church. In saying this we naturally do not mean that they were martyred or perhaps murdered by other Christians, but that the magistrates were encouraged by the attitude of some members of the Christian Church, and perhaps by the fact that they turned informers, to take action against others.

The author of the Shepherd of Hermas, also written from Rome, appears to allude some years later to the same crisis and to the divisions it evoked, [For the first-century dating of this document and the reasons for thinking that it refers to the Neronian persecution, see below pp. 319-22.] and in phrases that seem to have attracted remarkably little notice in this connection he echoes many of the reactions of the writer to the Hebrews, without (unlike Clement) giving any direct quotation. He speaks of those who had suffered 'stripes, imprisonments, great tribulations, crosses, wild beasts, for the Name's sake' (Vis.3.2.1), but talks too of those who had been double-minded, [δυψυχία (with its cognates δυψυχέω and δίψυχος) is the great enemy for Hermas, who returns to it constantly. It is also attacked in I and II Clement.] betrayed parents and denied their Lord (Vis.2.2.2). He refers to 'the renegades and traitors to the Church that blasphemed the Lord in their sins, and still further were ashamed of the Name of the Lord, which was invoked upon them' (Sim.8.6.4). Some were 'mixed up in business and cleaved not to the saints'; being divided in their loyalties (Sim.8.8.1) they caused dissensions (Sim.8.8.5). 'But some of them altogether stood aloof. These have no repentance; for by reason of their business affairs they blasphemed the Lord and denied him' (Sim.8.8.2). They were 'betrayers of the servants of God. For these there is no repentance, but there is death' (Sim.9.19.1). Yet Hermas is prepared to give each group the benefit of the doubt, and even 'for those who denied him a long time ago repentance seemeth to be possible' (Sim.9.26.6). In his vision all those who 'suffered for the name of the Son of God' had their 'sins ... taken away' (Sim.9.28.3) - even though the fruit of their actions was reduced by their vacillation. Looking back, he pictures vividly the various sections under pressure:

As many ... as were tortured and denied not, when brought before the magistracy, but suffered readily, these are the more glorious in the sight of the Lord; their fruit is that which surpasseth. But as many as became cowards, and were lost in uncertainty, and considered in their hearts whether they should deny or confess, and yet suffered, their fruits are less, because this design entered into their heart; for this design is evil, that a servant should deny his own lord (Sim.9.28.4).

This same setting appears to fit the concern of the writer to the Hebrews, with his grave warnings to 'see to it that there is no one among you that forfeits the grace of God, no bitter, noxious weed growing up to poison the whole' (12.15) [Cf. P. S. Minear, The Obedience of Faith, 1971, ix, who says of the Roman church: 'All the evidence points to the existence of several congregations separated from each other by sharp mutual suspicions.' The seeds of this are already evident in Rom. 14.1-15.13, where the tensions and recriminations between those who eat meat and those who do not could be reflected in the 'scruples about what we eat' in Heb. 13.9. Cf. also W. Manson, op. cit., 172-84.] and his exhortations not to be 'among those who shrink back and are lost' (10.39) but, like the Lord himself (3.1; 4.14), to be 'firm and unswerving in the confession of our hope' (10.23). If then tentatively we make this identification, it may illuminate other phrases in the epistle which, while not demanding this reference, would certainly suit it.

In 13.7 the writer says:

Remember your leaders, those who first spoke God's message to you;  [The word 'first' is not in the Greek: it is only a possible implication of the aorist eXd^Tfaav.] and reflecting upon the outcome of their life and work, follow the example of their faith.

The word translated 'outcome' (ἒκβασιν) is ambiguous, but it is most natural to take it to mean death, as in the closely reminiscent description of the righteous man in Wisd.2.17-20:

Let us test the truth of his words, let us see what will happen to him in the end (πειράσωμεν τὰ ἐκ ἐκβάσει αὐτοῦ) ; for if the just  man is God's son, God will Stretch out a hand to him and save him from the clutches of his enemies. Outrage and torment are the means to try him with, to measure his forbearance and learn how long his patience lasts. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for on his own showing he will have a protector.

Similarly our author, like Clement, could be appealing here to the 'notable pattern of patient endurance' set by the leaders of the Roman church, and in particular 'the good apostles' Peter and Paul (I Clem. 5). It is to be observed that the use of the word 'leaders' or 'chief leaders' to designate the ministry of the Christian church is confined to documents associated with Rome  [ἡγαύμενοι: Heb.13.7,17, 24; I Clem.1.3; προηγούμενο: I Clem.21.6; Hermas, Vis. 2.2.6; 3.9.7.] - though obviously the terms are too general for any specific conclusion.

The writer's reiterated plea is for 'firmness to the end' (Heb.3.14) in the face of 'testing'. For this he appeals not only to the 'day of testing' in the wilderness (3.8f.) and to the Old Testament heroes of faith (especially 11.17,36f.) but supremely to Jesus:

For since he himself has passed through the test of suffering, he is able to help those who are meeting their test now (2.18).

For ours is not a high priest unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested every way, as we are, only without sin (4.15, neb margin).

Think of him who submitted to such opposition from sinners: that will help you not to lose heart and grow faint (12.3).

He goes on in this last passage:

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood (12.4).

In other words (as is clear from the association of blood with death throughout the epistle), their community had not yet had its martyr. And, reading between the lines, we may hear the suggestion that they had been holding back and standing apart while others paid the supreme penalty. Yet it was not always thus:

Remember the days gone by, when, newly enlightened, you met the challenge of great sufferings and held firm. Some of you were abused and tormented to make a public show, while others stood loyally by those who were so treated. For indeed you shared the sufferings of the prisoners, and you cheerfully accepted the seizure of your possessions, knowing that you possessed something better and more lasting (10.32-4).

But now they have to be reminded of their solidarity with their fellow Christians:

Remember those in prison as if you were there with them; and those who are being maltreated, for like them you are still in the world (13.3). [Cf. I Peter 5.9: 'Remember that your brother Christians are going through the same kinds of suffering while they are in the world'. For the parallels between I Peter and Hebrews, arising, I believe, out of their common context and temporal proximity, cf. Selwyn, i Peter, 363-6.]

What this earlier occasion was when they were 'abused and tormented to make a public show', it is impossible to say with certainty. At first sight indeed it might seem to be referring to the Neronian persecution itself; and this is one of the arguments used by those who wish to date Hebrews much later. The phrase 'the former days' (τὰς πρότερον ἡμέρας) is entirely vague and the implication 'newly enlightened', though probable, is again only read into the aorist φωτισθέντες. Yet the contrast is clear between their response then and now, and the appeal appears to be the same as that of the seer of Revelation to the church at Ephesus: 'I have this against you: you have lost your early love' (Rev. 2.4). There is no suggestion that at that time anyone was actually killed. Indeed this is implicitly denied by the fact that they still have not resisted to the point of bloodshed - for then they shared everything that was going. Reference to the Neronian terror would seem therefore to be positively excluded. Public exposure to abuse, torment, imprisonment and dispossession is all that is mentioned. This could well describe the sort of anti-semitic upsurge that led to the expulsion of the Jews from Rome in 49, perhaps as a result of disturbances caused by the preaching of Christ - if indeed this is the meaning of Suetonius' notoriously ambiguous 'impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantes'. [Claud. 25.4.] This identification of the earlier crisis to which the author of Hebrews alludes is made by W. Manson, who writes:

The Jews were protected by the privilege of religio licita so long as they kept the peace, and this privilege they had forfeited by their intra-synagogal disputes. The most plausible explanation of the whole episode is that Christian propaganda had been introduced into the synagogues at Rome and had created considerable ferment. [Op. cit., 41; cf. 71.]

If so, then the writer seems to be looking back to the 40s, when these Christian Jews could have been among those converted by the mission preaching of Peter and Mark. And this would fit with an earlier passage where the author appears to link himself with his readers in attributing their Christianity to those who themselves had heard Jesus:

We are bound to pay all the more heed to what we have been told for fear of drifting from our course. ... For this deliverance was first announced through the lips of the Lord himself; those who heard him confirmed it to us (2.1-3).

If we ask why now they were holding back from 'love and active goodness' and 'staying away' from assembling with their fellow Christians (10.24f.), [With the ἐπισουναγωγή here cf. the continuing use of συναγωγή for Christian worship in Hermas, Mand.11.9.13f.] we may recall that in his description of the persecutions Hermas speaks of those who 'were mixed up in business and cleaved not to the saints'; they 'stood aloof... by reason of their business affairs' (Sim.8.8.if.); 'from desire of gain they played the hypocrite' (Sim.9.19.3). 'Some of them' he sees in his vision 'are wealthy and others are entangled in many business affairs'; and the wealthy 'unwillingly cleave to the servants of God, fearing lest they may be asked for something by them' (Sim.9.20.1f.).

Those addressed in Hebrews were also evidently men of possessions (10.34), with a generous record of Christian aid (6.10). But now they have to be told: 'Do not live for money; be content with what you have' (13.5), and 'Share what you have with others' (13.16). The writer's metaphors too seem calculated to appeal to those who thought naturally in terms of profit and loss. God himself is a 'wage-payer' (μισθαποδότης) (11.6), and this word or its cognates appears four times in Hebrews and nowhere else in biblical literature. Moses, he says, had 'his eyes ... fixed upon the coming day of recompense' (ἀπέβλεψεν εἰς τὴν μισθαποδοσίαν), when he reckoned 'the stigma that rests on God's Anointed greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt' (11.26), and the readers are commended for having made the same calculation (10.35). His main metaphor for salvation is drawn not, as with Jesus, from the family, nor, as with Paul, from the courts, but from the world of property: coming into, or getting possession of, an inheritance (1.2,4,14; 6.12, 17; 9.15; 11.71.; 12.17). Even obedience to their leaders is commended in the language of commerce: 'Obey your leaders ... as men who must render an account' (λόγον ἀποδώσοντες). [Cf. Luke 16.2 of the unjust steward; and again Hernias, Vis.3.9.4-10: 'This exclusiveness therefore is hurtful to you that have and do not share with them that are in want. ... Look ye therefore, children, lest these divisions of yours deprive you of life. ... Have peace among yourselves, that I also may ... give an account concerning you all to your Lord'; and Mand. 2.41.] 'Let it be a happy task for them, and not pain and grief, for that would bring you no profit' [ahvoireXes, again, uniquely here in biblical literature) (13.17). We are unlikely to be wrong then in guessing that (not for the first or last time) the Jewish community in Rome had a strong business sense, which was reflected in its Christian members. Their temptation was to allow racial and economic connections to outweigh the commitment of their Christian faith. [We suggested earlier that it was the refusal of the Jewish-Christian businessman Onesiphorus when in Rome to be 'ashamed' to seek out one shut up like a common criminal (II Tim.1.16-18; 2.9) that so impressed Paul.] In W. Manson's phrase, they sought to shelter under the 'protective colouring' of the religio licita of Judaism. [That there was pressure also on Jews throughout the empire at this time (66-70) to close ranks in face of the common enemy in Palestine must certainly have been true, but I fail to find with Nairne, Epistle of Priesthood, 207, evidence of a Palestinian milieu or any specific allusion to the Jewish war. The troubles in Rome are enough to fill the picture.]  Our author's appeal to them is to prefer like Moses (11.25) 'hardship with the people of God' to the solidarities of this world:

Jesus also suffered outside the gate.... Let us then go to him outside the camp, [For possible echoes of the 'synagogue of the Hebrews' and the 'campus Judaeorum' outside the Porta Portese in Rome, cf. Edmundson, The Church in Rome, 155. For the ancient tradition behind the title πρὸς Ἑβραίους, cf. Zahn, ΙΝΤ ΙI, 293-8.] bearing the stigma that he bore. For here we have no permanent home, but we are seekers after the city which is to come (13.12-14).

That the contrast between the two cities, 'here' and 'to come' related to what was for the Roman world 'the city' par excellence  [Cf. the contrast between 'the great city' and 'the heavenly city' of Rev. 16-18 and 21-2. There is also of course the contrast for the writers of both the Apocalypse and the epistle to the Hebrews between the earthly Jerusalem and the heavenly. Paul too makes use of both contrasts: Phil. 3.20; Gal. 4.25f.] is perhaps reinforced by a further interesting passage from the Shepherd of Hermas. Without actually quoting the epistle, he suggests some remarkably parallel ideas. He is again addressing those who are in spiritual danger from excessive material attachments:

Ye know that ye, who are the servants of God, are dwellers in a foreign land; [Cf. Heb. 11.9,13; and if originally also addressed, we have argued, to citizens of Rome, I Peter 1.11, 'I beg you, as aliens in a foreign land'; and later Ep. Diognet. 5f.] for your city is far from this city [i.e. Rome]. If then ye know your city, in which ye shall dwell, why do ye here prepare fields and expensive displays and buildings and dwelling-chambers which are superfluous? He, therefore, that prepareth these things for this city does not purpose to return to his own city. [Cf. Heb. 11.15f.] O foolish and double-minded and miserable man, perceivest thou not that all these things are foreign, and are under the power of another? For the lord of this city shall say, 'I do not wish thee to dwell in my city; go forth from this city, [Cf. Heb. 11.8,10.] for thou dost not conform to my laws.' Thou, therefore, who hast fields and dwellings and many other possessions, when thou art cast out by him, [Cf. Heb. 10.34.]what wilt thou do with thy field and thy house and all the other things that thou preparest for thyself? For the lord of this country saith to thee justly, 'Either conform to my laws, or depart from my country.' What then shalt thou do, who art under law in thine own city? For the sake of thy fields and the rest of thy possessions wilt thou altogether repudiate thy law, and walk according to the law of this city? Take heed, lest it be inexpedient to repudiate thy law; for if thou shouldest desire to return again to thy city, thou shalt surely not be received [because thou didst repudiate the law of thy city], and shalt be shut out from it. Take heed therefore; as dwelling in a strange land prepare nothing more for thyself but a competency which is sufficient for thee, and make ready that, whensoever the master of this city may desire to cast thee out for thine opposition to his law, thou mayest go forth from his city and depart into thine own city, and use thine own law joyfully, free from all insult (Sim.1.1-6).

None of this adds up to proof that Hebrews was addressed to Rome in the late 60s, but if this is so it could possibly throw some light on the curious phrase in 6.6, that those who apostasize 'crucify the Son of God again' (ἀνασταυροῦντας; neb margin). At least this is the translation (rather than simply 'crucify', as non-biblical usage would suggest) which the context seems to demand and which the ancient versions and the Greek fathers support. Without, obviously, being able to demonstrate its historicity, Edmundson makes the interesting suggestion that this may reflect the well-known 'Quo Vadis?' legend about Peter seeking to save his life by leaving the city.

As he went out of the gate he saw the Lord entering Rome; and when he saw him he said, 'Lord, whither (goest thou) here?' And the Lord said to him, 'I am coming to Rome to be crucified.' And Peter said to him, 'Lord, art thou being crucified again?' He said to him 'Yes, Peter, I am being crucified again.' [Acta Petr. 35; Hennecke, NTApoc. II, 317f.]

The solemn words of the author to the Hebrews, says Edmundson, [Op. cit., 153.]

recalling, as they did, the very words which had caused Peter to turn back and welcome martyrdom, would strike home to the hearts and consciences of any waverers that heard them. For the Quo Vadis? story, if in any sense historical, must have been widely known from the first.

Behind this tradition, he suggests, lies the dialogue recorded in John 13.36f.:

Simon Peter said to him, 'Lord, where are you going ?' Jesus replied, 'Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but one day you will.' Peter said, 'Lord, why cannot I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.'

And he adds:

Two questions at once come into the mind: (1) Was the echo of those words haunting Peter's memory when he saw the vision? (2) Did his knowledge of the cause of Peter's voluntary return to death move the Fourth Evangelist to insert those verses in his narrative? Possibly both questions should be answered in the affirmative.


For a further echo is to be found in the allusion to Peter's death by crucifixion in John 21.18f., which we shall have occasion to argue [Pp. 279-82 below.] comes from the period immediately after it. If Hebrews comes from the same period, there is no reason why it too should not carry overtones of the same tradition. Clearly nothing can be built on this, but that the epistle reflects the deaths of Peter and Paul (cf. 13.7) is, as we have seen, on other grounds the most likely hypothesis. Edmundson supposes Paul still to have been alive, but for no good reason that I can see. Some reference to him in Rome would surely have been expected, especially since the author evidently comes from the Pauline circle and gives news of the release of 'our friend' Timothy as of special joy to his readers (13.23).

The precise dating is again hampered by our uncertain knowledge of just when the two apostles died. But as an estimate we suggested 65 for Peter and 66+ for Paul. Unlike the book of Revelation, the epistle to the Hebrews shows no sign of the relief or rejoicing brought by the suicide of Nero in June 68. We may therefore date it tentatively c. 67. [Spicq, Hebreux I, 257-61, also reaches the date of 67, but on the basis of similarities with the gospel apocalypses reflecting, as he supposes, the Jewish war. W. Manson, op. cit., 162-70, who argues for the same destination as we have, plumps for a date of c. 60, on the ground that 12.4 ('You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood') implies that the Neronian persecution had not yet taken place. Yet we know of nothing as early as 60, in Rome or elsewhere, which would account for the grim crisis to which Hebrews alludes. He dismisses the argument that the readers had lain low during the attack: 'Had the group addressed been guilty of such dissembling under the colour of the Jewish religion, it is inconceivable that fuller notice would not have been taken of it by the writer. We should have expected the infamy to resound through every page of his letter' (165). Though 'infamy resounding' may be too strong an expression, it seems to me that this is precisely what we do get.]

The question of authorship, more vexed and elusive here than in the case of any other New Testament document, is in principle separable and does not affect the dating. Yet it is clear that if we do not know who the author was the recipients of the epistle did. His identity is therefore of a piece with the entire situation to which he writes. For the epistle is composed not as an abstract theological discourse but as an urgent pastoral plea. The doctrinal exposition, however impressively argued for its own sake, is set in the context of frequent and extended warnings and encouragements (2.1-4; 3.7-4.11; 4.12-16; 5.11-6.12; 10-19.19-39; 12.1-13.25) born of long spiritual knowledge of and care for his readers, though he makes no claim to have been their only or their original evangelist. And he ends with the hope of being 'restored' to them (13.19). If then any light can be shed on the author, it must help to fill in and confirm the picture of the destination and date.

Origen may have said the last word on the subject when he made his famous remark, 'But who wrote the epistle, in truth. God knows.' [Quoted by Eusebius, HE 6.25.14.] Yet this did not stop him recording guesses, which have persisted into modern times. One of the more intriguing was Harnack's conjecture of Aquila and Priscilla, [A. Harnack, 'Probabilia liber die Addresse und den Verfasser des Hebraerbiefs', ZNW I, 1900, 16-41. It was trenchantly criticized by Zahn soon afterwards (INT II, 3651.), but adopted by Dods, EGT IV, 228, and A. S. Peake, Hebrews, Edinburgh 1914, 36-8.] which sought to make capital out of the alternation between 'we' (2.5; 5.11; 6.1,3,9,11; 13.18) and 'I' (11.32; 13.19,22f.) to designate the author (though why is only one of them planning to make the visit, and which?) and argued that prejudice against women teachers in the church led to the suppression of the names (though why not only others?).  [The writer of 11.32 (διηγούμενον) is certainly masculine.] Much more plausible is Luther's guess of Apollos, [It has also been favoured by, among many others, Zahn, INT11, 356; T. W. Manson, op. cit., 254-8; and Spicq, Hebrews I, 209-19.] which has recently been built by Montefiore [Hebrews, 9-31.] into an argument for a very early date indeed. He believes that Apollos is addressing that section of the Corinthian church which was looking to him as their man (I Cor.1.12; 3.4-6) and that the epistle was written prior to I Corinthians, which lie thinks takes up its arguments. But apart from anything else, the time available is extremely short. Paul, as we have seen, was first in Corinth from late 49 to the latter part of 51. Apollos did not arrive there until after Paul left (Acts 18.24-19.1), let us say, early in 52. If I Corinthians was written in the spring of 55, the epistle to the Hebrews could not have been composed later than 54. While arguments for the time required for development are notoriously subjective, two to three years at most is a very brief period for so much to have happened. It is reasonable to expect that they should by then have progressed from the rudiments of Christianity to maturity and become teachers of others (5.12-6.3), for Paul uses the same argument in I Cor.3.1-4. Instead, however, they have fallen into serious danger of relapse, apostasy and 'all sorts of outlandish teachings'(2.1-13; 3.12-14; 5.11-6.12; 10.23-39; 12.3, 12-17; 13.7-9), of which there is little or no trace in I Corinthians. Above all there is the appeal to 'remember the days gone by' when they were 'newly enlightened' (10.32) when their response to persecution was so different from what it is now. Then we are faced with what we are to make of the 'outcome' of their leaders' life and faith (13.7). A longer perspective seems indicated. Moreover, though the qualifications of Apollos as 'a Jew, ... an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent (or learned) man, powerful in his use of the scriptures' (Acts 18.24) are most attractive, he, no more than Aquila and Priscilla, could as far as we know claim to have had the Christian message confirmed to him by those who had 'heard the Lord' (Heb.2.3) - rather, in fact, the opposite (Acts i8.25f). Moreover, if Apollos had been the author, we might have expected that Clement, who refers to Paul as having in his letter to the Corinthians charged them 'concerning himself and Cephas and Apollos' (I Clem. 47.1), would equally have mentioned Apollos when he quotes his letter. [So Peake, Hebrews, 35f.; W. Manson, op cit., 172.]  The church at Alexandria too would surely have preserved some memory of his association with the epistle as one of its most distinguished scions. Yet Clement of Alexandria and Origen regularly quote it as Paul's and Origen evidently knew of no guess linking it with Apollos. Finally there is nothing in the tradition to connect Apollos with Rome, if that is the situation addressed.

At this point it is worth considering seriously the evidence which Harnack favoured before he had his wild surmise, [Chron., 477-9.]  and which was also supported strongly by Edmundson, [Op. cit., 157-60.] namely, the statement of Tertullian that the author of the epistle was Barnabas. [De pudic. 20. For the text and for further later evidence, cf. Edmundson, 157. A full list of those favouring this view (though overlooking Edmundson!) is given by Spicq, Hebreux, 199f.] They both agree that this is the only attribution ancient or modern that does not ultimately rest upon guesswork. As we have seen, [Pp. 1.13f. above.] Edmundson earlier argued the case [Op. cit., 80-2.] for supposing that Barnabas accompanied Peter on a visit to Rome, after they left Corinth, [Cf. the mention in the same breath in I Cor.9.51. of both Peter and Barnabas as being known to the Corinthians.] following the death of Claudius in October 54. He is also prepared to give credence to the tradition that Barnabas was responsible for the conversion there of Clement. The author of the Clementine Recognitions, usually historically worthless, relates that Clement was converted in Rome by the preaching of Barnabas, who later at Caesarea introduced him to Peter. [Recog. I.7-13.] As Edmundson says,

the object of the author of the 'Recognitions' is to magnify the authority and orthodox teaching of Peter, so that the introduction here of Barnabas, who is never mentioned again, is purely gratuitous, and indeed inexplicable in such a narrative unless the fact recorded were one based on a received and ancient tradition too well known to be ignored. [Op. cit., 81.]

This would help to explain the association of this epistle with Clement, who not only evidently had an early and intimate acquaintance with it but was later one of those surmised, by those in the east who doubted its Paulinity, to have translated it [Eusebius, HE 3.38.1-3.] or even written it. [HE 6.25.14; Jerome, De vir. ill. 15.] But in the west it was known from the beginning not to be Pauline - and therefore not regarded as having apostolic authority  [It is remarkable, as Edmundson says, that Hebrews was never cited by Novatian at Rome or by Cyprian at Carthage in their controversy about the lapsed in the third century, to which 6.2-6 would have been particularly relevant.] or for a long time the right to a place in the canon. [It is implicitly excluded by the Muratorian Canon which speaks of the 'seven' churches to which Paul wrote.]  Tertullian, much as it would have suited him to attribute it to Paul,

quotes the epistle as the work of a man whose credentials are simply that he was a companion and fellow-worker with Apostles. But on the question of authorship there is not a sign that he was making an assertion about which there was any doubt. He assumes that his readers were aware of it and would admit it. In fact as he is inveighing, as a Montanist, against what he regarded as 'the lax discipline of the Church of Rome', he would not be likely to have quoted this passage [Heb. 6.4-6] in support of his argument as written by Barnabas, unless he knew that his opponents would not impugn his assertion. [Edmundson, op. cit., 158. Zahn, INT11, 302f., argues that this was Montanist tradition, but Edmundson's point still stands.]

Edmundson goes on to argue that what the writer himself calls his 'word of exhortation' (13.22) fits admirably this Greek-speaking Cypriot Jew, with relatives in Jerusalem and a Levite by descent. [The special connection of Hebrews with the thought of Philo of Alexandria which is the strongest point of Apollos' claim has of late been questioned, especially since the evidence of its common ground with Essene-type sectarian Judaism has broadened the field. Cf. R. R. Williamson, Philo and the Epistle to the Hebrews, Leiden 1970; and Buchanan, Hebrews.] The nickname given him by the apostles meaning 'son of exhortation' (Acts 4.36), betokens one with a gift for this form of synagogue exposition, [Cf. Acts 13.a, 15; and also 11.23, where at Antioch Barnabas 'exhorted them all to hold fast to the Lord with resolute hearts' - very much the tenor of Hebrews.] or perhaps, as R. O. P. Taylor has argued, [The Groundwork of the Gospels, 115-40.] the 'born' trouble-shooter, the 'one called in'  (παράκλητος) to sort things out. For the letter is both a reprimand and an eirenicon (Heb. 12.14; 13.1, 20), from one who previously had proved himself a natural mediator in the church (Acts 9.26-30; 11.22-30; 15.22-39), with a view to healing a breach that had already inflicted such crippling damage on the Christian community in Rome. If we are right in supposing that one of the main 'roots' of this 'bitterness' (illustrated by the 'worldly-minded' Esau who 'sold his birthright for a single meal'; Heb. 12.15-17) was the temptation to allow business attachments to override Christian associations, Barnabas would have been exceptionally strongly placed to administer rebuke. Not only had he been a leader in a notable act of Christian sharing (Acts 11.291.) to which he calls his readers, [With the phrase διακονήσαντες τοῖς ἁγίους καὶ διακινοῦντες in 6.10 cf. the expressions used by Paul of the collection for the saints at Jerusalem in I Cor.16.15; II Cor.8.4; 9.1,12f. Zahn, INT II, 317, 336, actually supposed the readers had taken part in this collection, but of this there is no evidence, and the present tense indicates a continuing commitment to which the author now recalls them. For the financial implications of κοινωνία in 13.16, cf. Rom.12.13; 15.26f.; II Cor.8.4; 9.13; Gal. 6.6; Phil.4.15; I Tim.6.18.] but from the first he had been prominent among those who had made 'the sacrifice of which God approves' (Heb.13.16), of selling his estate and giving away the entire proceeds (Acts 4.34-7), thereby binding himself to work for his living (I Cor.9.6).

The statement in Heb. 2.3 that 'those who heard [the Lord himself] confirmed it to us', which has quite illegitimately been taken to mean 'a second-generation Christian' [So even Harnack, Chron., 475; Spicq, Hebreux I, 201; and Kummel, INT, 403.] and therefore to argue a post-apostolic date, would suit Barnabas admirably. For he was among those in Jerusalem who had 'heard the message' from the apostles Peter and John (Acts 4.4) and in those pentecostal days had seen it 'confirmed' by God, who, as the writer says, 'added his testimony by signs, by miracles, by manifold works of power, and by distributing the gifts of the Holy Spirit at his own will' (Heb. 2.4).  Moule [Birth of the NT, 76.] makes the same point, but applies it to Stephen. But I confess I do not see the close connection with the movement and theology of Stephen, for which W. Manson in particular argued. [Op. cit., ch.2. Here I would agree with Kummel, INT, 402, when he says 'there is not even more than occasional contact with the speech of Stephen in Acts 7'.] Our author belongs to the Pauline circle, as the traditional attribution of his epistle attests, and as the reference to Timothy as his travelling companion shows (13.23). Yet Paul is not mentioned.  Moreover, Timothy has apparently been in prison. We seem to be in a situation later than that of I and II Timothy or Philippians, for otherwise we might have expected this to be listed in Timothy's 'record ... in the service of the Gospel' (Phil. 2.22). Where too the writer is we cannot tell, unless indeed it be (as Montefiore argued) in the Ephesus area, where both Apollos and Priscilla (included among 'those from Italy'?) and Timothy were last heard of (II Tim. 4.9-19). But that on our reckoning was nearly ten years earlier. Meanwhile the mantle of the Apostle has in part fallen upon the writer himself. He can address his readers with a pastoral authority superior to that of their own leaders and with a conscience clear of local involvement (Heb. 13.171.), and yet with no personal claim to apostolic aegis. There cannot have been too many of such men around. With the entirely proper desire of the church to see that his work had a place in the canon, the crucial test of apostolicity subsequently required its ascription to Paul himself - though the churches of the west that knew it best knew otherwise. In compensation perhaps he himself became credited with that equally anonymous but much inferior homily on the same theme which we now know as the Epistle of Barnabas. [For an instructive comparison and contrast, cf. Westcott, Hebrews, Ixxx-bcxxiv.]

Yet the date and occasion of the epistle to the Hebrews are ultimately independent of this or any other hypothesis of authorship, and for the purpose of our argument nothing hangs upon it. Whoever wrote it, it seems to belong to that uneasy interval between the deaths of Peter and Paul and that of Nero which will be directly relevant also to the dating of the two major books of the New Testament still outstanding, the Apocalypse and the gospel of St John, to which finally we must turn.



The Book of Revelation




the book of Revelation is unique among the New Testament writings in being dated in early tradition. Considering the large number of external testimonies to authorship, this fact alone is remarkable; though considering also how varied is the weight that can be attached to the testimonies to authorship, there is no good reason to suppose that this fact alone settles the issue. As always, the external testimony is only as strong as the internal and must be assessed critically. For what it is worth, however, the credit of this witness is good. Irenaeus, himself a native of Asia Minor, who claims to have known Polycarp who knew John, [Adv. haer. 3.3.4, quoted Eusebius, HE 4.14.3-8; Letter to Florinus, quoted HE 5. 20.4-8.] writes in c. 180+ - with regard to the name of the Beast in Rev.13.18:

If it had been necessary that his name should be publicly proclaimed at the present season, it would have been uttered by him who saw the Apocalypse. For it was seen no such long time ago, but almost in our own generation, at the end of the reign of Domitian. [Adv. haer. 5.30.3. Tr. Hort, Apocalypse, xivf.]

This is twice quoted by Eusebius, [HE 3.18.2f.; 5.8.6.] who supplies us with the original Greek. The translation has been disputed by a number of scholars, [E.g. F. H. Chase, 'The Date of the Apocalypse: The Evidence of Irenaeus', JTS 8, 1907, 431-5. For other references, going back to J.J. Wettstein, Novum Testamentum Graecum, Amsterdam 1751, II, 746, cf. Moffatt, ILNT, 505; also Edmundson, The Church in Rome, 164f.] on the ground that it means that he (John) was seen; but this is very dubious. [In favour of it is the fact that earlier (Adv. haer. 5.30.1) Irenaeus has been appealing for the correct text of the number 666 to the testimony of 'those who have seen John face to face', and this is cited in the immediately preceding para­graph by Eusebius in HE 5.8.5 - though Eusebius himself evidently takes it to refer to the date of the book in HE 3.18.3f. Against it is the fact that Irenaeus twice says that John lived to the reign of Trajan, and not merely Domitian (Adv. haer. 2.22.5; 3.3.4; quoted Eusebius, HE 3.23.3f.). The Greek is much more naturally taken to refer to the Apocalypse than the person. Moreover the Latin translation ('visum') is definitely against the person, though if referring to the Apocalypse it should be 'visa'. 'Visum' would have to refer to the 'nomen' of the Beast. Chase rather weakly argues that it is a corruption of 'visus'.] One must assume that Irenaeus believed the Apocalypse to have come from c. 95, although unlike Eusebius he does not link it with Domitian's persecution nor specifically with his fourteenth year, of which Eusebius's Chronicle records: 'Persecution of Christians and under him the apostle John is banished to Patmos and sees his Apocalypse, as Irenaeus says.'

But before accepting this date at its face value one must recognize that Irenaeus is making three statements:

  1. that the author of the Apocalypse and of the fourth gospel are one and the same person;

  2. that this person is the apostle John; and

  3. that the Apocalypse was seen at the end of Domitian's reign.

There are few scholars who would accept all three statements, and many who would reject both the first two. Hort was able to accept the first two only because he rejected the third: 'It would be easier to believe that the Apocalypse was written by an unknown John than that both books belong alike to John's extreme old age.' [Apocalypse, xl.] We may leave the question of authorship till we come to the relation of Revelation to the other Johannine writings. But whatever the relationship, it is difficult to credit that a work so vigorous as the Apocalypse could really be the product of a nonagenarian, as John the son of Zebedee must by then have been, even if he were as much as ten years younger than Jesus. So if Irenaeus' tradition on authorship is strong, his tradition on dating is weakened, and vice versa.

Even more difficult to attach to a Domitianic date is the tradition which Eusebius goes on to quote from Clement of Alexandria: [Quis div. salv.? 42.1-15; Eusebius, HE 3.23.5-19.]

When on the death of the tyrant he removed from the island of Patmos to Ephesus, he used to go off, when requested, to the neighbouring districts of the Gentiles also, to appoint bishops in some places, to organize whole churches in others, in others again to appoint to an order some one of those who were indicated by the Spirit.

To illustrate the last Clement then tells the tale of a young man whom John persuaded the local bishop to sponsor and bring up as his protege. The story covers a number of years, over which this youth went to the bad, and it ends with the apostle going to visit him on horseback and then chasing him 'with all his might'! All this is inconceivable after 96. Clement, however, nowhere mentions the name of 'the tyrant'. He could have been an earlier emperor: it is only Eusebius who identifies him with Domitian.

This is not of course to say that Eusebius was the source of this identification. Apart from quoting Irenaeus, he refers to 'the record of our ancient men' [HE 3.20.8f.] (i.e. in all probability the Memoirs of Hegesippus) [Cf. Lawlor and Oulton, op. cit., II, ad loc.] for the tradition that 'the apostle John also took up his abode once more at Ephesus after his exile' under Domitian's successor Nerva. Moreover Victorinus [In Apoc. 10.11.],  who antedates Eusebius, says that John was 'condemned to the mines in Patmos by Domitian Caesar' where he saw his Apocalypse, which he published after being released upon the death of the emperor.

Yet the identification is by no means solid. Clement's disciple Origen writes in his Commentary on Matthew  [In Matt. 20.22.] that 'the emperor of the Romans, as tradition teaches, condemned John to the isle of Patmos', adding that John does not say who condemned him. This does not of course prove that Origen did not know, but the absence of a name is again to be noted, especially since Origen does name Herod as having beheaded John's brother James.

The fact that the condemnation is seen as the direct act of the emperor may link up with the tradition preserved earlier by Tertullian  [Praescr. 36.3.] that John's banishment was from Rome, [More vaguely but in the same sense Hippolytus, De Chr. et Antichr. 36, speaks of 'Babylon' having exiled him.] where Peter suffered a death like his Master [i.e., crucifixion], where Paul was crowned with the death of John [the Baptist] [i.e., execution],where the apostle John, after being plunged in burning oil and suffering nothing, was banished to an island. ['Ubi Paulus Johannis exitu coronatur.' The translation follows that of P. de Labriolle in Tertullian, Praescr., ed., R. F. Refoule (Sources Chretiennes 46), Pans I957, which gives excellent sense. F. Oehler, ed., Leipzig 1854, ad loc., refers to his note on Scorp. 9 for the fact that in Tertullian 'exitus' regularly means death'. For a strong defence of Tertullian's reliability at this point by a fellow lawyer, cf. K. A. Eckhardt, Der Tod des Johannes, Berlin 1961, 73-9. I am grateful again to Bammel for calling my attention to this strange but erudite book.]

This is the only association in ancient tradition of John with Rome. Jerome [Contra Jovin. 1.26.] in quoting the passage interprets Tertullian to mean that John's suffering, like that of Peter and Paul, occurred under Nero - despite his own acceptance from Eusebius' Chronicle of the Domitianic date. [De sir. ill. 9.]

Epiphanius, a contemporary of Jerome's, whom Hort [Apocalypse, xviii.] describes as 'a careless and confused writer but deeply read in early Christian literature', refers to John's banishment and prophecy as having taken place under 'Claudius Caesar' [Haer. 51.12 and 33.] - though he also seems to imply that Claudius was emperor in John's extreme old age!  Whatever Epiphanius may have meant, it has been credibly argued that his source may have intended Nero, whose other name was Claudius (just as Claudius' other name was Nero). For what it is worth, both the title to the Syriac version of Revelation  [J. Gwynn (ed.). The Apocalypse of St John in a Syriac Version hitherto Unknown, Dublin 1897, I.] and the History of John, the Son of Zebedee in Syriac  [W. Wright (ed.), Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles, 1871, II, 55-7. It is of course historically worthless but Interesting at this and other points (see below, pp. 2581.) as an alternative and apparently independent tradition.] say that it was Nero who banished John.

Hort, who surveys the evidence with scrupulous fairness, sums up as follows: [Apocalypse, xixf. For similar surveys, cf. Zahn, INT III, 201f.; A. S. Peake, The Revelation of John, 1919, 71-7; E. B. Allo, L'Apocalypse, Paris 31933, ccxxii-ccxxix.]

We find Domitian and Nero both mentioned, as also an emperor not named. The matter is complicated by the manner in which St John is brought to Rome, or his banishment referred to the personal act of the emperor. It is moreover peculiarly difficult to determine the relation of the legend of the boiling oil to the Roman tradition of a banishment from Rome. On the one hand the tradition as to Domitian is not unanimous; on the other it is the prevalent tradition, and it goes back to an author likely to be the recipient of a true tradition on the matter, who moreover connects it neither with Rome nor with an emperor's personal act. If external tradition alone could decide, there would be a clear preponderance for Domitian.

Yet, despite this, Hort, together with Lightfoot [J. B. Lightfoot, Biblical Essays (in lectures of 1867-72), 52; Essays on the Work entitled Supernatural Religion, 1889, 132. Even the author attacked in the latter book agreed this date to be 'universally accepted by all competent critics'.] and Westcott, [B. F. Westcott, The Gospel according to St John, 1882, Ixxxvii.] none of whom can be accused of sitting light to ancient tradition, still rejected a Domitianic date in favour of one between the death of Nero in 68 and the fall of Jerusalem in 70. It is indeed a little known fact that this was what Hort calls [Apocalypse, x.] 'the general tendency of criticism' for most of the nineteenth century, and Peake cites the remarkable consensus of 'both advanced and conservative scholars' who backed it. [Revelation, 70. It must have been one of the few things on which Baur and Lightfoot agreed! He quotes Harnack as having to plead in defence of the Domitianic date in a review of 1882 'that the ancient tradition as to the origin of the Book is perhaps not entirely to be surrendered'. W. H. Simcox, Revelation, Cambridge 1893, li, sums up the position at that time by saying, 'Most critics are disposed to admit both St John's authorship of Revelation and its early date. In England, indeed, many, perhaps most, orthodox commentators still adhere to the Irenaean or traditional date.' He has to urge that the early date should not be rejected just because it is espoused by the radicals! But it was rapidly losing ground, though still advocated by E. C. Selwyn (father of the commentator on I Peter) in The Authorship of the Apocalypse, Cambridge 1900, and The Christian Prophets and the Prophetic Apocalypse, 1900, despite his denying unity of authorship with the fourth gospel (though not with II and III John!). In 1908 Sanday in his preface to Hort's commentary, iv, asked: 'Will not this powerful restatement of an old position compel us to reconsider the verdict to which the present generation of scholars appears to be tending?'] Since then the pendulum has swung completely the other way. In his learned and exhaustive commentary [R. H. Charles, Revelation (ICC), 1920,1, xciii.] Charles never even alludes to Hort's presentation of the case for an early dating, and in the course of my investigations I have not come across a single modern New Testament scholar who comes down in favour of it - apart from Torrey, and now most recently and eccentrically J. Massyngberde Ford. [J. Massyngberde Ford, Revelation (Anchor Bible), New York 1975. She thinks that, with the exception of the Christian addition of chs. 1-3, it was composed between 60 and 70 by a disciple of John the Baptist on the basis of a revelation (chs. 4-11) given to John before the public ministry of Jesus! Grant, INT, 237, is prepared to say 'a situation between 68 and 70 is not excluded', and Bruce tells me that he now inclines in this direction.] Yet though the theologians may have forsaken it, the classicists have not. It was powerfully argued by Henderson, in his classic study of the reign of Nero [Nero, 439-43.], and he reaffirmed his belief in it many years later, [B. W. Henderson, Five Roman Emperors, Cambridge 1927,45.] commending and endorsing the strong statement of the same thesis by Edmundson  [The Church in Rome, 164-79.1 owe my discovery of Edmundson to Henderson's reference - though even he spelt his name wrong!] which had appeared in the interval. It was also accepted by A. D. Momigliano in the Cambridge Ancient History  [Cambridge Ancient History X, Cambridge 1934, 726.] and A. Weigall in his biographical study of Nero. [A. Weigall, Nero: Emperor of Rome, 1930, 298f.] It has also commended itself recently to the distinguished German jurist K. A. Eckhardt. [Op. cit., 58-72.]  It will not perhaps therefore be inappropriate to argue the question of date by examining again the strength of this case against those who have dismissed it, or more often ignored it. [An intermediate dating in the reign of Vespasian has been argued by a few, e.g. C. A. Anderson Scott, Revelation, Edinburgh 1905 (c.77); Michaelis, Einleitung, 315-19 (possibly 80+); S. Giet, L''Apocalypse et l' histoire, Paris 1957 (74-5). But this seems to get the worst of both the external and the internal evidence.]

In turning to the evidence supplied by the book itself, we may consider first the historical and geographical situation which occasioned its writing. This demands to be considered under two heads. First there is the situation presupposed by chs.1-3, together with the coda of 22.6-21; and secondly there is the situation presupposed by the main body of the book, the visions of 4.1-22.5. In the former the scene is set in Asia Minor; in the latter the focus, in so far as it is upon earth at all, is in Rome and to a lesser extent in Jerusalem.

In this the book of Revelation corresponds to what we observed in I Peter. There we argued that while the opening and closing verses were directed towards the recipients of the epistle in Asia Minor, the background for understanding the homiletic material which makes it up was to be located rather in Rome. In fact the parallels between these documents are instructive. Both are dominated by a political situation that calls for the symbolic pseudonym of 'Babylon' and by an eschatological situation that compels the hope that the consummation cannot now be long delayed (I Peter 4.7; Rev.1.7; 3.11; 22.6f.,12,20). Both also presuppose that persecution has gone a good deal further in Rome than in Asia. Yet there are differences too. The area of Asia Minor is different, northern in I Peter, western in Revelation; and the author of the latter clearly reveals an informed personal acquaintance with place and circumstance of which the author of the former shows no sign. Above all the whole situation is considerably further advanced. In I Peter the judgment is only now beginning with the household of God, even in Rome (4.17); in Revelation Babylon is already gorged with the blood of the apostles and prophets and people of God (16.6; etc.). In Asia Minor too things have clearly gone beyond the verbal abuse that in I Peter mainly characterized the attack on Christians - though still in Revelation the pressure for some consists of slander, with the suffering (confined to a symbolic ten days in jail) yet to come (2.91.); and in all the churches there is as yet but one martyr to record (2.13). But what has decisively changed is the attitude to the state - from one of guarded reverence to one of open hostility. Yet there is nothing here so far to demand an interval of more than a few years the other side of that fiery ordeal which Peter had already recorded as starting (4.12) and which we saw good reason to identify with the Neronian progrom of 65.

A further instructive parallel is provided by the situation presupposed in Jude and II Peter, which we gave grounds for supposing to be addressed to Jewish Christians in some part of Asia Minor in 61-2. At that time indeed there was no hint of persecution, but there was plenty of evidence of insidious attack from gnosticizing, Judaizing heretics who were making false claims to leadership of the church and were scoffing at the Christian hope. We have already seen that the nearest parallels both for the gnosticizing tendencies and for the eschatological teaching in these epistles is not with second-century literature but with other New Testament writings to be dated in the late 50s and 60s - and with the book of Revelation. The themes in common with the last are sufficiently striking to merit more extended treatment.

In both, the false teachers are accused of the error of Balaam (Jude 11; II Peter 2.15; Rev.2.14), which in Revelation is closely associated with the teaching of the Nicolaitans (2.6,15). In both Christians are described as being lured into immorality (II Peter 2.14, 18; 3.17; Rev.2.20), into contaminating their clothing (Jude 23; Rev.3.4), and into disowning their Master (Jude 4; II Peter 2.1; Rev.2.13). There is the same contrast between the true and false γνῶσις (Jude 8; II Peter i.2f., 16; Rev. 2.17,24). The heretical teachers are claiming to be shepherds and apostles of Christ's flock (Jude 1.1f.; Rev.2.2), and there is a similar appeal to remember the teaching of the true apostles (Jude 17; II Peter 1.12; 3.if.; Rev.3.3), who are the foundation of the church and of its faith (Jude 3; Rev.21.14). The eschatological symbolism too shows remarkable parallels, with the day of Christ being likened not only, as in the common Christian tradition, to the thief (II Peter 3.10; Rev.3.3; 16.15) but uniquely in these two documents to the morning star (II Peter 1.19; Rev. 2.28; 22.16). In both the existing heavens and earth disappear (II Peter 3.10; Rev. 6.14; 16.20; 20.11) to be replaced by new (II Peter 3.13; Rev.21.1); in both the fallen angels are chained in the depths of hell (Jude 6; II Peter 2.4; Rev.20.1-3, 7), and appeal is made to the theme of a thousand years (II Peter 3.8; Rev.20.2-7).

All this could doubtless have come from almost any period, and if II Peter and Jude are not early the argument falls. Yet there is good reason to suppose that the Apocalypse too presupposes a time when the final separation of Christians and Jews had not yet taken place. For is it credible that the references in Rev.2.9 and 3.9 to those who claim to be Jews but are not' could have been made in that form after 70? For the implication is that Christians are the real Jews, the fullness of the twelve tribes (7.4-8; 21.12), and that if these Jews were genuinely the synagogue of Yahweh (as they claim) and not of Satan they would not be slandering 'my beloved people'. Even by the time of the Epistle of Barnabas, [For the date of this, cf. pp. 313-9 below.] which, unlike the book of Revelation, clearly presupposes the destruction of the temple (16.1-4) and the irrevocable divide between 'them' and 'us' (cf. ἡ διαθήκη εἰς ἡμᾶς ἣ εἰς ἐκείνους), such language is no longer possible. Hort makes this point in his commentary on Rev. 2.9, but I have not noticed anyone else who does - apart again from Torrey. [Apocalypse, 82f.] If it is valid, it helps to confirm that the remainder of this language belongs, as we argued earlier, to this same period.

The most noticeable feature in the account of what has actually been suffered by the churches of Asia, or is immediately likely to be, is the absence of any clear reference to the imperial cult, which pervades the rest of the book. There is nothing in the warnings and encouragements given to the congregations that requires us to pre­suppose more than Jewish harassment, the action of local magistrates, and general pagan corruption. Even in Pergamon, which is stated to be 'Satan's throne' (2.13), there is no compelling evidence that the allusion is to emperor-worship. In so far as Satan is characteristically for this writer 'the old serpent' (12.9; 20.2), the allusion may well be to the snake-worship associated with the shrine of Asclepius, of which the city was a centre.