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Wasn’t the New Testament Written in the 2nd Century?

“Don, I’ve read that the New Testament was written years, even generations, after the first century, and that it couldn’t have been written by Jesus’ disciples.”

“I’ve read that too.  And that’s what I remember being taught by a pastor when I was a teenager.”

“So is that what you believe now?  Or, do you believe that the New Testament was written in the first century?”

“I do, for a couple of main reasons.  First, we have a fragment of the Gospel of John that dates to the early second century.  Scholars say that the fragment was a part of a larger manuscript written no later than 130 AD.  It was found in 1917 and made public in 1935.  Because it was produced in Ephesus, but found in Egypt, it was therefore made from an even earlier manuscript.  Bruce Metzger, the late professor of New Testament at Princeton, writes that if that fragment had been discovered 50 years earlier, the claim that the Gospels were written generations later would have never been made.”

“I never knew about that.”

“The second reason is that early Christian leaders quoted the New Testament.  You can’t quote what hasn’t been written.  And when I say early, I mean around the end of the first century and the beginning of the second.”

“Like who?”

“Around 100 AD, Barnabas and Clement of Rome quoted the New Testament several times.  Ignatius of Antioch, who died in about 107 AD, cited the New Testament many times.  He even quotes from the first chapter of the Gospel of John ‘And the Word became flesh.”   As a teenager, I was taught that the New Testament was written in the late second century or even later, and that the Gospel of John was the most doubted of all.  But these writers are already quoting it around 100 AD.  You can’t quote what doesn’t exist.  So, I guess those would be two reasons that I think the New Testament was composed early.”

“So you really think that it was written by the followers of Jesus, who lived when He did?”

“Yes, I think so.  Some, like Mark and Luke, were written by men who traveled and associated with the disciples.  And their writings also were accepted by the early Christians as true and authoritative.”

“Wow.  That makes a big difference.  To think that these books were actually written by those who lived at the time of Jesus…very cool.”

References: John 15:27; I John 1:1-3

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