Dating and authorship of the gospels
Confidence in the historical accuracy of these documents depends partly on whether they were written by eyewitnesses and contemporaries to the events described, as many New Testament texts claim.
Some critical scholars have attempted to strengthen their contentions by separating the actual events from the writings by as much time as possible.
We wish this series to help everyone understand the process of the Bible's history as a document and why we can have confidence in its message. Albright had previously written, in light of archaeological discoveries (his area of scholarly expertise), that [t]hanks to the Qumran discoveries [the Dead Sea Scrolls], the New Testament proves to be in fact what it was formerly believed to be: the teaching of Christ and his immediate followers between circa 25 and circa 80 A. Interestingly, Albrights assessment is not unique among unlikely sources of such assessments.
This is especially so given the climate of society today and its attitudes toward the Bible. Almost a half-century ago, when I first began to think seriously about various controversies over the dating and authorship of New Testament documents, one of the first things I encountered was this then-newly-minted comment by one of the worlds leading archaeologists, William F. While that comment was made a few years before his death in an interview in the evangelical magazine, Christianity Today, it was by no means a spur-of-the moment interjection common in interviews. What I have learned since encountering Albrights comment has only caused me to see more clearly why this accomplished archaeologist said what he did.
For this reason radical scholars (for example, the Jesus Seminar) argue for late first century or even second century dates for the original manuscripts. Sherwin White has demonstrated, using documents from antiquity even less well-attested and with much wider composition-to-earliest-copy spans than the New Testament documents, even two generations are too short a span to allow the mythical tendency to prevail over the hard historic core of the oral tradition (Sherwin-White, 190).