Destruction of Jerusalem and John


All of the Apostle John’s earliest writings, gospel and letters, were completed after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, so how is it that he never mentions it, other than possibly in the book of Revelation?


It is not universally accepted among scholars that all of his writings are after 70AD. Some such as Jeff Cavins believe that Revelation was written in 64 AD.

I’m going to sit back and watch the arguments now. :cool:



Care to join me?



The real answer is because it wasn’t relative to the subject about which the author was writing.

***John’s Gospel ***is about Jesus. John’s letters are about knowing true doctrine, how to recognize false teachers and false teaching, and about idol worship. The Book of Revelation was written to seven churches struggling with persecution because they refused to engage in emperor worship and the message was that if they persevered to the end they would be saved. None of these have to do with the temple.

The only book where I see the question as valid is the Letter to the Hebrews. The question can rightly be asked of this book because it deals directly with the issues of temple worship, the priesthood and sacrifice. The Sacra Pagina commentary places it’s authorship at 74AD.



You’ve got to place faith in Eusebius.


I don’t know; this to me sounds like an argument from silence. Andreas Köstenberger said it best: “While it must be frankly acknowledged that the destruction of the temple is not explicitly mentioned in John’s gospel, the fact remains that John is a rather subtle writer who regularly chooses not to refer di rectly to important events (such as Jesus’ baptism by John or the institution of the Lord’s supper) but opts instead for more indirect strategies of bringing out the theological significance of certain incidents. On balance, therefore, the lack of direct reference to the destruction of the temple in John’s gospel ought to be taken neither as evidence that it had not yet occurred nor as evidence that it had.” (‘The Destruction of the Second Temple and the Composition of the Fourth Gospel’)

Speaking of which, the synoptics don’t mention the destruction of Jerusalem either, strictly speaking; I mean, they drop hints, but the event is never directly related.


Well said. I look at it another way: John in his Gospel does not mention the destruction of the Temple. This could mean that the Temple had not yet been destroyed when he wrote (more likely dictated) his gospel. It could equally mean that by the time he wrote/dictated his Gospel, it had been so many years since the Temple had been destroyed that making mention of that fact was no longer relevant.


I don’t have a strong opinion on the dating of the Gospel of John, but I remember reading one of the fathers somewhere(cant remember) mentioning that both St Ignatius and St Peter were auditors of St Johns gospel. If St Ignatius was an auditor, i would tend think the date must have been later since he wasn’t Bishop of Antioch until after the fall. He probably did not have the authority to do such a thing as audit a Gospel before heading the Petrine See of Antioch.


To be fair, some scholars starting from Rudolf Bultmann do propose that the gospel of John as we know it underwent at least two stages. They propose that there was an ‘original’ proto-gospel (sometimes dubbed the ‘signs source’ or ‘signs gospel’), which was written somewhere before the destruction of Jerusalem, maybe by the beloved disciple himself (John?) Later, other people (John’s disciples?) adapted the ‘signs source’, edited it and added in new material, resulting in the canonical gospel of John.

This ‘signs source’ is almost like the phantom ‘Q’ (Logienquellelogia/sayings source’) proposed for the synoptics in that since we have no copy of it, there is a whole range of opinion as to what the ‘signs gospel’ originally read like: was it just a collection of miracle stories or ‘signs’ by Jesus? Or was it a ‘full’ gospel with a passion and resurrection story? Unlike Q though, Johnannine scholars in general are kind of more skeptical in accepting the notion of a written ‘signs source’, or at least, that the author simply passively ‘copied’ from his source, because as mentioned, nobody can agree on what it may have looked like, and also, the supposed material was edited so extensively that they’re really indistinguishable from the rest of the gospel. If ‘John’ (i.e. the author of the present form of the gospel) did use sources he has so reworked them that no one can discern which were sources and which were his own material.


The difficult thing about Hebrews is, the author is not so much concerned with the Herodian temple. Rather, he deals with the desert tabernacle and argues exegetically from biblical data. In other words, the author was not drawing so much about what was actually done in the Herodian temple, but what he read from the OT was done in the tabernacle. In other words, he was envisioning an ideal, ‘biblical’ world, which does not correspond exactly with the ‘real’ world. Thus his references to the Jewish sacrificial cult in the present tense (9:6-10; 10:1-4) don’t mean much: Josephus (75-90s), Clement of Rome (90s), and the Mishnah (2nd century) all spoke of the temple in the present tense, but they wrote only after it was already destroyed. (And then there’s the lack of any mention of the destruction of Jerusalem: as with the gospels, it’s a weak argument from silence.)

The only possibly real indicator in the text is the reference to persecutions the community has experienced (10:32-34), the reference to Timothy’s release (13:23 - not you! :D), and hints about the audience being the second or third generation of Christians (2:3; 13:7).


JMM1957 #1
All of the Apostle John’s earliest writings, gospel and letters, were completed after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, so how is it that he never mentions it, other than possibly in the book of Revelation?

Incorrect, as very revealing is The Hebrew Christ, by Claude Tresmontant, Franciscan Herald Press, 1989, on the origins and dating of the Gospels. As Bishop John Charles Thomas writes in the foreword: “There is nothing in the least unscientific in postulating that there was only a brief period of oral transmission before some of the Gospel materials began to be set down.”

The works of Jean Carmignac, John A. T. Robinson, and Claude Tresmontant mainly date the NT books prior to A.D. 70, with some of them written in the 30s.

Even Adolf von Harnack, a rationalist historian of high repute among Rationalist and Protestants, wrote that the Synoptic Gospels were written before 70 A.D. – before the fall of Jerusalem, and accepted the tradition that St Luke derived his information on the infancy of Jesus from Mary His Mother. Theologische Quartalsch, Tubingen 1929, IV, p 443-4].
[See Sheehan/Joseph, *Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine, 2002, p 89, 93]

Tresmontant shows in 318 pages, that “all four of the Gospels, as well as some of the other New Testament books, were evidently translations into Greek from earlier texts originally composed in Hebrew.” (p 319). Others agreeing include Jean Carmignac, Greek linguist John Wenham, and the earliest being Anglican Bishop John Robinson.


, 2002, p 89, 93]

To be precise, Harnack’s position was: “internal indications…place no impediment in the way of assigning St Mark at the latest to the sixth decade of the first century, as is required by the date we have assigned to St Luke” - in other words, somewhere before the 60s. He didn’t give much reason for dating Mark pre-70 other than Mark 13. (This is an argument also used by other scholars who date Mark to the mid-60s.)

He was more compelled to give an early date for Mark and the synoptics in general since he argued that Luke-Acts must have been written before Paul died in the mid-60s. He basically used the stock argument from silence regarding Acts: y’know, Luke doesn’t write about Paul’s death or about Nero’s persecution, so… :wink: Harnack considers Matthew to be the last of the synoptics, being written in the 70s.

So in Harnack’s scenario: Mark comes first (latest possible date: 60s), followed by Luke-Acts (AD 62, during Paul’s Roman captivity), followed by Matthew (early 70s). (To be more precise, Harnack started giving increasingly earlier dates: at first, Harnack dated Acts to the 80s, then to 65, and finally to 62.) Harnack subscribed to the two-source hypothesis: so Luke and Matthew used Mark as well as a second source, Q. In fact, Harnack held Q (which he described as “a collection of speeches and sayings of Jesus with an almost exclusively Galilean horizon”) to be more ‘authentic’ than Mark’s gospel.

(For a little historical context, Harnack was specifically combating the radical proposal by the Tübingen School of theology (which was one of his influences) which tended to date the NT books very late by modern standards, well into the 2nd century - and consider much of them to be historically ‘unreliable’. Harnack’s push for an early date for Luke-Acts - and with it, the other synoptics - tried to give the gospels more weight as historical sources.)

As for Luke’s sources, what Harnack actually says is not so much that Luke’s source for the infancy narratives was indeed Mary, but that Luke may have regarded this story as ultimately deriving from Mary. (Harnack struggled with this idea a bit, since he also thought that since Jesus’ family did not believe in Him during His lifetime the story could not have come into its present form until after Mary’s death.) Of course, Luke did not simply copy the story wholesale: in Harnack’s opinion, the canticles (the Benedictus and the Magnificant) were invented by Luke.

(Harnack did notice that a good number of the traditions unique to Luke have a feminine bent in them and suggested that Luke heard these traditions from Philip the Evangelist and especially from his four prophesying daughters. This is one of Harnack’s theories you can still occasionally hear today, especially from feminist commentators.)

Finally, Harnack (admittedly like many early modern German scholars of his time) rejected John’s gospel as of little to no historical value regarding the historical Jesus.

“In particular, the fourth Gospel, which does not emanate or profess to emanate from the apostle John, cannot be taken as an historical authority in the ordinary meaning of the word. The author of it acted with sovereign freedom, transposed events and put them in a strange light, drew up the discourses himself, and illustrated great thoughts by imaginary situations. Although, therefore, his work is not altogether devoid of a real, if scarcely recognisable, traditional element, it can hardly make any claim to be considered an authority for Jesus’ history; only little of what he says can be accepted, and that little with caution. On the other hand, it is an authority of the first rank for answering the question, What vivid views of Jesus’ person, what kind of light and warmth, did the Gospel disengage?”


, 2002, p 89, 93]

Tresmontant shows in 318 pages, that “all four of the Gospels, as well as some of the other New Testament books, were evidently translations into Greek from earlier texts originally composed in Hebrew.” (p 319). Others agreeing include Jean Carmignac, Greek linguist John Wenham, and the earliest being Anglican Bishop John Robinson.

Just to clarify, the source that I happened to use about the dating of the NT books said that it was probable that John wrote after the temple destruction, but obviously that source was not very accurate as most replies seem to think otherwise. I would have to agree with what others said also about the writings being much earlier, makes more sense.


The push for late dating in “modern scholarship” corresponds to the liberal political upsurge and the rise in feminism.

Basically, the purpose is to undermine the foundations of Christianity. The later the Gospels can be dated, the more they can be questioned.

But nothing intrinsic to the Gospels and ACTS places them other than before the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70.

In fact, the relatively recent discovery of the Delphic inscriptions support the writing of Acts to the A.D. 60’s.


Steve, three words: Tübingen is dead. Your criticism would only really be applicable to the Tübingen School, but it’s been dead for more than a hundred years, and even its radical proposal of putting all of the gospels to the 2nd century was not accepted by many scholars of its time.

Nobody, not even serious ‘liberal’ scholars would seriously try to push for a late dating of the gospels anymore (even the conventional date of 70s-100s is not ‘late’), not that now we have earlier papyri.

But nothing intrinsic to the Gospels and ACTS places them other than before the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70.

I think it’s more fair to say that there’s really little to nothing in the gospels and Acts that would establish the precise date of their composition. (Aside from arguments from silence.)

In fact, the relatively recent discovery of the Delphic inscriptions support the writing of Acts to the A.D. 60’s.

The Delphi Inscription helps pin a date on Paul’s ministry. Not the writing of Acts.


I think the only real hurdle regarding chronology is the lack of acceptance among many moderns (not just scholars) of the supernatural.

There is this concept of vaticinium (plural vaticinia) ex eventu, ‘prophecy from/after the event’: where a ‘prophecy’ is written after the author already had information about the events he was ‘foretelling’. In other words, the author writes the ‘prophecy’ as if it had taken place before the event, when in fact it was written after the events supposedly predicted.

One of the reasons why many academics tend to date Matthew and Luke at least to a post-70 period (mid-70s-90s) is precisely because they think the predictions of the siege of Jerusalem attributed to Jesus in those gospels were ‘prophecies after the event’ put into Jesus’ mouth. They think the versions in those gospels are suspiciously so specific that they think both gospels were really written after Jerusalem was destroyed. (Mark on the other hand is where some scholars cut some slack: they’d argue that the version of the predictions in Mark are not as suspiciously specific as in Matt or Luke, so it could very well be written slightly before AD 70.)

But those who believe in the supernatural / genuine prophecy (or at least, those who could accept that Jesus really did utter those prophecies, the existence or non-existence of the supernatural notwithstanding) do not need to be bound by this idea of ‘prophecy after the event’, and with it, the idea of a post-70 date for Matthew or Luke. (Note: this isn’t an automatic guarantee that the synoptics are all pre-70, or that the post-70 dates are invalid. It simply means that there is nothing that would prevent someone from assigning a pre-70 date. Both possibilities - pre-70 and post-70 - would carry equal weight.*)

In other words, if we suppose that the current accepted range of the dates of the gospels are mid-60s/70s to the 80s/90s, by removing the obstacle of vaticinium ex eventu we will just broaden the range to the 50s-60s (the ‘safest’ early date) to the 80s/90s. In other words, you could conceivably place the gospels anywhere within that range.

But, eliminating the idea of vaticinium ex eventu from the equation is not a sure guarantee that the synoptics are written in the 50s/60s, only that we’ve pushed the so-called terminus ante quem (aka the earliest possible date) much earlier. See what I mean? We haven’t solved the problem; on the contrary, we’ve just complicated matters by making the date range broader.

  • Even if we hold the prophecy to be authentic, their inclusion in the gospels is still not a sign that they were written before the events predicted happened. The question is thus not whether the prophecy is authentic (spoken by the historical Jesus) or not, or even whether prophecy can be genuine or not, but whether this particular prophecy was recorded by the evangelists before the fact of the temple’s destruction (in which case it would serve as a timely warning for its original readers: ‘Jesus said this, it’s going to happen soon’) or after the fact (in which case it was preserved as a reminder for the readers of what happened: ‘Jesus said this and it really occurred’).


Late dating to me is anything after the destruction of the Temple. I admit that John is a question mark, but only because of Eusebius.

I would have to disagree- it is more fairer to say nothing contradicts the Gospels being written after A.D. 70. The ball is in the OTHER court- and they run with it with all sorts of odd and convoluted arguments.

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