We are learning about the New Testament in my Humanities course in college, and the introduction says the New Testament was put together by the second century AD. Is this correct? I know the entire canon of scripture was decided at the councils of Rome, Carthage and Hippo at the end of the 4th century, but when were the New Testament scriptures composed?
The authentic Pauline epistles are certainly between about 48AD to about the mid-60s, before Paul’s martyrdom. If I’m being generous to reasonable but still liberal secular estimates, Matthew, Mark, and Luke are all still first century, and John only as late as 90-110 AD.
That said, earlier dates for the first Gospels, including pre-70 AD (destruction of the Temple) dates are all possible for all Gospels, even John (Christians generally think either during the persecutions in the 60s, or quite possibly during the 90s, for John). One of the reasons some secular scholars pose post 70AD dates is because the Gospels are mostly aware of the destruction of the Temple. However, that poses no issue if you’re a Christian, believe Jesus could prophecy, and that the Gospels were divinely inspired. It really only poses an issue if you already don’t believe such things are possible.
However, a proposal of almost the entire New Testament being primarily written in the second century is pretty unreasonable, and I believe out of synch with even most modern secular scholarship. Again, Paul’s (agreed upon) authentic letters are mid-first century, and even secular scholars would probably agree with dates between 70-100 AD being more likely than second century dates for the Gospels (with John up to 110).
The op says that “the introduction says the New Testament was put together by the second century AD.” Notice that it says “put together,” not “written.” There are/were many texts floating around at the time that were not accepted as being genuine. I do not think it unreasonable, nor do I see any malicious intent, to say that the canon of the New Testament was “put together” by the second century.
Marcion of Sinope is usually the first one credited with coming up with a list of books for the Christian canon around 150 I think…but then there were many books added to that original list and even after the list was more defined in the later 300s, I think there was still much debate on the books for many years to come after that.
In 1911 the Pontifical Biblical Commission issued the decision that Matthew is the true author of the Gospel published under his name; the Gospel was originally written in Hebrew before the destruction of Jerusalem. [From *What Does The Church Really Say About The Bible, Edith Myers, The Wanderer Press, 1979].
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, The Saint Austin Press, 2002, p 89, 93]
Not only are the facts of Jesus’ miracles recorded by His own Apostles who were present – Saints Matthew and John were companions of Christ, and Saints Mark and Luke lived in constant contact with His contemporaries.
Very revealing is The Hebrew Christ, 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.”