Argument for the Early Dating of Christian Theology and Christian Writings

by Ted Flint

Two accusations by skeptics regarding the Christian faith are that the miraculous aspects of the life of Jesus were invented late and that the written accounts we now have in the Bible were also written later than the lifetimes of the supposed authors. It is reasonable to conclude that neither of these accusations are true. The theology that Jesus died for our sins and then rose from the dead is present in the Christian community within 4 years and written down within 17 years of the death of Jesus. Starting with two epistles written by Paul we can date the doctrine of the resurrection to very soon after of the crucifixion of Jesus. It is the overwhelming conclusion by ancient historians – even Christian skeptics – that Paul did actually write these letters. 1st Corinthians was written by Paul around 53 AD, while Galatians was written sometime before 57 AD. The dating of Jesus’s death is debated, but it is either 30 AD or 33 AD. Using Paul’s writings, the logic goes as follows:[1]

1. We know from many sources that Paul dies around 65 AD, 32-35 years after the crucifixion (yac)

2. 1st Corinthians was written around 53 AD, 20-23 years yac.

3. Paul went to Corinth around 51 AD (18-21 yac) and wrote down what he was taught. “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas and then to the twelve.”[2]

4. Galatians records that when Paul became transformed, he went first to Arabia, then 3 years later went to Jerusalem to see Cephas and James.[3] He then goes back to Jerusalem 14 years later.[4] 51-14 = 37 AD (4-7 yac) when Paul first went to the apostles and “received” the ancient creed.

5. Paul went to Arabia for three years right after his conversion. 37-3 = 34 AD (1-3 yac).

In about 34 AD there was already a robust doctrine of the resurrection. This could be as early as 1 year after the crucifixion but no later than 3 years after. Remember, some time had to elapse between the crucifixion and Paul’s conversion because Christians had to become problematic enough for the Jewish leaders (Saul) to track them down and kill them! It is clear from uncontested letters written by an eye-witness that resurrection theology was present immediately after Jesus died…

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Nature & Scripture: Argument for the Early Dating of Christian Theology and Christian Writings