Why Should We Think That Mark, Luke, and Acts Were Written Before AD 62? Part 3

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

In part 3, we continue with J. Warner Wallace’s case for the early dating of Mark, Luke, and Acts, as elucidated in his book Cold-Case Christianity.

The seventh piece of evidence is that Paul reinforced the claims of the Gospel writers. Wallace explains:

While some modern critics challenge the authorship of Paul’s pastoral letters, even the most skeptical scholars agree that Paul is the author of the letters written to the Romans, the Corinthians, and the Galatians. These letters are dated between AD 48 and AD 60. The letter to the Romans (typically dated at AD 50) reveals something important. Paul began the letter by proclaiming that Jesus is the resurrected “Son of God.” Throughout the letter, Paul accepted the view of Jesus that the gospel eyewitnesses described in their own accounts.

Just seventeen years after the resurrection, Jesus was described as divine. He is God incarnate, just as the gospel eyewitnesses described in their own accounts. In fact, Paul’s outline of Jesus’s life matches that of the Gospels. In [1 Corinthians 15:3-8] (written from AD 53 to 57), Paul summarized the gospel message and reinforced the fact that the apostles described the eyewitness accounts to him. . . .

In his letter to the Galatians (also written in the mid-50s), Paul described his interaction with these apostles (Peter and James) and said that their meeting occurred at least fourteen years prior to the writing of his letter. [See Gal 1:15-19 and Gal 2:1]

This means that Paul saw the risen Christ and learned about the gospel accounts from the eyewitnesses (Peter and James) within five years of the crucifixion (most scholars place Paul’s conversion from AD 33 to 36, and he visited Peter and James within three years of his conversion, according to Gal. 1: 19). This is why Paul was able to tell the Corinthians that there were still “more than five hundred brethren” who could confirm the resurrection accounts (1 Cor. 15: 6). That’s a gutsy claim to make in AD 53– 57, when his readers could easily have accepted his challenge and called him out as a liar if the claim was untrue.

The eighth piece of evidence is that Paul quoted Luke’s Gospel in his letter to the Corinthians.

Paul also seems to have been familiar with the gospel of Luke when he wrote to the Corinthian church (nearly ten years earlier than his letter to Timothy). Notice the similarity between Paul’s description of the Lord’s Supper and Luke’s gospel:

“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood.'” (1 Cor. 11: 23– 25)

“And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.'” (Luke 22: 19– 20)

Paul appears to be quoting Luke’s gospel— the only gospel that has Jesus saying that the disciples are to ‘do this in remembrance of Me.’ If Paul is trying to use a description of the meal that was already well known at the time, this account must have been circulating for a period of time prior to Paul’s letter.

Stay tuned for part 4 of this important series, where J. Warner Wallace continues to build his case for the early dating of Mark, Luke, and Acts.

  • barry

    “The letter to the Romans (typically dated at AD 50) reveals
    something important. Paul began the letter by proclaiming that Jesus is
    the resurrected “Son of God.” Throughout the letter, Paul accepted the
    view of Jesus that the gospel eyewitnesses described in their own
    accounts.”

    ———-Incorrect, Paul specifically denied that his gospel message had any association with humans in it’s origin. Galatians 1:1-2, 11-12. Therefore, Paul’s beliefs and assertions that that Jesus rose from the dead, were not based on reports he heard from others, but were based solely and entirely in his own claims to special divine revelation.

    “Just seventeen years after the resurrection, Jesus was described as
    divine. He is God incarnate, just as the gospel eyewitnesses described
    in their own accounts. In fact, Paul’s outline of Jesus’s life matches
    that of the Gospels. In [1 Corinthians 15:3-8]
    (written from AD 53 to 57), Paul summarized the gospel message and
    reinforced the fact that the apostles described the eyewitness accounts
    to him. . . .”

    ————-This is incredibly simplistic and misleading. First, early testimony to Jesus as divine is no problem since Christianity clearly borrows from pre-Christian mythology to put Jesus on par with respectable gods of the first century. Second, Paul’s Jesus does not always square with the gospel Jesus. The gospels often paint Jesus as physically resurrected, but Paul’s characterization of his experience with Jesus on the road to Damascus as a “vision” (Acts 26:19, Greek optasia, the same word Paul uses to describe absurd states of mind in 2nd Corinthians 12:1, cf vv. 2-4), justifies suspicion that a resurrected Jesus for Paul is something different than a flesh and bone material body. When you resort to miracles to “explain” that Jesus’ body was still physical while also being invisible and surrounded by bright light, your theory of resurrection starts to become unbearably fabulous.

    “In his letter to the Galatians (also written in the mid-50s), Paul
    described his interaction with these apostles (Peter and James) and said
    that their meeting occurred at least fourteen years prior to the
    writing of his letter. [See Gal 1:15-19 and Gal 2:1]”

    ————And atheists have no choice but to believe Paul would have been honest about everything all the time, despite his honest admission that he would give a false impression to his audience that he believed the same way they did, if he felt doing this would further his ministry (1st Cor. 9:20-21).

    “This means that Paul saw the risen Christ and learned about the
    gospel accounts from the eyewitnesses (Peter and James) within five
    years of the crucifixion (most scholars place Paul’s conversion from AD
    33 to 36, and he visited Peter and James within three years of his
    conversion, according to Gal. 1: 19).”

    ————Sorry, but the critics Wallace is trying to protect Christians from, do not accept Paul’s word as blindly as Christians apparently do. In this case, one good reason is the scholars have been in disagreement for decades on whether Paul’s admissions in Galatians of his interactions with the original apostles, can be squared with similar material set forth in Acts and other NT books.

    “This is why Paul was able to tell the Corinthians that there were still
    “more than five hundred brethren” who could confirm the resurrection
    accounts (1 Cor. 15: 6).”

    ———–you are assuming the “seeing” was physical, when in fact Paul’s own alleged experience with Jesus constituted a vision (Acts 26:19), so if there is any historicity to his claim about 500 brothers here, he was likely referring to their “seeing” Jesus similarly to way Paul himself did in Acts 26:19, in which case, I don’t care how many people see a vision, visions don’t count as evidence.

    “That’s a gutsy claim to make in AD 53– 57, when his readers could
    easily have accepted his challenge and called him out as a liar if the
    claim was untrue.”

    ———–On the contrary, Paul doesn’t specify where any of these 500 brothers can be found, and if other conservative scholars are correct, it is likely they were located in or near Jerusalem and they all saw him within a few months of his crucifixion, along with the original 11 apostles. If that is the case, it is absurd to suggest the average man with wife, family and job, living in Corinth, would travel to Jerusalem merely to verify Paul’s assertions. That would be a distance of around a thousand miles, and such trips in the first century were far more time-consuming, costly and dangerous than they would be today. The average Corinthian church member would likely NOT have made any attempt to verify assertions of Paul that require them to travel that much.

    Further, Paul complains that the Corinthian church was immoral and divided as to which of the apostles was best to follow. Paul was apparently aware they were not the type of serious conservatives that would likely make any attempts to verify what he said.

    “The eighth piece of evidence is that Paul quoted Luke’s Gospel in his letter to the Corinthians.
    Paul also seems to have been familiar with the gospel of
    Luke when he wrote to the Corinthian church (nearly ten years earlier
    than his letter to Timothy). Notice the similarity between Paul’s
    description of the Lord’s Supper and Luke’s gospel:
    —snip—Paul appears to be quoting Luke’s gospel— the only gospel that has
    Jesus saying that the disciples are to ‘do this in remembrance of Me.’
    If Paul is trying to use a description of the meal that was already well
    known at the time, this account must have been circulating for a period
    of time prior to Paul’s letter.

    —————unfortunately, Paul introduces his alleged quote of Luke with “23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, (1 Cor. 11:23 NAU), and that’s an inaccurate way to say that Paul learned these words of Jesus from the circulating gospel traditions. When is the last time you ever heard a Christian say that they received the words of John 3:16 “from the Lord”? If they got them from a printed bible, they do not characterize their learning such words as an educational experience “from the Lord”. Thus a problematic question is raised as to why consigns to private revelation, that which he likely rather learned from other human beings.

    Furthermore, Paul’s near total failure to so much as bother with the words of the historical Jesus, indicate he did not view the gospel sayings of Jesus to be as important as the OT, and that’s an eternally damaging schism between he and modern conservative Christians. You’d never catch Christians forthrightly asserting that the OT “completely” equips the Christian for ministry, as Paul did (2nd Timothy 3:15-17), rather, they all insist the NT is far more capable of achieving that task.