Why Should We Think That Mark, Luke, and Acts Were Written Before AD 62? Part 4

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

In part 4, we continue with J. Warner Wallace’s case for the early dating of Mark, Luke, and Acts, as written in his book Cold-Case Christianity.

The ninth piece of evidence is that Luke quoted Mark (and Matthew) repeatedly. Wallace explains:

Luke, when writing his own gospel, readily admitted that he was not an eyewitness to the life and ministry of Jesus. Instead, Luke described himself as a historian, collecting the statements from the eyewitnesses who were present at the time:

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1: 1– 4)

As a result, Luke often repeated or quoted entire passages that were offered previously by either Mark (350 verses from Mark appear in Luke’s gospel) or Matthew (250 verses from Matthew appear in Luke’s account).  These passages were inserted into Luke’s gospel as though they were simply copied over from the other accounts. It’s reasonable, therefore, to conclude that Mark’s account was already recognized, accepted, and available to Luke prior to his authorship of the gospel.

The tenth piece of evidence is that Mark’s Gospel appears to be an early “crime broadcast.”

Mark’s gospel bears a striking resemblance to a “crime broadcast.” When first-responding officers arrive at the scene of a crime, they quickly gather the details related to the crime and the description of the suspect, then “clear the air” with the radio dispatchers so they can broadcast these details to other officers who may be in the area.

This first crime broadcast is brief and focused on the essential elements. There will be time later to add additional details, sort out the order of events, and write lengthy reports. This first broadcast is driven by the immediacy of the moment; we’ve got to get the essentials out to our partners because the suspects in this case may still be trying to flee the area. . . .

Although Mark’s gospel contains the important details of Jesus’s life and ministry, it is brief, less ordered than the other gospels, and filled with “action” verbs and adjectives. There is a sense of urgency about it. This is what we might expect, if it was, in fact, an early account of Jesus’s ministry, written with a sense of urgency. It is clear that the eyewitnesses felt this urgency and believed that Jesus would return very soon.

Paul wrote that “salvation is nearer to us than when we believed” (Rom. 13: 11), and James said, “The coming of the Lord is near” (James 5: 8). Peter, Mark’s mentor and companion, agreed that “the end of all things is near” (1 Pet. 4: 7). Surely Mark wrote with this same sense of urgency as he penned Peter’s experiences in his own gospel.

Mark’s account takes on the role of “crime broadcast,” delivering the essential details without regard for composition or stylistic prose. Papias confirmed this in his statement about Mark’s efforts:

“Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not indeed in order, whatsoever he remembered of the things said or done by Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterward, as I said, he followed Peter, who adapted his teaching to the needs of his hearers, but with no intention of giving a connected account of the Lord’s discourses, so that Mark committed no error while he thus wrote some things as he remembered them. For he was careful of one thing, not to omit any of the things which he had heard, and not to state any of them falsely.”

In part 5, we will present Wallace’s 11th and final piece of evidence for the early dating of Mark, Luke, and Acts.

  • Bill Pratt,

    There is no way to sugar-coat it—this 10th evidence by Wallace is terrible. Again, he imposes his own genre onto the New Testament—Mark—without recognizing it for what it was in its own time. Again, to a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

    Isn’t this a terrible methodology? Wallace appears to claim a 1st century document (Mark) is similar to a 21st Century genre (Crime Broadcast) and because the 21st century genre (Crime Broadcast) contains certain elements, the 1st century document must as well. This is like saying the 8th Century BCE Iliad is similar to a 21st Century Action-Adventure movie, so the Iliad must have been released in the summer to capitalize on the perspective audience!

    Understand, I agree with Wallace that Mark was prior to Matthew and Luke. Primarily, of course, because Luke and Matthew copy from Mark. It seems unnecessary to add this “evidence”

    Additionally, Mark IS in a very precise order—I am uncertain why Wallace would claim it is in “less order.”

    And finally, Mark does mention the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE (Mark 13) thus the 9th and 10th evidences of Wallace undercut his 1st. Do you not see that?

  • Mark 13 is a prediction of the temple being destroyed. It is not talking about the temple being destroyed after the fact.

    With regard to your thinking that the crime broadcast analogy is a terrible argument, I think it is helpful for enabling modern readers to better understand the differences in style between Mark and the later Gospels. Is it an argument that a historical scholar would make? No. But that is not his goal. He is writing from the perspective of an expert on eyewitness testimony from investigating cold case crimes.

    It’s only one of 11 pieces of evidence, so even if you don’t like it, the other ten still stand. Wallace is making a cumulative case argument, so the totality of his case has to be considered. I think he has done an admirable job with the total case, even if some of his arguments are more persuasive than others.

  • Bill Pratt,

    So you agree with me and disagree with J. Wallace regarding his 1st evidence? That the earliest Gospel—Mark—DID refer to the destruction of Jerusalem? Whether it was an actual prophecy or not, I would be happy to discuss in a later comment. But the first and primary point is that it IS mentioned in the Mark and Luke 21:5-36?

    If we are talking about history, and a historical document and whether said document contains historicity, why are we using arguments a historian would not use? Indeed, I think you make the point regarding my issue with J. Wallace—he shouldn’t be utilizing this non-historical methodology to make the claim a historical document contains historicity!

    Bill Pratt: “…I think it is helpful for enabling modern readers to better understand the differences in style between Mark and the later Gospels.”

    So does J. Warner Wallace explain (or even mention) Mark’s use of Chiasm, the Tanakh, midrash, cynic philosophy, irony, reversal of expectations, abandonment, Homeric themes and Grecian themes? A quick search of the book on google revealed no results regarding chiasm—a key element if one is to have even the most basic understanding of Mark.

    I am surprised Christians as a whole are so satisfied with analogies to police reports as compared to actual historical study in the actual documents with the actual styles. Like having an entire feast of filet mignon available and instead happily munching on stale biscuits trying to convince us the biscuits are “good enough.” I just don’t get it, I guess.

    As for his other points, they are easily addressed, but if one cannot even see this one argument is not only unsustainable, but contradicts his previous argument, then I doubt they will see the issues in the other oft-raised and oft-responded points.

  • Please go back and re-read Wallace’s first evidence. It seems you did not read it carefully the first time through.

    As far as being satisfied with analogies to crime reports, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Almost every serious Christian thinker I know has read historical analyses of the NT Gospels including all of the topics you mention. It might surprise you that I even learned about chiasm in seminary! I have no doubt that Wallace is familiar with the concept.

    It’s not either/or. I don’t have to read about chiasm or crime reports. I can read both.

    I might also suggest that you actually read Wallace’s book instead of continuing to attack a book you have never read. Where is the intellectual honesty in that?

  • Bill Pratt,

    According to your quote of J. Warner Wallace’s first evidence, “But no gospel account records the destruction of the temple.” This is clearly not true, as the same is recorded in Mark 13; Matthew 24; and Luke 21:5-36. Curiously, J. Warner Wallace does refer to the Matthew 24 statement immediately before this. I am unsure how he possibly aligns the two statements. (And if J. Warner Wallace does not understand the genre of apocalyptic writing after the fact, this only further demonstrates the inherent danger in his methodology of comparing 1st Century documents to 21st Century police reports.)

    I agree you can analogize New Testament documents with…well……just about anything, I guess. But don’t you think some methodologies are better (i.e., more objective, more informative and more accurate) than others? Or do you think reviewing the gospels the same way as we review lawn mower instruction manuals is just as sufficient as reviewing them with other first century bios or historiography?

    Of course you don’t—I am being a bit facetious. In the same way, we should review the documents in the genre they are written in—not forcing them into a modern genre.

    Whether I read the book or not, the excerpts you are quoting are incorrect. I don’t have to read an entire book; if someone quotes a section that is wrong—the section is wrong. Why can’t I “attack” these parts of the book? Can’t the excerpts withstand the scrutiny of a wee, humble skeptic?

  • Andrew Ryan

    Didn’t CS Lewis make an argument from genre?

    ““All I am in private life is a literary critic and historian, that’s my job…And I’m prepared to say on that basis if anyone thinks the Gospels are either legends or novels, then that person is simply showing his incompetence as a literary critic. I’ve read a great many novels and I know a fair amount about the legends that grew up among early people, and I know perfectly well the Gospels are not that kind of stuff.”

    I never found that a very convincing argument.

  • Wallace, in his first piece of evidence, clearly differentiates between Jesus’s prediction of the destruction of the temple, and the absence of later affirmations that the temple was indeed destroyed.

    This seems quite simple to me. Jesus made a prediction, so Wallace asks why nobody ever wrote in the Gospels something like, “The temple was indeed destroyed by the Roman general Titus, and so Jesus’s prediction came true. Yay Jesus.”

    The Gospels go out of their way to talk about lots of other events that were predicted by Old Testament prophets that were then confirmed, so why would they not do the same with Jesus’s prophecies? The best answer to this question is because at the time of writing, the temple had not been destroyed.

  • Genre is incredibly important in the study of any text, and particularly those of ancient history. If you can’t tell that an author was writing poetry vs. narrative history vs. a romantic letter, then you will grossly misinterpret what that author said.

  • Bill Pratt: “Genre is incredibly important in the study of any text, and particularly those of ancient history. If you can’t tell that an author was writing poetry vs. narrative history vs. a romantic letter, then you will grossly misinterpret what that author said.”

    I quite agree. Indeed—this has been my very point (repeatedly) regarding J. Warner Wallace’s methodology of framing the New Testament documents in genres (like Police reports) they were never intended to be, nor were they written in such genres. I equally agree one will grossly misinterpret the author’s meaning in doing so.

    A great example of this is Mark 13. The author is writing apocalyptically—indicating signs regarding the end times to encourage the readers to stay faithful. As typical, the author goes through a number of events in the form of predictions that have already happened, and then finishing it off with, “Watch out, ‘cause some of this has already happened, so you know you are right at the end.”

    The author is writing after the Temple destruction, listing it as an end-times sign, so the reader recognizes the urgency of the writing. Again, one must understand the genre to appreciate it. (The book of Daniel is an excellent example. It is no coincidence the Markan author uses this form with direct reference to Daniel.)

    Bill Pratt: “…so Wallace asks why nobody ever wrote in the Gospels something like, ‘The temple was indeed destroyed by the Roman general Titus, and so Jesus’s prediction came true. Yay Jesus.’”

    Uh…they did exactly that. Mark 13:14 says, ““When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” That author-inserted parenthetical statement—“let the reader understand”—is the clue to the readers this has already occurred. The author is saying, “When this happens (as you know it did) the end-times are upon us!” It is the reason the author concludes the chapter indicating the Son of Man was coming within “this generation.” Within 40 or so years of Jesus’ death.

  • I am curious if any 1st or 2nd century Christians understood Mark 13 as reporting the destruction of the temple as already having occurred. Do you have any information on that?

  • Great question, Bill Pratt.

    Short answer—none that I am aware. As you know, this is the preterist vs. the futurist debate. (For any lurkers, the preterist view claims Mark 13’s “abomination of desolation” was in 70 CE when Jerusalem was sacked and the Temple destroyed by the Romans whereas the futurist view is that Mark 13’s “abomination of desolation” has yet to occur, and will be done by the Anti-Christ. This is why futurists want the temple ground given back to the Jews, so the Jews can build the 3rd temple and then the Anti-Christ can perform his duty by performing the “abomination of desolation” and we can get the whole rapture/tribulation/Second Coming of Christ thing going. Without the temple, there cannot be an abomination of desolation, you see.)

    And yes, this is simplistic as there are partial preterists and pre-trib, post-trib, pre-mill, post-mill, etc. and about everything in between regarding eschatology (end-times.)

    Irenaeus (2nd Century) is a futurist, so in Against Heresies Book 5, Chapter 5, he indicates the events of Mark 13—specifically the abomination—has yet to occur.

    As near as I can tell, NO 1st Century or 2nd Century writers wrote regarding the dating of the Gospel-writing. In other words, no one wrote regarding Mark being penned prior to 70 CE, after 70 CE, or even prior to any specific date or after a specific date. ALL of us (regardless of when one dates it) place an initial date on the internal evidences. Presuming Papias refers to the Mark we have, we would recognize it was written prior to the early 2nd Century.

    I did come across an interesting quote from Recognitions of Clement (3rd-4th Century?) Book 1, Chapter 64, where the author claims to have warned the Jews prior to 70 CE their time of sacrifices would end, and author notes it came true. Very similar to Mark 13.