Dating the New Testament





Overview and Timeline

Destruction of Jerusalem







1 and 2 Corinthians





1 and 2 Thessalonians

1 and 2 Timothy




The Epistle of James

1 and 2Peter

1, 2 and 3 John

1 and 2Peter



Church Fathers


Dating the Old Testament


14-37 A.D.

Tiberius was Caesar from 14-37 A.D., during the ministry of Jesus. He is mentioned in Luke 3:1, and a city on the Sea of Galilee was named Tiberius after him. (John 6:1, 6:23, 21:1)

26-36 A.D.

Pontius Pilate (external link) This stone discovered, in 1961 in Caeserea, Israel, says "Tiberius" on the top line, "Pontius" on the second line and "Prefectus Judea" on the third line. Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea from 26 to 36 A.D.

33 A.D.

Golgotha This escarpment just outside the walls of Jerusalem was noticed by British Major General Charles Gordon during his stay there in 1882-1883. The similarity to a skull reminded Gordon of the Biblical description of Gologotha, "the place of the skull" (Matt 27:33, Mark 15:22, Luke 23:33, John 19:17), where Jesus was crucified. Gordon discovered the Garden Tomb nearby.

The Garden Tomb (external link) may have been the site of Jesus burial and resurrection. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the traditional site.

50-51 A.D.

Thessalonica received two of the earliest letters of Paul preserved in the New Testament. The date of the letters can be ascertained by the greeting in 1 Thess 1:1 and 2 Thess 1:1, a greeting which includes Silas. Silas was with Paul on his second missionary journey when the church in Thessalonica was established, but parted with Paul soon afterward, giving a narrow window of time (50-51 A.D.) for these letters to have been written. The picture is of the marketplace in Thessalonica.

62 A.D.

James, the Brother of Jesus, was the leader of the early church in Jerusalem. James was executed in 62 A.D. by the high priest during a short period when the Roman governor was absent. The book of Acts makes no mention of the death of James, instead referring to him in a manner that implies that everyone knows who he is and understands his authority (James 15:13, etc.), implying that Acts was written before the death of James. The picture is of the James Ossuary, which may have been a burial box for James. Scholars are not unanimous as to the authenticity of this ossuary.

64 A.D.

Nero was Caesar on July 18, 64 A.D. when the great fire of Rome broke out. Nero chose to blame the Christians for the fire, leading to the first instance of severe persecution of Christians by the Roman government, along with the death of Peter and Paul. There is no hint of this persecution in Acts. On the contrary, Acts portrays Roman government officials and soldiers as being almost entirely helpful to Christians and Paul in particular. This is an indication that Acts was written prior to the Roman fire of 64 A.D.

66 A.D.

Titus Flavius Vespasian (external link)was given command of the Roman armies assigned to subdue the Jewish rebellion in the Jewish-Roman war of 66-70 A.D. Vespasian became emperor in 69 A.D., with command of his army passing to his son Titus. No book in the New Testament makes mention of the Jewish-Roman war in the past tense.

70 A.D.

Fall of Jerusalem 1 (external link) The fall and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. was an epochal event in Jewish, Christian and Roman history. However, this event is nowhere mentioned in the New Testament in the past tense. On the contrary, the New Testament routinely speaks in terms of places and practices in Jerusalem in the present tense, indicating that the books of the New Testament were written prior to this time (John 5:2, Heb 5:1-4, etc.). Jesus speaks prophetically about the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt 24:2, etc.), but the New Testament makes no claim that this prophecy has been fulfilled. The picture is a close-up of the Arch of Titus, erected in Rome to celebrate the Roman triumph in Jerusalem.

100 A.D.

Flavius Josephus, born 37 A.D., was a pharisee and a prolific Jewish historian. His writings are a good source for an ancient traditional understanding of the Old Testament.

125-150 A.D.

Papyrus P52 is the oldest preserved New Testament manuscript fragment. It contains part of John 18:31-33 and 18:37-38 (on the back), written in Greek. The discovery of this and several other early papyri forced some scholars to drastically revise their views on the dating of the gospel of John. The writing style dates the manuscript to 125-160 A.D., though some scholars have argued for an even earlier date.

330-350 A.D.

Codex Vaticanus is a nearly complete New Testament manuscript preserved in the Vatican. It is believed to be slightly older than Codex Sinaiticus. The picture is of 2 Thess 3:11-18 and Hebrews 1:1-2.

Codex Sinaiticus, written between 330-350 A.D., is the oldest complete New Testament manuscript. Sinaiticus also preserves several additional early Christian writings, along with some of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. It was preserved in the Monastery of Saint Catherine in the Sinai peninsula. The picture is of Luke 11:2 in Codex Sinaiticus.

1844 A.D.

Lobegott Friedrich Constantin (von) Tischendorf rediscovered Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest complete copy of the New Testament, in 1844.