Bible Think

The Dates of Writing of Bible Documents

The Bible contains description of events that took place in history. In this it is almost unique among religious documents, most of which present events without historical context. The accuracy of writing doesn’t depend entirely on the date at which the documents were written, but an early date is strongly supportive of accuracy.


Dating the New Testament

Fixed Points

The two events that mark the end of the New Testament period are the fire of Rome in 64AD and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. Both of these are singularly absent from the New Testament accounts, which indicates that they were written earlier. There are loose citations of the Gospels and some of Paul’s letters in a letter written by Clement of Rome before the end of the first century and exact quotations appear in letters written by Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp in the early second century.


Dating Acts and the Epistles

Dating the events in the Acts of the Apostles is fairly straightforward. A small number of events which are also described in the secular literature of the time provides fixed points and it is relatively simple to fit the travels of the Apostles into this framework. The result of this shows that the earliest of Paul’s letters is Galatians (probably in 47or 48AD) while the latest is 2 Timothy near the end of 63AD. The letters of Peter were written as Nero’s persecution arose in 64AD.


The action of Acts comes to an abrupt halt in 62AD, with no particular event described. This is strongly suggestive of a date at around this time.


Dating the Gospels

The Gospels can be dated in part by the events they describe, and in part by quotations in later documents. Luke’s Gospel is referenced in Acts and in 1 Timothy, and John’s Gospel describes the pool of Bethesda as still standing, something that ended in 70AD. One can therefore place the Gospels well before the Romano-Jewish War of 66-70AD.



Acts and Epistles

Click here to download a pdf file of a document which covers the process of dating the events in the Acts of the Apostles and hence provides dates for the Letters of Paul and Peter. Some of these letters can be dated to within a few months.

Dating the Gospels

Watch this space for a pdf file of an article which presents information on the dating of the gospels.

Single Sheet Summary

Watch this space for a single sheet summary of the dates of the Bible Documents.


Reliability of the Bible

Link to the main page for evidence on the reliability of the Bible.

Archaeology and the Bible

L:ink to the main page on Bible archaeology. This helps to establish that the Bible was probably written close to the time of the events it describes.

Linguistic Fossils

Language considerations can help to date the writing of the books of the Bible.

Dating the Old Testament

For a long time it was considered that the chronology of the Old Testament given in the books of Kings and Chronicles could not be used to provide a consistent chronology and that they conflicted with Assyrian chronologies. The work of  E. R. Thiele showed that a consistent chronology exists. The dates of some books of the Old Testament are clear, but others are difficult to date accurately. The chart below shows an approximate chronology.

The Silver Scroll

This fragment of silver foil is inscribed with the text of Numbers 6:24-26. It was buried in a tomb near Jerusalem in about 700BC, probably in the reign of Hezekiah.


Before the fragment was discovered critics had confidently claimed that this particular text was not written until after the Exile. Finding it in a tomb which is clearly more than a century before the exile began shows that at least part of the Old Testament was written earlier than the critics would like.

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Date of Writing