Skip to main content
The Birth of Jesus: Two Gospel Narratives

The Dating of the Gospels

Turn on your computer's sound to hear the narration. Use the controls at the bottom of the page to stop, start, or move backward/forward.

Transcript

The Dating of the Gospels

This slide graphically presents some important first-century dates and events, including the writing of and relationships among the Gospels.

Most researchers place the date of Jesus’ death at Passover time around the year 30.

The earliest New Testament books, the letters written by Paul, were composed in the decade of the 50s.

In the mid-60s, James, Peter, and Paul are all killed. Peter and Paul likely perished during the persecution of the church in Rome by Nero. The deaths of these important church leaders likely encouraged the writing down of narratives about Jesus.

In the year 70, Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple, effectively ending a Jewish revolt against the Empire that had begun four years earlier.

Although some scholars disagree, the vast majority of researchers believe that Mark was the first Gospel to be written, sometime around the year 70.

This scholarly consensus holds that the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke were composed, independently of one another, sometime in the 80s or 90s. Both used a written form of the Gospel of Mark as source material for their own narratives. In addition, because both Matthew and Luke contain a large amount of material in common that is not found in Mark, most researchers hold that both Evangelists also had a collection of Jesus’ sayings that they incorporated into their works. This saying source is known as “Q” and was likely assembled in the 40s or 50s.  This understanding of the origins of the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke explains why they are similar yet different from one another. The arrangement is called “The Two-Source Hypothesis” because Matthew and Luke are seen to have two written sources, Mark and Q.

The Gospel of John emerges from an independent literary tradition that is not directly connected to the Synoptic tradition. This explains the major differences between John and the Synoptics. The Johannine narrative is indebted to oral and possibly written traditions that were transmitted from earlier decades.