Reconsidering The Date Of John’s Gospel -- By: Thomas L. Stegall
CTSJ 14:2 (Fall 2009) p. 68
Reconsidering The Date Of John’s Gospel
Thomas L. Stegall was formerly the pastor-teacher of the Word of Grace Bible Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and now serves on the staff of the Duluth Bible Church and Grace Gospel Press as a Bible teacher and publications director. Tom is a graduate of the Grace Institute of Biblical Studies, the Moody Bible Institute, and the University of Minnesota. He is also the author of a book about the contents of saving faith from a classical Free Grace perspective, The Gospel of the Christ (Milwaukee: Grace Gospel Press, 2009). You may contact Tom at [email protected]
The date when the Gospel of John was written is normally considered to be of little theological consequence or concern to most Christians. However, this subject merits a fresh survey of the evidence in order to address the lingering theories of liberal critical scholarship in addition to the recent claims of some Free Grace evangelicals that John is the only evangelistic book in the Bible and that it was written extremely early in church history.1 In addition, if a second
CTSJ 14:2 (Fall 2009) p. 69
century date is permitted for the composition of John in its final form as claimed by some critical, non-evangelical scholars,2 then the historical reliability and divine authority of the book is automatically impugned. Conversely, on the opposite end of the spectrum, if a timeframe as early as the 30s-45 A.D. is accepted for the completion of John, it may lend support to the view that this book has theological-evangelistic priority and preeminence within the New Testament canon.
This article will therefore reinvestigate the question of John’s date by first reviewing the rationale of critical, unbelieving scholarship for a very late date that extends into the second century. The bulk of the article will then weigh the evidence for the two main views held by current New Testament scholarship—the more popular later-date view of the 80s-90s and the less common pre-70 view. This will be followed by an assessment of the extremely early 30s-45 view. A reexamination of the evidence demonstrates that a reasonable range of dates may be maintained anywhere from the 60s-90s, with the weight of the evidence tipping slightly in favor of a pre-70 date. But there are many insurmountable obstacles accompanying a date of composition as early as the 30s-45 A.D. or as late as the early second century. While Scripture nowhere provides a specific “born-on” date for John’s Gospel, or even explicit statements about its order of completion in relation to the rest of the New...
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