An Analysis of the Arguments for the Dating of the Fourth Gospel -- By: David A. Croteau

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 20:3 (Summer 2003)
Article: An Analysis of the Arguments for the Dating of the Fourth Gospel
Author: David A. Croteau

An Analysis of the Arguments for the
Dating of the Fourth Gospel

David A. Croteau

Ph.D. Student in Biblical Studies (New Testament)
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587


There are various arguments for the date of composition of the Fourth Gospel. Forty-one lines of argument will be discussed below. The date of the Fourth Gospel will have significance for how one views the purpose statement, the occasion for writing, the author, and the location of origin (providence). At times one’s interpretation may be influenced by how one decides on a date and vice-versa.

The discussion will be broken into four sections: the argument for a pre-A.D. 70 date, post-A.D. 70 date, pre-A.D. 100 date, and post-A.D. 100 date. In each section, the discussion will move from the external to the internal evidence and will be placed in the order of least persuasive to most persuasive.1 The conclusion will determine the most compelling evidence for each category and decide on a date of composition for the Fourth Gospel (FG) which appears to be most supported by the evidence.

The Argument for Dating the Fourth Gospel before A.D. 70

A pre-A.D. 70 date for the composition of the FG has not found many supporters.2 Precritical scholars tended to trust the external evidence, which suggested a late-first-century date. Accepting a date of pre-A.D. 70 would lead to the denial of the validity of the external evidence and give the possibility of an earlier date more legitimacy.

The External Evidence

The Pre-A.D. 70 Death of the Apostle John

The view that proposes that the Apostle John died before A.D. 70 finds its chief supporter in B. P. W. Stather. While claiming that this tradition cannot be discounted, he does not provide reasons as to why it should be given more weight than other external evidence. He rejects the tradition that the Apostle John wrote the FG, lived to an old age, and wrote in Ephesus. His reason is that the tradition confused the Apostle John with John Mark in Alexandria (who he says wrote the FG) and John the Elder in Ephesus (who he says wrote the Apocalypse).3

Such a hypothesis based upon the confusion of one of the twelve disciples of Jesus is interesting but is lacking real evidence. This is highly speculative, as is the suggestion that the Apostle John died before A.D. 70. The document existing today that supports this is a summary of Philip of Side. Philip of Side claim...

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