Bible Query - Responding to Asimov's Guide to the Bible on the New Testament
Q: When did people start dating events by the year Jesus was supposedly born?
A: Prior to this, people generally dated events by the year of a king's reign. Other people dated things from the supposed year of Adam's creation, September 1, 5509 B.C. According to Manuscripts of the Greek Bible p.49 (footnote), dating events from the supposed year of Christ's birth was started by Hippolytus of Rome in the 3rd century. This was not universally accepted, as some Byzantine scribes did not do so until the 14th century.
The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.786 says that in Jesus' time Romans kept years in terms of "A.U.C." or years from the founding of the city [of Rome]. Rome was founded in 753 B.C. On p.787 Asimov says that it was erroneously thought that Christ was born in 1 A.D. by the astronomer Dionysius Exiguus of Rome. Manuscripts of the Greek Bible p.49 says that dating things from the time of Christ's birth was introduced by Hippolytus of Rome in the 3rd century.
Q: What does the English word "synoptic" mean?
A: The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.723 says "synoptic comes from the Greek syn (together with" and opsis, (a sight, a view) as does The NIV Study Bible p.1437. Likewise The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.399 says the Greek word synoptikos means "to see the whole together, to take a comprehensive view."
In contrast to this, the skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.770 says the word "synoptic" comes from the Greek word meaning "one-eye" because each of the three synoptic Gospels tells the history of Jesus from their viewpoint. Perhaps he confused "syn/sun" with "mono" which means "one".
Strong's Concordance for "sun" (4862) says "a prim. Prep. Denoting union; with or together (but much closer than 3326 or 3844) i.e. by association, companionship, process, resemblance, possession, instrumentality, addition etc." - beside, with. In comp. It has similar applications, include. completeness."
Q: Which of the four gospels was written first?
A: The most common view among Christians is Mark, though there are reputable Bible scholars who believe it was Matthew or Luke. The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.98 says, "Some literary dependence seems to be the only way to explain adequately the close relationship between the Synoptic Gospels. The priority-of-Mark theory, though not without problems, accounts best for the basic outline of events and the detailed similarities between the Synoptic Gospels. The difference are probably due to a combination of oral and written traditions which Matthew and Luke used independently in addition to Mark."
The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.770 says that Matthew was listed first because it was thought to be first, but today people generally think it was Mark. (p.770, p.903) However, Asimov p.771 also mentions that Papias wrote that Matthew was originally written in Hebrew [Aramaic?]. It is possible that Matthew was written first in Aramaic, Mark used that as a primary source in composing his gospel, and later the Gospel of Matthew was translated verbatim.
As a side note, of the 661 verses in Mark (shorter ending, 600 are similar to verses in Matthew, 350 are similar to verses in Luke, and only 31 are found nowhere else.
Q: In Mt 10:2-5, Mk 3:16-18, Lk 6:13-16, Jn 1:45-47; 21:2, and Acts 1:13, are the list of the twelve disciples different, as Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.998 suggests?
A: No. While the order is somewhat different, the lists are the same as long as you have the following understanding.
Simon Barjona is the same as Peter. Barjona means "bar" (son of) Jona. Simon is a Hebrew name, and Peter is a Greek name.
Matthew the tax collector = Levi the son of Alphaeus the tax collector in Mark 2:13-17. Levi is a Hebrew name. Matthew is also a Hebrew name, a shortened form of Matthias. Perhaps as a tax collector we wanted an alias.
James, Son of Alphaeus is the same as James the Younger in Mark 15:40. Strong's Concordance says James is a Graecized form of the Hebrew name Jacob.
Bartholomew (in all lists) is the same as Nathanael in John 1:45-47; 21:2. The Aramaic name Bartholomew might not have been his first name, but his surname, since it means "Bar" (son of) Talmai/Tolmai/Talmar according to the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.205,1177-1178. Nathanael is also Aramaic, meaning "God's gift".
Thaddaeus is the same as Judas the son of James in Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13. (Perhaps after the crucifixion Thaddaeus did not what to be called Judas, because of potential confusion with the following. Judas is a Hebrew name. Some Greek manuscripts say Thaddaeus, some say "Lebbaeus", and some says "Lebbaeus called/surnamed Thaddaeus" Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.908 says "Lebbaeus" is the Greek form of "Levi".
Judas Iscariot is missing from Acts 1:13 for obvious reasons.
For the others, Andrew, James son of Zebedee, John, Philip, Thomas, and Simon the Zealot, we are only told one name.
One could conceivably believe that Nathanael in John 1:43-45; 21:2 was not the same person as Bartholomew; the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.205 mentions that some hold this view. This view would not mean an error in the Bible, only that Nathanael was a disciple but not one of the twelve disciples.
See Bible Difficulties & Seeming Contradictions p.175-176 for more info.
Q: In Mt 27:2-14, Mk 15:2-15; Lk 23:1-24 and Jn 19:1-15, apart from the Bible, what else do we know about Pontius Pilate?
A: "Pontius" was a Roman family. "Pilatus" means one armed with a pilum, or javelin. Most of what we know about Pontius Pilate comes from Josephus. The Emperor Tiberius Caesar had a friend name Sejanus, who wanted to destroy all the Jews, and Pontius Pilate and his contemporary Flaccus might have been the proteges of Sejanus. When Pontius Pilate became governor (or procurator) of the Jews in 26 A.D., he was the first to bring into Jerusalem the standards of the image of Caesar. When the Jews formerly asked that they be removed, Pilate surrounded them with soldiers and threatened to kill them. Josephus records that the Jews threw themselves on the ground to demonstrate they would rather die than break their law. Pilate removed the standards to Caesarea.
Pilate then took the money from the temple treasury to build an aqueduct to carry water to Jerusalem. When the Jews protested, Pilate had soldiers dressed as civilians among the crowds, who killed many in the crowd. Luke 13:1 also records that Pilate killed some Galileans, whose blood he mixed with their sacrifices.
When some Samaritans gathered on a mountain to view to sacred containers that Moses supposedly put there, Pilate sent troops to ambush them and kill them. The Samaritans appealed to Vitellius, the legate of Syria, who sent Marcellus to take temporary charge of Judea and ordered Pilate to go to Rome in 36/37 A.D. to give an account of his actions to Caesar. Sejanus had been executed on October 18, 31 A.D., and Tiberius was trying to reverse anti-Semitic policies. Tiberius Caesar died on March 16, 37 A.D., while Pilate was enroute to Rome. Pilate never returned to Judea. Traditions say he committed suicide in modern-day Austria or Switzerland by drowning.
Philo the Jew says that Herod Agrippa I called Pilate "naturally inflexible, a blend of self-will and relentlessness).
The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.891 also has information on Pontius Pilate. See the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1343-1344 The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.789-790, and the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels p.615-617 for more info.
Q: In Mt 1, what was the point of the genealogy of Joseph's ancestry back to David, since Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born?
A: Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.780 raises this issue. While Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus, Joseph was in every way the legal father of Jesus. Thus the promises to David were fulfilled in both a legal father/son sense, as well as a biological sense through Mary's ancestry in Luke.
Q: In Mt 1:17, was this really 3 x 14 generations, or only 41 generations, as an atheist (Capello) and the skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.777-778 say?
A: There are three sets of 14 names, but they are not additive, as the first list is Abraham up through David, and the second list is David to the exile. Now we might have a problem if Matthew had claimed there were 42 generations, but Matthew never said the sum was 42. Matthew presumably mentioned in passing three sets of 14 names as a memory device.
Q: In Mt 1:17 and Lk 1, why do the genealogies diverge after Solomon, but come together again in Shealtiel?
A: The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.939 mentions this. Matthew 1:12 says Jeconiah (Jehoiachin), Shealtiel, and Zerubbabel, while Luke says Neri, Shealtiel, and Zerubbabel. The direct reason for the difference is given in 1 Chronicles 4:17-19. The royal line, which almost always passed from father to son, passed instead from Shealtiel to Zerubbabel, the son of Pedaiah, Shealtiel's brother.
The reason is not given, but is presumably Shealtiel did not have any sons, or at least living sons, when he died. Thus Shealtiel likely adopted his brother's son. Scholars think either that Pedaiah died and Shealtiel adopted Zerubbabel as an orphan, or else Shealtiel passed the royal line to Zerubbabel simply because he had no sons.
Q: Does Mt 1:23 mistranslate Isa 7:14 by using the word "virgin" as the skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.781 says?
A: No. Not only can the Hebrew word mean either "virgin" or "young maiden", but Asimov on p.780 himself recognized that the Septuagint translated this word as parthenos meaning virgin. Of course, Asimov does not believe in any miracles of the Bible, so he would not choose to believe that the Isaiah would refer to a virgin.
Q: In Mt 2:1-4,9-12, who were the magi?
A: The Magi were Mideastern religious men who practiced astrology. While the Bible does not specify that there were three Magi, there are three views of who the "Christmas magi" were.
Originally, as the Levites were a tribe of priests among the Israelites, the later Magi were the tribe of priests among the Medes, according to Herodotus. This is analogous to the Levites being a tribe of priests among the Israelites. The Magi offered sacrifices before fires, interpreted dreams, and practiced astrology. While we get the English word "magician" from "Magi", except for a passage in Herodotus there is no evidence that they practiced magic. The Medes were polytheistic (not Zoroastrian). When Daniel 5:11 speaks of Magi, it is these Magi.
Later, after a Magi who was called "false Bardiya" took control of the Persian throne for seven months in 522 B.C., King Cambyses replaced many of the Median Magi with Persian Magi. The Persian Magi were Zoroastrians. Zoroastrians believed in equal and opposite divine beings, one good and represented by light and one evil and represented by darkness. During and after the fourth century B.C., Zoroastrians believed in resurrection The Greeks generally said the Magi were Zoroastrians. Clement of Alexandria believed the Magi who came to Bethlehem were Zoroastrians. The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.788 mentions only these as the Magi.
By the time of Christ, the Greeks also called Chaldeans who practiced astrology as Magi too. Many astrologers traveled west to teach, including the Babylonian Berossus, who taught on the Greek island of Cos after 281 B.C. Tacitus says the magi practiced sorcery, and Pliny claims magic started with Zoroaster. The church father Origen, among his many criticisms of the heretic Celsus, said Celsus failed to distinguish between the Magi and the Chaldeans. The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.612 mentions these as the Magi.
Regardless of the precise Mideastern origin of the "Christmas Magi", the Magi practiced astrology. See the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1067-1068, and especially the chapter on the Magi in Persia and the Bible p.467-491.
Q: In Mt 2:16, apart from killing the babies in Bethlehem, was Herod ever cruel to anyone else?
A: Yes. Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.799 says it is hard to believe Herod's killing ever happened. However, as the allegedly more civilized 20th century has seen Pol Pot of Cambodia, Idi Amin of Uganda, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Tze-Tung, it is not hard to believe Herod would do this.
In Herod's 36 years of reign, he killed many. Herod executed or had assassinated his wife Mariamne, and two husbands of his sister Salome. Herod had his brother-in-law drowned in the Jordan, and his mother-in-law Alexandra killed. He killed Hyrcanus, the last of the Hasmonean Dynasty. He killed many Pharisees and many noble families. The Jewish scholars Jehuda ben Saripha and Mattathias ben Margoloth were burned alive. He had his sons Alexander and Aristobulus killed. Since Herod, like most Jews, did not eat pork, this prompted the Roman Emperor to quip that he would rather be Herod's pig than his son. Five days before Herod died, he had his son Antipater assassinated. (Three younger sons, Archelaus, Herod Antipas, and Philip, survived him).
After Herod died in 4 B.C., there was a revolt, and Archelaus sent troops to Jerusalem and killed 3,000 in one day. When Archelaus and Herod Antipas went to Rome, Sabinus, an agent of the Imperial Treasury came to audit the taxes. He took 400 talents out of the Temple Treasury. There was a revolt in 9 A.D., and Syrian troops under Qunitilius Varus put that down.
The Bible As History p.358 says there was an eclipse of the moon when he died, which would place the death on March 13, 4 B.C.
Q: In Mt 2:22, since sons of Herod reigned in both Judea and Galilee, why would Joseph decide to go to Galilee?
A: The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.800 provides two helpful observations here.
1. Archelaus, who ruled as a king in Judea starting in 4 B.C., might have heard about this boy-king and been anxious to kill Jesus too. Herod Antipas, who was a tetarch of Galilee, might have had a different attitude.
2. Asimov points out that Archelaus was so antagonistic that Jews and Samaritans, enemies of each other, united in their appeal to Rome to remove Archelaus. When Herod died, Archelaus only ruled 10 years. On the other hand, Herod Antipas ruled peacefully in Galilee for over 40 years.
However, there is a far more obvious reason in Luke 2:39. Joseph was from Nazareth, not Bethlehem. Not only was Joseph going to the land of the milder ruler, Joseph was simply returning to where he was from.
Q: Was Mt 2:23 false to claim Jesus being from Nazareth fulfilled the Old Testament (Isa 11:1, Zech 6:12 and other passages), as the skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.801-802 says?
A: Not at all. First here is what Asimov says, and then the answer.
The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.801-802 mentions that, "Matthew may see a similarity here to 'Nazarene'. (Actually the two words are identical in Hebrew, since the vowels were not written.) Asimov p.802 says "that Matthew "is indulging in, at best, a play on words, and is not referring to any actual prophecy of the Messiah being an inhabitant of Nazareth."
The answer is The Old Testament says the Messiah would be called the "branch" without specifying one or more reasons why. Matthew 2:22 does not restrict Jesus from also being God's "branch" from which His church would grow.
Q: In Mt 4:14-16, do Isa 9:1 and Isa 9:2 belong together, or was Matthew incorrect to put these together?
A: They belong together because Isaiah 9:1 is a transition with both sections.
The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.816 says Isaiah 9:1 belongs with the earlier section and is actually called Isaiah 8:23 in modern Jewish Bibles and the New Jerusalem Bible. Admittedly Isaiah 8:22 and 9:1 do relate, because Isaiah 8:22 speaks of people in darkness and Isaiah 9:1 speaks of no more darkness.
However, Isaiah 8:22 speaks of people who will be driven away into darkness, Isaiah 9:1 says there will be no more darkness for Zebulun and Naphtali, and Isaiah 9:2-7 says how the people who were in darkness will see a great light.
It is interesting that Asimov is trying to say that those who were in gloom but will have it lifted in Isaiah 9:1 do not relate to those who were in darkness and have seen a great light in the very next verse. The Bible is great literature, but apparently having a section transition smoothly to another section is disconcerting for some skeptics.
Q: In Mt 7:6, what did Jesus mean by not casting your pearls before swine (pigs)?
A: Do not take what is precious and give it to those who are not appreciative of it, and might use it to turn and attack you. This concept of not casting pearls is behind Proverbs 9:7-9, where we are not to try to correct a scoffer or wicked man. Jesus did not do many miracles before unbelieving people. Also, it is better for a person not to know the way of truth, than to know it and turn their back on it, as 2 Peter 2:20-22 says.
Let's look at the possible range of interpretation, in order to best determine which choice or choices are the intended meaning.
Casting could mean:
C1. Do not cast could mean do not force
C2. Do not nag
C3. Do not make any effort to teach
C4. Be very careful to never tell
Here the verb "cast" is active, so Jesus did not mean hide your pearls, or do not leave any pearls on the ground. Thus C4 is very unlikely.
Pearls could mean:
P1. Godly teaching
P2. The message of the gospel
P3. Anything of value, special privileges, or participation in sacred things Hard Sayings of the Bible p.370-371 has this view.
P4. It could also mean that when the church is being persecuted, do not expose other Christians by giving their names to just anyone.
Jesus taught moral teaching openly, so it probably does not mean P1.
Before swine could mean:
S1. Those who are not appreciative of these things. (Hard Sayings of the Bible p.370-371)
S2. Those not ready to learn (The NIV Study Bible)
S3. Unbelievers who do not actively desire to learn
S4. Unbelievers who refuse to learn
S5. Gentiles (the skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.833-835) However, Matthew mentions non-Jews who believed, so it does not refer to Gentiles in general. Even Asimov mentions this point.
Swine was a derogatory term, so it is very likely the intended meanings include those who refuse to learn.
See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.370-371 and Now That's a Good Question p.585-586 for complementary answers.
Q: In Mt 10:4 and Mk 3:18, how could Simon the Cananaean be one of Jesus' disciples, since Simon [allegedly] was not a Jew?
A: The KJV and NKJV say "Canaanite", with the NKJV having a footnote saying the majority text is "Cananaean". The NASB and NRSV say "Canaanean".
Whether Simon was not at all a Jew or partly Jewish is not the point. Jesus could call disciples from any nationality. As a side note, many from Tyre and Sidon came to see Jesus in Mark 3:8. Tyre was about 35 miles from the Sea of Galilee, and Sidon was 25 miles from Tyre.
However, the Greek word Kananaios could be a transliteration of the Aramaic qan'an which means zealot. Luke 6:15 calls him "Simon the Zealot". The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 8 p.239 and Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.840 says the same.
Q: In Mt 14:3-4, why exactly did John the Baptist denounce Herod Antipas?
A: First the genealogical background and then the answer.
Herod Antipas: son of Herod the Great and Malthace
Philip: son of Herod the Great and Mariamne II.
(don't be confused by another son of Herod the Great, named Philip the Tetrarch)
Aristobulus: son of Herod the Great and Mariamne I.
Herodias: daughter of Aristobulus
The answer: Herod Antipas was the half-uncle of Herodias, but that was OK according to Leviticus 18:1-17 and 20:12,14. Divorcing a wife was OK in Old Testament times. The problem was that Leviticus 18:16 specifically forbids marrying your brother's wife, and Herodias was the wife of Philip, the brother of Herod Antipas.
The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 8 p.338, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.53 and the skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.814-815 all say the same.
Q: In Mt 16:18, how was "the rock" the most significant pun in all of history?
A: The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.856 states, "It was the most influential pun in all history." In one sense Asimov's observation is correct, as these words were used for centuries to support the popes.
However, while it should be agreed by all that Jesus intended for Peter and the other apostles to have the highest authority on earth over the church, Jesus never said anything about alleged successors. Thus it was not the words themselves, but the unwarranted extension of them to the Popes that made them the most influential pun in all of history.
Q: In Mt 16:21 and Mk 29, why was Peter's confession a major turning point in Jesus' ministry?
A: From the point of recognition that Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus started teaching them that he had to go to Jerusalem to die. They had to believe who Jesus was before they could understand why Jesus had to die for their sins.
The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.856, also recognizes this as a turning point of the gospel of Matthew.
Q: In Mt 22:41-45, was Matthew disproving Jesus being the son of David by referring to Ps 110, as the skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.866 claims?
A: Not at all. Jesus was giving the Pharisees a riddle, to which they would have no answer until they accepted Him. The fact that Jesus agrees with and quotes Psalm 110 as showing that this person is David's Lord, does not negate the fact that Jesus agreed with and quoted Psalm 110 that this person was a son of David too.
Q: In Mt 26:28 and Mk 14:24, should the word covenant/testament have "new" in front of it?
A: Probably not. In modern translations, the NASB, RSV, NRSV, and Jerusalem Bible do not have "new". (NRSV has a footnote saying "Other ancient authorities add 'new'")
The NKJV has "new" but says the majority text does not have it. Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.769 says new was not present in the earliest versions but seems to have been added to emphasize the fresh turn of things with the coming of Jesus.
In Matthew 26:28
"New" is present in Alexandrinus (c.450 A.D.), Ephraemi Rescriptus (5th century), Bezae Cantabrigiensis, Freer Gospels, Sahidic Coptic (3/4th century), Bohairic Coptic (3/4th century), the Byzantine Lectionary, f1 family, f13 family, Armenian, Ethiopic, etc.
"New" is absent in p37 (middle 3rd century), Sinaiticus (340-350 A.D.), Vaticanus (325-250 A.D.), etc.
In Mark 14:24
"New" is present in Alexandrinus, Sahidic Coptic, Diatessaron, Byzantine Lectionary, f1 family, f13 family, Armenian, Ethiopic, etc.
"New" is absent in Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Ephraemi Rescriptus, Bezae Cantabrigiensis, Freer Gospels, Bohairic Coptic, etc.
In general these two manuscripts are interesting to illustrate two trends on correlation between variants.
1. Alexandrian manuscripts, including Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Coptic, etc. in general are shorter than the Byzantine variants.
2. There is not much correlation indicating theological trends. For example, Bezae Cantabrigiensis, the Freer Gospels, Ephraemi Rescriptus and Bohairic Coptic do not correlate with these variants, while the others do.
Q: In Mt 27:9-10, how is this a fulfillment of Jeremiah, since Jeremiah said only part of this, and Zechariah said part of this?
A: The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.887-888 points this out as an unapt quotation. Christians have at least four answers.
Copyist error for Zechariah - It might have been a scribal error for Zechariah. (John Calvin thought this.) In fact, though Calvin would not have known this in his time, some Greek manuscripts do say Zechariah instead of Jeremiah, and in some neither name appears.
Translation error: Papias, a disciple of John the Apostle, records that Matthew originally wrote his gospel in Hebrew. If this is true, and it was translated into Greek, this detail might have been changed then.
An unrecorded prophecy of Jeremiah. Zechariah 1:4 itself quotes Jeremiah 18:11. Zechariah 7:7 mentions he is saying words from former prophets. Difficulties in the Bible p.139 mentions this.
A testimonia chain: One Midrashic practice was to quote different prophecies and relate them together. Not only could this be a what is termed a "testimonia chain", it is not unprecedented, as Mark 1:1 likely also is a testimonia chain.
Q: In Mt 27:19, what else do we know about the wife of Pontius Pilate?
A: The Bible says nothing else. According to Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.890, church tradition said her name was Caludia Procula, she later became a secret Christian, and the Greek Orthodox Church considers her a saint.
Q: When was the Gospel of Mt written?
A: All we can say is that the Gospel of Matthew was written after 33 A.D. and a very high probability before 70 A.D. First here is what we know, and then what various scholars think.
Known facts on Gospel dating
Luke: In 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul quoted from the books of Deuteronomy [Dt 25:4] and Luke [Lk 10:7], calling them both Scripture. 1 Timothy was written in 63 A.D. according to most scholars. (However, Mark White dates 1 Timothy as "? ca. 100-125)"
The Lukan manuscript in Paris (P6) of much of Luke 1-6 is dated by Philip Comfort to midsecond century. Of course, the Gospel of Luke was written prior to Acts. John: The ancient church historian Eusebius of Caesarea records that Papias, a disciple of the apostle John, mentions that Matthew and Mark wrote their gospels. He said that Matthew first wrote his gospel in Hebrew (Aramaic?). Some think this could mean only in a Hebrew literary style though this is highly doubtful.
We have a fragment of the Gospel of John (the John Rylands manuscript, written 117-138 A.D. John is usually thought to be the last Gospel written.
What Various Scholars Think
The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 8 p.20-21 says 66-100 A.D.. , and "perhaps the sixties are the most likely decade for its composition. It also adds that Gundry says 40-100 A.D., since he says Luke is based on Matthew, and Luke-Acts was completed not later than 63 A.D.
The NIV Study Bible p.1439 says some think it written as early as 50 A.D., and others even after 70 A.D.
The New Geneva Study Bible p.1503 says that while some people date Matthew as extreme as 50 A.D. and 100 A.D., an appropriate date is 64-70 A.D. On p.1558 The New Geneva Study Bible it says that "It is generally thought that Matthew and Luke were written about A.D. 80-90. It also mentions that Luke and Acts might have been finished around 62 A.D., and some argue that all the books of the New Testament were written before 70 A.D.
The New International Bible Commentary says that except when Matthew is considered the earliest gospel, it is normally dated 75-80 A.D.
The Believer's Bible Commentary p.1202 says that Matthew might have written something in Aramaic as early as 45 A.D., and brought out a fuller, canonical Gospel in 50-55 A.D. or even later. It adds, "The view that the Gospel must have been written after the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70) rests largely on the disbelief in Christ's ability to predict that future event in detail, and other rationalistic theories that ignore or deny divine inspiration."
The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.631 says we do not know precisely, but its dependence on Mark and failure to mention the destruction of Jerusalem suggest a date shortly before 70 A.D.
The conservative Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1090 plays it says and says that it was written between 30-115 A.D.
C.I. Scofield said it could be as early as 37 A.D., according to The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament p.16.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.15-16 says pinpointing the specific year is impossible. Few scholars give a date after 70 A.D., adding that the reference to the "Holy City" in Matthew 4:5; 27:53 implies that Jerusalem is still standing. It says that a date somewhere around 50 A.D. would satisfy all the demands mentioned, and it holds to the view that Matthew was written first.
The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.771 says Matthew probably reached its final form just after 70 A.D.
The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels p.528 is a mixture of liberal and conservative scholarship. It does not give a definitive answer either, but says "the earliest possible date for Matthew between 75-80 A.D., with a date of 75-85 A.D. being widely held (the commentators Bonnard, Grundmann, Davies, and Allison).
The non-conservative Matthew 1-7 : A Commentary p.93, after giving a detailed explanation, gives a tentative conclusion that "one should not put the date for the Gospel of Matthew long after 80."
The non-conservative professor Mark White of the University of Texas at Austin in his class notes states Matthew was written ca. 80-90 CE.
One liberal presupposition is that if Matthew borrowed verses in Mark, Mark had to have been circulating a number of years before Matthew was written. A second presupposition is denial that God could have given predictions of the fall of Jerusalem prior to its destruction in 70 A.D.
Q: In Mk 2:26, was this in the days of Abiathar, or his father Ahimelech?
A: The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.909 calls this a "factual error", but he is too hasty. Both men were alive then, though Abiathar's father Ahimelech was killed shortly thereafter. According to the Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.362, the Greek here, epi Abiathar archiereos, simply means "in the time of Abiathar the high priest". Abiathar was not only alive then, he was present when this occurred. This expression is like saying "in the time of David, the ruler of Israel", even though David became ruler of Israel later.
In summary, it was during the time of Abiathar, who later was a high priest. As When Critics Ask p.370 concludes, "it was during the time of Abiathar, but not during his tenure in office."
Q: In Mk 3:17, how does the word "boanerges" mean sons of thunder?
A: They were given this nickname because of the temper. The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.909 says that boanerges is a Greek transliteration of the Aramaic benai regesh, which means sons of anger. However, regesh to nerges is not very close. The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.116 says this was a Hebrew idiom.
Q: In Mk 5:41; 7:34, why is Mark explaining Aramaic expressions to his readers?
A: The Book of Mark was written in Greek, and while many people in Palestine could speak both, Mark anticipated that many of his Greek readers could not understand Aramaic terms. In contrast to this, Papias says that the Gospel of Matthew was first written down in Hebrew. However see The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.8 p.11-12 for ambiguity on this statement.
The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.911 has a helpful comment here. Asimov says the style of Mark seems closes to Aramaic than even Matthew. "In fact, part of the imperfection of the Greek of this gospel seems to be that it contains numerous Aramaic forms of expression, literally translated, as though Mark were writing in Greek, but thinking in Aramaic."
Q: In Mk 5:41, did Jesus speak Aramaic or Greek?
A: Jesus certainly spoke Aramaic, as evidenced by His Aramaic expressions. However, many in Galilee and Decapolis spoke both but were more comfortable with Greek. Since Jesus was from there, it was likely that Jesus addressed people in both languages.
Here are specific Aramaic expressions recorded
A1. "Sons of thunder" Mark 3:17
A2. "Little girl, I say to you, get up!" Mark 5:41
A3. "be opened" Mark 7:34
A4. "empty-head" Matthew 5:22
A5. "Abba, Father" Mark 14:36
A6. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34
A7. "whether he would heal on the Sabbath so that they might find an accusation against him" (Luke 6:7) is Greek with peculiar grammar (a dependent complementary infinitive) that might suggest an Aramaic nuance, according to A Wandering Aramean p.12-13.
Here are expressions indicating that Jesus used Greek too.
G1. Matthew 16:15-18 (Petros, Petra)
G2. The names Philip and Andrew were Greek. The name Bartimaeus is an Aramaic-Greek hybrid, according to the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels p.316.
G3. Finally, it would be hard to believe that with at least three Gospels originally written in Greek, and Paul and others writing letters in Greek, that Jesus would not know the language that even Galilean fishermen knew.
The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.911 also discusses the Aramaic expressions of Jesus.
Q: In Mk 14:51-52, who was that "un-masked man", who fled away without his clothes?
A: While Scripture does not say, tradition says it was John Mark, the writer of the Gospel of Mark. The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.905 also says the same, adding the speculation that "that the evangelist could not resist mentioning his presence at a key point in the story of Jesus."
Q: In Mk, what evidence is there that Mark wrote this book?
A: The early church universally recognized this as from Mark. Papias, a disciple of John the apostle, said it was by Mark, who followed Peter. The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.905 also mentions what Papias said.
Q: When was the Gospel of Mk written?
A: The anti-Marcionic prolog to Mark also says "After the death of Peter himself, he [Mark] wrote down this same Gospel...." (taken from The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.99). Irenaeus in Against Heresies 3.1.1 (about 160-180 A.D.) says Mark wrote after "the departure" of Peter and Paul, which would be just after c.64-65 A.D. However, The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 8 p.608 says Irenaeus also wrote that Matthew was written while Peter and Paul were still alive, and we know that is incorrect.
However, according to Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History 6:14.5-7, Clement of Alexandria it was written while Peter was at Rome c.45-64 A.D. Origen also thought Peter was still alive.
Harnack thought it was written before 62 A.D.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.98 says dating Mark is problematic, and that the two best options are either 67-69 A.D., or 64-68 A.D.
In the New International Bible Commentary p.1157, Stephen S. Short says it was c.65 A.D. On p.1183 Laurence E. Porter says that it is clear Mark was written before Luke, and Luke might have written in the first half of the 60's.
The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 8 p.608 says the best estimate is 65-70 A.D., between the Great Fire in Rome and the destruction of the Temple. Jose O'Callaghan found a Papyrus in cave 7 at Qumran that might be fragments of the Gospel of Mark, dated about 50 A.D. However, The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 8 p.608 says this "has been largely rejected by NT scholars (cf. EBC 1:420-421, n.1). The evidence O'Callaghan presents is far too fragmentary to be reliable."
The New Geneva Study Bible p.1558 says that Mark had to have been written before 70 A.D. However, it adds that if Luke and Acts were finished around 62 A.D., then Mark would be even earlier than 62 A.D..
The NIV Study Bible p.1490 says that it might have been the 50's or 60's, or shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.622 says it was 65-70 A.D., though some conservatives hold to a date in the 50s.
The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1078 says that while the majority of interpreters date Mark 65-70 A.D., the most probable date is 67-70 A.D.
The Believer's Bible Commentary p.1318 says that while some give a date as early as the 50s, a date of 57-60 A.D. seems quite likely.
The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels p.528 says it was written in the late 60's, say 68-70 A.D.
The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.903 says Mark may have been written shortly after 64 A.D. It might not have been written till after 66 A.D.,, but it could not have been long after 70 A.D., basing his argument on Matthew and Luke using material from Mark.
Q: In Lk 1:5, what does the name Elizabeth mean?
A: Elizabeth (Elisabet in Greek) is equivalent to Elisheba in Hebrew. It means "God is my oath". Elisheba was a daughter of Amminadab of Judah and Aaron's wife. In Exodus 6:23. The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.520,522, The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.308 and the skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.918 all say similar.
Q: In Lk 2:1-5, why would Caesar Augustus cause chaos by allegedly making everyone return to their hometown?
A: First what the skeptic Isaac Asimov claims, and then two different answers.
Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.929 outright says, "The Romans couldn't possibly have conducted so queer a census as that. Why should they want every person present in the town of his ancestors rather than in the town in which he actually dwelt? ... No, it is hard to imagine a more complicated tissue of implausibilities and the Romans would certainly arrange no such census."
C. Vibius Maximus, prefect of Egypt in 104 A.D. apparently would disagree with Asimov. For the taxation edict of Maximus required everyone in the Egypt to return their hometown. This would not cause chaos if only the farmers and poorer people, who did not travel much anyway, had to return. See the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.414 for more info, and it says the decree is documented in Deiss LAE p.271.
Joseph's own choice: Scripture never claimed that Caesar Augustus required everyone in the Empire return to their hometown. Perhaps Joseph had his own reasons, and Joseph either thought it important to register himself as a descendant of the royal line on his own accord, or else he was told to do so by an angel. However, Joseph was not the only one who felt the need to travel for the census, as the inns in Bethlehem were full.
Q: In Lk 19:14, why would anyone go to a far country to receive a kingdom that was close by?
A: The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.949 is helpful here. Asimov says that while this may be puzzling to modern readers, this was normal at the time, because the far country was Rome. This happened with a number of kings of small kingdoms around Rome, including Herod Archelaus the Ethnarch of Judea in 4 B.C. Rome finally deposed Herod because of the constant petitions of his subjects.
Q: In Lk 23:33, was the place of Jesus' crucifixion called Calvary, or was it Golgotha as Mt 27:33 says?
A: Both, since the people were multilingual. Calvary comes from the Latin Roman term, and Golgotha was from the Aramaic. Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.893 says the same.
Q: When was the Gospel of Lk written?
A: We know for certain it was written after 33 A.D., before the Book of Acts, and probably before 70 A.D.
Views of Various Writers
The NIV Study Bible p.1533 says the two most common suggested periods are 59-63 A.D. and in the 70s or 80s.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.199 says that since Acts was written while Paul was still alive, and Luke was before that, it might have been written before 64 A.D. It suggests a date of 58-60 A.D.
The New Geneva Study Bible p.1599 says that Luke and Acts may have been written about 63 A.D.
The Believer's Bible Commentary p.1367-1368 says the most likely date is very early in the 60's. "While some put Luke between 75-85 (or even the second century), this is usually due at least partly to a denial that Christ could accurately predict the destruction of Jerusalem.
The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.605 says that the abrupt termination of Acts suggests that Luke did not long survive Paul's imprisonment. Also, it is not likely to have been written after the destruction of Jerusalem. It says that 58-59 A.D. would give abundant time for Luke to do his research.
The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1056-1057 simply says the second half of the first century.
The New International Bible Commentary p.1182 gives reasons for three views.
80-85 A.D. if one denies prophecy: It says that this most commonly held view is based on Luke 21:20 saying "when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies" could not be a prophetic prediction.
100 A.D., if Luke and Acts are based on Josephus: Josephus and Luke record some of the same events, so some think Luke copied from Josephus.
Before 70 A.D., because Acts ends with Paul alive.
The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.912 says apparently some time after 70 A.D. Though some suggest dates as late as 100 A.D., 80 A.D. is more generally acceptable.
Q: In Jn 6:23, what do we know about the town of Tiberias?
A: It was a new town in Jesus' time, since Herod Antipas built it between 16 and 22 A.D. as his administrative capital. It was a Gentile town, Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.822-823 says Jews avoided it because it was built on a cemetery.
However, the Encylopaedia Britannica and the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1704 say that in the second century the editor of the Mishnah (c.200-220 A.D), Judah hak-Kadhosh came from there. Also, the Talmud was edited there about 400 A.D.. Famous rabbis buried there include Maimonides, 'Akiba (Akiva), Yohanan Ben Zakkai, and Eliezer the Great.
See The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.1014 for more info.
Q: When was the Gospel of Jn written?
A: We have a fragment of John, called the John Rylands manuscript dated by radiocarbon dating to 117-138 A.D., so it had to be written before then. John was probably written between 70 A.D. and 125 A.D.
Views of Various Writers
The New Geneva Study Bible p.1656 says church tradition suggests it was around 90 A.D.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.267 is it was probably between 85-95 A.D. Some critics have attempted a date as late as 150 A.D. based on similarities to Gnostic writings. Others date it as early as 45-66 A.D.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.268 says that archaeological finds support John 4:11; 5:2-3, word studies such as synchrontai in John 4:9, and the Dead Sea scrolls give support to an early date for John.
The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.534 says that the Gospel of John was written "sometime toward the close of the first century A.D."
The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.954 says that the fourth gospel is later than the others, but by 150 A.D. it seems already to have been known and referred to by writers. Perhaps 100 A.D. is a likely date, though it might be somewhat later still.
According to the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.937, John was familiar with details of Jerusalem prior to its destruction, such as the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:2), the pavement (John 19:13). Used some terminology also used at Qumran A harmony of the Gospels, called the Egerton Papyrus 2, contains John 5 and is dated not later than 150 A.D. (See the Believer's Bible Commentary p.1464 for more on this.)
Valentinus quoted the Gospel of John in his Gospel of Truth, written c. 140 A.D.
Roman catacombs have paintings of Christ as the Good Shepherd and the raising of Lazarus that are dated c.150 A.D.
Q: In Acts 2:6-11, as most people at that time spoke either Greek or Aramaic, did the apostles speak to everyone in their own tongue by just speaking these two languages, which would not be miraculous, as Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1002 suggests?
A: Many people in Palestine spoke both Greek and Aramaic. Asimov's explanation of this as them speaking two languages does not make any sense for at least five reasons.
1. "a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed,..." (Acts 2:6-7 NIV) How many people today are utterly amazed at learning that a stranger is bilingual?
2. "amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, 'What does this mean?' (Acts 2:12 NIV).
3. Others said '...They have had too much wine." (Acts 2:13)
4. Acts 2:8 says that people of fifteen ethnic groups heard the Gospel in their own language. It would not make sense to list fifteen groups if only two languages were spoken.
5. Finally, it is unlikely all the Parthians and Arabs spoke either Greek or Aramaic.
Q: In Acts 8:5-8, 8:26-40, which Philip was this?
A: Scripture does not say whether it was Philip the apostle or the Philip the Greek in Acts 6:1-5 and Acts 21:8-9. The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.372, the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1330, the New International Bible Dictionary p.781, and the skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1008 all agree that it was Philip the Greek. The NIV Study Bible p.1658 also says this was the same Philip the Greek in Acts 6:5. This would mean the ability to perform many mighty miracles was not limited to the twelve apostles.
On the other hand, the New Bible Dictionary (1962) p.684 mentions that Papias, Polycrates, and Eusebius all viewed Philip the Evangelist in Acts 8:3 and Philip the apostle as the same person.
Q: In Acts 8:9-24, why did Simon try to buy the right to heal people?
A: From Simon Magus' perspective, this would not have appeared so bad. Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1011 says that the Jewish high priesthood was bought in Seleucid times and under the Romans. In the Middle Ages, some popes fulfilled "papal succession" by buying their office of Pope. Simon Magus was only doing what many other false religious leaders did.
However, from the perspective of God and Peter, Simon Magus did a terrible thing. To purchase what God gives freely, and possibly to charge for dispensing the grace God freely gave, would be an insult to God.
Q: In Acts 8:27, why would an Ethiopian go to the Jewish Temple?
A: The ancient land called Ethiopia was actually north of modern Ethiopia in modern Sudan. Persia and the Bible p.245-246, The Expositor's Bible Commentary p.649, and the skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible mentions that after 590 B.C., Jewish mercenaries manned a fort at Elephantine in south Egypt to keep the Nubians from attacking Egypt. Some who came from Ethiopia could have been their descendants.
In addition, the Queen of Sheba visited Jerusalem during Solomon's time (around 960 B.C.). While Sheba was across the Red Sea from Ethiopia, apparently some people from the land of modern-day Ethiopia converted to Judaism at that time, and were still there in the Twentieth Century.
In summary, this Ethiopian was probably going to the Jewish Temple because he was a Jew.
As a side note, a Roman drawing of the type of carriage that might have been used by Ethiopian Eunuch is in The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.327.
Q: In Acts 10:20-23, when Peter was commanded not to hesitate to go with the three men, did Peter disobey by questioning them, inviting them into his house, and leaving the next day?
A: Perhaps Peter was not as prompt as possible. On the other hand, if it was late in the day, the only practical thing to do was leave early the next morning rather than try to find a house in the dark. Remember, back then they had no street signs or street lights.
Regardless, Peter definitely intended to go with them. It was not lawful for a Jew to eat with a Gentile, yet after Peter learned his lesson from the vision, he invited the men to eat with him.
It probably took both courage and a direct vision to convince Peter to eat any kind of food. The Jewish skeptic Asimov in Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1050 points out that in Maccabean times Jews had died under torture rather than eat pork.
Q: In Acts 13:1, could Lucius of Cyrene be the same as Luke, the author of Luke and Acts?
A: Most likely not. While Luke was a shortened form of Lucius (as well as Lucanus), nothing indicates that Lucius and Luke were the same person. Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.916 says the same.
Q: In Acts 15:1, was Peter one of the men who came to Antioch, as Asimov's Guide to the Bible (p.1049) says it might have been?
A: Is it possible Peter might have come. However, if a "delegation" came to Antioch, and the delegation represented the apostles, it is unlikely that Peter came.
Q: In Acts 17:34, did this Dionysius write the works said to be by Dionysius of Areopagite?
A: No. The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1065 correctly mentions that these were written hundreds of years later in the fifth century A.D. The Encyclopedia Britannica, 1956 version (volume 7 p.396-397) says that these four works plus ten letters had a profound influence on theologians in the Middle Ages, including Thomas Aquinas, Erigena, Peter Lombard, Albert Magnus, and others. They were more interested in the system of Christian theology combined with Greek philosophy found within them, than the identity of the actual author.
Unfortunately, it put philosophy in place of relationship and obedience to God. The Encyclopedia Britannica (1956) p.396 says, "Their ingredients - Christian, Greek, Oriental and Jewish - are united into an organic system, not crudely mingled. Perhaps theological philosophic fantasy has never constructed anything more remarkable." This system stressed the flow of life from God through a three-by-three celestial hierarchy of:
I. Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones
II. Dominations, Virtues, and Powers
III. Principalities, Archangels, and Angels.
The study of the supposed relationship of these beings, triads of rituals, and other things took the place of the simple study of God's word. It is almost as if the writer had very carefully read Colossians 2:18-19, and then did all he could to disobey it.
Q: In Acts 18:12, do we have any extra-Biblical information about Gallio the proconsul?
A: Yes, Junius Annaeus Gallio was the older brother of the famous Stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca, who was the tutor of Nero. An inscription at Delphi says Gallio was proconsul from c.51-52 A.D. Others interpret the date to be 52-53 A.D. Apparently he had recently become proconsul when Paul was there. The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1135 says 1 Thessalonians was written about 50 A.D., which would make Paul in Corinth then. See The NIV Study Bible under Acts 18:12 and 1 Thessalonians (p.1819) for more info.
Q: In Acts 18:17, who beat Sosthenes and why?
A: Scripture does not say who beat Sosthenes or why. Either :
a) Anti-Semitic Greeks beat Sosthenes
b) Jews beat Sosthenes for being a lukewarm spokesman. (A non-Christian, Isaac Asimov in Asimov's Guide to the Bible (p.1104) asked this question and favors this interpretation)
c) Sosthenes the Jew took a beating "sacrificially" to try to convince Gallio.
d) Jews beat Sosthenes because he became a Christian. Paul mentions Sosthenes in 1 Corinthians 1:1. Since Paul did not differentiate another Sosthenes, it was likely the same one, which makes d) probably the correct answer. Sosthenes was not a common Greek name, according to The New Bible Dictionary (Eerdmans publishing, 1962) p.1208.
Q: In Acts 19:35, why were they so sensitive about "Artemis of the Ephesians"?
A: The temple of Artemis was built here after a meteorite landed. The offerings left at the Temple, and the sale of idols of Artemis brought revenue to the city. As the skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1072 points out, conquerors generally spared Ephesus because of respect for the Temple of Artemis. However, in 400 B.C. the Temple was accidentally burned down, and in 356 B.C., a fame-seeker named Herostratus purposely burned down the temple so that his name would be immortal. They executed Herostratus, and in the future would likely execute anyone accused of desecrating the Temple of Artemis, that brought them safety and income. The New Geneva Study Bible p.1746 mentions that the temple served as a banking depository, too.
For some people, worshipping an idol is equated with national patriotism. In Roman times, loyal Roman citizens were supposed to sacrifice to the Emperor. The magazine Hinduism Today April, 1998 p.36 mentions that Hinduism is "patriotic" to India. Of course, until the British came, one of the few elements common to all Hinduism was "Suttee", the practice of the widow being burned to death on the husband's funeral pyre. If traditional Hinduism is true patriotism, thank goodness few Indians are patriotic by the twisted definition of being true to their Hindu traditions.
Q: In Acts 20:35, where did Jesus say "it is more blessed to give than to receive?
A: As both The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.414 and the skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1075 point out, these words of Jesus are not found in the four Gospels. The apostle John said in John 21:25 that Jesus said many other things, which were not recorded. See also Hard Sayings of the Bible p.535-537 for a more extensive discussion.
Q: In Acts 25:23, what else do we know about Bernice?
A: Bernice was first married to Herod of Chalcis. Eventually she left her third husband and lived with her brother Agrippa. According to the skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1083, she sided with the Romans in the Jewish War and later became the mistress of the Roman General Titus.
Q: Who wrote the Book of Acts?
A: It is fairly unanimous that it was written by Luke, the same person who wrote the Gospel of Luke.
The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.914-915 says, "We can search for more hints in the fact that the same author who wrote Luke almost certainly wrote the Acts of the Apostles as well, the book in which the events of the decades following the crucifixion are given, particularly matters concerning the travels of the Apostle Paul.
There are indications that the writer of Acts was actually a companion of Paul who accompanied him on his travels." Asimov also adds that the tradition of Luke writing both books goes back at least to Irenaeus (170-202 A.D.).
Luke is also mentioned in Colossians 4:14, 2 Timothy 4:11, and Philemon 24.
Q: when was the book of Acts written?
A: There are a variety of answers.
1. The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.351 and the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.23 say that nobody knows for sure. However, since Luke would likely have mentioned Paul's death, the persecutions of Nero, and the fall of Jerusalem if they had occurred, Luke might have written the book of Acts between 61 and 64 A.D. Others say 63-70 A.D. due to silence of later events.
2. The Believer's Bible Commentary p.1576 agrees with the previous view. However, in support of a later date, it mentions an intriguing argument. It was possible that Luke was planning a third volume (though it was not in God's will), so Luke could have written later and planned the later events for the third volume.
3. The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.997 says that some have put forward dates between 64 to 100 A.D., but it was likely around 80 A.D. Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1089 claims a date of 64 A.D. is pretty well discounted, but he never said why that was his opinion.
Q: In Rom 16, does this long list of people in a city Paul had not visited indicate this letter was not really written to the Romans (Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1097) or that Rom 16 was not really a part of Romans (Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1093)?
A: No. Of the 28+ people Paul mentioned, one was from Asia, three were Paul's relatives, and some were co-workers Paul knew from Corinth and other places. In addition, nothing says that Paul had met every one of these individuals in person; some may have been workers Paul heard of second-hand and wanted to commend.
Q: In Rom 16:13, is this Rufus the same Rufus in Mark 15:21, who was the son of Simon of Cyrene who carried Jesus' cross? (Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1098 asked this)
A: It could be, but not necessarily. Rufus was a common name. The New Geneva Study Bible mentions this as a possibility.
Q: In 1 Cor 2:3, does this show that Paul had epileptic fits, as Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1047-1048 suggests?
A: No. Asimov bases this on the fact that Paul said he was "buffeted by Satan", and the experience on the road to Damascus might have been a fit. The fact that Paul admitted he was nervous in 1 Corinthians 2:3 does not mean he had epileptic fits. On the road to Damascus, the other people also saw the light and heard the sound, though they did not understand the voice. That does not mean they all had epileptic fits either.
Q: In 1 Cor 15:1-4, what about some liberal Christians who claim to be Christian, yet deny that Christ died for our sins, and that he actually rose again on the third day?
A: As 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 says, sadly, their faith is worthless. Unless they change, they will go to Hell when they die. Other verses that show the primacy of the atonement are Romans 3:25, 5:6-10, 1 John 2:2, Hebrews 9:11 - 10:18, and John 1:29 are a few of the many others verses that stress the centrality of the atonement.
An interesting note is that even the Jewish skeptic Isaac Asimov, in Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1023 says, "James' conversion to belief may have come about through a sight of the resurrected Jesus. At least Paul, in his First Epistle to the Corinthians lists him among the witnesses to the resurrection:" If even a skeptic like Asimov can consider the possibility that people saw the resurrected Jesus, he was doing better than some liberal Christians who could not even entertain the idea.
Q: In 2 Cor 2:5, was Paul angry at "some individual who had offended Paul", as Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1113 says?
A: There is no evidence of this speculation. The person did something wrong, and 2 Corinthians does not say what it was. However, many think it was the same person who was immoral in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13.
Furthermore, anger is not an accurate description of Paul's feelings here. Paul had just said in 2 Corinthians 2:4 that what he wrote was "with tears", so sadness and disappointment were what Paul felt, more than anger at the individual, here.
Q: In Gal 1:2, where exactly is Galatia?
A: The New Geneva Study Bible p.1845, The NIV Study Bible p.1781, and Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1114-1115 point out there were two regions called Galatia, the original home of the Galatian people to the north, a second one bordering it on the south, and the Roman province was both combined. Asimov does not rule out either one, but favors south Galatia.
The New Geneva Study Bible (p.1845) favors it being written to the Galatian people in the north.
The NIV Study Bible p.1781 simply mentions both theories. Either way, Christian doctrine and the evidence of authenticity of the book are not affected.
Q: In Gal 1:17, when did Paul go into Arabia?
A: Paul was converted between 34 to 35 A.D. (The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1021 says between 32-36 A.D.) After he became a Christian, Paul was in Arabia prior to his first missionary journey, which began around 47 A.D, about fourteen years later. See Chrysostom's Commentary on Galatians p.12-13 (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers First Series vol.13 by Gross Alexander) for more info
Q: In Eph 1:1, was the letter to the Ephesians really written to the Ephesians? (Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1119 asked this)
A: It was certainly to churches in the area, but some early manuscripts do not have the words "in Ephesus". These manuscripts are
p46 Chester Beatty II 200 A.D.
Vaticanus 325-350 A.D. Sinaiticus 340-350 A.D.
Early writers who do not have "in Ephesus" are Tertullian (200-240 A.D.) and Origen (225-254 A.D.).
As for having the words "in Ephesus", both Sinaiticus and Vaticanus have these words added in the manuscript by another hand, Alexandrinus (c.450 A.D.), the Bezae Cantabrigiensis (5th/6th century) and the Byzantine Lectionary. The church father Chrysostom (c.397 A.D.) has it in his commentary. Chrysostom's commentaries have direct quotes of the scripture.
Today's Handbook for Solving Bible Difficulties p.294 mentions that if Paul had written it just to the Ephesians, one would have expected personal greetings to people with whom he had lived three years, but there are none. Also, Origen and Jerome said that "in Ephesus" was not in the best manuscripts they had, though Jerome, in listing the writings of the church, said Paul wrote one letter to the Ephesians (Jerome and Gennadius (c.485-492 A.D.) chapter 5)
In conclusion, either "in Ephesus" was taken out of some manuscripts, such Chester Beatty II prior to 200 A.D., or it was added to some manuscripts prior to c.397 A.D..
Q: In Php 3:4, who is "Syzygus", or "yokefellow"?
A: There are two views:
1. The Greek word Syzygus could be a personal name. However, we have no record of any Greek using this as a personal name.
2. Paul could have deliberately kept unnamed someone he particularly wanted to help with the dispute between Euodias and Syntyche. Sometimes people who diplomatically bring people back together work better when the attention is not drawn to them.
From a non-Christian perspective, Asimov in Asimov's Guide to the Bible (p.1126-1127) pondered this, and concluded that this was not known.
Q: In Col 4:7, was Colossians written at the same time as Eph, 2 Tim, and Tt?
A: The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible (p.1131) mentions the link with Colossians and Ephesians, and this could be true. Both Ephesians 6:21 and Colossians 4:7 says that Tychicus will tell them in person. In 2 Timothy 4:12, Paul says he sent Tychicus to Ephesus. In Titus 3:12, Paul says he will send Artemas or Tychicus to Titus.
However, in Titus 3:12, Paul was free, and the other references were when Paul was in prison, so there were at least two trips. Since there were at least two trips, there could have been three or more. Whichever way it was though, does not affect Christian doctrine or the scriptural authority (called canonicity) of the letters.
Q: In 1 Thess 1, what do we know about the city of Thessalonika?
A: It was originally called "Therma" because of hot springs close by the city. The gulf is called the Thermaic Gulf. One of Alexander the Great's generals, Cassander married Alexander's half-sister, who was named Thessalonica. Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1060 says he built a new city near Therma in her honor. Thessalonika had a large Jewish population. The NIV Study Bible p.1819 says it was the largest city in Macedonia, with a total population was about 200,000. (For comparison, Corinth had a population of 650,000.)
Q: When was 1 Thess written?
A: We know rather precisely when it was written: c. 51-52 A.D. 1 Thessalonians 3:1-7 shows it was written after Paul left Athens and was at Corinth. Acts 18:12,17 says that Gallio was the proconsul of Achaia. The NIV Study Bible p.1819 says that an inscription at Delphi shows that Gallio was only proconsul from c.51-52A.D. Others interpret the date to be 52-53 A.D. Even the skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1135 says 1 Thessalonians was written about 50 A.D.
It a skeptic claims Pauls' letters were written much later by someone else, and the words of 1 Thessalonians about it being written by Paul were a lie, then the burden of proof is on them to provide any evidence at all that the words were a lie. There are few fields of study where one can claim a document is bogus with no evidence whatsoever.
Q: In 1 Tim 1:3, when was Timothy staying at Ephesus, and Paul was hoping to come to Timothy shortly in 1 Tim 3:14? (Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1141-1143 mentions this.)
A: The two letters to Timothy and the letter to Titus are commonly called Paul's "pastoral epistles". The pastoral epistles were written after the events of Acts. This means that they were either written after Paul's house arrest in Rome or else possibly during his house arrest in Rome. Paul was very likely not executed immediately at the end of his house arrest in Rome, or else Luke, who was Paul's traveling companion, would have mentioned it.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.727-729 mentions these things and says 1 Timothy was probably written 63-66 A.D., and 2 Timothy was probably written about 67 A.D..
Q: In 1 Tim, are there stylistic differences between the rest of Paul's letters versus 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus? (from Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1143)
A: There are actually many similarities. Any stylistic differences can be accounted for by Paul writing
a) A personal letter, not a letter to a church,
b) At a later time in his life,
c) Discussing different issues (personal issues of pastoring vs. common church-wide issues)
The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament p.728 mentions that the method of "word-counting" to see similar words is not statistically valid unless the size is large enough. If you use the same technique on other books, you could supposedly "prove" with as much validity that Paul did not write his other books, either.
Q: In Tt 3:12, what do we know about the city of Nicopolis?
A: Nicopolis was a large port in Epirus on the western shore of Greece (in Albania today). It was called "Nicopolis", meaning "city of victory" because Octavian (the future Emperor Augustus) founded the city after defeating Mark Antony in the Bay of Actium near there in 31 B.C. There were also six other smaller towns named Nicopolis in Cilicia and Thrace, but this is the only port city that would be on Paul's route.
As both The NIV Study Bible p.1853 and Asimov's Guide to the Bible (p.1147) correctly points out, since Paul was determining where to winter, this indicates he was not a prisoner when he wrote the book of Titus.
The New International Bible Commentary p.1491 points out that Nicopolis was a strategic city for moving into Dalmatia. In Titus 3:12 Paul asked Titus to meet him in Nicopolis, and in 2 Timothy 4:10 Paul says that Titus has gone into Dalmatia. This clue indicates that 2 Timothy was written after Titus.
See The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.708, the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1205, The New Geneva Study Bible p.1929 and The Believer's Bible Commentary p.2145 for more info.
Q: When was 1 Pet written?
A: Most people agree shortly after 63-64 A.D, as The Bible Knowledge Commentary - New Testament and the New Bible Dictionary show. Similarly, The NIV Study Bible and the New Geneva Study Bible say between 60-68 A.D.
For a non-Christian viewpoint, Asimov in Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1164 believes it was written after 90 A.D., which would be after Peter's death, since he claims that the persecution of Domitian (81-96 A.D.) was "the first time the Christians of Asia Minor first felt organized repression from the central government."
The New Bible Dictionary (p.974-976) gives reasons why a later date is incorrect.
For the Name: In New Testament church times, but not later, the Name of Jesus was greatly emphasized. Christians suffered "for the name" (Acts 5:41; 9:16). The very name of Jesus was important in Mark 9:37,41 13:13; Luke 21:12; Acts 2:21,38; 3:6,16; 4:12,17,30; 5:28). Peter likewise said we "are reproached for the name of Christ" (1 Peter 4:14 NKJV).
No slander: In the time of Pliny, Christians were slandered with gross crimes of immorality and cannibalism, but 1 Peter does not say anything about Christians being slandered. Most tellingly, 1 Peter 4:15 mentions that, at most, Christians were criticized for being "meddlers", hardly the same level of offense. 1 Peter 3:16 talks of the ungodly speaking slander against Christian's good behavior.
Not necessarily legislative persecution: Since the language of 1 Peter does not refer to "legislative action", 1 Peter is talking of persecution in general, not specific laws under Domitian.
See also the discussion on when 2 Peter was written.
Q: When was 2 Pet written?
A: Since 2 Peter 1:13-15 says that God showed Peter that his death was near, the simplest explanation is that it was written shortly before his death in 67-68 A.D. The Bible Knowledge Commentary : New Testament gives the following support:
Methodius of Olympus 3rd century quotes 2 Peter 3:8 as from Peter in On the Resurrection.
Firmilian refers to Peter's warning against false teachers.
For a non-Christian view, Asimov's Guide to the Bible (p.1165) says "it is possible that 2 Peter, like 1 Peter and James, may date to the Domitianic persecution" (90 A.D.) Various commentators say this because,
a. It mentions Paul's epistles as though they were already collected, or at least written.
b. It has a focus indicating Christians were under persecution.
c. 2 Peter is similar to Jude, so perhaps the two were written close in time to each other.
However, since Paul's letters were written before Peter's death, very heavy persecution started three to four years before Peter's death, and Jude could easily have been written before Peter's death, there is no problem here saying 2 Peter was written before 67-68 A.D. See also the discussion on when 1 Peter was written.
Q: In 3 Jn 1, did John treat Gaius as an ally who will support John against Diotrephes, the leader of another faction, as Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.1171 says?
A: No. There is no evidence for this strange idea that John, the apostle of Jesus, was in need of allies.
Q: In Rev 1:10 is the "Lord's Day" Saturday or Sunday here?
A: It was most likely Sunday, because "the Lord's Day" would be the day Jesus rose from the dead. As one preacher said, John might have felt discouraged, so God took him to church! Some Christians disagree and feel this was the Sabbath (Saturday).
For a non-Christian perspective, Asimov's Guide to the Bible (p.1194) discusses both, but he claims it is probably Saturday, because Sunday was not considered special until "the early decades of the fourth century." However, Asimov apparently missed the fact that Paul instructed the Corinthians about the regular collection for God's people that was to be taken on the first day of the week in 1 Corinthians 16:2. Why would he instruct that if they did not already have a special assembly on the first day of the week? Paul never told them to gather together for the offering, presumably because they already were gathered together on the first day of the week.
Q: In Rev 3:5, Rev 13:8, Rev 17:8, Rev 20:12,15, and Rev 21:27 is the book of life "originally ...merely a metaphoric expression signifying the list of living people... and to die would be to be blotted out of that book", and only in post-Exilic times, it became those who would live in Heaven, as Asimov's Guide to the Bible states (p.1200-1201)?
A: No. This is a one of a great number of (almost) unsubstantiated claims that Asimov is fond of making. Other verses in the Bible on the Book of Life, such as Daniel 12:1, and Luke 10:20 (by inference), all are consistent with the Book of Life being those living in Heaven. Asimov would agree, since these verses are all Post-Exilic. He makes his entire case on the only pre-Exilic verses that mention the Book of Life, Exodus 32:32-33, Psalm 69:28. However, Psalm 139 mentions that all David's Days were written in God's book (not necessarily the book of life, though), before one of them came to be. Thus, at least for this book, it is not simply a record of those currently living.
Asimov's claim is almost unsubstantiated, although he does try to substantiate it in a way by mentioning this is based on his opinion that afterlife was only taught in Post-Exilic times. However basing an entire argument on an assumption is not the same as basing an argument on facts. Here is why his assumption that afterlife was only taught in Post-Exilic times was wrong.
Asimov's argument is curious, as nearly all of the ancient Mideast cultures had some concept of afterlife. Perhaps he forgot that the Egyptian pyramids were built by slaves for the purpose of Pharaoh's afterlife. Likewise, the Hittites, built a rock sanctuary of Yazilikaya to the deceased king. The Scythians also had elaborate tombs. Out of Sumerians (Abraham's people), Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Hittites, Greeks, Scythians, and others, Asimov would make the Hebrews unique in not believing in an afterlife.
Here is an incomplete list of the many Biblical proofs of belief in afterlife, using only Pre-Exilic verses.
Exodus 3:15 Jesus used this verse to refute the Sadducees, who denied an after life. Jesus' point, as valid now as it was then, it that it Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had to still exist in Moses' time, since God said He "is" the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Sadducees apparently had no answer for this.
1 Sam 2:6 (NIV) "The Lord brings death and make alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up." (NIV)
Psalm 49:14 (NIV) "But God will redeem my soul from the grave; he will surely take me to himself."
Psalm 22:29, (NIV) "...all who go down to the dust will kneel down to Him..."
Psalm 23:6, after telling about the shadow of death in Psalm 23:4, David says, "He will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
Psalm 49:8-9 (NIV) "The ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough - that he should live on forever and not see decay."
Psalm 52:8-9 (NIV), "I trust in God's unfailing love for ever and ever. I will praise you forever... I will praise you in the presence of your saints."
Isaiah 25:7-8 (NIV) On this mountain he [God] will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever...."
Isaiah 53:8-10, after saying the one who suffers for us will be killed and put in the grave of a rich man in verses 8-9, yet he shall see his offspring in verse 10.
Hard Sayings of the Bible p.104 says essentially the same thing, but phrases it much better.
Nevertheless, it is amazing to see how many learned men and women will deny even these two texts [Isaiah 26:19 and Daniel 12:2] and argue that the Old Testament teaches virtually nothing about resurrection or life after death.
The truth of the matter is that ancient peoples were more attuned to the subject of life after death than moderns suspect. The peoples of the ancient Near East wrote at length about what life was like after one left this earth. One need only consult such representative pieces as the Gilgamesh Epic, The Descent of Ishtar into the Netherworld, the Book of the Dead and the Pyramid texts. Indeed, the whole economy of Egypt was geared to the cult of the dead, for all who wished to be a part of the next life had to be buried around the pyramid of the Pharaoh. ... By the time Abraham arrive in Egypt, such concepts had been emblazoned on their walls in hieroglyphics, murals and models made of clay, to make sure no one missed the point. Life after death was not a modern doctrine developed by an educated society that began to think more abstractly about itself and its times. Instead it was an ancient hunger that existed in the hearts of humanity long before the patriarchs.... Why should we attribute this idea to the second and third centuries B.C. if already in the third and second millennium B.C. there is strong evidence to support it?
The earliest biblical mention of the possibility of a mortal's inhabiting the immortal realms of deity can be found in Genesis 5:24 [God taking Enoch away with Him]."
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