Dating of the canonical gospels
Conservative Christians naturally take this passage as proof of Jesus’ miraculous powers of foresight, and an indication that the gospels were written before the events they foretell.
However, an equally possible interpretation is that this passage was composed after these events, and was written to “foretell” them in order to make it seem as if the author had access to a source of supernatural insight.
So, what conclusion is best supported by the facts?
This essay will examine four categories of evidence: internal evidence from the text of the gospels themselves; documentary evidence from the early church record; physical evidence in the form of surviving manuscripts; and negative evidence in the form of missing references to the gospels where we would have every right to expect to find them.
and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?
One, as previously mentioned, is that it’s a late document whose author sought to make it seem earlier by leaving out Paul’s death.Papias One of the early church figures commonly appealed to in dating the gospels is Papias, a bishop who lived in the early second century.His best-known work is The Sayings of the Lord Interpreted, though the book itself is lost and we know of it only in fragments.Prophecies of the End In “2000 Years Late“, I called attention to this passage from the so-called Olivet Discourse, regarding Jesus’ prophecies of the end of the world: “And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!
And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings?
(Textual scholars are in wide agreement about other places in the Bible where this strategy was used, particularly the Book of Daniel.) Since no internal evidence of this passage can decide between these alternatives, by itself it is of little help in dating the gospels.