Since 1980 I have represented the standpoint that all the documents of the New Testament were completed prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Among German theologians, I mostly receive some head shaking disapproval, since the thought is that this view could only be a consequence of my conservative understanding of Scripture. Even my deceased friend, the papyrologist Prof. Carsten Peter Thiede, was accused of holding to this view only because of his conservative approach to the New Testament. This was the case, even though he held to a considerably ‘more open’ understanding of Scripture than I do and compiled the arguments in more detail and even presented new ones.

But is what we are dealing with here really a question of an understanding of Scripture? Does the favorable view of the Bible held by pious theologians prevent them from taking opposing arguments seriously? No, because also within the Evangelical spectrum this viewpoint is not the majority opinion. At least when it comes to the last book of the New Testament, Revelation, it is almost always dated at the end of the 1st century, even if there are several arguments for dating Revelation early. I attempt to demonstrate this in my German article “Reasons for an early dating of Revelation before 70 A.D” (the article can be downloaded here). This shows rather clearly that it is poor form to simply reduce this question to ‘bible believing’ versus ‘liberal,’ and that it is rather the limited horizon of German theology that hinders the debate from the get-go.

“Redating the New Testament” by John A. T. Robinson is a detailed thesis that substantiates that all New Testament documents were composed prior to 70 A.D. It was not until 10 years later that a German translation of “Redating the New Testament” appeared via Catholic and Evangelical publishing houses (Paderborn: Bonifatius and Wuppertal: R. Brockhaus, 1986). That Robinson does not argue in a ‘bible believing’ fashion is demonstrated by the manner in which he addresses the question of whether Jesus prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem. For Robinson this is not a prophecy. Everything that Jesus announced was already known from contemporary Jewish literature or could be derived from the Old Testament. And even the small differences between Jesus’ announcements and the later, actual occurrences verify that the words of Jesus are older. Robinson was simply ignored within German theology, as well as were all later representatives of his point of view.

Again it is a non-Evangelical, Catholic theologian who in his new introduction to the New Testament has presented the thesis that all New Testament documents were composed prior to 70 A.D. Under the prestigious Austrian Böhlau-Verlag publishing house and in the UTB series, the Viennese Professor Karl Jaros has written the book in German “The New Testament and its Authors: an Introduction.” However, the same fate supposedly awaits Jaros that befell Robinson and others. Some sort of justification will be found, for instance that even though he does not have an Evangelical understanding of Scripture, he is nonetheless rather conservative. Another is that as an Old Testament and Ancient Orient scholar, he is not at all competent to make any statements regarding the New Testament. I dream of the day when historic-critical German theologians grapple historico-critically in order to understand how the late composition of the New Testament became dogma and in an unbiased manner critically weigh the arguments and authors for and against the issue instead of blocking out certain theses and authors from the very start.