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In the next chapter, however, what was a remote contingency has become an imminent certainty: the readers are prepared to meet a “fiery trial” in which they will “share Christ’s sufferings,” and the conditional clause “if one suffers as a Christian” is not expressed as something conceivable yet unlikely, but as something to be expected (1 Pet. The date of I Peter is therefore, in my judgment, pin-pointed with unusual precision. If we had no other means of dating the Gospel of John, we should know that it was in existence by the time Basilides quoted it about A. 130; or, if we lacked that, we would have Heracleon’s commentary on it a generation later. A much more precarious criterion is the stage of the development of Christian doctrine and practice which the various documents presuppose.
We will avoid such dubious conclusions if we rely as far as possible on more objective criteria for dating the New Testament books. But that admittedly would be both speculative and subjective—a far cry from the objective criteria I have advocated in this article! Bruce [was] professor of biblical criticism and exegesis at the University of Manchester, England, and [was] a consulting editor of ETERNITY.
If O’Callaghan’s findings lead to a major revision of New Testament critical views, it will not be the first time that uncovered ancient texts or fragments have jolted the scholars.
For example, when one of the first manuscript discoveries at Qumran in 1947 proved to be a copy of the book of Isaiah written in the first half of the second century B.
Revelation refers to five “kings” who have fallen and to one who “is” at the time of speaking (Rev. If, then, we can identify these “kings”—a big “if” but not, I think, an impossible one—we will have a criterion for dating at least this part of the book.
Paul’s Letters to the Corinthians were written after his evangelization of Corinth, and his evangelization of Corinth can be dated rather precisely; we have inscriptional evidence for the time of Gallio’s governorship of Achaia, which began while Paul was in Corinth. Of course, an exception to this rule occurs in the case of prophetic material, which points to events which are still future at the time of writing.
Take for instance the aspect of privacy and security.