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The Date of the Gospel of Matthew

Over the last several posts, I have been examining the earliest references to the Gospel of Matthew. The probable references to the text from Papias, Ignatius, and the Didache entail that the text cannot be dated later than the beginning of the second century. The text also cannot be dated earlier than the publication of the Gospel of Mark, which is its main source. Mark’s Gospel is commonly dated either shortly before or after the destruction of the temple in 70 CE, though a handful of scholars date it as early as the Caligula crisis around 40 CE (see my posts on the date here and here). The best evidence that Matthew presupposes the destruction of the temple is in the addition of a reference to a king burning down his city in Matthew 27:7 (compare the parable in Matthew 22:1-14/Luke 14:15-25) and Ken Olson offers a strong case for reading this detail in light of 70 CE. Thus, the window for dating Matthew’s Gospel is between 70 and 100 CE. I would lean towards dating it closer to 70 than to 100 as Matthew seems to expect the Son of Man’s return soon after the events that would occur in the generation after Jesus, while Luke writing at a later date may allow for a longer “time of the Gentiles” before the end (cf. Luke 21:24) and avoids the disciples’ question about setting a date when Jesus would re-establish the kingdom of Israel (Acts 1:6-7).

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