Dating new testament books
They must have been brought together very soon after the writing of the Gospel according to John.This fourfold collection was known originally as 'The Gospel' in the singular, not 'The Gospels' in the plural; there was only one Gospel, narrated in four records, distinguished as 'according to Matthew,' 'according to Mark,' and so on.
This, however, is something that is to be discerned by spiritual insight, and not by historical research.When Luke and Acts were thus separated one or two modifications were apparently introduced into the text at the end of Luke and the beginning of Acts.Originally Luke seems to have left all mention of the ascension to his second treatise; now the words 'and was carried up into heaven' were added in Luke xxiv.The first steps in the formation of a canon of authoritative Christian books, worthy to stand beside the Old Testament canon, which was the Bible of our Lord and His apostles, appear to have been taken about the beginning of the second century, when there is evidence for the circulation of two collections of Christian writings in the Church.At a very early date it appears that the four Gospels were united in one collection.Even when we have come to a conclusion about the date and origin of the individual books of the New Testament, another question remains to be answered.
How did the New Testament itself as a collection of writings come into being?
The earliest list of New Testament books of which we have definite knowledge was drawn up at Rome by the heretic Marcion about 140.
Marcion distinguished the inferior Creator-God of the Old Testament from the God and Father revealed in Christ, and believed that the Church ought to jettison all that appertained to the former.
As the Gospel collection was designated by the Greek word Euangelion, so the Pauline collection was designated by the one word Apostolos, each letter being distinguished as 'To the Romans,' 'First to the Corinthians,' and so on.
Before long, the anonymous Epistle to the Hebrews was bound up with the Pauline writings.
Origen (185-254) mentions the four Gospels, the Acts, the thirteen Paulines, 1 Peter, 1 John and Revelation as acknowledged by all; he says that Hebrews, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, James and Jude, with the 'Epistle of Barnabas,' the Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache, and the 'Gospel according to the Hebrews,' were disputed by some. 265-340) mentions as generally acknowledged all the books of our New Testament except James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, which were disputed by some, but recognised by the majority.