A Question I Was Asked:

What is the "Robinson Redating of the New Testament"?

'I have recently heard about the "Robinson Redating of the New Testament." What does this refer to'?

UK Apologetics Reply:

This refers to the challenge to the earlier, I think much looser, dating of the New Testament which was around prior to something like the 1970s. The challenge came from J.A.T. Robinson (1919-1983). Robinson definitely came from the more liberal tradition of Anglicanism, and wrote many things which many of us would not support, however, his redating of the New Testament was, in the opinion of many of us, long overdue and it solved many former problems and questions. He believed that AD70 was a pivotal year for the early church with the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem and found it quite staggering that that event would have gone unmentioned in those books which had been believed to have been written very late, such as the epistles of John and the Book of Revelation. Indeed, the temple was referred to by the Apostle John in Revelation 11 as though it were still standing.

After much research and analysis, Robinson came up with new proposed dates for the New Testament books which, in my opinion, make far more sense. For example, Galatians was often thought to have been a very early book yet it contains the mature Paul of Romans, so - even many years ago - I believed that Galatians was not a very early epistle at all and must have been written around the same time as the theologically-mature Epistle to the Romans. I had not learned of the "Robinson redating" by then but I was later pleased that he had backed up much of what I had come to believe. Robinson also made the Book of James very early, again, this makes very good sense since it is widely agreed that the theology in that epistle is somewhat raw and undeveloped, totally unlike the towering maturity of Paul in Romans!

Loosely speaking JAT Robinson was a liberal - that can't be denied - however, he was certainly an expert on tracking down the correct dating of First Century writings and here he was prepared to tackle and challenge other Bible liberals - and conservatives too - who stuck to very questionable dates. Liberal or not, for this he should be applauded.

Here are Robinson's dates, he includes one or two early works which are not canonical:


James - c. 47-8.
1 Thessalonians - early 50.
2 Thessalonians - 50-1.
1 Corinthians - spring 55.
1 Timothy - autumn 55.
2 Corinthians - early 56.
Galatians - later 56.
Romans - early 57.
Titus - late spring 57.
Philippians - spring 58.
Philemon - summer 58.
Colossians - summer 58.
Ephesians - late summer 58.
2 Timothy - autumn 58.
The Didache - c. 40-60.
Mark - c. 45-60.
Matthew - c. 40-60+
Luke - 57-60+
Jude - 61-2.
2 Peter - 61-2.
Acts - 57-62+
1 John - c. 60-65.
2 John - c. 60-65.
3 John - c. 60-65.
1 Peter - spring 65.
John - c. 40-65+
Hebrews - c. 67.
Revelation - late 68 (-70).
1 Clement - early 70.
Barnabas - c. 75.
The Shepherd of Hermas -c. 85.

These dates make much more sense to many of us. The earlier dating of Revelation fits with the fact that John seems to assume a still-standing temple in Revelation 11, it also fits with the widely-believed concept that at least some of Revelation's symbols (if not all) refer to the catastrophic events of AD70-73.
Robin A. Brace, April 19th, 2010.