When Were the Gospels Written? Internal Evidence Suggests < Peter and Paul's Martyrdoms

Some have asserted we have no eyewitness accounts in the New Testament of Jesus’ ministry, yet these assertions are without merit once one investigates internal evidence. Luke wrote Acts after he wrote the book of Luke, claiming to have written “orderly” accounts for Theophilus. In the book of Acts, Luke details the stoning of Stephen and the way James, the brother of John, was killed by a sword. Acts devotes significant attention to its primary characters, Peter and Paul, yet no mention is made of the martyrdoms of either, though we have evidence that Paul was beheaded by Nero between 62 and 64, while Peter was crucified upside down in the 60s as well. No mention of the martyrdom of James, Jesus’ 1/2 brother, is offered either, though Josephus has indicated James was martyred in Jerusalem in the 60s.

Acts 7: 54-60 documents the stoning of Stephen, while Acts 12:2 documents the way Herod Agrippa put James, the brother of John, to death by the sword. Paul was also stoned, beaten, jailed, which he documented in his New Testament books. His beheading by Nero was documented by Origen, Tertullian, and Dionysius of Corinth (Habermas & Licona, 2004). The martyrdom of Jesus’ half- brother James was documented by Josephus, Hegesippus, and Clement of Alexandria (Habermas & Licona, 2004). Peter was crucified upside down, as confirmed by Eusebius, the first church historian, in his book “Ecclesiastical History” and also by Dionysius of Corinth, Tertullian, and Origen.

Given the fact that Peter and Paul were the main characters in the book of Acts, their exclusion strongly suggests dating of Acts prior to their martyrdoms, which further dates Luke to before that. Since the scholarly consensus is that Mark and Matthew were likely written prior to Luke, one could assert that these  were all written prior to the 60s. Forensic investigator and author of Cold Case Christianity J. Warner Wallace has also offered this line of reasoning.

Additionally, Luke referred to himself in the first person starting in Acts 16 when he traveled with Paul. It is conceivable that he wrote Acts while traveling with Paul, which obviously occurred prior to Paul’s martyrdom. Recording his travels in an orderly and accurate way would best occur if done in real time (rather than years later) when memories are most fresh.

The book of John is considered the last book in the Gospels. This book documented Jesus’ life, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection. The book did not document the history of the early church, which is why it excludes both mention of the fall of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 A.D. and Christianity’s martyred apostles.

In conclusion, we have internal evidence to support earlier dating for the Synoptic Gospels. Refuting this dating requires an assessment of WHY the martyrdoms of Peter, James (Jesus’ 1/2 brother) and Paul were not mentioned anyplace in Acts or the other writings that detailed the travels of Jesus’ earliest apostles and disciples.

Thank you for your time.


Habermas, G.R. & Licona, M.R. (2004). The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.

Wallace, J.W. (2013). Cold-case Christianity. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook.


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