REDATING THE NEW TESTAMENT. by J. A.T. Robinson SCM Press Ltd London.  First published 1976 by SCM Press Ltd 58 Bloomsbury Street, London Second impression 1977 © J. A. T. Robinson 1976. - Prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram 2006.

IV. Acts and the Synoptic Gospels

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WITH the Pauline chronology is bound up the question of Acts, and so of Luke and the other synoptists. Whether, according to the unanimous external tradition, Luke is the author of the third gospel and the Acts of the Apostles is not directly our problem. Though a second-century date clearly rules out a companion of Paul, the middle ground of 80-90 for which most recent critics opt need not. In fact Goodspeed argues for the authorship of Luke only if Acts is put late (c. 90). [INT, 197-204.]
On the other hand, the earlier the joint work is dated the less reason there is for questioning the ascription. For if it is not by Luke, then it is by some other unknown figure who stood as close to the events and for whom Paul was equally clearly the hero. It is possible to deny, on theological grounds, that the author could have been a close associate of Paul's and yet to come to exactly the same dating as those who think that he was. [Kummel, INT, 147-9, 179-87, and G. W. H. Lampe, PCB, 820f., 882f.]
I do not propose therefore to go into the question of authorship, but simply record that with the majority of English scholars I see no decisive reason against accepting the traditional ascription. [For a balanced assessment of the points at issue, cf. C. S. C. Williams, Acts, introduction. In favour of Lukan authorship: Streeter, FG, 540-62; E. E. Ellis, Luke (NCB), 1966, 40-52. Against: Haenchen, Acts, 112-16; Kummel, INT, 147-50, 174-85]

If an author for the Gospel, in particular, were being invented or guessed at there would have been the strongest possible reason for fastening on an apostle or at any rate a disciple of the Lord. Moreover, the style of the 'we' sections of Acts (16.10-17; 20.5-15; 21.1-18; 27.1-28.16) is, as Harnack showed, the style par excellence of the writer of the whole when freely composing in his own hand. [A. Harnack, Date of Acts and the Synoptic Gospels, ET 1911, ch. i; cf. his earlier Luke the Physician, ET 1907, ch. 2. Goodspeed and Williams here concur.]
There is no real ground for arguing that he is here using a source or travel-diary other than his own. The discrepancies with Pauline teaching have in my judgment been much exaggerated, [Emphasized by Haenchen, Acts, 112-16.]
and room must be allowed for two facts, (a) Acts is presenting Paul for the most part addressing those outside the church, in contrast with the epistles which deal with concerns between Christians. The only speech in Acts addressed by Paul to Christians is that to the elders at Miletus in 20.17-38, which we have already seen contains some remarkable parallels with the later Pauline writings. [Pp. 80f. above.]
In Rom.1.18-2.16 Paul shows how far he is prepared to go in accepting pagan presuppositions in addressing those outside the law; there is no fundamental contrast with the speech put into his mouth at Athens in Acts 17.22-31. [For the historical setting of this, cf. T. D. Barnes, 'An Apostle on Trial', JTS n.s.20, 1969,407-19.]
(b) The author of Acts is an independent lay mind of Gentile upbringing who presents himself (Luke 1.1-4) primarily as an historian, not a professional theologian. [For the most recent assessment of Luke's intention, in the light of the Hellenistic parallels, cf. W. C. van Unnik, 'Once more St Luke's Prologue', Neotestamentica 7, 1973, 7-26, and the literature there cited.] Thus, Acts 13.39 ('It is through him that everyone who has faith is acquitted of everything for which there was no acquittal under the Law of Moses') is a typical 'lay' summary of a theologian's position: inadequate in precision of statement (for it could be taken to imply that for some things justification by the law was possible), but sufficient in general intention. The recent tendency to turn Luke into a 'theologian's theologian', is, I believe, a misguided exercise and detracts from appreciation of his stated purpose and, within his own terms, still profoundly theological understanding of events. Absence of reference to the epistles of Paul cannot be regarded as a decisive objection. [E.g. H. Conzelmann, The Theology of St Luke, ET 1960. For a balanced corrective, cf. I. H. Marshall, Luke: Historian and Theologian, Exeter 1970. For a survey of recent views, cf. C. K. Barrett, Luke the Historian in Recent Study, 1961; 'Philadelphia 1970.]

For Luke is not writing his 'life and letters' any more than he is writing a biography of Jesus, and Paul himself sees his letters as stopgaps or preparations for the visits, and these are what Acts records. On the other hand, silence on the very existence of the epistles is, as Kummel says, [INT, 186; cf. Zahn, INT lll, 125f.] a formidable objection, amongst many others, to a second-century date. [Cf. Harnack, whose knowledge of the field of early Christian literature was second to none: 'It is a perfect mystery to me how men like Overbeck and now again P. W. Schmidt can set the Acts of the Apostles in a line with the works of Justin Martyr! St Luke's Christology simply cries out in protest against such procedure; nor is the case different with other characteristics of this writer' (Dale of Acts, 109). He might now have added John Knox, Marcion and the New Testament, Chicago 1942, ch.5, who argues for a date of Acts c. 140, andJ. C. O'Neill, The Theology of Acts, 1961, ch.1, who dates it between c.115 and 130.]
It is unbelievable that a later writer should not have made use of them for his reconstruction or at least alluded to them.

When we come to the issue of dating proper, we may note in passing that one argument, namely, the supposed dependence of Acts on Josephus' Antiquities, [Stressed, for instance, by F. C. Burkitt, The Gospel History and its Transmission, Edinburgh 1906, 109f.] which would require a date after 93, seems to have been almost totally abandoned. [Cf. F. J. Foakes Jackson, Acts (Mofiatt NTC), 1931, xivf.; Kummel, INT, 186; Lampe, PCB, 883; Manson, Studies in the Gospels and Epistles, 641. Writing in 1910, Harnack regarded this point as having been 'settled thirty-four years ago by Schurer'. Quoting the latter's summary, 'Either St Luke had not read Josephus, or, if he had read him, he had forgotten what he had read',Harnack said: 'Schurer here exactly hits the mark' (Date of Acts, 114f.).] Apart from general considerations of the time required for the development of the theological and historical perspective of Luke-Acts, which are notoriously subjective, and in turn depend on other datings, the three 'hard' pieces of evidence are: (a) the prophecies of the fall of Jerusalem in Luke;

(b) the dependence (according to the most widely held solution of the synoptic problem) of the gospel of Luke upon that of Mark; and

(c) the fact that Acts ends where it does.

The first, (a), we have already examined and concluded that these prophecies afford no ground for supposing that they were composed or even written up after the event. Rather, the contrary. This does not of course mean that they could not have been incorporated, without change (though this in itself would need explanation), into a gospel written later. But in themselves they provide no evidence for a later dating. Indeed they afford a presumption (from unfulfilled prophecy) of a dating not simply before the fall of the city in 70 but before the flight of Christians to Pella prior to the beginning of the war in 66.

The second, (b), depends for its force on the fact (if it is a fact) that Luke is subsequent to Mark and, of course, on the dating of Mark. The main reason for supposing Luke to have been written after 70 even by those (like Dodd) who agree that the prophecies do not demand it is that the dating of Mark forces Luke later. This, however, must be considered on its own merits in conjunction with the wider synoptic problem. It will be convenient then to look first at the third piece of evidence, relating to the ending of Acts.

(c) The closing words of Acts are:

He [Paul] stayed there [in his own lodging in Rome] two full years at his own expense, with a welcome for all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the facts about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and without hindrance (28.30f.).

The question is: why does the account stop at this point? As Harnack said, [Date of Acts, 95f.

Throughout eight whole chapters St Luke keeps his readers intensely interested in the progress of the trial of St Paul, simply that he may in the end completely disappoint them – they learn nothing of the final result of the trial! Such a procedure is scarcely less indefensible than that of one who might relate the history of our Lord and close the narrative with his delivery to Pilate, because Jesus had now been brought up to Jerusalem and had made his appearance before the chief magistrate in the capital city!

Various reasons have been advanced to explain this ending. [For a summary of suggested solutions, cf. Lake and Cadbury in Beginnings IV, 349f.; for Lake's own proposals, V, 326-32. R. P. C. Hanson, 'Interpolations in the "Western" Text of Acts', NTS 12, 1965-6, 224-30, suggests merely that Luke did not need to go on because his (Roman) readers knew the rest. But presumably they also knew about the two previous years.]
It is said that it suits Luke's apologetic purpose to close with Paul preaching 'openly and without hindrance' to the Roman public. But this must surely have been rendered less than cogent for Theophilus by glossing over in silence the common knowledge that he and Peter and 'a vast multitude' of other Christians in the city had within a few years been mercilessly butchered. There is no hint of the Neronian persecution, which because of its excesses won considerable sympathy for the Christians, as Tacitus says. [Am. 15.44.] Nor for that matter is there any hint of the death of James the Lord's brother in 62, which took place at the hands of the Sanhedrin against the authority of Rome. The high priest Ananus seized the opportunity of an interregnum in the procuratorship after the death of Festus to exercise capital jurisdiction for which the Sanhedrin had no authority. Agrippa took immediate steps to put himself and the Jewish people in the right with Rome by removing Ananus from office before the new procurator arrived. [Josephus, Ant. 20. 200-3.] No incident could have served Luke's apologetic purpose better, that it was the Jews not the Romans who were the real enemies of the gospel.

Yet there is not a hint of James ever falling foul of the Jewish authorities, unlike his namesake, James the brother of John (Acts 12. 1f.) Nor is there any shadow in Acts of the impending Jewish revolt, let alone of the destruction of Jerusalem to bear out the earlier prophecies of the Gospel. When last we hear of them, the representatives of Judaism, alike of church (24.21.; 25.1-5) and state (25.13-26.32), are living in a condition of courteous, if suspicious, detente with Rome. One could never guess from Acts what was to break within a few years.

Other explanations, that Acts was left unfinished (yet never supplied with an ending such as was deemed necessary for Mark) or that Luke intended a third volume (for which there is no evidence whatever - and in any case why break there? ), are recourses of desperation. [So Zahn, INT III., 58-61.]

Harnack wrote again: [Date of Acts, 96f.]

For many years I was content to soothe my intellectual conscience with such expedients; but in truth they altogether transgress against inward probability and all the psychological laws of historical composition. The more clearly we see that the trial of St Paul, and above all his appeal to Caesar, is the chief subject of the last quarter of Acts, the more hopeless does it appear that we can explain why the narrative breaks off as it does, otherwise than by assuming that the trial had actually not yet reached its close. It is no use to struggle against this conclusion.

[Even Manson, op. cit., 67, who thinks Mark early enough to accommodate such a date for Acts (see below, p. 111), struggles against this conclusion to the extent of saying that Luke perhaps did not himself know the outcome of Paul's trial, or, granted that he must have heard of his martyrdom if it had occurred 'anywhere near the dates usually given for it', is ready to appeal to Luke's silence as evidence that it did not!]

Harnack is still worth quoting, not merely because he is one of the great ones in the field, whose massive scholarship and objectivity of judgment contrast with so many who have come after him, but because on this subject he was forced slowly and painfully to change his mind. In his Chronologic, itself, as he says in his preface, [Chron; vi, dated 31 May 1896.] the product of fifteen years' study, he dated Luke-Acts with some confidence between 78 and 93. [Chron., 250.] By the time he wrote his Acts of the Apostles he personally felt that an earlier date was far more probable but cautiously deferred to the weight of contrary opinion: [A. Harnack, The Acts of the Apostles, originally Leipzig 1908; ET 1909.]

Therefore for the present we must be content to say: St Luke wrote at the time of Titus [79-81] or in the earlier years of Domitian [81-96],
but perhaps even so early as the beginning of the seventh decade of the first century.

But three years later in his Date of Acts and the Synoptic Gospels [Originally Neue Untersuchungen zur Apostelgeschichte, Leipzig 1911; ET, 90-135.] he concluded without reservation that it is 'in the highest degree probable' that Acts was written at the stage at which the narrative terminates, i.e., on our reckoning, if not his, in 62. [I raise the question, without having been able to document the answer, whether Harnack may not have changed his mind on this too. According to his Chronologic, Paul left Jerusalem in 56, arrived in Rome in 57, and the two years' detention there would have ended in 59. Yet in The Date of Acts he argues for a date in the early 60s and quotes (92) with approval a fellow German scholar who, on the basis of his own previous statement in The Acts of the Apostles, dated it in 62. Despite the English title of his second book, he never actually dates Acts. But it certainly looks as though, without mentioning it, he had moved away from his previous (unsatisfactory) argument for an early dating for Festus' accession. Bammel agrees and tells me it was probably due to Schurer's article, INT 41, 21-42, replying to his Chronologic a year later.]
He argues that in 28.30 the aorist ἐνέμεινεν, rather than an imperfect, suggests that the period of Paul's relative freedom was now closed, but that if he had left Rome Luke could hardly have failed to mention it. He therefore thinks that Acts was written very soon after this time of unhindered evangelism was over and Paul was removed to the praetorium to begin the process of his trial. [Parry, The Pastoral Epistles, xvf, while agreeing with Harnack's conclusion on the date, argues that the implication of the aorist is that Paul left Rome after two years. But neither inference can be more than a guess, and indeed even to press the implications of the tense at all is hazardous. See below p. 141.]

If the outcome of that trial (or a subsequent one) was already known, it is surely incredible, as Harnack says, that no foreshadowing or prophecy of it after the event is allowed to appear in the narrative. For earlier Agabus, besides foretelling a famine (Acts 11.28), pro-phesies that Paul would be bound by the Jews in Jerusalem and handed over to the Gentiles (21.11); and Paul himself is represented as knowing in advance that he was destined to appear safe before the emperor, with the lives of all that were sailing with him (27.24). Yet the only hint he gives of his ultimate fate is that 'imprisonment and hardships' await him and that his friends at Miletus would 'never see his face again' (20.24f, 38). What we should expect, but do not get, are such clear predictions (whether genuine or not) as we find of the death of Peter in John 21.18f. and II Peter 1.14.

Harnack goes on to adduce numerous positive indications of an early dating of Acts derived from the primitive character of its terminology. [Date of Acts, 103-14.] But none of these is proof against the argument that ' Luke is using the language of his sources or consciously archaizing.
Nor may we draw any certain conclusion from the notable absence from Acts of subsequent changes in Roman administration and law. [Cf. Sherwyn-White, Roman Society and Roman Law, especially 85, 120-2,172-93.]
Nevertheless, the burden of proof would seem to be heavily upon those who would argue that it does come from later, and there is nothing, as far as I can see, in the theology or history of the Gospel or Acts that requires a later date if the prophecies of the fall of Jerusalem do not. [Cf. Reicke, 'Synoptic Prophecies', 134: 'The only reasonable explanation for the abrupt ending of Acts is the assumption that Luke did not know anything of events later than 62 when he wrote his two books.'J. Munck, Acts (Anchor Bible), New York 1967, xlvi-liv, added the weight of his authority to a dating at the beginning of the 60s, concluding: 'It is simply not possible to use relative chronologies based on internal comparison among the gospels as arguments against an early date for Luke-Acts, until the datings proposed either by source critics or members of other schools can be demonstrated beyond cavil to have a firmer foundation than is at present the case' (liv). Gf. earlier Rackham, Acts, 1-lv; Torrey, Composition and Date of Acts, 66-8; Bruce, Acts, 10-14.] From the internal evidence of the two books we should therefore conclude (as did Eusebius) [HE 2. 22.6.] that Acts was completed in 62 or soon after, with the Gospel of Luke some time earlier. [C. S. G. Williams, 'The Date of Luke-Acts', ExpT 64, 1952-3, 283f, and Acts, 12f., argues that Acts is early but Luke late. But this is an unnecessary expedient, which reverses the author's clear indication that the first volume of his work was already with Theophilus by the time that he undertook the sequel (Acts 1.1). There is no reason to believe that 'Proto-Luke' (as Williams argues) was ever a sufficiently finished product to leave its author's hands.] But what of the repercussions of this for the daring of the other synoptists, and in particular of Mark, which, on the prevailing hypothesis of the priority of Mark, Luke was using? It is the difficulty of squaring this conclusion with the dominant view that Mark comes from the latter 60s (if not later) that has weighed most heavily against its acceptance.

At this point one comes up against the synoptic problem and its solution. In some circles there has of late been a vigorous revival, led by W. R. Farmer, [W. R. Farmer, The Synoptic Problem, New York and London 1964.]
of the hypothesis first formulated by J.J. Griesbach in 1783 that Mark represents a conflation of Matthew and Luke, Luke himself being dependent on Matthew. In this case there is no problem as far as the dating of Mark is concerned, since it can be put as late after Luke as desired. But a similar question then arises with the dating of Matthew which on this hypothesis Luke used, and this for most scholars would present even greater difficulties. It has even been argued that Luke was written first of all, though this has not commended itself widely. [R. L. Lindsay, A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark, Jerusalem n.d. [1969], and A New Approach to the Synoptic Gospels, Jerusalem. 1971.]  
In any case, the question of relative order is secondary to that of absolute dating. Reicke, working with the hypothesis of Markan priority, is prepared to date all three synoptists before 60, whereas the great majority of its other representatives put all of them later. On the other hand Farmer thinks them all to be late (with Mark possibly even in the second century), [Op.cit.,227] while another exponent of the Griesbach hypothesis, J. B. Orchard, [J. B. Orchard, Matthew, Luke and Mark, 1976.] would see Matthew as composed in the 40s with Luke and Mark in the early 60s.

This is not the place to become involved in the synoptic problem for its own sake. It is also a time when the state of opinion with regard to it is more fluid than it has been for fifty years. The consensus frozen by the success of the 'fundamental solution' propounded by Streeter has begun to show signs of cracking. [FG, chapter 7.] Though this is still the dominant hypothesis, incapsulated in the textbooks, its conclusions can no longer be taken for granted as among the 'assured results' of biblical criticism. It is far too early yet to say what new patterns or modifications of older patterns will establish themselves. The main thing required is a suspension of former dogmatisms and an admission that none of the various hypotheses so confidently advanced as overall solutions may satisfy all the facts. As E. P. Sanders concludes in his careful study, The Tendencies of the Synoptic Tradition,

The evidence does not seem to warrant the degree of certainty with which many scholars hold the two-document hypothesis. It would also seem to forbid that a similar degree of certainty should be accorded to any other hypothesis. ... I believe our entire study of the Synoptic Gospels would profit from a period of withholding judgments on the Synoptic problem while the evidence is resitted. ... I rather suspect that when and if a new view of the Synoptic problem becomes accepted, it will be more flexible and complicated than the tidy two-document hypothesis. [E. P. Sanders, The Tendencies of the Synoptic Tradition, Cambridge 1969, 278f. In the context of his argument the author italicized the first sentence.]

With that judgment I should fully concur, and it has been borne out for me by a test-study I have recently made on a small but representative sample, the parable of the wicked husbandmen in Mark i a. 1-12 and pars. [See my article, 'The Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen: A Test of Synoptic Relationships', NTS 21, 1974 – 5, 443 – 61.] Though its conclusions do not depend upon any particular dating nor is the dating dependent on them, I would refer the reader to it to indicate at one point how the fresh openness for which I am pleading is not simply based on a vague impression but demanded by a detailed analysis of the evidence. My conclusion is that we must be open to seeing that the most primitive state of the triple, or 'Markan', tradition (as indeed most scholars would agree in relation to the double, or 'Q', tradition) is not consistently or exclusively to be found in any one gospel, to which we must then assign overall temporal priority. Rather I believe that there was written (as well as oral) tradition underlying each of them, which is sometimes preserved in its most original form by Matthew, sometimes by Luke, though most often, I would judge, by Mark. Hence the strength of the case for the priority of Mark, which is nevertheless overstated when this gospel is itself regarded as the foundation-document of the other two. The gospels as we have them are to be seen as parallel, though by no means isolated, developments of common material for different spheres of the Christian mission, rather than a series of documents standing in simple chronological sequence. This still allows the possibility that Matthew, say, may have been affected by Mark in the course of the redactional process, or indeed Luke by Matthew, without requiring us to believe that one is simply to be dated after the other.

We have been accustomed for so long to what might be called linear solutions to the synoptic problem, where one gospel simply 'used' another and must therefore be set later, that it is difficult to urge a more fluid and complex interrelation between them and their traditions without being accused of introducing unnecessary hypotheses and modifications. But if we have learnt anything over the past fifty years it is surely that whereas epistles were written for specific occasions (though they might be added to or adapted later), gospels were essentially for continuous use in the preaching, teaching, apologetic and liturgical life of the Christian communities. They grew out of and with the needs. One can only put approximate dates to certain states or stages and set a certain terminus ad quern for them, according to what they do or do not reflect. And at any stage in this development one must be prepared to allow for cross-fertilization between the on-going traditions. This does not at all mean that all interrelationships are equally probable or that rigorous sifting of various hypotheses to explain them is not required. But in dealing with the dating of the gospels one is dealing not so much with a succession of points in time as with potentially overlapping spans of development in which oral and literary processes went on together and in which the creative hand of the individual evangelist is not to be isolated from the continuing pressures of community use. And one has always to make allowance for the fact that the external evidence which speaks of the 'writing' or 'putting out' of the gospels, even if it reflects good tradition, cannot with confidence be assigned to any one stage or state of this process.

With these general observations, which can only be ratified by specific studies, I would venture to sketch what would appear to be a plausible account of how and when the gospel traditions took shape.

We may begin with the earliest external testimony which we have, the well-known words of Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis in the early part of the second century, whom Irenaeus described as 'a hearer of John and a companion of Polycarp, a man of primitive times'. [Adv. haer. 5. 33.4; cited Eusebius, HE 3. 39.1.]
Papias is quoted by Eusebius, [HE 3.39.15. For recent discussions of this, cf. H. E. W. Turner, 'The Tradition of Mark's Dependence upon Peter', Exp T 71, 1959-60, 260-3; Martin, Mark: Evangelist and Theologian, 52f., 80 – 3.]
first of all, with regard to Mark:

This also the elder used to say. Mark, indeed, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote accurately, howbeit not in order, all that he recalled of what was either said or done by the Lord. [Lawlor and Oulton here translate ωενόμενος 'having been', implying that he was the 'late' interpreter of Peter, who was by then dead. But it is best not to prejudge this.]
For he neither heard the Lord, nor was he a follower of his, but, at a later date (as I said), of Peter; who used to adapt his instructions to the needs [of the moment], but not with a view to putting together the dominical oracles in orderly fashion: so that Mark did no wrong in thus writing some things as he recalled them. [For an attractive alternative interpretation of χρείαι (adopted by Farmer, op. cit., 266-70, and Orchard) to mean brief biographical apophthegms for instructional purposes, cf. R. O. P. Taylor, The Groundwork of the Gospels, Oxford 1946, 29f.) 75-90. He takes Papias to mean: 'Peter drew up his lessons with a view to supplying maxims and anecdotes to be learnt in order to be quoted' (30).]
For he kept a single aim in view:
not to omit anything of what he heard, nor to state anything therein falsely.
And, then, immediately afterwards [HE 3.39.16.],
concerning Matthew:
So then, Matthew compiled the oracles in the Hebrew language; but everyone interpreted them as he was able.

Papias here distinguishes the ad hoc instructions (διδασκαλίας) used for preaching and teaching, which were adapted to the requirements of the occasion, and the more orderly collection (σύνταξιν) of the sayings of the Lord (τῶν κυριὰκῶν λογίων). The former were reflected, so he believed, in the recollections of Mark, the latter in the compilation (συνετάξατο) of Matthew. The former were, we may suppose, judging from the content of St Mark's gospel, primarily stories ('of what was either said or done by the Lord') culminating in the passion story, the latter primarily sayings. These two elements are recognizably the building bricks of all the matter represented in different proportions in our synoptic gospels. Without pressing any hard and fast distinction, we may judge that the dominant context in the life of the church for the preservation of the first was kerygma or preaching, that for the second didache or teaching. The needs of the former are reflected in such summaries as that in Acts 10.37-41:

I need not tell you what happened lately all over the land of the Jews, starting from Galilee after the baptism proclaimed by John. You know about Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we can bear witness to all that he did in the Jewish country-side and in Jerusalem. He was put to death by hanging on a gibbet; but God raised him to life on the third day, and allowed him to appear, not to the whole people, but to witnesses whom God had chosen in advance - to us, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.

The needs of the latter will have led to such collections of sayings (and how far and when they were written down is quite secondary) as we have learnt to label for convenience 'Q' and (to the extent that they are sayings rather than stories) 'M' and 'L'. [For this category of sayings-collections within and beyond our canonical gospels, cf. J. M. Robinson, 'Logoi Sophon: On the Gattung of Q.', in J. M. Robinson and H. Koester, Trajectories through Early Christianity, Philadelphia 1971, 71-113.]
This first stage must have gone back to the earliest days of the Christian mission and the instruction of converts in the 30s and 40s, and was doubtless perpetuated after the demand for more complex formulations arose.

Secondly, out of these stories and sayings (under the influence of a variety of motives, evangelistic, apologetic, catechetical, disciplinary and liturgical) one may see emerging for the first time documents which could in a proper sense be described, not indeed as 'gospels' in the plural, a use not to be found until the last quarter of the second century, but as 'the gospel' in writing. [For the evidence cf. G. W. H. Lampe (ed.), A Patristic Greek Lexicon, Oxford 1961 – 8, εὐαγγέλιον.]
This is the usage that appears to be reflected in the Didache: [All translations of the Apostolic Fathers are fromJ. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, 1891. His five-volume edition of the same title, 21889-90, will be distinguished by inclusion of the volume number.]

As the Lord commanded in his Gospel, thus pray ye: Our Father ... (8.2).
But concerning the apostles and prophets, so do ye according to the ordinance of the Gospel. Let every apostle, when he cometh to you, be received as the Lord ... (11.3).
Reprove one another, not in anger but in peace, as ye find in the Gospel (15.3).
But your prayers and your almsgivings and all your deeds so do ye as ye find it in the Gospel of the Lord (15.4).

The reference is evidently to some document familiar and accessible to the readers. Though closest to the Matthean tradition, the quotations cannot be demonstrated to depend on the canonical gospel of Matthew. The dating of the Didache is notoriously uncertain and we shall return to it in ch. x. Here I shall anticipate the findings of J.-P. Audet's massive and detailed investigation that though these passages come in his judgment from the second stage of its composition they still reflect a period before our gospels were completed and throw valuable light on their prehistory. [J.P. Audet, La Didache: Instructions des Apotres (Etudes Bibliques), Paris 1958.]
top We may for the sake of argument call this document proto-Matthew. Its milieu is clearly Palestinian or Syrian and many have seen the most probable locale both of the Didache and of Matthew to be Antioch. It is likely to have represented the first formulated statement of 'the gospel' used by the apostles, teachers and prophets to whom the Didache refers (10.7-15.2), and whom Acts also mentions in connection with Antioch and its missionary work (13.1-3; 14.14). Inasmuch as Paul went out in the first instance as the delegate of this church, we may suppose that this was primarily the tradition of the 'words of the Lord' which he took with him, and it would explain the otherwise rather unexpected affinity alike in doctrine and in discipline between Paul and Matthew, [Cf. B. C. Butler, 'St Paul's Knowledge and Use of St Matthew', DR 60, 1948, 363-83; Dodd, 'Matthew and Paul', NT Studies, 53-66; D. L. Dungan, The Sayings of Jesus in the Churches of Paul, Oxford 1971.]
especially in early writings like the Thessalonian epistles. [Cf. J. B. Orchard, 'Thessalonians and the Synoptic Gospels', Bb 19, 1938, 19-42; J. A. T. Robinson, Jesus and His Coming, 1957, 105-11.] (To the implications of this for the dating of Matthew I shall return.)

If this is the case, it would go a long way to explain the external tradition that Matthew was the first gospel. It has been widely recognized, even by advocates of the priority of Matthew, that this cannot be true of our canonical Matthew, which quite apart from its possible (indeed probable) dependence on Mark, shows every sign of incorporating some of the latest developments in the synoptic tradition. It is scarcely sufficient, either, to make it refer to the λόγια mentioned by Papias as collected by Matthew in the Hebrew tongue, which are much more likely to relate to a pre-gospel stratum like 'Q. [For a strong statement of this, cf. Manson, Studies in the Gospels, 75-82.] But it might reflect the composition which for the sake of a label we have called proto-Matthew. This could have some relationship to what is referred to by Irenaeus (assuming he had any tradition independent of Papias) when he reports that 'Matthew published a gospel in writing (γράφην ἐξήνεγκεν εὐαγγενίου) among the Hebrews in their own language', though clearly what is being quoted by the Didache and used at Antioch is in Greek. [Adv. haer. 3.1.1. The Greek is cited in Eusebius, HE 5.8.2. For further discussion of this passage, see below p. 110.]
This stage may coincide with the needs of the missionary expansion from Antioch in the second half of the 40s, described in Acts 13 and 14.

What such a document contained it is, of course, impossible to be sure. All that the Didache, as its name implies, is interested in citing is material relating to liturgical, ethical and disciplinary instruction. But the Didache, or 'the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles', refers to it, with deference, as 'the Gospel of the Lord' (or 'his Gospel'), as though it were clearly different from teaching and nothing else. Dogmatism about what a gospel 'must' have included at this stage is clearly out of place. The 'Gospel of Thomas' is indeed no more than a collection of sayings, but this title (confined to its colophon: at the beginning it describes itself as 'the secret words'), like that of 'The Gospel of Truth', may reflect the polemical usage of heretical circles in the second century. It could represent 'a flag under which various kinds of writings circulated at a time when the canonical gospels and hence the title "gospel" had gained wide acceptance in the orthodox church'. [J. M. Robinson in Robinson and Koestcr, op. cit., 76.]
Indeed this is what Irenaeus suggests. ['For indeed they go on to such great audacity as to entitle what they themselves only recently wrote as "The Gospel of Truth", although it agrees at no point with the gospels by the apostles, so that not even the gospel can be among them without blasphemy. For if what they publish as of truth is the gospel, but is dissimilar to those handed down to us by the apostles, persons who so wish can learn (as is shown from the writings themselves), that what was handed down from the apostles is not the gospel of truth' (Adv. haer. 3.11.9; quoted by J. M. Robinson, op. cit., 77).] Within the main stream of the church's tradition there is no suggestion that 'the gospel' centred on anything but what was 'proclaimed', the kerygma - and that found its focus in the death and resurrection of Christ. [Cf. F. F. Bruce, 'When is a Gospel not a Gospel?', BJRL 45, 1962-3, 310-39: 'A Gospel without a passion narrative is a contradiction in terms' (324).] This is true of 'the gospel' that Paul himself received in the earliest days (I Cor.15.1-4), and it is still true when 'the gospel' comes to have the overtones of a written book set alongside the Old Testament: 'Give heed to the Prophets, and especially to the Gospel, wherein the passion is shown to us and the resurrection is accomplished'. [Ignatius, Smyrn. 7.2; cf. Philad. 8.2 (cf. 9.2). Koester, Synoptische Uberlieferung bei den apostolischen Vdtern, Berlin 1957, 6-12, argues that in Ignatius the reference of 'the gospel' is still oral, though he agrees that there is a transition to written form in Did. 15.31. It is remarkable that neither these passages nor those in the Didache are mentioned by Koester in his discussion of the origins of the 'Gattung' gospel in Robinson and Koester, op. cit., 158-66, nor again by W. Schneemelcher in his survey of the history of the term 'Gospel' in E. Hennecke (ed.), New Testament Apocrypha, ET 1963-5,1, 71-84.] It is a fair assumption then that what the Didachist deferred to as 'the Gospel' contained, as well as the matter which he was interested in citing, the story of Jesus up to and including his death and resurrection.

Now there is no evidence to suggest that the Matthean tradition, unlike the Lukan and the Johannine, ever contained passion material (except of a suspiciously secondary strain) independent of that which it shares with Mark. [E.g. stories like that of Pilate's wife's dream (Matt.27.19), his hand-washing (27.24f.), and the guards at the tomb (27.62-6; 28.11-15).]
Whatever the relationship between our Matthew and our Mark, it is clear that there was common material (evidently, from the degree of verbal agreement, in written form) which, as I read the evidence, goes back behind them both and which Matthew on some occasions at least still preserves in its most primitive state. [I have argued this of Matt. 26.64 = Mark 14.62 = Luke 20.69 in my Jesus and His Coming, 43-50. I contended there, on the assumption of the priority of Mark, for subsequent alterations to the Markan text. But the evidence for this is not strong, and I would prefer now to attribute the secondary features in Mark to editorial activity.]
And this passion material is of a piece with other material in a common order of which the same is true. We normally call this 'the Markan tradition', since it is represented most distinctly and usually, I would judge, most originally in our second gospel. But I am persuaded that it goes back behind both our first two gospels (and indeed the third). It may well be that it bears, as Papias believed, through Peter a special relationship to Mark, just as the sayings collection bore a special relationship to Matthew, without this 'P' tradition (if we may so call it) any more than the 'Q' material being exclusively identified with the gospels of Mark and Matthew as we now have them. [In this I venture to follow my uncle J. Armitage Robinson, who, according to R. H. Lightfoot, History and Interpretation in the Gospels, 1935, 27, used this symbol in his lectures at Cambridge, with 'Q' simply as the next letter in the alphabet for the sayings-collection. (This is without prejudice to whether this was the origin of the symbol 'Q,', which appears improbable; cf. Moule, Birth of the NT, 84.) 'P' may carry the overtones of 'preaching' or 'Petrine' if desired, but I would not wish to identify it simpliciter either with Peter's preaching or with Mark's gospel.]
All we can say with reasonable confidence is that it was these two streams that united, with other distinctively Palestinian matter, to produce (in Greek) what I have called proto-Matthew and what the Didachist speaks of as 'the Gospel' in his area. This in itself carries no implications for the priority either of our Matthew or of our Mark, though it suggests, as Papias implies, that the 'P' material was both apostolic and early. Indeed in his version of the tradition there is no tying of it to Peter's preaching mission in Rome, but rather to Peter's general evangelistic practice (ἐποιεῖτο), such as Paul must certainly have intended to include in his reference to the common apostolic proclamation: 'whether it be I or they' (I Cor. 15.11).

[Cf. Gal. 2.9 ('we and they'); I Cor.1.2 ('theirs and ours'); and Manson, op. cit., 192-4.]
Elsewhere there were doubtless other attempts to set down in writing presentations of the gospel in a form that lay between preachers' notes and collections of sayings on the one hand and finished gospels on the other. Luke in his preface refers indeed, no doubt with some exaggeration, to a quantity of such:

Many writers have undertaken to draw up an account (διήγησιν) of the events that have happened among us, following the traditions (καθῶς παρέδοσαν) handed down to us by the original eyewitnesses and servants of the Gospel. And so I in my turn, your Excellency, as one who has gone over the whole course of these events in detail, have decided to write a connected narrative (καθεξῆς γράψαι) for you (1.1-3).

The fact that he contrasts these attempts at an 'account', alike with the traditions that lie behind them and with his own connected narrative, may suggest that we are here dealing with the stage of what we have labelled proto-gospels, written statements of the gospel for local use which, in retrospect, were 'accurate' but were felt to lack 'ordered presentation'. Indeed it may well be that the production to which the Elder gave this description was not Mark's gospel as we now have it (which does not strike us as lacking order) but a summary of Peter's mission-preaching, which was to become later a proto-gospel for the Roman church. But it is Luke himself who has provided occasion, in what Streeter called 'proto-Luke', for the supposition of a stage in the construction of the gospels which would correspond in a modern work to a first draft. What, again, this consisted of, if it was ever a self-subsistent document, will never be known; but it certainly fits much of the evidence (as Streeter argued) to suppose that Luke used the 'P' material as a secondary source to supplement the 'account' he in his turn had begun to put together 'following the traditions handed down' to him ('Q' and 'L') as a tentative statement of the gospel for the Gentile mission.

Whatever these precursors, the next stage is the formulation, in response to the changing and growing needs of the church, of the gospels as we know them, basically in their present form, though not necessarily in their final state.

Matthew represents the gospel for the Jewish-Christian church, equipping it to define and defend its position over against the arguments and institutions of the main body of Judaism. But, in contrast with the Judaizers, it is a Jewish-Christian community open to the Gentile mission and its tensions. For while Matthew contains some of the most Judaistic (5.18f.; 10.5; 15.26; 18.17;23.2f.) texts in the gospels, it also contains the most universalistic (21.43;24.14; 28.19). Antioch again seems a likely locale (cf. e.g. the tension there described in Gal. 2.11-14), though the tradition behind it is surely Palestinian.

Luke (followed by Acts) is, in contrast, essentially the gospel for that imperial world evangelized by Paul 'from Jerusalem to Rome* (Rom. 15.19-24), though not repudiating any more than Paul did its deep roots in Judaism and the Septuagint.

Mark (in whatever order it comes) is the gospel for the 'Petrine centre', serving a mixed community like the church in Rome which owes its origin and ethos exclusively to neither wing but which has its own problems and pressures.

The gospel of John must also, I believe, be seen as an integral part of the same interconnected scene, being fashioned, out of a similar process, for the church's mission among Greek-speaking Jews first in Palestine and then in the diaspora. But I shall be deferring consideration of it to a later chapter.

All these gospels will doubtless have continued to go through different states (what we might anachronistically call editions) as the needs grew and changed. This is probably least true of Luke, whose gospel is the nearest equivalent to a modern book written and published for a single individual and at a particular moment in time:

'I have decided (ἒδοξε) to write ... for you', he says to Theophilus (1.3). As the Muratorian Canon puts it, Luke 'composed [the Gospel] in his own name on the basis of report'. [Cadbury's translation, Beginnings II, 211. Cf. Manson, op. cit., 52f.]
Unlike the others it does not seem to have been put together at the request, or for the purposes, of a group. Yet the evidence for an original beginning with the formal dating at 3.1 suggests an earlier state, and the whole work - with the collecting of the material for Acts - may have occupied Luke for many years (cf.1.3: 'as one who has gone over the whole course of events in detail').
may have gone through more than one recension. Thus I have suggested there are grounds for supposing that its present eschatology (represented in ch.13) developed from one which originally viewed the parousia as an exaltation scene in Galilee (prefigured at the transfiguration), such as we still find in Matt. 28.16-18. [Jesus and His Coming, 128-36; cf. Trocme, Formation of Mark, ch.4; he argues that chapters 14-16 belong to the 'second edition' (c. 85).] Indeed I am happy to discover that Goodspeed [INT, 156.] also thought that this passage incorporated the 'lost ending' of Mark - or rather, let us say, the 'P' material missing, for whatever reason, from the end of the second gospel. Later I shall be arguing that there were at least two 'editions' of John (the second with the prologue and epilogue added), and most scholars have detected more. But it is Matthew that gives evidence of the longest formation history. It has often been observed that Matthew is a 'collector', accumulating diverse layers of tradition (e.g. of eschatology in 10.23; 24.29-31; 26.64; 28.20), which may reflect different states or stages of composition.
(as those who abandon the 'two-document' hypothesis have to assert) Luke knew and used Matthew, and there was not merely a relationship through 'P' and 'Q', then it could be easier to explain the absence from Luke, or the lack of influence upon Luke, of some of the more secondary features of the special Matthean material and editorial additions on the hypothesis of an earlier 'edition' of Matthew than by Luke's deliberate omission of Jewish features that did not interest him. These would include such things as the quotation-formulae, the ecclesiastical and Petrine additions, some quasi-legendary stories, the allegorization and embellishment of many of the parables, the apocalyptization of the eschatology, and the 'prologue' of the first two chapters answering the questions, for apologetic with Judaism, of the genealogical and geographical origins of the Messiah. The 'school of Matthew', to use K. Stendahl's phrase, may well have continued for some time the process of bringing forth things old and new (13.52). [K. Stendahl, The School of St Matthew, Uppsala 1954.] Matthew could therefore in a real sense turn out to be both the earliest and the latest of the synoptists. This is interestingly reflected in a judgment of Harnack's, who was certainly no advocate of the priority of Matthew in the usual sense:

That the synoptic gospel which was most read should have received the most numerous accretions, and should be the latest in date, is nothing remarkable, but only natural. Moreover, it remains, in regard to form, the oldest 'book of the Gospel'; the others have obtained the rank and dignity of such a title because they have been set by the side of St Matthew's gospel, which from the first, unlike the others, claims to be an ecclesiastical book. [Date of Acts,  134f. He goes on: 'As the place of origin of the first gospel, Palestine alone can come into consideration.' I would agree as far as the material is concerned, though the concern for the Gentile mission perhaps suggests a more cosmopolitan place of redaction.]

The process of what Harnack calls 'accretions' continued for a long time in the textual tradition. [The doxology to the Lord's Prayer (Matt. 6.13) is an obvious example.]
But can we say when Matthew reached its present canonical form?

We have looked at the arguments for dating it after 70 on the ground of its possible references to the Jewish war and the fall of Jerusalem. The addition to the parable of the great supper in 22.7 ('The king was furious, he sent troops to kill those murderers and set their town on fire') we agreed could, but by no means necessarily must, have been supplied ex eventu. But from the examination of the apocalyptic discourse in ch.24 we concluded that there was no case for thinking that it was written for the interval between the fall of Jerusalem and the parousia: rather the opposite. Indeed there was no reason for supposing that it reflected even the beginning of the war: the flight to Pella prior to its outbreak is actually contradicted by the instructions to take to the hills of Judaea. Is this conclusion borne out or overturned by the evidence of the rest of the gospel?

Matthew's gospel shows all the signs of being produced for a community (and by a community) that needed to formulate, over against the main body of Pharisaic and Sadducaic Judaism, its own line on such issues as the interpretation of scripture and the place of the law, its attitude toward the temple and its sacrifices, the sabbath, fasting, prayer, food laws and purification rites, its rules for admission to the community and the discipline of offenders, for marriage, divorce and celibacy, its policy toward Samaritans and Gentiles in a predominantly Jewish milieu, and so on. These problems reflect a period when the needs of co-existence force a clarification of what is the distinctively Christian line on a number of practical issues which previously could be taken for granted. It corresponds to the period when the early Methodists were compelled by events to cease to regard themselves as methodical Anglicans, loyal to the parish church and its structures as well as to their own class meetings. At this stage all kinds of questions of organization, ministry and liturgy, doctrine and discipline, law and finance, present themselves afresh, as a 'society' or 'synagogue' takes on the burden of becoming a 'church'. But uneasy co-existence does not necessarily imply an irrevocable break: indeed John Wesley claimed that he lived and died a priest of the Church of England. It is in some such interval that the gospel of Matthew seems most naturally to fit. Its are not the problems of the first careless, expansionist years. Yet for all the tension there is not the altercation of two estranged and separated camps, such as followed the defeat of Judaism and is reflected in the Epistle of Barnabas, [For the dating of this, see below, ch. x.] the consolidation of rabbinic Judaism at Jamnia, and the formal ban on Christians from the synagogue.
[For a discussion of this, cf. pp. 272-4 below.] One may agree with Reicke when he says: 'The situation presupposed by Matthew corresponds to what is known about Christianity in Palestine between ad 50 and ca. 64.' ['Synoptic Prophecies', 133.]

Two illustrations will indicate that the old status quo is still in operation.

Matthew is more concerned than any other evangelist with the relationship of Christianity to the temple, the priesthood and the sacrifices. Typical is a passage peculiar to this gospel in the middle of a discussion, common to the other synoptists, on the sabbath law:

Or have you not read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and it is not held against them? I tell you, there is something greater than the temple here. If you had known what that text means, 'I require mercy, not sacrifice', you would not have condemned the innocent (12.5-7).

Matthew alone has the same quotation from Hos.6.6, 'I require mercy, not sacrifice' also in 9.13, while it may perhaps be significant that he does not have that from I Sam.15.22 cited in Mark 12.33, where love of God and neighbour is declared to be 'far more than any burnt offerings or sacrifices'. Matthew's concern, like that of the author to the Hebrews, is evidently to present Jesus as the substitute for Christians of all that the temple stands for. Yet there is no more suggestion in the one than the other that the levitical system is not still in active operation. Indeed Matthew has seven references to the Sadducees (compared with one each by Mark and Luke), warning against their influence. [See especially Matt.16.1-12.In the other gospels (Mark 8.11-15; Luke 12.1) it is the Pharisees (and in Mark also Herod) who are singled out for warning.] Since this was a group whose power disappeared with the destruction of the temple, preoccupation with them argues strongly for an earlier period.

The same applies to Matthew's characteristic interest in the Christian community's attitude to the half-shekel tax for the upkeep of the temple (17.24-7). The teaching of Jesus is taken to be that even though Christians may rightly consider themselves free of any obligation to the system, the tax should be paid, 'as we do not want to cause difficulty for these people'. This certainly does not argue a situation of open breach, but rather a concern not to provoke one. In any case, it clearly points to a pre-70 milieu. For after that date this tax had to be paid to the temple treasury of Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome [Josephus BJ 7.218.] and would have had no bearing on the Jewish question Jesus is represented as settling.
To be distinguished from the very different issue of the payment of tribute to Caesar (Mark 12.13-17 and pars).]
As H. W. Montefiore has said,

The difference between Jesus' voluntary payment of the upkeep of the Jewish Temple and the Christians' payment under duress for the upkeep of a pagan shrine is very great indeed. It is almost impossible to see how a story about the former could have been constructed in order to give a precedent about the latter. ... It is easier to suppose that an earlier saying had been adapted to meet the need of Christians in the period after ad 70.

[H. W. Montefiore, 'Jesus and the Temple Tax', NTS 11, 1964-5,65.]

It is surely easier still, unless we start, as he does, by saying 'it may be assumed that St Matthew's Gospel was written sometime between ad 70 and ad 96', to suppose that this 'adaptation' (which he describes as 'far too inappropriate' for invention) did not need to be made at all. The saying (which basically, he argues, goes back to Jesus) was very relevant to the pre-70 situation of the Jewish-Christian church:
it was quite irrelevant afterwards. As the Mishnah specifically says, [The laws concerning] the Shekel dues ... apply only such time as the Temple stands.' [Shek. 8.8. All translations of the Mishnah are from H. Danby, The Mishnah, Oxford IW9. Oxford 1933.]

Finally, there are two arguments which carry no weight in themselves but which may confirm an early date for Matthew if this is on other grounds probable.

In a study of the parallels between the apocalyptic material in Thessalonians and the synoptic gospels, [Jesus and His Coming, 105-11.]
I recorded what then seemed to me the bizarre conclusion that the closest connections were between what appeared to be the earliest material in the epistles and the latest developments in the synoptic tradition, the editorial matter in Matthew. Of these developments, characteristic of the distinctively Matthean treatment both of 'P' and 'Q' material, I wrote:

The tendencies which produced them set in much earlier than the Gospels by themselves would lead us to expect. Already, it appears, by the year 50, the Church was thinking in a manner reflected in the Synoptic material only in its latest strands. [Op. cit., 105.]

Dating Matthew, as I then did, well after the fall of Jerusalem, I attributed this to an (unexplained) time lag. But what if these tendencies were already those of the Matthean community and its version of the gospel by the time Paul left Antioch after the council of Jerusalem in 49? [Orchard, Bb 19, 39, draws the conclusion that Paul knew Matt.23.31-25.46 and that "this passage is something absolutely primordial and must be dated somewhere between 40 and 50 ad'.
But this goes with his belief in the priority of Matthew in its present form and seems to me to be pushing the evidence much too far.]

For the same connections are to be found with the apocalypse in the Didache (16), which we have already had occasion to associate with this period and place. Obviously these arguments for dating are circular, and we shall have to return to the dating of the Didache in particular. But the evidence of Thessalonians at any rate shows that this way of thinking was rife in the year 50. The marks of it in Matthew 24 cannot therefore be used to require any later date for that gospel.

Secondly, there is an argument from silence to which no impor-tance can be attached on its own but which is perhaps just worth including since it supports the same conclusion. After the martyrdom of James the Lord's brother in 62, which itself has left no echo in the New Testament (as we might have expected if so much of it had been written later), [It rates a long chapter in Eusebius, HE 2.23, who gives an extensive quotation from Hegesippus, as well as being recorded by Josephus, Ant. 20. 200-3.] Eusebius records [HE 3.11; 3.32. 1-6; 4.22.4.], on the authority of Hegesippus, that he was succeeded as bishop of Jerusalem by Symeon, the son of Clopas, Joseph's brother. There is much in this tradition that is evidently hagiographical. But it seems likely that the succession would be kept within the family, the lineage necessarily for a Jew being traced through the father's side. Moreover, if a name was being invented later, one would have expected one to be supplied from among those mentioned in scripture. But the 'Mary wife of Clopas' mentioned in John 19.25, and referred to in this connection by Eusebius [HE 3.11.], who is probably (though not certainly) to be identified with 'the other Mary' (Matt.27.61) at the cross and tomb, [Cf. A. Meyer and W. Bauer in Hennecke, NTApoc. 1,425f.]
is described as the mother of James and Joseph (Mark 15.40; Matt.27.56), or of the one (Mark 16.1; Luke 24.10), or the other (Mark 15.47), but never of Symeon. If Symeon was the son who after 62 achieved leadership of the mother church one might at least have expected his mention, especially in the Palestinian tradition. For Mark goes to the trouble of naming the sons of Simon of Cyrene, Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15.21), perhaps because, like their mother, Rufus was a member of the Christian congregation in Rome (Rom.16.13), and Matthew alone identifies Salome with the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Matt.27.56, as well as introducing her in 20.20). For what little it is worth, it suggests again that the first gospel is prior to this date.

In this case we have pushed Matthew back at any rate before 62, which is exactly the date to which we were driven for Acts, with Luke a little earlier This would mean that the final stage of the formation of the synoptic gospels roughly coincided with the end of the 50s. Our argument so far would therefore yield the following provisional schema:

  1. Formation of stories- and sayings-collections ('P', 'Q:, 'L', 'M'): 30s and 40s +
  2. Formation of 'proto-gospels': 40s and 50s +
  3. Formation of our synoptic gospels: 50-60 +


But how, finally, does Mark fit into this, from the question of whose dating we started?

It is a curious phenomenon that for the gospel that was least read or esteemed in the early church there is more tradition relating to its date of composition than any other. For the rest there are statements about the sequence in which they were written, which for the most part merely reflect or rationalize the canonical order. The only exception is that of Clement of Alexandria, who is reported by Eusebius [HE 6. 14.5.] to have inserted into his Hypotyposeis 'a tradition of the primitive elders' that 'those gospels were first written which include the genealogies' (i.e. Matthew and Luke). As Mark was honoured as the first bishop of Alexandria there would seem to be no motive there in deliberately putting his gospel last of the synoptists. But this tradition can scarcely be used, as it is by Farmer, [Op. cit., 226.] in support of his hypothesis that Mark represents a literary conflation of Matthew and Luke, since the same tradition went on to say of the origin of the gospel of Mark [HE 6.14.6f.]:

When Peter had publicly preached the word at Rome, and by the Spirit had proclaimed the Gospel, that those present, who were many, exhorted Mark, as one who had followed him for a long time and remembered what had been spoken, to make a record of what was said; and that he did this, and distributed the Gospel among those that asked him. And that when the matter came to Peter's knowledge he neither strongly forbade it nor urged it forward. [The text here is probably corrupt. The Greek reads ὃπερ ἐπιγνόντα τὸν Πέτρον προτρεπτικῶς μύτε κωλῦσαι μύτε κωλῦσαι μύτε προτρέψασθαι. The repetition προτρεπτικῶς ... προτρέψασθαι is odd to say the least. An amendment πνευματικῶς has been suggested, in line with the similar statement ('by revelation of the Spirit') in HE 2.15.2 (cited p. 108 below). The Latin version has 'postmodum' ('later').]

It is natural to regard this tradition as being the same as that quoted from Papias earlier: [Pp. 95 above.] indeed elsewhere Eusebius says that Papias 'corroborates' the testimony. [HE 2. 15.2.] Yet the matter common to both is actually limited to the bare fact of Mark being a follower of Peter who wrote down what he recalled of his teaching. It is Clement who links it to a particular preaching mission in Rome, and to the production and distribution of a book to which Peter's reaction is recorded - clearly implying that Peter was still alive (though absent) at the time of its writing. [Thus contradicting the implication Lawlor and Oulton find in Papias' statement that Mark's link with Peter lay in the past.] Both passages however tend to damn Mark's efforts with faint praise, and Peter's neutral attitude towards it may reflect no more than the church's doubts about the value of St Mark's gospel for the canon. In his other account of it  Eusebius relates a more enthusiastic response, which suggests a desire to re-inforce the apostolic authority of the second gospel: [HE 2.15.1f.; quoting Clement, Hypotyp. 6.]

So brilliant was the light of piety that shone upon the minds of Peter's hearers [in Rome], that they were not content to be satisfied with hearing him once and no more, nor with the unwritten teaching of the divine message; but besought with all kinds of entreaties Mark, whose Gospel is extant, a follower of Peter, that he would leave them in writing also a memoir of the teaching they had received by word of mouth; nor did they relax their efforts until they had prevailed upon the man; and thus they became the originators of the book of the Gospel according to Mark, as it is called. Now it is said that when the apostle learnt, by revelation of the Spirit, what was done, he was pleased with the men's zeal, and authorized the book to be read in the churches.

Jerome also mentions the authorization of the gospel by Peter, citing Clement and Papias, but he is evidently merely copying Eusebius without checking his references. [De sir. ill. 8. Indeed elsewhere (Ep. 120 ad Hedib. 11) he has Peter narrating as Mark writes! Origen (apud Euseb. HE 6.25.5) says that Mark wrote 'in accordance with Peter's instructions'.]
For the two passages conflict. Moreover the affirmative response of the apostle is introduced by the words, 'now it is said' (φασί), suggesting that Eusebius is at this point reporting popular tradition rather than Clement's words. The passages, particularly the second, tell us nothing reliable about Peter's attitude to the gospel of Mark, but they both presuppose, if there is anything in them at all, that Peter was alive, though no longer present in Rome, when it was first committed to writing.

Moreover there are two further passages extant from Clement himself which describe Mark as writing while Peter was still in Rome. The first is preserved only in Latin translation:

Mark, the follower of Peter, while Peter was preaching (praedicante) publicly the gospel at Rome in the presence of certain of Caesar's knights and was putting forward many testimonies concerning Christ, being requested by them that they might be able to commit to memory the things which were being spoken, wrote from the things which were spoken by Peter the Gospel which is called according to Mark. [Adumbr., on I Peter 5.13.]

The other passage (whose genuineness has yet to be established, though it seems to be coming to be accepted as Clement's) is from a letter of Clement recently published: [Text and translation from Morton Smith, Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark, Cambridge, Mass., 1973, 446-53. Reviewing the book, R. M. Grant, ATR 56, 1974, 58, writes: 'Smith definitely proves that the incomplete letter ... was written by Clement.']

As for Mark, then, during Peter's stay in Rome (κατὰ τὴν τοῦ Πέτρου ἐν Ῥώμη διατριβήν) wrote an account of the Lord's doings, not, however, declaring all of them, nor yet hinting at the secret ones, but selecting what he thought most useful for increasing the faith of those who were being instructed. But when Peter died a martyr, Mark came over to Alexandria, bringing both his own notes (ὑπομνήματα) and those of Peter, from which he transferred to his former book the things suitable to whatever makes for progress towards knowledge (γνῶσιν). Thus he composed a more spiritual Gospel for the use of those who were being perfected.

[According to Eusebius, HE 2.16.1,

It is said that this Mark journeyed to Egypt and was the first to preach [there] the Gospel, which also he had written; and that he was the first to form churches at Alexandria itself.

Eusebius, evidently relying on hearsay tradition, places this immediately after his account of the writing of the gospel in Rome during the reign of Claudius. In 2.24 he says

Now when Nero was in the eighth year of his reign [i.e. 62], Annianus succeeded, first after Mark the evangelist, to the ministry of the community at Alexandria.

He does not actually say that the change was due to Mark's death. But Jerome (De vir. ill. 8) takes it so:

Taking the gospel which he had completed, he came to Egypt, and proclaiming Christ first in Alexandria, established the church in such doctrine and continence of life that he induced all the followers of Christ to follow his example.

After describing Mark as a teacher ('doctor') there, he concludes:

But he died in the eight year of Nero and was buried at Alexandria, Annianus succeeding him.

This dating is clearly incompatible, not only with what Clement says about Mark's going to Alexandria after Peter's martyrdom, but with Irenaeus* tradition (also preserved by Eusebius, HE 5.8.3) that Mark outlived Peter and Paul (see below p. no).
More importantly, it is irreconcilable with I Peter 5.13 (also adduced by Eusebius, HE 2.15.2, as evidence of Mark's stay with Peter in Rome), if, as in all probability (see below), this epistle comes from 65. Whatever the truth about Mark's association with Alexandria, Eusebius' dating is evidently unreliable.]

[Clement goes on:

Nevertheless, he yet did not divulge the things not to be uttered, nor did he write down the hierophantic teaching of the Lord, but to the stories already written he added yet others and, moreover, brought in certain sayings (λόγια) of which he knew the interpretation would, as a mystagogue, lead the hearers into the innermost sanctuary of that truth hidden by seven veils. Thus, in sum he prepared matters, neither grudgingly nor incautiously, in my opinion, and, dying, he left his composition to the church in Alexandria, where it even yet is most carefully guarded, being read only to those who are being initiated into the great mysteries.


The gospel for catechumens of which Clement speaks is evidently our canonical Mark, for he refers subsequently to a passage inserted into its text between 10.34 and 35, which he quotes verbatim. So this new fragment supports the dating of Mark during Peter's lifetime, though it could also help to explain other traditions now to be examined which seem to put it after the death of Peter.

There is first the so-called Anti-Marcionite Prologue (dated by D. de Bruyne [D. de Bruyne, 'Les plus anciens prologues latins des Evangiles', RBen 40, 1928, 193-214.]
and Harnack [A. Harnack, 'Die altesten Evangelien-Prologe und die Bildung des Neuen Testaments', Sitzmgsberichte der preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Phil-hist. Klasse, 1928, 322-41; cf. Bacon, 'The Anti-Marcionite Prologue to John', JBL 49, '930, 43-54; W. F. Howard, 'The Anti-Marcionite Prologues to the Gospels', ExpT 47, 1935-6, 534-8; Manson, Studies in the Gospels and Epistles, 48-51.] in 160-80, but perhaps much later) [R. G. Heard, 'The Old Gospel Prologues', J TS n.s. 6, 1955,1-16; Haenchen, Acts, 10f.]
which says of Mark:

He was the interpreter of Peter. After the death (post excessionem) of Peter himself he wrote down this same Gospel in the regions of Italy.

Then there is the statement of lrenaeus: [Adv. haer. 3.1.1; as quoted in Eusebius, HE 5. 8.2-4, who supplies the Greek.]

Matthew published a Gospel in writing also, among the Hebrews in their own language, while Peter and Paul were preaching the Gospel and founding the church in Rome." [Cf. Harnack: 'The genitive absolute is not temporal; it does not imply that the gospel of St Matthew was written at that time; it simply contrasts the ministry of the two great Apostles with that of St Matthew'. He argues (Date of Acts, 130f.), following Dom John Chapman ('St Irenaeus on the Dates of the Gospels', JTS 6, 1905, 563-9), that the purpose of this passage in the context of Irenaeus' argument was not to provide chronology but 'to prove that the teaching of the four chief apostles did not perish with their death, but that it has come down to us in writing'.]
But after their decease (ἒξοδον) Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter - he also transmitted to us in writing the things which Peter used to preach. And Luke too, the attendant of Paul, set down in a book the Gospel which Paul used to preach. Afterwards John, the disciple of the Lord, the same who leant back on his breast - he too set forth the Gospel, while residing at Ephesus in Asia.

It is very doubtful if Irenaeus had access to any independent tradition [Harnack regarded the testimony of Irenaeus as having been derived from Papias and the Anti-Marcionite Prologue. Dependence on the former is certain.] and his chronology merely reflects the canonical order. He evidently meant ἒξοδον to refer to the death of Peter and Paul (as must be its primary meaning in II Peter 1.15). Yet neither this nor the 'excessionem' of the Anti-Marcionite Prologue need originally have meant more than 'departure'. Manson, after examining the matter carefully, concluded:

If Peter had paid a visit to Rome some time between 55 and 60; if Mark had been his interpreter then; if after Peter's departure from the city Mark had taken in hand - at the request of the Roman hearers - a written record of what Peter had said; then the essential points in the evidence would all be satisfied.

[Op. cit., 40. He is quoted and supported by Bruce, NT History, 375, and Martin, Mark, 53.]

He added:

If there is anything in this, it suggests that the date of Mark may be a few years earlier than is usually thought likely. A date before 60 would be quite possible. [Cf. his concluding words, 45: 'The composition of the Gospel may be put several years earlier than the date commonly accepted.']

But what of the date of Peter's visit to Rome? Manson's estimate seems merely to be a guess. For if we are to take any of this tradition seriously we must also take into account Eusebius' clear statements that the preaching visit from which all this followed occurred in the reign of Claudius (4I-54). [HE 2.14.6; 17.1. There is no indication that he derived this part of the tradition ]
Peter is said to have come to Rome on the heels of Simon Magus, whom Justin (himself from Samaria and a resident of Rome) twice tells us arrived in Rome in the days of Claudius Caesar [Apol. 1. 26 and 56.] - though he does not mention Peter. There is obviously much legend here,
[Eusebius repeats {HE 2.13.3) what has been demonstrated to be Justin's error in supposing that the inscription in Rome 'Simons deo sancto' was evidence of his presence there. In fact it evidently referred to an altar to fully exploited later in the Pseudo-Clementines. [Recog. 3.63.] But that Simon met Peter in Rome is attested by Hippolytus [Refut. 6.15.] (also from the same city), and there would seem no good ground for denying that Peter could have gone to Rome during Claudius' reign. [Cf. Harnack, Chron., 244: 'Whether the old tradition that brings Peter to Rome already under Claudius is completely unusable is to me questionable.'] We know that he had in all probability been in Corinth during the early 50s for long enough for some there to regard him as their leader (I Cor.1.12; 3.22; cf. 9.4)   [Cf. later Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, apud Euseb. HE 2.25.8, who says that Peter and Paul both taught at Corinth.] - though we should never have guessed this from Acts. It is possible too that Paul's reluctance to go to Rome earlier because he did not wish to build on another's foundation (Rom. 15.20) may reflect a knowledge of Peter's work there [Cf. Lake, Earlier Epistles, 378f.] - though it is inconceivable that Peter could still have been in the city at the time of the writing of Romans (in 57) without being mentioned in the letter or its greetings.

In the Latin version of his Chronicle, [The Armenian version dates it in the third year of Caligula (39), which is quite impossible.] followed by Jerome, [De vir. ill. i.] Eusebius indeed dates Peter's arrival in Rome in the second year of Claudius (42), making him 'bishop' of Rome for 25 years. Clearly this does not imply continuous residence - not even Eusebius can have thought that – but it might be compatible with general apostolic oversight, in the same sense that he is said to have been 'bishop' of Antioch at an earlier stage. [Origen, In Luc. 6; Eusebius, HE 3.36.2; Jerome, De vir. ill. i. The Liber Pontificalis and Gregory, Epp, 7.40, have this lasting seven years. G. Edmundson, The Church in Rome in the First Century, 1913, 77, argues that these were the seven years 47-54 (prior to Peter's second visit to Rome) during which he made Antioch the centre of his work (cf. Gal.2.11).]
The natural reaction of scholars has been to dismiss the dating of this visit as groundless. [E.g. B. H. Streeter, The Primitive Church, 1929, 10-14.]
But there is a sizable body of evidence, both in inscriptions and literary tradition, to suggest an association of Peter with Rome a good deal longer than the brief stay at the end of his life [At the earliest this could not have begun till after the last year covered by Acts (62), and the very latest date for Peter's martyrdom is 68. But it was probably a good deal less. Cf. pp. 140-50 below.] (for which last the case is agreed to be very strong). [Cf. e.g. H. Lietzmann, Petrus und Paulus inRom, Berlin 2I927; O. Cullmann, Peter: Disciple, Apostle, Martyr, ET 21962, ch.3; E. Dinkier, 'Die Petrus-Rom-Frage', TO 25, 1959, 189-230.] It is assembled by G. Edmundson in his Bampton Lectures for 1913, The Church in Rome in the First Century, [Op. cit., 47-56.] a scholarly study which has been almost completely ignored, having had the bad luck to be swamped by the first world war. [It was not even reviewed in the Journal of Theological Studies (uniquely for Bampton Lectures?) or in the Journal of Roman Studies. It received a brief notice of contents only in ExpT 25, 1913-14, 242f., and but little more in TLZ 40, 1915,9-11, where W. Bauer dismissed it as showing 'more learning than critical sense'.]
He proceeds to sift the various traditions and by careful historical methods reaches surprisingly conservative conclusions. [Op. cit., 59-86. He has the great merit of citing his sources, with references, in the original.] He believes, and his position has a good deal of support from Harnack, [Chron., 243f. For a recent statement of the same case, cf.J. W. Wenham, 'Did Peter go to Rome in ad 42?', Tyndale Bulletin 23, 1972,94-102.]
that there are in fact sound reasons for accepting a visit by Peter and Mark to Rome after Peter's disappearance from Jerusalem in 42. [This date would fit with what Harnack took seriously as the 'very old and well attested' tradition (Clement, Strom. 6.5.43, quoting the lost Kerygma Petri; Apollonius [c. 200], 'relying on tradition', apud Euseb. HE 5.18.14; Ada Petri 5; etc.) that the apostles were to stay in Jerusalem for twelve years after the crucifixion. The narrative of Acts would indeed suggest that the death of James and the flight of Peter took place just before the death of Herod Agrippa I, i.e. in 44. But there is nothing to indicate that what was seen by the church as a judgment of God for his attack on the apostles followed immediately upon it. (The argument propter hoc ergo instanter post hoc is a familiar one. Cf. Hegesippus, on the death of James the Lord's brother, apud Euseb. HE 2.23.18: 'He has become a true witness both to Jew and Greeks that Jesus is the Christ. And immediately Vespasian attacked them.' Josephus sets a five-year gap between the two events.) The time links in this section of Acts are, as we have seen, very vague. The 'about this time' of Acts 12.1 is almost certainly referring to a moment before the 'during this period' of 11.27, since the famine did not take place till c. 46, after the death of Herod. There is ground therefore for thinking that Edmundson may be right in dating the death of James and the imprisonment of Peter in the spring of 42 as part of Herod's attempt to ingratiate himself with the Jews (cf. Josephus, Ant. 19.2931.) on his return to Jerusalem from Rome late in 41, where he had been instrumental in promoting the peaceful accession of Claudius and been rewarded with a large extension to his kingdom (Ant. 19.265-77; BJ 2.206-17). His residence at Caesarea and death there (Acts 12.19-23) did not occur till 44, 'after the completion of the third year of his reign over the whole of Judaea' (Ant. 19.343-51; BJ 2.219). It looks as if Luke may have elided the two in the transitional καὶ of Acts 12.19. Peter's departure to 'another place' in 12.17 is of course entirely vague, but if he was to put himself beyond Herod's new jurisdiction he would have had to have left Palestine.]
This visit could have lasted a couple of years, [Eusebius' Chronicle makes Peter go to Rome in the second year of Claudius and to Antioch two years later.]
till Herod's death in 44 made Judaea safe again. Peter was back in Jerusalem in any case by the time of the council in 48: Edmundson thinks by 46, but he identifies Gal. 2.1-10 with the famine visit. He then goes on to argue ingeniously but I believe persuasively that Peter and Barnabas went on to Rome for a second time in 55 from Corinth [Cf. I Cor. 9.6 for the Corinthians' acquaintance with Barnabas. He was also, of course, a cousin of Mark's (Col. 4.10), which makes a further connection.]
after the death of Claudius in October 54 (when Jews, expelled by him from Rome in 49, were once more free to return) for a supplementary visit to strengthen the church there and to appoint elders. [Such as are mentioned later in I Peter 5.1-4, where the apostle (1.1) addresses them fraternally as a 'fellow-elder'. For a discussion of this epistle and its Roman location, see ch.VI below.]
By 57 Paul felt himself at liberty to propose a passing visit to Rome (Rom. 15.23f), put off many times (Rom. 1.13; 15.22), because by then again there was no danger of interfering with 'another's work'. Edmundson's argument is scrupulously documented, and if he gives more credence to what lies at the bottom of the traditions than most it is certainly not without judicious weighing of the evidence.

One must therefore, I believe, be prepared to take seriously the tradition that Mark, at whose home in Jerusalem Peter sought refuge before making his hurried escape (Acts 12.12-17) and whom later in Rome he was to refer to with affection as his 'son' (I Peter 5.13), accompanied Peter to Rome in 42 as his interpreter and catechist, [For a wider sense of 'interpreter' than 'translator' cf. Zahn, INT II., 454-6; R. O. P. Taylor, Groundwork of the Gospels, 20-30, 36-45. Coming from a family of some standing in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 12.121.), John Mark had both a Jewish and a Roman name, suggesting a foot in both cultures. Cf. Silas, alias Silvanus, who was a leading Jerusalem disciple (Acts 15.22) and a Roman citizen (i6.37f.) and, like Mark, served both Paul (Acts 15.40; I Thess. 1.1; II Thess. 1.1; II Cor. 1.19; etc.) and Peter (I Peter 5.12).]
and that after Peter's departure from the capital he acceded to the reiterated request for a record of the apostle's preaching, perhaps about 45. [For a similar date, though not place of origin, for the gospel, cf. W. C. Alien, StMark, 1915, 51.]
Mark himself was certainly back in Jerusalem by the end of the famine visit, in 46 or 47 (Acts 12.25). We have no record of his being in Rome again till the mid-60s (to anticipate the date and place of I Peter) [In 58, according to our chronology, he was in Asia Minor (Col.4.10; II Tim4.11).], though this silence proves nothing, since from ch.15 onwards Acts is solely concerned with Paul's companions, among whom it is made clear at that time Mark was not (Acts 15.37-9).

Where then does this leave us? The 'unordered' transcripts of Peter's preaching to which Papias refers (perhaps, as Edmundson said [Op. cit., 67.], anticipating the form critics, as 'a set of separate lections intended for public exposition and for instruction') could well correspond to what earlier we called 'P'. [For evidence of Petrine reminiscences embodied in the Markan tradition, cf. Manson, Studies in the Gospels, 40-3, who took seriously and elaborated the suggestions ofC. H. Turner in C. Gore, H. L. Goudge and A. Guillaume (edd.), A New Commentary on Holy Scripture, 1928, 47-50. D. E. Nineham, St Mark (Pelican NTC), 2I968, 26f., while conceding 'the fact that much of the information in the Gospel is of a kind that seems unlikely to have come from anyone but Peter', stresses that 'St Mark's material bears all the signs a/having been community tradition and cannot therefore be derived directly from St Peter or any other eyewitness' (italics his). But these two statements are not incompatible.]
This record certainly cannot simply be equated with our present gospel of Mark, which reflects wider and more developed church tradition. But the earlier document could well, as Clement said, have been 'distributed' by Mark 'among those who asked him'. It is not at all improbable that it should have been among the 'traditions' which Luke lists in his prologue as having been 'handed down to us by the original eyewitnesses and servants (ὑπηρέται) of the Gospel' (1.2), the two categories by which in Acts he describes, respectively, Peter (1.21f.) and Mark (13.5). [Cf. Edmundson, op. cit., 68: 'He would find the Marcan lections, embodying as they did the teaching of St Peter, almost certainly in the possession of such a leader among the Hellenist teachers as Philip the Evangelist, who was residing at Caesarea at the same time as Luke' (cf. Acts 21.8: 'We went to the home of Philip the Evangelist, who was one of the Seven, and stayed with him'). It looks too as if Luke may have got from him the traditions in Acts 8.5-40 (which also link Philip both with Caesarea [8.40] and with Peter and Simon Magus [8.9-24]) and possibly 6.1-8.3 and 10.1-11.18 (so Zahn, INT III, 128).]
At what stage or stages Mark wrote up these notes into his statement of 'the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God', to use his own title (1.1), we shall never know. Luke could well have seen and used this too in some stage of its development as one of the earlier 'accounts' to which he refers. If our argument in the last chapter was correct, there would have been no need for him to have waited to find the gospel till he reached Rome in 60; he had direct access to Mark at Caesarea (Col.4.10, 14; Philem.24). It is possible indeed that the final form of the Markan gospel may not have taken shape till after the Lukan and could reflect the needs of the Roman church as it faced the threat of the Neronian persecution [So e.g. Martin, Mark, 65-70.] - though there is certainly nothing specific enough to require this. Or it could be, if Farmer should turn out to be right, that Mark represents the first harmony of the gospels, conflating Matthew and Luke. In this case it would be the last of the synoptists - though there is still nothing to suggest that it reflects the fall of Jerusalem or even the flight to Pella before the war. [For trenchant criticism of the theory of Marxsen, Mark the Evangelist, 102-16, that it comes from Galilee (so 'fluidly' interpreted as to include Pella!) in the period 66-70, cf. Martin, Mark, 70-5.]

Perhaps we shall conclude that the evidence for Mark's association with Peter or with Rome is altogether too tenuous to be trusted. In this case we shall simply be thrown back on guesswork and have to fit Mark into whatever chronology we are led to for Matthew and Luke. But this I am persuaded would represent excessive scepticism. For if we trust, however critically, the clues that have been left (and, I said, there are a surprising number of them for Mark), then I believe that they point independently to the same span of development at which we arrived provisionally for Matthew and Luke. It may well be (as Papias' imperfect tense would suggest) that Peter's preaching material was committed to writing by Mark independently of any specific visit to Rome (by which time Clement says he had already 'followed him for a long time') [Eusebius, HE 6. 14.6.], and it could have been combined with the sayings collections and the independent Matthean and Lukan traditions at almost any stage. But on the assumption that Mark initially put pen to paper after the first preaching mission of Peter in Rome (c.45), gave it limited circulation as what we called 'P', and subsequently put it out in more ordered form as 'proto-Mark', this would fit well with the dates already suggested for the first drafts of the Matthean and Lukan gospels. The final stages of the three synoptic gospels as we have them would then have occupied the latter 50s or early 60s. [C. F. Nolloth, The Rise of the Christian Religion, 1917, 12-24, also put all the synoptic gospels between 50 and 60, arguing for the same basic dependence on the 'two ancient documents' that we called 'P' and 'Q'. He is one of the few scholars to refer, en passant, to Edmundson's work.]
In any case, whatever precise pattern of synoptic interdependence will prove to be required or suggested by the evidence, all could quite easily be fitted in to comport with the writing of Acts in 62+.

The objection will doubtless still be raised that all this allows too little time for the development in the theology and practice of the church presupposed by the gospels and Acts. But this judgment is precariously subjective. It is impossible to say a priori how long is required for any development, or for the processes, communal and redactional, to which scholarly study has rightly drawn attention. We have noted how much could happen within three years of the crucifixion - and we are allowing a further thirty for the full flowering of the synoptic tradition. There is nothing, I believe, in the theology of the gospels or Acts or in the organization of the church there depicted that requires a longer span, which was already long enough, if we are right, for the creation of the whole Pauline corpus, including the Pastoral Epistles. Of course, if Acts is held to reflect a long look back on church history and the distant perspective of another century, then the development of the rest of the New Testament can and will be stretched to fit in. But if the production of the synoptic gospels and Acts does in fact cover the years 30 to 60 + which the latter records (the gradual committal to writing occupying perhaps the period 40 to 60+), then this in turn provides a valuable yardstick by which to assess the chronology of the documents that remain for us still to consider.