2007-09-07

Dating the Book of Acts: 3, Evidence for the late date (Baur)

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by Neil Godfrey

Baur argued that Acts was written in the mid second century, around 140-150 C.E.

Baur saw Acts as an attempt to heal a rift in Christianity between two factions originally led by Peter and Paul. Christianity in Baur’s view had been divided between Jewish Christians who saw Jesus as the hope of their historical expectations, who held to the Torah and allowed gentiles into their ranks if they adhered to the Torah too, on the one hand, and gentile Christians on the other, who taught salvation by faith in Jesus only, and dismissed the Torah as ineffective for salvation.

Baur was influenced by the work of his student, Schneckenburger, who demonstrated extensive parallels between Peter and Paul in Acts. They both:

  • perform similar miracles
  • experience life-changing visions
  • deliver apologetic and evangelistic speeches
  • undergo imprisonments followed by miraculous releases

Further, Peter’s speeches sound like Paul’s letters, with stress on good conscience and salvation by faith — Acts 10:34-35; 11:18; 15:11

While Paul’s speeches with one exception (13:39) sound very unlike his letters. They are instead fundamentally Jewish, with emphasis on monotheism, creation, resurrection, observance of Torah, identification with Pharisees — Acts 21-26; 21:17-26; 23: 6, 8; 26:5

Baur saw Acts as an attempt to make Peter sound like Paul and Paul like Peter. The reason was to heal the breach between the two factions and make their differences seem trivial. Acts, it was thus argued, was an attempt to reconcile the Petrine (Jewish) and Pauline (gentile) factions.

Acts was believed to be written by a member of the Pauline faction extending an olive branch to the Jewish faction, showing a willingness to compromise or cover over past differences.

Baur believed the rift between the Jewish and gentile factions lasted well into the second century, so Acts was not produced until then. Much depended on the dates of Matthew and Luke, and Baur was convinced that Matthew was written in the 130’s c.e. Baur believed Matthew was the first gospel to be written.

The Gospel of Matthew dated at 130-134 c.e.

For Baur, references in Matthew 24 best fit the time of the second Jewish war in the time of Hadrian (117-138 c.e.), and testified to being authored at the time Hadrian’s new city, Aelia Capitolina, was being built on the site of Jerusalem:

  • False messianic and false prophet claims in Matt 24:5 & 11 best refer to Bar Kokhba, leader of the Jewish rebellion who was regarded as the Messiah.
  • The “abomination of desolation” (Matt 24:15) best described Hadrian’s plan to build a temple to Jupiter on the site of the old Jewish temple.
  • The tribulation of Matt 24 best fit the beginning of Rome’s construction of a new pagan city on the site of Jerusalem.

Followed by Luke and Acts

Baur understood Matthew to be the first gospel, and believed it was used by the author of Luke for his gospel.

He also shared the general conviction that Marcion used an early version of Luke, along with the letters of Paul, as his authoritative scripture.

The canonical form of Luke was subsequently produced as an anti-Marcionite text.

Acts only appeared after canonical Luke.

Hence Acts was the product of some time in the mid-second century.

Lightfoot (see notes in previous post: Dating the Book of Acts: 2, Evidence for an intermediate date) challenged Baur’s view by arguing that the letters of Ignatius (and 1 Clement) were from the period of Trajan — late first-early second century — and that they demonstrated no tension between Petrine and Pauline factions. Baur’s argument depended on the rift continuing well into the second century.

(Next post will look at a more recent reconsideration of the late date of Acts.)


Above notes taken from pages 3-5 of Marcion and Luke-Acts: A Defining Struggle, by Joseph B. Tyson (2006)


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