A new post has appeared on the Weststar Institute’s blog, 8 tips for dating early Christian texts. It covers considerable detail for both relative and absolute dating.
My earlier post, Scientific and Unscientific Dating of the Gospels, was a summary of Niels Peter Lemche’s explanation of valid methods to arrive at an absolute date range for the gospels. The Westar Institute post by Cassandra Farrin gives much more detail — most of it applicable to relative dating.
Her headings — but you must read her post to grasp the full meaning of each:
1. Does the writer refer to any historical figures and events?
2. What other texts does the writer know and refer to?
3. What is the earliest known reference to this text in other sources?
4. Does the text contain special terms or words that changed in meaning from one era to another?
5. Does the text copy the mistakes or variations of other, earlier texts?
6. Is the text concerned with questions or themes that were also popular in other texts of a certain historical period?
7. What genre is this text? Is it a letter, a gospel, an apocalypse? In what sorts of wider contexts was this style of writing useful and popular?
8. Is there any archaeological, socio-cultural, or paleographic research to back up your best guess?
The post links to another set of interesting ones, including one titled 5 Quick and Dirty Rules for Interpreting Paul.
1. Set Acts of the Apostles aside.
2. Paul was not a Christian.
3. Paul was addressing the nations.
4. An apocalyptic scenario underlies Paul’s understanding.
5. Read Paul’s letters in the Greek.
Cassandra also plugs a few Westar publications. One of them looks like a revised edition of Stevan Davies’ New Testament Fundamentals. I like Stevan Davies and his books but I confess I have not completely read this one yet. I must soon.
The Westar Institute, many will know, is the organization behind the Jesus Seminar. It’s good to see activity on their blog resurfacing. I wish they had more.
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