Updated — the Bar Kochba-NT Connection

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by Neil Godfrey

I have updated my annotated list of posts on the Book of Revelation. Look under “Archives by Topic” in the right margin or just click this link.

It is worth pointing out the other NT connection with the time of the Bar Kochba rebellion — the Second Letter to the Thessalonians: Identifying the “Man of Sin” in 2 Thessalonians

Another take on that letter, one that concludes with a date a little earlier than the 132-135 Jewish War — the time of Trajan (a time of mass slaughter of Jews outside Palestine): How a Spurious Letter “From Paul” Inspired the End Time Prophecies of the New Testament — And not to forget another old favourite: Little Apocalypse and the Bar Kochba Revolt

I only post these here now because they relate to my recent (and less recent) posts on Turmel and Witulski’s studies in Revelation. I’m not pronouncing any decided position of my own on their dates.

But in browsing over these older posts what did catch my eye was a pertinent point that I do think has much significance and is unjustifiably overlooked by too many conservative scholars:

First, Hermann Detering:

It is important to emphasize that neither the Ignatian letters, nor 1 Clement, nor the Epistle of Barnabas, nor the Didache, nor any other early Christian documents are able to witness with certainty to the existence of the Synoptic Gospels, whose names they nowhere mention.2 One cannot even demonstrate a knowledge of the synoptic Gospels for Justin in the middle of the second century, even if he obviously did know a kind of Gospel literature, namely the “Memoirs of the Apostles,” which was already publicly read in worship services in his time. (pp 162f – HD’s article is accessible here)

Compare Markus Vinzent:

Thus, even though Klinghardt makes a good argument that the compilation of texts known as the New Testament was already known to Justin, and perhaps even to Marcion, it is only from Irenaeus onward that the four gospels can safely be said to have been known, as supported by external evidence. . . .

Both Klinghardt and David Trobisch, on whom Klinghardt has built his thesis on the canonical editing of the New Testament, have come under heavy criticism from many of their peers; however, they have been defended by Jan Heilmann on good grounds.

I have read many of Klinghardt’s arguments for specific events in Justin’s writings indicating a knowledge of our canonical gospels but I have not yet seen a comprehensive rebuttal of this kind of reading into Justin’s work as addressed by Walter Cassels way back in 1879.

The first task of all historical researchers is to examine the provenance of their sources. I keep bumping into the same wall as Detering and Vinzent: it is only wishful imagination that can establish our biblical and apocryphal sources as early as the first century. Something happened in the early decades of the second century, though.

Since we cannot go further back than Marcion’s testimonies, I shall start with him. . . .

The fact is that we have no evidence from before the Bar Kokhba revolt (132–135 ce) and only hear and read about Christian teachers in Rome for the first time after this period. Indeed, in Marcion’s time there was evidently a migration of teachers from Asia Minor and Greece to Rome and we can recognize a rapidly flourishing Christian literature from this time onwards. This indicates to us that this Jewish war created a sociopolitical situation in which Jewish as well as Roman life was faced with new, extraordinary challenges and the corresponding impulses toward innovation. (Vinzent, pp. 327f – my bolding)

More thoughts to come…