Re: [XTalk] Dating John
----- Original Message -----
From: "Ron Price" <ron.price@...>
Sent: Wednesday, May 01, 2002 10:11 AM
Subject: Re: [XTalk] Dating John
> I think your computer program is a good idea in principle, but I'm not
> sure it will be of much practical use for NT history because so few
> dates are known with certainty and the rest are so often hotly disputed.
> As I understand it, your program can deal with uncertain input in the
> form of a date range plus a probability of the event being within that
> range, but it can't handle the varied and rather subjective assessments
> of either the date range or the probability.
I am not sure that I understand what you say about what "it can't handle."
Maybe you can give an example of what it seems that the program cannot handle?
(Not that I dispute that it can't handle what you think it can't handle -- I
just don't know what you think it can't handle.)
> >But there is still an item of manuscript evidence to be discussed. The
> >infamous p52 contains verses found in John. Until a cogent argument is made
> >for the reconstruction of a proto-John that contained the verses as they are
> >found in p52, it is safe to think that p52 is a fragment of John more or
> >less as we have it. (It would be ad hoc to postulate a proto-John for the
> >sole reason of evading the evidence of p52.) The typical dating of the
> >manuscript is to the first half of the second century for paleographical
> >reasons. I will incline towards the latter half of that period and assign
> >p52 a date of 130. Allowing five years for circulation, this evidence
> >points to a date between 30 and 125. I will assign a 90% chance to this
> In my opinion this judgement is dubious. We should not go by "typical
> dating" but by the latest research on the subject which seems to be
> suggesting a later date for p52. According to U.Schnelle, _The History
> and Theology of the New Testament Writings_ (ET, London: SCM, 1998, 477,
> n119) one recent dating is 175 CE +/- 25 years, and Schnelle himself
> goes for 150 CE +/- 25 years. This casts considerable doubt on the 90%
> chance you quoted.
I would say that this calls into question the dating range that I allowed, not
so much the 90% chance part. The 90% chance part represents the probability
that p52 is a fragment of canonical John.
It is a minor difference, but Schnelle says that A. Schmidt "dates p52 in the
period around 170 CE (+/- 25) on the basis of a comparison with P Chester Beatty
I am not sure that Schnelle prefers a range of 125-175, as it is possible that
Schnelle prefers a range of 100-150 but considers this practically the same as
dating it to 150 to be on the safe side. It's open to interpretation, at least
in my opinion. Here is what Schnelle actually says: "The result for the dating
of p52 is that the 125 CE period, usually given with extraordinary certitude,
must now be stated with some doubt. One must at least allow a margin of 25
years, so that one could think of a dating around 150."
Jack Kilmon on his web site states that paleography dates p52 "to the time of
Hadrian (117 - 138 CE)."
Robert Funk in _Honest to Jesus_ says that p52 "has been variously dated from
125 to 160 C.E., roughly one hundred years after the death of Jesus." (p. 94)
A. N. Wilson says (Paul: The Mind of the Apostle, p.251): "This fragment, which
is in the John Rylands Library at Manchester, England, perhaps dates from the
second century. It remains the case, however, in spite of claims by journalists
and non-papyrologists in recent times, it is difficult if not impossible to date
papyrus within a 50-year margin."
It is difficult for me to please everybody. Would it be satisfactory for me to
say that p52 dates to the second century and average the date to 150 CE instead
of the 130 CE that I offered in the previous post?
> Ron Price wrote :I am interest in this dating. Would it be possible to
> Schnelle was referring to A.Schmidt, 'Zwei Anmerkungen zu P.Ryl.III
> 457,' APF 35 (1989), which you would have to consult if you want to know
> the basis of this dating, for Schnelle doesn't explain it.
know the arguments of A.Schmidt ? What is the major
view about it ?
- I wrote:
>> one recent dating [of p52] is 175 CE +/- 25 yearsJohn Lupia replied:
>I have not seen Schnelle's book nor have I read anySchnelle was referring to A.Schmidt, 'Zwei Anmerkungen zu P.Ryl.III
>reviews. Does he explain the basis and evidence of
>the "recent dating is 175 CE +/- 25 years" of P52?
457,' APF 35 (1989), which you would have to consult if you want to know
the basis of this dating, for Schnelle doesn't explain it.
I wrote to Peter Kirby:
>> your program can deal with uncertain input in thePeter replied:
>> form of a date range plus a probability of the event being within that
>> range, but it can't handle the varied and rather subjective assessments
>> of either the date range or the probability.
>I am not sure that I understand what you say about what "it can't handle."What I meant was that the results of the program (as of any program)
>Maybe you can give an example of what it seems that the program cannot handle?
are only as good as the input. In this application much of the input is
controversial and therefore uncertain. I know you're trying to make
allowance for the uncertainty, but different people would make different
>I am not sure that Schnelle prefers a range of 125-175, as it is possible thatOn second thoughts, you're probably right here.
>Schnelle prefers a range of 100-150 but considers this practically the same as
>dating it to 150 to be on the safe side.
>It is difficult for me to please everybody.True, and this reinforces the point I was trying to make above.
A further complication for me is that I think John went through three
> Would it be satisfactory for me toAs you're using this date more or less as an upper limit on the date
>say that p52 dates to the second century and average the date to 150 CE instead
>of the 130 CE that I offered in the previous post?
of John, this would be more cautious and in my opinion better.
Weston-on-Trent, Derby, UK
Web site: http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/index.htm
----- Original Message -----
From: "Emmanuel Fritsch" <emmanuel.fritsch@...>
Sent: Thursday, May 02, 2002 10:01 AM
Subject: Re: [XTalk] Dating John
> Hello Peter,
> I think the most important before computing is to explain
> how you want to compute. What is your modus operandi ?
The computation is executed by the program that I described in my post "The
Dater Program." Here is that post:
The source code in C++ is provided here:
And here is the algorithm in a sentence: Assuming even background probabilities
for every year between the terminus a quo and the terminus ad quem for a
document, and supplied with the six points of data on each author and with the
three points of data on each piece of other evidence, make use of the definition
of conditional probability and Bayes's Theorem in order to determine the
probability that the document was written in any given year given each
individual author or piece of evidence, and then compute the probabilities of
the document being written in each year given all the information by applying
the independent version of Bayes's Rule to the probabilities calculated for each
individual data point.
I am afraid that some knowledge of probability theory as well as C++ will be
necessary in order to follow all the details. If you have any specific
questions or concerns, I would be happy to address them.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Jack Kilmon" <jkilmon@...>
Sent: Tuesday, April 30, 2002 7:06 PM
Subject: Re: [XTalk] Dating John
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Peter Kirby" <kirby@...>
> To: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Sent: Tuesday, April 30, 2002 7:59 PM
> Subject: [XTalk] Dating John
> > Kysar states that most scholars today see the historical setting of the
> > Gospel of John in the expulsion of the community from the synagogue (ibid.,
> > p. 918). The word aposynagogos is found three times in the gospel (9:22,
> > 12:42, 16:2). The high claims made for Jesus and the response to them
> > (5:18), the polemic against "the Jews" (9:18, 10:31, 18:12, 19:12), and the
> > assertion of a superiority of Christian revelation to the Hebrew (1:18,
> > 6:49-50, 8:58) show that "the Johannine community stood in opposition to the
> > synagogue from which it had been expelled." (p. 918)
> > Kysar states concerning the dating of the Gospel of John: "Those who relate
> > the expulsion to a formal effort on the part of Judaism to purge itself of
> > Christian believers link the composition of the gospel with a date soon
> > after the Council of Jamnia, which is supposed to have promulgated such an
> > action. Hence, these scholars would date John after 90. Those inclined to
> > see the expulsion more in terms of an informal action on the part of a local
> > synagogue are free to propose an earlier date." (p. 919)
> Brach 28b: "Said R. Gamaliel to the Sages: Can anyone among you frame a
benediction relating to the minim? (was censored to Sadducees but has now been
restored from an older version). JBrach 4, 8a; Tbrach 3,25 ..Samuel the Lesser
arose and composed it. The date of the Birkhat ha-Minim MUST be between 80
(when Gamaliel became Nasi and the date of Shmuel ha-qatan's death (90 CE).
Dating between 80 and 90 are Lagrange, Parkes, Jocz, Davies, Winters, Carroll,
hence I would place the Birkhat haMinim about 85 CE and believe it stimulated
not only the composition of 4G, fleshed around an earlier primitive Semitic
document, but also GMatthew as well.
I have come across a viewpoint that could call into question our argument for a
dating of John. I will quote the relevant portions of this article:
Kimelman, Reuven. "Birkat Ha-Minim and the Lack of Evidence for an
Anti-Christian Jewish Prayer in Late Antiquity." In Jewish and Christian
Self-Definition. Ed. E. P. Sanders. Volume Two. Aspects of Judaism in the
Greco-Roman Period. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981. Pp. 226-44.
The Genizah version of the birkat ha-minim reads as
1. For the apostates let there be no hope.
2. And let the arrogant government be speedily
uprooted in our days.
3. Lt the nosrim and the minim be destroyed in a
4. And let them be blotted out of the Book of Life
and not be inscribed together with the righteous.
5. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who humblest the
Reuven Kimelman writes (p. 244):
The following are the salient results of our
investigation of the birkat ha-minim:
1. Birkat ha-minim was not directed against Gentile
Christians, but against Jewish sectarians.
2. The Genizah version which reads ha-nosrim
ve-ha-minim was directed primarily against Jewish
3. There is no unambiguous evidence that Jews cursed
Christians during the statutory prayers.
4. There is abundant evidence that Christians were
welcomed in the synagogue.
5. Thus birkat ha-minim does not reflect a watershed
in the history of the relationship between Jews and
Christians in the first centuries of our era.
6. Apparently, there never was a single edict which
caused the so-called irreparable separation between
Judaism and Christianity. The separation was rather
the result of a long process dependent upon local
situations and ultimately upon the political power of
Kimelman writes (pp. 239-240):
What about the patristic evidence? Not only is
evidence lacking from rabbinic sources that Gentile
Christians were excluded from the synagogue, there is
abundant evidence from patristic sources that
Christians were frequenting the synagogues quite
often. Indeed, there is far-flung evidence that it
was the church leadership that strove to keep
Christians away from the synagogue and not the Jews
who were excluding them. Such protest from the church
Fathers demonstrates the receptivity of the synagogue
to Christians. This situation is highly unlikely if
the synagogue liturgy contained a daily curse against
It is of no small significance to note that Jewish
receptivity to Christians is precisely where rabbinic
Judaism had made its strongest impact, namely, Asia
Minor, Palestine and Syria. So, for example, the
_Martyrium Pionii_, which was been dated from the end
of the third to the middle of the fourth century,
records Pionius (d. 250 - Smyrna) as saying: 'I hear
that the Jews call some of you to the synagogues.'
Indeed, the Jews seem to have mounted a missionary
campaign among the Christians of Smyrna. [The Acts of
the Christian Martyrs 13.1; 14.1 (ed. H. Musurillo),
Origen, as mentioned above, is also aware that he had
congregants who attended synagogue on the Sabbath.
Indeed, Origen also alludes to Jewish missionaries who
induced Christians to practice Jewish rites.
In the late fourth century, Jerome stressed that
Christians imitated the rites of the synagogue,
probably as a result of familiarity with synagogue
practice. Jerome also pointed out, to his chagrin,
that Christians were often the beneficiaries of Jewish
generosity. This reached such a level, that he urged
htat such charity be refused lest it attract them to
Judaism. [Epistle 52 to Nepotion]
Finally, the evidence from John Chrysostom is
overwhelming. In the _Homilies Against the Jews_, he
harangues against the Judaizing activities of
Christians, in general, and their frequenting of
synagogues, in particular. The latter was so serious
that he felt impelled to denounce it over fifteen
times. [Chrysostom, Homilies against the Jews 1.3.3-4;
1.4.6; 1.5.2; 1.5.7; 1.6.2; 1.8.1; 2.3.5; 4.7.3-4;
4.7.7; 5.12.12; 6.6.6; 6.7.3-4; 6.7.7; 7.6.10;
8.8.7-9.] His vituperative attacks probably indicate
that the Christian legislation against Christian
attendance at Jewish religious meetings was
ineffective. [Apostolic Constitutions 2.61.1; 8.47.65;
Council of Laodicea, Canon 29.] Chrysostom, himself,
reported that Christians who frequent synagogues urged
their household, friends and neighbours not to report
them to the priests. [Chyrsostom, Homily 8.8.8.]
Clearly, the synagogue was a very real attraction for
Significantly, in an effort to dissuade Christians
from rushing off to the synagogue begging the Jews to
help them, Chrysostom asserts that the Jews laugh and
scoff at them. Then most revealingly he concedes:
'Even if they do not do it openly . . . they are doing
this deep down in their hearts.' Not only can
Chrysostom not adduce evidence for Jews cursing
Christians, he cannot even adduce evidence for Jews
scoffing at them. The Jews must have been quite
receptive to Christians seeking their assistance and
the succour of the synagogue.
If one of the most virulent antisemites of the church
cannot produce evidence for official Jewish
denigration of Christians, then its existence is
seriously called into question. Not only is evidence
lacking from Christian sources that birkat ha-minim
was directed against Gentile Christians, but there is
also evidence, direct and indirect, that it was not.
Indeed, the preponderance of the evidence points to a
fourth-century Jewish Christian sect, called by
Epiphanius and Jerome the Nazoraeans, as the group to
which the term nosrim refers. Once it is clear that
nosrim does not refer to Christians but to Nazoaeans,
it is not at all surprising to discover that the
Hebrew was originally nasrim and thus more assonant
Kimelman writes (p. 233): "A significant number of
scholars have contended that nosrim has been added.
The major argument has been the difficulty of
rendering smoothly both terms together. Those who
contend that nosrim is original have hard to render
the phrase 'Jewish Christians and other heretics'.
The fact that 'other' has to be supplied highlights
the difficulty of rendering an apparently redundant
text such as 'Jewish Christians and heretics'."
Kimelman writes (p. 238):
"It is of particular note that the first Christian
source [Epiphanius] clearly to mention cursing thrice
daily in the synagogues makes no mention of
Christians. The same source is also the first
patristic mention of the Jewish Christian sect of the
Nazoraeans. Jerome, who next mentions the Nazoraeans,
associates them with the Minaeans and infers that both
are cursed by the Jews. This, along with the fact
that the term nosrim first appears in rabbinic
literature in the mouth of R. Johanan of the third
century, warrants the conclusion that the Genizah
formula which reads ha-nosrim ve-ha-minim (= the
nosrim and [?, see below] the minim) was composed
between the time of R. Johanan (d. c. 279) and the
writing of the Panarion (377). The data also warrant
the conclusion that nosrim does not denote Christians,
but rather Nazoraeans, a Jewish Christian sect whose
existence is vouched for by at least two
Kimelman writes (pp. 234-235):
"The issue with regard to the gospel of John has two
aspects which are not necessarily related. First, is
there awareness of birkat ha-minim? Second, is there
any evidence that it then contained a reference to
nosrim? John mentions three times that Jews who
'confess Christ' were excluded from the synagogue
(aposunagwgoV, 9.22; 12.42; 16.2). There is no
evidence that this situation was prevalent anywhere
else. The context of the mention of 'Pharisees'
(12.42) indicates that this is a derogatory reference
to local leadership. Indeed the absence of any
mention of such exclusion by early Christian authors
argues against its being a pervasive practice. It is
hard to believe that a major rabbinic practice which
is supposed to have originated in Yavneh about the
turn of the first century is attested to in only one
Christian document. If it were aimed against
Christians it would have been widespread. Thus it is
of no surprise that the term for exclusion from the
synagogue, aposunagwgoV, appears nowhere else in early
Christian literature and has no precise parallel in
rabbinic terminology. It is even possible that the
whole charge was concocted to persuade Christians to
stay away from the synagogue by making them believe
that they would be received with hostility. Thus the
Jews are generally represented in a negative fashion.
Alternatively, the gospel wanted to convince Jews who
had 'confessed Christ' that there was no turning back,
since such confession marks one as rejected by the
synagogue. It is more likely that the final edition
of the gospel is addressing Gentiles who are far
remeoved from Judaism. This accounts for the gospel's
having to explain so much of Judaism, even the
Justin makes nine reference to Jews who cursed Christ
(93, 95, 108, 123, 133, 16, 47, 96, 137). Only one of
these makes a connection to prayers (137): "Scoff not
at the King of Israel, as the rulers of your
synagogues teach you to do after your prayers."
Kimelman writes (pp. 235-236): "The connection between
the comment of Justin just cited and the birkat
ha-minim is, to say the least, problematic. First,
there is no mention of Christians. Second, although
elsewhere Justin employs xataraomai (=curse) and
xatanaqhmatizw (=anathematize) or forms thereof, here
he uses only 'episxwyhte pote (=scoff), a term which
would not be appropriate to the birkat ha-minim.
Third, whatever did take place occurred after prayers
(meta thn proseuxhn), while birkat ha-minim is in the
middle of the statutory prayers (the twelfth of the
'Eighteen Benedictions')! Justin clearly proves
inadequate as evidence for positing the existence of a
statutory Jewish prayer which cursed Christians."
Kimelman writes (p. 236): "The next patristic witness
is Origen. He offers less evidence than Justin. One
comment merely says that the Jews curse Christ
everywhere up to the present time. Two other
pertinent comments appear in his homilies on Jeremiah.
The first comment (10.8.2) accuses Jews of cursing
and blaspheming Jesus and plotting against those who
believe in him. The second source (19.12.31) says,
'Enter the synagogue of the Jews and see Jesus
flagellated by those with the language of blasphemy.'
One must be careful of Origen's hyperbole. For
instance, in another of the same Homilies
(12.13.20-23) he says that Jews are still responsible
for the murder of Jesus since they understand the Law
and the Prophets according to its plain sense! Thus
for Origen the mere practice of Judaism is an affront
to the coming of Christ and could be conceived as
blasphemous. Whatever the case may be, Origen makes
no mention of Christians being cursed nor of any
connection to the prayers."
The editor interjects into the article (p. 233): "One
of the results of the McMaster Symposium which lies
behind this volume was a highlighting of the lack of
evidence for any formative impact of Christianity on
any major element of tannaitic Judaism, including the
development of rabbinic law, the formation of the
Mishnah, the structuring of the liturgy, the closing
of the canon, and the major propositions of rabbinic
theology. This itself is sufficient to question the
thesis that birkat ha-minim was primarily directed
against Christianity. We must be careful of
anachronistically overestimating the impact of
Christianity on Judaism in the first two centuries."
If half of what Kimelman says in his article is true, then it seems that we
ought to reconsider the use of the birkat ha-minim as evidence for the dating of
John. Whatever incident went on between John's community and the synagogue, if
any, could have occured at practically any time in the first or second century.
> > Until and unless we find some evidence that another emperor demanded to be
> > mentioned as "Our Lord and our God," this point does seem to be cogent, if
> > not as strong as some of the other internal evidence. I would assign a 60%
> > chance to the idea that the author of John had Domitian in mind and that the
> > Gospel of John was written between 81 and 96 CE.
> Since this fits well between the ascension of Gamaliel II and within 6 years
of the last possible date for the expulsion, I agree but would place it at 80%.
I should have pointed out that each individual piece of evidence must be
considered in isolation from the others. Our judgments should reflect the
probability that the evidence holds given an even distribution of background
probabilities between the terminus a quo and terminus ad quem. It is the job of
the algorithm to find out which dates best fit all of the evidence.
> > But there is still an item of manuscript evidence to be discussed. The
> > infamous p52 contains verses found in John. Until a cogent argument is made
> > for the reconstruction of a proto-John that contained the verses as they are
> > found in p52, it is safe to think that p52 is a fragment of John more or
> > less as we have it. (It would be ad hoc to postulate a proto-John for the
> > sole reason of evading the evidence of p52.) The typical dating of the
> > manuscript is to the first half of the second century for paleographical
> > reasons. I will incline towards the latter half of that period and assign
> > p52 a date of 130. Allowing five years for circulation, this evidence
> > points to a date between 30 and 125. I will assign a 90% chance to this
> > evidence.
> The palaeography of P52 during the time of Hadrian (117-138 CE), and possibly
even earlier, is remarkable given the distance between Egypt and its provenance
of composition. One can only conceive of a close communication and exchange
between Syrian and Alexandrian Christians and P52 as a fragment of a 2nd
generation copy of the original.
I am interested in the evidence that the Gospel of John did not originate in
Egypt. I am aware of the patristic tradition placing John in Ephesus. Is there
more to the case against an Egyptian provenance for GJohn, at least in John's
> For my nickel, 85 CE (mid way between Gamaliel II's ascension) to 95 CE (5
years after the last possible date for Birkhat haMinim) with 90 CE as MY choice
of the year 4G was composed.
I will reveal the algorithm's output once there has elapsed enough time for the
discussion of the evidence presented and possibly the presentation of evidence
that I haven't considered.
Thanks for your feedback. I am interested in what you think about Kimelman's