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The exact dates for certain books of the Bible are often unknown. However, through theological analysis of the texts, it is possible to gain a better understanding of the context that they were written in. The differences in style of writing and the message can be explained by the events that triggered the creation of the book. This paper will attempt to outline the historical events that prompted the writing of these books.
Luke’s gospel has a strong theme rebellion. However, it is not an open rebellion but a hidden one. It does not advocate violence and often shows the Roman Empire in a favorable light. Instead, Luke’s gospel is focused on creating a third alternative to Roman rule and open rebellion – the rule of God. Carroll and Cox suggest that the triggering historical factor for Luke’s Gospel was the universal census enacted by the Roman Empire (399).
“He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Common New Testament, Luke. 20-25) is a passage that shows the willingness of Jesus to pay the universal census. However, it is written in such a way that suggests that the rule of God is still superior to the rule of the Roman Empire. The rest of the gospel continues the idea of non-hostile resistance.
The writing of Graham Stanton suggests that John’s Gospel was written approximately between the years 80 A.D. and 100 A.D. (120). Although the date is vague, the historical factors that triggered the writing of this gospel can be extrapolated based on the language used in its verses. Stanton points out that the majority of writing in the gospel is directed specifically at Christians (118). He suggests that the historical factors that affected John’s Gospel are the religious disputes between Christians and the Jewish people and the subsequent parting of Christians from the synagogues (Stanton 117).
“We speak of what we know, and testify to what we have seen; but you do not receive out testimony” is one of the verses that Stanton points out to illustrate the religious disputes (John. 3-11). The word “we” represents the Christians, while “you” is referring to the Jewish people.
Acts of the Apostles
The book of Acts shows the open opposition to the followers of Jesus from the Roman Empire, as Jesus predicted earlier in Luke’s gospel. The verse “They are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus” (Acts. 17-7) shows that the previously hidden rebellion has become known and that it gained detractors. Balentine suggests that the writing of the Acts was motivated by the religious pluralism of the Roman Empire and the need to establish the roots of Christianity in Israel’s scriptures. The gospel is often seen as a critique of the Roman imperial rule and culture, motivated by the executions of Jesus and Paul (Balentine).
Not all books of the Bible have a have a known historical context. The three of the outlined sections suggest that historical factors played a large role in the content of the books. These factors might be the conditions or needs of the era, or a specific event such as the universal census. Further examination of the texts could help to shine a light on their origins.
Balentine, Samuel, editor. “Luke’s Acts.” Oxford Reference. Web.
Carroll, John T, and Jennifer K Cox. Luke: A Commentary. John Knox Press, 2012.
Stanton, Graham. The Gospels and Jesus. Oxford University Press, 2002.
The Bible. Common New Testament Version, Project Guttenberg, 2002.