@JohnV If you read the beginning of my post, I note that they are determined by:
- style of writing - Greek writing changed from time period to time period - so the actual form of the script can indicate date
- contextual clues - if the text mentions certain rulers, locations, etc. that can be a hint as to what time period it came from
- when other ancient writers who mention it say it was written
- Carbon 14 dating - while this requires some of the material to have deteriorated, it can be used on occasion (see article above)
- location documents found - if the documents were found surrounded by items from a certain time period, it may be reasonable (may) to assume that they came from that time period
I’m not an expert on dating ancient documents, but my impression is that each document requires going through this process to determine when it was most likely written.
Dating Luke - Geisler
Here is an example of some arguments for an ‘early date’ for the Book of Luke. See how he uses contextual clues and historical notes to attempt to date the book. That is one example of how dating these materials is approached.
The Gospel of Luke was written by the same author as the Acts of the Apostles, who refers to Luke as the ‘former account’ of ‘all that Jesus began to do and teach’ (Acts 1:1). The destiny (‘Theophilus’), style, and vocabulary of the two books betray a common author. Roman historian Colin Hemer has provided powerful evidence that Acts was written between AD 60 and 62. This evidence includes these observations:
- There is no mention in Acts of the crucial event of the fall of Jerusalem in 70.
- There is no hint of the outbreak of the Jewish War in 66 or of serious deterioration of relations between Romans and Jews before that time.
- There is no hint of the deterioration of Christian relations with Rome during the Neronian persecution of the late 60s.
- There is no hint of the death of James at the hands of the Sanhedrin in ca. 62, which is recorded by Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews (188.8.131.52).
- The significance of Gallio’s judgement in Acts 18:14-17 may be seen as setting precedent to legitimize Christian teaching under the umbrella of the tolerance extended to Judaism.
- The prominence and authority of the Sadducees in Acts reflects a pre-70 date, before the collapse of their political cooperation with Rome.
- The relatively sympathetic attitude in Acts to Pharisees (unlike that found even in Luke’s Gospel) does not fit well with in the period of Pharisaic revival that led up to the council at Jamnia. At that time a new phase of conflict began with Christianity.
- Acts seems to antedate the arrival of Peter in Rome and implies that Peter and John were alive at the time of the writing.
- The prominence of ‘God-fearers’ in the synagogues may point to a pre-70 date, after which there were few Gentile inquiries and converts to Jerusalem.
- Luke gives insignificant details of the culture of an early, Julio-Claudian period.
- Areas of controversy described presume that the temple was still standing.
- Adolf Harnack contended that Paul’s prophecy in Acts 20:25 (cf. 20:38) may have been contradicted by later events. If so, the book must have appeared before those events.
- Christian terminology used in Acts reflects an earlier period. Harnack points to use of Iusous and Ho Kurios , while Ho Christos always designates ‘the Messiah’, and is not a proper name for Jesus.
- The confident tone of Acts seems unlikely during the Neronian persecutions of Christians and the Jewish War with the Rome during the late 60s.
- The action ends very early in the 60s, yet the description in Acts 27 and 28 is written with a vivid immediacy. It is also an odd place to end the book if years have passed since the pre-62 events transpired.
If Acts was written in 62 or before, and Luke was written before Acts (say 60), then Luke was written less than thirty years of the death of Jesus. This is contemporary to the generation who witnessed the events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. This is precisely what Luke claims in the prologue to his Gospel:
Many have undertaken to draw up a record of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who were eye-witnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught . [5uke 1:1-4]
Luke presents the same information about who Jesus is, what he taught, and his death and resurrection as do the other Gospels. Thus, there is not a reason to reject their historical accuracy either.