Authorship, dating, and target audience of each book of the New Testament

Fragment of an early New Testament manuscript

Messianic apologist J.K. McKee writes why the New Testament was likely originally written in Greek, rather than Hebrew or Aramaic.

He examines the opposing arguments and gave a fair treatment to both. (No surprise there; I’ve known J.K. over the years to be invariably fair, even when his peers are not. It’s his M.O. Smile)

Buried towards the end of his thorough analysis is an excellent resource: his compiled list of probable dates, authors, and audiences of each New Testament book, as derived from conservative scholarship. I’ve reproduced the list here:

Gospel of Matthew

Approximate date: early-to-mid 70s C.E., possibly into the 80s C.E.
Time period: the conception/birth of Yeshua to the ascension of Yeshua
Author: Matthew the disciple
Location of author: Phoenicia, Transjordan, Alexandria, Syrian Antioch (all debated)
Target audience and their location: the Jewish Diaspora, possibly Antioch

Gospel of Mark

Approximate date: late 50s or early 60s C.E.
Time period: the ministry of John the Immerser to the ascension of Yeshua
Author: John Mark, secretary of the Apostle Peter
Location of author: Rome
Target audience and their location: predominantly Roman, later Alexandrian

Gospel of Luke

Approximate date: late 50s to early 60s; or late 70s to early 80s
Time period: establishment of a more definitive history of the ministry and teachings of Yeshua
Author: Luke the doctor
Location of author: Rome or Achaia
Target audience and their location: Theophilus, and broad groups of Jews, Greeks, and Romans

Gospel of John

Approximate date: mid-to-late 80s C.E.
Time period: need to establish a doctrinal Gospel independent of the Synoptics (Mark, Matthew, Luke), focused on the relationship of Yeshua the Son to God the Father, and Yeshua to His Disciples and followers
Author: the Apostle John
Location of author: Ephesus
Target audience and their location: largely non-Jewish Believers in Asia Minor, and eventually throughout the Roman Empire

Book of Acts

Approximate date: after the Gospel of Luke, 60-62 C.E., late 60s C.E., or 70s-80s C.E.
Time period: establishment of a more definitive history of the expansion of the gospel in the ancient world
Author: Luke the doctor
Location of author: Rome
Target audience and their location: Theophilus, and broad groups of Jews, Greeks, and Romans

Epistle to the Romans

Approximate date: 56-58 C.E.
Time period: transition of Paul’s ministry work from the Eastern to Western Mediterranean
Author: the Apostle Paul with Tertius (secretary)
Location of author: Corinth/Achaia or Cenchrea
Target audience and their location: Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in Rome

First Epistle to the Corinthians

Approximate date: 52-55 C.E.
Time period: season of extreme growing pains for the Corinthian congregation, in the midst of idolatry, immorality, and factionalism
Author: the Apostle Paul
Location of author: Ephesus/Asia Minor
Target audience and their location: Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in Corinth

Second Epistle to the Corinthians

Approximate date: Winter 56 or 57 C.E.
Time period: season of extreme growing pains for the Corinthian congregation, in the midst of many challenging Paul’s apostolic authority
Author: the Apostle Paul
Location of author: Macedonia or Ephesus
Target audience and their location: Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in Corinth

Epistle to the Galatians

Approximate date: 48-49 C.E. or 50-52 C.E.
Time period: season of great confusion among many new non-Jewish Believers, and their integration into the community of faith
Author: the Apostle Paul
Location of author: Macedonia, Ephesus, or Antioch
Target audience and their location: mostly non-Jewish Believers in the province/region of Galatia

Epistle of Ephesians

Approximate date: 60-62 C.E.
Time period: season of great expansion of the gospel among those needing encouragement
Author: the Apostle Paul
Location of author: Rome
Target audience and their location: Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in Asia Minor, and eventually Ephesus

Epistle to the Philippians

Approximate date: 61 C.E.
Time period: first imprisonment of Paul
Author: the Apostle Paul
Location of author: Rome (majority view), Ephesus or Caesarea (minority view)
Target audience and their location: largely non-Jewish Believers in Philippi

Epistle to the Colossians

Approximate date: 60-62 C.E.
Time period: season of extreme error in parts of the Body of Messiah, during the first imprisonment of Paul
Author: the Apostle Paul
Location of author: Rome
Target audience and their location: Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in Colossae

First Epistle to the Thessalonians

Approximate date: 50-52 C.E.
Time period: season of severe difficulty for a young assembly of Believers, with misunderstandings about the end-times
Author: the Apostle Paul
Location of author: Corinth
Target audience and their location: Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in Thessalonica

Second Epistle to the Thessalonians

Approximate date: 51-52 C.E. (maximum of six months after 1 Thessalonians)
Time period: season of severe misunderstanding about the end-times
Author: the Apostle Paul
Location of author: Corinth
Target audience and their location: Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in Thessalonica

First Epistle to Timothy

Approximate date: 63-64 C.E. or 65-67 C.E.
Time period: growth of Messianic community with rise of Paul’s successors, in the midst of some false teachings and apostasy
Author: the Apostle Paul with Luke (secretary)
Location of author: traveling to, or in Macedonia
Target audience and location: Timothy in Ephesus

Second Epistle to Timothy

Approximate date: 66-67 C.E.
Time period: growth of Messianic community with rise of Paul’s successors, in the midst of some false teachings and apostasy, as well as rising persecution
Author: the Apostle Paul with Luke (secretary)
Location of author: Rome
Target audience and their location: Timothy in Ephesus

Epistle to Titus

Approximate date: 63-65 C.E.
Time period: growing pains of new Messiah followers in Mediterranean basin
Author: the Apostle Paul with Luke (secretary)
Location of author: Macedonia or Nicopolis
Target audience and their location: Titus in Crete

Epistle to Philemon

Approximate date: 60-62 C.E.
Time period: Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, during an era of runaway slaves
Author: the Apostle Paul
Location of author: Rome (majority), Ephesus or Caesarea (minority)
Target audience and location: Philemon, from Colossae or Lycus Valley

Epistle to the Hebrews

Approximate date: 64-70 C.E.
Time period: immediately prior to, or during, the Jewish revolt in the Land of Israel
Author: unknown, but often favored to be Barnabas or Apollos (and/or Priscilla)
Location of author: the Jewish Diaspora, probably Corinth or Italy
Target audience and their location: primarily the Jewish Diaspora, probably Rome, Alexandria, Eastern Mediterranean

Epistle of James

Approximate date: 45-50 C.E.
Time period: prior to, or just after, the Jerusalem Council
Author: James the Just, brother of Yeshua
Location of author: Jerusalem or Judea
Target audience and their location: Jewish Believers in the immediate Diaspora: Phoenicia, Cyprus, Antioch

First Epistle of Peter

Approximate date: 64-67 C.E.
Time Period: immediately prior to the Jewish rebellion in Judea, possibly during the persecution by Emperor Nero
Author: the Apostle Peter, assisted by Silvanus
Location of author: Rome
Target audience and their location: Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, Bithynia (Northwestern Asia Minor)

Second Epistle of Peter

Approximate date: 65 to 68 C.E.
Time period: spread of false teaching in the community of faith, and degrees of impatience about the Second Coming
Author: the Apostle Peter (possibly with a scribe’s assistance, and/or posthumously released)
Location of author: Rome
Target audience and their location: Jewish and non-Jewish Believers who are soon to face the absence of Peter, the same basic audience as 1 Peter

First Epistle of John

Approximate date: anywhere from 70-90 C.E.
Time period: period of transition in the early ekklēsia from Apostolic to post-Apostolic, with Believers facing threats from (proto-)Gnostic errors
Author: the Apostle John
Location of author: Ephesus or Asia Minor
Target audience and their location: Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in Asia Minor

Second Epistle of John

Approximate date: 70-90 C.E.
Time period: period of transition in the early ekklēsia from Apostolic to post-Apostolic
Author: the Apostle John
Location of author: Ephesus or Asia Minor (conservative), Syria (liberal)
Target audience and their location: a congregation of Believers (a “lady”)

Third Epistle of John

Approximate date: 70-90 C.E.
Time period: period of transition in the early ekklēsia from Apostolic to post-Apostolic
Author: the Apostle John
Location of author: Ephesus or Asia Minor (conservative), Syria (liberal)
Target audience and location: Gaius, a Believer in Asia Minor

Epistle of Jude

Approximate date: 50s or 60s C.E.; or 80s C.E.
Time period: intense season of instability and uncertainness
Author: Jude, the brother of James and half-brother of Yeshua
Location of author: Judea (early composition); Diaspora (later composition)
Target audience and their location: Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in the Mediterranean basin

Book of Revelation

Approximate date: 50s-70s C.E. or 80s-90 C.E.
Time period: deteriorating circumstances for the First Century Believers in the Roman Empire
Author: the Apostle John
Location of author: the island of Patmos
Target audience and their location: the congregations of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea (all in Asia Minor)


These datings suggest the earliest book of the New Testament was written by Ya’akov (James), the brother of Yeshua, written 15 years or so after the resurrection. Paul’s letters and some of the gospels following shortly thereafter.

Quite remarkable, if you think about it. The defeated band of disciples were all that was left of the Yeshua movement, and they had even publicly denied knowing Yeshua for fear of their own lives. It was a shameful thing to be associated with a defeated messiah and a dangerous thing to be associated with Yeshua who had been crucified by the Roman government with approval from the corrupt religious leadership.

But days after his death, God raised up Messiah from the dead and the defeated band of disciples reversed course. Instead of hiding in fear of their lives, they openly and bodly proclaimed Yeshua of Nazareth as Messiah, producing the first Messiah-believing communities in Israel and the nations.

Within a few years, James, Paul, Peter and other leaders began writing letters to these communities. Others transcribed the oral accounts of Yeshua’s life and ministry. These letters and accounts were later canonized as the gospels and epistles, producing the New Testament we have today.

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Husband, dad, disciple of the Jewish Messiah Yeshua, technologist. Author of Chavah Messianic Radio, MessianicChords, and EtzMitzvot. @judahgabriel


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