Some scholars have proposed that the consensus dates for the gospels are problematic, or at least biased in some way (as we shall see). Here we zoom in a on Mark’s gospel in terms of its dating.
In Mark what one scholar uses to claim an early date another uses to declare an older one. For example, scholarly consensus puts mark just after 70 AD. Consensus scholarship comes to this conclusion through considering the following statement of Jesus, “Do you see all these great buildings? Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down” (13:2).
This statement is often interpreted as being a reference to the destruction of the Temple and the Jewish-Roman war. One may use this fact as evidence that Mark’s gospel had to have been penned after that event which would put it post 70 AD. Like I’ve already examined when it comes to science, there is a constraint of methodological naturalism in the historical academy as well. For example, if Jesus made a prophecy that was later to become true then the prophecy must have been read back into his mouth after the event had taken place. In other words, any possibility that Jesus could have really made a supernatural prophecy is immediately rejected due to a controlling anti-supernatural presupposition. I wonder if such an approach to history is at all warranted.
A first point of interjection one could make is that the assertion that no-one can, under any circumstance, predict the future is quite problematic. This is because if we appreciated Jesus’ context, a person living in a volatile world and society at the time, he would probably have been able to see the destruction of Jerusalem on the horizon as a very good possibility. Secondly, I have some trouble a priori accepting methodological naturalism as a trump card. After all, I am confident in the existence of the supernatural and I don’t think that anyone has provided a compelling argument against it (in fact, I believe many have provided persuasive evidence for it). Scholars, alongside skeptics, by ruling out a supernatural aspect to Jesus’ prophecy are dabbling in philosophy and not history. But they’re historians, not philosophers. This is the issue at hand concerning methodological naturalism’s constraint on history.
However, others have argued that Mark 13:2 is not to be understood as a reference to the Jewish-Roman war. This is because only the Temple was destroyed and not the entire city. It has also been pointed out that Jesus’ statement might actually have been a threat rather than a prophecy. For example, if it was intended to be a reference to the Temple’s destruction, that was what many Jews desired. They desired this because it would allow them to rebuild a valid temple.
Now, I am not arguing that there is an anti-Christian bias scholarship, or that some anti-Christian ethereal conspiracy exists, as some Christians have done. In fact, I don’t think most scholars have an anti-Christian bias at all. Most historians just want to do the job they love and get paid for it. However, that is also certainly not to say that historians don’t possess any bias themselves; they surely do, and anti-supernaturalism is one of them. It is clear that their methods rule out supernatural explanations a priori. And obviously that clashes with Jesus and Christianity since both clearly overflow with supernatural elements. So, can this prophecy made by Jesus be sufficient grounds to dating the Gospel of Mark post 70? I don’t think so, or at least I don’t think it’s warranted on such grounds.