Martin devotes just one page to a discussion that is crucial to his thesis—the dating of the four Gospels. Even here he does not present Wells’ arguments, but simply relates what he thinks is the state of current scholarship. His typical approach is to report that the majority of scholars favor a date that is significantly later than most, in fact, actually hold.
A case in point concerns what is usually considered to be the earliest gospel. Martin confidently asserts that Mark is dated from 70–135, and adds that “most biblical scholars date Mark around AD 80.” He provides no grounds other than a citation of a single page in Wells.^43
However, the dates Martin provides by no means represent the current attitude of “most biblical scholars.” John Drane, quoted approvingly by Martin in the same chapter, lists the most common date for Mark as 60–70,^44 which is up to 65 years earlier! Guthrie agrees, noting “the confidence of the majority of scholars that Mark must be dated AD 65–70.”^45 It is certainly true that the views of current scholars do not determine the issue. However, Martin not only likes to cite and summarize scholarly opinion, but his case is hurt by his misunderstandings of the current state of New Testament scholarship.
Unfortunately for Martin, his inaccuracies concerning the Gospels do not end with his late and incorrect datings. He compounds the issue by making other claims that are, at best, misleading. He declares that “Mark was not mentioned by other authors until the middle of the second century.”^46 Yet he does not discuss the important mention by Papias, usually placed about 25 years earlier, linking this gospel to the apostle Peter.^47
Further, Martin asserts that Luke (and probably Matthew) was unknown to either Clement of Rome or Ignatius, being known first by Polycarp, whom he dates from 120–135.^48 However, citations of the sayings of Jesus found in all three synoptic Gospels are found in Clement, while Ignatius cites a text on a resurrection appearance of Jesus found in Luke.^49 Additionally, while Martin admits that Polycarp knows Matthew and Luke, he dates this ancient writer much later than most others would place him.
43 Martin, Case Against Christianity, p. 43. In the name of fairness, we must agree with Martin that a detailed discussion would be far too complex to present as a chapter subsection of any book.
44 Drane, Introducing New Testament, p. 184.
45 Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, p. 88.
46 Martin, Case Against Christianity, p. 43.
47 See Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, III:XXXIX.
48 Martin, Case Against Christianity, p. 43.
49 See Clement, Corinthians13, 46; Ignatius, Smynaeans3. Whatever view one takes on the sources of these quotes, the minimal point here is that Martin seems unaware of the errors in his statements or the critical case that could easily be mounted against him.
On a related matter, Martin charges that Clement “is not clear” about whether the disciples received their instructions from Jesus “during his life on earth,” citing Corinthians24. But chapter 42 seems quite clear, with a fair reading most likely referring to Jesus’ sojourn on earth: “The apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ was sent forth from God . . . .”^50 Jesus and his apostles were contemporaries.