The problem of anonymous authorship and speculative dating is common to all of the New Testament texts. Added to this is the problem of authenticity in that the Church would have been inclined to ascribe the name of the text to someone with authority in the Church. The authenticity factor sheds light on the selection process of the twenty-seven Christian writings that compile the New Testament Canon. We must bear in mind that these writings are not wholly representative of contemporary literature and that there were many Apocphoral writings that were not integrated along with Luke:Acts.
This can be explained either because of a lack of reliability of the content and in particular – the question of orthodoxy which would determine whether the writing would be of interest to the wider Church as a whole. Primarily however – issues of authorship are related to the value the early Church would have placed on a piece of work. For example, the authorship of the Hebrew letters is considered very hazy but the work is acknowledged because it is thought to supply the early Church with useful material. Added to these uncertainties is the possibility that the writing could have been re-worked at a later date and consequently sole authorship cannot be attributed.
Scholars also occupy themselves with clarifying the composition date of the Gospel as if we know the context in which the work was written – it is an informative method of showing the topical issues of contemporary writers. This is invaluable material for tracing the development of belief throughout the New Testament writings. The dating can also reveal the source of inspiration to the writer in showing us something about the predicaments, circumstances and cultural movements of the time. Dating holds great weight in offering us an insight into how theology was developing, and is also pertinent for eliminating possible authors.
Therefore, the problems of Authorship and Dating are inextricable – the reliability of one issue determining the value of the other. Despite the fact that the New Testament Canon has been set for a long time, counter-arguments to claims of authorship are still evolving – reflecting the perennial nature of a debate that continues to interest the Christian church and scholars. The speculative nature of this work has resulted in a shift of emphasis to exploring how authors develop themes, the use of sources and the influence of Sitz im Leben in altering the face of the work.