In much the same way as the 70 AD argument, the Martyr argument relies on the fact that the NT books aren’t in the habit of skipping over tumultuous events in the life of the early church. And saying the authors would have done so to make the books look earlier than they were is highly anachronistic, since an early christian writer couldn’t have foreseen that dating issues would come into play hundreds of years in the future. One type of event that surely wouldn’t have been overlooked in the gospels or Acts was the martyrdom of an apostle.
So with that in mind, here is the argument:
- The gospels record the death of Judas, and Acts records the martyrdom of Stephen and James in great detail.
- We know that Paul and Peter were martyred before 65 AD during Nero’s reign.
- Since Acts sets forth a habit of recording the death of apostles yet doesn’t mention the martyrdom of Paul or Peter it must have been written before 65 AD.
- Since Acts was a followup to Luke’s gospel, we can put the gospel of Luke at being written probably between 60-65 AD.
- And since Mark is held to be the first of the gospels to be written, that puts it probably at least in the 50’s AD if not earlier.
The martyrdom argument is very strong because it relies on the fact that the death of such an important figure like an apostle would have shaken the foundations of the entire christian church each time it happened. The early church fathers also alluded to the martyrdom of the apostles very heavily. To me it’s almost easier to see the destruction of the temple being left out rather than the death of an apostle. A fledgling group such as early christianity can survive many things such as relocation and persecution, but the death of a leader is terribly hard to overcome.