Our earliest canonical Gospel, Mark, was probably written sometime in the early or mid50s, approximately 20-25 years after Jesus ascended to heaven.  Many have wondered why it took so long for Jesus’ followers to commit His teachings and deeds to writing.  The most common answer is that they did not feel the need because they expected the imminent return of Christ.  If Jesus was coming back soon, why bother?  This answer is not adequate, however.  First, it presumes that Jesus’ followers expected His imminent return.  This is debatable.  More importantly, we know from experience that groups expecting an impending apocalypse are often voluminous writers.  Consider the Qumran community in Jesus’ day.  They were expecting the imminent Day of the Lord, and yet they produced an abundance of written materials.  An even more pertinent example is modern believers who espouse to a pre-tribulation, “at-any-moment” understanding of the return of Christ.  Few have hotter print-presses than this group!

Why, then, did they not write sooner?  Perhaps they did, but those documents were not preserved.  Luke tells us that “many have undertaken [the task] to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us,” and he utilized at least some of those sources in the production of his own gospel (Luke 1:1-4).  Luke’s gospel was probably written in the late 50s or early 60’s.  For Luke to be aware of these other writings, they must have been written much earlier, possibly much earlier than Mark’s gospel.