"The tendency to use quotations from Paul, once his writings became available, was so strong that we may confidently think that Christian literature that does not contain quotations or allusions to his letters was written prior to the publication of the Pauline letter corpus. This literature includes all four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles." (E. P. Sanders, Paul: The Apostle's Life, Letters, and Thought, (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2015), 149.)I found this comment fascinating for several reasons. First, I had never heard anything like this argument, especially with regard to the dating of the Gospels and Acts. If I am correct in my understanding of Sanders basic claim, it is that virtually all early Christian literature carries either quotations or allusions to Paul. Therefore, if any literature does not, it must have been written before the collection and publication of the Pauline corpus, which, according to Sanders, took place in the 90s C.E. All four Gospels and Acts do not contain quotations or allusions to Paul, and therefore must have been written before the 90s. Is that how you read Sanders' claim?
Now, if my reading is correct, I find it interesting on many fronts. First, I am curious that I have not heard this argument before. Certainly I have not heard it in Gospel scholarship, which is where I spend most of my time. Nor have I heard it in Pauline scholarship, in which I dabble. Have others heard this claim before?
Second, it could be an interesting argument for setting a terminus ad quem for the gospels in the 90s C.E. Some would like to argue for a later date for either Luke or John. If Sanders is correct, a later date for these gospels would bear signs of the Pauline corpus.
Third, for Gospel studies, this does not overturn majority opinions on the dating of the gospels, with the latest, Luke and John, usually placed in the 80s or 90s.
Fourth, I find it odd that if this is a truly new claim, that Sanders makes no sustained argument for his position. The paragraph stands alone, almost as an aside, in his conversation of the Pauline collection and publication.
Now, we could, if we had the time, test the veracity of Sanders' claim. One could comb all early Christian literature post 90s and see if it shows traces of Paul. One could also comb through the Gospels and look for traces of Paul. One interesting passage comes to mind. It has long been noted that Luke's version of the Lord's Supper is most closely paralleled in 1 Corinthians 11. Could this be a sign of Pauline influence, and moreover, an argument for later date for Luke in say the 90s-120s?
What do you think? Had you heard this argument before? Do you find it compelling or interesting in any way?