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Study Resources :: Dictionaries :: Chronology of the New Testament

Dictionaries :: Chronology of the New Testament

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Below are articles from the following dictionary:
International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia

Chronology of the New Testament:


1. Birth of Jesus

(1) Death of Herod

(2) Census of Quirinius

(3) Star of the Magi

(4) Course of Abijah

(5) Day and Month

(6) Summary

2. Baptism of Jesus

3. First Passover

4. Death of John the Baptist

5. Length of Jesus' Ministry

6. Death of Jesus

7. Summary of Dates



1. Paul's Conversion

2. Death of Herod Agrippa I

3. Famine under Claudius

4. Sergius Paulus

5. Edict of Claudius

6. Gallio

7. Festus

8. Relative Chronology of Acts

9. Pauline Epistles

10. Release and Death of Paul

11. Death of Peter

12. Death of James the Just

13. The Synoptic Gospels, etc.

14. Death of John

15. Summary of Dates


The current Christian era is reckoned from the birth of Jesus and is based upon the calculations of Dionysius (6th century). Subsequent investigation has shown that the Dionysian date is at least four years too late. Several eras were in use in the time of Jesus; but of these only the Varronian will be used coordinately with the Dionysian in the discussion of the chronology of the life of Jesus, 753 A. U. C. being synchronous with 1 BC and 754 A. U. C. with 1 A. D.

I. Chronology of the Life of Jesus.

1. Birth of Jesus:

Jesus was born before the death of Herod the Great (Mt 2:1 ff) at the time of a census or enrollment made in the territory of Herod in accordance with a decree of Augustus when Quirinius (Revised Version; Cyrenius, the King James Version) was exercising authority in the Roman province of Syria (Lu 2:1 f). At the time of Jesus' birth a star led the Magi of the East to seek in Jerusalem the infant whom they subsequently found in Bethlehem (Mt 2:1 ff). John the Baptist was six months older than Jesus (Lu 1:36) and he was born in the days of Herod (Lu 1:5; compare Lu 2:1) after his father, Zacharias, of the priestly course of Abijah, had been performing the functions of his office in the temple.

(1) Death of Herod.

The death of Herod the Great occurred in the spring of 750/4. (NOTE: The alternative numbers are BC or AD, i. e, 750 A. U. C. = 4 BC, etc.) He ruled from his appointment in Rome 714/40 (Ant., XIV, xiv, 4-5, in the consulship of Caius Domitius Calvinus and Caius Asinius Pollio) 37 years, and from his accession in Jerusalem after the capture of the city 717/37 (Ant.,. XIV, xvi, 1-3; BJ, I, xvii, 9; I, xviii, 1-3; Dio Cassius xlix.22; compare Schurer, GJV3, I, 358, note 11) 34 years (Ant, XVII, xviii, 1; BJ, I, xxxiii, 7-8; compare Schurer, op. cit., I, 415, note 167 where it is shown that Josephus reckons a year too much, probably counting from Nisan 1 and including partial years). Just before Herod's death there was an eclipse of the moon (Ant., XVII, vi, 4). According to astronomical calculations an eclipse was visible in Palestine on March 23 and September 15, 749/5, March 12, 750/4 and January 9, 753/1. Of these the most probable is that of March 12, 750/4. Soon after the eclipse Herod put to death his son Antipater and died five days later (Ant., XVII, vii; BJ, I, xxxiii, 7). Shortly after Herod's death the Passover was near at hand. (Ant., XVII, vi, 4 through ix, 3). In this year Passover (Nisan 15) fell on April 11; and as Archelaus had observed seven days of mourning for his father before this, Herod's death would fall between March 17 and April 4. But as the 37th (34th) year of his reign was probably reckoned from Nisan 1 or March 28, his death may be dated between March 28 and April 4, 750/4.

This date for Herod's death is confirmed by the evidence for the duration of the reigns of his three sons. Archelaus was deposed in 759/6 (Dio Cassius lv.27 in the consulship of Aemilius Lepidus and Lucius Arruntius) in the 10th year of his reign (Ant., XVII, xiii, 2; compare BJ, II, vii, 3 which gives the year as the 9th). Antipas was deposed most probably in the summer of 792/39 (Ant., XVIII, vii, 1-2; compare XVIII, vi, 11; XIX, viii, 2; BJ, II, ix, 6; Schurer, op. cit., I, 448, note 46 and 416, note 167). There are coins of Antipas from his 43rd year (Madden, Coins of the Jews, 121 ff). The genuineness of a coin from the 44th year is questioned by Schurer but accepted by Madden. The coin from the 45th year is most probably spurious (Schurer, op. cit., I, 417, note 167). Philip died after reigning 37 years, in the 20th year of Tiberius-August 19, 786/33-787/34 (Ant., XVIII, iv, 6). There is also a coin of Philip from his 37th year (Madden, op. cit., 126). Thus Archelaus, Antipas and Philip began to reign in 750/4.

(2) Census of Quirinius.

The census or enrollment, which, according to Lu 2:1 f, was the occasion of the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem where Jesus was born, is connected with a decree of Augustus embracing the Greek-Roman world. This decree must have been carried out in Palestine by Herod and probably in accordance with the Jewish method-each going to his own city-rather than the Roman (Dig. 15, 4, 2; Zumpt, Das Geburtsjahr Christi, 195; Kenyon, Greek Papyri in the British Museum, III, 124 f; Schurer, Theol. Ztg, 1907, 683 f; and on the other hand, Ramsay, Expositor, 1908, I, 19, note). Certainly there is no intimation of an insurrection such as characterized a later census (Ac 5:37; Ant, XVIII, i, 1; BJ, II, xvii, 7; compare Tac. Ann. vi.41; Livy Epit. cxxxvi, cxxxvii; Dessau, Inscrip. lat. Sel. number 212, col. ii, 36) and this may have been due in no small measure to a difference in method. Both Josephus and Luke mention the later census which was made by Quirinius on the deposition of A rchelaus, together with the insurrection of Judas which accompanied it. But while Josephus does not mention the Herodian census-although there may be some intimation of it in Ant, XVI, ix, 3; XVII, ii, 4; compare Sanclemente, De vulg. aerae emend., 438 f; Ramsay, Was Christ Born at Beth.1, 178 ff-Luke carefully distinguishes the two, characterizing the census at the time of Jesus' birth as "first," i.e. first in a series of enrollments connected either with Quirinius or with the imperial policy inaugurated by t he decree of Augustus. The Greek- Roman writers of the time do not mention this decree and later writers (Cassiodor, Isidor and Suidas) cannot be relied upon with certainty as independent witnesses (Zumpt, Geburtsjahr, 148 ff). Yet the geographical work of Agrippa and the preparation of a breviarium totius imperil by Augustus (Tac. Ann. i.11; Suet. Aug. 28 and 101; Dio Cassius liii.30; lvi.33; compare Mommsen, Staatsrecht, II, 1025, note 3), together with the interest of the emperor in the organization and finances of the empire and the attention which he gave to the provinces (Marquardt, Rom. Staatsverwaltung, II, 211 f; compare 217), are indirectly corroborative of Luke's statement. Augustus himself conducted a census in Italy in 726/28, 746/8, 767/14 (Mommsen, Res Ges., 34 ff) and in Gaul in 727/27 (Dio Cassius liii.22, 5; Livy Epit. cxxxiv) and had a census taken in other provinces (Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyc., under the word "Census," 1918 f; Marquardt, op. cit., II, 213). For Egypt there is evidence of a regular p eriodic census every 14 years extending back to 773/20 (Ramsay, op. cit., 131 if; Grenfell and Hunt, Oxy. Papyri, II, 207 ff; Wilcken, Griech. Ostraka, I, 444 ff) and it is not improbable that this procedure was introduced by Augustus (Schurer, op. cit., I, 515). The inference from Egyptian to similar conditions in other provinces must indeed be made cautiously (Wilcken, op. cit., 449; Marquardt, op. cit., 441); yet in Syria the regular tributum capitis seems to imply some such preliminary work (Dig, 1. 15, 3; Appian, Syriac., 50; Marquardt, op. cit., II, 200, note 2; Pauly-Wissowa, op. cit., 1921; Ramsay, op. cit., 154). The time of the decree is stated only in general terms by Luke, and it may have been as early as 727/27 (Zumpt, op. cit., 159; Marquardt, op. cit., II, 212) or later in 746-8 (Huschke, Census, 34; Ramsay, op. cit., 158 ff), its execution in different provinces and subject kingdoms being carried out at different times. Hence, Luke dates the census in the kingdom of Herod specifically by connecting it with the administrative functions of Quirinius in Syria. But as P. Quintilius Varus was the legate of Syria just before and after the death of Herod from 748/6-750/4 (Ant., XVII, v, 2; XVII, ix., 3; XVII, x, 1 and 9; XVII, xi, 1; Tac. Hist. v.9; and coins in Eckhel, Doctr. num. vet., III, 275) and his predecessor Was C. Sentius Saturninus from 745/9-748/6 (Ant; XVI, ix, 1; x, 8; xi, 3; XVII, i, 1; ii, 1; iii, 2), there seems to be no place for Quirinius during the closing years of Herod's reign. Tertullian indeed speaks of Saturninus as legate at the time of Jesus' birth (Adv. Marc., iv.9). The interpretation of Luke's statement as indicating a date for the census before Quirinius was legate (Wieseler, Chron. Syn., 116; Lagrange, Revue Biblique, 1911, 80 ff) is inadmissible. It is possible that the connection of the census with Quirinius may be due to his having brought to completion what was begun by one of his predecessors; or Quirinius may have been commissioned especially by the emperor as legatus ad census accipiendos to conduct a census in Syria and this commission may have been connected temporally with his campaign against the Homonadenses in Cilicia (Tac. Ann. iii.48; compare Noris, Cenotaph. Pis., 320 ff; Sanclemente, op. cit., 426 passim; Ramsay, op. cit., 238). It has also been suggested by Bour (L'Inscription de Quirinius, 48 ff) that Quirinius may have been an imperial procurator specially charged with authority in the matter of the Herodian census. The titulus Tiburtinus (CIL, XIV, 3613; Dessau, Inscr. Latin Sel., 918)-if rightly assigned to him-and there seems to be no sufficient reason for questioning the conclusiveness of Mommsen's defense of this attribution (compare Liebenam, Verwaltungsgesch., 365)-proves that he was twice legate of Syria, and the titulus Venetus (CIL, III, 6687; Dessau, op. cit., 2683) gives evidence of a census conducted by him in Syria. His administration is dated by Ramsay (op. cit., 243) in 747/7; by Mommsen in the end of 750/4 or the beginning of 751/3 (op. cit., 172 ff). Zahn (Neue kirch. Zeitschr., 1893, IV, 633 ff), followed by Spitta (Zeitschr. f. d. neutest. Wiss., 1906, VII, 293 ff), rejects the historicity of the later census connected by Josephus with the deposition of Archelaus, basing his view on internal grounds, and assigns the Lucan census to a time shortly after the death of Herod. This view however is rendered improbable by the evidence upon which the birth of Jesus is assigned to a time before the death of Herod (Mt 2:1 ff; Lu 1:5; 2:1 f); by the differentiation of the census in Lu 2:1 f and Ac 5:37; by the definite connection of the census in Josephus with Syria and the territory of Archelaus (compare also the tit. Venet.); and by the general imperial policy in the formation of a new province (Marquardt, op. cit., II, 213). Moreover there seems to be no adequate ground for identifying the Sabinus of Josephus with Quirinius as urged by Weber, who regards the two accounts (Ant., XVII, viii, 1 ff and XVII, iv, 5; XVIII, i, 2; ii, 1 ff) as due to the separation by Josephus of parallel accounts of the same events in his sources (Zeitschr. f. d. neutest. Wiss., 1909, X, 307 ff)-the census of Sabinus-Quirinius being assigned to 4 BC, just after the death of Herod the Great. The synchronism of the second census of Quirinius with the periodic year of the Egyptian census is probably only a coincidence, for it was occasioned by the deposition of Archelaus; but its extension to Syria may be indicative of its connection with the imperial policy inaugurated by Augustus (Tac. Ann. vi.41; Ramsay, op. cit., 161 f).

(3) Star of the Magi.

The identification of the star of the Magi (Mt 2:2; compare Mt 2:7,9,16; Macrobius, Sat., II, 4; Sanclemente, op. cit., 456; Ramsay, op. cit., 215 ff) and the determination of the time of its appearance cannot be made with certainty, although it has been associated with a conjunction in 747/7 and 748/6 of Saturn and Jupiter in the sign of Pisces- -a constellation which was thought to stand in close relation with the Jewish nation (Ideler, Handbuch d. math. u. tech. Chron., II, 400 ff). When the Magi came to Jerusalem, however, Herod was present in the city; and this must have been at least several months before his death, for during that time he was sick and absent from Jerusalem (Ant., XVII, vi, 1 ff; BJ, I, xxxiii, 1 ff).

(4) Course of Abijah.

The chronological calculations of the time of the service of the priestly course of Abijah in the temple, which are made by reckoning back from the time of the course of Jehoiarib which, according to Jewish tradition, was serving at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, are uncertain (Schurer, op. cit., II, 337, note 3; compare Lewin, Fasti Sacri, 836).

(5) Day and month.

The day and month of Jesus' birth are also uncertain. December 25 was celebrated by the church in the West as early as the 2nd century-if the date in Hippolytus on Dan., IV, 23, be genuine (compare Ehrhardt, Altchr. Lit., 1880-1900, 383); but January 6 was celebrated in the East as the anniversary both of the birth and of the baptism. The fact that shepherds were feeding their flocks at night when Jesus was born (Lu 2:8) makes it improbable that the season of the year was winte r.

(6) Summary.

The birth of Jesus may therefore be assigned to the period 747/7 to 751/5, before the death of Herod, at the time of a census made by Herod in accordance with a decree of Augustus and when Quirinius was exercising extraordinary authority in Syria-Varus being the regular legate of the province, i.e. probably in 748/6.


2. Baptism of Jesus:

The Synoptic Gospels begin their description of the public ministry of Jesus with an account of the ministry of John the Baptist (Mt 3:1 ff; Mr 1:1 ff; Lu 3:1 ff; compare of in Joh 1:19 ff; Joh 4:24; Josephus, Ant, XVIII, iii, 3) and Luke definitely dates the baptism of Jesus by John in the 15th year of Tiberius. Luke also designates this event as the beginning of Jesus' ministry, and by stating Jesus' age approximately brings it into connection with the date of His birth. If Luke reckoned the reign of Tiberius fro m the death Augustus, August 19, 767/14, the 15th year would extend from August 19, 781/28 to August 18, 782/29; and if Jesus was about thirty years old at this time, His birth would fall 751/3 to 752/2-or sometime after the death of Herod, which is inconsistent with Luke's own and Matthew's representation. This indeed was one of the common modes of reckoning the imperial reigns. The mode of reckoning from the assumption of the tribunician power or from the designation as imperator is altogether unlikely in Luke's case and intrinsically improbable, since for Tiberius the one began in 748/6 and the other in 743/11 (Dio Cassius Iv.9; liv.33; Vell. ii.99; Suet. Tib. ix.11). But if, as seems likely, the method of reckoning by imperial years rather than by the yearly consuls was not definitely fixed when Luke wrote, it is possible that he may have counted the years of Tiberius from his appointment in 764/11 or 765/12 to equal authority with Augustus in the provinces (Veil. ii 121; Suet. Tib. xx.21; Tac. Ann. i.3). This method seems not to have been employed elsewhere (Lewin, op. cit., 1143 f; compare Ramsay, op. cit., 202 f). The coins of Antioch in which it is found are regarded as spurious (Eckhel, op. cit., III, 276), the genuine coins reckoning the reign of Tiberins from the death of Augustus (ibid., III, 278). If Luke reckoned the reign of Tiberins from 764/11 or 765/12, the 15th year would fall in 778/25 or 779/26, probably the latter, and Jesus' birth about thirty years earlier, i.e. about 748/6 or 749/5.

3. First Passover:

At the time of the first Passover in Jesus' ministry the Herodian temple had been building 46 years (Joh 2:20). Herod began the temple in the 18th year of his reign (Ant., XV, xi, 1, which probably corrects the statement in BJ, I, xxi, I that it was the 15th year; compare Schurer, op. cit., I, 369 f, note 12). As Josephus reckons from the accession of Herod in 717/37, the 18th year would be 734/20 to 735/21 and 46 years later would be 780/27 to 781/28. The interval implied in John between this Passover an d the beginning of Jesus' ministry agrees well with the Lucan dating of the baptism in 779/26.

4. Death of John the Baptist:

The imprisonment of John the Baptist, which preceded the beginning of Jesus' Galilean work, was continued for a time (Mt 11:2-19; Lu 7:18-35) but was finally terminated by beheading at the order of Herod Antipas. Announcement of the death was made to Jesus while in the midst of His Galilean ministry (Mt 14:3-12; Mr 6:14-29; Lu 9:7-9). Josephus reports that the defeat of Antipas by Aretas, in the summer of 789/36, was popularly regarded as a Divine punishment for the murder of John (Ant., XVIII, v, 2); But although Josephus mentions the divorce of Aretas daughter by Antipas as one of the causes of hostilities, no inference can be drawn from this or from the popular interpretation of Antipas' defeat, by which the int erval between John s death and this defeat can be fixed (Schurer, op. cit., I, 443 f).

5. Length of Jesus' Ministry:

The Synoptic Gospels mention the Passion Passover at which Jesus' ministry was terminated, but they contain no data by which the interval between the imprisonment of John the Baptist and this Passover can be fixed with certainty. Yet indications are not wanting that the interval consisted of at least two years. The Sabbath controversy broke out in Galilee when the grain was still standing in the fields (Mt 12:1; Mr 2:23; Lu 6:1) and the condition of the grass when the Five Thousand were fed (Mt 14:15; Mr 6:39; Lu 9:12) points to the springtime, the Passion Passover marking the return of still another springtime (compare also Lu 13:7; Mt 23:37). But the Gospel of John mentions explicitly three Passovers (Joh 2:23; 6:4; 11:55) and probably implies a fourth (Joh 5:1), thus necessitating a ministry of at least two years and making probable a ministry of three years after the first Passover. The Passover of 6:4 cannot be eliminated on textual grounds, for the documentary evidence is conclusive in its favor and the argument against it based on the statements of certain patristic writers is unconvincing (compare Turner, HDB, I, 407 f; Zahn, Kom., IV, 708 ff). The indications of time from Joh 6:4-the Passover when the Five Thousand were fed in Galilee-to Joh 11:55-the Passion Passover-are definite and clear (Joh 7:2; 10:22). But the interval between the first Passover (Joh 2:23) and the Galilean Passover (Joh 6:4) must have been one and may have been two years. The following considerations favor the latter view: Jesus was present in Jerusalem at a feast (Joh 5:1) which is not named but is called simply "a" or "the" feast of the Jews. The best authorities for the text are divided, some supporting the insertion, others the omission of the definite article before "feast." If the article formed part of the original text, the feast may have been either Tabernacles-from the Jewish point of view-or Passover-from the Christian point of view. If the article was wanting in the original text, the identification of the feast must be made on contextual and other grounds. But the note of time in Joh 4:35 indicates the lapse of about nine months since the Passover of Joh 2:23 and it is not likely that the Galilean ministry which preceded the feeding of the Five Thousand lasted only about three months. In fact this is rendered impossible by the condition of the grain in the fields at the time of the Sabbath controversy. The identification of the feast of Joh 5:1 with Purim, even if the article be not genuine, is extremely improbable; and if so, a Passover must have intervened between Joh 2:23 and Joh 6:4, making the ministry of Jesus extend over a period of three years and the months which preceded the Passover of Joh 2:23. While the identification cannot be made with certainty, if the feast was Passover the subject of the controversy with the Jews in Jerusalem as well as the season of the year would harmonize with the Synoptic account of the Sabbath controversy in Galilee which probably followed this Passover (compare the variant reading in Lu 6:1).

6. Death of Jesus:

Jesus was put to death in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover when Pontius Pilate was procurator of Judea (Mt 27:2 ff; Mr 15:1 ff; Lu 23:1 ff; Joh 18:29 ff; Joh 19:1 ff; Ac 3:13; 4:27; 13:28; 1Ti 6:13; Tac. Ann. xv.44), Caiaphas being the high priest (Mt 26:3,17; Joh 11:49; 18:13 ff) and Herod Antipas the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea (Lu 23:7 ff). Pilate was procurator from 779/26 to 789/36 (Ant., XVIII, iv, 3; v, 3; compare Schurer, op. cit., I, 487, note 141); Caiaphas was high priest from 771/18 to 789/36 (Ant., XVIII, ii, 2; iv, 3; compare Schurer, op. cit., II, 271) and Antipas was tetrarch from 750/4 to 792/39. If the first Passover of Jesus' ministry was in 780/27, the fourth would fall in 783/30. The gospels name Friday as the day of the crucifixion (Mt 27:62; Mr 15:42; Lu 23:54; Joh 19:14,31,42) and the Synoptic Gospels represent this Friday as Nisan 15-the day following (or according to Jewish reckoning from sunset to sunset, the same day as) the day on which the paschal supper was eaten (Mt 26:17 ff; Mr 14:12 ff; Lu 22:7 ff). But the Fourth Gospel is thought by many to represent the paschal meal as still uneaten when Jesus suffered (Joh 18:28; compare Joh 13:29); and it is held that the Synoptic Gospels also contain traces of this view (Mt 26:5; Mr 14:2; 15:21; Lu 23:26). Astronomical calculations show that Friday could have fallen on Nisan 14 or 15 in 783/30 according to different methods of reckoning (von Soden, EB, I, 806; compare Bacon, Journal of Biblical Literature, XXVIII, 2, 1910, 130 ff; Fotheringham, Jour. of Theol. Studies, October, 1910, 120 ff), but the empirical character of the Jewish calendar renders the result of such calculations uncertain (Schurer, op. cit., I, 749 f). In the year 783/30 Friday, Nican 15, would fall on April 7. There is an early patristic tradition which dates the death of Jesus in the year 782/29, in the consulship of the Gemini (Turner, HDB, I, 413 f), but its origin and trustworthy character are problematical.

7. Summary of Dates:

1. Birth of Jesus, 748/6.

2. Death of Herod the Great, 750/4.

3. Baptism of Jesus, 779/26.

4. First Passover of Jesus' ministry, 780/27.

5. Death of Jesus, 783/30.


Schurer, Geschichte des Judischen Volkes im Zeitalter Jesu Christi, 3. und 4. Aufl., 1901-9, 3 volumes, English translation of the 2nd edition, in 5 volumes, 1885-94; Ideler, Handbuch der mathematischen und technischen Chronologie, 1825-26, 2 volumes; Wieseler, Chronologische Synopse der Evangelien, 1843, English translation; Lewin, Fasti Sacri, 1865; Turner, article "Chronology of the NT" in HDB, 1900, I. 403-25; von Soden, article "Chronology" in Cheyne and Black, EB, 1899, I, 799-819; Ramsay, Wa s Christ Born at Bethlehem? 1898; F. R. Montgomery Hitchcock, article "Dates" in Hastings, Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels; Mommsen, Res Gestae Divi Augusti2.

II. Chronology of the Apostolic Age.

The chronology of the apostolic age must be based on the data in Ac and the epistolary literature of the New Testament which afford contacts with persons or events of the Greek-Roman world. From the fixed points thus secured a general outline of the relative chronology may be established with reasonable probability.

1. Paul's Conversion:

Paul was converted near Damascus (Ac 9:3 ff; Ac 22:5 ff; Ac 26:12 ff; Ga 1:17). After a brief stay in that city (Ac 9:19 ff) he went to Arabia and then came again to Damascus (Ga 1:17). When he left Damascus the second time, he returned to Jerusalem after an absence of three years (Ga 1:18). The flight of Paul from Damascus (Ac 9:24) probably terminated his second visit to the city. At that time the ethnarch of Aretas, the king of the Nabateans, acting with the resident Jews (Ac 9:23 f), guarded t he city to seize him (2Co 11:32). Aretas IV succeeded Obodas about 9 BC, and reigned until about 40 AD Damascus was taken by the Romans in 62 BC and probably continued under their control until the death of Tiberius (March 37 AD). Roman coins of Damascus exist from the time of Augustus, Tiberius and Nero, but there are no such coins from the time of Caligula and Claudius (Schurer, op. cit., I, 737; II, 153). Moreover the relations of Aretas to Augustus and Tiberius make it extremely improbable that he held Damascus during their reign as part of his kingdom or acquired it by conquest. The statement of Paul however seems to imply Nabatean control of the city, and this is best explained on the supposition that Damascus was given to Aretas by Caligula, the change in the imperial attitude being due perhaps to the influence primarily of Agrippa and possibly also of Vitellius (Steinmann, Aretas IV, 1909, 34 ff). But if Paul's escape from Damascus was not earlier than 37 AD, his conversion cannot be placed earlier than 34 or 35 AD, and the journey to Jerusalem 14 years later (Ga 2:1) not earlier than 50 or 51 AD.

2. Death of Herod Agrippa I:

Herod Agrippa I died in Caesarea shortly after a Passover season (Ac 12:23; compare Ac 12:3,19). Caligula had given him the tetrarchy of Philip and of Lysanias in 37 AD-the latter either at this time or later-with the title of king (Ant., XVIII, vi, 10; BJ, II, ix, 6) and this was increased in 40 AD by the tetrarchy of Antipas (Ant., XVIII, vii, 1 f; BJ, II, ix, 6). Claudius gave him also Judea and Samaria (Ant., XIX, v, 1; BJ, II, xi, 5) thus making his territory even more extensive than that of his grandfather, Herod the Great. Agrippa reigned over "all Judea" for three years under Claudius (Ant., XIX, viii, 2; BJ, II, xi, 6), his death falling in the spring of 44 AD, in the 7th year of his reign. The games mentioned by Josephus in this connection are probably those that were celebrated in honor of the return of Claudius from Britain in 44 AD. There are coins of Agrippa from his 6th year, but the attribution to him of coins from other years is questioned (Schurer, op. cit., 560, note 40; Madden, op. cit., 132).

3. Famine under Claudius:

The prophecy of a famine and its fulfillment under Claudius (Ac 11:28) are associated in Ac with the death of Herod Agrippa I (Ac 11:30; 12:23). Famines in Rome during the reign of Claudius are mentioned by Suetonius (Claud. xviii), Dio Cassius (lx.11), Tacitus (Annals xii.43), and Orosius (vii.6). Josephus narrates in the time of Fadus the generosity of Helena during a famine in Palestine (Ant., XX, ii, 5), but subsequently dates the famine generally in the time of Fadus and Alexander. The famine in P alestine would fall therefore at some time between 44 and 48 (Schurer, op. cit., I, 567, note 8).

4. Sergius Paulus:

When Paul visited Cyprus with Barnabas the island was administered by Sergius Paulus (Ac 13:7 ff), a proprietor with the title proconsul (Marquardt, op. cit., I, 391). There is an inscription from Cyprus (Cagnat, Inscr. graec. ad res rom. pertin., III; 930) dating from the 1st century, and probably from the year 53 (Zahn, Neue kirch. Zeitschr., 1904, XV, 194) in which an incident in the career of a certain Apollonius is dated in the proconsulship of Paulus (epi Palilou (anth)upatou). From another inscription (CIG, 2632), dated in the 12th year of Claudius, it appears that L. Annins Bassus was proconsul in 52. If the Julius Cordus mentioned by Bassus was his immediate predecessor, the proconsulship of Sergius Paulus may be dated at some time before 51.

5. Edict of Claudius:

When Paul came to Corinth for the first time he met Aquila and Priscilla, who had left Rome because of an edict of Claudius expelling the Jews from the city (Ac 18:2). Suetonius mentions an expulsion of the Jews from Rome by Claudius but gives no date (Claud. xxv; compare Dio Cassius lx.6). Orosius however dates the edict in the 9th year of Claudius or 49 AD (Hist. vii.6, 15); and though Josephus, from whom he quotes, does not mention this edict. but records the favor shown by Claudius to the Jews and to Herod Agrippa I (Ant., XIX, v, 1-3; compare Dio Cassius lx.6, 6, 9, 10; 8, 2), it is not improbable that the date is approximately accurate (Schurer, op. cit., III, 62, note 92).

6. Gallio:

During Paul's first sojourn in Corinth the apostle was brought before the proconsul Gallio (Ac 18:12). This could not have been earlier than the year 44 when Claudius gave Achaia back to the Senate and the province was administered by a proprietor with the title of proconsul (Dio Cassius lx.24; Marquardt, op. cit., I, 331 f; Ramsay, The Expositor., 1897, I, 207). Moreover the career of Seneca makes it improbable that his brother would be advanced to this position before 49 or 50 (Harnack, Chron., I, 237; Wieseler, Chron. d. apos. Zeitalters, 119). There is a fragmentary inscription from Delphi containing a letter from the emperor Claudius in which mention is made of Gallio. The inscription is dated by the title of the emperor which contains the number 26. This is referred naturally to the acclammatio as "imperator" and dated in the year 52 before August, after which time the number 27 occurs in the title of Claudian inscriptions. Gallio may therefore have been proconsul from the spring or summer of the year 51-52 or 52-53. The latter seems the more probable time (compare Aem. Bourguet, De rebus Delphicis, 1905, 63 f; Ramsay, The Expositor., 1909, I, 467 f; Princeton Theological Review, 1911, 290 f; 1912, 139 f; Deissmann, Paulus, 1911, 159-177; Lietzmann, Zeitschrift fur wissenschaftliche Theologie, 1911, 345-54).

7. Festus:

When Paul had been for two years a prisoner in Caesarea Felix was succeeded by Festus as procurator of Judea (Ac 24:27). The accession of Festus, which is placed by Eusebius in the Church History in the reign of Nero (Historia Ecclesiastica, II, 22, 1), is dated in the Chronicle in the version of Jerome in the 2nd year of Nero, 56 AD, and in the Armenian version in the 14th year of Claudius, 54 AD. The excerpts from the Chronicle in Syncellus apparently follow the text underlying the version of Jerome, but state simply that Festus was sent as successor of Felix by Nero (ed. Schoene, II, 154). After his removal from office Felix was tried in Rome, but escaped punishment through the influence of his brother Pallas, who, according to Josephus, was in favor with Nero at that time (Ant., XX, viii, 9). Pallas was removed from office before February 13, 55 AD (Tac. Ann. xiii.14, 1; compare 15, 1), but apparently continued to have influence with the emperor; for he fixed the terms of his removal and was permitted to enjoy his fortune for several years (Tac. Ann. xiii.14, 1 f; 23, 1-3). His death occurred in 62 AD (Tac. Ann. xiv.65, 1). The trial of Felix must therefore have occurred before 62; but it is impossible to place it before the removal of Pallas, for this would necessitate the removal of Felix in 54 AD, and this is excluded by the fact that the first summer of Nero's reign fell in 55 AD. But if Eusebius reckoned the imperial years from September 1st after the accession (Turner, Jour. of Theol. Studies, 1902, 120 f; HDB, I, 418 f), the summer of the second year of Nero would fall in 57. In any event the removal and trial of Felix must have fallen after the removal of Pallas. The date of the Eusebian Chronicle is thus without support from Tacitus or Josephus, and its value depends on the character of the source from which it was obtained-if there was such a source, for it is at least possible that the definite date owes its origin solely to the necessities imposed on Eusebius by the form of the Chronicle. It is not unlike ly that the error of 5 years made by Eusebius in the reign of Agrippa II may be the source of a similar error in regard to Festus in spite of the fact that the framework of the Chronicle is generally furnished not by the years of the Jewish kings but by the imperial years (Erbes in Gebhardt u. Harnack, Texte und Untersuchungen, N. F., IV, 1, 1899; Die Todestage d. Apos. Paulus u. Petrus; Turner, Jour. of Theol. Studies, 1902, III, 120 f; Ramsay, Pauline and Other Studies, 1906, 350 ff). There is evidence however in Ac 21:38 that Paul's arrest could not have been earlier than the spring of 55 AD. For Paul was supposed by the chief captain to be the Egyptian who had led an insurrection that had been suppressed by Felix during the reign of Nero (Ant., XX, viii, 6; BJ, II, 13, 5). Thus the accession of Festus, two years later (Ac 24:27), could not have been earlier than 57 AD.

But if the summer of 57 AD is the earliest date possible for the accession of Festus, the summer of 60 AD is the latest date that is possible. Albinus, the successor of Festus, was present in Jerusalem in October, 62 AD (Ant., XX, ix, 1 ff), and while the administration of Festus was probably shorter than that of Felix (compare Ant, XX, viii, 9-11; BJ, II, xiv, 1 with Ant, XX, vii, 1-8, 8; BJ, II, 12-13), it is not likely that it lasted less than two years. But as between 57 AD and 60 AD, probability favo rs the latter. For greater justice is thus done to the words of Paul to Felix: "Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation," etc. (Ac 24:10). Felix was appointed by Claudius in 52 AD (Tac. Ann. xii. 54; Ant, XX, v, 2) and was continued in office by Nero. Most of the events of his administration are narrated by Josephus under Nero (Ant., XX, viii, 5 ff); and although Tacitus mentions an administration of Felix in Samaria when Cumanus was administering Galilee (Ann. xii.54), the omission of any direct reference to Judea, the unusual character of such a double administration and the explicit statement of Josephus that Claudius sent Felix as successor of Cumanus, make it unlikely that Paul's statement is to be understood of an administration beginning earlier than 52 AD. If Festus succeeded in the summer of 60 AD, Paul's arrest would fall in 58 and the "many years" of Felix' administration would cover a period of 6 years, from 52 AD to 58 AD (compare Schurer, op. cit., I, 577 f, note 38). Ramsay argues in favor of 57 AD as the year of Paul's arrest and 59 AD as the year of the accession of Festus (Pauline and Other Studies, 1906, 345 ff).

8. Relative Chronology of Acts:

If Festus succeeded Felix in the summer of 60 AD, Paul would reach Rome in the spring of 61 AD, and the narrative in Ac would terminate in 63 AD (Ac 28:30). Paul's arrest in Jerusalem 2 years before the accession of Festus (Ac 24:27) would fall in the spring of 58 AD. Previous to this Paul had spent 3 months in Corinth (Ac 20:3) and 3 years in Ephesus (Ac 20:31; compare Ac 19:10), which would make the beginning of the third missionary journey fall about 54 AD. There was an interval between the second and the third journeys (Ac 18:23), and as Paul spent 18 months at Corinth (Ac 18:11) the beginning of the second journey would fall about 51 AD. The Apostolic Council preceded the second journey and may be dated about 50 AD-14 years subsequent to Paul's first visit to Jerusalem (37 AD) in the third year after his conversion in 35 AD. The first missionary journey was made after the visit of Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem with the alms from the church at Antioch (Ac 11:30; 12:25), about the time of the death of Herod Agrippa I, and would fall between 44 AD and 50 AD. The growth of the early church in Jerusalem previous to Paul's conversion would thus extend over a period of about 5 years from 30 AD to 35 AD.

9. Pauline Epistles:

Ten of the thirteen Pauline epistles were written during a period of about ten years between Paul's arrival in Corinth and the close of his first Roman imprisonment. These epistles fall into three groups, each possessing certain distinctive characteristics; and although each reflects the difference in time and occasion of its production, they all reveal an essential continuity of thought and a similarity of style which evidences unity of authorship. The earliest group consists of the Thessalonian epistles, both of which were written from Corinth on the second missionary journey about 52 or 53 AD, while Silas (Silvanus) was still in Paul's company and shortly after Paul's visit to Athens (1Th 1:1; 3:1,2,6; 2Th 1:1). The major epistles belong to the third missionary journey. 1 Corinthians was written from Ephesus about 55 AD; Galatians probably from Ephesus, either before or after 1 Corinthians, for Paul had been twice in Galatia (Ga 4:13); 2 Corinthians from Macedonia about 57 AD; and Romans from Cor inth about 57 or 58 AD. The imprisonment epistles were written from Rome: Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon about 62 AD, and Philippians about 63 AD.

10. Release and Death of Paul:

When Paul wrote to Philemon (Phm 1:22) and to the Philippians (Php 2:24; compare Php 1:25), he expected a favorable issue of his trial in Rome and was looking forward to another visit to the East. Before his arrest he had planned a journey to Spain by way of Rome (Ro 15:28), and when he bade farewell to the Ephesian elders at Miletus (Ac 20:25) he must have had in mind not only the dangers of his journey to Jerusalem, but also his determination to enter another field of labor. 1 Clement 5, the Muratori Canon and the Apocryphal Ac of Peter (Zahn, Einltg.3, I, 444 f) witness to the Spanish journey, and the Pastoral Epistles to a journey to the East and to another imprisonment in Rome. The two lines of evidence for Paul's release are independent and neither can be explained as derived merely from the statement of Paul's intention in Romans and in Philemon and Philippians. The historical situation implied in the Pastoral Epistles can be charged with artificiality only on the hypothesis that Paul was not released from his first Roman imprisonment. The data of these epistles cannot be fitted into any period of Paul's life previous to his imprisonment. But these data are embodied in just those parts of the Pastoral Epistles which are admitted to be Pauline by those who regard the epistles as containing only genuine fragments from Paul but assign the epistles in their present form to a later writer. On any hypothesis of authorship, however, the tradition which these epistles contain cannot be much later than the first quarter of the 2nd century. It is highly probable therefore that Paul was released from his first Roman imprisonment; that he visited Spain and the East; and that he was imprisoned a second time in Rome where he met his death in the closing years of Nero's reign, i.e. in 67 or 68 AD. According to early tradition Paul suffered martyrdom by beheading with the sword (Tert., De praescr. haer., xxxvi), but there is nothing to connect his death with the persecution of the Christians in Rome by Nero in 64 AD.

Little is known of Peter beside what is recorded of him in the New Testament. The tradition of his bishopric of 20 or 25 years in Rome (compare Harnack, Gesch. d. altchr. Lit., II; Die Chronologie, I, 243 f) accords neither with the implications of Ac and Galatians nor with Paul's silence in Rom.

11. Death of Peter:

But 1Pe was probably written from Rome (1Pe 5:13; compare Euseb., HE, ii.15, 2) and the testimony to Peter's martyrdom (implied in Joh 21:18 f) under Nero in Rome by crucifixion (Tert., De praes. haer., xxxvi; compare 1 Clem 5:1 ff) is early and probably trustworthy. Tradition also associates Peter and Paul in their Roman labors and martyrdom (Dionysius in Euseb., HE, ii. 25, 8; Iren., Adv. haer., iii.1, 2; iii. 3, 1). The mention of the Vatican as the place of Peter's interment (Caius in Euseb., HE, ii. 25, 6 f) may indicate a connection of his martyrdom with the Neronian persecution in 64 AD; but this is not certain. Peter's death may therefore be dated with some probability in Rome between 64 and 67 AD. His two epistles were written at some time before his death, probably the First about 64 and the Second at some time afterward and subsequent to the Epistle of Jude which it apparently uses. (The arguments against the Roman sojourn and martyrdom of Peter are stated fully by Schmiedel in the Encyclopedia Biblica, under the word "Simon Peter," especially col. 458 ff; on the other hand compare Zahn, Einleitung3, II, 17 ff, English translation, II, 158 ff.)

12. Death of James the Just:

James the Just, the brother of the Lord, was prominent in the church of Jerusalem at the time of the Apostolic Council (Ac 15:13 ff; Ga 2:9; compare Ga 1:19; 2:12) and later when Paul was arrested he seems still to have occupied this position (Ac 21:18 ff), laboring with impressive devotion for the Jewish people until his martyrdom about the year 66 AD (Ant., XX, ix, 1; Euseb., HE, ii.23, 3 ff; HRE3, VIII, 581; Zahn, Einltg.3, I, 76). The Epistle of Jas contains numerous indications of its early origin a nd equally clear evidence that it was not written during the period when the questions which are discussed in the major epistles of Paul were agitating the church. It is probably the earliest book of the New Testament, written before the Apostolic Council.

13. The Synoptic Gospels, etc.:

In the decade just preceding the fall of Jerusalem, the tradition of the life and teaching of Jesus was committed to writing in the Synoptic Gospels. Early tradition dates the composition of Matthew's Gospel in the lifetime of Peter and Paul (Iren., Adv. haer., ill. l, 1; Eusebius, HE, v.8, 2 ff), and that of the Gospel of Mark either just before or after Peter's death (Clement in Euseb., HE, vi.14, 7; compare ii.15; and Irenaeus, Adv. haer., iii.11, 1; Presbyter of Papias in Euseb., HE, iii. 39, 15; compare also 2Pe 1:15). The Lucan writings-both the Gospel and Acts-probably fall also in this period, for the Gospel contains no intimation that Jesus' prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem had been fulfilled (compare Lu 21:21; Ac 11:28), and the silence of Ac about the issue of Paul's trial is best explained on the hypothesis of an early date (Jerome, De vir. illustr., vii; Harnack, Neue Untersuch. zur Apostelgesch., 1911; compare also Lu 10:7; 1Ti 5:18). To this period belong also the Epistle of Jude and the Epistle to the He (if addressed to Jewish Christians of Palestine; but later, about 80 AD, if addressed to Jewish Christians of Rome (Zahn, Einltg.3, II, 152)), the former being used in 2 Peter and the latter in 1 Clement.

14. Death of John:

Early tradition connects John with Ephesus and mentions his continuing in life until the time of Trajan (Irenaeus, Adv. haer., ii.22, 5 (Eusebius, HE, v.24); iii. l, 1; v.30, 3; v.33, 4; Clement in Eusebius, HE, iii.23, 5-19; Polycrates in Eusebius, HE, iii.31, 3; v.24, 3; Justin, Dialogue, lxxxi; compare Re 1:1,4,9; 22:8; Joh 21:22,23,14; 19:35). He died probably about the end of the 1st century. There is another but less well-attested tradition of martyrdom based chiefly on the De Boor fragment of Papias (Texte u. Unters., 1888), a Syriac Martyrology of the 4th century (Wright, Jour. of Sacred Lit., 1865-66, VIII, 56 ff, 423 ff), the Codex Coislinianus 305 of Georgius Hamartolus. This tradition, it is thought, finds confirmation in Mr 10:35-40; Mt 20:20-23 (compare Bousset, Theologische Rundschau,. 1905, 225 ff, 277 ff). During the closing years of his life John wrote the Revelation, the Fourth Gospel and the three Epistles.

15. Summary of Dates:


In addition to the literature mentioned in section 8: Anger, De temporum in actis apostolorum ratione. 1833; Wieseler, Chronologie des apos. Zeitalters, 1848: Hoennicke, Die Chronologie des Lebens des Apostels Paulus, 1903; Harnack, Gesch. d. altchr. Lit. bis Euseb., II, 1, Die Chronologie bis Iren., 1897; Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, 1893; Zahn, Einleitung, II, 1907 (Eng. translation, 1909).

Written by W. P. Armstrong


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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