It should be stated at the outset that the chronology of the Acts must ever
remain somewhat tentative, owing to the nature of the data provided. The
chronology of the book of Genesis can be built up from Adam, all authorities
agreeing on the date of Joseph’s death recorded in Genesis 50:26, 1635 B.C. The
chief purpose of chronology in the Bible is to establish an unbroken chain of
events that link Adam to Christ. That being accomplished, chronology has served
its purpose, and the dates that do come in the New Testament are isolated, and
not links in a chain. However, that is no reason why we should not use what
information we have, in order that the great historic book of the New Testament
namely the Acts should be seen in its relationship both with the outside world
and the unfolding of the Divine purpose. Let us approach the question in its
broadest outline first. The reign of four Roman Emperors covers the period of
Just how far the scroll will extend when spread out is now the object of our
While these four Emperors and their reigns more than cover the period of the
Acts, we have no definite point of contact recorded either in sacred or secular
history where, in A.D .... Paul, or Peter, did so-and-so. We must seek some
definite point of time where the scroll of the Acts can be pinned down to the
calendar of the world. If the wider range of Roman Emperors fails us here, a
narrower and lesser dynasty supplies this need. There is one incident recorded
in the Acts, the date of which is known; that is the tragic death of Herod (Acts
The history of Herod Agrippa I is a chequered one. Josephus records (Ant.
xix: 8, 2) that Herod died in ‘the 7th year of his reign and the 54th year of
his life’. Again he tells us (Bell. Jud. ii, xi: 6) that Agrippa died soon after
the completion of his third year as King over
all Judea. Now let us see whether we can arrive at the date by these two
When did Herod begin his reign?
Secular history supplies the answer: ‘Not many
days’ after the accession of Gaius. When was that? ‘March
16th, A.D. 37’. lf we add 37 A.D. and 7 together, we have the date of
Herod’s death as A.D. 44.
When did Herod begin to reign over ALL JUDEA?
Gaius was murdered on January 24th, A.D. 41 and on the accession of Claudius
(Ant. xix: 8,2), Herod was made King of Jud -a and Samaria. Add to A.D. 41 the
3 years of Herod’s reign, and again we get A.D. 44.
A threefold cord is not easily broken.
Josephus makes a casual remark to the effect that Herod died during a festival
held in honour of Claudius ‘for his safety’. Claudius returned to Rome from
Britain in January, A.D. 44 after an absence of six months. The festival at
Caesarea, the Roman capital of Palestine, was where Herod the King died that
same year. Again A.D. 44.
We can now fix the 12th Chapter of Acts down upon the calendar of the world
(see chart opposite).
The year of the Crucifixion of the Lord is now accepted as A.D. 29 which is
the year of the opening chapter of Acts. We have therefore the date of the first
twelve chapters A.D 29-44.
Let us now seek evidence to place a date for the last chapter. The narrative
leaves Paul a prisoner, but residing in his own hired house for two years,
receiving all who came, teaching them freely and without reserve, ‘no man
forbidding him’. These closing words of the Acts indicate a period wherein the
Roman Power was tolerant to the new sect. Indeed, throughout the Acts up to the
closing chapter, the Roman Government is seen in a favourable light, the
persecutions detailed in the narrative coming from the Jews.
The great fire which broke out in Rome took place on July 19th. A.D. 64. If
we have any knowledge at all of the awful persecution of the Christians which
immediately followed, we shall find it impossible to conceive of Paul remaining
unmolested in his own hired house while his followers and converts were being
burned as torches or thrown to the lions. A.D. 64, therefore, is the furthest
bound of the story of the Acts. It is not necessary that the Acts reaches so
far, but it is practically certain that it does not extend beyond.
Paul was brought into close touch with several Roman rulers upon the occasion
of his imprisonment. Let us see whether we can find another date similar to A.D.
44. The apostle was arrested at Jerusalem, sent to Caesarea, imprisoned by Felix
and detained by him for two years. Felix was succeeded by Festus, who heard
Paul’s defence, as did also King Agrippa. Felix was Procurator of Jud -a in A.D.
52 or 53 (Jos. Ant. xx: 7,1; Bell. Jud. ii: l2,8). Eusebius assigns A.D. 51 as
the date of his appointment (Chron. ii., p. 271). Whichever of these dates may
be the true one, we know from Acts 24:10 that Felix had been ‘many years’
Procurator when Paul stood before him.
When Tertullus accused Paul before Felix, he introduced his charge with the
compliment, ‘seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness’, as though this were
an outstanding feature of Felix’s administration. This also had some bearing
upon the nature of the charge brought against Paul. When Paul was delivered from
the Jewish mob by Roman soldiers, it is evident from the words of the chief
captain that he had been mistaken for the false prophet, an Egyptian who led
30,000 fanatical Jews to the Mount of Olives to see Jerusalem fall. Felix routed
them, but the Egyptian had escaped. As another small link the word ‘murderers’
in Acts 21:38 is in the original sikarion.
Now Josephus tells us of these sicarii
who murdered people in broad daylight, and that they arose during the reign of
Nero. Nero began his reign, October 13th, A.D. 54.
The ‘great quietness’ referred to by Tertullus ensued upon the capture of
Eleazer, and upon his being sent to Rome after twenty years’ defiance and
rebellion, and also upon the rout of the false prophet - the Egyptian for whom
Paul was mistaken by Claudius Lysias, the chief captain. The numerous events
that go to make up the administration of Felix fully account for three years.
These, added to the earliest possible date of the ‘sicarii’, would bring us to
A.D. 57. Paul arrived some time after this date, for the Egyptian had been
routed ‘before these days’.
Felix was recalled to Rome to answer charges of misrule; and he was followed
by accusing Jews. It was for this reason he left Paul bound, ‘willing
to show the Jews a pleasure’ (Acts 24:27). Josephus tells us that Felix
was saved from the due punishment of his deeds by the intervention of his
brother Pallas. Now Pallas died A.D. 62 (Tacit. Ann. xiv. 65); therefore Felix
must have been recalled not later than A.D. 61 in order to arrive in Rome in
time for his brother’s influence to have been of any avail.
Another clue is given by a note of Josephus, that a dispute arose between
Festus and the Jews, and that the Jewish deputation was considerably helped by
the influence of Nero’s wife Poppoea, who was married to him in A.D. 62. Yet one
more testimony. When Paul arrived at Rome he was delivered into the custody of
the prefect of the ‘praetorian guard’ to strato
pedarche (Acts 28:16).
The minute accuracy of Scripture enables us to fix another boundary line. One
prefect is mentioned here. In A.D 62 two
Prefects were appointed, Burrhus holding that office singly up to the time of
his death, February, A.D. 62. We know that Paul
wintered at Malta (Acts 28:1-11); the sea was not open to navigation
until February, and consequently Burrhus would have been dead before Paul
reached Rome, if we make his arrival as late as A.D. 62. We must therefore put
it back to A.D. 61 as the latest date. Some time after the Fast, which was
September 24th (if in A.D. 60), we find the apostle at Fairhavens. This places
the embarkation of Paul (Acts 27:2) as about August of a year not later than
A.D. 60. We have already seen that somewhere between A.D. 57 and 58 must be
placed the latest date of his arrest.
Many expositors of note have unhesitatingly placed the date of Paul’s
embarkation for Rome as A.D. 60. One later testimony, however, must be heard
before we reach our conclusion. The testimony of Eusebius must not be lightly
set aside; and Harnack, accepting his dates, places the embarkation of Paul at
A.D. 56. C. H. Turner subjected the problem to a careful examination, and brings
the date forward to A.D. 58. The solution he suggests is that Eusebius, in
making out his calendar, could not be continually commencing a fresh year at the
month in which each new king ascended the throne: and as he commenced his year
with September, the first regnal year of
an Emperor was dated from the September next after his actual succession. C.H.
Turner reckons A.D. 58 for Paul’s trial before Festus and Agrippa.
lt will be seen that while there is a little uncertainty as to the precise
date, there are certain limits beyond which it cannot be placed. If we accept
A.D. 60 for the embarkation for Rome, this will mean that Paul was liberated in
the spring of A.D. 63, and was therefore free of Rome before the fierce
persecution broke out. If we accept the earlier date, A.D. 58, Paul would have
been liberated in A.D. 61, and would have had time to revisit the churches, and
upon the outbreak of the persecution under Nero he would have become involved,
and would have been apprehended, this time to seal his testimony with his blood.
therefore the following approximate dates:
The date of the Crucifixion and of Pentecost.
The date of Herod’s death.
The date of Paul’s arrest at Jerusalem.
The date of Paul’s arrival at Rome.
The date of the conclusion of the ‘two years’.
One or two details will suffice to fill in the spaces. Aquila and Priscilla
were banished from Rome by the edict of Claudius, who reigned A.D. 41-54, and
these dates are the extreme boundaries of Aquila’s visit to Corinth. Tacitus
tells us that in A.D. 52 the Jews were commanded to leave Rome. Suetonius says,
‘Judaeos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantes
Roma expulit’. Chrestos is by some
considered as a reading for Christos. If
Aquila reached Corinth at the beginning of February *, A.D. 52, Paul would have
arrived a little later in the year. Acts 18:11 tells us that the apostle
remained in Corinth for one year and six months; hence his departure from
Corinth would be August, A.D. 53.
* Much evidence as to this and other details has been omitted as too bulky
Luke passes on to tell us of an incident that occurred ‘certain days’ (Acts
18:18, A.V. ‘a good while’) before Paul left Corinth, ‘when Gallio was the
deputy (proconsul) of Achaia’.
Incidentally we remark the exactness of Luke’s language. Achaia had been
proconsular under Augustus, but had changed to an Imperial Province under
Tiberius (Tacit. Ann. 1:76). It was restored again by Claudius to the Senate,
became proconsular after A.D. 44, and became free under Nero. Luke never makes a
mistake amid all these political changes. He had indeed ‘perfect understanding
from above’. We have suggested that Paul left Corinth August, A.D. 53, so if we
deduct the ‘certain days’ of verse 18, we can say that the Gallio incident was
about midsummer of that year.
Claudius had appointed Marcus Ann -us Novatus to be proconsul of Achaia, this
man having been adopted by the rhetorician Lucius Junius Ann -us Gallio, by
which name he was known. Gallio’s brother was the famous stoic, Seneca. Now
Seneca had been banished, but had been recalled in A.D. 49, and in A.D. 53 he
was in the height of his popularity. Gallio was not in Achaia in A.D. 54 (Dion.
ix: 35); hence A.D. 53 is the latest date in which Paul could have been brought
before him, and eighteen months before this would bring us to the year 52.
Upon leaving Corinth, Paul sailed to Syria, intending to arrive at Jerusalem
for the feast (Acts 18:21) which would be Tabernacles, September 16th, A.D. 53.
After the visit to Jerusalem alluded to in verse 22, the apostle went down to
Antioch and from thence ‘he went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in
order’. This would bring us to the spring of A.D. 54. Paul now passed to Ephesus
(Acts 19:1) and remained there for the space of three years (Acts 20:31). As he
had promised to return after the feast, he doubtless arrived at Ephesus in the
spring of A.D. 54. It will be seen that a whole series of events revolves around
this approximate date, and helps us to feel that we are not very far from the
truth. Another incidental note is introduced by the reference of Paul to Aretas.
The Reign of Aretas at
In 2 Corinthians 11:32 the apostle says of his humiliating departure from
‘In Damascus the governor (ethnarch)
under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison,
desirous to apprehend me’.
This Aretas was the fourth of his dynasty, and reigned roughly from 9 B.C. -
A.D. 40. Inscriptions are extant which speak of his 48th year, and he died
somewhere between the death of Tiberius and the middle of the reign of Claudius,
for his successor is found engaged in war in A.D. 48. Damascus was under Roman
administration A.D. 33, 34 and A.D. 62, 63 for coins of Tiberius and Nero give
no evidence of a local prince at the time. This narrows the period to somewhere
after A.D. 34.
Gaius who succeeded Tiberius at this time was noted for the way in which he
sought to encourage local princelings; and it is very probable that Damascus was
assigned by him to Aretas. We are at any rate shut up to A.D. 34-40, and as
other calculations bring us down to A.D. 37, it appears that such a date can
well be accepted.
The Famine of Acts
Agabus, a prophet of Jerusalem, foretold a famine which came to pass in the
reign of Claudius Caesar. Upon this being made known, and before the famine had
actually commenced, the believers at Antioch determined to send relief to Jud -a
by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
Now Josephus tells us that the famine began in the year of Herod’s death, for
it took place during the government of Cuspius Fadus and Tiberius Alexander
(Ant. xx. 5,2). Cuspius Fadus was appointed in the latter half of A.D. 44, and
was succeeded by Tib. Alex. in A.D. 46. As Tib. Alex. was in turn succeeded by
Cumanus in A.D. 50, we have a period of six years in which the famine could
develop and disappear.
Premonitions of the coming dearth are evident in the care which the people of
Tyre and Sidon betray to conciliate Herod. They desired peace, says Acts 12:20,
‘because their country was nourished by the king’s (Herod’s) country’. This
supplies a fairly approximate date for the journey of Barnabas and Saul to
Jerusalem as A.D. 44.
We have now ascertained the dating of the Acts so far as its main outlines
are concerned, namely A.D. 29, 44, 60, 64. We have also found indications of the
probable dates of the famine predicted by Agabus, and the apostle’s first
arrival at Corinth. We will now endeavour to place the missionary journeys that
were undertaken by the apostle.
Acts 13 and 14. This journey has been located somewhere between A.D. 44 to
48. C. H. Turner in Hasting’s Dictionary of the
Bible, considers that eighteen months are required for this journey.
Prof. Ramsay estimates two years and three or four months. Among the items that
influence a conclusion must be the character of the district, the climate, and
their effect upon travelling.
The hill country lying between Perga and Antioch in Pisidia, would not be
crossed usually between December and March. If we therefore imagine that Paul’s
itinerary would be arranged to suit the natural condition of the country, the
following seems to be a possible time-table. It is the one suggested by C. H.
Turner as above.
Paul arrived at Cyprus in April. Then went through the isle (Acts 13:6), and
left Paphos in July, reaching Antioch in Pisidia in August. Shaking off the dust
of his feet against Antioch, Paul reached Iconium in November. Here the
disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost; and here also we read
that Paul and Barnabas abode ‘a long time’. As it was nearing winter when they
arrived, the probability is that they remained there until the Passover. By
April, therefore, they would have arrived at Lystra and Derbe, and the region
round about (14:6,7). They would begin the return journey about the beginning of
July, reaching Pamphylia by October, and getting back to Antioch and Syria by
November. We shall therefore be fairly safe to assign the years A.D. 45 to 48
for this first missionary journey.
Among the items of interest that need to be placed in their chronological
order, are the visits of the apostle to Jerusalem.
Paul’s Visits to
Compare ‘Syria and Cilicia’, with ‘Caesarea and Tarsus’.
(see also 12:25)
Before the first missionary journey.
After the first missionary journey.
To keep the Feast.
Acts 21:15 to 23:30
Before we can place the epistles of Paul in their true chronological order,
it will be necessary to deal with the related problem: ‘Where is Galatia?’ for
when that question is settled, the chronological place of the epistle to the
Galatians is easily discovered.
Where is Galatia? The answer to the question depends upon the date at which
the map consulted was published. If the map be that of Dr. Kitto’s
Cyclopaedia, 1847, or T. R. Birks, editor
of Paley, 1849 or any other publication
before them, Galatia will be as shown in the following map:
If we look at Lewin’s Life and Epistles of
Paul (1875), we shall find two maps, one showing the
province of Galatia with indications that
national boundaries had given place to
political necessities; the other showing
Asia Minor mapped according to its nationalities. A comparison of the two maps
will reveal a marked difference. While the
national boundaries coincide with Kitto’s map, the
political map reveals a state of affairs
which must materially influence the answer to the question, ‘Where is Galatia?’
Upon this map are parts labelled, ‘Part of Phrygia included in the Province
of Asia; Part of Phrygia in the Province of Galatia’. In Ramsay’s ‘Historical
Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians’ is a map showing the political
divisions of Asia Minor, A.D. 40 to 63. We give here a sketch of this,
indicating the province of Galatia by shading the drawing.
It will be seen that a letter addressed to churches situated in the Phrygian
portion of the Galatian province, would have to be addressed to the churches of
Galatia, in harmony with the ruling of the powers that be. A pedant may be
imagined, though hardly probable, who would ignore the growth of London, and
address those living outside the original city walls as residents of Surrey,
Middlesex, or Essex. We cannot for a moment believe the writer of the inspired
narrative to be so absurd. Whatever Galatia was to the mind of the rulers of the
day would settle the question for him, not withstanding that a great many
nationalities were included in the one Province. Paul himself is a case in
point. He was a Hebrew, a Tarsian, and a Roman. Would anyone set out to debate
as to whether Tarsus was in Italy or Rome in Cilicia?
Young’s Analytical Concordance (New
Edition) no longer shows Galatia according to its national limitations, but
shows the larger Province of Galatia extending southward to include Derbe,
Lystra, and Iconium, which had hitherto been contained in Lycaonia: so also does
an Atlas illustrating the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles published by S.
Philip & Sons, in 1914.
It will be seen from this transition and change, that the simple question,
‘Where is Galatia?’ does not admit of a simple answer. It will be also evident
that the question is removed from purely Scriptural exposition, to that of arch
-ology and history. Quoting from The Times:
‘Professor W. M. Ramsay is the greatest living authority on the geography
of Asia Minor, and the historical and archaeological questions associated with
Whatever theological opinions the Professor may hold, it is surely right to
hear him in this province so peculiarly his own. And as to the theological side,
the Professor approached the study believing that the Acts of the Apostles was
written some 200 years later than Paul’s lifetime: he concluded it by believing
that Luke was the writer during the lifetime of the apostle. In other words, his
investigation disproved Higher Criticism, and proved the Bible. This is
It will be superfluous to use quotation marks in this article, for where
Prof. Ramsay or his critics are not quoted, some of the expressions are bound to
be reminiscent of the writings of others. Those who wish to pursue the theme
more fully than can be undertaken here are recommended to the various bulky
volumes from Prof. Ramsay’s pen, the able book by Mr. Askwith, and the
commentary of Kirslop Lake.
Returning to the question: ‘Where is Galatia?’ and what is the meaning of the
differing maps, we reply: ‘The small district marked on the old maps as Galatia
is the kingdom of Galatia.’ The larger
area including the cities visited in Acts 13 and 14 is the
Roman Province of that name. To
understand more fully the subject before us, we must bear in mind that there
were three classes of states in Asia Minor:
1. Countries incorporated in the Empire in which law was
administered by a Roman Governor.
Included in the conception of the Roman world.
2. Countries connected with Rome by an agreement or
alliance, the terms of which were expressed by treaty, i.e., Client States
according to the usual and convenient expression, among which the chief were
Galatia and Cappadocia.
3. States in no formal and recognized relations with Rome,
especially Pontus and the Isaurian Pirates.
The Roman range of authority and action in any foreign land constituted a
Provincia. Strabo shows the policy of the
Romans regarding the question of small kings and Roman governors. Where the
character of the people was unruly, and the nature of the country made rebellion
and lawlessness easy, kings with their own standing army were placed in
authority, but step by step, and district by district, these countries were
incorporated in the adjacent Roman Provinces, as a certain degree of discipline
and civilization was imparted to the population by these kings, who built cities
and introduced the Gr -co-Roman customs and education.
As the above paragraph is appreciated, the changing of the map, and the
enlarging of the borders of Galatia the Kingdom to Galatia the Province, will be
understood. For convenience of reference, we divide the existing teaching on the
subject into two views:
The North Galatia view.
The South Galatia view.
The North Galatia view maintains that only that part of the map which was
originally Galatia is the Galatia of the Scriptures. It recognizes that it is
somewhat awkward to have to acknowledge that of all the cities of North Galatia,
which the apostle is supposed to have
visited, and where he is supposed to have
founded the churches, and to which he addressed his epistle, Tavium, Ancrya,
Pessinus, not one is even mentioned in
The South Galatia view maintains that by Galatia is intended the Galatia of
the day, the large Roman Province which had embraced Lycaonia and part of
Phrygia on the south. According to this view,
every city is named, and Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe are seen as
the churches of Galatia.
The North Galatia view necessitates that the epistle to the Galatians was
written after Acts 18:23, for Galatians
4:13 indicates a second visit. This associates ‘Galatians’ with ‘Corinthians’.
The South Galatia view sees no necessity for a later date.
While Acts 16:6 is looked upon by the North Galatia view as the first mention
and founding of the church of Galatia, giving no names or incidents of the
journey, the South Galatia view looks upon Acts 16:6 as a re-visiting of the
churches already founded in Acts 13 and 14; and the brief summary is most
fitting and understandable. Full details had already been given in Acts 13 to
Before passing on in our study, we will give historic proofs that Iconium,
Lystra, Derbe and Antioch are rightly addressed as ‘Galatia’:
Asterius, Bishop of Amaseia in Pontus, A.D. 401, in dealing with Acts
18:23 explains it in direct contradiction of what was true in his own day.
Lycaonia was not included in Galatia in A.D. 401.
‘No conceivable interpretation could get Lycaonia out of
Galatiken choran except deliberate
adhesion to the South Galatian view’.
Dr. Schurer retracted his criticism of Prof. Ramsay’s position after
consulting Pliny and Ptolemy. Ptolemy arranged his chapters according to the
Roman Proconsular divisions:
v. 1. Pontou kai Bithunias Thesis.
v. 2. Tes idias Asias Thesis.
v. 3. Lukias Thesis.
v. 4. Galatias Thesis.
He states that Galatia is bounded on the South by Pamphylia, and on the north
by the Euxine Sea, including in it Pisidia in the south, and Paphlagonia in the
north. He enumerates parts of which it consisted, and mentions Antioch, Iconium,
and Lystra as cities of Galatia.
So far as the date of the epistle is concerned, it has been assigned by
different critics to the close, and to every intermediate stage, of its author’s
epistolary activity. Marcion places ‘Galatians’ first. Accepting as we do the
teaching that Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe are the churches of Galatia,
the necessity for placing the writing of the epistle to a period subsequent to
Acts 18:23 is entirely removed. Both Ramsay and Weber believe that ‘Galatians’
was written from Antioch. Ramsay views Acts 13 and Acts 16 as the two visits;
Weber considers that the outward and homeward journeys of 13 and 14 suffice.
It is strange that Paul makes no reference to the ‘Decrees’ in Galatians, and
this silence is taken as an indication that the epistle was written before Acts
15. Further, it has been said, the Judaizers could hardly ‘compel’ circumcision
(6:12), after the decision at Jerusalem (Acts 15). Peter’s action in Galatians 2
is also much more difficult to understand if after Acts 15. Altogether,
everything is favourable to an early date for the epistle, and we believe we
shall not be wrong in placing it first in chronological order.
Since writing this chapter, the author has come across a small book (The
Date of Galatians, by Douglas Round), dealing with the date of the
epistle, in which the writer, while accepting the South Galatian view of Prof.
Ramsay, does not accept the date suggested by him, but argues very strongly for
the position which we have felt to be the true one, namely, the earliest of all
the epistles. We quote his own opening words:
‘Before the appearance of his (Prof. Ramsay’s) books setting out the South
Galatian theory, the epistle to the Galatians seemed to be in the air, and to
have no relation to the Acts of the Apostles or to any other writing. His
brilliant work illuminated what had been before a dark corner. The interest so
aroused led me to study the subject more closely, and eventually to form the
opinion expressed in these pages, as to the earlier date of the epistle. The
later date was the burden laid by necessity upon the holders of the North
Galatian theory. Prof. Ramsay might have cast off the burden so inherited.
Instead of so doing, he gratuitously (as it seems to me) tied the burden round
his neck to the great injury of the South Galatian theory’. *
* In a review of the first edition of this Analysis, F.F. Bruce pointed out
‘... that in his later works (The 14th edition (1920) of St. Paul the
Traveller, pp. 22-31) Sir William Ramsay did accept the view expressed here,
that Galatians is the earliest of the extant Pauline letters’.
Without going through all the controversy raised in this book, we give the
following summary of the essential points:
Was the epistle written before or after Acts 15?
The private conference of Galatians 2 took place upon the second visit of
the apostle to Jerusalem, which was that of Acts 11:30. The reference to ‘the
poor’, and Paul’s expressed readiness, coincide with the errand of mercy
mentioned in Acts 11:30.
After the private conference at Jerusalem, Peter dissembles at Antioch.
The question at issue at Antioch was not, ‘should the Gentiles be
circumcised’? that had been settled; but, ‘should the circumcised eat with the
uncircumcised?’ On this point Peter wavered. Peter felt the force of the
rebuke, and acted accordingly at the public Council (Acts 15).
Paul paid the Galatian churches two visits (Acts 13). The return visit was
important. The faith which the apostle had preached (13:39), they were
exhorted to ‘continue in’ (14:22), and the persecution which they knew the
apostle suffered (13:50), was a part of their expectation also - ‘we must
through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God’.
While the apostle abode at Antioch for ‘a long time’ some of the
emissaries from Jerusalem went on to Galatia. The result of their visit is
recorded in Galatians 1:6. Paul at once, from Antioch, and just before the
conference (Acts 15), wrote the epistle.
The contention which necessitated the conference necessitated also the
The decrees, formulated by the Council, are never mentioned in the
epistle. If the Apostle had received them, he would be obliged in all honesty,
to have said so. Further, the fact that these decrees practically endorsed the
exemption of the Gentiles from the Law was a strong argument for the apostle.
If the epistle had been written after Acts 15, would not the apostle have
settled the question at once by reference to the decrees?
In the epistle we can have no doubt the apostle uses the strongest arguments
that at the time of writing were possible. The close connection between Acts 13
and the epistle is also an argument for nearness in point of time. He argues in
the epistle as though his teaching would be still clearly remembered.
Galatians 4:20 suggests a desire to revisit them. Why did he not go? The
simple reason was that he was obliged to go up to Jerusalem for the conference
Douglas Round’s own summary is as follows:
By this view no visit of Paul to Jerusalem is suppressed.
The most forcible arguments that could be used at the time are used.
No inconsistency is intruded into the Acts.
Every phrase which bears upon the date is simply and naturally explained.
The authority of the Council at Jerusalem, and the decree made, remains
The epistle was written from Antioch or the neighbourhood.
The churches of Galatia were those of Pisidia, Antioch, Iconium, Lystra
The epistle is probably the earliest book in the New Testament.
Having established the position of the epistle to the Galatians, we can now
set out the chronology of the Acts and the place of the epistles, with some
measure of assurance that, while every detail cannot be proved, and a margin of
one or two years must be permitted, yet for all practical purposes, the
following calendar can be accepted with every confidence. The external history
recorded in the Acts, keeps pace with the internal revelation of doctrinal and
dispensational truth recorded in the epistles, and this relationship we now
indicate by pointing out a few of the verbal links that associate an epistle
with its place in the Acts. We take as our basis of comparison Paul’s own
summary given in Acts 20:18-21.
The relation of the epistle with the Acts
‘After what manner I have been with you’ (Acts 20:18).
‘Ye know what manner of men we were among you for your
sake’ (1 Thess. 1:5).
‘Serving the Lord’ (Acts 20:19). With the exception of the
statement of our Lord Himself, ‘Ye cannot serve God and Mammon’ douleuo is
used exclusively by the apostle for service unto the Lord. There are six
occurrences in his epistles which, together with Acts 20:19, make seven in
‘Fervent in spirit; serving the Lord’ (Rom. 12:11 and see
also Rom. 14:18; 16:18; Eph. 6:7; Col. 3:24 and 1 Thess. 1:9).
‘Serving the Lord with all humility of mind’ (Acts 20:19).
‘In lowliness of mind let each esteem other’ (Phil. 2:3).
Paul is responsible for six out of the total seven occurrences of
tapeinophrosune, ‘humility of mind’.
‘With many tears, and temptations’ (Acts 20:19).
‘My temptation which was in my flesh’ (Gal. 4:14).
‘How I kept back nothing that was profitable’ (Acts 20:20).
‘But if any man draw back’ (Heb. 10:38).
‘How I kept back nothing that was profitable’ (Acts 20:20).
‘All things are not expedient’ (1 Cor. 6:12). There are
sixteen occurrences of sumphero
‘expedient’ or ‘profitable’ in the New Testament: eight occur in the Gospels
and Acts 19:19, and the other eight exclusively in Paul’s epistles.
‘The Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city’ (Acts 20:23).
‘The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit’ (Rom.
‘That I might finish my course’ (Acts 20:24).
‘I have finished my course’ (2 Tim. 4:7). These are the
only occurrences of dromos ‘course’
except that in Acts 13:25, where, again, Paul is speaking. The use of the
verb teleioo, ‘to perfect’, in the
sense of finishing a race, is characteristic of the apostle’s language,
especially in Philippians 3 and the epistle to the Hebrews.
‘Over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you (tithemi)
overseers’ (Acts 20:28).
‘Whereunto I am appointed (tithemi)
a preacher’ (2 Tim. 1:11).
‘Not sparing the flock’ (Acts 20:29).
‘If God spared not the natural branches’ (Rom. 11:21).
There are seven occurrences of pheidomai,
‘to spare’ in Paul’s epistles. Elsewhere it is found only in Acts 20:29 or 2
‘Therefore watch, and remember’ (Acts 20:31).
‘For ye remember, brethren, our labour’ (1 Thess. 2.9).
Mnemoneuo. - This is a word very
characteristic of the apostle Paul. He uses it again in Acts 20:35, seven
times in the Church epistles and three times in Hebrews.
‘Therefore ... remember ... night and day’ (Acts 20.31).
‘With labour and travail night and day’ (2 Thess. 3:8). The
association of night and day as an indication of continuance is a
characteristic expression of Paul. He uses the combination seven times (Acts
26.7; 1 Thess. 2:9; 3:10; 2 Thess. 3:8; 1 Tim. 5:5; 2 Tim. 1:3). The other
epistles do not use the expression.
‘I ceased not to warn every one’ (Acts 20:31).
‘Warning every man, and teaching every man’ (Col. 1:28).
This word noutheteo, ‘to warn’,
occurs in seven passages, all of them in Paul’s epistles. It occurs nowhere
else except in Acts 20:31, where it is Paul who is speaking.
‘An inheritance among all them which are sanctified’ (Acts
‘The inheritance of the saints in light’ (Col. 1:12).
‘I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel’ (Acts
‘Neither ... used we ... a cloke of covetousness’ (1 Thess.
2:5). This is a characteristic attitude of the apostle Paul.
‘These hands have ministered unto my necessities’ (Acts
‘We labour, working with our own hands’ (1 Cor. 4:12).
‘These hands have ministered unto my necessities’ (Acts
‘Distributing to the necessity of saints’ (Rom. 12:13).
‘These hands’; ‘These bonds’ (Acts 20:34; 26:29). ‘How that
so labouring ye ought to support the weak’ (Acts 20:35).
‘We both labour and suffer reproach’ (1 Tim. 4:10).
Kopiao, ‘to labour’ is a word much
used by the apostle. He employs it fourteen times in his epistles. None of
the other apostles use the word except John (Rev. 2:3).
Here, within the compass of eighteen verses, we have eighteen instances of
the usage of words peculiarly Pauline. Could there be more convincing proof that
Luke is a faithful eye-witness, and a trustworthy historian?
We conclude this analysis by setting out the chronological order of the
fourteen epistles of Paul.
Chronological Order of Paul’s Epistles Seven Epistles before Acts 28
GALATIANS. ‘The just shall live by
FAITH’ (Gal. 3:11).
1 THESSALONIANS. ‘Faith, Hope and
2 THESSALONIANS. Written to correct
erroneous views arising out of first epistle and emphasizing Satanic
counterfeit (2 Thess. 2).
HEBREWS. ‘The just shall LIVE by
faith’ (Heb. 10:38).
1 CORINTHIANS. ‘Faith, Hope and
Charity’ - these ‘abide’.
2 CORINTHIANS. Written to correct
erroneous views arising out of the first epistle, and emphasizing Satanic
counterfeit (2 Cor. 11).
ROMANS. ‘The JUST shall live by
faith’ (Rom. 1:17).
The hope of Israel is in view from Acts 1:6 to Acts 28:20. It appears in Acts
26:6,7, Romans 15:12,13 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18. All reference to ‘The
twelve tribes’, ‘The reign over the Gentiles’ and the ‘Archangel’ cease at Acts
28:28. With the setting aside of Israel a new dispensation comes into operation,
and a new set of epistles.
Seven Epistles after Acts 28
EPHESIANS. The revelation of the
PHILIPPIANS. Bishops and Deacons.
PHILEMON. Truth in practice.
COLOSSIANS. The revelation of the
1 TIMOTHY. Bishops and Deacons.
2 TIMOTHY. The Crown.
The evidences for the exact dating of these Prison and Pastoral Epistles are
not sufficient to enable anyone to dogmatize. All that we feel can be said with
some measure of confidence is, that 1 Timothy and Titus were written in the
interval of freedom that intervened between the two years at Rome (Acts 28:30),
when Paul was treated as a military prisoner and allowed some measure of
liberty, and the subsequent imprisonment when he was treated as an ‘evil doer’,
and from which there was no hope entertained of release, except by death.
Most students know that it is necessary to antedate the birth of Christ by a
few years, some say three, some four, some five. The Companion Bible makes the
date of the Nativity 4 B.C., and the date of the Crucifixion A.D. 29. The Lord
commenced His public ministry when He was ‘about thirty years old’ and this
ministry continued for a space of three years and a half. This means that the
date of the Crucifixion must be somewhere round about A.D. 29, but the reader
will see from the following chronology that, working back from the settled date
of Acts 12, 13, A.D. 44, we have felt obliged to adopt A.D. 30. We do not
attempt to supply actual details, until we arrive at A.D. 36, the date of Saul’s
conversion. The calendar travels beyond the end of the Acts which we have put as
A.D. 63, adding two more years to complete the apostle’s ministry. To this we
add five more years to bring us to the date of the destruction of Jerusalem. It
will be observed that from A.D. 30 to A.D. 65 we have a period of thirty-five
years, or five sets of seven years, each seventh year being marked by a Divinely
expressed comment. Thirtythree whole years of the Saviour’s life are balanced by
thirtythree whole years of His ascended ministry ‘The Lord working with them’,
which period also is the length of time which David reigned over all Israel (2
Sam. 5:5). The dates of the epistles are indicated, together with the several
journeys of the apostle to Jerusalem, and other matters of interest concerning
the dates of which some measure of exactness is possible are tabulated:
Chronology of Acts 9 to 28
1 and 2 Thess.
Expelled 18 months
Death of CLAUDIUS
Feast Sept. 16th
1 and 2 Corinthians
2 years prison in Caesarea
2 years prison in Rome
MYSTERY made known
End of Acts
Fire at Rome
Spain and the West
1 Timothy and Titus
2 Tim. 4
Two dates, namely A.D. 44, the death of Herod (Acts 12:23) and the fire of
Rome, A.D. 64, peg the Acts down upon the calendar of the world, the rest is a
matter either of arithmetic or of careful reading and comparison. As we said at
the beginning of this article, some datings must remain tentative, but for all
practical purposes the above chronology will prove to fit the circumstances and
give a faithful all-over picture of the whole of the apostle’s ministry.