New Testament Chronology
New Testament Chronology, (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990)
48, Spring - Apostolic Conference/Paul's third visit to Jerusalem. Gal. 2:1-2 - "Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. And it was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles." Acts 15:3-4 - "Therefore, being sent on their way by the church, they were passing through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all the brethren. And when they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them."
Paul's third trip to Jerusalem occurred fourteen years after his first visit in 35. The second visit to Jerusalem in 43 is not mentioned because he did not meet with the apostles on that visit. It was fourteen years between his meetings with Peter. Because of dating in the following second missionary journey the Apostolic Conference cannot have occurred later than 49.
Paul's third trip to Jerusalem probably occurred in the spring of 48, possibly to coincide with Passover. The time is arrived at by backdating from the later events of his second missionary journey. Paul returned shortly to Antioch (Acts 15:30) to be visited by Peter (Gal. 2:11). This and the following discussions must have consumed several months. Paul's second missionary journey would then have begun later in 48. His undescribed "revelation" and the decree from the Apostolic Conference probably gave strong motivation to depart that season.
48, Summer - Departure on Second Missionary Journey. Acts 15:40-41 - "Paul chose Silas and departed. . . . And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches."
Paul proceeded through cities of his first missionary journey. He went on to Galatia and Mysia, ending at the port of Troas on the Aegean Sea by the spring of 49. The distance from Antioch to Troas is about eleven hundred miles, which could have been traveled during that time, even without winter travel.
49, Spring - Departure from Troas. Acts 16:11-12 - "Therefore putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the day following to Neapolis; and from there to Philippi."
The 150-mile sea trip appears to have taken two days, which is very good time. The reverse trip later in 57 took five days. The short trip would have been possible only with a strong south wind to counteract the opposing current coming out of the Bosporus. The south wind prevails from about March until June, but changes to a north wind during the summer. The departure from Troas was likely during the spring.
Through the balance of 49 Paul ministered in Philippi, Thyatira, Thessalonica, Berea and Athens. The distance covered was only about 160 miles by land and 270 miles by sea. However, the ministries in each city could have required some time.
50, February - Arrival in Corinth. Acts 18:1-2 - "After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome."
The short trip from Athens to Corinth was only about ten miles by land and forty-five miles by sea. Paul could have made the trip during a break in the winter weather.
When Paul arrived in Corinth he met Aquila and Priscilla. They had recently come from Italy, as the result of an edict of the emperor Claudius commanding Jews to leave Rome. When did Claudius issue such a command? The Roman historian Suetonius records such an edict: "Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [Claudius] expelled them from Rome." (Claudius 25:4) This can be dated to 41 CE.1 This is much too early to be the same edict that caused Aquila to leave Rome.2 It is not to be equated with the decree in Acts.
The Roman historian Dio Cassius recorded two edicts by Claudius related to the Jews.3 The first is to be equated with Suetonius' event in 41, and notes, "as the Jews had flocked to Rome in great numbers and were converting many of the natives to their way, he banished most of them." (Roman History LVII 18:5a) [Correction: The prior passage refers to Tiberius' expulsion of the Jews in 19 CE.] The second: "As for the Jews, who had again increased so greatly that by reason of their multitude it would have been hard without raising a tumult to bar them from the city, he (Claudius) did not drive them out, but ordered them, while continuing their traditional mode of life, not to hold meetings." (Roman History LX 6:6-7) This later decree prompted Aquila to depart Rome.
The dating of the second decree can be made from the fifth-century church historian Orosius. He wrote, "Josephus reports that the Jews were expelled from the city by Claudius in his ninth year." (Historiae Adversus Paganos VII 6:15) No reference to a "ninth year" is found in the existing works of Josephus. However, assuming the reference is correct, this would place the ninth year between January 25, 49 and January 24, 50. Allowing for travel time for Aquila and Priscilla from Rome to Corinth, the February, 50 CE arrival of Paul is reasonable.
The date of February, 50 is selected because Paul settled in Corinth "a year and six months." (Acts 18:11) This is backdated from August of 51, the month after Paul probably appeared before Gallio.
51, July - Paul Appeared Before Gallio. Acts 18:12 - "But while Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat."
The event is presumed to have occurred near the end of Paul's eighteen-month stay in Corinth. Since Paul had been preaching for some time, it is thought the Jews reopened their attack on Paul when the new proconsul, Gallio, first assumed office in Corinth. The Gallio inscription at Delphi, written in the first half of 52, shows that he was proconsul of Achaia (Corinth area) at that time. Gallio would then have served in Corinth from July 1, 51 to June 30, 52,4 the normal term of office being one year. The consuls were required to depart from Rome by June 1 at the latest so as to arrive by July 1 (Dio Cassius, Roman History LVII 15:5). Gallio is reported to have contracted an illness from the Corinthian climate and may not have served a full year. The most probable time that Paul would have appeared before Gallio is in July of 51.
After appearing before Gallio, Paul "remained many days longer" (Acts 18:18) in Corinth. Here "many" has the literal meaning of "enough" or "sufficient," that is, Paul was not forced to leave. It does not appear that a long time passed after Paul appeared before Gallio since in the same verse it states, "they put out to sea for Syria." This time is presumed to be about a month later, in August of 51. The trip proceeded to Caesarea with only short stops in Cenchrea and Ephesus. His reluctance to stay suggests his desire to arrive in Caesarea before the winter storms.
51, September - Paul's Fourth Visit to Jerusalem. Acts 18:22 - "And when he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church (at Jerusalem), and went down to Antioch."
This trip evidently had a double purpose. The first would have been to report on the success of the second missionary journey. The second would have been to deliver "a contribution to the poor among the saints at Jerusalem." (Rom. 15:26) Paul's stay appears to have been short, with him departing for Antioch before the winter.
51, Winter to 53, Spring - Paul remained in Antioch. Paul is presumed to have rested through the following winter and year, departing on the third missionary journey in the spring of 53.
53, Spring - Paul Departed on Third Missionary Journey. Acts 18:23 - "And having spent some time there (Antioch), he departed and passed successively through the Galatian region and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples."
The year of 53 is presumed because it allows a sufficient rest after the second missionary journey and fits a reasonable time schedule with the following events. The spring departure would be expected. This part of the mission is estimated to have taken about one year.
54, April - Paul Arrived in Ephesus. Acts 19:1 - "Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus."
This date is determined by working backwards from Paul's departure from Ephesus two years and three months later. After Paul arrived in Ephesus, "he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months." (Acts 19:8) Then "he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. And this took place for two years." (Acts 19:9-10) Luke appears to be using exact times here, while Paul uses inclusive years, describing this same time as "a period of three years." (Acts 20:31) Paul reckoned from a fall new year in Tishri, and year one was 53/54, including his arrival in about April of 54. The third year was 55/56, including May of 56.
56, May - Paul Departed Ephesus to Macedonia. 1 Cor. 16:8 - "But I shall remain in Ephesus until Pentecost." Acts 20:1 - "And after the uproar had ceased, Paul sent for the disciples and when he had exhorted them and taken his leave of them, he departed to go to Macedonia."
The "uproar" was caused by the silversmiths selling idols of Artemis (Diana) who were losing business, supposedly because of the Christians. Paul appears to have left hurriedly and may not have left on his original schedule to depart after Pentecost, which fell on May 9 in 56. Without other information we will assume that it was close to Pentecost and that spring had arrived, since a ship was sailing for Macedonia.
56/57, Winter - Winter in Corinth. 1 Cor. 16:5-6 - "But I shall come to you (the Corinthians) after I go through Macedonia, for I am going through Macedonia; and perhaps I shall stay with you, or even spend the winter."
After Paul was in Macedonia, "he came to Greece. And there he spent three months." (Acts 20:2-3) The time in Greece probably was during the winter and would have included some time in Corinth. That he made a second visit to Corinth is confirmed when Paul speaks of coming to them a third time (2 Cor. 13:1). After a plot by the Jews, he left again for Macedonia and prepared to leave for Jerusalem.
57, April 14 - Departure from Philippi. Acts 20:6 - "We sailed from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and came to them at Troas within five days; and there we stayed seven days."
Nisan 1 fell on March 25 in 57. Thus the end of the Feast of Unleavened Bread was at sunset on Thursday, April 14. If Paul departed later that evening or the following day, then after five days of sailing into the wind they would have arrived at Troas on Monday, April 18. The first day of the seven-day stay was Tuesday, April 19. The seventh day and the departure from Troas was Monday, April 25. This day is confirmed as a Monday because the prior day was Sunday, "the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to depart the next day." (Acts 20:7) During the surrounding years this chronological lineup of days is not possible. If Paul departed Philippi immediately after the Feast and left Troas the following Monday as he intended, then this event most likely occurred in 57 CE.5
The year 57 cannot be conclusive for several reasons.6 The ship may not have left for several days after the Feast, and did he depart from Troas as he originally intended? But, why would Luke include Paul's intentions unless they were kept? The year 57 is the best choice.
57, April/May - Trip to Caesarea. Acts 20:16 - "Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus in order that he might not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost."
The voyage from Troas to Caesarea was attempted at the best speed possible. By adding the days given and estimating those not specified, Paul could easily have been in Caesarea a week before Pentecost. After Paul arrived in Caesarea and was reunited with the brethren, he could not be persuaded or delayed from continuing on to Jerusalem. If Pentecost were past, he may have been willing to delay a while.
57, May - Paul Arrived for Fifth Jerusalem Visit. Acts 21:17 - "When we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly."
It is presumed Paul arrived in Jerusalem by Pentecost, which fell on Sunday, May 29 in 57.
57, June - Paul Arrested in the Temple. Acts 21:33, 38 - "Then the commander came up and took hold of him, and ordered him to be bound by two chains. . . `Then you are not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?'"
Paul was arrested about eight days after he arrived in Jerusalem (Acts 21:18). He was mistaken for an Egyptian revolutionary. Josephus reported "that there came out of Egypt about this time to Jerusalem, one that said he was a prophet, and advised the multitude of the common people to go along with him to the mount of Olives. . . . He said further . . . at his command the walls of Jerusalem would fall down; and he promised them that he would procure them an entrance into the city through those walls. . . . Felix . . . ordered his soldiers to take their weapons, and came against them with a great number of horsemen and footmen. . . . But the Egyptian himself escaped out of the fight, but did not appear any more." (Ant. XX 8:6) This description of the Egyptian follows Josephus' account of the death of Claudius in October of 54 and would likely follow soon after that date. Assuming a chronological sequence, the earliest possible date for the arrest of Paul would be Pentecost of 55. However, Josephus also recounts Nero allotting Herod Agrippa II some additional land in Galilee prior to the arrival of the Egyptian (Ant. XX 9:4). This probably occurred during 55, making the dating of the Egyptian in 55 or 56. The Sabbatical year fell in 55/56, and prophets were expected to appear in such a year, "in harmony with God's design."7 Thus, the years of 56 and 57 at Pentecost are the most likely time when the Romans would still be watching for the Egyptian. Here 57 was selected based on the surrounding chronology. Later years become less likely, as the Romans would have ceased looking for the Egyptian.
57, June - Paul Before Felix. Acts 24:1 - "And after five days the high priest Ananias came down (to Caesarea) with some elders, . . . and they brought charges to the governor (Felix) against Paul."
Paul said to Felix, "No more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship." (Acts 24:11) Paul arrived in Jerusalem two days before he went to the Temple (Acts 21:17-18, 26). The twelve days must be measured from his first visit to the Temple "to worship," and he was arrested on the seventh day from that time (Acts 21:27). The following day he appeared before the council and the High Priest Ananias. The five days are measured between the time Ananias saw Paul at the council and then before Felix. Thus, the seven and five days agree with Paul's statement. Where Pentecost fell in this sequence is not certain, but was probably the day he first went to the Temple.
Ananias, the son of Nebedaios, was appointed high priest in 47. After an interruption in 52/53, he served until 59. Antonius Felix8 become governor at Caesarea in about late 52 (Tacitus, Annals 12:54).9 Felix was succeeded by Festus in about 59.
59, July - Paul Before Festus. Acts 24:27-25:1, 6 - "After two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and wishing to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul imprisoned. Festus therefore, having arrived in the province, three days later went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. . . . And after he had spent not more than eight or ten days among them, he went down to Caesarea; and on the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought."
The two years are a measure of the length of Paul's imprisonment during the term of Felix. The two years ended when Felix was replaced by Festus. Felix assumed office in 52/53, and Festus was succeeded by Albinus by the Feast of Tabernacles (Wars VI 5:3) in 62 CE. The intervening date when Festus succeeded Felix has not been known with certainty, but the possible year can be set in a narrow range.
The earliest possible date at which Paul was arrested and mistaken for the Egyptian rebel was Pentecost of 55. Festus succeeded Felix at least two years later, or not until at least 57. At the other end, the events reported by Josephus about Festus make certain that he had assumed office by mid 61, or before. Therefore, Festus succeeded Felix between 57 and 61, with the general choice in 60 CE.10
The year 58/59 can also be taken as Festus' first year based on the dating of the only coin attributed to him.11 It is often assumed, although not necessarily true, that the procurators issued a new coin when they took office, or in this case when Festus succeeded Felix. The large mintage of a new issue of coins is more likely to have been the work of a new procurator, rather than an outgoing procurator who had already issued coins.12 This new issue of coins for Judea was dated to the fifth year of Nero, which was from October 13, 58 to October 12, 59. This coin represents the largest quantity of coins issued by any Judean procurator, and may have been issued over several years. However, Festus must have been procurator in the fifth year of Nero if he issued the coins. Festus was probably procurator before the end of 59. Paul then appeared before Festus between 57 and the end of 59.
The histories are not so clear. Josephus does not date this event and leads to no firm conclusion. The Armenian version of Eusebius states that Festus succeeded Felix in the tenth year of Agrippa II, but places his tenth year incorrectly in 54. Agrippa II's tenth year was in 58/59. Jerome's version of Eusebius placed the succession of Festus in the twelfth year, not the tenth, but dated incorrectly in 56. The source of Eusebius' information is not known. It has been suggested that his source was Justus of Tiberius, a contemporary of Josephus who wrote a chronicle of the Jewish kings from Moses to Agrippa II. Eusebius' dating for this period is less than certain.
There is little to support any date besides 59. If the coin from the fifth year of Nero is attributed to Festus, then this is the probable year. There is little to commend an earlier date.
59, August - Paul Before Herod Agrippa II. Acts 25:13-14, 23 - "Now when several days had elapsed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and paid their respects to Festus. And while they were spending many days there, Festus laid Paul's case before the king. . . . And so, on the next day when Agrippa had come together with Bernice . . . Paul was brought in." Agrippa II ruled territories to the north over an extended period. Although he did not rule Judea he was important to the Jews, as he appointed the High Priests. Paul, a Roman citizen, then had his case referred to Caesar in Rome.
59, September - Paul Departed for Rome. Acts 27:1-2 - "And when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, they proceeded to deliver Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion. . . . And embarking in an Adramyttian ship, which was about to sail to the regions along the coast of Asia, we put out to sea."
After a short stop at Sidon, the ship proceeded with "winds that were contrary" (Acts 27:4) to the port of Myra in Lycia. There they changed to an "Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy." (Acts 27:6) With difficult sailing they reached the island of Crete.
59, October - Sailed from Fair Havens. Acts 27:8-9 - "And with difficulty sailing past it we came to a certain place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea. And when considerable time had passed the voyage was now dangerous, since even the fast was already over."
The "fast" is presumed to be the Day of Atonement, the tenth of Tishri, which fell on October 8 in 59. Departure from Fair Havens was probably a week or two after the Day of Atonement (Acts 27:9-13). After three days (Acts 27:19) and fourteen days (Acts 27:27) the ship finally washed ashore the following morning on Malta (Acts 28:1). This probably would have been in the first or second week of November. In Malta they first spent three days in Publius' house (Acts 28:7) and then three months additional on the island (Acts 28:11).
60, February13 - Departure from Malta for Rome. Acts 28:11 - "And at the end of three months we set sail on an Alexandrian ship which had wintered at the island."
Working forward from the Day of Atonement, Paul would have departed for Rome in about the second week of February. This is in accord with the opening of the sailing season on February 8 (Pliny the Elder, Natural History 2:47).
After sailing a day or two to Syracuse, they stayed there three days (Acts 28:12). They then went another two days (Acts 28:13) and seven days (Acts 28:14) plus some time to travel by the Market of Appius and Three Inns (Acts 28:15), and then they arrived in Rome.
60, March - Arrived in Rome. Acts 28:16 - "And when we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him."
Working forward in time, Paul probably arrived in Rome in early March of 60.
62, March - End of Two Years in Rome. Acts 28:30 - "And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters, and was welcoming all who came to him."
The closing date in 62 is derived by working forward from dates presumed from matching Scriptures to possible astronomical calculations of days and dates. There are few historical fixes. However, based on the reasoning about the date of the Egyptian rebel, the earliest possible date for the end of Paul's two-year stay in Rome would be early 60.14 Based on Paul's appearance before Festus, the latest possible date would be 64.
At this point the New Testament has told its story. It begins with
two genealogies of Jesus. The opening story is Zacharias' adventure at
the Temple and the birth of John the Baptist. The life and times of Jesus
are bracketed on the other end by the travels of Paul. The story is told,
but is it fully understood? Perhaps the lives of Jesus and Paul can now
be put in their historical context and accurately dated. Perhaps we can
now better understand the message of Scripture.
1. G. Luedemann, Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles: Studies in Chronology (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), 164, 166-169; D. Slingerland, "Suetonius Claudius 25.4 and the Account in Dio Cassius," JQR 79 (1989), 306-316.
2. The main point made by Luedemann, Paul, is to equate Suetonius' decree with that in Acts, and to then propose Paul visited Corinth in 41 with a second visit in 50/51 at the time of Gallio.
3. D. Slingerland, "Acts 18:1-17 and Luedemann's Pauline Chronology," JBL 109, 4 (1990), 689.
4. S. Dockx, "The First Missionary Voyage of Paul: Historical Reality or Literary Creation of Luke?," CKC, 211, and others, give May, 51 to May, 52, which would still fit this chronology.
5. G. Ogg, The Chronology of the Life of Paul (London: Epworth Press, 1968), 140-145; R. Jewett, A Chronology of Paul's Life (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979), 48-50.
6. F. F. Bruce, "Chronological Questions in the Acts of the Apostles," JRUL 68 (1986), 288.
7. B. Z. Wacholder, "Chronomessianism: The Timing of Messianic Movements and the Calendar of Sabbatical Cycles," HUCA 46 (1975), 216.
8. C. Hermer, "The Name of Felix Again," JSNT 31 (1987).
9. D. Moody, "A New Chronology for the New Testament," R&E 78 (1981), 212, and "A New Chronology for the Life and Letters of Paul," CKC, 226, places Felix as procurator of Judea and Samaria as early as 48 CE with all Palestine under his control from 52 to 57 CE.
10. M. Stern, "Appendix: Chronology," JPFC, 74.
11. Y. Meshorer, Ancient Jewish Coinage (Dix Hills, NY: Amphora Books, 1982), Vol. 2, 183.
12. E. M. Smallwood, The Jews Under Roman Rule (Leiden: Brill, 1981), 269, note 40.
13. Malta issued a set of six postage stamps (Scott #275-280) on February 9, 1960 to commemorate the nineteenth centenary of St. Paul's shipwreck on Malta.
14. Jerome (De Viris In Lustribus VII) says the second year of Paul in Rome was the fourth year of Nero, which would favor Spring of 58 CE.