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How do commentators know the time sequence of Acts? Like when they say “such and such event” took place 25 years after “such and such”?

I looked in one of my computer programs (Logos IV), which Dallas Seminary originally produced, and now it is handled by Logos. Here is what I found that may be of some help:

§ 23. Chronology of the Apostolic Age.

See the works quoted in § 20 p. 193, 194, especially Wieseler. Comp. also, Hackett on Acts, pp. 22 to 30 (third ed.).

The chronology of the apostolic age is partly certain, at least within a few years, partly conjectural: certain as to the principal events from A.D. 30 to 70, conjectural as to intervening points and the last thirty years of the first century. The sources are the New Testament (especially the Acts and the Pauline Epistles), Josephus, and the Roman historians. Josephus ( b. 37, d. 103) is especially valuable here, as he wrote the Jewish history down to the destruction of Jerusalem.

The following dates are more or less certain and accepted by most historians:

1. The founding of the Christian Church on the feast of Pentecost in May A.D. 30. This is on the assumption that Christ was born B.C. 4 or 5, and was crucified in April A.D. 30, at an age of thirty-three.

2. The death of King Herod Agrippa I. A.D. 44 (according to Josephus). This settles the date of the preceding martyrdom of James the elder, Peter’s imprisonment and release Acts 12:2, 23).

3. The Apostolic Council in Jerusalem, A.D. 50 (Acts 15:1 sqq.; Gal. 2:1-10). This date is ascertained by reckoning backwards to Paul’s conversion, and forward to the Caesarean captivity. Paul was probably converted in 37, and “fourteen years” elapsed from that event to the Council. But chronologists differ on the year of Paul’s conversion, between 31 and 40.

4. The dates of the Epistles to the Galatians, Corinthians, and Romans, between 56 and 58. The date of the Epistle to the Romans can be fixed almost to the month from its own indications combined with the statements of the Acts. It was written before the apostle had been in Rome, but when he was on the point of departure for Jerusalem and Rome on the way to Spain, after having finished his collections in Macedonia and Achaia for the poor brethren in Judaea; and he sent the epistle through Phoebe, a deaconess of the congregation in the eastern port of Corinth, where he was at that time. These indications point clearly to the spring of the year 58, for in that year he was taken prisoner in Jerusalem and carried to Caesarea.

5. Paul’s captivity in Caesarea, A.D. 58 to 60, during the procuratorship of Felix and Festus, who changed places in 60 or 61, probably in 60. This important date we can ascertain by combination from several passages in Josephus, and Tacitus. It enables us at the same time, by reckoning backward, to fix some preceding events in the life of the apostle.

6. Paul’s first captivity in Rome, A.D. 61 to 63. This follows from the former date in connection with the statement in Acts 28:30.

7. The Epistles of the Roman captivity, Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, A.D. 61-63.

8. The Neronian persecution, A.D. 64 (the tenth year of Nero, according to Tacitus). The martyrdom of Paul and Peter occurred either then, or (according to tradition) a few years later. The question depends on the second Roman captivity of Paul.

9. The destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, A.D. 70 (according to Josephus and Tacitus).

10. The death of John after the accession of Trajan, A.D. 98 (according to general ecclesiastical tradition).

The dates of the Synoptical Gospels, the Acts, the Pastoral Epistles, the Hebrews, and the Epistles of Peter, James, and Jude cannot be accurately ascertained except that they were composed before the destruction of Jerusalem, mostly between 60 and 70. The writings of John were written after that date and towards the close of the first century, except the Apocalypse, which some of the best scholars, from internal indications assign to the year 68 or 69, between the death of Nero and the destruction of Jerusalem.”

History of the Christian Church By Philip Schaff © Copyright in electronic form 1996

Related Topics: History