PAUL, THE APOSTLE, 3
III. Chronology of Paul's Career.
There is not a single date in the life of Paul that is beyond dispute, though several are narrowed to a fine point, and the general course and relative proportion of events are clear enough. Luke gave careful data for the time of the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1), for the entrance of the Baptist on his ministry (Luke 3:1), and the age of Jesus when He began His work (Luke 3:23), but he takes no such pains in the Ac with chronology. But we are left with a number of incidental allusions and notes of time which call for some discussion. For fuller treatment see CHRONOLOGY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT. Garvie (Life and Teaching of Paul, 1910, 181) gives a comparative table of the views of Harnack, Turner, Ramsay and Lightfoot for the events from the crucifixion of Christ to the close of Acts. The general scheme is nearly the same, differing from one to four years here and there. Shaw (The Pauline Epistles, xi) gives a good chronological scheme. Moffatt (Introduction to the Literature of the New Testament, 62 f) gives theories of 23 scholars:
Turner, "Chronology," in HDB; Neteler, Untersuchung New Testament Zeitverhaltnisse, 1894; O. Holtzmann, New Testament Zeitgeschichte, 1895, changed in 2nd edition, 1906; Bartlet, Apostolic Age, xiii; Cornely (compare Laurent), New Testament Studien; Harnack, Chron. d. altchristl. Lit. bis Eusebius, 233-329; McGiffert, Apostolic Age, 164, 172; Zahn, Intro, III, 450; Ramsay, "The Pauline Chronology," Pauline and Other Studies, 345; Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, 213-33; Wendt, Acts, 53-60, Meyer, Commentary; Renan, Paul; Bornemann, Thess, 17, Meyer, Comm.; Clemen, Paulus, I, 411; Giffert, Student's Life of Paul, 242-59; Weiss, Intro, I, 154; Sabatier, Paul, 13; Julicher, Einl6, 31; Findlay, "Paul" in HDB; Farrar, Paul, Appendix; Belser, Theol. Quartalschrift; Steinmann, Abfassungszeit d. Gal, 169; Hoennicke, Die Chronologie des Paulus.
Let us look at the dates given by ten of this list:
Turner Bartlet Harnack McGiffert Zahn
Conversion 35-36 31-32 30 31-32 35
1st visit to Jerusalem 38 34-35 33 34-45 38
2nd visit to Jerusalem 46 46 44 45 44
1st missionary tour 47 47 45 before 45 50-51
Meeting in Jerusalem 49 49 46-47 45 52
2nd missionary tour 49 49 46-47 46 52
3rd missionary tour 52 52 50 49 54
Arrest in Jerusalem 56 56 53-54 53 58
Arrival in Rome 59 59 56-57 56 61
Death of Paul 64-65 61-62 64 58 66-67
Ramsay Lightfoot Clemen Findlay Hoennicke
Conversion 32 34 31 36 33-35
1st visit to Jerusalem 34 37 34 39 36-38
2nd visit to Jerusalem 45 45 .. .. 45-46
1st missionary tour 46-48 48 46 46 49?
Meeting in Jerusalem 50 51 48 49 50-52
2nd missionary tour 50-53 51 49-52 49 ..
3rd missionary tour 53-57 54 53-59 53 ..
Arrest in Jerusalem 57 58 59 57 ..
Arrival in Rome 60 61 62 60 60-62
Death of Paul 67 67 64 67 ..
This table shows very well the present diversity of opinion on the main points in Paul's life. Before expressing an opinion on the points at issue it is best to examine a few details. Paul himself gives some notes of time. He gives "after 3 years" (Galatians 1:18) as the period between his conversion and first visit to Jerusalem, though he does not necessarily mean 3 full years. In Galatians 2:1, Paul speaks of another visit to Jerusalem "after the space of 14 years." Then again Luke quotes him as saying to the Ephesian elders at Miletus that he had spent "3 years" at Ephesus (Acts 20:31). These periods of time all come before Paul's last visit and arrest in Jerusalem, and they do not embrace all the time between his conversion and arrest. There is also another note of time in 2 Corinthians 12:2, where he speaks in an enigmatic way of experiences of his "14 years" ago from the writing of this epistle from Macedonia on the third tour. This will take him back to Tarsus before coming to Antioch at the request of Barnabas, and so overlaps a bit the other "14" above, and includes the "3 years" at Ephesus. We cannot, therefore, add these figures together for the total. But some light may be obtained from further details from Ac and the Epistles.
2. Crucial Points:
(1) The Death of Stephen.
Saul is "a young man" (Acts 7:58) when this event occurs. Like other young Jews he entered upon his life as a rabbi at the age of thirty. He had probably been thus active several years, especially as he was now in a position of leadership and may even have been a member of the Sanhedrin (Acts 26:10). Pontius Pilate was not deposed from his procuratorship till 36 AD, but was in a state of uneasiness for a couple of years. It is more probable, therefore, that the stoning of Stephen would take place after his deposition in the interregnum, or not many years before, when he would be afraid to protest against the lawlessness of the Jewish leaders. He had shown timidity at the death of Jesus, 29 or 30 AD, but some of the forms of law were observed. So nothing decisive is here obtained, though 35 AD seems more probable than 32 or 33.
(2) The Flight from Damascus.
Paul locates this humiliating experience (2 Corinthians 11:32) when "the governor under Aretas the king guarded the city of the Damascenes." Aretas the Arabian, and not the Roman, has now control when Paul is writing. The likelihood is that Aretas did not get possession of Damascus till 37 AD, when Tiberius died and was succeeded by Caligula. It is argued by some that the expression "the city of the Damascenes" shows that the city was not under the control of Aretas, but was attacked by a Bedouin chieftain who lay in wait for Paul before the city. That to me seems forced. Josephus (Ant., XVIII, v, 3; vi, 3) at any rate is silent concerning the authority of Aretas over Damascus from 35-37 AD, but no coins or inscriptions show Roman rule over the city between 35 and 62 AD. Ramsay, however ("The Pauline Chronology," Pauline and Other Studies, 364), accepts the view of Marquardt (Romische Staatsalterth., I, 404 f) that it was possible for Aretas to have had possession of Damascus before 37 AD. The flight from Damascus is the same year as the visit to Jerusalem, Paul's first after his conversion (Acts 9:26; Galatians 1:18). If we knew the precise year of this event, we could subtract two or three years and reach the date of his conversion. Lightfoot in his Commentary on Ga gives 38 as the date of this first visit to Jerusalem, and 36 as the date of the conversion, taking "after 3 years" in a free way, but in his Biblical Essays, 221, he puts the visit in 37 and the conversion in 34, and says " `after 3 years' must mean three whole years, or substantially so." Thus we miss a sure date again.
(3) The Death of Herod Agrippa I.
Here the point of contact between the Ac (12:1-4,19-23) and Josephus (Ant., XIX, viii) is beyond dispute, since both record and describe in somewhat similar vein the death of this king. Josephus says that at the time of his death he had already completed the 3rd year of his reign over the whole of Judea (Ant., XIX, viii, 2). He received this dignity soon after Claudius began to reign in 41 AD, so that makes the date 44 AD. He died after the Passover in that year (44), for Peter was imprisoned by him during that feast (Acts 12:3). But unfortunately Luke sandwiches the narrative about Herod Agrippa in between the visit of Barnabas and Saul to Jerusalem from Antioch (Acts 11:29) and their return to Antioch (Acts 12:25). He does not say that the events here recorded were exactly synchronous with this visit, for he says merely "about that time." We are allowed therefore to place this visit before 44 AD or after, just as the facts require. The mention of "elders" in Acts 11:30 instead of apostles (compare both in 15:4) may mean that the apostles are absent when the visit is made. After the death of James (Acts 12:1) and release of Peter we note that Peter "went to another place" (Acts 12:17). But the apostles are back again in Jerusalem in Acts 15:4. Lightfoot (Biblical Essays, 216) therefore places the visit "at the end of 44, or in 45." Once more we slip the connection and fail to fix a firm date for Paul. It is disputed also whether this 2nd visit to Jerusalem according to Ac (9:26; 11:29 f) is the same as the "again" in Galatians 2:1. Ramsay (St. Paul the Traveler, 59) identifies the visit in Galatians 2:1 with that in Acts 11:29, but Lightfoot (Biblical Essays, 221) holds that it "must be identified with the third of the Acts" (15:4). In Galatians 1 and 2 Paul is not recording his visits to Jerusalem, but showing his independence of the apostles when he met them in Jerusalem. There is no proof that he saw the apostles on the occasion of the visit in Acts 11:29 f. The point of Lightfoot is well taken, hut we have no point of contact with the outside history for locating more precisely the date of the visit of Galatians 2:1 and Acts 15:4, except that it was after the first missionary tour of Acts 13 and 14.
(4) The First Missionary Tour.
Sergius Paulus is proconsul of Cyprus when Barnabas and Saul visit the island (Acts 13:7). The proconsul Paulus is mentioned in a Greek inscription of Soloi (Hogarth, Devia Cypria, 1889, 114) and Lucius Sergius Paulus in CIL, VI, 31, 545, but, as no mention of his being proconsul is here made, it is probably earlier than that time. The Soloi inscription bears the date 53 AD, but Sergius Paulus was not proconsul in 51 or 52. Hence, he may have been proconsul in 50 or the early part of 51 AD.It could not be later and may have been earlier.
(5) The First Visit to Corinth.
The point to note here is that Gallio becomes proconsul of Achaia (Acts 18:12). Paul has been apparently in Corinth a year and six months when Gallio appears on the scene (Acts 18:11). Aquila and Priscilla had "lately come from Italy" (Acts 18:2) when Paul arrived there. They had been expelled from Rome by the emperor Claudius (Acts 18:2). On the arrival of Gallio the Jews at once accuse Paul before him; he refuses to interfere, and Paul stays on for a while and then leaves for Syria with Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:18). Deissmann (St. Paul, Appendix, I, "The Proconsulate of L. Junius Gallio") has shown beyond reasonable doubt that Gallio, the brother of Seneca, became proconsul of Achaia about July, 51 AD (or possibly 52). On a stone found at Delphi, Gallio is mentioned as proconsul of Achaia according to the probable restoration of part of the text. But the stone mentions the fact that Claudius had been acclaimed imperator 26 times. By means of another inscription we get the 27th proclamation as imperator in connection with the dedication of an aqueduct on August 1, 52 AD. So thus the 26th time is before this date, some time in the earlier part of the year. We need not follow in detail the turns of the argument (see Deissmann, op. cit.). Once more we do not get a certain date as to the year. It is either. the summer of 51 or 52 AD, when Gallio comes. And Paul has already been in Corinth a year and a half. But the terminus ad quem for the close of Paul's two years' stay in Corinth would be the early autumn of 52 AD, and more probably 51 AD. Hence, the 2 Thessalonian Epistles cannot be later than this date. Before the close of 52 AD, and probably 51, therefore must come the 2nd missionary tour, the conference at Jerusalem, the first missionary tour, etc. Deissmann is justified in his enthusiasm on this point. He is positive that 51 AD is the date of the arrival of Gallio.
(6) Paul at Troas according to Acts 20:6 f.
On this occasion Luke gives the days and the time of year (Passover). Ramsay figures (St. Paul the Traveler, 289 f) that Paul had his closing service at Troas on Sunday evening and the party left early Monday morning. Hence, he argues back to the Passover at Philippi and concludes that the days as given by Luke will not fit into 56, 58, or 59 AD, but will suit 57. If he is correct in this matter, then we should have a definite year for the last trip to Jerusalem. Lewin (Fasti Sacri, numbers 1856, 1857) reaches the same conclusion. The conclusion is logical if Luke is exact in his use of days in this passage. Yet Lightfoot insists on 58 AD but Ramsay has the advantage on this point. See Pauline and Other Studies, 352 f.
(7) Festus Succeeding Felix.
When was Felix recalled? He was appointed procurator in 52 AD (Schurer, Jewish People in the Time of Christ, I, ii, 174). He was already ruler "many years" (Acts 24:10) when Paul appears before him in Caesarea. He holds on "two years" when he is succeeded by Festus (Acts 24:27). But in the Chronicle of Eusebius (Armenian text) it is stated that the recall of Felix took place in the last year of Claudius, or 54 AD. But this is clearly an error, in spite of the support given to it by Harnack (Chronologie d. Paulus), since Josephus puts most of the rule of Felix in the reign of Nero (Ant., XX, viii, 1-9; BJ, II, xii, 8-14), not to mention the "many years" of Paul in Acts 24:10. But the error of Eusebius has now been explained by Erbes in his Todestage Pauli und Petri, and is made perfectly clear by Ramsay in Pauline and Other Studies, 349. Eusebius over-looked the interregnum of 6 years between the death of Herod Agrippa I in 44 AD and the first year of Herod Agrippa II in 50 AD. Eusebius learned that Festus came in the 10th year of Herod Agrippa II. Counting from 50 AD, that gives us 59 AD as the date of the recall of Felix. This date harmonizes with all the known facts. "The great majority of scholars accept the date 60 for Festus; but they confess that it is only an approximate date, and there is no decisive argument for it" (Ramsay, Pauline and Other Studies, 351). For minute discussion of the old arguments see Nash, article "Paul" in new Sch-Herz Enc; Schurer, Hist of the Jewish People, I, ii, 182. But if Erbes and Ramsay are correct, we have at last a date that will stand. So then Paul sails for Rome in the late summer of 59 AD and arrives at his destination in the early spring ("had wintered," Acts 28:11) of 60 AD. He had been "two whole years in his own hired dwelling" (Acts 28:30) when Luke closes the Acts. On the basis of his release in 63 or early 64 and the journeyings of the Pastoral Epistles, Paul's death would come by early summer of 68 before Nero's death, and possibly in 67. On this point see later. We can now count back from 59 AD with reasonable clearness to 57 as the date of Paul's arrest in Jerusalem. Paul spent at least a year and three months (Acts 19:8,10) in Ephesus (called in round numbers three years in Acts 20:31). It took a year for him to reach Jerusalem, from Pentecost (1 Corinthians 16:8) to Pentecost (Acts 20:16). From the spring of 57 AD we thus get back to the end of 53 as the time of his arrival in Ephesus (Acts 19:1). We have seen that Gallio came to Corinth in the summer of 51 AD (or 52), after Paul had been there a year and a half (Acts 18:11), leaving ample time in either case for the journeys from Corinth to Ephesus, to Caesarea, to Jerusalem apparently (Acts 18:21), and to Ephesus (Acts 19:1) from the summer of 51 (or 52) we go back two years to the beginning of the 2nd missionary tour (Acts 16:1-6) as 49 (or 50). The Jerusalem Conference was probably in the same year, and the first missionary tour would come in the two (or three) preceding years 47 and 48 (48-49). The stay at Antioch (Acts 14:28) may have been of some length. So we come back to the end of 44 or beginning of 45 for the visit to Jerusalem in Acts 11:29 f. Before that comes the year in Antioch with Barnabas (11:26), the years in Tarsus in Cilicia, the "three years" after the conversion spent mostly in Arabia (Galatians 1:17), Paul's first appearance at the death of Stephen (Acts 7:58). These early dates are more conjectural, but even so the facts seem to indicate 35 AD as the probable year of Saul's conversion. The year of his birth would then be between 1 and 5 AD, probably nearer 1. If so, and if his death was in 67 or 68 AD, his age is well indicated. He was "Paul the Aged" (Philemon 1:9) when he wrote to Philemon from Rome in 61-63 AD.
These files are public domain.