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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Dates

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The dates of the Apostolic Age are interlinked with those of the NT as a whole. No single date is fixed with the absolute precision which modern historical science demands in the case of recent or contemporaneous chronology. Although some individual dates are so nearly agreed upon that all practical ends aimed at in chronology are secured, yet, in the words of W. M. Ramsay, ‘No man can as yet prove his own opinion about chronology and order in the New Testament to the satisfaction of other scholars’ (Expositor, 8th ser., ii. [1911] 154). In re-stating the information accessible on these dates, it will be well to exhibit clearly the limits of the apostolic period, to reproduce some Roman Imperial dates, to fix some pivotal points which may serve as landmarks, and to determine the times of some of the important events in the life of the Christian community so far as they can be related to the above. What has been said of the difficulty of reaching indisputable results will be found to be especially true of the last part of this task.

I. General Limit Dates.-In its broadest acceptance (in ecclesiastical history) the Apostolic Age begins with the birth of Jesus Christ (usually reckoned as 4 b.c.), and ends with the passing of the last of the apostles from the scene of action, i.e. the death of John in the reign of Trajan, or, for the sake of convenience, a.d. 100. In a narrower sense, the first 33 years of this general period are not included in the Apostolic Age. They constitute an epoch by themselves. The problems raised in them are connected with the life and work of Jesus, and the story is told in the Canonical Gospels. In this definition of it, the Apostolic Age begins with the Day of Pentecost, or at the point where the author of Acts takes up the story; and it ends with the last of the apostles. In a still narrower sense, the period beginning with the Fall of Jerusalem (a.d. 70) is thrown off on the ground that ‘NT history may fitly be said to close with the great catastrophe of a.d. 70’ (Turner in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) i. 415b). This limitation may be further justified by the fact that the destruction of the Temple established a new order of things not simply with reference to Judaism, but also to the whole apostolic activity, and that the only items of importance in Christian history that can be included in a chronology subsequent to that event are the dates of some apostolic (or other NT) writings.

The date of the Crucifixion.-Since the Apostolic Age begins with the Day of Pentecost, the question of the year in which the Crucifixion occurred falls to be briefly reviewed here. The line of departure for the chronology of the Crucifixion is given by the Gospel narratives. These name both the Roman and the Jewish rulers of the day. The Roman Emperor was Tiberius (a.d. 14-37), the procurator of Judaea was Pontius Pilate (a.d. 26-36), the high priest of the Jews was Caiaphas (a.d. 25[?]-34[?]). Since Pilate must have been procurator for two or three years before the case of Jesus came for trial (cf. Jos. Ant. XVIII. iii. 1-3, Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. ix. 2-4), and since, according to St. Luke, the whole ministry of Jesus falls after the 15th year of Tiberius (a.d. 29, if sole reign is meant, and 27, if co-regency with Augustus), it follows that the earliest year for the Crucifixion is 28.* [Note: The question is somewhat complicated by the uncertainty as to the length of the ministry or Jesus (cf. L. Fendt, Die Dauer der öffentlichen Wirksamkeit Jesu, 1906; W. Homanner, Die Dauer der öffentlichen Wirksamkeit Jesu, 1908).] The latest limit is fixed by the fact that after 34 Caiaphas was no longer high priest. Between 28 and 34, however, the determination of the exact year is facilitated by the astronomical calculations as to the coincidence of Passover with the day of the week implied in the Gospel narrative. There is a margin of uncertainty on this point; but, whichever way the perplexing problem is solved, the year 29 or 30 still satisfies the conditions.† [Note: For full discussion see Turner in HDB i. 410; cf. also art. ‘Dates’ in DCG i. 413.] As between the two years to which the discussion narrows down the choice, the year 30 seems upon the whole, in view of traditional as well as internal grounds, to be the more satisfactory.

The net results arrived at for limiting dates, therefore, are:

(1) The Apostolic Church=4 b.c.-a.d. 100.

(2) Apostolic Age=a.d. 30-100.

(3) The Apostolic Era=a.d. 30-70.

II. Roman Imperial Dates.-Jesus Christ was crucified during the reign of Tiberius, and more precisely in the 15th year of that Emperor’s sole rule, and the 17th, or 18th, of his co-regency with Augustus. Tiberius was followed by Caius Caligula in a.d. 37. Caligula was succeeded by Claudius in 41. Nero followed Claudius in 54, and was supplanted in 68 by Galba. Otho succeeded Galba in 69, and was followed by Vespasian in 70. Vespasian was followed by his son Titus in 79. Domitian came next in 81, reigning until 96. Then came Nerva, whose reign lasted till 98; and, so far as the Apostolic Age was concerned, Trajan closed the succession, ascending the throne in 98 and reigning till 117.

 

a.d.

Tiberius

14-37

Caligula

37-41

Claudius

41-54

Nero

54-68

Galba

68-69

Otho

69-70

Vespasian

70-79

Titus

79-81

Domitian

81-96

Nerva

96-98

Trajan

98-117

III. Pivotal Dates.-Close scrutiny brings into measurably clear detail the following fixed points in the apostolic chronology, which, therefore, may serve as general landmarks.

1. The rule of Aretas over Damascus.-In unravelling the complications of the problem raised by the mention of an ‘ethnarch of Aretas’ by St. Paul (2 Corinthians 11:32), it must be borne in mind that Rome governed the subject territories of Asia either directly or through subject princes. Before 33-34 and after 62-63 Damascus was under direct Roman administration. This is made clear from the extant Syrian coins of these years, which bear the heads of the Roman Emperors Tiberius and Nero and do not allude to subject rulers. Since some allusion is always made where subject princes intervene, the case seems clearly made out that only after 34 and before 62 could a Nabataean king have secured ascendancy at Damascus. How this came about, however, is not definitely known. It could certainly not have been due to rebellion or any other form of violence. And if it was brought about peacefully, it is probable that it was done upon the initiative, or by consent, of Caligula, who is known to have encouraged the devolution of as much autonomy on the native dynasts as was consistent with Roman suzerainty. The Nabataean ascendancy in Damascus was thus near its beginning during the last years of Aretas (Harithath) IV. For the accession of this king is placed by Josephus (Ant. XVI. ix. 4) in connexion with certain events in the latter part of the reign of Herod the Great. His immediate successor Abia ruled under Claudius and was a contemporary of Izates, of Adiabene, against whom he waged war upon invitation of certain malcontents and traitors (Ant. XX. iv. 1). The probable limits of his reign thus appear to be 9 b.c. and a.d. 39 or 40 (cf. CIS [Note: IS Corpus Inscrip. Semiticarum.] , pt. ii. 197-217; also Schürer History of the Jewish People (Eng. tr. of GJV).] I. ii. 357, II. i. 66, 67). The ‘governor (ethnarch) of Aretas’ referred to by St. Paul must therefore have acted his part of guarding the gates of Damascus before the year 39. But how long before is not certain. And since from Galatians 1:17 it is clear that Saul returned to Damascus as a Christian leader after a period of three years spent in Arabia, and the flight from Damascus (2 Corinthians 11:32) cannot be identified with any later event than this visit, his conversion must have taken place not later than 36, and perhaps several years earlier. See also article Aretas.

2. The death of Herod Agrippa I.-According to Josephus (Ant. XIX. viii. 2, Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. xi. 6), Agrippa died at the age of 54, at the end of the seventh year of his reign, four of which had been passed under Caligula and three under Claudius; Josephus also makes it plain that the three years that fell under the reign of Claudius were the period of Agrippa’s sole rule over the whole of Palestine, and that he had been made king over the whole of Palestine by Claudius immediately after his accession (Ant. XIX. v. 1, Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. xi. 5). Since Claudius succeeded Caligula on 24th Jan. 41, the death of Agrippa must be dated in 44. This conclusion harmonizes with the circumstance that the festivities at Caesarea during which he was stricken with his fatal illness were being held in honour of the safe return of the Emperor from Britain (σωτηρίας, Ant. XIX. viii. 2) in the year 44 (Dio Cass. lx. 23; Suet. Claud. 17). But if this was the occasion for the celebration, the time of the year for it was in all probability the late summer or early autumn, since news of the return of the Emperor must have taken some time to reach the East. The year 44 is thus fixed as the date of the events in Acts 12, and at the same time serves as a terminus ad quem for all that precedes.

3. The proconsulship of Gallio in Achaia.-L. Junius Gallio (Acts 18:12), brother of the philosopher Seneca and mentioned by him in affectionate terms (Quest. Nat., Preface), but adopted by the rhetorician Gallio, served a protonsulship of one year in Achaia some time between 44 and 54. The fact of his residence in Achaia is certified by Seneca, who alludes (Ep. XVIII. i. 104) to his having been obliged to leave that province on account of a fever. It is further attested by the mention of his name in an inscription found near Plataea in which he is designated as a benefactor of the city: Ἡ πὁλις Πλαταιέων Λούκ[ιον Ἰου]νιον Γαλλίωνα Ἀνιανόν [ἀνθύ]πατον τὸν ἑαυτῆς εὐεργ[έτην]. But, since neither of these references to Gallio’s experience in Achaia is associated with any date, the exact year of his proconsulship was left to be determined in the earlier computations upon purely conjectural grounds; and these yielded no palpable gain in the direction of greater fixity.

Thus a great variety of results was reached: Anger (de Temporum … Ratione, 1833, p. 119), a.d. 52-54; Wieseler (Chronol. des apostol. Zeitalters, 1848, p. 119), Lewin (Fasti Sacri, 1865, p. 299) Blass (Acta Apost., 1895, p. 22), Harnack (Gesch. der altchristl. Lit., 1897, ii. 237), 48-50; Turner (Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) i. 417b), after 44, probably after 49 or 50; Hoennicke (Chron. des Lebens des Apostels Paulus, 1903, p. 30), at the latest 53-54; Clemen (Paulus, 1904), 52-53; O. Holtzmann (Neutestamentliche Zeitgeschichte (Holtzmann and others).2, 1906, p. 144), 53; and Zahn (Introd. to NT, Eng. translation , 1909, iii. 470), 53-54,

This uncertainty has been altogether removed by the discovery at Delphi of four fragment of an inscription naming Gallio and linking his proconsulship with the 26th acclamation of Claudius as Imperator. The fragments were fitted together and the inscription was given to the public by Emile Bourguet (de Rebus Delphicis Imperatoiae aetatis Capita Duo, Montpellier, 1905). The discovery and its significance were discussed more or less fully by Deissmann (Paulus, 1911, pp. 159-176; Eng. translation , 1912, Appendix I. p. 235), Offord (PEFSt [Note: EFSt Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement.] April 1908, p. 163), and Ramsay (Expositor, 7th ser., vii. [1909] 468). The text is not in a perfect state of preservation, but is sufficiently clear, with the restorations which have been proposed by Bourguet, to cover the chronological point under dispute. It was a letter sent by Claudius when he bore the title of Imperator XXVI. (KC Πατηρπατρίδος). It names Junius Gallio as the friend of the writer and proconsul of Achaia: [Ἰου]ΝΙΟΣ ΓΑΛΛΙΩΝΟ[φίλος] ΜΟΥ ΚΑΙ [ἀνθύ]ΠΑΤΟΣ. This meaning of the inscription was first pointed out by A. J. Reinach (REG [Note: EG Revue des Etudes Grecques.] , 1907, p. 49), and is independently reached or otherwise accepted by Offord (loc. cit.), Ramsay (loc. Cit.), Clemen (ThLZ [Note: hLZ Theologische Litteraturzeitung.] , 1910, col. 656), Loisy (with his usual hypercritical caution, Revue d’hist. et de lit. [Note: literally, literature.] relig., March, April, 1911, pp. 139-144), and Deissmann (loc. cit.). The exact date of the acclamation of Claudius as Imperator XXVI. is not given anywhere. But, since from R. Cagnat’s tables (Cours d’épigraphie latine3, 1898, p. 478) it appears that at the beginning of 52 Claudius was Imperator XXIV. and at the end Imperator XXVII., both the 25th and the 26th acclamations must have been issued some time in 52, and in all probability after victories secured during the summer season. But if Gallio was proconsul when the document was sent to Delphi, since the proconsular year was fixed by Claudius as beginning April 1 (Dio Cassius, lvii. 14, 5; lx. 11. 6, 17. 3) Gallio’s term of office falls in the year beginning with the spring of 52. Cf. article Acts of the Apostles, VI. 3.

4. The recall of Felix and the accession of Festus.-The appointment of Felix was one of the later acts of the Emperor Claudius; and Nero on his accession confirmed it (Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. xii. 8, xiii. 2-7; Ant. XX. viii. 4, 5). The exact year of the event is given by Eusebius (Chron. [Armen. VS [Note: S Version.] and some Manuscripts of Jerome’s translation ]) as the 11th year of Claudius. Tacitus (Ann. xii. 54; cf. Jos. Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. xii. 7 f.), in his account of the troubles leading to the deposition of Cumanus, placed the event in connexion with the year 52. Although Harnack has drawn a different conclusion from the Eusebian Chronicle, it seems upon the whole that these three sources agree in pointing to the year 52 for the arrival of Felix in Palestine, or, at all events, for his assumption of the proconsulship. Much more complicated, however, is the question of the termination of Felix’s tenure of office. There is no doubt that, like Cumanus, Felix had by his misrule made himself the object of hatred and the ground of complaint on the part of the Jews, and that, owing to representations mode by the latter, he had fallen into disfavour, and had escaped condemnation only by the timely intercession of his brother Pallas (Josephus, Ant. xx. viii. 7-9). According to the apparent meaning of Josephus’ words, this occurred after Festus had assumed control of Palestine in succession to Felix. But Tacitus informs us that Pallas had already fallen from his place as Nero’s favourite in 55 (Ann. xiii. 14), i.e. when Britannicus was 13 years of age. With this Dio Cassius (lxi. 7. 4) agrees.

Assuming that Josephus is correct, and taking in addition the testimony of Eusebius (Chron.), who places the accession of Festus in the second year of Nero, Harnack (Gesch. der altchristl. Lit. i. 235) and Holtzmann (Neutestamentliche Zeitgeschichte (Holtzmann and others)., p. 128f.) place the vindication of Felix in 55 and the arrival of Festus in Palestine in 56. But, while this course seems the natural one upon the narrow range of evidence taken into account, it is precluded when the following considerations come into view.-(1) The sedition of ‘the Egyptian’ (Acts 21:38) occurred during the procuratorship of Felix, and some time earlier than the arrest of St. Paul. But Josephus informs us that it took place during the reign of Nero, or after 54 (Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. xiii. 5; Ant. xx. viii. 6). If the downfall of Felix is to be dated before 56, the arrest of St. Paul must have been made in 53 or at the latest in 54, and the uprising of ‘the Egyptian’ still earlier, or from two to four years before the accession of Nero.-(2) The marriage of Felix and Drusilla is, according to Josephus, rendered impossible before 55. For she had been given by her brother Agrippa to Azizus of Emesa, being herself 15 years of age, in 53 (Ant. xx. vii. 1). But according to Acts 24:24 she was married to Felix at the time of St. Paul’s appearance before the procurator. Either, therefore, the arrest of the Apostle and the end of the proconsulship of Felix most be dated several years later than 53, to allow time for the necessary development of the intrigues by which Felix lured her to unfaithfulness to her husband and persuaded her to marry him, or these events must he condensed within an incredibly short interval. Besides, between the appearance of St. Paul before Felix and Drusilla and the deposition of Felix two years must be allowed (Acts 24:27).-(3) Felix had sent certain Jewish leaders to Rome, where they were imprisoned pending trial. Josephus says that in his own 27th year (63-64) he went to Rome to negotiate the liberation of these prisoners. But if Felix ceased ruling Judaea in 55, these men wore kept confined for the unparalleled period of 8 or 10 years. If, on the other hand, Felix remained in office until 60, their imprisonment lasted only 4 years.-(4) The length of the procuratorship of Felix may be approximately computed from a comparison of Acts 24:10; Acts 24:27. In the former passage Felix is said to have already ruled ‘many years.’ It would be impossible to construe this as meaning less than three years. In the latter his rule is reported as continuing for two years longer, thus giving a minimum of five years. This is, however, a bare minimum, and may well be doubled without violence to the situation. If, therefore, the confutations which fix the date of the appointment of Felix be correct as given above, and the year 52 is approximately the correct time of that event, the year 59 or 60 would be a reasonable one to fix on as the time of the end of his rule.

The only consideration that offers any difficulty in the way of this conclusion is the fact that Josephus associates the recall of Felix with the influential period of Pallas at court; but (a) Josephus may have been in error in attributing Felix’s escape from punishment to the intercession of Pallas. (b) He may have grouped together events belonging to two separate dates, i.e. certain charges made at the early date, when Pallas by his plea on behalf of Felix saved him from punishment, and the final complaints which ended in his removal. It this be the case, the effectiveness of the later accusations of the Jews could be all the more easily understood, since at that time Poppaea had acquired her influence over Nero and an appeal of the Jewish leaders would enlist her strong endorsement. (c) It may be, however, that Pallas, after being charged with high treason and found innocent, was re-instated into favour by Nero, and no continued until the year 60. This is not probable in view of the testimony of Tacitus, who tells us that Pallas was indeed acquitted along with Burrhus (Ann. xiii. 23); but that he was never again treated with special favour (ib. xiii. 2). He died of poison in the year 62. The conflict between the statements of Tacitus and Josephus is best harmonized if we take the former lo have been well informed on the order and time of events in Rome, but misled as to similar matters in Judaea ; Josephus, on the other hand, may be regarded as accurate in his statements regarding Palestinian events and less so on matters or an internal character in Rome. The result yielded by this view is that Felix was found guilty of maladministration in 54-55 and escaped punishment at this time through the intercession of his brother Pallas. Pallas was himself charged with high treason the following year and fell from Imperial favour. Felix continued until 60, and meantime added to the grievances of the Jews, and yet entrenched himself in favour with sundry leaders because of his bold measures against certain classes of criminals. In 60, however, he was finally brought to trial, and in the absence of the powerful intercession of his brother was at this time deposed and succeeded by Festus. Cf. also articles Felix, Festus.

IV. Corroborative Dates.-These are such as do not of themselves permit of clear determination, but can be deduced from general considerations; and when so deduced confirm and elucidate the chronology as a whole.

1. The famine under Claudius.-Josephus, in connexion with his account of Agrippa’s death (Ant. xx. ii. 1, 5, v. 2), tells how Helena, queen of Adiabene, and her son Izates were converted to Judaism and made a visit to Jerusalem during a famine which both she and her son helped to relieve by procuring provisions at great expense. According to Acts 11:28-30 a famine occurred ‘throughout all the world,’ but presumably it was especially severe in Judaea , for it was to this point that the brethren ‘determined to send relief.’ This relief came ‘by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.’ The death of Herod must have taken place during this visit of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 12:25); else why should it appear after the account of the mission of the Apostles to Judaea and before their return from Jerusalem? This is a natural inference; but it meets with a difficulty in the omission of all mention of this visit in Galatians 1:17, where St. Paul presumably gives an exhaustive statement of all his visits to Jerusalem. The difficulty is primarily one of harmony between Gal. and Acts. Yet it indirectly attests the chronological problem. By way of explanation it may be said that the enumeration of the visits in Galatians 1:17 was meant to be exhaustive, not absolutely but relatively to the possibility of St. Paul’s meeting the ‘pillar’ apostles at Jerusalem. If it were known that during the famine they were absent from the city, St. Paul might very well fail to allude to a visit at that time.

But even with the visit fixed during the distress of the famine, which is in general associated with the time of Harod’s death, it still remains doubtful whether this famine took place in 44. Since both Josephus and the author of Acts introduce the whole transaction (Ant. XX. ii. 1; Acts 12:1) with the general formula ‘about that time,’ the famine may very well have occurred as late as 45 or 46.

2. The expulsion of the Jews from Rome (Acts 18:2; also Suet. Claud. 25).-This cannot be the action alluded to by Dio Cassius (lx. 6), who expressly says that the Emperor, deeming it unwise to exclude the Jews from the city, commanded them not to hold meetings together, although he permitted them to retain their ancestral customs (πάτριος βίος). The decree, therefore, must be a later one unmentioned by the secular historians (except Suetonius, who assigns no date to it). It is possible, in spite of the generally favourable attitude of Claudius towards Agrippa II. in the years between 51 and 54, that he saw the necessity of checking the growing power of the Jewish community in the capital, and decreed their exclusion from the city.

3. Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:7-12).-The data for the fixing of Sergius Paulus in a scheme of NT chronology are as follows: (1) The name occurs in inscriptions. Of these one was first published by L. Palma di Cesnola (Salaminia, 1887, p. 256) and afterwards carefully edited by D. G. Hogarth in Devia Cypria, 1889, p. 114. It ends with the words τιμητεύσας τὴν βουλὴν [δι]ὰ ἐξαστῶν ἐπὶ Παύλου [ἀνθ]υπάτου. Palaeographically the inscription is judged to belong to the 1st century. The second inscription is one found in the city of Rome naming L. Sergius Paulus as one of the curatores riparum et alvei Tiberis during the reign of Claudius (CIL [Note: IL Corpus Inscrip. Latinarum.] vi. 31545).-(2) The government of Cyprus was by proconsuls. The island came under Roman control before the establishment of the Empire, but was defined as a ‘senatorial’ province in 22 b.c. under Augustus (Dio Cass, liii. 12. 7; liv. 4. 1). Upon these data, however, while it is very clear that about a.d. 50 L. Sergius Paulus (who had already been a high officer in Rome) was holding the proconsulship of Cyprus, no nearer approach to the precise date either of the beginning or the end of his rule can be made. See also article Sergius Paulus.

4. Agrippa II and Drusilla.-Agrippa II., the son of Agrippa I., was born in a.d. 28. According to Photius (Bibl. 33) he died in 100. At the time of his father’s death he was considered too young for the responsibilities of the large kingdom, which was therefore again put under the care of procurators. But on the death of his uncle in the eighth year of Claudius (48) he was given the government (‘kingdom’) of Chalcis [Ant. xx. v. 2, Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. xii. 1). Within four years, however, Claudius, ‘when he had already completed the twelfth year of his reign’ (Ant. XX. vii. 1), transferred him from the kingdom of Chalcis to the rule of a greater realm consisting of the tetrarchy of his great-uncle Philip, of the tetrarchy of Lysanias, and of that portion of Abilene which had been governed by Varus (Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. xii. 8). When Nero succeeded Claudius, he enlarged this kingdom by the addition of considerable tracts of Galilee and Peraea, but the dates of these larger additions are not clearly given. More important than the growth of Agrippa’s power is his giving of his sister in marriage to Azizus, whom not long after (μετʼ οὐ πολὺν χρόνον) she left in order to marry the Roman procurator Felix. These events cannot be fixed earlier than 54 or 55. The incidents of Acts 20:16; Acts 24:1-2 are therefore posterior to this time. Cf. article Drusilla.

5. Death of St. Peter and St. Paul in Rome.-The belief that the martyrdom of the two apostles took place in Rome in one of the last years of Nero’s reign is based on tradition. Epiphanius places it in the 12th year of Nero, Euthalius in the 13th, Jerome in the 14th. Dionysius of Corinth associates the death of St. Peter and St. Paul in the phrase κατὰ τὸν αὐτὸν καιρόν (‘about the same time’). No positive result for precise chronology is gained by these data. The general conclusion, however, that St. Paul’s death took place after 64 is borne out by the necessity for finding a place in his life later than the Roman imprisonment for the composition of the Pastoral Epistles; and, although this necessity is not admitted on all sides, the predominance of view among critics seems to recognize it. The death of the two apostles may thus be approximately placed between the years 65 and 68. See articles Paul, Peter.

6. The Passover at Philippi (Acts 20:4-7).-W. M. Ramsay, upon the basis of some very precarious data (see his St. Paul, p. 289ff; also Turner’s discussion, Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) i. 419f.), claims the fixed date 57 for St. Paul’s fifth and last recorded visit to Jerusalem, which was also the occasion of his arrest. The argument is briefly as follows. The Apostle celebrated the Lord’s Supper at Troas on Sunday night (Acts 20:7). If so, he must have left Philippi on Friday. Friday was the day after the Passover, which was therefore observed on Thursday that year. But the 14th Nisan (Passover Day) fell on Thursday in the year 57, not in 56 or 58. The uncertain factors in the computation are: (1) the exact day of the week for the Passover; concerning this there is always room for dispute, owing to the well-known but unscientific method of the Jews in determining the beginning of the month Nisan; (2) the interval between the Passover and St. Paul’s departure from Philippi, which, on Ramsay’s assumption, is a single night (but the text does not exclude a longer interval); (3) the time when the Lord’s Supper was observed at Troas, which is stated to have been ‘the first of the week’ (τῇ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων) (but this may be construed as Saturday evening towards Sunday). Any one of these uncertainties vitiates the conclusion arrived at. Yet on the whole the conclusion corroborates the date 59, and is not necessarily inconsistent with 60for the removal of St. Paul to Rome.

V. Palestinian Secular Dates

1. The procurators of Judaea

(1) Pontius Pilate, it seems to be universally agreed, was appointed procurator of Judaea in 26, and held the office until 36, being then deposed and sent to Rome by Vitellius, after ‘ten years in Judaea ’ (Ant. XVIII. iv. 2). He arrived in Rome just after the death of Tiberius.

(2) The year following the deposition of Pilate, the Imperial authority of Rome was represented in Judaea by Marcellus, a friend and deputy of Vitellius. He is nowhere given the title of ‘procurator,’ and Josephus is careful to call him a ‘curator’ (ἐπιμελητής, Ant. XVIII. iv. 2). Nor had he apparently come into sufficient prominence through any action to warrant his being mentioned in the succession.

(3) From 37-41 the procnrator was a certain Marullus (Ant. XVIII. vi. 10) who, like Marcellus, does not seem to have done anything official worthy of note.

(4) From 41 to 44 Agrippa I., as king on approximately the level of independence enjoyed by his grandfather Herod the Great, superseded all procurators. At his death, according to Josephus, Cuspius Fadus was appointed, thus resuming the line broken for three years (Ant. XIX. ix. 2, XX. v. 1, Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. xi. 6; Tacit. Hist. v. 9). The term of office of Fadus was probably between two and three years.

(5) Tiberius Alexander, a renegade Jew, who was rewarded for his apostasy by appointment to various offices, culminating in the procuratorship, probably reached Palestine in 46 (Jos. Ant. XX. v. 2; Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. xi. 6, xv. 1, xviii. 7f., IV. x. 6, VI. iv. 3; Tacit. Ann. xv. 28, Hist. i. 11, ii. 74, 79; Suet. Vespas. 6).

(6) Ventidius Cumanus was sent to succeed Alexander in 48. According to Tacitus (Ann. xii. 54), he was placed over Galilee only, while Felix was assigned rule over Samaria. They wore both involved in various cruelties practised on the natives, and both were accused before Quadratus, who was commissioned to examine into the affair. But the commissioner quietly exculpated Felix, and even gave him a place on the court of investigation and judgment. Cumanus was condemned and removed. Such a joint procuratorship, however, is excluded by Josephus’ explicit statements (Ant XX. vi. 2, vii. 1). According to these, Cumanus alone was the procurator and alone responsible. Felix was sent by Claudius from Rome to succeed him at the express request of Jonathan, the high priest. The contradiction is probably due to some confusion on the part of Tacitus. The date of the removal of Cumanus may be approximately fixed as 52.

(7) Antonius Felix immediately succeeded Cumanus. Soon after his arrival in Palestine, he saw and was enamoured of Drusilla, the sister of Herod Agrippa II., and enticed her to leave her husband, Azizus king of Emesa, and marry himself. This he succeeded in accomplishing through the aid of a magician from Cyprus, bearing the name of Simon. Drusilla was born in 38, being six years of age at the time of her father’s death (44), and his youngest child. She was therefore at this time 14 or 15 years old. The procuratorehip of Felix was characterized by arbitrariness and greed. Though he did much to punish lawlessness, he also provoked complaints on account of which he was recalled in 60. See above, III. 4 and article Felix.

(8) Porcius Festus.-The reasons which fix the beginning of the procuratorship of Festus in 60 have been given above. The time of the year when he arrived is determined as the summer season (Acts 25:1). There are clearer data for fixing the end of his term. From Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) VI. v. 3 we learn that Albinus his successor was in Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles (?), four years before the outbreak of the great war and seven years and five months before the capture of Jerusalem-or, in other words, the Feast of Tabernacles of the year 62. Allowing for sufficient time for the next procurator to assume the reins of government at Caesarea, for a similar interval for his appointment, for the journey from Rome and arrival in Palestine, the death of Festus, which took place while he was still in office in Palestine, must be dated very early in the summer or late in the spring of 62.

(9) Albinus.-The date of the death of Porcius Festus determines also that of the accession of Albinus (Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) VI. v. 3). W. M. Ramsay (Expositor, 6th ser., ii. [1900] 81-105), in harmony with his theory that the death of Festus occurred in the autumn of 60, dates the arrival of Albinus in May or June 61. But the computation rests on a series of obscure and questionable considerations. Albinus was recalled in 64, after more than two years of maladministration.

(10) Gessius Floras was the last of the procurators. According to Josephus (Ant. XX. xi. 1), it was in his second year that the Jewish War broke out. Since this is fixed at 66 (Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. xiv. 4), he must have entered upon his office in 64. The end of his administration was also the end of the method of governing Judaea by procurators. For the events which follow the year 66 and culminate in the catastrophe of 70 he is held responsible.

We thus obtain the following list of procurators of Judaea , with dates of their administration:

a.d.

 

Pilate

26-36

(Marcellus)

36-37

Marullus

37-41

Cuspius Fadus

44-46

Tiberius Alexander

46-48

Ventidius Cumanus

48-52

Antonius Felix

52-60

Porcius Festus

60-62

Albinus

62-64

Gessius Florus

64-70

2. The Herodian kings.-When Jesus Christ was crucified, Herod Antipas and Herod Philip were reigning simultaneously in accordance with the testamentary provision of their father, Herod the Great. Antipas held Galilee and Peraea; Philip ruled over the region beyond Jordan. Both bore the title of tetrarch. Philip died in 34 without a successor. In 37 his place was filled by the appointment of his nephew, the son of Aristobulus and brother of Herodias, Herod Agrippa I., and this was done by Caligula, whom Agrippa had befriended. He did not, however, take active possession of his kingdom until 39. He lived for the most part in Rome, and engaged in intrigues with the politicians and secured the deposition and banishment of Antipas. When the tetrarchy of Antipas was added to his (Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. ix. 6), he took his place in Jewish national affairs, and by assisting Claudius to the Imperial throne after the assassination of Caligula, he so ingratiated himself into the favour of the new Emperor that the province of Judaea was added to his domains immediately on the accession of Claudius (a.d. 41). Thus he came to unite the different sections of the kingdom of his grandfather, Herod the Great (Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. xi. 5f.). He issued coins from which it appears that he must have reigned until 44 or 45. These dates, given for the most part by Josephus, are corroborated by the incidental coincidence of the order of events in Acts. The death of Herod is recited in Acts 12. All that precedes must be dated before 44; all that follows, after that year. The appearance of Cornelius as the representative Roman military authority in Caesarea is probably prior to the elevation of Agrippa to the standing of Herod the Great (41).

When Agrippa I. died, his son, Herod Agrippa II. was deemed too young to succeed him, but in 49 he was given a portion of his father’s kingdom (Chalcis), held by his uncle Herod. In 53 he exchanged this kingdom for another, made up of portions of Galilee and Peraea, and thus reigned to his death in 100.

The following table exhibits the Herodian rulers during the Apostolic Age:

Antipas, a.d. 4-39-Galilee and Peraea.

Philip, a.d. 4-84-beyond Jordan.

Agrippa I., a.d. 37, as tetrarch; 39(41)-44, as king.

Agrippa II., a.d. 49-53 (of Chalcis),-100 (of Galilee, Peraea, etc.).

VI. Pauline Dates.-The pre-eminence of St. Paul in the Apostolic Age and the leading part he took in the development of the earliest Church have furnished the ground for the preservation, in his own Epistles and in the Book of Acts, of a double series of data regarding his work. These determine not only the general order of the facts of his ministry, but also many of the minuter details of time and place. The accuracy of the author of Acts has been questioned, especially on matters of remoter interest; but his reports of the movements of St. Paul are coming to be more and more recognized as drawn from personal knowledge of, companionship with, and participation in, the Apostle’s ministry.* [Note: The researches of W. M. Ramsay and A. Harnack have contributed much toward this result (cf. Ramsay, St. Paul, 1895, Luke the Physician, 1908; Harnack, Luke the Physician, 1907, The Acts of the Apostles, 1909, The Date of the Acts and of the Synoptic Gospels, 1911).]

A fixed starting-point for Pauline chronology is given in the year of the accession of Festus. This took place, as shown above, in a.d. 60. But, according to Acts 24:27, St. Paul was detained by Felix a prisoner at Caesarea for two years. His arrest must, therefore, have taken place in 58 (possibly as early as May). But he left Philippi 40 days earlier, late in March or about the beginning of April (‘after the days of unleavened bread’). From Philippi his course is next traceable backward to Corinth. His presence at Philippi was only incidental, his purpose being to journey into Syria (Acts 20:3). At Corinth he had spent three months, arriving there in January of the year 58. This visit to Corinth immediately followed the memorable and troublous residence at Ephesus. From a comparison of 1 Corinthians 16:5-9 and 2 Corinthians 2:12 f. with 2 Corinthians 7:5 it may be gathered that the continuation of the whole journey from Ephesus to Corinth through Macedonia was prolonged by circumstances not included in the record. A fair allowance for these yields the approximate estimate of nine months earlier, or the spring of 57, for the end of the stay at Ephesus. This stay, however, lasted nearly three full years.† [Note: Although in Acts 19:8 the period of his active work in the synagogue is said to be three months and in Acts 19:10 his teaching in the school of Tyrannus two years, the further detail in Acts 19:22 (‘for a season’) would tend to confirm the conclusion reached here that the ‘three years’ of Acts 20:31, though possibly reckoned in the Hebrew sense of ‘parts of three,’ were in reality more nearly three entire years than a whole year with mere fragments of the year preceding and the year following.] This leads to the year 54. The departure from Antioch in the spring or summer of 54 marks the beginning of the third missionary journey.

The interval between the second and third missionary journeys is not given definitely. It included some sort of a visit to the churches in Galatia and Phrygia, and a sojourn of some length in Antioch (Acts 18:23 ‘after he had spent some time there’). It is probable that this stay at Antioch was as long as one year; but, assuming that it was not, there is still the period of three years to be assigned to the second missionary journey. One year and six months were probably consumed in the earlier part of the journey. This would bring the beginning of the journey to the spring of 51; or, if the sojourn at Antioch had occupied a whole year, to 50.

The second missionary journey was immediately preceded by the Apostolic Conference at Jerusalem on the question of the admission of the Gentile converts without the rite of circumcision (Acts 15). The interval between the Conference, from which St. Paul proceeded immediately to Antioch, and the beginning of the journey, was very brief and spent at Antioch. The Conference itself would thus appear to have been held in 49-50.

The chronology of the years between the conversion of the Apostle and the Conference at Jerusalem may now be approached from another point of view. The item furnished by the allusion to the ‘ethnarch of Aretas’ at Damascus (2 Corinthians 11:32; cf. above) fixes as the latest limit for the conversion of St. Paul the year 36, but admits of several years’ latitude for the earlier limit. In determining this earlier limit much depends on the identification of the journey to Jerusalem alluded to in Galatians 2:1 ff. Two questions must he answered here: (1) When did the 14 years begin-at the conversion or after the three years mentioned in Galatians 1:18? (2) Are these full years in each case, or are they reckoned after the Hebrew plan, with parts of years at the beginning and end counted in the number as separate years? The answers to these questions yield respectively longer or shorter periods between the conversion and second visit of the Apostle to Jerusalem. The longest period admissible is 17 years; the shortest, 12. The smaller of these figures in excluded almost certainly by the datum found in connexion with the control of Damascus by Aretas, which does not admit of a later date for the conversion than 36. The longer period necessitates the very early date of 32 or 33 for the conversion. This is favoured by W. M. Ramsay, who fixes the conversion in 33. But there are intermediate possibilities. The interval may have been 13, 14, or 15 years; which would bring the conversion in any one of the years 34-36, with the probability in favour of the earlier dates.

The Conference at Jerusalem arose out of the conditions produced by St. Paul’s preaching during the first missionary journey. This is shown by the place given it by St. Luke, and also by the fact that it was during this journey that the preaching of the gospel met with large success among the Gentiles, and that a definite movement to preach to the Gentiles independently of the Jews was inaugurated (Acts 13:46; Acts 14:27). From these considerations it would be natural to draw the inference that no very long interval separates the end of the journey from the Conference. In spite, therefore, of ‘the long time’ alluded to in Acts 14:28, it is safe to fix the limits of the first missionary journey at 47-48.

Between the date of the conversion of St. Paul and the beginning of the first missionary journey it is possible to identify the date of one more incident, viz. the visit to Jerusalem, with the aid in relief of the famine. Computations independent of the life of St. Paul lead to the placing of this date in the year 45-40 (cf. IV. 1). For reasons given in rehearsing these computations it is impossible to identify this visit with that made in Galatians 2:1. This must be regarded as the prolonged visit for purposes of conference and thorough interchange or views with the leaders of the Jerusalem church of which the author of Acts gives an account in ch. 15. The chronology of the life and work of St. Paul yielded by the above items may therefore be put as follows:

a.d.

 

Conversion

34-35

Visit to Jerusalem with aid for famine-stricken church

45-46

First missionary journey

47-48

Conference at Jerusalem

49-50

Second missionary journey

51-54

Third missionary journey

54-57

Arrest at Jerusalem

58

Imprisonment at Caesarea

58-60

Removal to Rome

60

Imprisonment at Rome

60-62

Release

62

Last missionary journey

63-64

Arrest, imprisonment, and execution at Rome

(65-67?)

VII. Apostolic Church Dates

1. Pentecost.-It is manifestly the intention of the author of Acts to begin his narrative with the significant event of Pentecost. Just as he had closed his Gospel with the account of the Resurrection of the crucified Jesus, he opens his second treatise with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. For the Apostolic Age, Pentecost becomes the epoch-making day. But, as the very name of it indicates, Pentecost was a relative date in the year, being computed from a day of manifestly more importance than itself. Accordingly, in the determination of the year for the Pentecost of Acts 2 it is necessary to revert to the computation which fixed the date of the Crucifixion (see above, I). Pentecost is thus dated in May a.d. 30.

2. The martyrdom of Stephen.-The date of this event is fixed with approximate certainty by its relation


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Dates'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/d/dates.html. 1906-1918.

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