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Chronology of the New Testament



Chronology of the life of Jesus

Jesus’ birth

Course of Abijah.


Luke states that Jesus was born while Joseph and Mary were at Bethlehem in compliance with the demand that every man be registered in his native city. He declares that “Quirinius was governor of Syria” at that time (2:2). Some scholars object that no extra-Biblical evidence exists for a census by Quirinius (P. Sulpicius Quirinius), governor of Syria. In fact, they find no indication that Quirinius governed Syria at all, since the governors of Syria during the last years of Herod’s reign were C. Sentius Saturninus (9-6 b.c.) and P. Quintilus Varus (6-4 b.c.)

Events of the reign of Augustus were, in general, poorly documented. But if Luke, as he said, had “gone over the whole course of these events in detail” (1:3, NEB), it would seem that he should be given credit for knowing who was governor. He should also have known when an event so soul-shaking to the Jews as a Rom. census (cf. Acts 5:37), occurred. Luke implies that the census which resulted in the trip to Bethlehem by Joseph and Mary at the time of Jesus’ birth was the “first” (Luke 2:2), of a series of enrollments imposed by Rome which affected Pal.


The Unfolding Drama of Redemption.

It is conceivable, in view of the poorly documented reign of Augustus, that Quirinius may have been governor in Syria for only a few months, with the census falling at that time. That would not have disrupted the dating for the governorships of Saturninus and Varus.

Fortunately, a much better solution to the problem has been found. A damaged inscr. in the Lateran Museum mentions an unnamed Rom. who governed Syria twice. Mommsen held that this prob. was Quirinius, and most scholars have agreed with him. Reacting strongly against the theory that Luke must be assumed to have been in error unless his statements can be substantiated, Sir William Ramsay has pointed out, with respect to Quirinius, that there were various periods when two men with the rank of legatus Caesaris were appointed over the same Rom. province at the same time. One of them apparently took care of political matters while the other commanded the army (cf. IDB, 601). It is probable, then, that Quirinius was a coregent of Syria, in charge of political concerns at the time of Jesus’ birth.

On the data reviewed above it is impossible to establish a precise date for Jesus’ birth. If a.d. 7 be taken, it is with the understanding that flexibility of a year or two in either direction should be allowed.

Star of the magi.

Some have sought to explain the star of the magi (Matt 2:2) as a conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in the sign of Pisces, which occurred in a.d. 6-7. Luke’s account, however, cannot be fitted into a normal stellar phenomenon. Luke clearly speaks of a star which, at least on the last lap of their journey, guided the magi with such accuracy that they could tell the very house where Jesus was living (2:9). The star’s movements appear to have been miraculous, at least insofar as the magi’s vision of it was concerned.

Herod, whose death occurred in 4 b.c., was still active when the magi arrived (Matt 2:3-8, 16; cf. “4” below).

Death of Herod.

Josephus states that Herod was appointed king of Judea by decree of the Rom. senate in 40 b.c. (Antiq. XIV, xiv, 4, 5) during the consulship of Caius Domitius Calvinus and Caius Asinius Pollio. He actually ruled in Jerusalem thirty-seven years after he had captured the city (ibid., XIV. xvi. 1-3; Wars, I. xvii. 9; I. xviii. 1-3).

There was an eclipse of the moon just before Herod’s death (Antiq., XVII. vi. 4). Astronomical calculations show that eclipses of the moon were visible in Pal. on 23 March 5 b.c., 15 September 5 b.c., 12 March 4 b.c., and 9 January 1 b.c. But Josephus says that Archelaus, who succeeded Herod (Matt 2:22), was deposed in a.d. 6 in the tenth year of his reign (Antiq. XVII. xiii. 2; cf. Wars, II. vii. 3), which gives the year as the ninth. This points to 4 b.c. as the year of Herod’s death. That it occurred in the spring of the year is seen by Josephus’ statement that Herod died shortly before the Passover (Antiq. XVII. vi. 4-ix. 3). That year the Passover fell on April 11. Herod’s death must have fallen then early in April, 4 b.c.

The infant Jesus seems to have lived in Pal. something less than two years before being carried into Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath. This is based on the supposition that the star appeared to the magi immediately upon the occasion of Jesus’ birth (cf. Matt 2:2, 16). Adding some months between the slaughter of the infant males of Bethlehem and the death of Herod, yet taking into account that the Jews customarily counted parts of years as years, it is probable that Jesus’ birth occurred about 5 or 6 b.c.

Day and month.

Both the day and month of Jesus’ birth are uncertain. There was much opposition in the Early Church to the pagan custom of celebrating birthdays. December 25 began to be observed in the Western Church after the accession of Constantine. Hippolytus says the custom began in the 2nd cent. (Dan. IV, 23). January 6 was the date chosen by the E. December 25 was selected prob. because the Romans celebrated the Mithraic feast of the sun god on that day. The winter solstice also was observed about that time. By choosing that day, the Church grasped the opportunity to convert purely pagan observances into a day of adoration of the Lord Jesus. Cyprian and Chrysostom both express this thought. The fact that shepherds were watching their flocks on the hills of Judea, however (Luke 2:8), make the choice of a winter month seem unlikely.

Although the data are too indefinite to warrant the establishment of a fixed date for the birth of Jesus, the year 6 b.c. or 5 b.c. is fairly accurate.

Jesus’ ministry


Luke locates the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry by relating it to the terms of office of a number of Rom. and Jewish officials, but the only exact date which he gives is “the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar” (3:1). A serious question with respect to which system of dating Luke was using makes it impossible for the modern chronologist to know for certain what year was meant.

Josephus states that Tiberius succeeded to the throne upon the demise of Augustus (Antiq. XVIII. ii. 2) who died 19 August a.d. 14. According to the usual Rom. reckoning “the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius” extended from 19 August a.d. 28 to 19 August a.d. 29. Most chronologists are unwilling to date John’s ministry so late. Consequently, most scholars have adopted Ussher’s suggestion that Luke was reckoning Tiberius’ reign not from Augustus’ death, but from the time when Augustus made Tiberius coemperor with him, or the year a.d. 11. The fifteenth year of Tiberius’ reign fell in a.d. 26, and the baptism of Jesus late in 26 or early in 27. The chief difficulty with this theory lies in the absence of numismatic evidence that the years of Tiberius’ reign were reckoned in this manner. If Luke was using Jewish chronology in his statement, “the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius” fell in the year a.d. 27, beginning with Tishri 1.

Eusebius (Euseb. Hist. I. x) states that Christ was baptized in the fourth year of Pilate’s governorship and that Pilate was appointed about the twelfth year of Tiberius’ reign. Upon what Eusebius based the statement is not clear. It is improbable that Pilate began to rule before a.d. 26 or 27, and his ten-year period in office ended shortly before Tiberius’ death in a.d. 37. Recent writers place the event from a.d. 27 to a.d. 29 (cf. HDAC, p. 157).

Taking into account the date of Jesus’ birth, Luke’s statement that Jesus was “about thirty years of age” (3:23; cf. “2” below), and the brevity of the ministry of John, who had been imprisoned by the year a.d. 28 (cf. Dummelow, 664), it would seem that Jesus’ baptism took place in the fall of a.d. 26 (cf. WesBC, IV, 227).

The age of Jesus.

The word “about” in Luke’s statement that Jesus “was about thirty years of age” (3:23) when He began His ministry is difficult to interpret. It is not known whether he meant to state the exact age of Jesus or His approximate age. If the latter, then Jesus could have been perhaps twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one, or thirty-two when He began His ministry. Since Jewish men assumed places of leadership after they were thirty years of age it would appear that Jesus was no younger than thirty. Neither do the facts connected with His ministry and death allow the supposition that He was much past that age. Nor is it likely that Jesus, who always was quick to fulfill every detail of His mission (cf., e.g., Luke 9:51; 12:50; John 14:31b), tarried beyond what was proper when it was time for Him to begin His ministry. It is probable, therefore, that Luke meant to imply that Jesus’ ministry began when He was thirty years of age.

The first Passover.

During the first Passover which Jesus attended after beginning His ministry, the Jews stated that the Temple had been in the process of construction for forty-six years (John 2:20). They doubtless referred to Herod’s project of remodeling Zerubbabel’s temple, upon which, according to Josephus, he embarked in the eighteenth year of his reign (Antiq. XV. xi. i), which was 20-19 b.c. That makes the Passover of which John wrote fall either in the year a.d. 26 or a.d. 27. It is probable that Herod did not begin the project at exactly the time which he had announced. Since Augustus made a visit to Syria in the earlier part of that year, Herod must have been fully occupied for several months entertaining Caesar and his retinue (cf. IDB, 601). If the Jews counted from the time operations actually began, it is probable that the first Passover of Jesus’ ministry fell in the year a.d. 27.

Duration of the ministry.

Until recently it has been assumed by most scholars that Jesus’ ministry lasted between three and four years. Eusebius thought so (Euseb. Hist. I. x. 39, 40). Melito (c. a.d. 165) also speaks of Jesus working miracles for three years (Ante-Nicene Christian Library xxii, 135). Ramsay supported the same view (Was Christ Born at Bethlehem?, 212f.).

A ministry of ten years was posited by Irenaeus on the basis of John 8:56, and on the theory that if Jesus came to save all ages He must have passed through every age, since after forty a man begins to decline toward old age. Jesus must have ministered until He was forty—on the threshold of old age.

Applying the phrase, “the acceptable year of the Lord” (Isa 61:2; Luke 4:18) as meaning one literal year, are those at the opposite extreme. Certain of the 2nd and 3rd cent. Fathers held this view, among them Clement of Alexandria (Stromata I. xxi) and the Valentinians (cf. HDCG, 155). Among more recent scholars who take this view are Von Soden and Hort (loc. cit.)

Some think they see indications of a two-year period in Mark’s gospel. His reference to the harvest in 2:23 is believed to indicate that it was the spring of the year. So does the “green grass” (6:39) and the Passover of 14:1. But the “green grass” (6:39) may find its explanation in a nearby spring of water, or in a stream rather than in the season of the year.

Hort arrives at a one-year period for Jesus’ ministry by excising as a primitive addition “the Passover” from John 6:4 (Westcott & Hort, NT in Greek, Int., App., 77ff.). But no MS or VS gives him a basis for this claim. He rests it solely on the fact that Irenaeus did not mention this Passover in his enumeration of Jesus’ trips to Jerusalem. An argument from silence is at best weak.

The assertion that “Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age” (Luke 3:23) suggests that His ministry lasted more than one year; for it would seem that no intelligent writer would state that of a man whose work ceased in the same year that it began.

From the foregoing considerations it is evident that the ministry of Jesus lasted from two to three and one-half years, with two and one-half years being most probable.


The Fathers seem to have been uncertain as to the exact year of Jesus’ death. Most of their comments appear to have been influenced by the Biblical data. Clement of Alexandria dates it in the sixteenth year of Tiberius, forty-two and a half years before the destruction of Jerusalem, i.e. in a.d. 28. But Clement allowed only one year for Jesus’ ministry (HDB rev., 157). Eusebius put the crucifixion as late as a.d. 33 (Euseb. Hist., I. x).

Before the date can be settled with a reasonable degree of certainty, it is advisable to consider the day of the week and the day of the month on which Christ died. John’s gospel puts it on the fourteenth day of Nisan. The following day was the sabbath and the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, hence the haste with which the burial of Jesus was consummated. The synoptists, however, assign the crucifixion to the fifteenth of Nisan with the sabbath falling on the sixteenth. The suggestion that Jesus died on Thursday is untenable since it contradicts the eastern manner of calculating “the third day” prophesied for the Resurrection.

The determination of the year could be accomplished by ascertaining the exact day of the month if it could be shown that in a given year of that period only the fourteenth or the fifteenth could have fallen on a Friday. But the Jewish manner of determining the beginning of Nisan was not accurate. The beginning of each month was reckoned from the time of the new moon and was celebrated with a feast (Num 28:11-15; 1 Sam 20:5, 18, 24). But in early times at least, the first day of the month was not reckoned from the new moon but from the time, some thirty hours later, when the moon first became visible. Powers holds that before the time of Jesus the rule of Badhu (בדו) was devised, apparently to keep the Passover sabbath and the weekly sabbath from falling on consecutive days (cf. Ogg, 217, 218). This rule made it possible, too, for Jews in the Dispersion to know the day when the feast would begin, for without some fixed system cloudy weather made the calculation of the first day of the month impossible. In the year of the crucifixion, the fourteenth of Nisan, for those who reckoned it from observing the moon, fell on Thursday. According to the synoptics, Jesus and the disciples sat down to the feast on that evening; but the majority of the Jews, who followed the rule of Badhu, ate the Passover on the following evening. This explains why the Jews who crucified Jesus had yet to celebrate the Passover, when Jesus and His disciples had already eaten it. If it could be proved that the above theory is true, the puzzle of the apparent discrepancy between John and the synoptics on this point would be resolved. Unfortunately, its validity has not been securely established.

Chronology of the Apostolic Age

Conversion of Paul.

Paul’s (Saul’s) conversion did not occur immediately after Pentecost since time must be allowed first for the Church to have lived in communal fellowship in Jerusalem (Acts 2:44-8:1). Time must be allowed also for Saul to have persecuted the Christian Jews “in all the synagogues...even unto foreign cities” (Acts 26:11). The brethren at the Syrian capital had had time to hear of Saul’s persecutions, and that he had authority to bind the Christians in that place (9:13, 14).

After Saul’s conversion he remained at Damascus “several days” (9:19), after which he fled because he had become an object of persecution. When he fled, the Nabatean Aretas (Haritha IV) was king of Syria (cf. Acts 9:25; 2 Cor 11:32, 33). This Aretas was the father-in-law of Herod Antipas, but Herod divorced his wife to marry the wife of his brother Philip (Matt 14:3; Mark 6:17; Luke 3:19).

Because of a boundary dispute, Antipas and Aretas engaged in a bitter war (Jos. Antiq. XVIII. v. 1. 3). When Antipas was defeated by Aretas, Antipas sought and obtained assistance of the Romans, whereupon Tiberius dispatched Vitellius, proconsul of Syria, to help Antipas. While in preparation, however, Vitellius received word that Tiberius had died (16 March a.d. 37). Believing his authority to fight Aretas to be gone, Vitellius recalled his army (cf. CAH, X, 649).

Paul indicates (2 Cor 11:32) that Aretas was in charge of Damascus when the apostle fled from that city, escaping in a basket over the wall. This could not have been on the occasion of Paul’s conversion but after his three-year stay in Arabia (cf. ISBE, I, 240), the apostle’s sojourn in Arabia falling between vv. 21 and 22 of Acts 9 (cf. “H” below). Paul’s conversion, then, was in a.d. 33 or 34.

Death of Herod Agrippa I

(Acts 12:23). The best information regarding Herod Agrippa comes from Josephus (cf. Antiq. XVIII. vi. 10; XVIII. vii. 2; XIX. v. 1; XIX. viii. 2). He states that soon after Caius (or Gaius, also called Caligula) succeeded Tiberius (Caligula reigned from a.d. 37 until his assassination in a.d. 41), Agrippa was given the tetrarchy of Philip. In a.d. 39 he received the tetrarchy of Antipas; and he became king of Judah, Samaria, and Abilene in a.d. 41 when Claudius ascended the throne (Jan. 24). His total reign was seven years, only three of which had been over Judea. Acts 12:23 implies that he died at the same festival at which he was stricken. Josephus states that his death came within five days (early in a.d. 44).

Two coins have been discovered which purport to come from the eighth and ninth years of Agrippa’s reign. Yet if the festival at which Agrippa died was “in honor of Caesar,” as Josephus states (Antiq. XIX. viii. 2), and as the majority of authorities hold, these were the quadrennial games instituted by Herod the Great at Caesarea in 9 b.c. and should have fallen in a.d. 44 or 45. The stronger evidence is in favor of Josephus’ statement.

It is likely that the death of James, and Peter’s imprisonment mentioned earlier (Acts 12), took place near the beginning of Agrippa’s reign, prob. in a.d. 41. This suggestion is strengthened by Luke’s indication that he launched the persecution to gain the favor of the Jews (12:3); and at the time of Agrippa’s death he appears to have been held in high esteem (had become established in Jewish esteem). This puts James’ death about a.d. 41.

Famine under Claudius

(Acts 11:28). While various famines occurred within the Rom. empire during Claudius’ reign (a.d. 41 to 54) there is no evidence, outside of Luke’s account, of “a great famine over all the world.” Luke seems to locate the famine in question about a.d. 41 (11:28). Tacitus speaks of a wide scarcity in a.d. 51, and Suetonius describes a famine severe enough to reduce noticeably the grain-tribute which arrived at Rome. Of this he gives no date (HDB rev., 157). Josephus refers to a famine (Antiq. XX. ii. 5; XX. v. 2) which ravaged Judea while C. Cuspius Fadus and Tiberius Alexander were its procurators. (The former was in office from a.d. 44 to 46; the latter, from a.d. 46 to 48.) Obviously this famine lasted for a number of years. Josephus tells how Queen Helena, at that time, sent her servants to Egypt to buy food and distribute it to those in Pal. who were in want. Many of the Jews had already died of starvation.

Despite conflicting data and the difficulty of determining the exact years of the famine to which Luke refers, it appears to have fallen within the period from a.d. 41 to 45, the latter date being preferred.

Jewish insurrectionists.

Gamaliel pointed out two leaders of abortive uprisings against Rome (Acts 5:35-37). One of them was Theudas; the other, Judas.

Josephus tells of a magician who bore the name of Theudas who arose while Fadus was procurator of Judea (a.d. 44-46). Many followed him to the Jordan where he had told his followers that at his command the waters would divide allowing them to cross it on dry land. Fadus cut short the wild scheme of Theudas by sending a troop of horsemen against him and his supporters. Many of the latter were slain; the rest were taken alive. After being held prisoner for awhile, Theudas was decapitated and his head was carried to Jerusalem (Antiq. XX. v. 1).

This Theudas could hardly have been the one to whom Gamaliel referred, for Gamaliel was speaking of him before the events described above took place. The Theudas in question may have been a man whom Josephus called Judas (Antiq. XX. v. 2, note; XVII. xi. 5, note). If so, Theudas—Theudas, Thadeus, and Judas are much alike—was the son of Ezekias, a very strong man who was leader of a band of robbers. He and his profligate followers attacked the palace at Sepphoris in Galilee, seized its weapons, and carried off much money. In order to call attention to himself and obtain royal acclaim, he mutilated many people. Herod had great difficulty in apprehending him.

The Judas of whom Gamaliel spoke was in the days of Cyrenius’ census (ibid., XX. v. 2). Details of his activities are not available.

There was also Simon, a slave of Herod. He was handsome, tall, and robust; and gained a sizeable following. After having himself proclaimed king, he burned the royal palace at Jericho and plundered and burned many of the king’s houses in other parts. Some Rom. soldiers under Gratus conquered Simon and cut off his head. Neither the date of Judas nor that of Simon is known for certain. If Judas came into prominence during a census (Acts 5:37), it was prob. the census of a.d. 20 (cf. I. A. 2 above).

Edict of Claudius

(Acts 18:2). When Paul first went to Corinth he met Aquila and Priscilla who had been expelled from Rome because Claudius had issued an edict expelling the Jews. Both Suetonius (Claudius 25) and Dio Cassius (LX, vi, 6) mention the edict without giving its date; but Orosius dates it in the ninth year of Claudius’ reign, or a.d. 49 (Hist. VII, vi, 15). Usually Orosius is one year off in his dates, but he seems to have been correct in this; for when Paul arrived in Corinth the first time Aquila and Priscilla had “lately” come from Rome (Acts 18:2).

Proconsulship of Gallio

Procuratorship of Festus

Eusebius states that Festus took office in the tenth year of Agrippa II (Chronological Tables). Josephus says (Wars, II. xiv. 4) that the reign of Agrippa II was reckoned from Nisan 1, a.d. 50. Hence his tenth year began on Nisan 1, a.d. 59. It seems clear, therefore, that Festus assumed office in the summer of a.d. 59.

The life of Paul.

Considerable difficulty has been experienced in harmonizing Paul’s account, in Galatians 1 and 2, of his activities following his conversion with Luke’s account of the same activities.

Returning again to Antioch, they found Peter laboring with the brethren. When some from Jerusalem arrived, Peter, who had been in full fellowship with the Gentile converts, vacillated but was corrected by Paul (Gal 2:11f.). Paul and Barnabas had a dispute with the visitors from Jerusalem who were teaching that Gentile converts should be “circumcised according to the custom of Moses” (Acts 15:1, 2); whereupon it was decided that Paul and Barnabas and others should take the matter to the church at Jerusalem (a.d. 49). Paul went up “by revelation” (by God’s direction, Gal 2:2) and was given a warm reception by the “pillars.”

After returning to Antioch, Paul, choosing Silas as a companion, went on his second missionary journey (c. a.d. 49-52). Passing through the Galatian country and Phrygia, they arrived at Troas, crossed into Macedonia, then to Achaia where he spent eighteen months in Corinth (Acts 18:11). It was then that he appeared before Gallio (c. a.d. 52; cf. II, F above). He is believed to have written 1 and 2 Thessalonians during this visit at Corinth.

Confirmation for the place of writing of the Thessalonian epistles comes from the fact that Paul, Silas (Silvanus), and Timothy were together when they were written (1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess 1:1); from Luke’s statement that the three were together at Corinth (Acts 18:5); and from the total disappearance of Silas from Luke’s account from that point on. Apparently a few months elapsed between the two epistles, for the idleness mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 4:11, 12 had developed into rather serious proportions by the time the second epistle was written (2 Thess 3:6-15). Also, sufficient time was necessary for Paul’s messenger to observe conditions in Thessalonica and the results of his first epistle and return to Corinth with the report. Leaving Corinth, Paul went to Jerusalem via Ephesus and returned to Antioch (Acts 18:22).

Epistles of Paul.

Of all the extant writings of Paul, the Galatian epistle is the most difficult to date. The confusion arises over what Paul meant by “the churches of Galatia” (1:2). In the 3rd cent. b.c. many Gauls migrated from eastern Europe to a region in the northern part of Asia Minor (Ancyra, Pessinus, and Tavium became their chief towns), and became known as Galatians. When Rome gained control of Asia Minor the districts of Lycaonia, Pisidia, and Phrygia were made parts of Galatia (under Augustus in 25 b.c.).

The N Galatian theory sees Paul evangelizing this original Galatian country on the second missionary journey (Acts 16:6), and returning through that region on his third missionary journey (18:23). It holds that he addressed the epistle to them instead of, or at least as well as, to the churches in Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. The S Galatian theory holds that he wrote only to the churches in the S, which he founded on the first missionary journey.

It is evident that the chronology of the Galatian epistle depends to no small degree on the location of the churches addressed. If Paul was writing only to the churches of S Galatia, the epistle must have been his first, possibly appearing before the conference at Jerusalem (Acts 15). If, on the other hand, he was writing to churches in northern (ethnic) Galatia, he could not have written it so early and may well have penned it as late as the third missionary journey, near the time of his letter to the Rom. church.

Arguments for the North Galatian theory.

(a) A person writing to people of a familiar area would use popular (ethnic) rather than technical (political) names for places in that area. In Acts, for example, Luke states that Antioch was Pisidian (Acts 13:14) while Lystra and Derbe were Lycaonian (14:6). In answer, it should be noted that Paul’s, not Luke’s, usage is significant for our purpose. Luke’s use of ethnic names, when referring to these regions, does not prove that the southern area was not also Galatia any more than the fact that Chicago is a city in Cook County proves that it is not also a city of Illinois. Paul typically used terms in their official, Rom. sense: e.g., Judea, Cilicia, Syria, Macedonia, and Achaia.

(b) The patristic writers thought Paul wrote the epistle to the churches in northern Galatia. This prob. was because the Fathers’ interpretation of the situation was based on the circumstances which prevailed in their own, rather than on those which prevailed in Paul’s day.

(c) Luke does not mention Paul’s ailment (Gal 4:13-15), which he would have done had he been writing to the S Galatians. This is at best an argument from silence and might be used against either theory.

(d) The fact that the Galatians were “so quickly” turning from Christ unto a modified Judaism (Gal 1:6f.) shows that they were fickle, hence were of Gallic origin. Yet the Gallic people are known to have kept their own religion, language, and laws while under Rom. rule (cf. ISBE, II, 1155, col. 2). On the other hand, the quick change of attitude toward Paul by the inhabitants of Lystra (Acts 14:8-19) condemns them as fickle.

(e) The Galatian epistle is doctrinally similar to the Rom. letter, even containing some of the same illustrations; hence both were written about the same time. They are indeed similar in several respects, though vastly different in others; and they were inspired by widely different situations. The central doctrine, not the time, could account better for their similarities.

Arguments for the South Galatian theory.

(a) Paul ceases to give details of his Christian life in Galatians after mentioning his correction of Peter at Antioch (2:11b). This suggests that he wrote the epistle about that time.

(b) Although Paul deals in Galatians with the problem discussed by the whole church at Jerusalem (Acts 15), he makes no reference to the conference, which strongly supported his position.

(c) Paul mentions Barnabas as though he was well known to his readers (2:1, 13). The only record of Barnabas’ entry into Galatia was on the first missionary journey.

(d) Paul indicates that the Galatian churches were cooperating in the offering for Jerusalem (1 Cor 16:1), where Paul obviously is on his way to Jerusalem (Acts 20:1-6) with the offering (cf. 2 Cor 8; Acts 24:17). No representative from N Galatia is named, though two are listed from S Galatia.

(e) No mention of the founding of churches in Galatia appears in Acts 16 and 18. It is only stated that he passed through Galatia and Phrygia. He apparently made no new disciples in Galatia on these journeys but concentrated on “strengthening all the disciples” (18:23; cf. 16:1-6).

(f) No allusions esp. suited to Gauls are found in the epistle.

(g) The “so quickly” of Galatians 1:6 is more possible if related to the S Galatian theory since it was easier for Judaizers from Jerusalem to go to the cities of S Galatia than to those of the N.

(h) There is no record of the existence of churches in N Galatia until about a.d. 200 (cf. Dummelow, 944).

In view of the superior weight of the arguments for the S Galatian theory, it is likely that Paul wrote the epistle from Syrian Antioch early in a.d. 49.

From the above data that was mentioned under “II, H” above, Paul’s epistles may be tabulated as in Table II.

The Epistle to the Hebrews.

The chronology of the Epistle to the Hebrews depends in part on its authorship. If Paul wrote it, it was written by a.d. 67. If another was its author, it may have been written shortly before Paul’s death, but not later than the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in a.d. 70. The evidence, for the most part, points to an author other than Paul, as the following will indicate.

1. Various patristic writers assumed, without giving evidence, that Paul wrote the epistle. Others doubted it. After Athanasius (a.d. 297-373), ecclesiastical writers of Egypt and Pal. attributed it to Paul. Elsewhere, the names of Barnabas, Silas, Luke, Clement, and others were also suggested. Origen (c. a.d. 185-254) concluded: “As to who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews God alone knows the truth” (Eccl. Hist., VI, xxv).

2. Jerome and Augustine accepted the Pauline tradition, which they influenced the church in the W to accept.

3. Luther and Calvin rejected its Pauline authorship. Subsequent scholarship has generally followed their lead.

4. Timothy was still living and is referred to in terms which Paul might have used (13:23). But Timothy’s prison experience is difficult to coordinate with known data on Paul’s life. Just before the apostle died, however, he urged Timothy to greater boldness in the ministry (cf. 2 Tim 1:8-12; 2:3; 4:5). A positive response by Timothy apparently resulted in his imprisonment.

5. The writer of the epistle acknowledges that he received the Christian message through others (Heb 2:3, 4), which Paul, as revealed in Acts and in his known letters, never did (cf. 1 Cor 9:1; 11:23; Gal 1:1, 12; Eph 3:3).

6. The epistle lacks the characteristic salutation of Paul.

7. Paul affirmed that he signed all of his letters (2 Thess 3:17). His name is not mentioned in this epistle.

8. While Paul used both the LXX and Heb. texts when quoting the OT, this writer uses only the LXX.

9. The theology of the epistle agrees with Paul—and with every other writer of the NT.

10. The style and vocabulary are far purer than Paul is known to have used, yet the letter bears no evidence of having been tr.

In view of the above, since the Temple still was standing and the priests functioning (5:1-4; 8:4; 10:11; 13:10, 11), and since the people addressed seems to have been entering upon a time of trial (cf. 10:36; 12:4), the epistle appears to have been written about a.d. 69.

The Epistle of James.

This epistle has been dated from a.d. 45 to a.d. 150. Among those favoring an early date are Alford, Dods, Mayor, Neander, Plumptre, Renan, Stanley, Weiss, and Zahn. Others, such as Ewald, Farrar, Kern, Schmidt, and Wordsworth put it near the close of James’ life. Josephus states that James was killed by the high priest Ananus after Festus’ death, before Albinus arrived (Antiq. XX. ix. 1), which was in a.d. 62. Among those who believe the epistle to have been written at a later date are Bacon, Baur, Davidson, Harnack, and others.

Neither internal nor external evidence for the date of writing is conclusive. Some believe that Paul used James’ epistle when he wrote Romans 5:3-5 and 7:23 (cf. James 1:2-4; 3:14-16), making its appearance earlier than a.d. 67. Wordsworth, Farrar, and Ewald argue for a date around a.d. 62 on the supposition that James wrote it shortly before his death to correct certain misconceptions of Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith. A very early date (about a.d. 45) is favored by a number of authorities because they believe the epistle reveals a primitive form of church organization; because it appears to be a narrow link between Judaism and Christianity; and because such doctrines as love for one’s fellow men, the lordship of Christ, and the hope of His early return were much in the minds of the Early Church. Those who contend for a very late date appear to do so on the grounds that it manifests a waning of the theological position of Paul. The difference in Paul and James, however, is only one of degree of emphasis. James acknowledges faith but emphasizes works as its evidence, while Paul regularly insists, in his epistles, on a high level of ethical practice. Those who argue for a late date because the epistle stresses love, Christ’s lordship, and His soon return, and because it reveals a simple church organization, should bear in mind that the same things hold generally throughout NT lit. The argument that James wrote to correct misconception regarding justification by faith carries considerable weight and suggests that it was written about a.d. 62.

The Epistles of Peter.

Epistle of Jude.

Those who attribute this epistle to the brother of Jesus date it between a.d. 64 and a.d. 80. It must have been written before a.d. 70, or the author would have used the destruction of Jerusalem in his list of illustrations in vv. 5-7. Many think 2 Peter was written before Jude, and vice versa. Those who consider the epistle to be pseudonymous generally date it about a.d. 150. There is no valid argument, however, against dating it about a.d. 65.

Johannine writings.

Traditionally, the fourth gospel has been dated in the last decade of the 1st cent. Irenaeus states that it appeared after the appearance of the synoptic gospels (Adversus Haereses, III. i. 1; cf. Euseb. Hist., III. xxxi. 3). Because Gnosticism did not come to full development until c. a.d. 150, certain more recent authorities have dated John’s gospel from a.d. 110 to a.d. 160 (Bauer, Bultmann, Grant, etc.). C. C. Torrey, Burney, Goodenough, Albright, and J. A. Robinson favor a date prior to a.d. 70 on the grounds that it is largely dominated by controversy between Jesus and the Jews (cf. Turner and Mantey, 17). The argument appears weak since the purpose of the writer was not to review those controversies but to inspire faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God (20:30, 31). The account of the controversies is incidental to that end and would be equally meaningful in any age. There is no compelling reason to abandon the traditional date, which puts it about a.d. 90 to 96.

The Johannine epistles give little on which to base chronology. False teachers were present (cf. 1 John 4:1; 2 John 10, 11; 3 John 11). If the Jewish world had broken up recently, it seems probable that some mention would have been made of that fact. Several phrases in 2 and 3 John are identical or similar to those of the first epistle and the gospel, revealing a common author. All seem to have been written about a.d. 90 to 96.

Arguments for an early date (before a.d. 70) for the Book of Revelation on the basis of a literal interpretation of 11:1 and 17:9-11 are weak in view of the apocalyptic nature of the book. Eusebius assigns the Apocalypse to the latter part of Domitian’s reign (Euseb. Hist., III, 18). So, too, does Irenaeus (Adv. Haer., V. xxx. 3; cf. Tac., Ann, i. 2). Internal evidence indicates a period of severe persecution which fits best the latter part of Domitian’s reign, or about a.d. 96. See Jesus Christ.


F. Josephus, Complete Works, tr. by W. Winston (n.d.); J. K. Fotheringham, “The Evidence of Astronomy and Technical Chronology for the Date of the Crucifixion,” Journal of Theological Studies (April, 1934), 146-162; S. A. Cartledge, A Conservative Introduction to the New Testament (1938); G. Ogg, The Chronology of the Public Ministry of Jesus (1940); J. R. Dummelow, A Commentary on the Holy Bible (1940); W. P. Armstrong, “Chronology of the New Testament,” James Orr, gen. ed., ISBE, Vol. I (1949); D. E. Hiebert, An Introduction to the Pauline Epistles (1954); F. Davidson, The New Bible Commentary (1954); T. Mommsen, The History of Rome (1958); D. Hiebert, An Introduction to the Non-Pauline Epistles (1962); G. B. Caird, “The Chronology of the New Testament,” IDB, Vol. I (1962); F. C. Grant and A. J. Maclean, “Chronology of the New Testament,” Dictionary of the Bible (1963); G. A. Turner and J. R. Mantey, The Gospel According to John (1963); S. A. Cook, D. E. Adcock and M. P. Charlesworth, eds., The Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. X (1963); C. W. Carter, gen. ed., The Wesleyan Bible Commentary, Vols. IV, V, VI (1964-1966); E. Pamphilus, Ecclesiastical History, tr. by Isaac Boyle (1966).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


1. Birth of Jesus

(1) Death of Herod

(2) Census of Quirinius

(3) Star of the Magi

(4) Course of Abijah

(5) Day and Month

(6) Summary

2. Baptism of Jesus

3. First Passover

4. Death of John the Baptist

5. Length of Jesus’ Ministry

6. Death of Jesus

7. Summary of Dates



1. Paul’s Conversion

2. Death of Herod Agrippa I

3. Famine under Claudius

4. Sergius Paulus

5. Edict of Claudius

6. Gallio

7. Festus

8. Relative Chronology of Acts

9. Pauline Epistles

10. Release and Death of Paul

11. Death of Peter

12. Death of James the Just

13. The Synoptic Gospels, etc.

14. Death of John

15. Summary of Dates


The current Christian era is reckoned from the birth of Jesus and is based upon the calculations of Dionysius (6th century). Subsequent investigation has shown that the Dionysian date is at least four years too late. Several eras were in use in the time of Jesus; but of these only the Varronian will be used coordinately with the Dionysian in the discussion of the chronology of the life of Jesus, 753 A. U. C. being synchronous with 1 BC and 754 A. U. C. with 1 A. D.

I. Chronology of the Life of Jesus.

1. Birth of Jesus:

Jesus was born before the death of Herod the Great (Mt 2:1 ff) at the time of a census or enrollment made in the territory of Herod in accordance with a decree of Augustus when Quirinius (Revised Version; Cyrenius, the King James Version) was exercising authority in the Roman province of Syria (Lu 2:1 f). At the time of Jesus’ birth a star led the Magi of the East to seek in Jerusalem the infant whom they subsequently found in Bethlehem (Mt 2:1 ff). John the Baptist was six months older than Jesus (Lu 1:36) and he was born in the days of Herod (Lu 1:5; compare Lu 2:1) after his father, Zacharias, of the priestly course of Abijah, had been performing the functions of his office in the temple.

(1) Death of Herod.

The death of Herod the Great occurred in the spring of 750/4. (NOTE: The alternative numbers are BC or AD, i. e, 750 A. U. C. = 4 BC, etc.) He ruled from his appointment in Rome 714/40 (Ant., XIV, xiv, 4-5, in the consulship of Caius Domitius Calvinus and Caius Asinius Pollio) 37 years, and from his accession in Jerusalem after the capture of the city 717/37 (Ant.,. XIV, xvi, 1-3; BJ, I, xvii, 9; I, xviii, 1-3; Dio Cassius xlix.22; compare Schurer, GJV3, I, 358, note 11) 34 years (Ant , XVII, xviii, 1; BJ, I, xxxiii, 7-8; compare Schurer, op. cit., I, 415, note 167 where it is shown that Josephus reckons a year too much, probably counting from Nisan 1 and including partial years). Just before Herod’s death there was an eclipse of the moon (Ant., XVII, vi, 4). According to astronomical calculations an eclipse was visible in Palestine on March 23 and September 15, 749/5, March 12, 750/4 and January 9, 753/1. Of these the most probable is that of March 12, 750/4. Soon after the eclipse Herod put to death his son Antipater and died five days later (Ant., XVII, vii; BJ, I, xxxiii, 7). Shortly after Herod’s death the Passover was near at hand. (Ant., XVII, vi, 4 through ix, 3). In this year Passover (Nisan 15) fell on April 11; and as Archelaus had observed seven days of mourning for his father before this, Herod’s death would fall between March 17 and April 4. But as the 37th (34th) year of his reign was probably reckoned from Nisan 1 or March 28, his death may be dated between March 28 and April 4, 750/4.

This date for Herod’s death is confirmed by the evidence for the duration of the reigns of his three sons. Archelaus was deposed in 759/6 (Dio Cassius lv.27 in the consulship of Aemilius Lepidus and Lucius Arruntius) in the 10th year of his reign (Ant., XVII, xiii, 2; compare BJ, II, vii, 3 which gives the year as the 9th). Antipas was deposed most probably in the summer of 792/39 (Ant., XVIII, vii, 1-2; compare XVIII, vi, 11; XIX, viii, 2; BJ, II, ix, 6; Schurer, op. cit., I, 448, note 46 and 416, note 167). There are coins of Antipas from his 43rd year (Madden, Coins of the Jews, 121 ff). The genuineness of a coin from the 44th year is questioned by Schurer but accepted by Madden. The coin from the 45th year is most probably spurious (Schurer, op. cit., I, 417, note 167). Philip died after reigning 37 years, in the 20th year of Tiberius--August 19, 786/33-787/34 (Ant., XVIII, iv, 6). There is also a coin of Philip from his 37th year (Madden, op. cit., 126). Thus Archelaus, Antipas and Philip began to reign in 750/4.

(2) Census of Quirinius.

The census or enrollment, which, according to Lu 2:1 f, was the occasion of the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem where Jesus was born, is connected with a decree of Augustus embracing the Greek-Roman world. This decree must have been carried out in Palestine by Herod and probably in accordance with the Jewish method-- each going to his own city--rather than the Roman (Dig. 15, 4, 2; Zumpt, Das Geburtsjahr Christi, 195; Kenyon, Greek Papyri in the British Museum, III, 124 f; Schurer, Theol. Ztg, 1907, 683 f; and on the other hand, Ramsay, Expositor, 1908, I, 19, note). Certainly there is no intimation of an insurrection such as characterized a later census (Ac 5:37; Ant, XVIII, i, 1; BJ, II, xvii, 7; compare Tac. Ann. vi.41; Livy Epit. cxxxvi, cxxxvii; Dessau, Inscrip. lat. Sel. number 212, col. ii, 36) and this may have been due in no small measure to a difference in method. Both Josephus and Luke mention the later census which was made by Quirinius on the deposition of A rchelaus, together with the insurrection of Judas which accompanied it. But while Josephus does not mention the Herodian census--although there may be some intimation of it in Ant, XVI, ix, 3; XVII, ii, 4; compare Sanclemente, De vulg. aerae emend., 438 f; Ramsay, Was Christ Born at Beth.1, 178 ff--Luke carefully distinguishes the two, characterizing the census at the time of Jesus’ birth as "first," i.e. first in a series of enrollments connected either with Quirinius or with the imperial policy inaugurated by t he decree of Augustus. The Greek- Roman writers of the time do not mention this decree and later writers (Cassiodor, Isidor and Suidas) cannot be relied upon with certainty as independent witnesses (Zumpt, Geburtsjahr, 148 ff). Yet the geographical work of Agrippa and the preparation of a breviarium totius imperil by Augustus (Tac. Ann. i.11; Suet. Aug. 28 and 101; Dio Cassius liii.30; lvi.33; compare Mommsen, Staatsrecht, II, 1025, note 3), together with the interest of the emperor in the organization and finances of the empire and the attention which he gave to the provinces (Marquardt, Rom. Staatsverwaltung, II, 211 f; compare 217), are indirectly corroborative of Luke’s statement. Augustus himself conducted a census in Italy in 726/28, 746/8, 767/14 (Mommsen, Res Ges., 34 ff) and in Gaul in 727/27 (Dio Cassius liii.22, 5; Livy Epit. cxxxiv) and had a census taken in other provinces (Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyc., under the word "Census," 1918 f; Marquardt, op. cit., II, 213). For Egypt there is evidence of a regular p eriodic census every 14 years extending back to 773/20 (Ramsay, op. cit., 131 if; Grenfell and Hunt, Oxy. Papyri, II, 207 ff; Wilcken, Griech. Ostraka, I, 444 ff) and it is not improbable that this procedure was introduced by Augustus (Schurer, op. cit., I, 515). The inference from Egyptian to similar conditions in other provinces must indeed be made cautiously (Wilcken, op. cit., 449; Marquardt, op. cit., 441); yet in Syria the regular tributum capitis seems to imply some such preliminary work (Dig, 1. 15, 3; Appian, Syriac., 50; Marquardt, op. cit., II, 200, note 2; Pauly-Wissowa, op. cit., 1921; Ramsay, op. cit., 154). The time of the decree is stated only in general terms by Luke, and it may have been as early as 727/27 (Zumpt, op. cit., 159; Marquardt, op. cit., II, 212) or later in 746-8 (Huschke, Census, 34; Ramsay, op. cit., 158 ff), its execution in different provinces and subject kingdoms being carried out at different times. Hence, Luke dates the census in the kingdom of Herod specifically by connecting it with the administrative functions of Quirinius in Syria. But as P. Quintilius Varus was the legate of Syria just before and after the death of Herod from 748/6-750/4 (Ant., XVII, v, 2; XVII, ix., 3; XVII, x, 1 and 9; XVII, xi, 1; Tac. Hist. v.9; and coins in Eckhel, Doctr. num. vet., III, 275) and his predecessor Was C. Sentius Saturninus from 745/9-748/6 (Ant; XVI, ix, 1; x, 8; xi, 3; XVII, i, 1; ii, 1; iii, 2), there seems to be no place for Quirinius during the closing years of Herod’s reign. Tertullian indeed speaks of Saturninus as legate at the time of Jesus’ birth (Adv. Marc., iv.9). The interpretation of Luke’s statement as indicating a date for the census before Quirinius was legate (Wieseler, Chron. Syn., 116; Lagrange, Revue Biblique, 1911, 80 ff) is inadmissible. It is possible that the connection of the census with Quirinius may be due to his having brought to completion what was begun by one of his predecessors; or Quirinius may have been commissioned especially by the emperor as legatus ad census accipiendos to conduct a census in Syria and this commission may have been connected temporally with his campaign against the Homonadenses in Cilicia (Tac. Ann. iii.48; compare Noris, Cenotaph. Pis., 320 ff; Sanclemente, op. cit., 426 passim; Ramsay, op. cit., 238). It has also been suggested by Bour (L’Inscription de Quirinius, 48 ff) that Quirinius may have been an imperial procurator specially charged with authority in the matter of the Herodian census. The titulus Tiburtinus (CIL, XIV, 3613; Dessau, Inscr. Latin Sel., 918)--if rightly assigned to him--and there seems to be no sufficient reason for questioning the conclusiveness of Mommsen’s defense of this attribution (compare Liebenam, Verwaltungsgesch., 365)--proves that he was twice legate of Syria, and the titulus Venetus (CIL, III, 6687; Dessau, op. cit., 2683) gives evidence of a census conducted by him in Syria. His administration is dated by Ramsay (op. cit., 243) in 747/7; by Mommsen in the end of 750/4 or the beginning of 751/3 (op. cit., 172 ff). Zahn (Neue kirch. Zeitschr., 1893, IV, 633 ff), followed by Spitta (Zeitschr. f. d. neutest. Wiss., 1906, VII, 293 ff), rejects the historicity of the later census connected by Josephus with the deposition of Archelaus, basing his view on internal grounds, and assigns the Lucan census to a time shortly after the death of Herod. This view however is rendered improbable by the evidence upon which the birth of Jesus is assigned to a time before the death of Herod (Mt 2:1 ff; Lu 1:5; 2:1 f); by the differentiation of the census in Lu 2:1 f and Ac 5:37; by the definite connection of the census in Josephus with Syria and the territory of Archelaus (compare also the tit. Venet.); and by the general imperial policy in the formation of a new province (Marquardt, op. cit., II, 213). Moreover there seems to be no adequate ground for identifying the Sabinus of Josephus with Quirinius as urged by Weber, who regards the two accounts (Ant., XVII, viii, 1 ff and XVII, iv, 5; XVIII, i, 2; ii, 1 ff) as due to the separation by Josephus of parallel accounts of the same events in his sources (Zeitschr. f. d. neutest. Wiss., 1909, X, 307 ff)--the census of Sabinus-Quirinius being assigned to 4 BC, just after the death of Herod the Great. The synchronism of the second census of Quirinius with the periodic year of the Egyptian census is probably only a coincidence, for it was occasioned by the deposition of Archelaus; but its extension to Syria may be indicative of its connection with the imperial policy inaugurated by Augustus (Tac. Ann. vi.41; Ramsay, op. cit., 161 f).

(3) Star of the Magi.

The identification of the star of the Magi (Mt 2:2; compare Mt 2:7,9,16; Macrobius, Sat., II, 4; Sanclemente, op. cit., 456; Ramsay, op. cit., 215 ff) and the determination of the time of its appearance cannot be made with certainty, although it has been associated with a conjunction in 747/7 and 748/6 of Saturn and Jupiter in the sign of Pisces- -a constellation which was thought to stand in close relation with the Jewish nation (Ideler, Handbuch d. math. u. tech. Chron., II, 400 ff). When the Magi came to Jerusalem, however, Herod was present in the city; and this must have been at least several months before his death, for during that time he was sick and absent from Jerusalem (Ant., XVII, vi, 1 ff; BJ, I, xxxiii, 1 ff).

(4) Course of Abijah.

The chronological calculations of the time of the service of the priestly course of Abijah in the temple, which are made by reckoning back from the time of the course of Jehoiarib which, according to Jewish tradition, was serving at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, are uncertain (Schurer, op. cit., II, 337, note 3; compare Lewin, Fasti Sacri, 836).

(5) Day and month.

The day and month of Jesus’ birth are also uncertain. December 25 was celebrated by the church in the West as early as the 2nd century--if the date in Hippolytus on Dan., IV, 23, be genuine (compare Ehrhardt, Altchr. Lit., 1880-1900, 383); but January 6 was celebrated in the East as the anniversary both of the birth and of the baptism. The fact that shepherds were feeding their flocks at night when Jesus was born (Lu 2:8) makes it improbable that the season of the year was winte r.

(6) Summary.

The birth of Jesus may therefore be assigned to the period 747/7 to 751/5, before the death of Herod, at the time of a census made by Herod in accordance with a decree of Augustus and when Quirinius was exercising extraordinary authority in Syria--Varus being the regular legate of the province, i.e. probably in 748/6.

See Jesus Christ.

2. Baptism of Jesus:

The Synoptic Gospels begin their description of the public ministry of Jesus with an account of the ministry of John the Baptist (Mt 3:1 ff; Mr 1:1 ff; Lu 3:1 ff; compare of in Joh 1:19 ff; Joh 4:24; Josephus, Ant, XVIII, iii, 3) and Luke definitely dates the baptism of Jesus by John in the 15th year of Tiberius. Luke also designates this event as the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and by stating Jesus’ age approximately brings it into connection with the date of His birth. If Luke reckoned the reign of Tiberius fro m the death Augustus, August 19, 767/14, the 15th year would extend from August 19, 781/28 to August 18, 782/29; and if Jesus was about thirty years old at this time, His birth would fall 751/3 to 752/2--or sometime after the death of Herod, which is inconsistent with Luke’s own and Matthew’s representation. This indeed was one of the common modes of reckoning the imperial reigns. The mode of reckoning from the assumption of the tribunician power or from the designation as imperator is altogether unlikely in Luke’s case and intrinsically improbable, since for Tiberius the one began in 748/6 and the other in 743/11 (Dio Cassius Iv.9; liv.33; Vell. ii.99; Suet. Tib. ix.11). But if, as seems likely, the method of reckoning by imperial years rather than by the yearly consuls was not definitely fixed when Luke wrote, it is possible that he may have counted the years of Tiberius from his appointment in 764/11 or 765/12 to equal authority with Augustus in the provinces (Veil. ii 121; Suet. Tib. xx.21; Tac. Ann. i.3). This method seems not to have been employed elsewhere (Lewin, op. cit., 1143 f; compare Ramsay, op. cit., 202 f). The coins of Antioch in which it is found are regarded as spurious (Eckhel, op. cit., III, 276), the genuine coins reckoning the reign of Tiberins from the death of Augustus (ibid., III, 278). If Luke reckoned the reign of Tiberins from 764/11 or 765/12, the 15th year would fall in 778/25 or 779/26, probably the latter, and Jesus’ birth about thirty years earlier, i.e. about 748/6 or 749/5.

3. First Passover:

At the time of the first Passover in Jesus’ ministry the Herodian temple had been building 46 years (Joh 2:20). Herod began the temple in the 18th year of his reign (Ant., XV, xi, 1, which probably corrects the statement in BJ, I, xxi, I that it was the 15th year; compare Schurer, op. cit., I, 369 f, note 12). As Josephus reckons from the accession of Herod in 717/37, the 18th year would be 734/20 to 735/21 and 46 years later would be 780/27 to 781/28. The interval implied in John between this Passover an d the beginning of Jesus’ ministry agrees well with the Lucan dating of the baptism in 779/26.

4. Death of John the Baptist:

The imprisonment of John the Baptist, which preceded the beginning of Jesus’ Galilean work, was continued for a time (Mt 11:2-19; Lu 7:18-35) but was finally terminated by beheading at the order of Herod Antipas. Announcement of the death was made to Jesus while in the midst of His Galilean ministry (Mt 14:3-12; Mr 6:14-29; Lu 9:7-9). Josephus reports that the defeat of Antipas by Aretas, in the summer of 789/36, was popularly regarded as a Divine punishment for the murder of John (Ant., XVIII, v, 2); But although Josephus mentions the divorce of Aretas daughter by Antipas as one of the causes of hostilities, no inference can be drawn from this or from the popular interpretation of Antipas’ defeat, by which the int erval between John s death and this defeat can be fixed (Schurer, op. cit., I, 443 f).

5. Length of Jesus’ Ministry:

6. Death of Jesus:

7. Summary of Dates:

1. Birth of Jesus, 748/6.

2. Death of Herod the Great, 750/4.

3. Baptism of Jesus, 779/26.

4. First Passover of Jesus’ ministry, 780/27.

5. Death of Jesus, 783/30.


Schurer, Geschichte des Judischen Volkes im Zeitalter Jesu Christi, 3. und 4. Aufl., 1901-9, 3 volumes, English translation of the 2nd edition, in 5 volumes, 1885-94; Ideler, Handbuch der mathematischen und technischen Chronologie, 1825-26, 2 volumes; Wieseler, Chronologische Synopse der Evangelien, 1843, English translation; Lewin, Fasti Sacri, 1865; Turner, article "Chronology of the NT" in HDB, 1900, I. 403-25; von Soden, article "Chronology" in Cheyne and Black, EB, 1899, I, 799-819; Ramsay, Wa s Christ Born at Bethlehem? 1898; F. R. Montgomery Hitchcock, article "Dates" in Hastings, Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels; Mommsen, Res Gestae Divi Augusti2.

II. Chronology of the Apostolic Age.

The chronology of the apostolic age must be based on the data in Ac and the epistolary literature of the New Testament which afford contacts with persons or events of the Greek-Roman world. From the fixed points thus secured a general outline of the relative chronology may be established with reasonable probability.

1. Paul’s Conversion:

2. Death of Herod Agrippa I:

Herod Agrippa I died in Caesarea shortly after a Passover season (Ac 12:23; compare Ac 12:3,19). Caligula had given him the tetrarchy of Philip and of Lysanias in 37 AD--the latter either at this time or later--with the title of king (Ant., XVIII, vi, 10; BJ, II, ix, 6) and this was increased in 40 AD by the tetrarchy of Antipas (Ant., XVIII, vii, 1 f; BJ, II, ix, 6). Claudius gave him also Judea and Samaria (Ant., XIX, v, 1; BJ, II, xi, 5) thus making his territory even more extensive than that of his grandfather, Herod the Great. Agrippa reigned over "all Judea" for three years under Claudius (Ant., XIX, viii, 2; BJ, II, xi, 6), his death falling in the spring of 44 AD, in the 7th year of his reign. The games mentioned by Josephus in this connection are probably those that were celebrated in honor of the return of Claudius from Britain in 44 AD. There are coins of Agrippa from his 6th year, but the attribution to him of coins from other years is questioned (Schurer, op. cit., 560, note 40; Madden, op . cit., 132).

3. Famine under Claudius:

The prophecy of a famine and its fulfillment under Claudius (Ac 11:28) are associated in Ac with the death of Herod Agrippa I (Ac 11:30; 12:23). Famines in Rome during the reign of Claudius are mentioned by Suetonius (Claud. xviii), Dio Cassius (lx.11), Tacitus (Annals xii.43), and Orosius (vii.6). Josephus narrates in the time of Fadus the generosity of Helena during a famine in Palestine (Ant., XX, ii, 5), but subsequently dates the famine generally in the time of Fadus and Alexander. The famine in P alestine would fall therefore at some time between 44 and 48 (Schurer, op. cit., I, 567, note 8).

4. Sergius Paulus:

When Paul visited Cyprus with Barnabas the island was administered by Sergius Paulus (Ac 13:7 ff), a proprietor with the title proconsul (Marquardt, op. cit., I, 391). There is an inscription from Cyprus (Cagnat, Inscr. graec. ad res rom. pertin., III; 930) dating from the 1st century, and probably from the year 53 (Zahn, Neue kirch. Zeitschr., 1904, XV, 194) in which an incident in the career of a certain Apollonius is dated in the proconsulship of Paulus (epi Palilou (anth)upatou). From another inscription (CIG, 2632), dated in the 12th year of Claudius, it appears that L. Annins Bassus was proconsul in 52. If the Julius Cordus mentioned by Bassus was his immediate predecessor, the proconsulship of Sergius Paulus may be dated at some time before 51.

5. Edict of Claudius:

When Paul came to Corinth for the first time he met Aquila and Priscilla, who had left Rome because of an edict of Claudius expelling the Jews from the city (Ac 18:2). Suetonius mentions an expulsion of the Jews from Rome by Claudius but gives no date (Claud. xxv; compare Dio Cassius lx.6). Orosius however dates the edict in the 9th year of Claudius or 49 AD (Hist. vii.6, 15); and though Josephus, from whom he quotes, does not mention this edict. but records the favor shown by Claudius to the Jews and to Herod Agrippa I (Ant., XIX, v, 1-3; compare Dio Cassius lx.6, 6, 9, 10; 8, 2), it is not improbable that the date is approximately accurate (Schurer, op. cit., III, 62, note 92).

6. Gallio:

During Paul’s first sojourn in Corinth the apostle was brought before the proconsul Gallio (Ac 18:12). This could not have been earlier than the year 44 when Claudius gave Achaia back to the Senate and the province was administered by a proprietor with the title of proconsul (Dio Cassius lx.24; Marquardt, op. cit., I, 331 f; Ramsay, The Expositor., 1897, I, 207). Moreover the career of Seneca makes it improbable that his brother would be advanced to this position before 49 or 50 (Harnack, Chron., I, 237; Wieseler, Chron. d. apos. Zeitalters, 119). There is a fragmentary inscription from Delphi containing a letter from the emperor Claudius in which mention is made of Gallio. The inscription is dated by the title of the emperor which contains the number 26. This is referred naturally to the acclammatio as "imperator" and dated in the year 52 before August, after which time the number 27 occurs in the title of Claudian inscriptions. Gallio may therefore have been proconsul from the spring or summer of the year 51-52 or 52-53. The latter seems the more probable time (compare Aem. Bourguet, De rebus Delphicis, 1905, 63 f; Ramsay, The Expositor., 1909, I, 467 f; Princeton Theological Review, 1911, 290 f; 1912, 139 f; Deissmann, Paulus, 1911, 159-177; Lietzmann, Zeitschrift fur wissenschaftliche Theologie, 1911, 345-54).

7. Festus:

When Paul had been for two years a prisoner in Caesarea Felix was succeeded by Festus as procurator of Judea (Ac 24:27). The accession of Festus, which is placed by Eusebius in the Church History in the reign of Nero (Historia Ecclesiastica, II, 22, 1), is dated in the Chronicle in the version of Jerome in the 2nd year of Nero, 56 AD, and in the Armenian version in the 14th year of Claudius, 54 AD. The excerpts from the Chronicle in Syncellus apparently follow the text underlying the version of Jerome, but state simply that Festus was sent as successor of Felix by Nero (ed. Schoene, II, 154). After his removal from office Felix was tried in Rome, but escaped punishment through the influence of his brother Pallas, who, according to Josephus, was in favor with Nero at that time (Ant., XX, viii, 9). Pallas was removed from office before February 13, 55 AD (Tac. Ann. xiii.14, 1; compare 15, 1), but apparently continued to have influence with the emperor; for he fixed the terms of his removal and was permitted to enjoy his fortune for several years (Tac. Ann. xiii.14, 1 f; 23, 1-3). His death occurred in 62 AD (Tac. Ann. xiv.65, 1). The trial of Felix must therefore have occurred before 62; but it is impossible to place it before the removal of Pallas, for this would necessitate the removal of Felix in 54 AD, and this is excluded by the fact that the first summer of Nero’s reign fell in 55 AD. But if Eusebius reckoned the imperial years from September 1st after the accession (Turner, Jour. of Theol. Studies, 1902, 120 f; HDB, I, 418 f), the summer of the second year of Nero would fall in 57. In any event the removal and trial of Felix must have fallen after the removal of Pallas. The date of the Eusebian Chronicle is thus without support from Tacitus or Josephus, and its value depends on the character of the source from which it was obtained--if there was such a source, for it is at least possible that the definite date owes its origin solely to the necessities imposed on Eusebius by the form of the Chronicle. It is not unlike ly that the error of 5 years made by Eusebius in the reign of Agrippa II may be the source of a similar error in regard to Festus in spite of the fact that the framework of the Chronicle is generally furnished not by the years of the Jewish kings but by the imperial years (Erbes in Gebhardt u. Harnack, Texte und Untersuchungen, N. F., IV, 1, 1899; Die Todestage d. Apos. Paulus u. Petrus; Turner, Jour. of Theol. Studies, 1902, III, 120 f; Ramsay, Pauline and Other Studies, 1906, 350 ff). There is evidence however in Ac 21:38 that Paul’s arrest could not have been earlier than the spring of 55 AD. For Paul was supposed by the chief captain to be the Egyptian who had led an insurrection that had been suppressed by Felix during the reign of Nero (Ant., XX, viii, 6; BJ, II, 13, 5). Thus the accession of Festus, two years later (Ac 24:27), could not have been earlier than 57 AD.

But if the summer of 57 AD is the earliest date possible for the accession of Festus, the summer of 60 AD is the latest date that is possible. Albinus, the successor of Festus, was present in Jerusalem in October, 62 AD (Ant., XX, ix, 1 ff), and while the administration of Festus was probably shorter than that of Felix (compare Ant, XX, viii, 9-11; BJ, II, xiv, 1 with Ant, XX, vii, 1-8, 8; BJ, II, 12-13), it is not likely that it lasted less than two years. But as between 57 AD and 60 AD, probability favo rs the latter. For greater justice is thus done to the words of Paul to Felix: "Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation," etc. (Ac 24:10). Felix was appointed by Claudius in 52 AD (Tac. Ann. xii. 54; Ant, XX, v, 2) and was continued in office by Nero. Most of the events of his administration are narrated by Josephus under Nero (Ant., XX, viii, 5 ff); and although Tacitus mentions an administration of Felix in Samaria when Cumanus was administering Galilee (Ann. xii.54) , the omission of any direct reference to Judea, the unusual character of such a double administration and the explicit statement of Josephus that Claudius sent Felix as successor of Cumanus, make it unlikely that Paul’s statement is to be understood of an administration beginning earlier than 52 AD. If Festus succeeded in the summer of 60 AD, Paul’s arrest would fall in 58 and the "many years" of Felix’ administration would cover a period of 6 years, from 52 AD to 58 AD (compare Schurer, op. cit., I, 577 f, note 38). Ramsay argues in favor of 57 AD as the year of Paul’s arrest and 59 AD as the year of the accession of Festus (Pauline and Other Studies, 1906, 345 ff).

8. Relative Chronology of Acts:

9. Pauline Epistles:

Ten of the thirteen Pauline epistles were written during a period of about ten years between Paul’s arrival in Corinth and the close of his first Roman imprisonment. These epistles fall into three groups, each possessing certain distinctive characteristics; and although each reflects the difference in time and occasion of its production, they all reveal an essential continuity of thought and a similarity of style which evidences unity of authorship. The earliest group consists of the Thessalonian epistles, both of which were written from Corinth on the second missionary journey about 52 or 53 AD, while Silas (Silvanus) was still in Paul’s company and shortly after Paul’s visit to Athens (1Th 1:1; 3:1,2,6; 2Th 1:1). The major epistles belong to the third missionary journey. 1 Corinthians was written from Ephesus about 55 AD; Galatians probably from Ephesus, either before or after 1 Corinthians, for Paul had been twice in Galatia (Ga 4:13); 2 Corinthians from Macedonia about 57 AD; and Romans from Cor inth about 57 or 58 AD. The imprisonment epistles were written from Rome: Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon about 62 AD, and Philippians about 63 AD.

10. Release and Death of Paul:

When Paul wrote to Philemon (Phm 1:22) and to the Philippians (Php 2:24; compare Php 1:25), he expected a favorable issue of his trial in Rome and was looking forward to another visit to the East. Before his arrest he had planned a journey to Spain by way of Rome (Ro 15:28), and when he bade farewell to the Ephesian elders at Miletus (Ac 20:25) he must have had in mind not only the dangers of his journey to Jerusalem, but also his determination to enter another field of labor. 1 Clement 5, the Muratori Canon and the Apocryphal Ac of Peter (Zahn, Einltg.3, I, 444 f) witness to the Spanish journey, and the Pastoral Epistles to a journey to the East and to another imprisonment in Rome. The two lines of evidence for Paul’s release are independent and neither can be explained as derived merely from the statement of Paul’s intention in Romans and in Philemon and Philippians. The historical situation implied in the Pastoral Epistles can be charged with artificiality only on the hypothesis that Paul was not released from his first Roman imprisonment. The data of these epistles cannot be fitted into any period of Paul’s life previous to his imprisonment. But these data are embodied in just those parts of the Pastoral Epistles which are admitted to be Pauline by those who regard the epistles as containing only genuine fragments from Paul but assign the epistles in their present form to a later writer. On any hypothesis of authorship, however, the tradition which these epistles contain cannot be much later than the first quarter of the 2nd century. It is highly probable therefore that Paul was released from his first Roman imprisonment; that he visited Spain and the East; and that he was imprisoned a second time in Rome where he met his death in the closing years of Nero’s reign, i.e. in 67 or 68 AD. According to early tradition Paul suffered martyrdom by beheading with the sword (Tert., De praescr. haer., xxxvi), but there is nothing to connect his death with the persecution of the Christians in Rome by Nero in 64 AD.

Little is known of Peter beside what is recorded of him in the New Testament. The tradition of his bishopric of 20 or 25 years in Rome (compare Harnack, Gesch. d. altchr. Lit., II; Die Chronologie, I, 243 f) accords neither with the implications of Ac and Galatians nor with Paul’s silence in Rom.

11. Death of Peter:

But 1Pe was probably written from Rome (1Pe 5:13; compare Euseb., HE, ii.15, 2) and the testimony to Peter’s martyrdom (implied in Joh 21:18 f) under Nero in Rome by crucifixion (Tert., De praes. haer., xxxvi; compare 1 Clem 5:1 ff) is early and probably trustworthy. Tradition also associates Peter and Paul in their Roman labors and martyrdom (Dionysius in Euseb., HE, ii. 25, 8; Iren., Adv. haer., iii.1, 2; iii. 3, 1). The mention of the Vatican as the place of Peter’s interment (Caius in Euseb., HE, ii. 25, 6 f) may indicate a connection of his martyrdom with the Neronian persecution in 64 AD; but this is not certain. Peter’s death may therefore be dated with some probability in Rome between 64 and 67 AD. His two epistles were written at some time before his death, probably the First about 64 and the Second at some time afterward and subsequent to the Epistle of Jude which it apparently uses. (The arguments against the Roman sojourn and martyrdom of Peter are stated fully by Schmiedel in the Encyclopedia Biblica, under the word "Simon Peter," especially col. 458 ff; on the other hand compare Zahn, Einleitung3, II, 17 ff, English translation, II, 158 ff.)

12. Death of James the Just:

James the Just, the brother of the Lord, was prominent in the church of Jerusalem at the time of the Apostolic Council (Ac 15:13 ff; Ga 2:9; compare Ga 1:19; 2:12) and later when Paul was arrested he seems still to have occupied this position (Ac 21:18 ff), laboring with impressive devotion for the Jewish people until his martyrdom about the year 66 AD (Ant., XX, ix, 1; Euseb., HE, ii.23, 3 ff; HRE3, VIII, 581; Zahn, Einltg.3, I, 76). The Epistle of Jas contains numerous indications of its early origin a nd equally clear evidence that it was not written during the period when the questions which are discussed in the major epistles of Paul were agitating the church. It is probably the earliest book of the New Testament, written before the Apostolic Council.

13. The Synoptic Gospels, etc.:

In the decade just preceding the fall of Jerusalem, the tradition of the life and teaching of Jesus was committed to writing in the Synoptic Gospels. Early tradition dates the composition of Matthew’s Gospel in the lifetime of Peter and Paul (Iren., Adv. haer., ill. l, 1; Eusebius, HE, v.8, 2 ff), and that of the Gospel of Mark either just before or after Peter’s death (Clement in Euseb., HE, vi.14, 7; compare ii.15; and Irenaeus, Adv. haer., iii.11, 1; Presbyter of Papias in Euseb., HE, iii. 39, 15; compare also 2Pe 1:15). The Lucan writings--both the Gospel and Acts--probably fall also in this period, for the Gospel contains no intimation that Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem had been fulfilled (compare Lu 21:21; Ac 11:28), and the silence of Ac about the issue of Paul’s trial is best explained on the hypothesis of an early date (Jerome, De vir. illustr., vii; Harnack, Neue Untersuch. zur Apostelgesch., 1911; compare also Lu 10:7; 1Ti 5:18). To this period belong also the Epistle of Jude and the Epistle to the He (if addressed to Jewish Christians of Palestine; but later, about 80 AD, if addressed to Jewish Christians of Rome (Zahn, Einltg.3, II, 152)), the former being used in 2 Peter and the latter in 1 Clement.

14. Death of John:

15. Summary of Dates:


In addition to the literature mentioned in section 8: Anger, De temporum in actis apostolorum ratione. 1833; Wieseler, Chronologie des apos. Zeitalters, 1848: Hoennicke, Die Chronologie des Lebens des Apostels Paulus, 1903; Harnack, Gesch. d. altchr. Lit. bis Euseb., II, 1, Die Chronologie bis Iren., 1897; Lightfoot, Biblical Essays, 1893; Zahn, Einleitung, II, 1907 (Eng. translation, 1909).

W. P. Armstrong