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Chronology of the New Testament


 An attempt to establish a firm chronology of the NT is difficult because the early Christians were more interested in the sayings and events of important personages than in the time when these occurred. This is not to say they were not interested in history but they did not live in a world where chronological precision was as possible as it is at present. Hence, in attempting to put events into a chronological framework, one must gather information from incidental time references.

I. Chronology of the life of Jesus

a. Birth of Jesus

The birth of Jesus occurred before the death of Herod the Great (Mt. 2:1; Lk. 1:5), hence before March/April 4 bc (Ant. 17.167, 191; 14.487–490).

According to Lk. 2:1–5 the census of Quirinius was taken just before Jesus’ birth but the date of this census is difficult to pinpoint because no Roman historian mentions it. While Quirinius was governor of Syria in ad 6/7, he was responsible for liquidating Archelaus of Judaea’s estate and conducting a census to assess the amount of tribute the new province was to pay the imperial treasury. However, this census is not the same as the one mentioned in Lk. 2 unless Luke is mistaken, as some critics suppose—because it occurred after the deposition of Herod’s son Archelaus, whereas the context of the birth narrative of Jesus in Lk. 2 was in the days of Herod the Great. In order to resolve the problem, some suggest that Quirinius was governor of Syria not only in ad 6/7 but also in 11/10 to 8/7 bc. Others suggest that this census was ‘before’ Quirinius was governor in ad 6/7. And some think that Quirinius had been proconsul of Syria and Cilicia during the last years of Herod the Great under the legates Saturninus and Varus. Of the various suggestions, it is not improbable that Quirinius conducted a census in the last years of Herod. Toward the end of his reign Herod fell out of favour with Rome (c. 8/7 bc). This was followed by an intense struggle by his sons for the throne at a time when Herod was extremely ill. This would allow the Roman government to take a census in Herod’s land in order to assess the situation before his death. Although it is difficult to pinpoint the exact year of the census, it was probably sometime between 6 and 4 bc.

There has been much discussion regarding the historicity and identity of the star of Bethlehem. A triple conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in the constellation Pisces in 7 bc, which occurs every 900 years, and the massing of Mars, Saturn and Jupiter in Pisces in 6 bc, which occurs every 800 years (much less frequently in Pisces), may have alerted the Magi of the birth of Israel’s Messiah. Finally, in 5 bc a comet appeared in the E in the constellation of Capricornus that could well have caused the Magi to go to Bethlehem (Mt. 2:2) where it hovered (Mt. 2:9–10). Hence, Jesus may have been born sometime in the spring or summer of 5 bc. The account of Herod’s murder of all the children under 2 years of age in Bethlehem may be because he thought that Jesus was born when the Magi had seen the first constellation in 7 bc, or perhaps simply because Herod wanted to be completely certain he had killed Jesus. This would not be unusual considering his paranoia in regard to a successor.

b. Commencement of Jesus’ ministry

Except for the mention of Jesus’ visit to the temple when he was 12 years old (Lk. 2:41–51), there are no chronological data until the beginning of his ministry. The first concrete clue for the commencement of Jesus’ ministry is in Lk. 3:1–3, which states that John the Baptist’s ministry began in the fifteenth year of Tiberius. Although there is debate, it is most likely that the fifteenth year of Tiberius is reckoned either on the basis of the Julian calendar, namely, 1 January to 31 December ad 29 or on the basis of Tiberius’s reign, the normal Roman method, namely, 19 August ad 28 to 18 August ad 29. Combining these calendars, the fifteenth year of Tiberius would have occurred sometime between 19 August ad 28 and 31 December ad 29. Hence, John the Baptist’s ministry began sometime during this period.

The impression given in the gospels is that shortly after the commencement of John the Baptist’s ministry, Jesus was baptized and began his ministry. Luke indicates that when Jesus began his ministry, he was ‘about thirty years of age’ (Lk. 3:23). If Jesus was born in the spring or summer of 5 bc and was baptized in the summer or autumn of ad 29, he would have been around 33 years of age.

After his baptism, the first recorded visit of Jesus to Jerusalem is found in Jn. 2:13–3:21 where he celebrated the first Passover of his ministry, cleansing the temple. The Synoptic Gospels do not mention such a visit at the start of his ministry, and indeed they record the so-called ‘cleansing’ of the temple in the context of Jesus’ visit to Jerusalem at the end of his ministry. This divergence has been variously explained: some scholars argued that there were two cleansings, one at the start and one at the end of his ministry; others concluded that John’s gospel is theologically not chronologically arranged; and others argued that the synoptics have simplified the picture by having Jesus go to Jerusalem only once in his ministry and that John’s account has great historical plausibility (see further below).

According to John, it was during Jesus’ first Passover that the Jews mentioned that the Hero-dian temple had been constructed 46 years ago (Jn. 2:20). According to Josephus, the temple construction began in Herod’s eighteenth year (Ant. 15.380) which coincided with Augustus’ arrival in Syria (Ant. 15.354) and this occurred in the spring or summer of 20 bc (Dio Cassius 54. 7. 4–6). Herod’s eighteenth year would have been from 1 Nisan 20 to 1 Nisan 19 bc. There were two parts in building the temple: the first was the inner sanctuary called the naos located within the priests’ court which was completed by the priests in 18 months (Ant. 15.421), and the second included the whole temple area including the three courts and was called the hieron which was completed in ad 63. This distinction is consistently maintained by Josephus and the NT. In discussing the temple with Jesus, the Jews were referring to the naos as having stood for 46 years. If the construction of the naos began in 20/19 bc and was completed in 18 months, i.e. in 18/17 bc, then 46 years later would bring the date to the year ad 29/30. This means, then, that Jesus’ first Passover was the spring of ad 30. In conclusion, the commencement of Jesus’ ministry was sometime in the summer or autumn of ad 29.

c. Duration of Jesus’ministry

Valentinus, an early Gnostic commentator (born C. ad 100), as well as many of the ante-Nicene period, suggested a 1-year ministry of Jesus based on the Lk. 4:19 quotation of Is. 61:2: ‘To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.’ However, Valentinus’s contemporary, Irenaeus, refuted this view by indicating the three Passovers mentioned in John (2:13; 6:4; 11:55). Several present-century commentators suggest a 1-year ministry beginning with Jesus’ disciples plucking the grain on the Sabbath in Mk. 2:23 (ripe grain at Passover time) and ending with the Passover (only one mentioned in the Synoptic Gospels) in Mk. 14:1. To propose a 1-year ministry on the basis of the Isaianic passage is dubious. Again, the mention of three Passovers in the Gospel of John makes shipwreck of a 1-year ministry. Furthermore, to compress 1 year between Mk. 2:23 and 14:1 is unlikely, for after the plucking of grain in 2:23, there is the mention of ‘green grass’ in the feeding of the 5,000 (6:39). This indicates that another year had elapsed and another year is required between this last incident and the passion Passover of 14:1.

A 2-year ministry based on the three Passovers mentioned in John was suggested by 4th-century bishops Apollinaris of Laodicea and Epiphanius of Salamis in Cyprus, and is held by a few scholars in the 20th century.

A 3-year ministry seems to be more viable. As mentioned above, the Gospel of John refers to three Passovers (2:13; 6:4; 11:55). Moreover, it seems that an additional year is needed between the Passovers of 2:13 and 6:4. The Passover of 6:4 is around the time Jesus fed the 5,000, the only miracle mentioned in all four gospels. Previous to this feeding, the Synoptic Gospels mention the disciples plucking grain in Galilee (Mt. 12:1; Mk. 2:23; Lk. 6:1) and this must have been after the Passover of John 2:13. The reason for this is that the Passover of John 2:13 occurred shortly after his baptism and he was ministering in Judaea, whereas the plucking of the grain occurred a considerable time after Jesus’ baptism and the locale of his ministry was in Galilee. Therefore, the plucking of the grain would fit well with a Passover between the Passovers of John 2:13 and 6:4. John provides two additional chronological indicators which would support an additional year between these Passovers. First, after the Passover of Jn. 2:13, Jesus ministered in Judaea and then went to Samaria where he mentioned there were 4 months until harvest (Jn. 4:35), which would mean the following January/February. Although some consider it a proverbial statement, it seems best to take this as a literal chronological reference. The second chronological indicator is in Jn. 5:1 where there is mention of another unspecified feast. Some interpreters think it refers to another Passover, although it more likely refers to the Feast of Tabernacles. Thus, these two chronological notes would substantiate that there was another Passover between the Passovers of Jn. 2:13 and 6:4. This would make a total of four Passovers during Jesus’ public ministry, and hence his ministry would have been 31/2 to 31/4 years in length.

d. Death of Jesus

There is a need to discuss both the day of the week and the day of the month as well as the year of Jesus’ death.

First, the day of the week on which Jesus died has been traditionally thought of as Friday of passion week. However because Jesus states in Mt. 12:40: ‘For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth’, some interpreters think that Jesus could not have died on Friday. They suggest that Jesus died either on Wednesday or Thursday, allowing for 3 days and 3 nights. But when one understands that the Jews reckoned a part of a day as a whole day, then Jesus’ death on Friday does not present a serious problem. Furthermore, the NT repeatedly refers to Jesus’ resurrection as having occurred on the third day (not on the fourth day, e.g. Mt. 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; Lk. 9:22; 18:33; 24:7, 46; Acts 10:40; 1 Cor. 15:4). Moreover, the gospels specifically mention the day before the Sabbath (Friday) as the day of his death (Mt. 27:62; Mk. 15:42; Lk. 23:54; Jn. 19:14, 31, 42). Therefore, both scripturally and traditionally, it seems best to accept Friday as the day of Jesus’ death.

Second, there is a need to discuss the day of the Jewish month on which Jesus died. All the gospels state that Jesus ate the Last Supper the day before his crucifixion (Mt. 26:20; Mk. 14:17; Lk. 22:14; Jn. 13:2; cf. also 1 Cor. 11:23). On the one hand, the Synoptic Gospels (Mt. 26:17; Mk. 14:12; Lk. 22:7–8) portray that the Last Supper was the Passover meal celebrated on Thursday evening, 14 Nisan, and that Jesus was crucified the following day, Friday, 15 Nisan. On the other hand, John states that the Jews who took Jesus to the Praeto-rium did not enter it ‘in order that they might not be defiled but might eat the Passover’ (Jn. 18:28) and that Jesus’ trial was on the ‘day of preparation for the Passover’ and not after the eating of the Passover (Jn. 19:14). This implies that Jesus’ Last Supper (which occurred on Thursday night, 13 Nisan) was not a Passover and that Jesus was tried and crucified on Friday, 14 Nisan, just before the Jews ate their Passover.

In the attempt to reconcile the Synoptics and John, several theories have been proposed. Some suggest that the Last Supper was not a Passover meal but a meal the night before the Passover (Jn. 13:1, 29). However, the Synoptics explicitly state that the Last Supper was a Passover (Mt. 26:2, 17–19; Mk. 14:1, 12, 14, 16; Lk. 22:1, 7–8, 13, 15). Others suggest that the ‘Passover’ referred to in Jn 18:28 and 19:14 was not the Passover meal itself, but one of the other festal meals held in Passover week. All sorts of other harmonizations have been offered. Some have proposed that Jesus and his disciples had a private Passover. However, the Passover lamb had to be slaughtered within the temple precincts and the priests would not have allowed the slaughter of the Paschal lamb for a private Passover. Some think it was celebrated on two consecutive days, because it would have been impossible to slay all the Passover lambs on one day. Others think that different religious calendars were in operation in Palestine. So it has been suggested that Jesus and his followers followed the solar calendar used at Qumran, thus celebrating the Passover earlier in the week than the authorities who followed a lunar calendar. A different calendrical solution proposes that, on the one hand the Synoptic Gospels followed the method of the Galileans and the Pharisees in reckoning a day to be from sunrise to sunrise and thus Jesus and his disciples slaughtered the Paschal Iamb in the late afternoon of Thursday, 14 Nisan, and later that evening they ate the Passover with the unleavened bread. On the other hand, John’s Gospel followed the method of the Judaeans in reckoning a day to be from sunset to sunset and thus the Judaean Jews slaughtered the Paschal lamb in the late afternoon on Friday, 14 Nisan, and ate the Passover with the unleavened bread that night which had become 15 Nisan. Thus, Jesus had eaten the Passover meal when his enemies, who had not as yet had the Passover meal, arrested him.

Finally, the year of Jesus’ death can be narrowed by several considerations. First, the three officials involved in the trial were Caiaphas the high priest (Mt. 26:3, 57; Jn. 11:49–53; 18:13–14, 24, 28) who began his office in ad 18 and was deposed at the Passover of ad 37 (Ant. 18.35; 90–95); Pilate, prefect of Judaea (Mt. 27:2–26; Mk. 15:1–15; Lk. 23:1–25; Jn. 18:28–19:16; Acts 3:13; 4:27; 13:28; 1 Tim. 6:13) from ad 26 to 36 (Ant. 18. 89); and Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea (Lk. 23:6–12; Acts 4:27) from 4 bc until ad 39 (Ant. 18.240–56; 19.351). Thus Jesus’ trial must have occurred between ad 26 and 36.

Second, evidence from astronomy helps us to identify which Passover took place on Thursdays/ Fridays, and so to narrow the date of Jesus’ crucifixion. Granted that Jesus’ death occurred on Friday, 14 Nisan, and sometime between ad 26 and 36, only the years ad 27, 30, 33, and 36 qualify astronomically. Of these dates, ad 27 is the least likely astronomically and 36 is too late. Of the remaining dates, 30 has been debated as to whether or not 14 Nisan fell on a Friday, while the ad 33 date has the least problem astronomically. Those who maintain an ad 30 date need to begin John the Baptist’s ministry 3 years earlier. They attempt it by reckoning the first year of Tiberius’s reign when he became co-regent with Augustus. But this method must be rejected for there is no evidence, either from historical documents or coins, for its employment.

Third, history confirms the ad 33 date. Pilate is portrayed by his contemporary Philo (Embassy to Gaius 301–302) and later by Josephus (Ant. 18.55–59; BJ 1.167–77) as one who was greedy, inflexible and cruel, and who resorted to robbery and oppression, a portrait not out of keeping with Lk. 13:1. Yet, during Jesus’ trial, Pilate is seen as one who was readily submissive to the pressures of the religious leaders who were demanding that Jesus be handed over to them.

How can such a change be explained? It must be understood that Pilate was probably appointed by Sejanus, a trusted friend of Tiberius, as well as the prefect of the Praetorian Guard, a dedicated anti-Semite who wanted to exterminate the Jewish race (Philo In Flaccum, 1; Embassy to Gains, 159–161). When Pilate made trouble for the Jews in Palestine, Sejanus accepted this behaviour and did not report it to Tiberius. However, when Sejanus was deposed and executed by Tiberius on 18 October, ad 31, Pilate no longer had protection in Rome. In fact, it is most likely that Herod Antipas reported that he had caused a riot, probably at the Feast of Tabernacles in ad 32 (Philo Embassy to Gaius 299–305). Since Herod Antipas ‘had one’ on Pilate, it is understandable that in the midst of the trial, when there was the mention that Jesus stirred up trouble in Judaea and Galilee (Lk. 23:5), Pilate was eager to allow Herod Antipas to try Jesus (Lk. 23:6–12). In this context, the ad 33 date for the trial makes good sense for three reasons:

1. Pilate, on hearing that Jesus had caused trouble in Galilee, handed Jesus over to Herod Antipas. This was not required by Roman law but he did not want to make another wrong move that Herod could relate to the emperor;

2. the lack of progress in the trial in Lk. 23:6–12 makes sense because Herod Antipas did not want to make a bad judgment which would cause Pilate to take advantage of him;

3. Lk. 23:12 states that Pilate and Herod Antipas were friends from that day onward. This would be inaccurate if the crucifixion were in ad 30 because they were extremely at odds with each other in ad 32. Hence, the ad 33 date best fits the historical evidence.

Jesus’ birth

summer 5 bc

Herod the Great’s death

March/April, 4 bc

Jesus at the temple aged 12

Passover, 29 April ad 9

Commencement of John the Baptists ministry

ad 29

Commencement of Jesus’ ministry

summer/autumn ad 29

Jesus’ first Passover (Jn. 2:13)

7 April, ad 30

Jesus’ second Passover

25 April, ad 31

Jesus’ at the Feast of Tabernacles (Jn. 5:1)

21–28 October, ad 31

Jesus’ third Passover (Jn. 6:4)

13/14 April, ad 32

Jesus’ at the Feast of Tabernacles (Jn. 7:2, 10)

10–17 September, ad 32

Jesus’ at the Feast of Dedication (Jn. 10:22–39)

18 December, ad 32

Jesus’ death

Friday, 3 April, ad 33

Jesus’ resurrection

Sunday, 5 April, ad 33

Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1)

Thursday, 14 May, ad 33

Day of Pentecost (Acts 2)

Sunday, 24 May, ad 33

II. Chronology of the apostolic age

a. Paul’s ministry

The key figure in the apostolic age was the apostle Paul. Reconstructing the chronology of his life and ministry is complicated by scholarly questions (a) about the reliability of the Acts of the Apostles, being our most explicit source of information about Pauline chronology, and (b) about the authenticity of various of the Pauline letters, notably the Pastoral epistles. Some scholars have offered alternative Pauline chronologies to that suggested by Acts, basing their ideas primarily on selected Pauline letters. However, the evidence of Acts stands up remarkably well in the face of these challenges.

The date of Paul’s conversion hinges primarily on two passages of Scripture. First, Gal. 1:17–18 states that he went from Damascus to Jerusalem 3 years after his conversion (cf. Acts 9:25–26). When he escaped from Damascus, the Nabataean Aretas IV was in power (cf. 2 Cor. 11:32) and since he reigned from ad 37–39, Paul’s conversion must have been sometime between ad 34 and 36. Second, Gal. 2:1 indicates that Paul again went up to Jerusalem 14 years later. This probably refers to the famine visit he made with Barnabas, described in Acts 11 and 12, which can be dated around ad 47 to 49. It is likely that the 14 years are to be reckoned from his conversion rather than after the time of his first visit to Jerusalem, and thus his conversion would be sometime between ad 33 and 35. The overlap from these two primary passages would be ad 34 to 35 and probably the best time for his conversion would be in the summer of ad 35. Paul returned to Jerusalem in the summer of ad 37—parts of years are equivalent to a whole year-(Acts 9:26–29; Gal. 1:18–20). Paul went to Tarsus and Syria-Cilicia around the autumn of ad 37 (Acts 9:30; Gal. 1:21) and then to Antioch around ad 41 (Acts 11:19–24). Paul visited Jerusalem during the time of famine, probably in the autumn of ad 47 (Acts 11:30; Gal. 2:1–10), and returned to Antioch from the autumn of ad 47 to the spring of 48 (Acts 12:25–13:1).

Paul, thereafter, embarked on his three missionary journeys. The first missionary journey (Acts 13–14) would have been from the spring of ad 48 to the autumn of 49. Probably, in the spring of ad 48 Paul and Barnabas sailed to Salamis in Cyprus and crossing the island to Paphos, met Sergius Paulus, the proconsul. In later summer/early autumn the missionaries crossed the sea to Perga of Pamphylia and in late summer arrived in Pisidian Antioch. They ministered in the cities of Iconium, Lystra and Derbe from approximately the autumn of ad 48 to the summer/autumn of 49 and then returned to Antioch of Syria around the autumn of 49.

Upon his return to Antioch, Paul may have written the book of Galatians, and then he and Barnabas went to the council meeting in Jerusalem in the autumn of ad 49 (Acts 15:1–29). A real chronological debate revolves around the identification of the conference in Gal. 2:1–10. Some interpreters think it is to be identified with Paul’s attendance at the Jerusalem council of Acts 15 (his third visit to Jerusalem) because it would support the 14 years (Gal. 2:1) from the time of his conversion to the time of the Jerusalem council. However, it seems more likely that the conference in Gal. 2:1–10 refers to the famine relief visit of Acts 11:27–30; 12:25 (his second visit to Jerusalem) because to have suppressed the famine relief visit would have been fatal to his argument in Galatians that he was independent of human authority in his reception and proclamation of the gospel. Thus the 14 years covers the time of his conversion to the time of the famine relief visit (reckoning inclusively). This also means that Galatians was written before the Jerusalem council and the Galatians are those people in the area of Iconium, Lystra and Derbe of the first missionary journey.

After wintering in Antioch (Acts 15:33–35), Paul started on his second missionary journey (Acts 15:36–18:22) which would have been from the spring of ad 50 to the autumn of 52. On this missionary journey he retraced his steps by visiting Phrygia and Galatia (Iconium, Lystra and Derbe; Acts 16:6) and with the leading of the Spirit he entered Europe, stayed in Corinth for 18 months (Acts 18:11), and was tried before the proconsul Gallic (Acts 18:12–17) who ruled in Achaia probably from the summer of ad 51 to the summer of 52. Also, in Corinth Paul met Priscilla and Aquila, Jewish Christians who were forced out of Rome under the edict of Claudius, probably in ad 49 or 50 (Acts 18:2; Suetonius, Claudius 5. 25.4; Orosius, History 7. 6). In the summer of ad 51, while in Corinth, Paul wrote 1 and 2 Thes. On his return to Antioch, Paul brought along Priscilla and Aquila and left them at Ephesus.

The third missionary journey (Acts 18:23–21:16) was from the spring of ad 53 to the spring of 57. Paul returned to Phrygia and Galatia and proceeded to Ephesus, where he remained for nearly 3 years (Acts 19:8, 10; 20:31), from the summer of ad 53 until May of 56 and in the spring of 56 he wrote 1 Cor. Paul is often thought to have paid a short ‘painful’ visit to Corinth during this Ephesian period (2 Cor. 2:1), and some scholars have speculated that he spent some time in prison in Ephesus, writing some or all of his ‘Prison epistles’ here (but see below).

When he finally left Ephesus, he went to Macedonia and Greece for three months (Acts 20:3). While in Macedonia he wrote 2 Cor. (which we take to be a unity, despite some critics’ questions). In Corinth (Rom. 16:23) he wrote Rom. in the winter of ad 56/57. From Corinth Paul retraced his steps through Europe and then took ship from Troas, returning to Jerusalem by the Pentecost of ad 57 (Acts 20:16).

While in Jerusalem he was arrested and taken to Caesarea for a trial before Felix, who was probably procurator from the latter part of ad 52 to the summer of 59 (Acts 23:24; Ant. 20.137; BJ 2.247; Ant. 12.54). Felix heard Paul (Acts 24) and Paul remained in the Caesarean prison for 2 years, at the end of which time Felix was succeeded by Festus (Acts 24:27; Ant. 20.182; BJ 2.271). Both Festus and Herod Agrippa II heard Paul in Caesarea (Acts 25:7–12; 26:1–32) in the late summer of ad 59. Paul was in prison in Caesarea from June of 57 until August of 59. He left Caesarea in August of 59 and arrived in Rome in February of 60 (Acts 27:1–28:29) and remained in prison for 2 years (Acts 28:30), from February 60 to March of 62. While in prison, he wrote the Prison epistles: Eph. in the autumn of 60, Col. and Ph. in the autumn of 61, and Phil. in the spring of 62. (Some scholars have speculated that some or all of the epistles were written earlier, either from Ephesus or from Caesarea.)

After the Roman imprisonment there are no recorded travels of Paul in Acts. From Paul’s intentions, his travel notes in the Pastoral epistles, and from early church history, one can only attempt to reconstruct his itinerary after his release from the Roman prison in the spring of ad 62. It seems probable that he travelled E, possibly first in Ephesus and Colossae (spring-autumn 62), later in Macedonia (autumn 62-winter 62/63) from where he wrote 1 Tim. (1:3), and afterwards returned to Asia Minor (spring 63-spring 64). After Asia Minor Paul may well have gone to Spain (spring 64-spring 66) (Rom. 15:24, 28). After Spain it is possible that Paul, with Titus, returned to the E by going to Crete (early summer 66) and leaving Titus. Paul then returned to Asia Minor (summer-autumn 66) (2 Tim. 4:13–14) from where he wrote Tit. (Tit. 1:5). He went to Nicopolis for the winter of 66/67 (Tit. 3:12). It seems that Paul went to Macedonia and Greece (spring-autumn 67) (2 Tim. 4:20) and was possibly arrested when Nero was in Greece in the autumn of 67. It is probable that Paul was again imprisoned in Rome (2 Tim. 1:8; 2:9) from where he wrote 2 Tim. (autumn of 67). Paul’s death may have come in the spring of 68.

b. Apostolic history

In the early part of Acts, Peter played a prominent role. Since it was concluded that Jesus died in ad 33 and that Paul’s conversion was in the summer of 35, the ministry of Peter and the other apostles mentioned in the first 8 chapters of Acts would have taken place in the 2 years between ad 33 and 35. Peter plays a prominent part in the Jerusalem council in ad 49 (Acts 15). It is most likely that Peter did go to Rome towards the end of his life. Since Peter is neither mentioned by Paul when he wrote to the Romans in the winter of ad 56/57, when he wrote the Prison epistles in his first imprisonment in Rome in ad 60–62, nor when he wrote his second letter to Tim. in his second imprisonment in Rome in ad 67, nor by Luke when he narrates Paul’s imprisonment in Acts 28:14–30, it seems that Peter was not in Rome before ad 62 or after 66. It is probable that Peter was in Rome when Paul was not there and thus he may well have come to Rome around ad 62 and been martyred in the Neronian persecution following the fire in the summer of 64.

In the persecution of Herod Agrippa I in ad 44, James, the brother of John, was killed and Peter was imprisoned (Acts 12:2–3). It was in that same year that Agrippa I died (Acts 12:20–23; Ant. 19.343–53).

James, the brother of the Lord, was an important leader in the early church (Acts 15:13; Gal. 1:19–2:9; 1 Cor. 15:7). Josephus speaks of his death as having occurred in the period of anarchy after the death of Festus in the winter of 61/62 and before the arrival of his successor, Albinus, in the summer of 62 (Ant. 20.197–203). Hence, James was killed in the spring of 62.

The fall of Jerusalem was predicted by Christ (Mt. 24:15=Mk. 13:14=Lk. 21:20) and the first phase of the fulfilment was accomplished in ad 70. Many Christians are thought to have fled to Pella, E of the Sea of Galilee (Eusebius EH 3.5. 2–3).

Due to the destruction of Jerusalem, some have surmised that John fled to Asia Minor, possibly to Ephesus. Part of his time was spent on the island of Patmos (Rev. 1:9) and although there is no certainty regarding the time of his death, traditionally it is thought to have occurred in ad 100.

A proposed chronology for the whole apostolic period (with some dates more speculative and approximate than others) can be charted as follows:


Friday, 3 April, ad 33

Pentecost (Acts 2)

Sunday, 24 May, 33

Peter’s second sermon and brought before the Sanhedrin (Acts 3:1–4:31)

summer 33

Death of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 4:32–5:11)


Peter brought before Sanhedrin (Acts 5:12–42)


Deacons selected (Acts 6:1–7)

late 34-early 35

Stephen martyred (Acts 6:8–7:60)

April 35

Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:1–7)

summer 35

Paul in Damascus and Arabia (Acts 9:8–25; Gal. 1:16–17)

summer 35-early summer 37

Paul in Jerusalem, first visit (Acts 9:26–29

summer 37

Paul in Tarsus and Syria-Cilicia area (Acts 9:30; Gal 1:21)

autumn 37

Peter ministers to the Gentiles (Acts 10:1–11:18)


Barnabas sent to Antioch (Acts 11:19–24)


Paul went to Antioch (Acts 11:25–26)

spring 43

Agabus predicts a famine (Acts 11:27–28)

spring 44

Agrippa’s persecution, James martyred (Acts 12:1–23)

spring 44

Relief visit, Paul’s second visit to Jerusalem (Acts 11:30; Gal. 2:1–10)

autumn 47

Paul in Antioch (Acts 12:25–13:1)

autumn 47-spring 48

First missionary journey (Acts 13–14)

April 48-September 49

Departure from Antioch

April 48


April-June 48


beginning-middle of July 48

Pisidian Antioch

middle July-middle September 48


October 48-end February 49


March-middle June 49

Return visit to churches

middle June-August 49

Return to Antioch of Syria

autumn 49

Peter at Antioch (Gal 2:11–16)

autumn 49

Galatians written fron Antioch

autumn 49

Jerusalem council, Paul’s third visit (Acts 15)

autumn 49

Paul in Antioch (Acts 15:33–35)

winter 49/50

Second missionary journey (Acts 15:36–18:22)

April 50-September 52

Departure from Antioch

April 50

Syria and Cilicia

April 50


May 50


end May-middle June 50

Pisidian Antioch

middle June-beginning July 50

Antioch to Troas

July 50


August-October 50


November 50-January 51


February 51


end February-middle March 51

Arrival at Corinth

middle March 51

Silas and Timothy arrive fron Berea

April/May 51

1 Thessalonians written

early summer 51

2 Thessalonians written

summer 51

Departure fron Corinth

beginning September 52


middle September 52

Jerusalem, Paul’s fourth visit

end September 52

Return to Antioch

beginning/middle November 52

Paul’s stay at Antioch

winter 52/53

Third missionary journey (Acts 18:23–21:16)

spring 53-May 57

Departure from Antioch

spring 53

Visiting Galatian churches

spring-summer 53

Arrival at Ephesus

September 53

1 Corinthians written

early spring 56

Departure from Ephesus (riot)

beginning May 56


May 56

Arrival in Macedonia

beginning June 56

2 Corinthians written

September/October 56

Departure from Macedonia

middle November 56

Arrival in Corinth

end November 56

Romans written

winter 56/57

Departure from Corinth

end February, 57


6–14 April, 57


12–25 April, 57

Troas to Assos

Monday, 25 April, 57

Assos to Mitylene

26 April, 57

Mitylene to Chios

27 April, 57

Chios to Trogyllium

28 April, 57

Trogyllium to Miletus

29 April, 57

Ephesian elders see Paul

30 April-2 May, 57

Miletus to Patara

2–4 May, 57

Patara to Tyre

5–9 May, 57

Stay at Tyre

10–16 May, 57

Tyre to Caesarea

17–19 May, 57

Stay at Caesarea

19–25 May, 57

Caesarea to Jerusalem

25–27 May, 57

Jerusalem, Paul’s fifth visit

eve of Pentecost, 25 May, 57

Meeting with James (Acts 21:13–23)

28 May, 57

Paul’s arrest and trial before Felix (Acts 21:26–24:22)

29 May-9 June, 57

First day of purification

Sunday, 29 May, 57

Second day of purification

30 May, 57

Third day of purification

31 May, 57

Fourth day of purification

1 June, 57

Fifth day of purification, riot, Paul’s speech

2 June, 57

Paul before the Sanhedrin

3 June, 57

Appearance of the Lord (night)
Conspiracy (day)

4 June, 57

Journey to Antipatris (night)
Journey to Caesarea (day)

5 June, 57

Waiting in Caesarea for trial

5–9 June, 57

Trial before Felix

Thursday, 9 June, 57

Paul before Felix and Drusilla (Acts 24:24–26)

June 57

Caesarean imprisonment (Acts 24:27)

June 57-August 59

Trial before Festus (Acts 25–12)

July 59

Trial before Agrippa (Acts 26)

beginning August 59

Voyage to Rome (Acts 27:1–28:29)

August 59-February 60

Departure from Caesarea

middle August 59


beginning September 59

Fair Havens

October 5–10, 59

Shipwreck at Malta

end October 59

Departure from Malta

beginning February 60

Arrival in Rome

end February 60

First Roman imprisonment (Acts 28:30)

February 60-March 62

Ephesians written

autumn 60

Colossians and Philemon written

autumn 61

Philippians written

early spring 62

James, Lord’s brother, Martyred

spring 62

Paul in Ephesus and Colossae

spring-autumn 62

Peter goes to Rome


Paul in Macedonia (1 Tim. 1:3)

late summer 62-winter 62/63

1 Timothy written

autumn 62

Paul in Asia Minor

spring 63-spring 64

Paul in Spain (Rom. 15:24, 28)

spring 64-spring 66

Christians persecuted, Peter martyred

summer 64

Paul in Crete

early summer 66

Paul in Asia Minor (Tit. 1:5)

summer-autumn 66

Titus written

summer 66

Paul in Nicopolis )Tit. 3:12)

winter 66/67

Paul in Macedonia and Greece (2 Tim. 4:13, 20)

spring-autumn 67

Paul arrested and brought to Rome (2 Tim. 1:8; 2:9)

autumn 67

2 Timothy written

autumn 67

Paul’s death

spring 68

Destruction of Jerusalem

2 September, 70

Bibliography. J. van. Bruggen, ‘Na veertien jaren’ De datering van het in Galaten 2 genoemde overleg le Jeruzalem, 1973; G. B. Caird, ‘The Chronology of the NT, in IDE 1, 1962, pp. 599–607; S. Dockx, Chronologies neotestamentaires et Vie l’Eglise primitive: Recherches exegetiques. (rev. edn.), 1984; J. Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, 1964; J. K. Fotheringham, ‘The Evidence of Astronomy and Technical Chronology for the Date of the Crucifixion, JTS 35, 1934, pp. 146–162; R. T. France, ‘Chronological Aspects of “Gospel Harmony” ’, Vox Evangelica 16, 1986, pp. 33–59; J. J. Gunther, Paul: Messenger and Exile. A Study in the Chronology of His Life and Letters, 1972; H. W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, 1977; C. J. Humphreys, The Star of Bethlehem, a Comet in 5 bc and the Date of Christ’s Birth, TynB 43.1, 1992, pp. 31–56; C. J. Humphreys and W. G. Waddington, ‘The Jewish Calendar, a Lunar Eclipse and the Date of Christ’s Crucifixion, TynB 43.2, 1992, pp. 331–351; N. Hyldahl, Die Paulinische Chronologic. Acta Theologica Danica 19, 1986; A. Jaubert, The Date of the Last Supper, 1965; R. Jewett, A Chronology of Paul’s Life, 1979; ‘Chronology and Methodology: Reflections on the Debate over Chapters in a Life of Paul, in Colloquy on New Testament Studies’. A Time for Reappraisal and Fresh Approaches, 1983, pp. 271–287; J. Knox, Chapters in Life of Paul (rev. ed.), 1987; G. Luedemann, Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles: Studies in Chronology, F. Stanley Jones, 1984; G. Ogg, The Chronology of the Life of Paul, 1968. The Chronology of the Public Ministry of Jesus, 1940; D. Plooij, De Chronologic van he Leven van Paulus, 1918; J. Vardaman and E. M. Yamauchi (eds.), Chronos, Kairos, Christos: Nativity and Chronological Studies Presented to Jack Finegan, 1989.


Ant. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews

ad anno Domini

cf confer (Lat.), compare

BJ Josephus, Jewish Wars

EH Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History

JTS Journal of Theological Studies

TynB Tyndale Bulletin (formerly THB)