The New Chronology Of Paul’s Life -- By: George H. Gilbert

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 055:218 (Apr 1898)
Article: The New Chronology Of Paul’s Life
Author: George H. Gilbert

The New Chronology Of Paul’s Life

George H. Gilbert

On the relative chronology of Paul’s life we have a good many data in the book of Acts and in Paul’s epistles. Certain periods are definitely marked off, as that from his conversion to his first and second visits in Jerusalem (Gal. 1:18; 2:1); other periods are of unknown length, as the missionary tours from Antioch. A single period of indefinite duration of course renders it impossible to compute the exact length of his Christian career.

On the absolute chronology of Paul’s life there is even greater uncertainty than on its relative chronology. We do not know the year of his birth, his conversion, his death, or indeed of any individual event in his life, with a single exception. The year which he spent in Antioch with Barnabas (Acts 11:26) synchronizes wholly or in part with the year 44, for Luke indicates that Herod died in Csesarea while Paul was in Antioch, and Herod’s death fell in the year 44, not long after the Passover (Acts 12:3).1 But this year in Antioch was preceded and followed by a period of uncertain length, for it was preceded by the work in Syria and Cilicia, and followed by the first missionary tour from Antioch.

Professor Ramsay attempts to derive a fixed point for the chronology of Paul’s life from Acts 20:6–11.2 His argument is as follows: Paul and his companions left Troas on Monday after a seven days’ visit. Hence they arrived

in Troas on the preceding Tuesday. But they had been five days on the trip from Philippi to Troas, and therefore must have left Philippi on the preceding Friday. Now Luke says that they started from Philippi “after the days of unleavened bread.” Ramsay assumes that they left on the very next day after the feast, and therefore that the Passover was slain on Thursday. This was true in the year 57, but not in any year immediately before or after that; and consequently Ramsay holds that this was the year of Paul’s last journey to Jerusalem. From this he reckons forward and backward.

But it will be seen that this theory absolutely requires us to suppose that Paul left Philippi on Friday. Luke, however, neither says this nor does his narrative necessarily imply it. He simply says that they sailed away from Philippi “after the days of unleavened bread”; and while his narrative speaks of hastening...

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