For quite a long time there has been an active debate amongst scholars devoted to the study of New Testament chronology concerning the date of the Crucifixion. Some say 30 AD, others 33 AD, and a minority have suggested other years. It might all seem to be purely academic to the man or woman in the pew, and in one sense it is; those who have been born again by the Spirit of God know He indwells them, and the specific date of the redeeming act pales in significance to this sublime fact.
To those who have not experienced the deep peace and sense of assurance that comes from being indwelt by the Spirit of God, however, the question has some importance, because it bears on whether the Bible can be trusted when it addresses the eternal “things which are not seen” (2 Cor. 4:18). How so? Because people without the spiritual insights afforded by a personal relationship with the Savior must look to external indicators to weigh whether its truth claims are believable. Such externals include the testimony of nature; the testimony of the changed lives of Christians around them; the testimony of historical records and archaeology; and the testimony of the Bible itself. Those immersed in a secular worldview can dismiss the marvels of nature as either an accident of random chance or perhaps due to the intervention of “aliens” (actually demons); those who know individual Christians with an inconsistent or immature walk with Christ can tar Christianity in general with such labels as “hypocrites” or “judgmental”; those who know something about biblical history and archaeology may say “no one knows for sure” due to the clamoring skeptical voices filling social media and academia, which vigorously push a negative slant on the facts; and those who find in the Bible “unbelievable” miracles and “rigid, outdated” moral standards they deem inappropriate for our “enlightened, tolerant” age of near-total individual freedom, readily point to perceived errors in its pages to claim that its moral precepts and its testimony that Jesus is the only Savior of the world can be ignored.
Yet, it remains true that no sane person doubts that Jesus of Nazareth once walked the dusty roads of ancient Israel, and His life left a mark on the human race that has endured for two millennia. But notwithstanding this acknowledgement, most people are content to heed the voices of skeptics, supposedly authoritative scholars who question the biblical text, or in-name-only “cultural Christians” who embrace a vague “spirituality” that encompasses all religious aspirations but is devoid of objective substance. As a result, they refuse to seriously wrestle with what those truly committed to the Bible’s message have to say – particularly when they say a bunch of different things about the Book they all claim as Truth! To the point of this article, many people realize that believers can’t even agree on the year when their Savior was crucified. If they can’t get their facts straight on that key event, how can they be expected to get right anything the Bible teaches? In their rational minds, their skepticism seems well-justified.
In last month’s issue of the ABR Newsletter, I discussed some of my research regarding the date of the Crucifixion. That article, “How the Passover Illuminates the Date of the Crucifixion,” looked at how the Passover was first observed on the night before the Israelites left Egypt, then at how God commanded His people to commemorate it each year as a memorial to His great deliverance (Ex. 12, Lev. 21, Nm. 28). Applying this information from the Word to initially narrow down the options for the date of the Crucifixion – it ruled out any days other than a Friday, or any duration other than from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning – the study then looked at records of lunar eclipses, in the hope that such objective, science-based information could tie the date of the Crucifixion to a specific year. We left that investigation with the observation that lunar eclipse information contributed nothing of substance in making a determination, leaving us with two possible candidate dates – April 7, 30 BC and April 3, 33 BC. We concluded that further information was needed to try to choose between them.
This installment picks up from where we left off last month, looking at additional factors which may help us choose between these two options. Here we will delve into some chronological details in the books of Acts and Galatians. The reader will notice our approach is to go directly to Scripture whenever possible, and when datable extrabiblical events are taken into account, to only use those which have virtually unanimous acceptance. If the resulting conclusions match up with what the scholars say, well and good; if not, the reader is encouraged to evaluate them by the straightforward sense of Scripture, not by filtering them first through the opinions of scholars. As a wise friend, an engineer, told me in an email, “As erroneous historical scholarship seldom results in death or malpractice lawsuits, far too many liberties are taken with scholarly presumptions. I find many (not all) scholars are often in error but never in doubt...” This is a sentiment I agree with; there is a lot of scholarly arrogance out there. For this reason, we do well to base our conclusions directly on the biblical text and original source material, unfiltered by the opinions of others. If the scholars can read the original material and render opinions on it, so can you and I! Although their studies may be helpful from time to time, we need not slavishly depend on them to interpret Scripture for us, since God has promised to send His Spirit to give us insight if we are sincere seekers:
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come (Jn. 16:13, ESV).
My goal in this paper is to look closely at details in Scripture itself that point to a clear-cut date for the Crucifixion. I believe that many commentators have eschewed their own careful exegetical work and have overlooked the immediate context of the passages from which they derive their chronological understandings, piggybacking instead on fashionable academic trends and adopting erroneous conclusions as a result. We can avoid these errors if we are sensitive to scriptural context on the one hand, yet at the same time embracing a whole-Bible perspective. This we will attempt to do below.
Luke’s Consecutively Ordered Events
Having a series of events presented in consecutive order would be a big help in establishing a timeline surrounding the Crucifixion. We have excellent cause to expect we can derive a reliable sequence of events from Scripture itself, because we have the records of a first-rate historian, Luke, to work with. He states in Luke 1:3 (NASB): “It seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus...” Acts 1:1-2 begins in similar fashion: “The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven...” A straightforward reading of these verses indicates that Luke’s intent in both books was to set forth a chronological, consecutive ordering of events.
Since a straightforward reading of the biblical text has never discouraged academics from questioning it, it is necessary to support the contention that Luke aimed for a chronological ordering in his account. As scholars are wont to do, some have argued in recent years that the apparent sense of the text is not the correct one; that Luke had no qualms about rearranging his material in logical order to tell his story. When a detailed study is done, however, it strongly supports the idea of explicit chronological ordering conveyed by the NASB translation. I commend to you a carefully done exegetical paper by Benjamin Fung, Aida Spencer and Francois Viljoen (2017), “What does kαθεξῆς in Luke 1:3 mean? Discovering the writing order of the Gospel of Luke,” In die Skriflig 51(1), a2218, online at https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v51i1.2218. It concludes that an in-depth study of the word kathexes in Luke 1:3, “in consecutive order” (NASB) or “an orderly account” (ESV), indicates chronological order was intended. As they write near the beginning of their lengthy analysis:
In Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek (Montanari 2015:1002) kαθεξῆς indicates ‘in succession, one after another, in order’. According to BDAG (2000:490) kαθεξῆς has a similar but more elaborative meaning, namely ‘pertinent to being in sequence in (1) time, (2) space, or (3) logic’. In the Bible kαθεξῆς usually refers to sequence of time, and when Luke uses kαθεξῆς to describe time, he describes chronological order, as will be demonstrated (emphasis added).
Summarizing their section on the etymology of kαθεξῆς, the authors observe:
In summary…in Luke 1:3 Luke intends to write one event after another according to their time of happening (next, or next in order to and down) for everything he has investigated (to the end). By using kαθεξῆς, Luke suggests that he writes his Gospel in chronological order.
It stands to reason that since Luke wrote Acts for the same recipient he directed his Gospel to, Theophilus, his declared chronological approach in the Gospel is reflected in Acts as well. He states in Acts 1:1-2, “The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven...” By beginning thus, it is clear that Luke views what he is about to relate in Acts as a continuation of what was set forth earlier in his Gospel. Acts is Luke’s second account for Theophilus, so we should expect it also to be “in consecutive order.” We have here solid grounds for taking the order of events as Acts presents them as the order in which they occurred. We will give Fung, Spencer and Viljoen the last word on this, extracted from their Conclusion:
Besides Luke 1:3, kαθεξῆς occurs four times only in Luke and Acts in the NT, and the usages in Luke 8:1, Acts 3:24 and 11:4 (i.e. 75%) refer to time sequence….Luke always uses ἑξῆς to describe a time sequence, whether referring generally to time or specifically to hour…(emphasis added).
The Timeline of Acts 1-9
With those preliminaries out of the way, we want to first determine the approximate amount of time required for the events that span Acts 1 through 9 to take place. This can only be done by actually reading the material and exercising judgment based on what the text says, not by theorizing based on a superficial observation of the number of chapters involved. The following timeline is extracted from those chapters, condensed for brevity. The NASB has been used.
From the Crucifixion at Passover to the Ascension – 43 days
Acts 1:3: “To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.” After His Crucifixion on a Passover Friday, Jesus rose from the dead "on the first day of the week" (Mk 16:1-2, Lk 24:1), "on the third day" (1 Cor 15:3-4). This was followed by 40 days of post-Resurrection appearances to his disciples.
The Pentecost Harvest of 3000 – 50 days inclusive after Passover
Acts 2:1, 41: “When the day of Pentecost had come [50 days, counted inclusively, after Passover]…that day there were added about three thousand souls.”
[Total elapsed time from Passover ~ 7 weeks.]
Converts increase, Pentecost visitors don’t go home, people start selling possessions to help them
Acts 2:42-45, 47: “They [including many visiting Jews] were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need…And the Lord was adding to their number day by day…” [Since many new converts were Pentecost visitors from far away (vv. 9-11) who had come to Jerusalem with no intention of a prolonged stay, they had limited resources with them. Therefore, this selling and sharing began almost immediately after Pentecost to meet their needs. People were prepared to sell their possessions because there was widespread Messianic expectation.]
[Propose 3 weeks to see the need for donations, begin property sales, and set up distribution strategies. Total elapsed time from Passover ~ 10 weeks.]
Episode of the lame man, 5000-plus new converts; apostles jailed, let off with a warning
Acts 3-4: “And [shortly after the start of selling possessions] a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple [a very public spot, so many people were aware of him.]…Peter said, “…In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!”…And all the people saw him walking and praising God…and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. As they [the apostles] were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them…And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day…But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men [not counting women/children] came to be about five thousand…On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes…began to confer with one another…And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them…“we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” [aggravating the Jewish authorities]…And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul…there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need…Barnabas…owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
[Propose this happens within 2 weeks of the start of the selling possessions, about 1 month after Pentecost. Total elapsed time ~ 12 weeks, or 3 months since Passover.]
Conversions continue, Jewish leaders feel threatened, apostles jailed and flogged
Acts 5: “At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico [a crowd in a very public place would attract attention]…And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number…Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed….But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy. They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.” Upon hearing this, they entered into the temple about daybreak and began to teach. [No delay!]…The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name [after the healing of the lame man], and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us”…But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men…He [Jesus] is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”…But when they heard this, they [the High Priest and Sadducees] were cut to the quick and intended to kill them. [This evil intent on the part of the Jewish leaders emerges quickly.]…But a Pharisee named Gamaliel…gave orders to put the men outside for a short time…They took his advice; after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them….And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”
[Propose the first arrest of the apostles happens about 5 months after Passover. Severity of punishment quickly escalates.]
Conversions continue, Stephen made a deacon, arrested and martyred
Acts 6-7: “Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number [which was happening continually], a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews [the ones who came at Pentecost to Jerusalem from far away] against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. “Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task…and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit…The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith…And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen…And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came up to him and dragged him away and brought him before the Council…And he said, “Hear me, brethren and fathers!...Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.”…But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.”
[Propose Stephen’s death happens within 7 months of Passover.]
Great persecution begins, Saul takes a leading role, is converted
Acts 8-9: “Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day [the very day of Stephen’s death] a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles….But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word....Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem….As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.”…Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus…”
[Propose Saul’s conversion happens within 9 months of Passover.]
Summary about the Timeline of Acts 1-9
Looking over this information, and making what seem to be reasonable deductions about how much time passes in view of the very fast growth of the Church (3000, 5000, “multitudes…were constantly added”) and rapidly escalating animosity of the Jewish religious leaders in the face of aggressive evangelizing by the apostles, there is no good reason to suppose that the events of Acts 1-9 took a year or more to occur. Not more than a few months would be necessary to bring the Jewish leaders’ antipathy to a boil, since the apostles adopted a very “in your face” attitude against the High Priest and the Sadducees, making it very reasonable for Saul’s conversion to have taken place in the latter part of the crucifixion year. It must be kept in mind, also, that these were the same Jewish leaders who had pushed for the death penalty against Jesus, predisposing them to have little tolerance for His followers. Not more than 9 months appears necessary after Passover of the crucifixion year for all of these events to have taken place. The honest skeptic without a chronological agenda can pad this time with a couple more months if they wish, but beyond that appears to be unrealistically generous.
Paul’s Early Travels in Acts 8-12
We have just sketched out reasons why less than a year was necessary, from the Crucifixion to the conversion of Saul, for the clash between the disciples and the Jewish religious leaders to result in the scattering of the infant Church and Saul’s single-minded persecution of it. In order to establish a longer timeline in which to place one or more independently datable events, we now establish the sequence of places Paul visited in his early days as a Christian, from his conversion to his second trip to Antioch. All Scriptures that follow (ESV) are presented in consecutive order. Clarifying notes have been added in [brackets], while the places Paul visited are emphasized in bold italics.
Jerusalem, the starting point
Acts 8:1, 3: “And Saul approved of his [Stephen’s] execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles….But Saul was ravaging the church [in Jerusalem], and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.”
1. Damascus #1
Acts 9:3-6, 8, 19: “Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus... and suddenly a light from heaven shone around. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’...So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus...and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus.” [This is the first major time marker in Paul’s Christian life: his conversion.]
Gal 1:15-17a: “But when he who had set me apart...was pleased to reveal his Son to me [at his conversion, on his first visit to Damascus], in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me [his gospel was not influenced by people, but revealed by the Lord], but I went away into Arabia...”
3. Damascus #2
Gal 1:17b: “...And returned again [for the second time] to Damascus.” [Note that this passage does not say that Paul spent three years in Arabia! That is a common misconception. All it tells us is that Paul went there for an apparently rather short period of time, then returned.]
Acts 9:23, 25: “When many days had passed [in Damascus], the Jews plotted to kill him...but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall [of Damascus], lowering him in a basket.” [2 Cor 11:32-33: “At Damascus, the governor [ethnarch] under King Aretas [IV] was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.”]
4. Jerusalem #1
Acts 9:26-27: And when he [Saul] had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles…”
Gal 1:18: “Then after [Gk. meta] three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days.” [This is the second major time marker in Paul’s Christian life: his first trip to Jerusalem after he had been a Christian for a total of three years, not three years since he got back from Arabia. The Greek preposition meta tells us this time period traces back to his conversion, as clarified below.]
Acts 9:29-30a: “And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists [at Jerusalem]. But they were seeking to kill him. And when the brothers learned this...”
Acts 9:30b: “...they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him [Saul] off to Tarsus [in Cilicia].”
Gal 1:21: “Then [until Barnabas sought him out] I went into the regions of Syria [Antioch] and Cilicia [Tarsus]. [Acts 21:39: Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia...]
Acts 11:19-22, 24b-25: “Now those who were scattered because of…Stephen traveled as far as…Antioch… preaching the Lord Jesus…and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this [large-scale Gentile conversions] came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch….And a great many people were added to the Lord [at Antioch]. So [because he needed help ministering to all the new converts] Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul…”
6. Antioch #1
Acts 11:26-28: “...and when he [Barnabas] had found him [at Tarsus], he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year [of ministry at Antioch] they [Barnabas and Saul] met with the church and taught a great many people. Now in these days [the year when Barnabas and Saul were at Antioch] prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be [in the near future] a great famine [which had not started yet, it was a prophecy] over all the [Roman] world (this took place in the days of Claudius [41-54 AD]).
7. Jerusalem #2
Acts 11:29-30: So the disciples [at Antioch] determined, every one according to his ability, to send [pre-emptive] relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it [the famine relief] to the elders [at Jerusalem] by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.”
Gal 2:1: “Then after [Gk. dia] fourteen years I went up again [a second time] to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus [a Gentile] along with me.” [This is the third major time marker in Paul’s Christian life – fourteen years post-conversion, encompassing all his time as a Christian up to the end of his one year of Antioch ministry with Barnabas. The Greek preposition dia makes this clear, see below.]
Gal 2:2: “I went up [to Jerusalem] because of a revelation [not because of famine relief] and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles [this Gentile-centered gospel was the revelation], in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain.” [Cf. Gal 1:12: “For I neither received it [the gospel he preached] from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” This revelation was Paul’s distinctive gospel message that applied specifically to Gentile believers. Labeling this trip merely a “famine relief mission,” as if that was its primary reason, denies Paul’s plain statement that it was driven by “a revelation” he needed to share. His goal for the trip was to convey his Gentile-centered gospel message privately to some of the leadership in Jerusalem “for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain.” It was only because he already planned to go to Jerusalem that the pre-emptive famine relief was sent along with him, Barnabas and Titus. Think about it: if famine relief was the main motive for the trip, Titus’ inclusion makes little sense. But it does if we consider that he was Exhibit A of God’s new work among the Gentiles. If famine relief had been the main motive, it would most efficiently have been sent with the prophet Agabus and his companions when they returned to their home in Jerusalem after their Antioch visit.]
Acts 12:1-4: “About that time [when Barnabas and Paul left Antioch for Jerusalem] Herod [Agrippa I] the king…killed James the brother of John...proceeded to arrest Peter…during the days of Unleavened Bread [part of the Passover festival]...intending after the Passover [in just a few days] to bring him out to the people.”
Acts 12:6-7, 19a: “Now when Herod [Agrippa I] was about to bring him [Peter] out, on that very night…an angel of the Lord stood next to him…And the chains fell off his hands...And after Herod searched for him [Peter] and did not find him, he examined the sentries and ordered that they should be put to death.”
Acts 12:19b-23: “Then he [Herod Agrippa I] went down from Judea to Caesarea and spent time there. Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and...asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. On an appointed day [for their meeting] Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them [in context, to the people of Tyre and Sidon]...And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” [buttering him up to curry his political favor] Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down…he [Herod Agrippa I] breathed his last [44 AD, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herod_Agrippa, which summarizes this current consensus of scholarship in its endnotes].”
8. Antioch #2
Acts 12:24-25: “But the word of God increased and multiplied. And [following the death of Herod Agrippa I] Barnabas and Saul returned [to Antioch] from Jerusalem when they had completed their service [for the Antioch church, in explaining to the elders at Jerusalem God’s work among the Gentiles there, and only secondarily delivering their famine offering], bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.”
Analysis of the Acts 8-12 Timeline
The above presentation of Paul’s early travels, from his conversion to his return to Antioch from his second trip to Jerusalem, is securely based on information taken straight from Scripture. Only the date of Herod Agrippa I’s death is drawn from outside sources, but it is confirmed by multiple classical writings reflected in the Wikipedia entry; indeed, one will find no serious dissent from the 44 AD date for Herod’s death anywhere, so strong is the evidence. Now we need to build upon this information and draw out its implications for determining the date of the Crucifixion.
First, however, a note about a possible complaint some may direct at this study concerning the King Aretas mentioned in 2 Cor. 11:32-33. Some scholars have alleged that Aretas would not have had authority to control an ethnarch in Damascus before about 37 AD, requiring Paul’s abrupt departure after his second trip there to have been in 37 AD or later. Such conjectures, however, were dismissed by well-respected scholar F.F. Bruce, whose opinion carries considerable weight. In Chronological Questions in the Acts of the Apostles, a November 1985 lecture at John Rylands University (online at https://www.escholar.manchester.ac.uk/api/datastream?publicationPid=uk-ac-man-scw:1m1627&datastreamId=POST-PEER-REVIEW-PUBLISHERS-DOCUMENT.PDF), Bruce states:
Aretas IV was king of the Nabataean Arabs from about 9 B.C. to A.D. 40. It is widely supposed, though on doubtful grounds, that Damascus actually belonged to his kingdom for a few years before his death -- perhaps through a change of imperial policy at the beginning of the principate of Gaius in A.D. 37.8 His ethnarch who, according to 2 Corinthians 11:32, watched the gates of Damascus in an attempt to arrest Paul, was probably the head of the Nabataean colony in that city.9 Paul’s residence in Damascus, according to Galatians 1:17f., fell within the three years or so following his conversion, and that event must certainly be dated well before A.D. 40, the year of Aretas’s death. Even if Aretas did control Damascus from A.D. 37 until his death, Paul’s escape from the city is probably to be dated before A.D. 37. It is only in a very general way that the reference to Aretas helps us in our chronological quest (emphasis added).
Given the spotty state of our knowledge of the degree Aretas exercised hegemony over Damascus in the decade before his death – for he need not have been a Rome-approved ruler over Damascus to have had a loyal underling in a position of authority in the Nabataean colony there – it is not possible to use him as a solid anchor for Pauline chronology. We can, with F.F. Bruce, safely dismiss Aretas from consideration as a non-factor, and look to other, more reliable dating criteria instead, like the death of Herod Agrippa I that we will look at later.
The Three and Fourteen Years
It is now necessary to support in some depth the contention that the mention of fourteen years in Galatians 2:1 refers to time elapsed since Paul’s conversion. Though some view this passage as referring to time that passed since his first trip to Jerusalem for his 15-day visit with Peter, making the total time since his conversion approximately seventeen years (3+14), the Greek text indicates otherwise. In contrast to Galatians 1:18, where the preposition meta, “with,” is used in reference to three years, the preposition used in 2:1 is dia, having the basic meaning of “through” or “during.” It conveys the sense of continuity with something discussed earlier, not supplemental information that independently follows after an event that already occurred. If Paul’s meaning was that fourteen years had passed from the time of his first visit to Jerusalem, the best choice of preposition would have been the same one he had already used in Gal 1:18, meta. That would have accurately conveyed that the fourteen years was an additional time period tacked on to the three years from his conversion already mentioned. See, for instance, Hebrews 4:8: “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on (meta)” – a day subsequent to Joshua’s. But instead, Paul purposely switched to the preposition dia. Since God is the God of the “jots and tittles,” there was a reason for this change!
That the fourteen years of Galatians 2:1 refers to time passed since Paul’s conversion is supported by various standard reference works. For example, the Expositor’s Greek Testament observes:
The author has shown by a rapid glance over the first thirteen years of his Christian life how independent he had been of human teaching at his conversion and subsequently. He now proceeds to record the true history of the negotiations which he had undertaken at Jerusalem in conjunction with Barnabas in the fourteenth year of his ministry [emphasis added].
Most impressive to me, due to the depth of his Greek exegesis, is the work of the inimitable Henry Alford, whose analysis of the Greek text of Galatians 2:1 is extremely precise and detailed. Some may disrespect him because his work was done in the nineteenth century, but the last time I looked, the principles of Greek grammar had not changed since his day. He says in part (https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/galatians-2.html):
Next, from what time are we to reckon? Certainly at first sight it would appear, from the journey last mentioned [i.e., the first trip to Jerusalem]…But why? Is the prima facie view of a construction always right?...Are we not bound, in all such cases, should any reason ab extra exist for doing so, to reexamine the passage, and ascertain whether our prima facie impression may not have arisen from neglecting some indication furnished by the context? That this is the case here, I am persuaded...
Alford then elucidates the same insight I obtained independently from the original Greek:
The ἔπειτα [epeita, “then” or “after”] in both cases [Gal 1:18 and 2:1] may be well taken as referring back to the same terminus a quo [point of origin], διὰ [dia] being used in this verse [2:1] as applying to the larger interval, or even perhaps to prevent the fourteen years being counted from the event last mentioned [1:18], as they would more naturally be, had a second μετά [meta] been used. What would there be forced or unnatural in a statement of the following kind? “After my conversion...my occasions of communicating with the other Apostles were these: (1) after three years I went up, etc. (2) after fourteen years had elapsed, I again went up, etc?”
Though Alford’s technical material is too long to quote in full here (see the link if interested), he goes into such analytical depth that in my estimation he makes a timeless, slam-dunk exegetical case for the fourteen years being reckoned from Paul’s conversion, and that this period encompassed the three years from his conversion to his first visit to Jerusalem. Those who can handle his copious Greek citations are encouraged to review his analysis.
Although I do not agree with the 33 AD point he starts measuring from (for reasons developed below), Tony Bartolucci has put together an excellent compilation of much more recent resources that confirm the soundness of Alford’s earlier work, basing his exegesis on the grammatical analysis made by Albert L. Lukaszewski and Mark Dubis in The Lexham Syntactic Greek New Testament (Logos Bible Software, 2009). He concludes, in agreement with both my independent study and the work of Alford, that the periods of three and fourteen years are both measured from Paul’s Damascus Road conversion, with the longer period including the first within it. Here are two excerpts from that compendium, online at http://www.tonybartolucci.com/Sermons/Galatians%20Exegesis/Galatians%201.18-24.pdf:
[Regarding Gal 1:18] The words after three years do not merely refer to a lapse of time. They are argumentative. Paul is showing all through this section, his entire independence of the Jerusalem apostles. Therefore, the three years have reference, not to the time after his return from Arabia, but to the period of time after his conversion.... [Wuest, Kenneth S., Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997).]
By the time we get to [Gal] 2:1 we are 14 years after his conversion. In total, Paul only spent 15 days in Jerusalem out of 14 years. [Bartolucci, 21, emphasis added; the copious notes on which this conclusion was based are found at http://www.tonybartolucci.com/Sermons/Galatians%20Exegesis/Galatians%202.1-10.pdf.]
I could add more support, but this will suffice. The most powerful argument in favor of extending the fourteen years of Galatians 2:1 back to Paul’s conversion is an objective one tied to the preposition changing from meta to dia within the immediate context. It was a purposeful change indicating that the references in Galatians 1-2 to the passing of three and fourteen years must refer to time measured from Paul’s conversion. Only a desire to accommodate a preferred chronological outcome requiring additional time can ignore this clear meaning of the Greek grammar. It gives us a sturdy skeleton which can be fleshed out with other people, places and dates.
The Timing of the Second Jerusalem Visit
Let us now recap what we have established so far. The time from the Crucifixion to Paul’s conversion was less than a year, likely about nine months. Then, the time from Paul’s conversion to his second trip to Jerusalem, in the company of Barnabas and Titus, was fourteen years. Let us keep these details in mind as we now come to a highly-debated (by scholars, anyway) issue: How to relate the trip to Jerusalem described in Galatians 2:1-10, to the trips to Jerusalem described in Acts 11:29-12:25 and 15. Which trip does Galatians 2:1-10 correspond with? In the above timeline of Acts 8-12, it was assumed that the natural sense of the texts indicated Paul’s second visit to Jerusalem in Acts 11:29-30 (the first being his brief 15-day visit with Peter) corresponded with the one described in Galatians 2:1-2. Not all scholars agree with this assumption, so it needs to be exegetically demonstrated.
We will begin by first taking a look at the situation described in Acts 15, which deals mostly with the meeting known as the Jerusalem Council. Then we will perform an analysis of Galatians 2:1-10 similar to that done with Acts 8-12, thereby establishing a timeline. Finally, we will compare the events described in Galatians 2:1-10 with the situations in Acts 12 and 15, and deduce the most straightforward way of reconciling these different records with each other.
The Situation in Acts 15
Sandwiched between the Jerusalem-based events of Acts chapters 12 and 15, we have the story of the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas related in Acts 13 and 14. The events of the first missionary journey do not apply to our analysis here, so we will skip over those two chapters. Here is the compressed story from Acts 15, as given in the NASB:
Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised…you cannot be saved.” And…the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue…and they reported all that God had done with them. But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.” The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. After there had been much debate…James answered, saying, “…it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.” Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas…Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, and they sent this letter by them…”For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.” So when they were sent away, they went down to Antioch; and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter…After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work…they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and left [Paul’s second missionary journey]…
The Situation in Galatians 2:1-10
Now we turn to Galatians 2. A critically important matter is how one goes about synchronizing the account in this chapter with information from Acts. Does it connect with the so-called “famine relief” trip that spans Acts 11:29 though 12:25, or with the Jerusalem Council visit of Acts 15? We begin by reading Galatians 2:1-10 (NASB), emphasizing a few important words for special attention:
Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in [to Antioch] to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage [following circumcision and the Mosaic Law]. But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you. But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) – well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me. But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They only asked us to remember the poor – the very thing I also was eager to do.
Let us now examine in detail those important points.
“I went up again to Jerusalem” – “Again” tells us Paul had been to Jerusalem at least one time before. When? We know from Acts 9:26-27 that Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem was when he “met with Peter and James privately three years after his conversion” (Gal 1:18-19), so logically Galatians 2:1 is referring to the second Jerusalem visit introduced in Acts 11:29-30. Moreover, Barnabas was not involved in the Acts 9:26-27 visit as a traveling companion with Paul, but was a member of the Jerusalem church (cf. Acts 4:36-37, where he placed the proceeds from selling a tract of land at the apostles’ feet). This means that connecting “again” with Barnabas – as if it was a second trip made with Barnabas, effectively being Paul’s third trip to Jerusalem related in Acts 15 – is misinterpreting the passage. Besides, elsewhere when Paul wants to say he plans to do something that he had already done twice before, he does not ambiguously say “again,” but is very clear: “Here for the third time I am ready to come to you” (2 Cor 12:14). It is reasonable to expect he would have been similarly specific, if in Galatians 2 “again” referred to what was actually his third trip to Jerusalem.
2. “Taking Titus along” – Luke says nothing in Acts 15 about Titus being included in the group that accompanied Paul and Barnabas to the Jerusalem Council. Though an argument from silence, this was a notable omission if he was indeed part of that trip, because in Gal 2:3 Paul draws particular attention to him as an example of the grace of God saving Gentiles apart from keeping the requirements of the Mosaic Law: “But not even Titus...though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.” This Lukan silence about Titus makes good sense if his visit took place not during the highly public Jerusalem Council, but during Paul’s earlier, second visit to Jerusalem when he met “in private” with only James, Peter and John to give them evidence of God’s work among the Gentiles. In fact, if we identify the visit with Titus with the “famine relief” trip in Acts 11:29-30, it provides a motivation for the indignant visit to Antioch of the Pharisaical brethren described in Acts 15:1-2, which directly led to holding the Jerusalem Council.
3. “Because of a revelation” – See the comments above under “Jerusalem #2.” This revelation, as already mentioned, should not be understood as the famine prophecy of Agabus (after all, Agabus and his companions, being Jerusalem natives, could just as well have taken the famine relief collection to Jerusalem themselves, saving Paul and Barnabas the trip and disruption of their important work at Antioch). When the overall context is considered, it makes far better sense to see this revelation as new information revealed by the Lord directly to Paul, the “apostle to the uncircumcised”: namely, that circumcision and other works of the Law do not apply to Gentiles as means of salvation, but only God’s grace in calling and regenerating. Paul’s gospel was that Gentiles are saved by faith alone, not by circumcision or keeping the Mosaic Law. Some commentators have pointed out that Peter received a revelation of sorts in Acts 10:9-16, and supposed this might have been the revelation Paul referred to; but why would Paul have felt obliged to go to Jerusalem in connection with a revelation that came to Peter, who was already in Jerusalem? The insight given to Peter was very limited, only addressing the bald fact that Gentiles could be saved: “God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.” It did not address the practical outworking of that insight, which the Lord’s revelation to Paul did. Remember, too, that Paul later raked Peter over the coals for hypocrisy:
nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we [Jews] have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified...I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly (Gal 2:16, 21).
We are on firm ground in seeing the revelation given to Paul as directly connected with his above teaching, coming as it does just a few verses after Gal 2:1-10, that salvation is by faith alone.
4. “I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles...in private” – This mention that the matter was dealt with “in private” is in obvious conflict with the very public nature of the debate portrayed in Acts 15 (“When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them” (15:4); “Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them...” (15:22);”and they sent this letter by them, “The apostles and the brethren who are elders...greetings” (15:23). This does not sound at all like something that took place “in private.” Thus, Acts 15 is a poor match for Gal 2:1-10, whereas Acts 11:29-12:25 – where Luke had hardly anything to say about Paul and Barnabas – fits the situation like a glove.
5. “Gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship” – This would have been the perfect place in Galatians 2 for Paul to have mentioned the apostolic letter issued as a result of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. But what do we hear about that letter? Silence. This is, quite frankly, very surprising if Galatians 2:1-10 was indeed addressing the Jerusalem Council events, simply because that letter is cited as a source of great encouragement to the believers: “And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement” (Acts 15:31). That the “right hand of fellowship” gets mentioned in Galatians 2, while the far more affirming apostolic letter gets no mention, is a powerful argument that Galatians 2:1-10 looks back to the private, low-key meeting with the Apostles depicted in Acts 11-12, not to the extremely public Jerusalem Council meeting in Acts 15.
6. “They only asked us to remember the poor – the very thing I also was eager to do” – In Acts 15, the request from “the church and the apostles and the elders” goes well beyond asking Paul and Barnabas to “only” remember the poor: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication...” (Acts 15:28-29). In the light of these four stipulations in the apostolic letter, if Acts 15 was the setting for Galatians 2:1-10, for Paul to say in Galatians that the only stipulation placed upon him was “to remember the poor” makes no sense.
The Situation in Acts 11-12
For completeness, we should ask whether Acts 11-12 adds anything to our knowledge about Paul’s travels. Hardly anything substantive can be added, beyond the superficial observation that Paul went to Jerusalem to consult privately with James, Peter and John, the “pillars” of the Jerusalem church, about the Gospel for the Gentiles he had received as a revelation from the Lord. Upon reflection, though, this dearth of material about the doings of Paul, Barnabas and Titus at this time is actually excellent evidence connecting Galatians 2:1-10 with Acts 12 rather than Acts 15, because if that trip dealt mostly with the sort of private consultation Gal 2:2 describes, it was more likely that Luke would have little to say about it.
Summary about the Timing of the Second Jerusalem Visit
Tying together these direct observations from Scripture about Acts 15, Galatians 2:1-10 and Acts 11-12, it should be apparent to the impartial reader that Galatians 2:1-10 best fits the background of Acts 11:29-12:25. Additional evidence that we are on the right track can be found in the support for this interpretation given by the ESV Study Bible, which takes into account the majority of current scholarship. It includes a chart in the Galatians 2 notes which ties together Gal 2:1-10 with Acts 11:29-30 (the “famine relief” visit), and Gal 2:11-14 with Acts 15:1-2a. This deduction is consistent with the mention in Acts 15:1 of the men who came down to Antioch from Judea – after the misnamed “famine relief” trip of Acts 11:29-12:25, and after the first missionary journey described in Acts 13-14 (Paul and Barnabas were back in Antioch by this time), but before the Jerusalem Council began. These men were probably those mentioned in Galatians 2:12, “For before certain men came from James, he [Peter] was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.” It all fits together. Since the events of Acts 15:2b-29 describe the Jerusalem Council, it follows that, if the events of Galatians 2:11-14 match up with what happened in Acts 15:1-2a (which preceded the Jerusalem Council), then the events of Galatians 2:1-10 also preceded the Jerusalem Council.
A few observations from other scholars are in order before moving on. Bartolucci’s aforementioned notes on Galatians 2 (p. 27) include the following quote drawn from Timothy George’s commentary on Galatians (The New American Commentary, Vol. 30 (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994, 135-137): “The events of Gal. 2:1–10 parallel the “famine visit” Paul and Barnabas made to Jerusalem as recorded in Acts 11:25–30. This view has been convincingly argued by F. F. Bruce although it remains a minority opinion among commentators on the epistle.” Bruce’s analysis can be read online at https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/bjrl/problems-1_bruce.pdf, particularly pp. 305-307. Finally, in his article “The Epistle to the Galatians” posted at https://bible.org/article/epistle-galatians, Dr. Greg Herrick noted:
There is better evidence to suggest that Acts 11:27-30 is the visit related in Galatians 2:1-10. First, it is difficult to imagine that the decree preceded the events of Peter’s separation from the Gentiles and Paul’s rebuking him. Surely Peter, even though he possessed a vacillating spirit, would not have done such a thing after the Jerusalem church, that is, those who caused it the first time (Gal 2:12), had settled the issue. Second, it is further difficult to imagine that the Judaizers could have accomplished so much damage, as the letter to the Galatians indicates, if Galatians 2:1-10 refers to the Council. Third, Paul appears to be listing his visits to Jerusalem, in succession since his conversion. This would mean that Galatians 2:1-10 would be equivalent to Acts 11. Fourth, in Galatians 1:21 Paul says that he visited Syria and Cilicia. This occurred after his first visit (1:18) and before his second visit to Jerusalem (2:1). This most likely refers to the fact that Paul concentrated his missionary work in Tarsus and Antioch (after Barnabas ‘retrieved’ him from Tarsus) without going to any other centers. If this is true then, he did not evangelize in Galatia until after his second visit to Jerusalem and therefore, Galatians 2:1-10 must refer to the famine visit with evangelization of Galatia (Acts 13, 14) sometime later.
In summary, the only place to put Galatians 2:1-10 in reference to Acts is in the context of the “famine relief” visit described in Acts 11:29-30 and 12:25.
Acts 12 and the Death of Herod Agrippa I
Now we turn to the main issue covered by Acts 12, the affairs of Herod Agrippa I. Here is the critical thing to note: Everything described in this chapter takes place during the time Paul and Barnabas were in Jerusalem during his second visit there, the visit discussed in Galatians 2:1-10. Acts 11:30 informs us of the departure from Antioch of Paul, Barnabas and Titus for Jerusalem, while Acts 12:25 reports their return to Antioch. Between these two bookends we have the story of the events leading up to the death of Herod Agrippa I. This means that the death of Agrippa I, known without doubt from classical histories to have taken place in AD 44, solidly anchors in time Paul’s second visit to Jerusalem.
What little scholarly debate that exists about the death of Herod Agrippa I centers around whether it occurred before or after the Passover of 44 AD. Where one comes down on that question affects whether or not one affirms, following the plain sense of Acts 12, that the death of Herod Agrippa I was in the same year that Peter was imprisoned. The unbelieving skeptics’ view, following one interpretation of classical literature, is that Agrippa died during the dies natalis games celebrating the founding of Caesarea. Those games took place in March, before the Passover, so adopting this view directly conflicts with the situation portrayed in the Scriptures. It forces one to divorce Paul’s second journey to Jerusalem from the year of Herod’s death, placing it a year afterwards.
Yet, the entire passage in Acts 12 reads smoothly as an uninterrupted unit: from the death of James the brother of John, through Peter’s arrest during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, to the death of the guards blamed for Peter’s escape, to Herod’s ill-fated trip to Caesarea where he died. F.F. Bruce has suggested that the games at Caesarea were not the problematic dies natalis games, but those celebrating Claudius’ birthday on August 1 (Suetonius, Claudius, 2.1; Bruce, Chronological Questions, note 16). This fits the situation well, and for what it’s worth, the Wikipedia information on the death of Herod Agrippa I follows this understanding (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herod_Agrippa). Josephus (Antiquities 19.8.2/343) merely says the death of Agrippa I was in the context of some “shows in honor of the emperor,” without being more specific. Others have suggested the games of the Augustalia were in view, a festival celebrated October 12 in honor of Emperor Augustus.
The bottom line is, we just don’t know for certain, as far as the classical sources or Josephus are concerned, what was the precise occasion for Herod Agrippa’s visit to Caesarea. But we do know that Scripture paints a perfectly clear picture that Agrippa’s death was simultaneous with the time Paul, Barnabas and Titus were in Jerusalem during Paul’s second visit there. We have no reason to doubt this, unless we value the uncertain interpretations of classical scholars over the plain sense of the Word of God.
It is time to bring this study to a close. Much more could have been written, but the length would have been too great. We have learned the following things:
1. The death of Herod Agrippa I took place at Caesarea in 44 AD, during a festival probably held between August and October. This is a solidly-attested date from history.
2. Agrippa’s death was in the same year that the apostle Paul visited Jerusalem for the second time, in the company of Barnabas and Titus, for a private meeting with the leaders there to present the gospel God revealed to Paul for preaching to the Gentiles.
3. Paul’s second visit to Jerusalem was in his fourteenth year as a Christian. Per Jewish and Roman custom this was probably reckoned inclusively, in the same way we showed last month that Scripture counts the days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
4. Counting back fourteen years from 44 AD using inclusive reckoning, we conclude Paul was saved in 31 AD, possibly even late 30 AD depending on how much time was spanned by the events of Acts 1-9.
Accordingly, the most likely date for the Crucifixion, so far as the scriptural and astronomical clues we have examined are concerned, is Friday, April 7, 30 AD.
In closing, the data on which this determination is based was derived from a straightforward, plain-sense understanding of Scripture, rather than one which elevates the results of secular scholarship over the biblical record. Such scholarship nowadays depends greatly upon studies of classical histories and how to interpret them, along with questioning whether the plain sense of the biblical text is the right sense. Even otherwise conservative scholars have stumbled over this as they have sought to gain a hearing in the academic world. But we need to be reminded that skepticism about the plain sense of Scripture goes back to Satan’s words to Eve in the Garden: “Yea, hath God said…?” (Gen 3:1). When scholars do this we must exercise great discernment, lest we be led astray from God’s revealed truth.
In a future installment of this ongoing study, I hope to address how the date of Herod’s death, when understood through the lens of Scripture rather than in dependence on dubious interpretations of the writings of Josephus and other classical authors, is likewise consistent with a 30 AD Crucifixion. It even ties in precisely with the prophecy of the “Seventy Weeks” of Daniel 9:24-27.
[Article slightly revised 4/8/18 to fix a few minor errors and typos.]