Dating the Acts of the Apostles


#1

Dear All:

What are the key questions for dating Acts?

I know it is complex, but if it can be made simple, please do!

THANKS!


#2

The New Testament fails to mention the destruction of the Temple which occurred in AD 70. Since Jesus had prophesied this event (cf. Mk 13:1-2), the authors of the NT books and letters would have highlighted His prediction prominently if it had been fulfilled. This silence suggests that the New Testament was written prior to AD 70.

The New Testament fails to mention the siege of Jerusalem which lasted for three years and ended with the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. This silence suggests that the New Testament was written prior to AD 67.

Luke, the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles does not mention the martyrdoms of Peter or Paul which took place in AD 65 and AD 64 respectively. Moreover, the Book of Acts ends abruptly with Paul alive and under house arrest in Rome. This silence suggests that the Luke’s accounts were written prior to AD 64.

Luke, a trained physician and a skillful historian, recorded the martydoms of Stephen (cf. Acts 7:54-60) and James, the brother of John (cf. Acts 12:1-2), but he does not mention the death of James, the “brother” of Jesus, who was martyred in AD 62. This silence suggests that Luke wrote Acts prior to AD 62. Luke’s Gospel was written prior to the book of Acts as Luke himself records:

Acts 1:1-2
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.

This suggests that Luke’s Gospel was written prior to AD 62.

In his first letter to Timothy (written in AD 63), Paul quotes a phrase from Luke’s gospel:

Luke 10:6-7
If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages.

1 Timothy 5:17-18
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,] and “The worker deserves his wages.”

Paul not only quotes the gospel written by his friend, Luke, but he refers to it as scripture! Not all scholars accept the Pauline authorship of 1 Timothy, but there’s more to be found. Paul’s authorship of the First Letter to the Corinthians (dated from AD 56) is undisputed, and in it, Paul appears to be quoting another passage written by his friend, Luke.

Luke 22:19-20
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

1 Corinthians 11:23-25
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

(cont)


#3

Although all four gospels contain accounts of the Last Supper, only Luke’s gospel contains the words, “Do this in remembrance of me.” From these examples, we can conclude that Paul was quoting from Luke’s gospel repeatedly. The dating of Paul’s epistles is generally accepted by even skeptical scholars, and the fact that Paul states what he is writing is a reminder of that which he had taught them in person previously suggesting that Luke was written prior to AD 56.

In his gospel, Luke quoted 250 verses from the gospel of Matthew and 350 verses from the gospel of Mark. This suggests that both of these gospels were known and accepted at the time Luke prior to AD 56.

In the book of Galatians (ca. AD 55), Paul reported that after his conversion (ca. AD 35-36), he traveled to Jerusalem briefly and then went to Arabia for three years. Upon his return, he went to Jerusalem to meet with the Apostles on two occasions: the first trip occurred within three years of his conversion (ca. AD 38-39) (cf. Gal. 1:15-19) and the second trip was made 14 years later (ca. AD 52-53) (cf. Gal. 2:1).

Additionally, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 contains what many scholars believe to be an early creed of the Church based in part upon the apparent stylistic differences between this passage and other writings of Paul. These differences suggest that the passage contains a core statement of belief of the early Church which Paul – following standard Jewish rabbinic tradition – had memorized and passed along verbatim:

1 Corinthians 15:3-8
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

Note that Paul reminds the Corinthians that he has given this basic message to them orally in the past and that he explicitly stated that what he is about to repeat in writing was received by him previously from others (presumably during one or both of his two trips to Jerusalem). This suggests that the account of the resurrection of Jesus was based upon eyewitness testimony of the apostles that can be dated possibly to within five years of the event itself and certainly no later than 23 years after the event!

The bottom line

Given that as few as five years may have passed before Paul first heard the proto-creed of the Church proclaimed in 1 Corinthians 15 and that Paul encouraged his hearers to consult with eyewitnesses of the events surrounding Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection for corroboration of the message he preached, it is highly improbable that the central facts concerning Jesus of Nazareth were skewed or altered by additions and embellishments.


#4

The previous posts advocate what scholars call the “early date” of Acts. Most modern scholars who write about Acts favor an intermediate date, i.e., c. 80-c. 90 CE, and they cite a number of factors to support this dating. The destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple by Roman armies in 70 CE is not mentioned in Acts but is probably alluded to in Luke 21:20-24. But Acts could not have been written before c. 90 CE, since the author seems to be ignorant about Paul’s letters, which were not collected and circulated before that date.[1]

Several implications follow from dating Acts in this intermediate period. It becomes unlikely that Acts provides us with an eye-witness account of the life of Paul. The author is a generation removed from the time of those persons he writes about and, although he devotes sig-nificant attention to Paul, he fails to mention important things about him. For example, Paul’s letters reveal that he claimed to be an apostle and that this status was vital to him. But in Acts 1:21-22 the criteria for being an apostle definitively exclude Paul from membership in this group. Further, Acts 1:13 has a list of eleven apostles, to which number Matthias is added to replace Ju-das (Acts 1:26). Acts makes it clear that the number of apostles cannot be more or less than twelve and that Paul is not included among them. It would be highly unlikely for an author who was also a companion of Paul to go to such lengths to exclude Paul from an office that he so vig-orously claimed for himself.[2]

A growing number of scholars prefer a late date for the composition of Acts, i.e., c. 110-120 CE.[3] Three factors support such a date. First, Acts seems to be unknown before the last half of the second century. Second, compelling arguments can be made that the author of Acts was acquainted with some materials written by Josephus, who completed his Antiquities of the Jews in 93-94 CE. If the author of Acts knew of some pieces from this document, he could not have written his book before that date. Third, recent studies have revised the judgment that the author of Acts was unaware of the Pauline letters. Convincing arguments have been made especially in the case of Galatians by scholars who are convinced that the author of Acts not only knew this Pauline letter but regarded it as a problem and wrote to subvert it.[4] They especially call attention to the verbal and ideational similarities between Acts 15 and Galatians 2 and show how the dif-ferences may be intended to create a distance between Paul and some of his later interpreters and critics.

Late daters of Acts agree with intermediate daters in questioning its historical value. But the chief significance of a late date for Acts takes us far beyond claims and denials of historical reliability. Its significance relates to the probable context of Acts’ composition.

Bottom line, I don’t know and neither does anyone else, beyond giving a range of about a 60 year window. Even the scholars (which I am not) can’t agree.


#5

There’s a great book by Bishop John A.T. Robinson called “Redating the New Testament”. He was an Anglican Bishop of Woolwich and an eminent New Testament scholar trained at Cambridge Universities Trinity College, who later became Dean of that Trinity College.

The book can be downloaded and read for free in .pdf format here:
http://richardwaynegarganta.com/redating-testament.pdf

I STRONGLY recommend all Christians to read this book, especially if you have an interest in New Testament scholarship.

What I find most interesting is John A.T. Robinson was a liberal Christian, not conservative or traditional at all really. Yet in his book he argues that all 27 books of the NT very well may be dated before A.D. 70.

He even includes the Books of Revelation, Jude, and 1 and 2 Peter as being written before 70.

I agree with his view in this book and I believe all the NT books were completed by A.D. 70.

He dates the book of Luke between A.D. 57-60 and the book of Acts between A.D. 57-62.

Robinson dates James as the earliest of the NT books assigning it a date of A.D. 47 or 48 - a mere 17 years post-Crucifixion.

He assigns the latest date to the book of Revelation, arguing it was written late in A.D. 68. This is the minority Catholic view in tradition - the two dates given for Revelation most commonly being either A.D. 68 or 96. But it is the view I personally take that it was written in 68.


#6

Deacon,
The late date (early second century) poses big theological challenges, no? The Church recognizes Acts as inspired Scripture. The Church also teaches that Revelation ended with the death of the apostles. Could inspired Scripture be written after Revelation ceased? If the answer is yes, couldn’t Scripture be arguably written today? (I know it can’t - that’s the point?).


#7

Not necessarily. John the Evangelist may have still been alive in 110 A.D. He would have been in his 90s but it is possible. However I agree the “late date” is troubling.

I imagine that is one of the reasons “most scholars” (as they say) agree on the intermediate date.


#8

Right… The old “most scholars” hyperbole. The TRUTH is, there is NO consensus among MOST scholars. Those who favor this theory over that will always preface their remarks with “most scholars” which is as egregious as it is indefinite.

I’m with Randy_Carson on this one. The hermeneutics of suspicion continues to exert its strong influence on “most biblical scholars”


#9

I am the OP.

You all are amazing.

I will have to closely read and reread these, thanks!


#10

I am the OP.

I have had the time to read all of the posts.

I have more questions. When I study the book of Acts, there are many Jews who convert, and many priests. Before the fall of Jerusalem, is there a solid number for the conversion of practicing Jews that converted?
THANKS!


#11

Another idea and question.

St. Paul visited my towns, cities or villages.

I am reading and rereading Acts, I cannot discern yet, did those places that he visited all have synagogues? What size where they? And any other kinds of help.
THANKS


#12

A problem with Acts comes from the speech by Gamiel. He mentions that Judas the Galilean and Theudas came along claiming to be someone great but their movements were squashed.
Now this in itself isn’t wrong. Many Messiah Claimnants were around in the 1st century. Simon of Paraea, Athronges, etc etc.

The problem with this naming Theudas is that he didn’t uprise until about 60 A.D. so either Luke got the names wrong on the uprisings or something. Judas the Galilean is correct , he rebelled in 6 A.D. during the census ordered by Quirnius.


#13

Please forgive and additional question.

When Acts is discussed and the dating of it, where are scholars concerning the death of Jesus and His age? If He were born in 4-7 BC and lived 30-33m years, did He die in the twenties? He could have died around 25 or 26 AD.

Also, as mentioned above, the Robinson’s book on dating the New Testament.

I cannot recall his dating, what were his dates?
THANKS


#14

Gamaliel is referring to the Theudas who took down Herod’s eagle before he died.


#15

I’m not saying it has to be an early date, but it seems some of these historical critical assumptions assume that Christianity isn’t true. For example, the reference to Luke 21:20-24. It seems to assume that Jesus couldn’t have prophesied the destruction of the Temple and that the Holy Spirit couldn’t have inspired the author to preserve these words. Some of the assumptions, such as how there can only be twelve apostles, seems distinctly not Catholic in terms of teaching. And others seem to make rather certain and strong claims with regards to treatment of Paul.

Now, the best evidence for a later date in all of that seems to be the lack of knowledge prior to the second half of the second century. I don’t mean to rule out everything. But other parts of the analysis just seem rather atheist or non-Catholic in their approach.


#16

I was a little off. Theudas’ revolt was around 44-46 A.D. Still later than the event in Acts. That event would have been around 30-35 A D.

http://www.livius.org/articles/religion/messiah/messianic-claimant-9-theudas/

Can you please cite a source that the Theudas you speak of was the one which you speak of? I have heard of the event but never the name Theudas as being the name of the person who tried taking the eagle off the temple.


#17

1 Timothy is one of the disputed letters of Paul, so using it to date Luke is somewhat problematic.


#18

I covered this when I wrote:

Paul not only quotes the gospel written by his friend, Luke, but he refers to it as scripture! Not all scholars accept the Pauline authorship of 1 Timothy, but there’s more to be found. Paul’s authorship of the First Letter to the Corinthians (dated from AD 56) is undisputed, and in it, Paul appears to be quoting another passage written by his friend, Luke.


#19

Your defense of an early date for ACTS is a good one- logical and reasonable. I am suspicious of the motives of the “scholarly” later-daters but that is a different subject for a different time.

Two points that I would make that I found in John Hagan’s “Fires of Rome” that might prove useful.

One concerns the influence of Josephus on the writing of Acts and Luke. The late-date argument is if parts of Josephus can be found in Luke, for instance, that would put its writing after the publication of Antiquities and puts its creation into the late first century A.D. at least. The story of a young Jesus staying behind in the Temple to teach the Pharisees that in Luke does not fit in at all with the other Gospels. A very good argument can be made that its origins were in Josephus’ Autobiography published in A.D. 100 or so. Josephus writes that when very young the Pharisees would consult with him often on the finer points of Jewish law- he was a true prodigy. A very suspicious passage. But there was another way for the story to have come to Luke’s attention, according to Hagan. Both Josephus and Luke were in Rome at roughly the same time in A.D. 62-3. Josephus was there to ransom Jewish Priests who had been imprisoned there and apparently forgotten about. Luke admits that he took material from many sources. At the time Josephus was a famous foreign visitor and became a part of the salon of Poppae, Nero;s wife. Josephus would not have been shy about relating stories about his stature in the Second Temple. The Temple story of Josephus as it circulated through the Roman Jewish community could have been misunderstood by Luke to be a story about Jesus.

The second would be that the execution of James and the Christian leaders took place in Jerusalem, while Luke, Paul , Peter and the rest were in Rome perhaps living a more insular life where news even of that magnitude would have taken months to reach them.

Most late-daters tend to underestimate the devastating effect the destruction of Jerusalem had. Josephus reports that 600,000 Jews lost their lives. Jerusalem itself was largely leveled.


#20

Actually the dude’s name wasn’t Theudas. It was Judas.

Still Gamaliel may have been referring to Judah bar Hezekiah. www.billheroman.com/search?q=Theudas


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