A Conservative Chronology of Paul

By Phillip G. Kayser · Acts; Galatians · 1/1/2007

A Conservative Chronology of Paul

With emphasis upon the correlation with Galatians

By Phillip G. Kayser

33Acts 9:1-19a1:15-16Paul's conversion
33-36[Silent on Arabia. Acts focuses only on Paul's ministry, and this period is Paul's training alone in Arabia.]"I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia…" (1:16-17a)Arabia. This is a three year period of training by the Lord in Arabia. The only way to avoid a contradiction between the “immediately” of Gal. 1:16 and the “immediately” of Acts 9:20 is to insert the Arabia visit between Acts 9:19a and 19b. It is helpful to note that 19b starts with egeneto which indicates a general coming to pass at some point. Thus this gap is not arbitrary.
36"Then Paul spent some days with the disciples in Damascus. Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues…" (See whole context of 9:19b-25)"…and returned again to Damascus." (1:17)Back in Damascus. Notice that this period of time was just "some days" (Acts 9:19b). So it should be considered to be part of the "three years" of Gal. 1:18.
36-37"And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples… but Barnabas… So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out… but they attempted to kill him. When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus." (Acts 9:26-30)"Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days, but I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord's brother." (Gal. 1:18-19)Jerusalem visit #1. This is not three years after Gal. 1:17, but three years after Gal. 1:15-16 – after his conversion.
37-43[Acts is silent about these years mentioned in Galatians, but Acts 9:30 and 11:25 make clear that these years took place during the time of 9:31-11:24.]"Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. But they were hearing only, "He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy." And they glorified God in me." (Gal. 1:21-24)Often called the silent years of Paul. From Paul's home base of Tarsus (see both 9:30 and 11:25) Paul ministered throughout Sryia and Cilicia. Note that much ministry has been occurring among the Gentiles by Peter, Barnabas, Paul and other disciples in 9:31-11:24.
43"Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." (Acts 11:25-26)Antioch. Paul is still ministering throughout Syria and Cilicia, but is now based out of Antioch instead of Tarsus.
44"And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world…" (Acts 11:27-28a)"And I went up by revelation" (Gal. 2:2)Agabus' prophecy of famine. I have placed this event in 44 AD, 1½ -2 years before the famine trip, because of the sequence in Acts 11:2712:1. Acts 12:1 places the events of Herod’s last year at “about that time,” so there is some wiggle room. Some scholars believe that the prophecy and collection could have been after Herod’s death, but my chronology is following Luke’s order. This gave a little less than 2 years for Paul to organize collections in the various churches. Notice also that Paul’s subsequent trip to Jerusalem was because of a “revelation” (Gal. 2:2)
44"now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some of the church. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword… an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died." (Acts 12:1-24)Death of James and Herod. The death of James occurred in the spring of 44 and the death of Herod Agrippa I likely occurred on the festival of August 1 of 44 AD (the other alternative festival being March 5).
44-46"then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea… (Acts 11:29-30a)"… remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do" (Gal. 2:10)Collections were being organized by Paul for the poor in Jerusalem who would be suffering shortly from the prophesied famine. The admonition of Peter and James to remember the poor was something Paul was already demonstrating he was eagerly involved in.
46"… famine throughout the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar." (Acts 11:28)Year of famine. Most scholars tie this to 46 AD based on evidence from Josephus.
46"… and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul" (Acts 11:30) “And Barnabas and Saul returned to Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their ministry, and they also took with them John whose surname was Mark.”"Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them…" Gal. 2:1-10Relief visit to Jerusalem #2 (as numbered in Galatians as well as Acts). Those who make Galatians 2:1-10 equal the Jerusalem council have to ignore the relief visit of Paul, which was clearly the second visit to Jerusalem. Note that this was 14 years after his conversion. (Jews always used inclusive time reckoning, so both year 33 and year 46 would be counted.) This places Paul’s visit in 46 AD, Thus the sequence is: 1) 11:27-30 – circumstances that led to the trip; 2) 12:1-24 events in another section of the church that happened about the same time.; 3) 12:25 – returning to Paul's story, and connecting the Jerusalem trip with the events immediately preceding the first missionary journey of Acts 13-14. Acts 11:30 and 12:25 are thus referring to the same trip. (Note that both the NU Text and the Majority text read, "And Barnabas and Saul returned to Jerusalem…" rather than the TR "from Jerusalem." It is a recap. Thus, though preparations started for collections in 44 AD (11:27-29), Acts 12:25 makes clear that the actual trip to Jerusalem (11:30) took place significantly after the death of Herod (see the large gap of time implied in 12:24 – "and the word of God grew and multiplied").
47-49Acts 13:1-14:26[Not in the sequence of chapter 2, but referenced 4:13-15.]Paul's first missionary journey was a little over two years. Based on weather patterns and journey information that we have, it is likely that Paul left Antioch in the spring of 47 and returned in the summer or fall of 49 AD.
Note that there was a great deal of zealot activity against Jewish "compromisers" between 46-52 AD, with heightened activity during the years 48-49. F.F. Bruce explains, "Zealot vengeance was liable to be visited on Jews who fraternized with Gentiles, and Jewish Christians who shared table-fellowship with their Gentile brethren were exposed to such reprisals. If Gentile Christians could be persuaded to accept circumcision, this (it was hoped) would protect Jewish Christians against zealot vengeance. The persuasion would be more effective if Gentile believers were assured that circumcision was a condition required by God from all men who wished to be accepted by him"[1]. This helps to explain Galatians 6:12: "As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ."
49Acts 14:27-28 “so they stayed there a long time” (v. 28)Gal. 2:11-16Paul's confrontation of Peter in Antioch. Also, Galatians written during this period. Since there is no mention of a year or years (as is done elsewhere by Luke – see 11:26; 18:11; 19:10; 24:27; 28:30), this "long time" was likely less than a year – perhaps the summer quarter or slightly more.
49Acts 15:1-35Jerusalem Council.
49-51Acts 15:36-18:22Paul's Second Missionary Journey.
511st "&" 2nd Thessalonians
551 Corinthians and 1 Timothy
56Acts 21:26-33Paul's arrest.
562 Corinthians
57Acts 24:24-26Paul before Felix & Drusilla
57Acts 24:27Imprisonment in Caesarea. (Some put the captivity epistles here.)
57Romans and Titus
58Philippians, Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, and 2 Timothy

Note that in “50% of the Greek manuscripts that contain the Gospels have colophons; these colophons state that Matthew was ‘published’ 8 years after Christ’s ascension, Mark 10 years after, Luke 15 years after and John 32 years after Christ’s ascension. (So the four Gospels are arranged in chronological order, not only in our Bibles but in the vast majority of the Greek manuscripts.)” (Pickering, Authority, footnote 2. Thus, Matthew was written in 41 AD, Mark was written in 43 AD, Luke was written in 48 AD, and John was written in 65 AD.

  1. Galatians Commentary , p. 31