by Frank Haegler
For many of us there is a concept that the New Testament and especially the Acts, took place in a fairly short period of time. This is, of course, understandable as there is no mention of when the events took place, simply that they did. Also, Acts is a fairly short book with a lot packed into it and this can add to that perception.
However, there is a period of forty years during which Acts occurs and the Gospels cover a period of thirty-three years, although not much of the Lord’s life is covered between His birth and the commencement of His ministry. The Companion Bible (see appendix 180) places the birth of Christ at 4BC whereas Dr Peter John-Charles, in his excellent book Biblical Chronology has Him being born in 1BC. “Which to believe?” that is the question. I have decided on 3BC for the sake of argument; not that it really matters in the context of this article, as it is about the length of the period and not the exact dates involved.
One thing we can be sure about though is that Herod Agrippa I died in AD44 (Acts 12:20-24, Josephus and just about any book on history you please will confirm), and so we can work backwards from that event and forward after it.
BC3 …. Christ was born. (Luke 2:7).
AD9 …. Christ in the temple dialoguing with the doctors (Luke 2:41-49).
AD24 .. The temple would have been finished in AD24 and John the Baptiser would have started his ministry as well.
AD27 .. Christ begins His ministry with a 40-day fast, He was exactly 30 years old (Luke 3:23).
AD30 .. Christ is crucified, risen and ascended, and the Holy Spirit is given to the disciples and others for witnessing in power. (Luke 22:1-Acts 2:13).
AD32 .. Stephen is martyred. (Acts 6:8-7:60).
AD34 .. Saul is converted. (Acts 9:1-19). Some say this is when the new dispensation began, but Paul didn’t write Romans until AD55 (21 years later) so please note Romans 11:1-5 in relation to this.
AD42 .. James is killed and Peter is imprisoned. (Acts 12:1-19). Paul’s 1st tour began (Acts 13:1-15:35) and in 13:46 Paul ‘turns to the Gentiles.’ Some place the beginning of the present dispensation here, but see the note above and the times that Paul went back to the synagogues (Acts 14:1, 17:1, 10, 17, 18:4, 6, 7, 19).
AD46 .. Jewish believers trouble Gentile believers (Acts 15:1), with the result being given in Acts 15:19&20. Was this a Gentile church? If it was, why did the Gentiles need this judgment from the Jews, this being 16 years after the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, the often-accepted ‘birthday’ of the church?
AD59 .. Paul’s arrival in Rome. (Acts 28:16). He gathers the Jews from that region to hear him and, when they were divided in their opinion (Acts 28:24) Paul dismissed them (Acts 28:25) after quoting from Isaiah 6:9,10. In Acts 28:28 we are told that the Gentiles would hear the words that the Jews rejected.
So the record comes to an abrupt end except that Paul wrote books from prison. In them he reveals the ‘mystery’, the new dispensation that had been ‘hid in God’ (Ephesians 3:9). And so we say that this is when the new dispensation began, after Israel had been set aside ‘until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled’ (Luke 21:24).
AD70 .. Forty years after the Acts began Jerusalem was finally sacked and the temple was destroyed. God gave the pronouncement through Paul some nine or ten years before, but now it becomes a terrible reality.
Of course many other things happened that have not been included in the chronology above – too many to place in a short article like this.