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BibArch Home 18th Dynasty The Exodus Enigma Egyptian Dynasties Israelite Period Babylonian & Persian Periods Hellenistic Period Persian Rulers

Biblical chronology and archaeology remain closely associated and interdependent. For the entire biblical period a working knowledge of biblical chronology provides helpful information for establishing the historical setting of the Bibleís events. Biblical archaeology adds to the fund of historical knowledge of the period particularly through production of new knowledge as well as through verification of and clarifying chronological issues. Some biblical events remain elusive such as the conquest of biblical Hazor by Joshuaís army or by Deborahís army. The date of the birth and the date of death of Jesus of Nazareth remain in dispute.

Many events in the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament have chronological significance. Information preserved in the scriptures may be of value as chronological markers. For those who regard the Bible as an inspired account the Bible becomes a controlling factor in interpreting archaeological findings while those who do not see the Bible as inspired require objective criteria outside the Bible itself. 

Irrespective of oneís predisposition on inspiration, the Hebrew Calendar has great importance in the fixing of dates and determining chronological markers in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. The normal convention of reporting biblical dates remains with the Gregorian calendar.

For example, in his letter to the Galatians the apostle Paul recounted to his readers the account of his escape from Damascus. He states that this escape occurred during the rule of Nabataean King Aretas (Galatians 1:17). King Aretas (Harithat IV) who died in CE 40 (II Corinthians 11:32-33) reigned from 9 BCE to 40 CE (Swaim 1962:217Ė218). Josephus rendered an account providing the details of Aretasí boundary dispute with Herod Antipas (Josephus, Antiquities 18.5.3).

Josephus described Aretas as the "king of Arabia Petrea" (Josephus Antiquities 18.5, Whiston 1957:539). Tiberias came in on the side of Herod Antipas and ordered Vitellius, proconsul of Syria, "to make war with Aretas." On the way Vitellius received communications informing him of the death of Tiberius and he recalled his army. Tiberius died CE March 16, 37 and at that time Damascus was under the control of imperial Rome and administered by Vitellius. As King Aretas died in CE 40 Paulís escape from Damascus would have had to occur between 37 and 40. The question remains open as to when Aretas received Damascus from Caligula in the imperial settlement of the affairs of Syria. The Aretasí administration in Damascus may have begun as early as CE 37 based upon archeological evidence in the form of a coin. This was the view of Dosker who wrote:

As Tiberias died in C.E. 37, and as the Arabian affair was completely settled in 39, it is evident that the date of Paulís conversion must lie somewhere between 34 and 36. This date is further fixed by a Damascus coin, with the image of King Aretas and the date 101. If that date points to the Pompian era, it equals C.E. 37, making the date of Paulís conversion C.E. 34. (T. E. Mionnet, Description des medailles antiques greques et romaines, V [1811], 284f.). (Dosker 1986:288Ė289.)

With archaeological evidence the chronology of the events in these written records can be further refined or verified.

Another example of a chronological marker occurs during the apostle Paulís visit to Corinth following the famous Jerusalem conference of Acts 15. This marker has value in determining the date of the Acts 15 conference. Immediately after the conference the apostle Paul traveled to Asia Minor and then went on to Greece ultimately settling in Corinth. There he remained for eighteen months. Paul has a confrontation with Diaspora Jews and appears before Gallio soon after the proconsulís arrival and fairly soon after Paulís preaching in the city. Gallio served as proconsul of Achaia for a short time (Acts 18:12), from about July 1, 51 CE to July 1, 52 C.E., during Paulís stay in Corinth (Charlesworth 1971:682).

According to F. F. Bruce:

Since proconsuls normally entered their office on July 1, Gallio probably became proconsul of Achaia on July 1, 51. Paulís Corinthian ministry may thus have run from the autumn of 50 to the spring of 52, and his Ephesian ministry (which was separated from his Corinthian ministry by a hasty visit to Palestine) from the autumn of 52 to the summer of 55. (Bruce 1986:709.)

While Gallio served as deputy or pro-consul of Achaia an insurrection against Paul, instigated by the Jews, broke out (Acts 18:12). Bruce continues:

More precise information is provided by the statement that Gallioís procouncilship of Achaia coincided with or at least overlapped Paulís stay in Corinth (v. 12). Gallioís procouncilship probably lasted no longer than a year, being terminated by an attack of malaria (Seneca Ep. mor. 104.1); it is dated rather closely by a reference to him as proconsul of Achaia (either currently or very recently) in a rescript of Claudius to the citizens of Delphi dated to Claudiusís twenty-sixth acclamation as imperator (W. Dittenberger, Sylloge Inscriptionum Graecarum, II [4th ed. 1960], no. 801). Other inscriptional evidence (CIL, III, 476; VI, 1256) points to the first seven months of 52 as the period of this acclamation. (Bruce 1986:709.)

This remains the least speculative part of the chronology as it comes from archaeological evidence. Once bench marks become established for absolute dating and correlated with relative dating events can be fixed calendrically. For the events recorded in Acts 15 to have occurred in 48/49 would permit far to much time for the events described in Acts between the hearing before James and the appearance before Gallio. The conservative estimate would constitute about 18 months. July 51 less 18 months yields January 50.

The hearing before James may be understood as having occurred in 49/50 with reasonable certainty (beyond a reasonable doubt) as December 49/January 50. So with archaeological evidence reasonable certainly can be given to an event. Without these archaeological findings the probable date of the Acts 15 proceedings would be far more speculative.

Page last edited: 01/31/06 09:28 PM

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