Dates to Debate
Consult five Bible dictionaries, and you’ll discover five different timelines for Paul. The differences in dates are relatively minor—except for the dating of Paul’s visits to Jerusalem. Why?
Luke, in his Acts of the Apostles, records five visits of Paul to Jerusalem:
(1). Acts 9:26, ’just after his conversion.
(2). Acts 11:29–30, to provide famine relief.
(3). Acts 15:2–4, to attend a conference.
(4). Acts 18:22 (implied), after his second missionary journey.
(5). Acts 21:17, final visit and arrest.
But Paul’s letters mention only three Jerusalem visits:
(1). Galatians 1:18, just after his conversion.
(2). Galatians 2:1, to attend a conference.
(3). Romans 15:25/1 Corinthians 16:3, final visit and arrest.
The dating of the middle of Paul’s life hinges on which Acts visit is mentioned in Galatians 2:1–10.
The accompanying timeline assumes Paul is referring to the Acts 15 Council of Jerusalem in Galatians 2:1–10.
Other scholars think Galatians 2:1–10 refers to the famine relief visit of Acts 11:29–30, during which, they say, an informal Jerusalem conference took place. Thus they place Peter and Paul’s Antioch confrontation (and Paul’s letter to the Galatians, which describes the argument), before the formal Council of Jerusalem in A.D. 49.
Janet Meyer Everts is associate professor of religion, Hope College, Holland, Michigan.
Copyright © 1995 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian History magazine.
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