Paul in History


The Life of St. Paul as it Appears in 1920

Rembrant's Paul

The chronology of early Christian history from a.d. 25–65, while complicated like ancient chronology generally, is far from being so difficult as it has been considered. The simple truth is that no period in ancient history is so assured and so well attested as this. The only period that can be compared with it in this respect is that covered by the letters of Cicero and his friends. A study of the history from the beginning of Christ’s ministry to the death of the apostle Paul, founded on a firm and confident grasp of the Lukan guiding thread, would solve every difficulty. There are few events which cannot be dated to the year, sometimes to the month, and even to the day. Needless difficulties have been introduced by prepossessions and prejudices, either of a religious and sectarian character, or by a false start from some presumed date. Much may, it is true, be learned from a book whose system as a whole is false; for example, Lewin’s Fasti Sacri is an admirable resume of the data as known in 1865.

The chronology of the preceding pages was founded on (1) a belief in the trustworthiness and minute accuracy of Luke, and (2) a certain view as to his method and literary art as a historian. Luke omits much; he passes over many events that might have been taken into his book. In doing so he was guided by a certain purpose and method of historical statement, and by a certain view of the comparative value of different incidents for his special purpose. The interpreter who is to understand aright Luke’s history must apprehend his method, thus getting a clue to guide him in every difficulty.

In surveying briefly my system I compare it with the recent work of a Dutch scholar, Dr. Plooji, who has written a book on the Chronology of the Life of Paul (known to me only through three articles by Rev. M. Jones in the Expositor, May, June, and August, 1919). Either Dr. Plooji or Mr. Jones, or perhaps both, think the chronology of my own work is “based on such bold assumptions as to have little real value.” The assumptions on which I work are the two just stated. It is therefore all the more interesting to find that the chronology which I reached through these “bold assumptions” approximates closely to Dr. Plooji’s results, and that the crucial date—namely, the year on which Paul traveled from Philippi to Jerusalem (Acts 20)—is fixed by both of us as 57. So far as I am aware, no previous chronologist had proposed this date. To me it seemed to stare out of Luke’s narrative. Roughly speaking Dr. Plooji’s opinion (if I rightly gather it from Mr. Jones) is that my chronology is generally right, but the reasons which led me to this system are untrustworthy. The reply is obvious: Dr. Plooji’s confirmation of my dates is a strong argument that my reasons were correct.

Dr. Plooji is warmly commended by Mr. Jones for his wise caution in not using “such bold assumptions”; but as a matter of fact it is impossible to attain certainty with regard to any single pivotal point, and Dr. Plooji’s cautious steps involve in every case a certain, or even a considerable, amount of assumption.[i]

The distinction between bold assumption and sound reasoning is so difficult in the case of chronological arguments, owing to the number of uncertain factors which always play a part in the calculation, that the personal and subjective element determines largely the preference between the epithets. For example, the Armenian version of Eusebius errs in respect of the date when Festus came to Judea (which event it places in 54). Mr. Jones (Expositor [June 1919] 426) says: “The solution of the difficulty was first discovered by Erbes,[ii] who suggested that Eusebius must have originally based his chronological scheme upon a Jewish source in which the dates of the Jewish kings were the most important factor.” After expounding briefly the solution, the continues, “Ramsay also accepts Erbes’ solution, and has some very interesting comments upon it in the Expositor, VII. vii., pp. 467–469, and Dr. Plooji looks upon it as the sheet anchor of his chronology.” Now, while I accept Erbes’ solution as probable, I am fully conscious of its extremely problematic character; and one of the best authorities on the chronology of this period rejected it absolutely as mere wild hypothesis. In accepting Erbes’ solution I was and am guided largely by the fact that it agrees with Luke, or at least makes an agreement with Luke possible by explaining the divergence. That “bold assumption,” which Dr. Plooji and Mr. Jones reject, is the sheet anchor in the stormy chronological sea, and I obtain some assurance by holding to it. Erbes’ theory is a mere guess until some confirmation for it is found; and the confirmation lies in Luke’s wonderful accuracy, and in his marked and highly individual method of stating his historical facts. This historian is the prime authority and the touchstone of accuracy in respect of other accounts.

  1. The Crucial Date a.d. 57 (Acts 20). For this there are many arguments. The first, which Dr. Plooji and Mr. Jones regard as fundamental, has just been stated. I used it as a confirmation many years ago; but cannot regard it as strong until it is proved by agreement with Luke.

  2. The second is that “bold assumption” which is stated in this book as the basis of my chronology.[iii]

  3. Professor A. R. S. Kennedy pointed out that often there occurred a large emission of Roman coins in Palestine in the year when a new procurator entered on office. The bad economic condition of the country and the want of sufficient circulating medium of exchange were recognized by several procurators when they entered on their duty, and they proceeded to strike a more plentiful coinage. Thus in a.d. 5–6 (36th year of Augustus) there was struck a fair amount of coins. This may be connected reasonably with the energetic action of Quirinius as governor of Syria (shown in the great census). Again in 8–9 (39th year of Augustus) a considerable emission of coinage occurred, and was continued in the following two years 9–10 and 10–11. This action might fairly be connected with the procuratorship of Ambibulus in a.d. 9–12. Thereafter no Roman coinage in Palestine is known until 15–16 (2nd year of Tiberius) when an emission of coins lasting for three years was made while Valerius Gratus was procurator. Again in 24–25 (11th year of Tiberius), a considerable group of Roman coins was issued. Pontius Pilate is ordinarily said to have entered office in a.d. 26, but this date is far from assured[iv] and his coming may be connected with the coinage of the preceding year. At any rate Pilate struck another large group of coins in 29–30 (16th year of Tiberius) and the two following years.

    There are in the British Museum catalogue only two other groups of coins, dated respectively in the 14th year of Claudius, a.d. 54, and the 5th year of Nero, a.d. 58–59. Now 54 does not coincide with the first year of any procurator. Felix was already in office in 52 and administered Palestine for a number of years, as Paul remarked in the complimentary exordium of his speech reported by Luke in Acts 26. It is, however, certain that there were some difficulties connected with the beginning of Felix’s term of office. Tacitus and Josephus differ pointedly in this matter, and the question is not satisfactorily settled by asserting that either is completely right and the other utterly wrong. It is not impossible that a.d. 54 marked the beginning of a fresh and energetic administration by Felix.

    The other group of coins in 59 is naturally connected with the coming of Festus. It is clear that Festus was disposed to be an active and energetic governor, and that he set to work immediately to clean up the mess left by the growing slackness of Felix. It would appear highly probable that the medium of exchange had become too scanty since the large emission in 54, and this was not sufficient for the convenience of trade. The activity in coinage of the Jewish insurgents in 66–69 was probably needed, and was not merely due to ostentation of their independence.

  4. Another argument is based on the death of Festus and the succession to the procuratorship of Palestine. This argument is somewhat elaborate and is partly numismatic, partly historical. The numismatic side of the argument is slighted by Dr. Plooji; numismatists will not agree with him. The argument based on the succession of Albinus he uses and reinforces.[v]

  5. Ananus during his brief high priesthood brought James the Just and some other Christians before the Sanhedrin and had them stoned to death. His violent and illegal action roused strong disapproval even among the Jews, some of whom sent secretly to King Agrippa asking him to prevent such conduct in the future. Thereafter these Jews learned of the appointment of Albinus and sent messengers to meet him in Alexandria, denouncing the action of Ananus as contrary to Roman principles, inasmuch as it had been carried out without the approval of the procurator. Now Hegesippus says that the martyrdom occurred at the Passover, and the Martyrology of Hieronymus gave the day of the martyrdom as March 25. This points to the Passover of 61, which fell on March 24. During the actual celebration of the Passover, Jewish feeling and law forbade execution or murder. Even to put a criminal to death on the day after the Passover, while the Feast of Unleavened Bread still lasted, was repugnant to Jewish feeling. Now in 62 the Passover was on April 12; in 60 it was on April 4; and in 59 on April 15. So far as the Hieronymian Martyrology has any value, the martyrdom of James and the others cannot have taken place in any of these three years. Many scholars consider an argument like this as of small consequence; to me it seems to be of the very highest value.

  6. The chronology of Eusebius as a whole confirms this date. This is too complicated a subject to discuss in detail here, but it is treated with some fullness in my Pauline and Other Studies, to which I may be permitted to refer.[vi] Dr. Plooji also considers that Eusebian chronology confirms the date, and he treats this at considerable length in his noteworthy book.

These arguments in favor of the year 57 seem conclusive. The popular taste prefers a.d. 58 for no reason except that it was acquiesced in by Lightfoot, not because he saw any trustworthy argument in its favor, but simply as the least improbable in a period that was enveloped in obscurity. The consensus of so many arguments of totally different kinds is so rare in ancient chronology as to be almost unique. In truth ancient chronology is a system in which the various dates support one another, and give ground for confidence which is lacking in the case of any single date taken by itself. This is not peculiar to New Testament chronology; it is the character of all ancient chronology throughout the ages. A certain degree of bold assumption and hypothesis is always necessary, and in spite of Dr. Plooji’s objection to this character in chronology his own work exemplifies it from beginning to end.

Not merely can the day be fixed. A reasonable approximation could be made to the hour of the day when the voyage began. Those who are familiar with Oriental and Greek habits of life, and who take into consideration the circumstances in respect of wind and weather at Neapolis with more intimate knowledge than I possess (for I have never visited the place), will come to a confident opinion as to the approximate hour when the journey began. Sailor’s habits are very conservative; but those who know only steamer hours are apt to ignore this. 2. The Beginning of Paul’s Christian Career. As Dr. Plooji and I are agreed in respect of the critical later years 57–59, so too in regard to the beginning. He places the conversion of Paul in a.d. 31; I now agree.[vii] There are several coincident arguments.

(1) The reckoning from Pentecost, a.d. 29, is vaguely stated in Acts; but the feeling grew in my mind, as I studied Luke’s narrative, that a rapid series of events led up to Stephen’s death. Then came a long interval with little development in method, during which occurred the scenes connected with Philip, Cornelius, etc. (learned by Luke from Philip, from his prophesying daughters, from Manaen, etc.). The case of Cornelius decided nothing, for it was treated as an individual and exceptional event, and the principle really involved in it was ignored by general consent (even by Peter himself, Gal. 2:12).

(2) This year is confirmed by other arguments resulting from the considerations stated in sections 3 and 4. It follows that the first and second visits to Jerusalem (Acts 9:26 and Gal. 1:18, Acts 11:28 and Gal. 2:1ff.) must be dated in 33 and 44. Of this there are many confirmations in the sequel.

In respect of the marked arrangement in Luke’s narrative (11:28–12:25), I have maintained that this order means that Barnabas and Saul went to Jerusalem (11:30) before the events of 12:1–24, and returned to Antioch (12:25) after those events had taken place. According to Mr. Jones’s account of Dr. Plooji’s views the arrangement only implies that the events in chapter 12 were contemporaneous with those in chapter 11. The date of the visit to Jerusalem is not affected, whichever opinion is adopted. [viii] Dr. Plooji accepts the general opinion that Herod died soon after the Passover in April or May 44, and concludes that the return of Barnabas and Saul from Jerusalem to Antioch took place later than May 44. In this we agree.

One of the many difficulties in chronological reckoning at this period lies in the varying incidence of the New Year. The exact reckoning of a certain lapse of years depends on the time of New Year according to the view of the writer who states the numbers. If Luke counted according to the Roman years beginning on January 1, the interval from November to March extended over two years. But if he reckoned according to a very frequent system in the Near East, beginning the New Year at the autumn equinox, this interval would count only as one year. It has never been made out with certainty whether Luke counted according to the Roman reckoning or according to any of the numerous Greek or Oriental systems of New Year which were in vogue. But as he was writing to a Roman official Theophilus, it is probable that he counted according to the ordinary Roman year beginning January 1.[ix] Paul, on the other hand, writing to the Corinthians, Galatians, etc., was likely to count years on the general eastern system, with New Year in autumn. The official Roman year in Asia was adapted to this system, with New Year on 9 Kal. October, the birthday of Augustus (September 23).

3. Paul’s Second Visit to Jerusalem. Dr. Plooji and I are agreed about the visit to Jerusalem in the 14th year, and we both consider that this second visit is the one described in Galatians 2:1–12 and in Acts 11–12. But whereas Dr. Plooji places it (as I formerly did in this book) in winter 45–46, I now carry it back a full year. Paul went up in 44 and returned at the end of that year or the beginning of 45. We are pinned down to this year by many considerations, affecting the entire career of Paul. This date is quite as fundamental a factor as the fixing of the events of 57–59. The early chronology of Paul’s Christian life must be moved back a year. Dr. Plooji does so for the conversion, but not in its results generally.

This visit was connected with the famine in Jerusalem (Acts 11:28; Gal. 2:10). Dr. Plooji clings to the usual opinion that “the great famine over all the organized world” (i. e., the Roman Empire), which was prophesied by Agabus, implies one definite single famine raging at the same time in all parts of the empire; and of course he finds no evidence of such a famine. That description, however, is not Luke’s nor is it contained in the prophecy of Agabus (Agabus simply spoke of great scarcity over all the world). The prophecy is fulfilled by the scarcity which occurred in various years under Claudius in various parts of the empire, as mentioned by the authorities. The one thing that concerns Pauline chronology is: in what year did the famine rage in Palestine and Jerusalem?[x] It does not, however, follow that Barnabas and Saul waited until the famine was at its height before they went to Jerusalem. They went up in accordance with prophecy (Gal. 2:1; so Acts 11:28). The famine was at its worst in 45–46, but probably was so bad because two harvests in 44 and 45 had failed; it ended with harvest in summer 46.

4. The Great Revelation and Its Influence on Paul. The revelation which gave Paul such confidence in himself and his work (2 Cor. 12:2–5) occurred in the 14th year before he was writing in 56, and must therefore be dated in 43–44, if he counted by eastern years beginning in autumn.[xi] In that case this great vision, which stood out in Paul’s memory as preeminent in his Christian experience, must be identified with the vision mentioned in Acts 22:17–21, and 43–44 must be its date. The year 43–44 was 14th before an event occurring after the year 56–57 began (9 Kal. Oct. 56).

This vision cut short Paul’s desire to remain in Jerusalem administering personally to his own people the relief which he and Barnabas had brought. He was ordered now to go to the Gentiles, and some anticipation was opened to him of the glorious future that waited the church and the world, and also himself as the minister of the divine will. It cannot reasonably be supposed that Paul in his bold, unhesitating and, so to say, revolutionary policy towards the Gentiles during the following years, was acting purely on his own individual judgment as a man (kata anthrôpon). He makes a marked distinction in 1 Corinthians 9:8 between his own individual judgment, and what he gets from divine inspiration or revelation. This revelation came after the eleven years which he spent in the province of Syria-Cilicia, where (as may be confidently declared) his attention was still mainly directed to the Jews and the synagogues. It was only in Syrian Antioch, after he was brought there by Barnabas, that a wider view began to open before him. Yet even then his face still turned towards the Jews. He still felt that they must and would accept his testimony, and the Gentiles lay only in the distant view (in spite of older warnings). Then came that great revelation of the wider purpose and of the way in which this purpose should be attained (autumn 44). Soon after he “turned to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:41–42; 14:27; 15: 3, 19–20, 24–25),[xii] though always in every place making the first offer to the Jews.

Paul was methodical and accurate in stating the lapse of time (Gal. 1:18; 2:1; 2 Cor. 12:2; Acts 20:31; 22:6; 24:11; 26:13; more vague 13:18, 21; 24:10, 17),[xiii] yet little use has been made of his chronological statements. Controversy rages as to the purpose of the numbers in Galatians 1–2. The opinion stated at the conclusion of chapter 2 [xiv] seems right: the numbers 3 and 14 are counted from the epoch of his conversion, the beginning of his new life. As regards 2 Corinthians 12:2, hardly any attempt has been made to use the numerical statement as an aid to chronology. It did not suit any chronological system, and the inference is often drawn, not that systems are wrong, but that Paul’s reckoning is vague. Yet he regards this number as important in his argument. It bears upon the purpose of the letter addressed to these Gentiles: fourteen years carry the readers back to the inauguration of the Gentile mission. Although the number has meant nothing to us, and although many scholars regard it as part of that loose emotional style of thinking which they attribute to Paul, whom they envisage as a mere mystic, careless of facts and practical system, yet those who see that Paul had an exact mind feel that the definiteness of the chronological statement is closely related to his purpose. He will not state exactly what occurred; the words which he heard are not lawful for a person to utter. But the vision constituted a supreme glory and honor, and made a new era in his career; his life began anew from this event. Just as in Galatians, it is an essential part of his argument that the conversion and the superhuman means by which it was achieved form the era of his new life, so here the second stage, the mission to the Gentiles, is counted from this greatest of all the visions and revelations that had been given to him. The truth and the reality of his life lay in these revelations; the rest was the imperfect attempt to carry into effect the message and the truth imparted to him. Further, the reckoning in both Galatians and Corinthians from a great revelation is part of the proof that Paul was in no way inferior to the greatest of the apostles, being charged with a divine mission as great as theirs.

There is only one occasion on which this revelation (Acts 22:18–19), with the change which it produced in Paul’s aims, falls in its true place in his career; and that is immediately before the first missionary journey when the door was opened to the Gentiles. It has been differently placed by others; but there results no illumination of Paul’s career from any other date .This vision with its compelling power is likely to have been quickly fulfilled, though certain steps were necessary. Paul convinced Barnabas, who previously had been his leader and guide, that the new era was beginning; and it would even appear that Barnabas was expressly mentioned in the revelation, as the words of 13:2—“I have called them”—definitely imply.

A certain interval occurred at this point. It was necessary to communicate this divine command to the leading apostles (Gal. 2:2ff.).[xv] There was no public meeting of the apostles and elders (as took place in Acts 15). The matter was not ready for public statement; but Paul and Barnabas informed the three leaders that they were entrusted with the mission to the Gentiles, as the leaders were with the mission to the Jews. Read in this light and in this order the various parts of the narrative, Galatians 2:1ff., Acts 22:17–21; 13:1–2; and 2 Corinthians 12:2ff., constitute a wonderful and perfect description of a marked development in the direction of Christian work, and of a great step in Paul’s career. His confidence in the divine guidance of his work was henceforth unshakable: from 44 onward he never hesitated. He was the apostle to the Gentiles, with Barnabas as his coadjutor; and his face was always Romewards, except for visits to Jerusalem to perform his duties as a Jew, and to show his abiding memory of the poor in the original home of the church (Gal. 2:10).

Soon after Paul returned to Antioch the whole body of prophets and teachers there were warned that now the moment had come when Barnabas and Saul must begin the work to which God had called them. Both were already aware that they were chosen, and they knew the meaning of the order now issued to the governing body of the congregation.

The direction of the work was towards the west, and Paul’s face was from this time steadily directed along one or other of the several roads that led to Rome. It is hardly possible to mistake the westward direction, and it ought not to be possible to doubt that in every apparent change the ultimate purpose was the same. Rome is not expressly mentioned by Luke until 19:21, but it is implied in all the preceding narrative when properly read.

5.The First Missionary Journey. The apostles sailed from Seleucia in early spring of 45. With regard to the time occupying this journey Dr. Plooji agrees with C. H. Turner in confining it within a year and a half. Two years and a half seems to me a more probable period. The mere time spent in sailing and walking was very considerable. Those who do not know the Cilician sea look at the map and count the miles direct for a ship between Seleucia and Salamis. But an ancient ship could not make the run in that way and would require a good many days. It was a difficult thing, which practically ancient ships did not try, to run from the Syrian coast along the south of Cyprus westward. Coming even from Egypt, if they failed to clear the western point of Cyprus, they had no other course than to round the eastern end of the island and then make their way slowly along the coast of Asia Minor westward. [xvi] The voyage from Paphos to Perga would probably not be quick. On the other hand the return voyage from Attalia to Seleucia, though much longer on the map, would be short and easy.

Add the time spent in preaching through the synagogues from Salamis to Paphos; then some time spent at Perga for one reason or another; the long walk across the Taurus mountains to Antioch; and the work in the double progress through southern Galatia with its four cities. I cannot believe that all this could be done in eighteen months, nor does such hurry accord with Paul’s subsequent work. It is true that he conquered Pisidian Antioch in two Sabbaths,[xvii] say ten days, but 13:49 points to a considerable period of work at Antioch, during which there was the opportunity of affecting the whole region, i. e., the Phrygian region of the province Galatian. This process needed several months. People from the different cities of the region came to the capital Antioch for the various purposes of Greco-Roman life and administration, and the whole Phrygian region was thus gradually affected. But this could not be achieved without lapse of time. In Iconium there occurred at first marked and quick success, affecting the Jews and the circle of Greeks who were attracted to the synagogue. Then followed (14:2) dissension with the Jews, and through their action ill-feeling was caused among the Gentiles. This also occupied only a brief time; but thereafter the apostles stayed “a long time,” taking advantage of the division of feeling and the freedom of action permitted in a Hellenic city, [xviii] until at last a riot arose and a determined attack was made on the apostles, who fled Lycaonia out of Phrygia.[xix]

This was probably the longest residence in any Galatic city during the journey. The residence at Lystra seems to have been short, and the striking incidents which occurred there followed one another rapidly. Probably the incident of the lame man occurred at the apostles’ entrance into Lystra, so that they were literally received as messengers of God (Gal. 4:14).[xx]

On the other hand the residence at Derbe, which was very much further away, seems to have been successful and undisturbed. Here Paul’s method was matured. The church was consolidated, presbyters were appointed to manage the congregation. A new year with new magistrates had begun in Lystra and the other cities; and the action of the magistrates who had ejected, or acquiesced in the ejection of, Paul and Barnabas was not binding on or heeded by their successors. The theory of eighteen months’ journey violates this elementary principle of city or colonial administration. Paul could not return to a city or colony while magistrates that had ejected him were still in office. The long walk occupying several days to Lystra, the short walk to Iconium, the very much longer walk to Antioch, and the still longer walk across the mountains to Perga, required time. The consolidation of the congregations in the Galatic cities, the encouragement of all members to face cheerfully the dangers and difficulties of the future which were inevitable, the selection and appointment of presbyters (which was a process that could not be accomplished in a day or even a week in any one church), all imply a considerable lapse of time. It is not necessary to suppose that the preaching in Pamphylia lasted long, and there is no allusion to any success; Paul never again set foot in Pamphylia (45–late 47).

6. The Residence in Syrian Antioch. Paul’s residence lasted a considerable time (ouk oligon, cf. 21:39, ouk asêmou). (It is a common figure of ancient speech that the denial of anything is a strong assertion of the opposite: ouk oligon, a long [time].) During it the question of Gentile freedom became acute, complicated by the visit of Peter (Gal. 2:11–21), and the struggle demanded authoritative settlement by the apostles. At this time arrived a letter or message from Galatia, mentioning among other serious facts that Paul’s converts were observing the sabbatical year 48 (Gal. 4:10). The struggle in Antioch for freedom was for the moment too pressing, and Paul wrote to the Galatians instead of visiting them. It must have been a very urgent reason that made Paul content himself with writing instead of a visit. He does not even promise a visit. Jerusalem and Antioch demanded his presence. At last, in the third visit to Jerusalem (Acts 15), the council declared for freedom. Even then, some time was needed in Antioch to confirm the cause; thereafter Paul was free to revisit his new churches (15:36). The contention with Barnabas caused some little delay; and thus it was the late winter of 49–50 before Paul and Silas started for Cilicia, and early spring 50 when they were free to cross Taurus and make the long walk to Derbe.

As to date of the epistle to the Galatians we have reached the same conclusion, that it was written before the Apostolic Council (Acts 15). Mr. Jones maintains that “this date for the Epistle utterly destroys any faith we may have had in Luke’s qualities as an accurate historian and demands that St. Paul was the most successful camouflager of his day.” But I cannot understand his reasoning or his proof than before that Luke is the most accurate of historians.

7.The Second Journey. A great part of a.d. 51 was spent in Galatia and Macedonia and Achaia. For different reasons the work in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Athens was cut short. Gallio’s proconsulship in Achaia was dated by me in 52–53 on general evidence—the narrative of Luke, the theory which I have put forward with regard to the dating of Orosius, and other such arguments: “we must therefore conclude that he (Gallio) came to Achaia in the summer 52 (as governor). While he was in Achaia he took fever and went a voyage for his health.”[xxi] Too late I learned of the important inscription discovered by M. Bourguet, published in 1905, but not known to me when I was preparing Pauline and Other Studies (published 1906).[xxii] This inscription leaves the year uncertain, either 51–52, or 52–53 (the governorship began shortly before July 1). Dr. Plooji recognizes the uncertainty, but prefers 51–52 (and I accept his preference). Either year would suit the date 51–53 assigned here to Paul’s residence in Corinth.

In accordance with the method of Luke’s history, it may be asserted with some confidence that the attack by the Jews was made a few months after Paul came to Corinth. Their feelings were exasperated by Paul’s action in fixing the Christian assembly next door to the synagogue, and by his whole attitude (which they misconstrued). They were not likely to postpone legal attach; they were encouraged by the fact that his experience in Athens had not been brilliantly successful, and they hoped to drive him out of Corinth as he had been driven out of Thessalonica after a very brief stay there, and also out of Berea and Philippi. Probably his whole history as a missionary was known to them, and it encouraged them to hope for a decision against this disturber of the peace. The trial took place most probably in spring 52 (or even earlier); but if Gallio came to Achaia only in May–June 52, then it occurred (as Dr. Plooji thinks) almost immediately after his arrival.

Dr. Plooji holds that Gallio came to Achaia May 51, after Paul had been there about seventeen months, and the trial occurred a month or so before Paul departed. Luke seems perhaps to imply, however, that Gallio was already in Corinth before Paul arrived there: this is the natural inference from 18:11.[xxiii] Moreover, great stress should be laid on the “many days” of Paul’s residence in Corinth after the trial. This phrase is comparative and determined by the context. After this important decision, granting full freedom to preach, had been delivered by a provincial governor, Paul was not likely forthwith to leave Corinth. This decision, as I have argued on pp. 259–60, 304?, constituted a precedent of the highest importance, and was likely to be referred to as determining the course of Roman procedure until it was overturned by a higher court. The higher court did in the year 64–65 overturn the precedent, but until then Roman provincial procedure was largely determined by this legal decision. The whole character and action of Paul points to the inference that he used the opportunity and resided “a considerable time” in Corinth, taking advantage of the freedom now accorded to him. Gallio governed Corinth 51–52; Paul was acquitted not later than early summer 52. Thereafter he spent a long time at Corinth, and finally departed with the intention of being at Jerusalem for the Feast, namely, the Passover of a.d. 53.[xxiv] Dr. Plooji understands this feast to be Tabernacles in 51. He tends to hurry unduly the work of the first two journeys and of the intervening time (46–51) and to protract unnecessarily the events of the third journey (61–spring 57). I make the periods 45–53 and 53–57.

It is in accordance with right method in interpreting Luke that eighteen months (Acts 18:11) states the entire duration of Paul’s residence in Corinth, and cannot be used as an argument about the date of the trial before Gallio. In fact the government of Gallio should be placed early, for Seneca returned to power in 49, and no time would be lost in continuing Gallio’s career of office, which had probably been interrupted during Seneca’s exile. Gallio could not in ordinary course attain the consulship, the goal of every Roman senator’s ambition, until he had held some praetorian governorship, such as the proconsulship of Achaia.

8. Date of St. Paul’s Death as a Chronological Factor. High authority should be assigned to a statement ascribed (falsely) to Chrysostom that Paul served God 35 years and died at the age of 68. This represents an early tradition current in Asia Minor; and it affords a good chronological argument if the year of Paul’s death can be fixed. In the tradition the years perhaps begin January 1.

Some months after the great fire of Rome (August 64) Paul was arrested (in winter 64–65, presumably at Nicopolis)[xxv]; and there ensued a formal trial in Rome. These events (which are mentioned in 2 Timothy) have, of course, no connection with the former trial, alluded to as imminent in Acts 28, which occurred in the spring of 62, and ended in the release (or acquittal) of Paul owing to the weakness of the case against him or the failure of the Jewish prosecution to appear.[xxvi]

It is obvious from 2 Timothy 4:16–17 that the final trial of Paul was a far more serious matter, involving two stages with a long interval between them. In the first stage Paul gained at least a partial victory; he was not condemned. He was saved out of the mouth of the lion; but he was not completely acquitted. Further proceedings were ordered to take place after the lapse of many months. The explanation can hardly be other than that new evidence was called for. Obviously Paul, who as a Roman citizen had a regular trial, was brought before the Supreme Court at Rome. Ordinary provincials were not tried in this way. They had not Roman rights, and they could be treated very much at the emperor’s discretion in the great persecution. A mere wish or sign from the emperor might consign provincial subjects to execution in any form, however rigorous. Against the Roman Paullus however evidence had to be given, and in the first stage the evidence was insufficient; for Paul had been little in Italy and almost the whole time in confinement. He obviously was not guilty in respect of the fire or any other action in the city; but powerful enemies (“the lion”) obtained a postponement until evidence from the Eastern provinces could be collected.[xxvii] Such was Nero’s persecution, as Tacitus portrays it. Beginning in an attempt to throw on the Christians the guilt of incendiarism in the great fire of August 64, it was extended to their action as enemies of social order in the empire generally. Paul was not deceived as to the probable result of the second hearing. While his rights as a Roman citizen called for this show of fair trial, yet it is evident in his letter to Timothy that he anticipated condemnation. During the long interval before the second hearing Timothy was invited to come from Asia to him. The whole circumstances carry with them a conviction of authenticity. All the separate details fit into one another and produce a remarkable picture of the final trial and the condemnation.

The chronological results are as follows. The arrest took place in the winter of 64–65. The first hearing was in spring 65; and after it Paul, looking forward to a long interval, wrote asking Timothy to come to him before winter (November 65). The trial, condemnation, and execution would take little time; and all was over before the end of 65. Therefore the conversion must be dated in 31, the first visit to Jerusalem in 33, and the second in 44, namely, in the 3rd and 14th year of Paul’s new life.

9.The Pauline Tradition in Asia Minor. It seems beyond doubt that a vivid recollection of the apostle Paul was preserved in Anatolia, especially along the line of the great road from Ephesus to the Cilician Gates and Syrian Antioch. There was no definite center of tradition; the tradition lived on the road, just as the life of Christianity lay in communication along the roads. The personal appearance of Paul and the exact years of his life were remembered in the Anatolian tradition. That is not the case with any other apostle. The memory of the imperial road by which he traveled from Antioch towards Lystra, and of the situation of Iconium on a side branch of this road, was still retained in the latter part of the second century, although by that time the idea of a road from Antioch to Lystra had become obsolete, and the world thought only of a road from Antioch to Iconium.

Many of the Western interpolations in the Acts were due to this Anatolian tradition.[xxviii] They are true, but they are not the work of Luke. As late as about a.d. 400 the memory of the true meaning and situation of the Galatian churches was retained, although a stranger like Jerome was misled by the historical facts which came into existence in 295 (making an absolute severance between South Galatia into the province Pisidia or the province Lycaonia). The old tradition in Asia Minor with regard to the Galatia of the Pauline journeys is stated by Asterius, bishop of Amasia about a.d. 401, who explains Acts 18:23, “the Galatic region and Phrygia” as equivalent to “Lycaonia and the cities of Phrygia.” It is impossible to take this as a mere geographical blunder: it is the deliberate statement of the belief of Asterius. Now in his time Lycaonia had long ceased to be included in the province Galatia, and the only explanation of his opinion is that it was still the accepted tradition in the country. There was often a tendency to intrude later geographical facts into older history, and this intrusion gradually gave rise to the belief first of all among extra-Anatolian writers, and finally among writers who knew Anatolia, that the Galatic region must be part of Galatia in the accepted sense of their own time. From 295 onwards there was no connection, provincial or otherwise, between Lycaonia and Galatia; but the old tradition and facts of church history remained within the knowledge of learned writers for a certain period, and so Asterius knew that “the Galatic region” meant “Lycaonia.”

The Western reading in 11:28 arose under the influence of this Anatolian tradition, which remembered that Luke was an Antiochian of Syria and desired to have some record of this in his history by inserting hêmôn. Surely no one could take the Western reading there as Lukan! Yet a few have done so. Luke was a Macedonian, that is, of the Antiochian tribe Makedones, whose name is preserved fortunately by Josephus. His love for Philippi was due to the long and successful evangelization which he carried out there. Titus was his brother, both cives Romani (which meant a great deal in the first century; see p. 390).

Cilicia Journey

Paul’s Ministry in Cilicia and Syria

After his conversion and time in Arabia and Damascus, Paul returned to Jerusalem where he debated the Hellenistic Jews (Acts 9:19–29). When the Jews attempted to kill him, the church there sent Paul back to Tarsus of Cilicia (Gal. 1:21; Acts 9:30). Little is known about Paul’s so-called “silent years” back home. Yet two obscure references in Acts 15 suggest that Paul was probably active in church planting. The churches in Cilicia were one of the addressees of the letter drafted by the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:23). Later Paul visited these Cilician churches at the beginning of his second ministry journey (Acts 15:41). Since only Paul is known to have been in Cilicia during this period, the existence of these churches suggests that the apostle is their founder. The core of these churches was undoubtedly diaspora Jews who, like Paul’s family, lived in the region. Paul’s time in Cilicia was between 5–10 years. Around the mid 40s a.d. Barnabas went to Tarsus to find Paul and brought him back to Antioch, the capital of the province of Syria and the third largest city in the Roman Empire. The two men discipled the growing church of Jews and Gentiles there for a whole year. It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians (Acts 11:20–26). After Agabus prophesied that a severe famine would come, Paul and Barnabas were chosen to carry a gift from the church in Antioch to the church in Jerusalem (Acts 11:27–30; Gal. 2:1–2). After completing their mission, the two brought John Mark back with them to Antioch (Acts 12:25).

The distances were measured on the Barrington Atlas of the Classical World using a Brunton Digital Map Measurer. The distances are over 95% accurate. Higher accuracies are difficult because of the page creases and the way the maps overlap in the atlas. Hopefully a flat map of Asia Minor will be issued someday. Alternate routes for the journeys are provided; the route of the North Galatian hypothesis is not measured.

Paul’s Cilician and Syrian Journeys

Origin Destination Distance Km/M
Jerusalem Caesarea 106/68
Caesarea Ptolemais 64/40
Ptolemais Tyre 46/29
Tyre Sidon 38/24
Sidon Berytus 42/26
Berytus Laodicea 42/26
Berytus Laodicea 232/144
Laodicea Antioch on Orontes 96/60
Jerusalem Antioch on the Orontes 624/391
Antioch on Orontes Alexandria ad Issum 48/28
Alexandria ad Issum Mopsuestia 80/51
Mopsuestia Adana 30/19
Adana Tarsus 40/25
Antioch on Orontes Tarsus 198/123

Other Distances

Origin Destination Distance Km/M
Antioch on Orontes Syrian Gates 32/20
Alexandria ad Issum Syrian-Cilician Gates 10/6
Mopsuestia Amanian Gates 36/22
Mopsuestia Hierapolis Castabala 66/41
Mopsuestia Zeugma 228/141

First Journey

Paul's First Ministry Journey through Turkey

The next phase in the church's expansion into Turkey began in Acts 13:1. Here the prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch set apart Barnabas and Saul for a ministry work to which the Holy Spirit had called them. From Antioch’s port on the Mediterranean called Seleucia Pieria, the two sailed with John Mark to Barnabas’ home on Cyprus. At Paphos several important events took place: Saul began to use his Roman name Paul, Paul assumed leadership of the apostolic party, and the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus became a believer. The proconsul owned numerous estates in the region of Pisidian Antioch; and perhaps because of his recommendation, the apostles sailed northward to the coast of Asia Minor landing at Perga, where John Mark left them. Paul and Barnabas proceeded inland, crossing the rugged Taurus Mountains before they arrived at Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:13–14). Here on the first Sabbath they preached in the synagogue. Verses 13:16–47 recall Paul’s first recorded sermon in Acts as well as the first recorded sermon in Turkey. Paul’s ministry in Pisidian Antioch is shortened by opposition from the Jews and leading men and women of the city. Such opposition became a familiar pattern throughout Paul’s ministry travels. The pair traveled to Iconium where many also believed. Again persecution drove them down the road to Lystra, where Paul was left for dead. Following a miraclous recovery, he and Barnabas continued to Derbe where many also believed. The two retraced their steps to strengthen the disciples and appoint leaders in the churches. These four churches in the southern portion of the Roman province of Galatia—Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe—became the core of Paul’s churches in Anatolia. The apostles returned to Perga, and this time caught a ship at Attalia for their return to Antioch. The church there was greatly encouraged that God had opened the door of belief to the Gentiles (14:27). This first journey can be dated approximately to the years 47-48.

Second Journey

Paul's Second Ministry Journey through Turkey

Paul was determined to revist the Galatian churches, but when Barnabas suggested that they take John Mark again, the two apostles parted company. Silas joined Paul, and they strengthened the churches in Syria and Cilicia on their way to Derbe and Lystra. Here Paul had a providential meeting with a young believer named Timothy. Recommended by the church there and in Iconium, Timothy was circumcised and then joined the apostles (16:1-3). After the three visited the church in Pisidian Antioch, the Holy Spirit forbade them to visit Ephesus in the province of Asia. Their subsequent route through central Turkey has occasioned much debate by scholars. They certainly turned northward following the Roman road, and then arrived at the important junction at Dorylaeum. Here they turned northwest toward the important cities of Nicea and Nicomedia in the province of Bithynia. But again the Holy Spirit forbade them from entering Bithynia. So they passed by Mysia and arrived at the important port city of Alexandria Troas (16:6-8), near the city of Troy made famous in Homer's Iliad. Here Paul received a vision of a Macedonian man; at last the Holy Spirit provided clear direction. Acts 16:10-17 begins the first of three "we" sections in the book (cf. 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16). These suggest that Luke was himself a companion and eyewitness to portions of the journeys he described. After a successful time of ministry in the provinces of Macedonia and Achaia, Paul departed Corinth by ship. He stopped briefly in Ephesus on his return to Jerusalem and Antioch, vowing to return if it was God's will (18:19-21). In his absence he left Priscilla and Aquila. This journey occurred about 50-52 with 1 ½ years based in Corinth.

Third Journey

Paul's Third Ministry Journey through Turkey

God's will was that Paul visit Ephesus, so after a time he and Timothy started their journey to this metropolis of Asia. After visiting the churches in Galatia and Phrygia, they arrived at Ephesus via the upper road through the Cayster River valley. Ephesus was the fourth largest city in the Empire, boasting a population of perhaps 300,000 people. He rented the lecture hall of Tyrannus to preach and teach the gospel. In Romans 16:5 Paul sent greetings to Epenetus, his first convert in the province of Asia. The fruit of his 2 ½ year residency in Ephesus was that the entire province of Asia heard the word of the Lord (19:10). One of the seven wonders of the ancient world—the temple of Artemis—was located in Ephesus, and thousands of pilgrims and sightseers journeyed to Ephesus annually to worship the goddess at her temple. Paul’s success, however, brought a reduction in traffic; hence the lucrative sale of Artemis images by the silversmiths was declined. The threat to their commercial interests provoked these merchants to take action, thus causing the riot described in Acts 19:23–41. Paul barely escaped from the city and headed up the coast, passing through Troas on the way to Macedonia. He also had problems in the Corinthian church (cf. 2 Cor. 2:12ff.) and was attempting to locate his emissary Titus, whom he had sent ahead. After a period of successful ministry in Macedonia and Achaia, Paul returned to Troas accompanied by at least eight of his associates (Acts 20:4 plus Luke). At Troas Paul raised the young Eutychus from the dead when he fell from the upper story of a Roman apartment house called a domus. The next day Paul walked over twenty miles to Assos where he met the others on board ship. Luke carefully plots the sea journey south through the Aegean Sea until the ship stopped at Miletus, a port city that boasted two harbors. There Paul summoned the Ephesian elders and delivered on the beach one of his most impassioned messages (20: 18–35). On his journey to Jerusalem Paul stopped at one more site in Turkey, the harbor at Patara (21:2). Patara became famous later as the birthplace of Nicholas, the patron saint of Christmas. Paul’s third journey lasted from 53–56.

Rome Journey

Paul’s Journey to Rome (Acts 27:1–7)

Agabus and others had prophesied to Paul along the way that trouble awaited him in Jerusalem (Acts 21:4–14). His arrest in Jerusalem was provoked when some Jews from the province of Asia accused Paul of bringing his coworker, the Ephesian gentile Trophimus, into the temple area (21:27–29). Stones in Greek warned Gentiles that entrance beyond the Court of the Gentiles was prohibited. Today one such stone is on display at the Istanbul Archaeological Museum; it reads: “No intruder is allowed in the courtyard and within the wall surrounding the temple. Those who enter will invite death for themselves.” Paul languished in Roman custody for two years at Caesarea until he appealed to Caesar (24:1–26:32). The Roman governor Festus then decided to send Paul to Rome for trial. In a touch of divine irony Paul is placed under guard on a ship from Adramyttium, bound for ports along the coast of Asia. His companions for this voyage that dates to the year 59 were Luke and Aristarchus. The northwest prevailing winds that blew across the Mediterranean forced ships sailing westward to hug the Anatolian coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia. At Myra in Lycia the Roman centurion transferred his prisoners to an Alexandrian ship returning to Rome (27:4–7). Such vessels were the most comfortable to sail on but would be heavily laden with grain to make bread for the Roman populace. The ship plodded slowly along Turkey’s Carian coast until at Cnidus Paul glimpsed Anatolia for the last time on this trip. What followed was a harrowing shipwreck that cast Paul and his companions barely alive on the shores of Malta. The book of Acts closes with Paul arriving safely in Rome where was placed under house arrest.




Sea Voyage to Rome (Anatolian Part)

Origin Destination Distance Km/M
Caesarea Myra 1060/657
Myra Cnidus 210/130

During this first extended imprisonment (61–62), most likely in Rome, Paul probably wrote his four Prison Epistles. Three of these letters were addressed to churches in Anatolia. One hundred miles inland from Ephesus stood three churches in the Lycus River valley — Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colossae. Two letters were addressed to Colossae, a city he apparently never visited during his time in Asia (Col. 2:1; cf. also mention of the church in Hierapolis in 4:13). The Colossian church was struggling with teaching that wrongly exalted certain legalistic regulations but misunderstood the fullness of the Deity found in Christ (2:6–23). The other letter was to an individual member named Philemon and addressed a delicate personal situation. One of his slaves named Onesimus had left without permission and found Paul in Rome, a journey of over 1000 miles! Through Paul’s influence Onesimus had become a believer, so the apostle was sending him back to be reconciled to his master. Because his emissary Tychicus and Onesimus were traveling to Asia, Paul apparently decided to write another general letter to the churches in the province. This letter is now known as the Epistle to the Ephesians. Its contents, especially in the exhortations, shares many similarities with the Colossian letter. In fact, it is probably the letter to Laodicea mentioned in Colossians 4:16.

Ephesus Journey

Paul's Post–Imprisonment Trip to Ephesus

The New Testament is silent regarding Paul’s subsequent activities. The Pastoral Epistles suggest that Paul was released from prison and made another journey to Asia around the year 63. His companions were Timothy and Titus, the latter whom he left at Crete (Titus 1:5). On his way to Macedonia Paul stopped in Ephesus, where he left Timothy to stop the spread of false teaching in the church (1 Tim. 1:3). On his return to Ephesus Paul was arrested again, probably at Troas (2 Tim. 4:13). Under Roman custody Paul apparently stopped at Miletus, leaving Trophimus sick there (2 Tim. 4:20). With Paul again in chains at Rome, contact with him proved highly risky. Everyone from Asia deserted him except for one man from Ephesus named Onesiphorus, who searched for Paul and refreshed him (2 Tim. 1:15–18). Tradition places Paul’s death in Rome during Nero’s persecution of Christians around 65.





Post-Imprisonment Journey

Origin Destination Distance Km/M
Crete Ephesus 440/273
Ephesus Smyrna 80/50
Smyrna Pergamum 112/69
Pergamum Adramyttium (overland) 54/33
Adramyttium Assos 70/43
Assos Alexandria Troas 61/38
Alexandria Troas Miletus 451/279

A Note on the Distances

The distances were measured on the Barrington Atlas of the Classical World using a Brunton Digital Map Measurer. The distances are over 95% accurate. Higher accuracies are difficult because of the page creases and the way the maps overlap in the atlas. Hopefully a flat map of Asia Minor will be issued someday. Alternate routes for the journeys are provided; the route of the North Galatian hypothesis is not measured.