- chronology of the New Testament
- The life of Jesus and the travels of Paul are fixed by the NT within the stream of secular history. Calculations of the monk Dionysius in Rome in 532 CE resulted in the birth of Jesus being put at year 1 of the new Christian Era, corresponding to year 754 of the Roman calendar, which began with the foundation of the city. Collating various subsequent dates then puts the reign of Herod the Great in Jerusalem as from 37 BCE to 4 BCE. But Jesus was born shortly before the death of Herod the Great, i.e. in or before 4 BCE (Matt. 2:1, 19). He was crucified under Pontius Pilate [[➝ Pilate, Pontius]], who was prefect of Judaea from 26 to 36 CE. Precise dates for the ministry of Jesus are beset with uncertainty, since the evangelists are not much interested in chronology; Luke is the exception, but his efforts in 3:1, as in 2:1, have left problems for his readers. A universal census (2:1) is highly improbable: how could thousands of people throughout the Roman Empire have been uprooted? Moreover, the census of Quirinius was held in 6 or 7 CE, which does not coincide with the reign of Herod the Great, and in any case did not apply to residents of Nazareth in Galilee. And why should Joseph have been required to travel to Bethlehem on the ground of his ancestor being born there many generations previously? It looks very much as though Luke was providing a story to fulfil the prophecy of Mic. (5:2–4). The ‘star’ followed by the Magi [[➝ magi]] (Halley's comet was seen in 12 BCE) is another feature of the infancy narratives which support a view that they are more theological interpretation than precise historical records.The length of the ministry of Jesus may have been one year, as the synoptists appear to imply, or two years (at least), as the mention by John of three Passovers indicates (2:13; 6:4; 11:55); but as the synoptists and John disagree about the date of the Lord's Supper and the Crucifixion [[➝ crucifixion]], and because the methods of establishing the details of the Jewish calendar were unreliable, it is impossible to be sure of the year. Even the note in John 2:20 that the Temple had so far taken forty-six years to build is not a safe guide, since Herod did not necessarily order construction to begin immediately upon taking his decision. Perhaps April in 30 CE could be accepted as a reasonable date for the crucifixion.There are some fixed dates for Paul. Aretas, who governed Damascus (through an official) when Paul escaped from it, ruled the city from 37 CE (2 Cor. 11:32). This puts Paul's experience on the Damascus road at about 34 CE. Gallio was proconsul of Achaia (Acts 18:12) from 51 to 52 CE, which gives a date for Paul in Corinth. The edict of the emperor Claudius which expelled Jews from Rome was probably issued in 49 CE; hence Paul met Aquila and Priscilla soon afterwards in Corinth (Acts 18:1–3). He had probably written the epistles to the Thessalonians by that time. The procurator Felix (Acts 24:27) was deposed in 60 CE, so Paul's trial under Festus and the voyage to Rome probably took place in that year. James the Lord's brother was stoned in 62. The martyrdom of Peter and Paul probably took place soon after the great fire in Rome in 64.
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