In studying the book of Acts, it is always amazing to see just how much time is covered in such a few short chapters.  In all, Acts covers about 30 years of history:

  • chs 1–2 cover≈ 50 days
  • chs 3:1–9:31 ≈ 3–4 years;
  • chs 9:32–12:24 ≈ 10 years;
  • chs 12:25–16:5 ≈ 5 years;
  • chs 16:6–19:41 ≈ 6 years;
  • chs 20:1–28:31 ≈ 7 years.
  • In some places in Luke’s writing like chs 9:32–12:24. there are large gaps.

[ see, David Wenham and Steve Walton, Exploring the New Testament, Volume 1: The Gospels and Acts (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2001), 287.]

I have put together the following tables that might help give some perspective.

Acts 1

Acts 2

Acts 3

Acts 4

Dating the Gospels

There are competing theories based on the best evidence for when the 4 Gospels were written.  The following is a summary of dates based on the evidence.

Mark: 50’s AD

Another method of dating the Synoptic Gospels starts from the book of Acts. Acts ends with Paul spending two years in prison at Rome (28:30), ca a.d. 61–63. If Luke wrote Acts while Paul was still in prison at Rome (one view is that Luke wrote Luke-Acts as a document for use by Paul in his trial before the emperor), then Luke would have to be dated before a.d. 63, for Acts 1:1 refers to Luke as already written. If Luke used Mark as a written source, Mark would have to be dated still earlier, in the 50’s of the 1st century.

F. V. Filson, “Gospels, Synoptic,” ed. Geoffrey W Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 535.

Luke: Early 60’s AD

The book of Acts ends with Paul in a Roman prison. Prior to that, Luke documents many of Paul’s other imprisonments, trials, persecutions, and various other abuses that he suffered. But Luke does not document the beheading of Paul under Caesar Nero at the end of the imprisonment mentioned at the end of Acts. Nor does he mention any other event that fell after about AD 62. This suggests that Acts was written before Paul’s execution. It seems highly unlikely that Luke would mention other such persecutions and not Paul’s martyrdom. Thus, Acts can be reasonably dated before the death of Paul sometime between AD 62 and 65. And the Gospel of Luke shortly preceded Acts, probably in the very early 60s.

Doug Powell, Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics (Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2006), 135–136.

Matthew: 50’s or 60’s AD

Dating Matthew depends on a resolution of the Synoptic problem: how to interpret the fact, for example, that 91 percent of Mark is contained in Matthew. If the Griesbach hypothesis is true (Matthew wrote first, and his Gospel was condensed by Mark), then Matthew and its Jewish focus may well reflect an early period of the church, even the A.D. 50s”>But if the more commonly held priority of Mark is assumed, and its authorship is assigned to the 50s or 60s, Matthew would date to the later 50s or 60s”>Other scholarship, however, has generally inclined toward a date after the 70s”>In the absence of new evidence, no firm date is possible beyond such ranges.

Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids, eds., Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 188.

John: < 75 AD

Third, putting Mark first fits Kirby’s unproven evolutionary redaction assumption because Mark is shorter and the others can be made to look like a longer development of Mark. This is akin to Bruno Bauer putting John in the second century as a result of assuming an unfounded Hegelian dialectic that demanded this because John was allegedly a later synthesis of the earlier thesis of Peter and antithesis of Paul. However, the early dating of John within the first century due to the discovery of the John Ryland Fragment was dated just after the end of the first century in a little town in Egypt. This along with the evidence from Qumran let the Dean of Archaeology of the twentieth century, Professor William F. Albright, date the entire New Testament by A.D. 75 and John even earlier.  So, the factual evidence flies in the face of the a priori evolutionary and developmental hypotheses.

Carrier, Richard.“The Spiritual Body of Christ and the Legend of the Empty Tomb.” Christian Apologetics Journal 5, no. 1 Southern Evangelical Seminary, (2006): 67–68.

Dr. J.R. Miller is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. Outside work, he is a church planter. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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