Historical Documentation of Acts
September 15, 1975
There is no definite date in either sacred or secular history to absolutely substantiate the chronology
of the book of Acts. The record in the book of Acts, and as you know there are 28 chapters, overlap
into four of the Roman Emperors; namely Tiberius, Gaius, Claudius and Nero. Even though I cannot
give you the exact time of the opening of the book of Acts or the close, I’m going to set before you,
all the facts I know concerning the book of Acts and history to at least document it in part.
Acts 12:20-23 - Herod is Herod Agrippa the 1st. There are a number of Herods that appear in the
Bible as well as secular history.
Tiberius – Ruled from 14 to 37 A.D.
Gaius Caligula – Ruled from 37 to 41 A.D. (Caligula means ‘little boot’)
Claudius – Ruled from 41 to 54 A.D.
Nero - Ruled from 54 to 68 A.D.
Josephus and Eusibius both indicate that Herod Agrippa died in the 7th year of his reign soon after the
3rd year of his reign over “all” Judea and he died at the age of 54. Gaius’ accession, according to
history, was on March 16, 37 A.D. He was murdered on January 24, 41 A.D. Herod Agrippa began
reigning in 37 A.D. so he must have died in 44 A.D. He was made king over “all” Judea in 41 A.D.
after Gaius was murdered, so adding 3 to that you come up with 44 A.D. also. The “all” Judea
included Samaria and this became a reality when Claudius became the Emperor. This record in Acts
12 is 44 A.D. According to history Herod died during a festival given to Emperor Claudius who had
returned from Britain to Rome and then had come to Caesarea and Caesarea was the Roman capital
of Palestine. That is where Herod Agrippa gave this banquet for Claudius. This the general time
when these people from Tyre and Sidon came to pay their respects and this is the time of the death of
The time of the crucifixion is generally set at 29 A.D. so you could pretty well say the beginning of
Acts is 29 A.D. and chapter 12 is 44 A.D. What about the 28th chapter? Can we document that? There
is nothing quite as solid as what I just gave you but it is real interesting, when you put it all together,
what you can approximate. It has to be before July 19, 64 A.D. That was when Nero burned the city
of Rome and before that Christians had been killed by the barrel-full and I’m absolutely confident
that Paul had given his life for the ministry he represented. The book of Acts cannot go beyond 64
Festus became the ruler after Felix. Paul was arrested at Jerusalem perhaps in 57 or 58 A.D. because
from Jerusalem he was taken to Caesarea where he was imprisoned for 2 years and Paul’s defense
was made before Festus not Felix. In 51 A.D. Felix was appointed procurator of Judea. Some secular
historians have put Paul’s imprisonment in Caesarea as early as 52 A.D. That doesn’t agree with
Governor is Felix, whom Paul said had been a judge unto this nation “many years”. So this can’t be
“great quietness” – there was no “great quietness” at the time when Felix became the procurator but
something occurred in that land that brought a great deal of quietness.
The chief captain in vs. 37 asked Paul, “Canst thou speak Greek?” because he thought he was that
Egyptian according to vs. 38. Now this Egyptian, historically, had been a leader of about 30,000
fanatical Jews who wanted to see the city of Jerusalem fall. The word ‘murderers’ in vs. 38 really
gives a fantastic documentation that hardly anybody ever sees. This word murderer is sikarion. The
sicarii, which is plural, were so bold and so strong and so adamant that they deliberately murdered
people in daylight. Josephus says that these sicarii started murdering people in daylight under the
administration of Nero. Nero started reigning on October the 13th in 54 A.D. So at the time of the
capture of Paul in Jerusalem and when he was sent to Caesarea, there is one sure thing, it had to have
been after 54 A.D. from that word “murderers” in vs. 38. That’s how accurate God’s Word is when it
speaks. When you put this together, the latest date Paul appeared before Felix would be 58 A.D.
because he was there in jail 2 years. In 61 A.D. Felix was recalled to Rome for misrule and Festus
became the king. Paul appeared before Felix and then later on he appeared before Festus. Then later
he was sent to Rome. Acts 28 has a real significant documentation.
“the captain of the guard” – literal translation is “the Praefect of the Praetorian Guard”. The
Praetorian Guard was the top guard group. The Greek word for captain of the guard is –
stratopedarche. It is singular. Josephus tells us that a man by the name of Burrhus held this office in
Rome as the Praefect of the Praetorian Guard until February 62 A.D. One man was the captain of the
guard until February 62 A.D. when two Praefects were appointed for the Praetorian Guard. So if
there was just one in vs. 16, which there was, then Paul had to get to Rome before February 62 A.D.
It’s real interesting in verse 11 the ship had wintered in the island. Paul, after the ship wreck in
chapter 27, stayed on the island of Malta or as here is called Malita. They stayed there over the
winter and the sea is not open for navigation until after the month of February. They did not leave on
this ship of Alexandria until after February. So the latest they could have left this island to head to
Rome was 61 or 62 A.D.
Paul was there 2 years. Herod burned the city of Rome on July the 19th 64 A.D. From putting all this
together, the latest Paul could have died would have been 64 A.D. After Paul gets out of prison, he
revisited some of the churches, he wrote the book of Hebrews, I & II Timothy & Titus, before he
gave his life. When I put all this together I figure that we could pretty well say that he arrived in
Rome in 61 A.D. and left in 63 A.D. and died before or during or after that great persecution of the
Christians and the time, of course, when Nero burned the city of Rome. That’s as close as I can put it
into the history. That’s all I know about it.
There is other information in Acts that I can document historically that will bless you. In Acts
chapter 18 we have the record of Paul’s coming to Corinth.
A year and 6 months in Corinth.
Where did Aquila and Priscilla acquire a more perfect knowledge of God’s Word than Apollos had?
Because Aquila and Priscilla were in chapter 18, they were in Corinth for that year and a half when
Paul taught there. In A.D. 52, the Jews were compelled to leave Rome. This was in January of 52,
and if they left Rome in January, they would arrive in Corinth in February of 52. Putting it a year and
a half later, Paul would have left Corinth in August of 53 A.D.
I think that’s an interesting documentation of that record in Acts 18:24ff. where they got to Ephesus
before Paul came there.
The word “deputy” is proconsul. This Gallio had a brother named Seneca. Seneca is the founder of
the Stoic philosophy. Seneca was banished from the Roman Empire but he was recalled again in 49
A.D. according to Josephus. According to Josephus Gallio was not in Achaia in A.D. 54. Therefore
A.D. 53 is the latest date Paul could have been brought before this man. That’s why in Acts 19:1
where Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus, has to
be approximately A.D. 54. It’s real early in Christianity isn’t it? Boy, you see how the Word like two
years and three months all Asia Minor heard the Word. That Word of God moved in that first
century. They were right out there speaking the Word, moving it. The reason I love to put this
together historically is because all the liberals push the date forward. They make it real late. Like
John – 98 A.D. Then the Word of God doesn’t fit. The word of God always takes precedence over
everything. When it speaks historically then you look for the historians that agree with the Word.
You don’t look for the Word to agree with the historian. Our approach and our respect for the Word
give us that great lever of power. The average person looks at the secular historian then sees the
complication in the Word. They accept the secular historian and through the Word out. We hold the
Word first then look for the secular historian. If we can’t find any, we stay put on the Word, till we
find a secular historian smart enough to say what the Word says. An entirely different approach, but
it’s one that works. We certainly have as much right to our approach as the others do to theirs, by
Josephus says the famine began in the year of Herod’s death. The Bible says it came to pass in the
days of Claudius Caesar. The critics have said the Bible doesn’t tell the truth. It “came to pass”
(fulfillment) in the days of Claudius Caesar, it started in the year Herod died and it stayed over and
reached its fulfillment, completion, when Claudius was the emperor. I don’t see any contradiction,
only in people’s minds. Why couldn’t a famine start in 41 and run to 44?
II Corinthians 11:32
Tiberius, the Emperor, assigned Damascus to Aretas sometime between the years of 34 and 37 A.D.
One of the historians says that he assigned it to him in 37 which would be the year of his death. I
believe this is right because it will document this record in Corinthians and when you study the life
of Paul, which we will, this becomes singularly significant as a date because you will be able to tie
this year in with the rest of the years that I have given you.
Who is “I”? – Luke is never mentioned in the Gospel of Luke. He never mentions himself. All the
information that you can gather regarding Luke specifically is in seven sections in God’s Word.
Colossians 4:14 II Timothy 4:11 Philemon 24