Dating the Book of Acts: 2, Evidence for an intermediate date (80-100 c.e.)

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by Neil Godfrey

In 1897 Harnack’s Chronologie was published. This raised, with respect to the date of Acts, the issues still addressed today:

The evidence of the conclusion of Acts (Chronologie)

The conclusion precludes the possibility of an early date: it is from a time when Christianity had spread from Jerusalem to Rome, freely entering the gentile world, and also at a time by which the role of the Jews in Christianity was fading from view.

The conclusion demonstrates that the author is more interested in the course of the gospel than in the life of Paul. The celebratory use of “unhindered” as the final word of the book — despite Paul’s house arrest — is most significant.

If Acts had been written at or near end of the 2 years house confinement in Rome we would expect the author to give some clue about this in the book.

If Paul were still alive at time of the book’s composition we would expect that fact to have played a role somewhere in the book and mentioned clearly at the end.

Acts is far enough from the life of Paul to explain differences in interest and understanding of the gospel and doctrinal issues that preoccupied church in previous 40-50 years.

Terminus a quo (Chronologie)

The Gospel of Luke clearly knows of the destruction of Jerusalem — so this excludes possibility Acts was written before 70 c.e.

The Prologue of Luke demonstrates a date in second generation after Jesus and the eyewitnesses.

If Acts had been written in 70 c.e. or soon after we would expect the destruction of Jerusalem to play some role in the text, as it does in the Epistle of Barnabas.

Terminus a quo is from a time when the memory of Jerusalem began to fade, i.e. ca. 80 c.e.

Terminus ad quem (Chronologie)

Author of Acts shows no knowledge of Paul’s letters, while late-first-century and early-second-century authors — Clement, Barnabas, Ignatius and Polycarp — used them extensively.

Lukan attitude towards Rome is naive — sometimes friendly, sometimes hostile, sometimes indifferent — which would be most unlikely if written during last years of Domitian.

Lightfoot (The Apostolic Fathers, 1885)

Lightfoot demonstrated letters of Ignatius of Antioch were from the Trajanic period — and they contain no memory of conflict between Paul and Peter and their parties (ditto 1 Clement). So controversies between Peter and Paul (if they existed) did not continue beyond the end of the first century. Acts is thus taken as having been completed around this time.

The above notes from pp. 6-7 of Marcion and Luke-Acts: A Defining Struggle, by Joseph B. Tyson (2006).

(Next post: the early view of the late date for Acts)

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Neil Godfrey

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0 thoughts on “Dating the Book of Acts: 2, Evidence for an intermediate date (80-100 c.e.)”

  1. Tyson acknowledges that the arguments for an intermediate date (80-90 c.e.) are embraced by most scholars today, but argues that their foundation is inadequate:

    — “they fail to recognize the affinities between Acts on the one side and Josephus and the letters of Paul on the other” (p.22)

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