There is not a lot to say about the use of chronological markers in Acts. There aren’t many.
I still recall my first readings of the synoptic gospels and Acts and wondering over what time span readers were meant to understand the narratives taking place. There are simply no clues within the text itself. No absolute chronological markers worth the mention. How long was it from Pentecost to the conversion of Paul? There are a few mentions of several month stays and weeks of traveling, but no clue is given in the text itself about whether the events covered a handful of years or a generation.
Pervo writes in relation to determining the genre of Acts:
Nor does chronology settle the question. Luke’s absolute chronology is so thin that one of his defenders was driven to assign chronological data to a projected third volume by Luke and another to blame the problem on sources.¹ Relative chronology is also problematic. Only those readers supplied with data from other sources perceive that the book records events that took place over an entire generation.² If chronology, both external and internal, was an important concern for historians, it was not so for Luke. (p. 5)
His footnotes elaborate:
- Poor sources: Bruce, 15. (What of Luke 3:1-2, where the source is known?) Most of the chronology of Acts derives from the mention of known persons (e.g. Gallio, Claudius) whose dates are elsewhere available.
- Thus Acts 12:1-23, if it refers to Agrippa, implies more than a decade has elapsed since the ascension. No one would guess this, nor imagine that chaps. 12-18 covered eight years.
Readers of Acts who wish to decipher its chronology are driven to what they know from other sources unrelated to the text before them. Acts shows no real historical interest in helping readers get their chronological bearings as they read. What is important is to keep the entertaining adventures racing along.A post script to this:
I have discussed in brief a possible source for Luke’s chronology in Luke 3.1 in a post that is part of another series I am working on. See Dating the Book of Acts: 5
Next, 3. Speeches
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