Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

When Was Acts Written?

It can be a challenge to explain, in detail, everything that is said during a sermon on Sunday morning. A typical sermon at our church is usually the result of somewhere around 10 - 12 hours of study and another 10-12 of assembly and writing. During that preparation and study, a tremendous amount of data and information passes over our desktops. Some of it gets incorporated into the actual sermon, some is just background info that helps us understand the passage better and lends itself to a higher level of confidence in what is being prepared. Trying to decide what to leave in and what to leave out can be its own unique type of challenge. 

Last Sunday, while presenting the Chronological Bible reading plan, I mentioned that the time frame of the Book of Acts spanned much of the New Testament. Let me explain where this idea comes from. 

Luke was the author of Acts, as well as the Gospel of Luke. They were originally considered one complete volume, Luke's opus on what he had experienced and the impact it had on him and the world around him. 

Most modern scholarship places the date Acts was written as somewhere between 65 AD and 85 AD with much evidence supporting authorship in the 65-70 AD range, primarily because the fall of Jerusalem (70 AD) is not mentioned, only foretold and Judaism is mentioned in a positive light in Rome (Acts 28:17-22), something that would never have occurred after Jerusalem was sacked.

By 70 AD, by most accounts, much of the NT had been written or was nearly completed. Some place John's writing later in the 1st Century but modern scholars, like R.C. Sproul are beginning to reassess those dates, placing them at or before 70 AD. Here's a graph showing typical dating of the writing of the books;

There are certainly other charts and differing opinions but the main idea is that things were well under way by the time Acts was written. 

Nothing points toward the full scope of Acts more than the events described in its texts. In the beginning, we see the ascension of Christ (Acts 1:9-11). In the end we find Paul in prison in Rome, probably somewhere around 60 AD or so. Most of Paul's career as an Apostle is documented in the Book of Acts. 

Paul in Prison by Rembrandt 
Luke was an amazing, detailed author. Placement of his writings has much more to do with his intentions to provide an overview than it does with the order the NT books were written. It's easy to think the books of the NT are arranged in chronological order but the evidence and a careful reading of the text shows otherwise. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this. I just finished teaching the Book of Acts at GBC in Marshall. Chuck only gave me 13 weeks, so it was a whirlwind tour. The timing of books was part of it. I tend to agree with the earlier time - just can't believe Luke wouldn't include additional journey if it was later.