An American Commentary on the New Testament.

Edited By Alvah Hovey, D.D., LL.D.



The evidence that the book of Acts was written by Luke, to whom the Christian world are accustomed to ascribe it, is of a threefold character. It will be sufficient for the object here in view merely to indicate the line of argument which establishes the correctness of that opinion. A more complete and systematic view of the evidence must be sought in works which treat professedly of the formation and transmission of the Canon of the Scriptures.

In the first place, we have the explicit testimony of the early Christian writers that Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles. Irenæus, who became Bishop of Lyons in A. D. 178, and who was born so early that he was intimate with those who had seen the apostles, says expressly that Luke was the author of the Acts; he quotes from him various single passages, and in one place gives a distinct summary of the last twelve chapters of the book (Adv. Hæres., 3. 14. 1). He treats this authorship of the work as a matter which he had no occasion to defend, because no one of his contemporaries had called it in question. From the generation which separated Irenæus from the age of Luke we have only a few scanty remains; but these, although they contain expressions1 which, according to the admission of nearly all critics, presuppose an acquaintance with the Acts, are silent respecting the writer. To have mentioned him by name would have been at variance with the informal mode of citing the Christian Scriptures which distinguishes the writings of that early period. The next witness is Clemens of Alexandria, who flourished about A. D. 190. This Father not only speaks of Luke as having com posed the Acts in his Stromata (lib. 5), but is known to have written a commentary on it, which has not been preserved. Tertullian, who lived about A. D. 200, offers the same testimony. He has not only quoted the Acts repeatedly, but named Luke as the author in such a way as makes it evident that he merely followed in this the universal opinion of his age (De Jejun., c. 10; De Præscript. Hæret., c. 22; De Bapt., c. 10, etc.). Eusebius wrote about A. D. 325. He has recorded both his own belief and that of his time in the following important statement:" Luke, a native of Antioch, by profession a physician, was mostly Paul's companion, though he associated not a little with the other apostles. He has left us examples of the art of healing souls, which he acquired from the apostles, in two divinely-inspired books; first, in the Gospel which he testifies to have written according to what eye-witnesses and ministers of the word delivered to him from the beginning, all which, also, he says that he investigated from the first;2 and, secondly, in the Acts of the Apostles, which he composed, not from report, as in the other case, but according to his own personal observation" (Hist. Eccl., 3. 4).

It would be superfluous to pursue this testimony farther. It may be proper to add that no trace of any opposition to it or dissent from it has come down to us from the first ages of the church. Some of the early heretical sects, it is true, as the Marcionites, Manicheans, Severians, rejected the religious authority of the Acts; but as they did this because it contradicted their peculiar views, and as they admitted without question the source from which their opponents claimed to receive it, their rejection of the book, Under such circumstances, becomes a conclusive testimony to its genuineness.

In the second place, the relation in which the Acts of the Apostles stands to the Gospel which is ascribed to Luke proves that the author of the two productions must be the same individual. The writer introduces his work as a continuation or second part of a previous history, and dedicates it to a certain Theophilus, who can be no other than the person for whose special information the Gospel was written. As to the identity of the writer of the Acts with the writer of the Gospel attributed to Luke, no well founded question has been, or can be, raised. Consequently, the entire mass of testimony which proves that Luke the Evangelist wrote the Gospel which bears his name proves with equal force that he wrote also the Acts of the Apostles. Thus the Acts may be traced up to Luke through two independent series of witnesses. And it may be confidently asserted that, unless the combined historical evidence from this twofold source be admitted as conclusive in support of Luke's claim to the authorship of the Acts, there is then no ancient book in the world the author of which can ever be ascertained by us.

In the third place, the literary peculiarities which distinguish the Gospel of Luke mark also the composition of the Acts and show that it must have come from the same hand. The argument here is founded on a different relation of the Gospel to the Acts from that to which we have just adverted. Luke being acknowledged as the author of the Gospel, we know from that source what the characteristics of his style are; and it is maintained that these re-appear in the Acts to such an extent that we can account for the agreement only by referring the two productions to the same writer. The reality of the resemblance here asserted is conceded by critics of every name. It will be necessary to restrict the illustration of it to a few examples.3 In Luke's Gospel, verb? com pounded with prepositions are more numerous than in the other Evangelists; they are found in the same proportion in the Acts. Matthew has σύν three times; Mark, five times; John, three times, or, according to another reading, but twice; while Luke employs it in his Gospel twenty-four times, and in the Acts fifty-one times. Luke has used ἅπας in his two books thirty-five times; whereas it occurs in all the others but nine times. πορεύεσδαι is found in the Gospel forty-nine times and in the Acts thirty-eight times, but is rarely found in other parts of the New Testament. The construction of εἰπεῖν and λαλεῖν with πρός, instead of the dative of the person addressed, is confined almost exclusively to Luke. No other writer, except John in a few instances, ever says εἰπεῖν πρός, and λαλεῖν πρός occurs out of Luke's writings only in 1 Cor. 14:6; Heb. 5:5 and 11:18. As in Luke's Gospel, so in the Acts, we have a characteristic use of δὲ καί to express emphasis or gradation; a similar use of καί αὐτός or αὐτοί; the insertion of the neuter article before interrogative sentences; the omission of δέ after μὲν οὖν; the uniform preference of Ἱερυσαλήμ to Ἱεροσόλυμα; and still others. Credner, in his Introduction to the New Testament, has enumerated not fewer than sixty-five distinct idioms which he considers as peculiar to Luke's diction as compared with that of the other New-Testament writers; and nearly all these he points out as occurring at the same time in both the Gospel and the Acts. It is impossible, then, to doubt, unless we deny that any confidence can be placed in this species of criticism, that if Luke wrote the Gospel which we accredit to him, he must also have written the Acts.


According to Eusebius, as already quoted, and Jerome, who may be supposed to represent the opinion of their times, Luke was a native of Antioch. As he appears in the Acts to have spent so much time at Philippi, some modern writers have conjectured that he may have been a native or an inhabitant of that city. The historical testimony deserves more regard than an inference of that nature. That he was a Gentile by birth appears to be certain from Col. 4:11, 14, where Paul distinguishes him from those whom he denominates those who are of the circumcision (οί όντες ἐκ περιτομῆς). His foreign extraction is confirmed also by the character of his style, which approaches nearer to the standard of classical Greek than that of any other writer of the New Testament, with the exception of the apostle Paul. This feature of his language renders it probable that he was of Greek origin. Some have inferred this also from his Greek name; but it was not uncommon for Jews, as well as Romans and other foreigners, to assume such names at this period. Whether he was a proselyte to Judaism before his conversion to Christianity, or not, is a question on which critics differ. The sup position that he adopted first the Jewish religion, and had done so perhaps in early life, accounts best for his intimate acquaintance with the opinions and customs of the Jews, his knowledge of the Septuagint, and the degree of Hebraistic tendency which shows itself in his style. It appears from Col. 4:14 that Luke was a physician; and the general voice of antiquity, in accordance with that passage, represents him as having belonged to the medical profession. The effect of his following such an employment can be traced, as many critics think, in various passages of Luke's writings. (Comp. the note on 28:8.) The fact that he was trained to such a pursuit — that he was a man, therefore, of culture and observing habits of mind — is an important circumstance. It has been justly remarked that, as many of the miracles which the first promulgators of the gospel wrought in confirmation of its truth were cases of the healing of maladies, Luke, by virtue of his medical skill and experience, was rendered peculiarly competent to judge of the reality of such miracles.4

Of the manner in which the writer of the Acts was brought to a knowledge of the gospel we have no information. The suggestion of some of the later Fathers, that he was one of the seventy disciples, is not only without ground, but opposed to his own statement in the introduction of his Gospel, where he distinguishes himself from those who had been personal attendants on the ministry of Christ. It is evident that after his conversion he devoted himself to public Christian labors, for the most part in connection with the apostle Paul, whom he accompanied from place to place and aided in his efforts for the extension of the gospel. The first explicit allusion which he makes to himself occurs in 16:10, sq., where he gives an account of the apostle's departure from Troas to Macedonia. In that passage Luke employs the first person plural, and thus shows that he was one of the companions of Paul on that occasion. He goes with the apostle from Troas to Philippi, and speaks of himself again in 20:6 as one of the several individuals who sailed with Paul from the same city on his last journey to Jerusalem. Whether Luke had been separated from Paul during the interval, or remained with him, cannot be certainly known. It is eminently characteristic of the sacred writers that they keep themselves out of view in their narratives. Hence some have argued that we are not to infer that Luke was necessarily absent when he employs the third person, but rather that it was a sort of inadvertence, as it were, against his design that he has now and then disclosed his personal connection with the history. The other opinion is the surer one. We cannot be certain that Luke was in the company of Paul, except at the times when his language shows that he was personally concerned in what he relates. It is clear, even according to this view, that Luke, in addition to his accompanying Paul on his first journey from Troas to Philippi, remained with him, without any known interruption, from the period of his leaving Philippi the second time to the end of his career. He goes with the apostle to Jerusalem, where the latter was apprehended and given up to the custody of the Romans (20:6, sq.; 21:1, sq.); he speaks of himself as still with him at the close of his imprisonment at Caesarea (27:1); proceeds with him on his voyage to Rome (27:1, sq.); and, as we see from the Epistles which Paul wrote while in that city, continued to be associated with him down to the latest period of his life of which any record remains. The apostle mentions Luke as residing with him at Rome in Col. 4:14; Phil. 24; and 2 Tim. 4:11. Of his sub sequent history nothing authentic has been preserved. The traditions which relate to this period are uncertain and contradictory. According to Gregory Nazianzen, whom several later writers follow, he suffered martyrdom; according to others, and those whose testimony has greater weight, he died a natural death.


The foregoing sketch shows us how ample were Luke's means of information in regard to the subjects of which his history treats. Of most of the events which he has recorded he was an eye-witness. The materials which compose the body of the work lay within the compass of his own personal knowledge. The particulars which he communicates respecting Paul's life and labors before his own acquaintance with him he could have learned at a subsequent period in his intercourse with that apostle. His extensive journeyings could hardly fail to have brought him into connection with most of the other persons who appear as actors in the history. Some of his information he de rived, no doubt, from written sources. The official documents which he has inserted (15:23, sq.; 23:26, sq.) were public, and could have been copied. We assume nothing at variance with the habits of antiquity in supposing that the more extended discourses and speeches, which Luke himself did not hear, may have been noted down by others at the time of their delivery, or soon afterward, while the impression made by them was still vivid. If the writer of the Acts had any occasion for the use of such reports, his travels from one country to another must have given him access to the persons who could furnish them.5

We are to recollect, further, that the declaration which Luke makes at the commencement of his Gospel applies equally to the Acts. It was his habit, as we learn there, to avail himself of every possible source of inquiry, in order to ascertain the certainty of what he wrote. With such opportunities at his command, and with such a character for diligence in the use of them, the writer of the Acts, considered simply in the light of an ordinary historian, comes before us with every title to confidence which can be asserted in behalf of the best-accredited human testimony.

But this is not all. We have not only every reason to regard the history of Luke as authentic, because he wrote it with such facilities for knowing the truth, but because we find it sustaining its credit under the severest scrutiny to which it is possible that an ancient work should be subjected.

First. This history has been confronted with the Epistles of the New Testament, and it has been shown as the result that the incidental correspondences between them and the Acts are numerous and of the most striking kind. They are such as preclude the supposition of their being the result of either accident or design. It is impossible to account for them, unless we admit that the transactions which Luke records really took place in the manner that he has related. It is the object of Paley's Horæ Paulinæ to develop this argument; and the demonstration of the truth of the Acts, and of the New Testament in general, which he has furnished in that work, no objector has ever attempted to refute.

Secondly. The speeches in the Acts which purport to have been delivered by Peter, Paul, and James have been compared with the known productions of these men; and it is found that they exhibit an agreement with them, in point of thought and expression, which the supposition of their common origin would lead us to expect. The speeches attributed to Peter contain peculiar phrases and ideas which impart a characteristic similarity to them as compared with the other speeches, and which appear again in his Epistles, but in no other portion of the New Testament. In like manner, the speeches of Paul evince an affinity both to each other and to his Epistles, in the recurrence of favorite words, modes of construction, and turns of thought, such as belong to no other writer. We have but one address from James, but even here we discover striking points of connection with the Epistle which bears his name. Occasion will be taken in the course of the Commentary to illustrate this peculiar feature of the history.

Thirdly. We have a decisive test of the trustworthiness of Luke in the consistency of his statements and allusions with the information which contemporary writers have given us respecting the age in which he lived and wrote. The history which we read in the Acts connects itself at numerous points with the 'social customs of different and distant nations; with the fluctuating civil affairs of the Jews, Greeks, and Romans; and with geographical or political divisions and arrangements, which were constantly under going some change or modification. Through all these circumstances, which underlie Luke's narrative from commencement to end, he pursues his way without a single in stance of contradiction or collision. Examples of the most unstudied harmony with the complicated relations of the times present themselves at every step. No writer who was conscious of fabricating his story would have hazarded such a number of minute allusions, since they increase so immensely the risk of detection; and still less, if he had ventured upon it, could he have introduced them so skillfully as to baffle every at tempt to discover a single well-founded instance of ignorance or oversight. It adds to the force of the argument to remark that in the pages of Luke every such allusion falls from him entirely without effort or parade. It never strikes the reader as farfetched or contrived. Every incident, every observation, flows naturally out of the progress of the narrative. It is no exaggeration to say that the well-informed reader who will study carefully the book of the Acts, and compare the incidental notices to be found on almost every page with the geography and the political history of the times, and with the customs of the different countries in which the scene of the transactions is laid, will receive an impression of the writer's fidelity and accuracy equal to that of the most forcible treatises on the truth of Christianity.

The objections which sceptical writers have urged against the authenticity of the Acts relate chiefly to the supernatural character of its narrations. It does not belong to the province of biblical criticism to reply to such objections. They have adduced also a few instances of alleged offence against history or chronology or archaeology, but these result from an unnecessary interpretation. We may understand the passages which are said to contain the inconsistency in a different manner, and thus remove entirely the occasion for it.


The common title of the Acts — πράξεις τῶν ἀποστόλων — is ancient, but is supposed generally to have been prefixed, not by the author, but by some later hand. It is read differently in different manuscripts. It is too comprehensive to describe accurately the contents of the book. The writer's object, if we are to judge of it from what he has performed, must have been to furnish a summary history of the origin, gradual increase, and extension of the Christian Church, through the instrumentality, chiefly, of the apostles Peter and Paul. In fact, we have not a complete history, but a compendium merely, of the labors of these two apostles, who were most active in their efforts to advance the gospel, while the other apostles are only referred to or named incidentally in connection with some particular occurrence. It is not to be supposed that Luke has recorded all the facts which were known to him respecting the early spread of Christianity. On what principle he proceeded in making his selection from the mass of materials before him we cannot decide with certainty. He may have been influenced in part by the personal relation which he sustained to the individuals introduced and the events described by him. It is still more probable that the wants of the particular class of readers whom he had in view may have shaped, more or less consciously, the course of his narrative; and these readers, in the absence of any surer indication, we may consider as represented by Theophilus, who was in all probability a convert from heathenism, (See note on 1:1.)

In writing for such readers, we should expect that Luke would lean toward those aspects of the history which illustrated the design of God in reference to the heathen; their right to participate in the blessings of the gospel without submitting to the forms of Judaism; the conflict of opinion which preceded the full recognition of this right; and the success more particularly of those apostolic labors which were performed in be half of heathen countries. It cannot be denied that the contents of the Acts exhibit a predilection for this class of topics; and to that extent the book may be said to have been written, in order to illustrate the unrestricted nature of the blessings of the gospel. On the other hand, it should be observed that this predilection is merely such as would spring naturally from the writer's almost unconscious sympathy with his Gentile readers, and is by no means so marked as to authorize us, according to the view of some writers, to impute to him anything like a formal purpose to trace the relation of Judaism to Christianity,

In accordance with this trait of the Acts here alluded to, we have a very particular account of the manner in which Peter was freed from his Jewish scruples. The reception of the first heathen converts into the church is related at great length. The proceedings of the Council at Jerusalem with reference to the question whether circumcision should be permanent occupy one of the leading chapters of the book. And the individual of the apostles who preached chiefly to the Gentiles, and introduced the gospel most extensively into heathen countries, is the one whom the writer has made the central object of his history, and whose course of labor he has described in the fullest manner.

Luke has pursued no formal plan in the arrangement of the Acts. The subject of his history, however, divides itself naturally into two principal parts. The first part treats of the apostolic labors of Peter, and hence particularly of the spread of Christianity among the Jews, occupying the first twelve chapters; the second, of the labors of Paul, and hence the promulgation of the gospel in Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome, occupying the remaining chapters. But the book contains other topics which are related to these only in a general way. The following division marks out to view the different sections more distinctly:1. Outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and the antecedent circumstances; 2. Events relating to the progress of the gospel in Judea and Samaria; 3. The transition of the gospel to the heathen, in the conversion of Cornelius and others; 4. The call of the apostle Paul, and his first missionary tour; 5. The Apostolic Council at Jerusalem; 6. The second missionary tour of Paul; 7. His third missionary tour, and his apprehension at Jerusalem; 8. His imprisonment at Caesarea, and voyage to Rome.


The time when the Acts was written could not have been far distant from that of the termination of Paul's imprisonment at Rome, mentioned at the close of the history. The manner in which Luke speaks of that imprisonment implies clearly that at the time when he wrote the apostle's condition had changed; that he was no longer a prisoner, either because he had been liberated or because he had been put to death.

It does not affect the present question whether we suppose that he was imprisoned twice or only once. (See note on 28:31.) If we suppose that he was set at liberty, we have then a most natural explanation of the abrupt close of the book in the fact that Luke published it just at the time of the apostle's release, or so soon after that event that the interval furnished nothing new which he deemed it important to add to the history. On the other hand, if we suppose that Paul's captivity terminated in his martyrdom, it is not easy to account for the writer's silence respecting his death, except on the ground that it was so recent and so well known in the circle of his readers that they did not need the information. Thus, in both cases, the time of writing the Acts would coincide very nearly with the end of the Roman captivity of which Luke has spoken.

The question arises now, Do we know the time when that captivity ended, whether it may have been by acquittal or by death? Here we must depend upon the surest chronological data which exist, though it is not pretended that they are certain. Ac cording to a computation which has received the assent of most critics, Paul was brought as a prisoner to Rome in the year A. D. 61 or 62. In the year 64 followed the conflagration in that city, which was kindled by the agency of Nero, but which, for the sake of averting the odium of the act from himself, he charged on the Christians. This led to the first Christian persecution, so called, which is mentioned by Tacitus (Annal., 15. 44), Suetonius (Ner., 16), and possibly Juvenal (Serm., 1. 146, sq.). If now Paul was set at liberty after his confinement of two years, it must have been just before the commencement of Nero's persecution— that is, in the year A. D. 63, or near the beginning of 64. But if, according to the other supposition, the two years were not completed until the persecution commenced, he must, in all probability, as the leader of the Christian sect, have soon shared the common fate, and so have been put to death about the year 64. Hence we may consider this date, or the close of A. D. 63, as not improbably the time when Luke wrote, or at least published, the Acts of the Apostles.

But if Luke wrote the book thus near the expiration of the two years that Paul was a prisoner at Rome, it is most natural to conclude that he wrote it in that city. This was also the opinion of many of the early Christian Fathers. The probability of this conclusion is greatly strengthened by the fact that Luke makes no mention of Paul's liberation or martyrdom, as the case may have been. At Rome every reader of the apostle's history knew, of course, what the result of his captivity there was; and if Luke wrote it at that place, the absence of any allusion to his fate would not seem to be so very surprising. On the contrary, if Luke wrote it at a distance from the scene of the apostle's captivity, the omission would be much more extraordinary.


The subject of the chronology of the Acts is still attended with uncertainties which no efforts of critical labor have been able wholly to remove. "After all the combinations," says Schott,6 " which the ingenuity of scholars has enabled them to devise, and all the fulness of historical learning which they have applied to the subject, it has been impossible to arrive at results which are satisfactory in all respects." The source of the difficulty is that the notations of time are for the most part entirely omitted, or, if they occur here and there, are contained in general and indefinite expressions. We must content ourselves, therefore, with endeavoring to fix the dates of a few leading events which may be ascertained with most certainty, and must then distribute the other contents of the book with reference to these, on the basis of such incidental intimations as may be found to exist, or of such probable calculations as we may be able to form.

1. The Year of Paul's Conversion.

The date of this event is very uncertain, but an attempt has been made to approximate to it by means of the following combination. In Gal. 1:15-18, it is stated that Paul went up to Jerusalem from Damascus three years from the time of his conversion, and we learn from 2 Cor. 11:32 that Damascus, when Paul made his escape from it on that occasion, was in the hands of Aretas, King of Arabia. As this city belonged to the Romans, it is remarkable that it should have been just at that time wrested from them, and the circumstances under which such an event took place must have been peculiar. It is conjectured that a juncture like this may have led to that occurrence. Josephus relates that an army of Herod Antipas had been defeated about this time by Aretas, King of Arabia. Upon this, the Emperor Tiberius, who was a friend and ally of Herod, directed Vitellius, Roman Governor of Syria, to collect an adequate force, and to take Aretas prisoner or slay him in the attempt. Before Vitellius could execute this order news came that the emperor was dead, and, as a consequence of this, the military preparations on foot were suspended. This sudden respite afforded Aretas an opportunity to march upon Damascus and reduce it to his possession. The city, how ever, supposing him to have become master of it, could not have remained long in his power. We find that the difficulties with Arabia were all adjusted in the first years of the reign of Caligula, the successor of Tiberius — i. e. within A. d. 37-39; and the policy of the Romans would lead them, of course, to insist on the restoration of so important a place as Damascus. If, now, we place the escape of Paul in the last of these years (so as to afford time for the incidental delays), and deduct the three years during which he had been absent from Jerusalem, we obtain A. d. 36 as the probable epoch of the apostle's conversion. It is in favor of this conclusion, says Neander, that it gives us an interval neither too long nor too short for the events which took place in the church between the ascension of Christ and the conversion of Paul. Among others who fix upon the same year, or vary from it but one or two years, may be mentioned Eichhorn, Hug, Hemsen, Schott, Guericke, Meyer, De Wette, Anger,7 Ebrard, Alford, Howson.8 This date determines that of Stephen's martyrdom, which took place, apparently, not long before Paul's conversion, and also that of Paul's first journey to Jerusalem and his subsequent departure to Tarsus.

2. The Death of Herod Agrippa.

This occurred at Caesarea in the year A. D. 44. The statements of Josephus are decisive on this point. He says that Agrippa, who, under Caligula, had reigned over only a part of Palestine, received the entire sovereignty of his grandfather, Herod the Great, on the accession of Claudius — viz. in the year A. D. 41 (Antt, 19. 5. 1), and, further, that at the time of his death he had completed the third year after this extension of his power (Antt, 19. 8. 2). This date fixes the position of several other important events; such as the execution of James the elder, the arrest and deliverance of Peter, the return of Paul to Antioch from his second visit to Jerusalem, and his departure on his first missionary excursion.

3. The Third Journey of Paul to Jerusalem.

In Gal. 2:1 the apostle speaks of going up to Jerusalem after fourteen years, which are to be computed, in all probability, from the time of his conversion. It has been made a question whether this journey is to be understood as the second or third of the several journeys which Paul is mentioned in the Acts as having made to Jerusalem. The general opinion is that it should be understood of the third — first, because the object of that journey, as stated in 15:1, sq., coincides exactly with that which occasioned the one mentioned in the Epistle to the Galatians; and secondly, because the circumstances which are described as having taken place in connection with the journey in 15:1, sq., agree so entirely with those related in the Epistle.9 Supposing, then, the identity of the two journeys to be established, we add the fourteen years already mentioned to the date of Paul's conversion — viz. 36 — and we have A. D. 50 as the year when he went up to Jerusalem the third time after he had become a Christian.10 With this year coincides that of holding the Council at Jerusalem. Paul departed on his second missionary tour soon after his return to Antioch from this third visit to Jerusalem, and hence we are enabled to assign that second tour to the year A. D. 61,

4. The Procuratorship of Felix.

The time of this officer's recall, on being superseded by Festus (see 24:27), is as signed by most critics to the year A. d. 60 or 61. The names of both these men are well known in secular history, but it so happens that we meet with only indirect statements relating to the point which concerns us here. It is generally agreed that these statements justify the following opinion. It is certain that Felix could not have been recalled later than the year 62. Josephus states (Antt., 20. 8. 9) that Felix, soon after his return to Rome, was accused before the emperor, by a deputation from the Jews in Palestine, of maladministration while in office, and that he would have been condemned had it not been for the influence of his brother Pallas, who stood high at that time in the favor of Nero. This Pallas now, according to Tacitus (Ann., 14. 65), was poisoned by Nero in the year 62. The only circumstance which impairs the certainty of this conclusion is that Tacitus states (Ann., 13. 14) that Pallas had lost the favor of Nero some time before this, and had been entirely removed from public business. Hence some have placed the appointment of Festus as successor of Felix several years earlier than A. D. 61. But there is reason to believe that the, disgrace of which Tacitus speaks may have been only temporary, and that Pallas may afterward have recovered his influence with the emperor. Since it is certain, according to Tacitus himself, that the death of this favorite did not occur till A. D. 62, it can be more easily supposed that Nero was again reconciled to him than that this revengeful tyrant should have suffered him to live several years after he had become odious to him. De Wette, Anger, Meyer, Wieseler, and others, admit this supposition, under the circumstances of the case, to be entirely natural.

It is less easy to fix the limit on the other side. The general belief is that Festus could not have succeeded Felix earlier than A. D. 60 or 61. Josephus relates [Antt, 20. 8. 11) that Festus, after having entered on his office, permitted a deputation of the Jews to repair to Rome, in order to obtain the decision of Nero in a controversy between himself and them, and that Poppsea, the wife of Nero, interceded for them, and enabled them to gain their object. But this woman did not become the wife11 of Nero until the year 62 (Tac, Ann., 14. 49; Suet., Ner., 35); and hence, as Festus must have been in Judea some time before this difficulty with the Jews arose, and as, after that, some time must have elapsed before the case could be decided at Rome, Festus may have received his appointment in the year 60 or 61, The best recent authorities, as Winer, De Wette, Anger, Meyer, Wieseler, adopt one or the other of these years. We reach very nearly the same result from what Josephus says of his journey to Rome in behalf of the Jewish priests whom Felix had sent thither for trial before his removal from office. He informs us in his Life (§ 3) that he made his journey in the twenty-sixth year of his age, and, as he was born in the first year of the reign of Caligula — i. e. A. D. 87 (Life, § 1) — he visited Rome on this occasion about 63. His narrative, without being definite, implies that Felix at this time had not only been recalled, but must have left Palestine two or three years earlier than this. Festus was the immediate successor of Felix.

It is the more important to settle as nearly as possible some epoch in this portion of the apostle's history, since there would be otherwise so much uncertainty as to the mode of arranging the events in the long interval between this and Paul's third journey to Jerusalem. Upon this date depends the year of the apostle's arrest in that city on his fifth and last visit thither, before he was sent to Rome. His captivity at Caesarea, which followed that arrest, continued two years, and must have commenced in the spring of A. D. 58 or 59.

5. The Arrival of Paul in Rome.

The extreme limit beyond which we cannot place this event may be regarded as certain. It could not have been later than the year 62; for after 64, when the Christians at Rome began to be persecuted by the Roman Government, their situation was such that the apostle could not have remained there and preached the gospel for two years without molestation, as stated by Luke at the end of the Acts. It is impossible to obtain a more definite result than this from secular history.12 But the date in question follows as a deduction from the one considered in the last paragraph. It is evident from the Acts that Paul proceeded to Rome almost immediately after the entrance of Festus on his office; and if this took place in A. D. 60 or 61, he must have arrived in Rome early in the spring of 61 or 62. Hence, if he arrived even in A. D. 62, he could have remained two years in captivity and then have regained his freedom (if we adopt that opinion), since Nero's persecution of the Christians did not commence till the summer of A. D. 64.


A. D.

33. — Ascension of Christ. Appointment of Matthias as an apostle. Outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. The gift of tongues conferred. Discourse of Peter. Three thousand are converted. — Pilate, under whom the Saviour was crucified, is still procurator of Judea. Tiberius continues emperor till A. D. 37.

33-35. — Peter and John heal the lame man. They are arraigned before the Sanhedrim and forbidden to preach. Death of Ananias and Sapphira. The apostles are scourged. Deacons appointed. Apprehension and martyrdom of Stephen. Saul makes havoc of the church.

36. — Persecution scatters the believers at Jerusalem. Philip preaches the gospel in Samaria. Hypocrisy of Simon the Magian. Baptism of the eunuch. The word is made known in Phoenicia, Cyprus, and at Antioch in Syria. Christ appears to Saul on the way to Damascus. Conversion of Paul.

37-39. — Paul spends these three years at Damascus and in Arabia. During the same time other laborers spread the gospel in Judea, Galilee, and along the coast of the Mediterranean. — Caligula becomes emperor in A. D. 37. 39. — Paul escapes from Damascus, and goes to Jerusalem for the first time since his conversion. Barnabas introduces him to the disciples. He remains there fifteen days, but is persecuted, and departs thence to Tarsus.

40-43. — During this period Paul preaches in Syria and Cilicia. Churches are gathered there. Barnabas is sent to search for him, and conducts him to Antioch. In the meantime Peter visits Joppa, Lydda, and Caesarea. Dorcas is restored to life. Cornelius is baptized. Peter defends himself for visiting the heathen. — Claudius becomes emperor in the beginning of A. D. 41. On his accession he makes Herod Agrippa I. king over all Palestine.

44. — Paul labors "a whole year" with Barnabas at Antioch. Agabus predicts a famine in Judea. James the elder is beheaded at Jerusalem. Peter is cast into prison; his liberation and flight. — Herod Agrippa dies at Caesarea in the summer of this year. Judea is again governed by procurators.

45. — Paul goes to Jerusalem the second time, on the alms-errand, accompanied by Barnabas. He returns to Antioch, and under the direction of the Spirit is set apart by the church to the missionary work. In the same year, probably, he goes forth with Barnabas and Mark on his first mission to the heathen,

46,47. — He was absent on this tour about two years. He proceeds by the way of Seleucia to Salamis and Paphos in Cyprus; at the latter place Sergius Paulus believes, and Elymas is struck blind. Crossing the sea, he lands at Perga, where John Mark abruptly leaves him. He preaches in the synagogue at Antioch. Labors with success at Iconium. At Lystra he is about to be worshipped as a god, and afterward is stoned. Escapes to Derbe. Re traces his way to Perga. Sails from Attaleia, and comes again to Antioch in Syria.

48, 49. — Here he abode, it is said, "a long time." We may assign these two years to that residence. He extended his labors, no doubt, to the neighboring regions.

50. — Apostolic Council at Jerusalem. Paul makes his third journey to that city, in company with Barnabas and others, as delegates from the church at Antioch. Returns to Antioch with the decrees. Paul and Barnabas separate.

51-54. — The apostle's second missionary tour. Silas, Timothy, and Luke are associated with him. Paul revisits the churches in Syria and Cilicia. Plants the churches in Galatia. At Troas he embarks for Europe, and, among other places, visits Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth. In this last city he remained at least a year and a half. Labored with Aquila at tent-making. Left the synagogue and preached to Greeks. He is arraigned before Gallio. In this city Paul wrote the First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians.13 In the spring, probably, of A. d. 64 he leaves Corinth, embarks at Cenchreæ, touches at Ephesus, lands at Caesarea, and from there goes for the fourth time to Jerusalem, and thence to Antioch. We may allot three years, or three and a half, to this journey. — Felix became procurator of Judea in A. D. 62. In A. d. 63, Claudius bestowed on Herod Agrippa II. the former tetrarchy of Philip and Lysanias, with the title of king. In A. d. 54, Nero succeeded Claudius as emperor.

54-57. — In the autumn of A. d. 54 according to some, or early in A. d. 55 according to others, Paul entered on his third missionary tour. He goes through Galatia and Phrygia to Ephesus, where he spends the greater part of the next three years. Just before his arrival Apollos left Ephesus for Corinth. Certain disciples of John are baptized. Nearly all Asia hears the gospel. The exorcists defeated. An uproar at Ephesus. The Asiarchs befriend Paul. During this sojourn here Paul wrote the Epistle to the Galatians and the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Within the same time he made, probably, a short journey to Corinth, either directly across the Ægean or through Macedonia. While on this excursion, some suppose that he wrote the First Epistle to Timothy, and after his return to Ephesus that to Titus.

58, 59.— In the spring of A. D. 58, or perhaps A. D. 57 (if this tour began in 54), the apostle leaves Ephesus and proceeds to Macedonia, where he writes his Second Epistle to the Corinthians. He spent the summer in that region, and travelled probably as far west as lllyricum. In the autumn or early winter of this year he arrives at Corinth, and remains there three months. The Jews plot his' destruction. At this time he wrote the Epistle to the Romans. In the ensuing spring he returns through Macedonia to Troas, where he preached and " broke bread." Miraculous recovery of Eutychus. At Miletus he addressed the Ephesian elders. Landing at Ptolemais, he proceeded to Caesarea, and thence to Jerusalem, which is his fifth and last visit to that city. This journey occupied about four years.

58 or 59.— At Jerusalem, Paul assumes a vow, to conciliate the Jewish believers. He is seized by the Jews in the temple, but is rescued by Lysias the chiliarch. Speech to the mob from the stairs of the castle. His Roman citizenship saves him from the torture. He stands before the Sanhedrim, and narrowly escapes with his life. Forty Jews conspire against him. Lysias sends him as a state prisoner to Felix at Caesarea.

59-61.— His captivity here continues two years. He pleads his cause before Felix, who detains him in the hope of a bribe. The Jews renew their charge against him before Festus. Paul is compelled to appeal to Caesar. He speaks in the presence of King Agrippa, and is pronounced innocent.— Felix was superseded by Festus in A. D. 60 or 61.

62-64.— In the autumn of A. D. 60 or 61, Paul embarked at Caesarea for Rome, and arrived there early in the following spring. He remains in custody two years. During this period he wrote the Epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, Philemon, and, if he suffered martyrdom at this time, the Second Epistle to Timothy, just before his death. The Epistle to the Hebrews was written, probably, in this latter part of the apostle's life. Most of those who maintain that Paul was imprisoned twice at Rome suppose (the correct opinion, as it seems to me) that he wrote the First Epistle to Timothy and that to Titus in the interval between his first and second captivity, and his Second Epistle to Timothy in the near prospect of his execution, after his second arrest. 


1) See the passages, in Kirchhofer's Sammlung zur Geschichte des N. T. Canons, p. 161, sq., in Lardner's Credibility, and in similar works.

2) As the relative may be neuter or masculine, many take the sense of the Greek to be, all whom he accompanied; but the manifest allusion to Luke 1:2, 3 renders the other the more obvious translation.

3) They are drawn out more or less fully in Gersdorf's Beitraege, p. 160, sq.; Credner's Einleitung in das neue Testament, p. 130, sq.; Ebrard's Kritik der evangelischen Geschichte, p. 671, ed. 1850; Guerioke's Gesammtgeschichte des N. T., p. 166,.9q.; Lekebusch's Composition und Entstehung der Apostelgeschichte, p. 37, sq.; and Dr. Davidson's Introduction to the New Testament, vol. i. p. 190, and vol. ii. p. 8.

4) I have made no allusion in the text to 2 Cor. 8:18; for it is barely possible that the author of our narrative can be meant there as "the brother whose praise is in all the churches." See De Wette's note on that passage in his Exegetisches Handbuch zum N. Testament.

5) Some critics, as Schleierniacher, Bleek, De Wette, have thrown out the idea that Luke may have derived those parts of the Acts in which the narrator employs the first person plural from a history of Paul's missionary labors written by Timothy. (See the note on 20:6.) Among the writers who have shown the untenableness of that hypothesis are Ebrard, Kritik, u. s. w., p. 732, sq.; Lekebusch, Composition, u. s. w., p. 131, sq.; and Davidson, Introduction, vol. ii. p 9, sq.

6) Erörterung einiger chronologischen Punkte in der Lebentgeschichte des Apostel Paul, § 1.

7) De temporum in Actis Apostolorum ratione, p. 121, sq.

8) Wieseler (Chronologie des Apostolischen Zeitalters, pp. 175-213) assigns Paul's conversion to A. D. 40. It was gratifying to me to find that, with this exception, all his other dates agree with those which I had been led to adopt before consulting his able treatise.

9) The reasons for this conclusion are well stated by Hemsen, in his Der Apostel Paulus, u. s. w., p. 52, sq., translated by the writer in the Christian Review, 1841, p. 66. sq. Dr. Davidson has discussed the question with the same result in his Introduction, vol. ii. pp. 112-122. See, also, Conybeare and Howson, Life and Epistles of St Paul, vol. i. p. 539, sq. (2d ed.), and Jowett On Galatians, p. 252.

10) It is proper to apprise the reader that some reckon the fourteen years in Gal. 2:1 from the apostle's first return to Jerusalem (Gal. 1:18); and in that case his third journey to that city would be dated three years later. But few, comparatively, adopt this view. The apostle's conversion is the governing epoch, to which the mind of the reader naturally turns back from Gal. 2:1, as well as from Gal. 1:18.

11) Some, as Neander, Wieseler, object to the stricter sense of γυνή, in the passage of Josephus, but it is defended by Schrader, Meyer, and others, as the more obvious sense, whether we consider the historical facts or the usage of the word. Neander (Pflanzung, u. s. w., vol. i. p. 493) expresses himself with much hesitation respecting this date of the succession of Felix and Festus. It is important, for the purpose of laying up in the mind a connected view of the history, to settle upon the precise years as nearly as possible; and we ought not to deprive ourselves of this advantage merely because some of the conclusions, or the grounds of them, cannot be placed entirely beyond doubt. It is admitted that, of the dates proposed in the above scheme of chronology, the second (that of Herod's death) and the last in a lower degree (that of Paul's arrival at Rome) are the only ones that can be brought to a state of comparative certainty. In regard to the others I have not meant to claim for them anything more than the character of an approximation to the truth.

12) Whether this result is confirmed by τῷ στρατοπεδάρχῃ in 28:16 depends on the explanation of the article. (See the note on that passage.)

13) The reasons for assigning the different Epistles to the times and places mentioned are stated in the body of the Commentary.