III. Date

III. Date

Eusebius, the early fourth-century Father, intimated that Acts was written in the seventh decade (60s) of the Christian era (H.E. 2,22,6). While there are arguments for various dates (Guthrie, 340-48), internal evidence points to a date in the middle of the first century. The historical data in Acts that can be confirmed accurately portrays the conditions of the Roman world at that time (Bruce, 17). The chronological sequence of persons and events in Acts is in precise order. When these “tracers” are followed through to the end of Acts, the book closes about a.d. 62, with Paul imprisoned in Rome.

One of the intriguing features of Acts is the nature of its ending. Harnack suggested that if the Gospels had been written like Acts, they would have concluded with Jesus appearing before Pilate. The author gives a great proportion of his work to describing the events surrounding Paul's imprisonment, trials and hearings, appeal to Caesar, and voyage to Rome. Yet he fails to give the conclusion to this sequence of events. There are numerous theories regarding this situation. Perhaps Luke intended to write another book (Knox) or wished to avoid the outcome of the trial (Guthrie, 342). One theory suggests that Acts is a “defense brief” prepared for Paul's attorney (Theophilus?) in preparation for Paul's appearance before Nero (Guthrie, 352).

The most logical reason for the unusual ending of the book is that the author brought history up to the present (at the time of writing) and closed there, which would date Acts about a.d. 62.

This early dating is further substantiated by the primitive terms that appear in Acts: Christ (Messiah) is used predominately as a title rather than a name; Christians are known as disciples rather than saints; Jesus is called Son of Man, the only use of the term other than on the lips of Jesus in the Gospels; Christianity is called The Way and the sect of the Nazoreans (Bruce, 12-13; Guthrie, 344).