Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Letters-Based Pauline Chronologies

I'm enjoying the chronology discussions prompted by Mark Goodacre's series (I, II, III) on the dating of Galatians with respect to I Corinthians. Before I spell out my own ideas further, I want to emphasize the importance of a letters-based chronology and holding Acts at arm's length. I've become increasingly Knoxian in my approach to reconstructing Pauline timelines, not because I'm apriori hostile to "Acts as history", but because attempts to save all the evidence by meshing Paul with Luke yield artificial and incredible solutions. That's one of the reasons I long ago abandoned trying to equate Gal 2:1-10 with Acts 11:27-30. (Though see Michael Pahl for a recent defense of this.)

One letters-based approach has been offered by John Hurd, parts of it worth considering, but Peter Bercovitz's is less radical. He produces two alternate timelines:

Letters Based Chronology (A): Pre-Conference Founding Missions (Contra Acts)

Letters Based Chronology (B): Post-Conference Founding Missions (Acts Friendly)

Bercovitz favors option (A) for many reasons, the two most important being that (1) option (B) limits Paul's activity to the regions of Syria and Cilicia for fourteen years and then requires Herculean accomplishments across Greece and Asia Minor during the closing years; and (2) option (B) means that it took Paul twice the time to deliver the collection to Jerusalem, 6-8 years instead of 3-4.

Stephen Carlson notes that Bercovitz's timeline agrees with Mark Goodacre's defense for the dating Galatians shortly after I Corinthians.

Here are the highlights of option (A); there's a lot I like about it and will have more to say later.

First Jerusalem visit

In Syria and Cilicia, then founding of churches in Galatia, at Philippi, at Thessalonica, and at Corinth.


Second Jerusalem visit (agreement on the collection)

Antioch Incident

Second visit to Galatians (collection begun there), then founding of church in Ephesus

Previous Letter to the Corinthians

Titus sent to Corinth (collection begun there)

I CORINTHIANS (directions given for collection there)

Crisis in Galatia (lapse of collection there)


Imprisonment in Ephesus



Release from prison

Crisis in Corinth (lapse of collection there)

Second visit to Corinth

Back in Ephesus


In Troas, then Macedonia where meets Titus


Titus to Corinth (collection resumed there)

Third visit to Corinth (collection completed there)


Third Jerusalem visit (presumed delivery of the collection)


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