April 17, 2010

If you knew...

that Acts 1-7 took place in less than six months, would it change your reading of anything at all? If so, what? If not, why not?

I ask today because I'd hoped to blog lots more, this spring, about Acts 1-11, but it's all been delayed. One more Someday. For now, though, I'd love to hear your answers to the above question.

Sometimes chronology matters a lot, and sometimes it doesn't matter so much. Then again, I'm sure many people read Acts 1-7 and never think about real time at all.

Sooo... how about you?


Jason said...

Just like many people probably think that the English Protestant canon is chronological in order!

Jason S said...

Just curious as to why you think it relevant?
I've never marked the time, but would guess that I've always assumed it to be a very brief period of time that passed.
In the end, I simply must say that I don't know.
Hoping to read more from you on the matter

Coleman A. Baker said...

I dont think chronology or real time matters at all in reading Acts. It was not, after all, written as an historical document meant to be read in that way. What is more important, i think, is the pace of the narrative. That is what would have affected the audience more than real time or chronology. The question you raise seems to imply the historicity of Acts, which most scholars today do not accept.

Eddie said...

“If you knew… that Acts 1-7 took place in less than six months, would it change your reading of anything at all? If so, what? If not, why not?”

If I **knew** it all occurred in less than 6-months, it would change my entire perspective of early Acts, the interpretation of Revelation and how it fits in with the Gospel accounts, the understanding the time God gives his enemies to repent, the understanding of Daniel that so accurately proves Jesus is the Christ… I really don’t think I can fully fathom the repercussions of what such an idea would do to what I believe today. For me, the chronology of Acts 1-7 being longer than a few months is paramount to understanding almost the entire NT. The seeds of everything are there.

Bill Heroman said...

@ Jason G - I'm sure many do.

@ Coleman - *I* accept the historicity of Acts. Your "scholars" who deny what it was "meant to be" base that on assumptions I do not accept.

Your point about pace of the narrative is well worth discussing, but that's a different discussion if we accept Luke as Paul's contemporary, and that Acts was Luke's personal testimony, compiled during their travels around 58/62 AD. Your "scholars", I think, assume Acts was essentially fabricated by a pseudonymous author, several decades after the events it purports.

I'm dying for critical feedback, Coleman, but our presuppositions around here will give fact-claims from scripture the benefit of the doubt. What those claims do or do not imply, however, is an open question for your critical analysis.

If you're game enough to play that way, at least just for the sake of argument, then I'd love to hear more of your input. If not, I'd still love to hear it, but I won't do as much with it.

Fair's fair, right? :-)

PS: see below...

@ Jason S - I think it's relevant because context matters. You assume it was brief, as I do believe it was. Others conclude it was six to eight years. So why does it matter? Well, what do people do with those chapters?

For starters, I think those of us who treat Acts as historical should re-evaluate what "historical" really means. As Coleman points out, there is narrative, and then there are real time events.

Getting from one to the other in a rational way, while granting a hermeneutic of trust, is a challenge I long to see more scholars embark on.

Liberals tend to toss it out and redefine what it says.

Conservatives defend it, but refuse to reconstruct actual History.

But what context has Scripture, without History?


Bill Heroman said...

For me, the chronology of Acts 1-7 being longer than a few months is paramount to understanding almost the entire NT. The seeds of everything are there.

You just said a mouthful, Eddie. Care to elaborate?

By the way, I think you just illustrated some of my points to Jason S & to Coleman.

If you don't mind my saying so...

Eddie said...

“You just said a mouthful, Eddie. Care to elaborate?”

I will try to be as brief as possible, but it will be difficult.

In my opinion studying God’s word, is a lot like studying his works (creation). We know we are onto something when things in different areas begin to fall into place, and this just encourages more and more investigation—but all things must agree, nothing can contradict if it is true.

For example, most, in not all, Christians agree that Daniel’s 70 Weeks Prophecy points to Jesus. Interpreting prophecy that refers to future events is guess-work. However, if prophecy is fulfilled, one ought to be able to use some kind of tangible evidence to show it is fulfilled. In essence Daniel had only one prophecy—everything he was given magnified his first prophecy in some way. In Daniel 12 we are given a breakdown of the last week of the 70 Weeks Prophecy (Daniel 9). We have 1260 days (when we compare his “times, time and half a time” with Revelation 12), 1290 days and 1335 days. These days, if the prophecy is fulfilled, ought to fit into the calendar—the Jewish calendar—really well, like a glove. And, they do if one uses the Jewish Holy Days as a kind of map for their beginning and ending days.

There are exactly 1260 days between the Last Great Day of the Feast of Tabernacles and the Passover (3 ½ years later). If we can assume the Sabbaths in Luke 4, 5 & 6 are in the 7th month and include the Holy Days during that month, Jesus is asked for a sign on the Last Great Day and Jesus’ only sign offered points to his death on the Passover.

There are exactly 1335 days between the Feast of Trumpets, which we can assume to be the time Jesus says in Nazareth “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me…,” and the Feast of Pentecost when the Spirit of the Lord fell upon the Apostles and the other disciples a little more than 3 ½ years later.

The 1290 days is a little trickier and refers to the time of the Wave-Sheaf Offering (on Resurrection Sunday) and from there to 3 ½ years later which falls on the Day of Atonement, upon which day I believe Stephen was stoned. This day is also connected to the time when the Abomination of Desolation is set up. Both configurations end on the same day.

This also fits in very well with the two seasons of safety allotted to the disciples in Revelation 12, first the 1260 days and the “times, time and half a time” (defined in Daniel as 1290 days). Also, in the Gospels the Lord speaks of seeing Satan fall from the heavens, if we can assume that this occurs only once, then Revelation 12 must occur during Christ’s ministry, and Michael is Jesus. I am not implying Jesus is an angelic being, but I am saying that the Angel of the Lord (also called YHWH and God) is both Michael and Jesus.

Sorry of the long response but I could not have shortened this any further and still convey how important the chronology of the first few chapters of Acts is. If there are not 1290 days between the time Jesus resurrected and Stephen’s death, then my understanding of not only the chronology of Acts is down the drain, but so too is my understanding of Daniel and Revelation and how they fit into Jesus’ ministry in the Gospel accounts, showing he is the long awaited Messiah.

Bill Heroman said...

Eddie, even though my brain glazes over when people start doing 'prophetic math' - as you know, for I've told you this before - I deeply appreciate your having gone through that here with us.

I'll give it more thought, but I'd appreciate also if you could answer one more question:

Can you tell me whether this is your own interpretation? Or, if not, whose teachings does this view of yours rely on? And how far back in the history of doctrine does it go?

As you know, I'm not well versed on prophecy.

Thanks again.

Eddie said...

I know of no one who holds this point of view. I have held it since the early ninety's. I came by it quite by "accident" when I discovered there were exactly 1260 days between the Last Great Day and the Passover in a 3 1/2 year period in the Jewish Calendar. Once I discovered that I kept looking until I found the rest using different Holy Days.

mike fox said...


your response is curious (i mean that neither positively nor negatively, just matter of factly lol). i thought most scholars tended to think of Luke and Acts as being 2 of biblical books being more concerned with and self-conscious of history. i personally don't think the Narrative is downgraded when the History brought into focus. isn't there room for both? there was a time when more biblical scholars had an eclectic methodology, but now it seems one must be either "narrative" or "social" or "postcolonial" or "feminist."

good thoughts on the narrative, though. i just think there's room for both historical insights and literary ones

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