July 31, 2010

Timeline Update: AD 43, 44

Dating events around Acts 12 and Agrippa's death - in segmented fact sections as usual. Click here, and scroll down through the big date numbers.  I guess I've had Agrippa on the brain because of my series on Herodias, and because of Todd Bolen's great piece this week at B&I on the location of Agrippa's death. A couple of important notes:

First, the years of Herod Agrippa's rule (37 to 44) are one area I still need to do a lot of work on, but the timeline here just hits the basics, so it should be completely solid.  There's also an awful lot in Daniel R. Schwartz's book that I haven't worked through as of yet, so it was nice to remember how much I still have to look forward to there, in terms of future research.

Second, one of the details I'd overlooked in Schwartz was the death date of Herod Agrippa.  The consensus says early March, 44 AD, which means Peter can't get arrested at Passover that same year.  Thus, the events of Acts 12 must belong to the Passover of 43 or 42.  (This also holds just the same for Schwartz's own alternate date of autumn 43.)  Since the church in Antioch needed plenty of time to save up enough money, and the church in Jerusalem still had plenty of time to start buying up extra bread with Antioch's relief money.

The standard conservative view has traditionally dated the persecution of Acts 12 to 44, and concludes Agrippa died in August of that year.  That now seems like a stretch to me.  It doesn't matter to much else, however.  The standard conservative view also says that Barnabas & Paul didn't get down to Judea with Antioch's relief funds until during the famine - which is ridiculous.  Why send money when grain quantities were already scarce?  And why not send early if the prophet had truly predicted things much in advance?

These logistical facts really ought to prevent us from concluding that Galatians 2 might even possibly refer to the famine relief trip, and therefore nothing else vital in Pauline Chronology can be attached to the date of this relief visit.  Even if Agrippa died in late 44, the Antioch mission can arrive for the Passover of 44, 43 or 42 - all years when Agrippa ruled Judea in the spring time.  It really doesn't much matter.  If the temporal transition in Acts 12:19 can account for a difference from April to August, then why not April to March?  Why not April to 2nd March?

To me, now, it makes the most sense if Jerusalem got it's extra grocery money at the Passover of 43 - that's an additional year to buy grain in advance of the famine, and (as opposed to 42) 43 gives Antioch an additional year to store up their finances in the first place.  So now I've got it like this:
AD 43:  Barnabas & Paul deliver money to Jerusalem during the same Passover season where Agrippa executes James and imprisons Peter.

AD 44:  Agrippa dies in early March.  Signs of famine possibly already appearing at Tyre & Sidon.
Finally, The prayer meeting of Acts 13:1 can now go as early as 43.  Since there's money raising involved after that revelation takes place, also (we know this because Paul & Barnabas couldn't have worked for their own living, in Cyprus or Asia Minor, and because the Holy Spirit commissioned all five men as responsible for the sending), I prefer 43.  But for the most likely date of their voyage to Cyprus, wait and ask me on some other day!

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