Dates to Debate

CONSULT FIVE BIBLE DICTIONARIES, and you’ll discover five different timelines for Paul. The differences in dates are relatively minor—except for the dating of Paul’s visits to Jerusalem. Why?

Luke, in his Acts of the Apostles, records five visits of Paul to Jerusalem:

(1). Acts 9:26, ’just after his conversion.

(2). Acts 11:29–30, to provide famine relief.

(3). Acts 15:2–4, to attend a conference.

(4). Acts 18:22 (implied), after his second missionary journey.

(5). Acts 21:17, final visit and arrest.

But Paul’s letters mention only three Jerusalem visits:

(1). Galatians 1:18, just after his conversion.

(2). Galatians 2:1, to attend a conference.

(3). Romans 15:25/1 Corinthians 16:3, final visit and arrest.

The dating of the middle of Paul’s life hinges on which Acts visit is mentioned in Galatians 2:1–10.

The accompanying timeline assumes Paul is referring to the Acts 15 Council of Jerusalem in Galatians 2:1–10.

Other scholars think Galatians 2:1–10 refers to the famine relief visit of Acts 11:29–30, during which, they say, an informal Jerusalem conference took place. Thus they place Peter and Paul’s Antioch confrontation (and Paul’s letter to the Galatians, which describes the argument), before the formal Council of Jerusalem in A.D. 49.

By Janet Meyer Everts

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #47 in 1995]

Janet Meyer Everts is associate professor of religion, Hope College, Holland, Michigan.
Next articles

Bald, Blind & Single?

Answers to some of the most puzzling questions about Paul.

Stephen Miller

Subversive Conservative

How could Paul communicate his radical message to those threatened by it?

Craig Keener

Legacy of Liberty

Paul’s teachings on grace and freedom have shaken the church in every age.

F.F. Bruce

The Natural Supernatural

To Paul and the early church, religious experiences were commonplace.

Gordon Fee
Show more

Subscribe to magazine

Subscription to Christian History magazine is on a donation basis


Support us

Christian History Institute (CHI) is a non-profit Pennsylvania corporation founded in 1982. Your donations support the continuation of this ministry


Subscribe to daily emails

Containing today’s events, devotional, quote and stories