Biblical chronology and archaeology remain closely associated and interdependent. For the entire biblical period a working knowledge of biblical chronology provides helpful information for establishing the historical setting of the Bibleís events. Biblical archaeology adds to the fund of historical knowledge of the period particularly through production of new knowledge as well as through verification of and clarifying chronological issues. Some biblical events remain elusive such as the conquest of biblical Hazor by Joshuaís army or by Deborahís army. The date of the birth and the date of death of Jesus of Nazareth remain in dispute.
Many events in the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament have chronological significance. Information preserved in the scriptures may be of value as chronological markers. For those who regard the Bible as an inspired account the Bible becomes a controlling factor in interpreting archaeological findings while those who do not see the Bible as inspired require objective criteria outside the Bible itself.
Irrespective of oneís predisposition on inspiration, the Hebrew Calendar has great importance in the fixing of dates and determining chronological markers in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. The normal convention of reporting biblical dates remains with the Gregorian calendar.
For example, in his letter to the Galatians the apostle Paul recounted to his readers the account of his escape from Damascus. He states that this escape occurred during the rule of Nabataean King Aretas (Galatians 1:17). King Aretas (Harithat IV) who died in CE 40 (II Corinthians 11:32-33) reigned from 9 BCE to 40 CE (Swaim 1962:217Ė218). Josephus rendered an account providing the details of Aretasí boundary dispute with Herod Antipas (Josephus, Antiquities 18.5.3).
Josephus described Aretas as the "king of Arabia Petrea" (Josephus Antiquities 18.5, Whiston 1957:539). Tiberias came in on the side of Herod Antipas and ordered Vitellius, proconsul of Syria, "to make war with Aretas." On the way Vitellius received communications informing him of the death of Tiberius and he recalled his army. Tiberius died CE March 16, 37 and at that time Damascus was under the control of imperial Rome and administered by Vitellius. As King Aretas died in CE 40 Paulís escape from Damascus would have had to occur between 37 and 40. The question remains open as to when Aretas received Damascus from Caligula in the imperial settlement of the affairs of Syria. The Aretasí administration in Damascus may have begun as early as CE 37 based upon archeological evidence in the form of a coin. This was the view of Dosker who wrote:
With archaeological evidence the chronology of the events in these written records can be further refined or verified.
According to F. F. Bruce:
While Gallio served as deputy or pro-consul of Achaia an insurrection against Paul, instigated by the Jews, broke out (Acts 18:12). Bruce continues:
This remains the least speculative part of the chronology as it comes from archaeological evidence. Once bench marks become established for absolute dating and correlated with relative dating events can be fixed calendrically. For the events recorded in Acts 15 to have occurred in 48/49 would permit far to much time for the events described in Acts between the hearing before James and the appearance before Gallio. The conservative estimate would constitute about 18 months. July 51 less 18 months yields January 50.
The hearing before James may be understood as having occurred in 49/50 with reasonable certainty (beyond a reasonable doubt) as December 49/January 50. So with archaeological evidence reasonable certainly can be given to an event. Without these archaeological findings the probable date of the Acts 15 proceedings would be far more speculative.
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