Dating of the Book of Acts

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Describe the main arguments for the dating of the Book of Acts

Many scholars occupy themselves with clarifying the composition date in which Acts was written; however, even today scholars agree the dating of Acts is not a foregone conclusion. Three dates have been suggested, which differ by as much as forty years. The early date- AD63, The Intermediate date- AD75 and the late date AD98.

Many scholars generally agree that the early date was highly probable; there are a number of reasons to support this assumption. First of all, there is the abrupt ending to Acts. The book ends with Paul being held under arrest in Rome, however interestingly Luke does not tell the readers what happened to Paul. Therefore we believe Paul died under the rule of Nero (AD65) and so Acts must have been written before this. However, an interesting counter argument against this is suggested by Marshall, who believes Luke’s purpose in writing Acts was to show how the gospel reached Rome, rather than tell Paul’s life story.  The second argument in support of the second date is the positive attitude towards Romans throughout Acts. It is argued that due to the author’s positive attitude towards the Romans throughout the Book of Acts it must have been written before the Roman’s began widespread persecution of the church. (AD64) As anytime after this date the apostles and disciples would have had a more hostile attitude towards them, rather than the acceptance and kindness shown in Acts. In addition to this, many believe that Acts focuses on issues that were dominant in the Church prior to AD70 (Jerusalem destroyed at this time), such the admission of gentiles into the church. This further strengthens the argument that Acts must have been written before this date, therefore suggesting the early date. Moreover, there is the noteable fact that Acts never mentions the thirteen letters written by Paul to the churches he founded. With Paul and his journey’s dominating most of Acts, some scholars argue that Luke would have included such letters if they were available to him. Of course the most obvious argument in support of the early date is that no accounts in Acts are given after AD62, leading to many assuming that it was written at this time or shortly after.

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Counter Argument-

Despite the convincing arguments for the early date, as I previously mentioned, scholars are still disputing over this topic and no certain conclusions have been made. With regard to the intermediate date, there are some interestingly strong arguments in favour of such a date. For example it was widely agreed that Luke had based his gospel on Mark’s Gospel, and if so then the date of Acts must be later than AD70. In addition to this, arguably the most convincing argument in favour of the intermediate date is that Luke does not prophesy in his gospel ...

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