Harmony of the Life of Paul

Life of Paul

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In my Sunday morning college class we have been covering the life of Paul. Paul has now arrived in Rome, and the study is winding down. While doing my research for the class I came across a lecture by a Yale professor who claims that he used to be a believer but that inaccuracies in the text of the Bible showed him that he could not rely on it as a good historical text. As proof of this he cites that Acts and Galatians do not agree on the early travels of Paul.

While this alleged discrepancy can be easily explained, (http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/602) I find more and more that people do not want to listen to a logical explanation, but prefer to listen to someone who claims authoritative knowledge of the subject without ever looking at the validity of their point.

I decided I would put together a Harmony of the Life of Paul in outline form. I will paste this below. House to House has published it. It can be purchased here. I think it is a good outline of the life of Paul, but if you see any errors, please contact me and let me know.

There are five main points (after his early life) that are major headings, providing the known dates that we can use as a framework for the rest of Paul’s life.


There is no more central figure to the story of the development of the early church than the apostle Paul. Information about Paul’s life, teachings, and travels are scattered throughout his letters. The book of Acts, written by Luke who was a companion of Paul, concentrates on biographical accounts of Peter (Acts 1–12) and Paul (Acts 13–28). Below is an outline of the chief events in Paul’s life. Dates are approximate, based on the text of the Bible and cross-referenced with secular history.

I. Paul’s Early Life
A. Paul’s birth in Tarsus (Acts 21:39).
B. Early training with Gamaliel at Jerusalem (Acts 22:3).
C. Persecution of the church.
1. Stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:57–8:1).
2. Zealous to persecute the church (Acts 8:3; 1 Corinthians 15:9).
3. Planned to carry persecution to Damascus (Acts 9:1–2).

II. Conversion of Paul (a.d. 36)
(Acts 9:1–19; Acts 22:4–16; Acts 26:12–20)

This date is calculated from references in Josephus to Aretas and the allusion in 2 Corinthians 11:32 where Paul mentions Aretas, who was king of Arabia when Paul escaped in a.d. 39.

A. a.d. 37–39: In Damascus and Arabia (Acts 9:17–22; Acts 26:19–20; Galatians 1:15–18)
B. a.d. 39: Escape from Damascus and first visit to Jerusalem (Galatians 1:15–18; Acts 9:23–26; 2 Corinthians 11:32–33)
C. a.d. 39–43 (4 or 5 years): In Tarsus, Cilicia, and Syria (Acts 9:29–30; Galatians 1:21–24)
D. a.d. 44: In Antioch with Barnabas (Acts 11:25–29)
E. a.d. 44: Mission to Jerusalem, taking assistance to the poor (Acts 11:27–30; 12:25)

III. Death of Herod Agrippa I (a.d. 44)

Josephus fixes the date of Herod’s death, mentioned in Acts 12:23, at a.d. 44.
A. a.d. 45–47: First Missionary Journey (Acts 13:1–3)
B. a.d. 48–49: Return to Antioch where they stay a “long time,” probably about two years (Acts 14:25–28)

IV. Third Journey of Paul to Jerusalem (a.d. 50)

Galatians 2:1 says that Paul went up to Jerusalem fourteen years after his conversion. The purpose of this visit was to settle an issue that had been raised by some Jewish Christians from Jerusalem in the church at Antioch. Paul met with the other apostles and elders to discuss the issue of circumcision of the Gentile Christians.

A. a.d. 51–54: Second Missionary Journey (Acts 15:36–41)
1. a.d. 52: 1 Thessalonians written at Corinth (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 3:6)
2. a.d. 53: 2 Thessalonians written at Corinth (2 Thessalonians 1:1)
B. a.d. 54–58: Third Missionary Journey (Acts 18:22–23)
1.  a.d. 57 (Spring): 1 Corinthians written at Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8)
2. a.d. 57 (Autumn): 2 Corinthians written in Macedonia
3. a.d. 57 (Winter): Galatians written at Corinth
4. a.d. 58 (Spring): Romans written at Corinth
C. a.d. 58: Return to Jerusalem (Acts 21:17–26)
D. a.d. 58: Paul arrested in the temple (Acts 21:27–23:11)
E. a.d. 58–60: Imprisonment at Caesarea (Acts 23:31–35)

V. Procuratorship of Felix (a.d. 60 or 61)

A. a.d. 60: Paul was a prisoner  under Felix when Festus replaced Felix. Josephus, Tacitus, and Suetonius list this event in either a.d. 60 or 61
B. a.d. 60 (Autumn) – 61 (Spring): Journey to Rome (Acts 27:1–28:16)

VI. Arrival of Paul in Rome (Spring of a.d. 61 or 62)

Paul proceeded to Rome soon after Festus came to power. A detailed account of this voyage is recorded in Acts 27:1–28:15.

A. a.d. 61–63: First Roman Captivity (Acts 28:16–31)
1. Paul wrote Philemon.
2. Paul wrote Colossians.
3. Paul wrote Ephesians.
4. Paul wrote Philippians.
B. a.d. 63–67: Between the First and Second Roman Captivities*
1. a.d. 67: Paul wrote 1 Timothy in Macedonia (1 Timothy 1:3; 3:14–15)
2. a.d. 67: Titus written at Ephesus
C. a.d. 68: The Second Roman Captivity (2 Timothy 1:8; 2:8–9)
1. a.d. 68: Paul wrote 2 Timothy at Rome.
2. a.d. 68: Paul’s death, sometime after he wrote 2 Timothy, but before Nero dies a.d. June 9, 68  (2 Timothy 4:6)

* Luke ends his account at the first captivity in Rome. Scholars have long debated the events at the end of Paul’s life. The stronger opinion is that Paul was released from his captivity and continued his travels for four or five years. Then he was arrested and brought to Rome again; he either died in prison or was executed under Nero’s order.