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Clifford McLain's avatar
January 1, 1987

Chronology (Canon-wise)

Chronology (Canon-wise)Chronology (Canon-wise)

True Key – Col. 1:25, 26 False – Col. 2:8

The completed canon of scripture prior to the destruction of Jerusalem – 69-70 A.D. – assures us that the traditional claims, “dating the writings of the Apostle John between 85-100 A.D,” are false. (See “The Mystery” – God’s Sacred Secret to Complete the Word of God.){C}

Strange as it may seem, it is the rightness of the approximate reality of the so-called “fixed” dates which enables us to be sure in our findings. Namely, that a give-or-take of two years would reconcile any differences over these last 2,000 years – after all, whatever differences may or may not be are still a historical tradition.

True Key – Col. 1:25, 26 False – Col. 2:8 The completed canon of scripture prior to the destruction of Jerusalem – 69-70 A.D. – assures us that the traditional claims, “dating the writings of the Apostle John between 85-100 A.D,” are false. (See ” ‘The Mystery” – God’s Sacred Secret to Complete the Word of God.)

The Fixed Dates (so called)
Fall 4 B.C Christ Jesus born.
Fall 4 B.C. Herod died
4 B.C. Cyrenius became Governor (Luke 2:2)
Spring 2930 A.D. Christ crucified
50 – 51 A.D. Church Council Acts Chapter 15
Spring 52 A.D. Edict of Claudius the Jews dispersed from Rome
Spring, 60 – 62 A.D. Paul arrived at Rome.
Fall, 61 A.D. EARTHQUAKE Colosse and Laodicea destroyed. Laodicea  rebuilt  a small village about  45 miles away from Colosse became the home of the Colosse survivors.
Fall 65-65 A.D. Nero set Rome on fire  blamed the Christians.
Spring, 67-68 A.D.(?) Paul executed in Rome.
Fall, 69 – 70 A.D.(?) Jerusalem destroyed.

Claudius commanded all Jews to depart from Rome. This historical edict of Claudius was made in Spring, 52 A.D. and is the starting point of our investigation into the chronology of the letters of the Apostle Paul. It is possible, when considering the circumstances and content of the letter to the Galatians (i.e., Peter’s visit to Antioch following the Church Council of Acts 15), that Galatians could have been written at this time, approximately 51 A.D. Otherwise, it may have been written about the same time the letter to the Romans was written from Corinth, i.e., 57-59 A.D.

Chronology of the Letters of Paul
Date of Writing Place of Writing Circumstances of Writing
52 A.D. Athens I Thessalonians

Acts 17:1-10 indicates Paul’s visit to Thessalonica was brief [because of a conflict with rejecting Jews and he and Silas were admonished to leave  Ed.].  A short stay in Berea followed, and then on to Athens.  Acts 18:1-2 fixes the time. I Thess. 3:1-2 compared with Acts 18:1-2 shows that Paul, having sent Timothy back to Thessalonica with the first letter, continued on to Corinth.

52 – 53 A.D. Corinth II Thessalonians

When Timothy, having delivered the first letter, returned to Paul and reported their stress (II Thess. 2:13), Paul wrote the second letter in answer to their need (Acts 18:5). It was probably written two or three months after I Thessalonians.

I Corinthians

Paul was in Corinth approximately two years speaking first in the synagogue, then moving next door to Justus’ home (Acts 18:411).  He then went to Ephesus.  While there, he reasoned in the synagogue and then went to Jerusalem (Acts 18:1921).  Returning to Ephesus (Acts 19:l), he stayed three years.  Read Acts 19 and 20: three months in the synagogue (Acts 19:8); two years at Tyrannus’ school (Acts 19:910); nine months, “house to house” (Acts 20:21-31).

56(?) or 58(?) AD Ephesus Just before leaving Ephesus this time, he sent the first letter to Corinth by Timothy (Acts 19:21-22).  I Corinthians 16:18 tells, among other reasons, it was written to prepare them to gather bounty for the poor saints at Jerusalem.  [See Acts l9:23 through 20:l for events that also gave them reason to leave.Ed.]
57 – 58 A.D. Macedonia II Corinthians

Leaving Ephesus, he went to Macedonia (Acts 20:12) via Troas (II Cor. 2:1213).  Here (in Macedonia) he wrote the second letter to Corinthians.  [In Philippi of Macedonia, the group stayed at the home of Lydia  Acts 16:12-15.  Chapter 7 shows the response to Paul’s I Corinthian letter via Titus’ report. Ed.]

57(?) or 59(?) A.D. Corinth Romans

Acts 20:1-2 indicates Paul went again to Macedonia, then Greece (probably Corinth).  He spent 3 months here, where he wrote the Roman letter (Romans 15:22-26).  [Acts 28:21 indicates the Jews in Rome had not had a letter from Paul, so Romans was to the saints of Rome. – Rom. 1:7]

60-62 A.D.(?) Caesarea Hebrews

Acts 21:17. Paul turned to Jerusalem on his way to Rome and Spain (Rom. 15:22-26).  At Jerusalem he was arrested by the Jewish temple guards and rescued by the Roman governor, Claudius Lysias (Acts 21-23), sent to Caesarea and the keeping of Felix (Acts 23:33 to 24:27) where he remained for two years. Governorship changed, and after further hearings, he was sent to Rome to have his case heard by Caesar.  Contents of the letter to the Hebrews suggest it was written then. [Editor’s note: Authorship of Hebrews is not attributed to Paul by some since the book does not indicate the writer, however, we believe evidence suggests Paul did write it.  Some Bible students believe Hebrews was written from Corinth early in the 50’s A.D., much earlier than Dr. McLain notes here.Paul would have had time, and was certainly concerned for his kinsmen, the Jews.  Read Acts 16:1-4, 19:1-5.  In Heb. 13:24, the writer states, “They of Italy salute you.”  Some conclude that he was in Italy when Hebrews was written,  however, the actual translation is: “The brethren from (Gr. apo) Italy salute you.”.  Timothy is mentioned in Heb 13:23.  He was a fellow missionary with Paul, and considered by Paul as his “son in the faith.”]

51 A.D. or
57-59 A.D.
Unknown Galatians

We cannot be sure when Galatians was written but it was not written before the first church council because it speaks of the findings of that council (Acts 15; Galatians 2:6-12). The contents suggest it to have been written about the time of the Roman letter.

The Prison Letters
Spring 61 or 63 A.D Rome Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon

Paul arrived at Rome. He may have written these letters as a prisoner from his “own hired house” (Acts 28:30).  See Philemon 1:10,  Ephesians 6:20-21, Colossians 4:7-10.

63-64 A.D. Rome Philippians

Paul had moved, as a prisoner, from his own hired house to the praetorium or palace (Phil. 1:13, Phil. 4:22).  [Editor’s notes: Traditionally,  when prisoners were moved to the praetorium, they were to appear before Caesar within 30 days.  Phil. 2:24 may counter the traditional view that Timothy remained at Ephesus.  Verse 24, along with II Tim. 1:15 seem to indicate that Timothy was stationed at Philippi, Macedonia, Europe.]

64-65 A.D. Greece(?) Titus, I Timothy

Tradition says Paul was released.  Phil. 1:24-26 seems to suggest this.

65-66A.D. Unknown Paul was temporarily released.  We have no record of his travels but Titus 3:12-13 and I Tim 3:14-15 called for a wintertime meeting in Nicapolis. Added by editor.]
67-68 A.D. Rome II Timothy

Paul was arrested and taken to Rome where he wrote this last letter (II Tim. 4:6-8).  Only Luke was with him (II Tim. 4:11). Paul was executed in the spring.

Since we have demonstrated from scripture, the time  the place  the circumstances, of Paul’s writings within his lifetime prior to his death (67-68 A.D.), it follows that the other writings of the New Testament need to be addressed.

Chronology of other writers

Admittedly, we cannot prove the exact date concerning the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, James or Jude.  We can demonstrate from the internal evidence of scripture the time in which they were not written.  To wit: every book of the aforementioned writers was completed prior to the destruction of Jerusalem (69 – 70 A.D.).  The weight of evidence simply confirms the truth (even by the socalled experts) of Paul’s proclamation in Col. 1:25-26: “…I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God….to fulfill (or complete) the word of God, the mystery…”.  That is with the possible exception of John’s writings.  Hence, we turn to the testimony of scripture itself. — Are you listening?

What does the Word of God say through Peter?

“But the end (Greek, telos, [telos] meaning actual end) is at hand (Greek, eggus,[eggus] meaning “near”).  (I Pet. 4:7).

What does the Word of God say through James:

“Be ye also patient…the coming (Greek, parousia, [parousia] “along side,” personal presence) of the Lord draweth nigh…the Judge standeth before the door.” (James 5:8,9).

What inspired Apostle Paul to write in his next to last epistle just before “the Mystery”?

“The night is far spent, the day is at hand (Greek, eggus, meaning “near”) (Rom. 13:12).

“…the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” (Rom. 16:20).

“…so that you come behind in no gifts waiting for the coming (Greek, apokalupsis, [apokalupsis] meaning the revelation) of our Lord Jesus Christ (I Cor. 1:7).

Jude wrote of the coming  judgment, i.e., Jerusalem. His theme is “Remember the apostasy” (v. 7, 1125).

Now concerning the writings of John:

“Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep the things which are written therein: for the time (Greek, kairos, [kairos] meaning a specific or appointed time, etc.) is at hand.” (Rev. 1:3).  The other Greek word for time is chronos, [chronos] meaning time in general.  The time at hand (Greek, eggus, meaning “near”). [As in Rev. 1:3, the word for time, Gr. kairos, also appears in Revelation 22:10.

Now, turning to I John:

“Little children, it is the last time: (Greek, hora, [hora] meaning “hour,”  i.e., “the last hour”) and ye have heard that antichrist shall come . Even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know it is the last time (hora).” (I John 2:18).  But he didn’t come. What happened, John?

Lastly, there is John’s Gospel:  “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not”

(John 1:11).   This verse refers either to His rejection at Calvary or His rejection at Acts 28:28.  Calvary   30 A.D. [more likely  Ed.]   Acts 28:28 – 60 A.D.

Moreover, John stated in John 5:2 about Jerusalem:  “Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market…”  Note carefully, he does not say: “Now there was…”  [So, we can conclude that the sheep market was in existence when John wrote this.  History records that at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., nothing was left standing  and as Jesus had told His disciples , … “There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”  (Matt. 24:2). Ed.]

Some may say, “that’s just nitpicking!”  But is it?  Consider carefully and you be the judge:  “… til heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass…” (Matt. 5:18).  Ask yourself which is more important, a jot or a tittle, or proper grammar, which establishes time?   You be the judge!

[Editor’s comments:  Regarding the Book of Revelation, a common traditional error on Rev. 1:10 teaches that John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day (Sunday).  The literal translation is:  “I came to be in (Greek, en [en]) (the) Spirit in (Greek, en [en]) the imperial (or, of the Lord) day  or, in the day of the Lord.  Notice the “in” is the same Greek word, but the translators made the second “in” an “on.”   The proper interpretation of this verse is that the Apostle John, in the Spirit, was ushered into the time period, the Day of the Lord, and not on Sunday (the Lord’s Day), which would have had no significance.  We know that the book of Revelation deals with the time period known as the Day of the Lord.  Consider further:

When Peter wrote in 60 A.D. from Babylon (I Pet. 5:l3), from the statements in I Pet. 1:12-13 and II Pet. 3:10-13, it is evident he knew of the contents of  Revelation.  Paul, in 52-55 A.D. was aware of the Revelation, as evidenced by I Cor. 1:7 and II Thess 1:7.  Also, Hebrews refers to a heavenly city, the new Jerusalem (Heb. 11:10, 12:22, 13:14) and the only other reference to that city is in Revelation 21:2.  The writer of Hebrews, (we believe to be Paul – Heb. 13:23-24) knew of the contents of Revelation at that point in time.  Hence, the Book of Revelation was written, not in 90-96 A.D., as tradition teaches, but before the seven books of The Mystery, and well before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.]

In any case, whether it be John’s writings or any other supposedly written after “the Mystery,” the Word of God would be broken.  Needless to say, this cannot be.

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”   Col. 2:8.

C. E. McLain, 11/12/87.