• When and Where
Much of the chronological work for the Paul’s journeys hinges on a correspondence between the mention of a Gallio as proconsul of Achaia in Acts 18:2 and an inscription found by archeologist working at Delphi that indicate such a person was proconsul in 50-51AD. We won’t get into the thickets on this, but the timeline suggested by Acts and the timeline in Paul’s letters don’t mesh cleanly – in particular Acts seems to suggest the conference at Jerusalem was fairly early while Paul says it came after 14 years of missionary work (Galatians 2). The point here is that Acts continues to be primarily a theological document, not a straightforward history or biography.
• Key Insights
The last half of Acts turns to Paul as the central (human) character and gives us a view of his missionary journeys. There is an interesting feature to many of these stories in that they shift to first person plural, some take that as evidence that the author traveled with Paul, others as a literary device, still others as suggestion of an older oral history known and used by the later author.
We often fear conflict in the Church – wearing masks of fake smiles and agreement – but Acts shows us how conflict can aid in discipleship and growth. Conflict can be good when it deepens authenticity and helps us to see God’s greater purpose.
• Big Picture
Paul – both as depicted in Acts and in his own letters – never sees his mission to the gentiles as separated from God’s concern for Israel. Luke’s masterful writing takes us back into the world of Ancient Israel and into the world of Greek religion and philosophy, emphasizing that God never stops calling us.
Blessings on your reading!