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A Timeline of Paul’s Ministry in Galatians and Acts

“The Cities of Galatia” (from Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts, Revised, 1996, Logos Edition)

Galatians is probably Paul’s earliest letter, written around AD 48 to the churches in southern Galatia and not to Gentiles in northern Galatia (the first conclusion among several debated issues, as you will see).

Assuming some dates (these dates can be debated) and matching Paul’s biographical details their parallels in Acts, Paul persecuted the church (Gal 1:13–14; Acts 9:1–2; AD 34), was converted (Gal 1:15–16a; Acts 9:3–19a; AD 34), preached in Arabia and Damascus for three years (Gal 1:17; Acts 9:19–22; AD 34–37), visited Peter and James in Jerusalem after these three years (Gal 1:18–20; Acts 9:26–29; AD 37), and preached in Judea for about ten years (Gal 1:21–24; Acts 9:30–31; AD 37–47).

Fourteen years after his conversion (so it seems; cf. Gal 2:1), Paul took Barnabas and Titus to visit Jerusalem again for a private meeting with Peter, James, and John (Gal 2:1–10), which may or may not be recorded in Acts (if so, Acts 11:27–30; AD 47; this conclusion is debated and hinges on another―see comments on Gal 2:1–10 and Acts 15:1–29 below).

Paul then went on his first missionary journey, which included planting churches in southern Galatia (Acts 13–14; AD 47–48). It is not clear when Peter came to Antioch and was confronted by Paul (Gal 2:11–14), but (making yet another conclusion) perhaps it was after Paul had planted the Galatian churches (thus, AD 48). Maybe Peter wanted to follow up on the gospel’s spread to the Gentiles as he had done earlier in Samaria (Acts 8:14) or visited while traveling to minister to the churches in general (cf. Acts 9:32).

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Paul then went to the Jerusalem council in Acts 15:1–29 a year or so later (AD 49), an event probably not the same as what Paul records in Gal 2:1–10 (another debated issue). This conclusion is supported in that (1) Paul does not mention the Acts 15 conclusions in Galatians and (2) Luke describes the Acts 15 council as public (cf. Acts 15:6, 12, 22) while Paul describes Gal 2:10 as a private meeting (cf. Gal 2:2).

Paul then visited the Galatian churches two more times at the beginnings of his second (Acts 16:6; cf. cf. 15:40–18:22; AD 49) and third (Acts 18:23; cf. 18:23–21:17; AD 52) missionary journeys (AD 49–51 and 52–57, respectively).

On a pastoral level, for as strong as Paul was in his letter to the Galatians, we can be encouraged that the churches corrected themselves and persevered, implied by the fact that Paul visited them in his second and third missionary journeys. While these churches were swayed for a time, Paul’s strong and swift denunciation of a false gospel grounded them in the true gospel again, leaving them strengthened in the end.

So, if you are keeping track, (tentative) conclusions made were the following:

(1) Paul wrote the churches in southern and not northern Galatia (i.e., the ones in Acts 13–14).

(2) Paul visited Jerusalem a second time fourteen years after his conversion and not fourteen years after his first visit to Jerusalem (Gal 2:1).

(3) Paul’s visit to Jerusalem in Gal 2:1–10 could be the one recorded by Luke in Acts 11:27–30.

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(4) Pauls’ visit to Jerusalem in Gal 2:1–10 was probably not the one recorded by Luke in Acts 15:1–29.

(5) Peter visited Paul in Antioch (Gal 2:11–14) after Paul’s return to the city after Paul had planted several churches, some being in southern Galatia (Acts 13:1–14:28).

(6) The years are exactly as stated above. (As one can see, it is sometimes very difficult to identify Paul’s locations and the times he was there with certainty and precision.)

While it is not imperative to figure out the timing of (5) (i.e., before or after Acts 13–14), it does seem that a combination of (1), (2), (3), (4), and (6) lean upon one another and, if one conclusion is made, so also are the others in this combination.

The chart below is my own and gives a tentative timeline for how one could match the details of Paul’s life in Galatians to Acts. It also adds some semi-related events that Acts mentions besides (i.e., Paul’s other visits to Galatia).

Date Description Galatians Acts
AD 34 Saul (not yet Paul) persecuted the church. 1:13–14 9:1–2
AD 34 Saul was converted. 1:15–16a 9:3–19a
AD 34–37 Saul preached in Arabia and Damascus. 1:17 9:19–22; cf. 9:27
AD 37 Saul visited Jerusalem three years after his conversion. 1:18–20 9:26–29
AD 37–47 Saul preached in Syria and Cilicia. 1:21–24 9:30–31
AD 47 Saul visited Jerusalem fourteen years after his conversion. 2:1–10 11:27–30?
AD 47–48 Saul became Paul and with Barnabas planted churches in Gentile territory, Galatia included, during Paul’s first missionary journey. 13:1–14:28
AD 48 Peter visited Antioch and was confronted by Paul. 2:11–14
AD 48 Paul wrote Galatians. 1:1–6:18
AD 49 Paul participated in the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem. 15:1–29
AD 49–51 Paul and Silas visited the Galatian churches during Paul’s second missionary journey. 16:6; cf. 15:40–18:22
AD 52–57 Paul visited the Galatian churches for the last time recorded in Scripture. 18:23; cf. 18:23–21:17
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David Huffstutler

About David Huffstutler

David pastors First Baptist Church in Rockford, IL. David holds a Ph. D. in Applied Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His concentration in Christian Leadership focuses his contributions to pastoral and practical theology.

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