The dominant master narrative of the Apostolic Age states the following: the Gallio episode in Acts 18:12ff fixes
the date for Paul’s visit to Corinth at 51/52 AD. Paul’s missionary journeys can be reconstructed on the basis of the information in the Acts of the Apostles and in Paul’s letters, and the date of the Apostolic Council set at 48/49 AD. The other events can also be dated from this basis.
These are my theses on this subject:
The Gallio episode in Acts 18:12ff is a literary construction by Luke; it is not based on any historical event and does not offer a reference point for the chronology of early Christianity.
The Apostolic Age begins with Jesus’ death in 36 AD: Ant. 18.4.1.
John the Baptist, the founder of the church of John (see below), died in 37 AD: Ant 18.5.2.
The dominant master narrative concerning Jesus’ message states that Jesus was impressed by John the Baptist’s preaching
about repentance. In his own pronouncements, however, he proclaimed a loving God full of grace whose kingdom would soon be realised, bringing equal rights for all people; it could already be experienced in the community of the disciples.
These are my theses about Jesus’ message:
Jesus was a Jewish statesman; he was Prince Antipas’ governor and shaped Galilean politics. He viewed religion simply as a supplementary measure to safeguard economic and political developments.
Jesus imitated Emperor Augustus’ form of rule in his political work (imitation Augusti) and aimed to organise society around a monarchy.
Jesus aimed for a monarchy in Galilee headed by a Jewish monarch, a Messiah. This monarch, this Messiah, could only be the ruling Jewish prince; for Jesus, therefore, this was Antipas.
After Jesus’ election as Philip’s successor, John the Baptist proclaimed that he was the Jewish Messiah: 1 Kings 13:23. The people of Galilee
hailed him as the King of Israel and Antipas was forced to flee from the furious population that associated themselves with Jesus: 2 Sam. 15:14. Jesus journeyed in triumph through Galilee to Samaria, the location of the old holy places of the northern Israelite kingdom.
The dominant master narrative about Jesus’ biography states that Jesus was born in 7 BC in Nazareth in Galilee
as the eldest son of Joseph, a building labourer and Mary, a housewife. After an encounter with John the Baptist he became an itinerant religious preacher, gathered disciples and gained the reputation for carrying out miraculous healings.
In 30 AD Jesus went with his disciples to Jerusalem to preach there. Due to a misunderstanding, he was accused by Pilate of insurrection against the Romans and crucified. His disciples saw him in visions after his death and reported that he had risen from the dead.
Antipas’ reign was a time of conflicts, of disputes
between Jewish groups. Under Agrippa I this period was followed by a time of consolidation, agreement, and reconciliation.
In the story of Moses, Antipas was the Moses of Exodus to Numbers, followed by Agrippa, the Moses of Deuteronomy, the more social legislation in the Pentateuch.
In the history of the kings, King Ahab (= Antipas) who was continually in conflict with the prophet Elijah (= John the Baptist), was succeeded by the revolutionary Jehu (= Agrippa) who was anointed king by the prophet Elisha (= Jesus).
In the subsequent kings’ history, the Jewish King Hezekiah (= Agrippa) proved to be a diplomat capable of averting external threats without violence. The account of Sennacherib’s representative Rabshakeh and Lachish in 2 Kings 18 is modelled on the report about Petronius, the Roman legate in Syria as a representative of the Emperor Caligula in Ant. 18, 8, 2.
In the Elijah stories, John the Baptist is depicted as the older and greater prophet in comparison to Jesus (Elisha).
Elijah is Elisha’s predecessor; he appoints Elisha to the office of prophet (1 Kings 19:19); Elisha only receives two parts of Elijah’s spirit (2 Kings 2:9). The competitive situation between the prophets Elijah (John) and Elisha (Jesus) is clearly shown; perhaps some of the accounts of miracles were transferred from one prophet to the other, as occurred in other cases.
In the story of Naboth in 2 Kings 21, Elijah appears as Naboth’s (= Jesus) advocate. This is based on the Christian relationship between Jesus as the founder of Christianity and the church of John, that worshipped Jesus.
John the Baptist – who could be called Prince Antipas’ intellectual conscience – is also portrayed
in the Old Testament history books. He is the prophet Elijah, the prophet Nathan and the old prophet in 1 Kings 13. As the prophet Elijah, John appears in many stories as King Ahab’s opponent, and as the prophet Nathan he is King David’s conscience in the story of Bathsheba (= Herodias).
In 1 Kings 13, John, the old prophet, is the Man of God’s (= Jesus) opponent.
The traditional narrative about Flavius Josephus and his significance as a source for Jesus’ life and for the origins of Christianity states that if Josephus had known about Jesus and the Christians,
of course he would have mentioned them. Since he did not mention them, the Christian sect was obviously so insignificant that he did not know about them or at least did not consider them worth mentioning.
The Testimonium Flavianum (Ant. 18, 3, 3) is rightly considered to be a Christian insertion. So the only historical information about Christian issues in Josephus is the mention of the stoning of the Lord’s brother James in Ant. 20, 9, 1 and the report about John the Baptist in Ant. 18, 5, 2.
I advocate the following opinion on this topic: as early as under Emperor Claudius (41-54 AD) the well-known edict already existed stating that the emperor drove the Jews out of Rome because they were causing a disturbance, spurred on by a certain Chrestos (=Christ): see Suetonius, Claudius, 25, 4; compare Acts of the Apostles 18:2. We may assume that Josephus had plenty of contacts in Rome, and he must have been aware of the Roman Christian community to which Paul had already addressed an epistle.