Confession: I’ve always struggled with the timeline of Acts.
It’s all the moving around. Most Bible narratives take place in one corner of the Near East. But in Acts, several major characters loop-de-loop their way around the Roman empire.
The first few times I read Acts, all the new city and province names just blurred together in my mind, and that made it even harder to follow the story.
But a big-picture framework makes it easier to deal with the details. So here’s a timeline of Acts with the main things we need to know:
- Who the major characters/locations are
- Where their stories overlap
- The major events that drive those stories
This is NOT an in-depth look at all the towns and ports Paul visited. You can find that in the back of pretty much any Bible. This is just about getting the gist of the story and seeing how the characters interact. ;-)
Here you go: a timeline of Acts
[Click the image to enlarge]
More info about this timeline of Acts
It’s easy to follow Moses across the wilderness. It’s tougher to keep track of several major characters as they walk and sail and teleport (Ac 8:39–40) their way around the Roman empire.
Then I remembered how Randall Munroe at xkcd visualized movie narratives. If a system can work for a story like The Lord of the Rings, it’s probably up for the task of Acts.
This doesn’t cover every character. You’ll notice that John doesn’t have a line, nor the faithful Luke, nor the prophet Agabus. Here’s why:
- Some important characters don’t drive the overall story. For example, the apostle John was considered a pillar in the early church, but his activity in Acts is always tied to Peter.
- At a certain point, the timeline would get cluttered. This isn’t an in-depth survey of Acts: it’s just enough to help you see what’s going on throughout the book.
- Some characters aren’t that important to the story, but are included anyway (like Timothy and Philip). I threw them in as a way to give more context to the other characters, particularly Paul.
This isn’t to scale. Luke hits the high points of the early church’s spread, which means there are often many years between one sentence and the next. This timeline would be way too long if everything were scaled.
Luv the mention of Teleport
Thanks for the nice visualization. I too have had trouble keeping it straight. I once did a presentation on Acts/Epistles and used Paul’s traveling companions as the focus to keep his multiple journeys straight. I noticed that you have an unbroken line for James. James Brother of John was killed by Herod (Acts 12:2), so the follow on for James must be James, Brother of Jesus who was in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). This James is then mentioned in Acts 12:17, not sure how much earlier he enters the story.
As some others have said, because of Luke’s first-hand accounts in some portions, i think having him on this amazing graphic would be beneficial. also, i think silas, as paul’s primary partner after his split from barnabas, is imperative. thanks for this great work!
This is awesome! Hey, just my two cents, but I’d like to see Luke on here – he may not be one of the most ‘visible’ actors, but with him being the author, it would be cool to see where he’s reporting first-hand.
Nice chart. Note: do you have the right reference for Paul’s conversion? You have 7:54-8:3 on the chart.
Just stumbled across your work this evening, Just wanted to say thank you and I think you rock. I’m a visual learner and your infographics are great. How would you suggest someone integrate them with Logos 6? You probably get asked this all the time. Just wanted to say thank you for offering your talents and wisdom to others. God bless and keep you and yours.Mike
HI, I stumbled across your blog on a pintrest page. I’m hooked!! I really do like your infographics. Is there a downloadable version of the Acts timeline? Sometimes it’s difficult to be near a computer when studying the Book of Acts for reference with the graphic. Any help is appreciate
Hey I read a really good book that puts the New Testament in chronological order with background info called “The Untold Story of the New Testament Church” By Frank Viola. You should give him a shout and see if he could help throw in dates and stuff and maybe even bring in some of Paul’s lists of sufferings. Or just put the books on the timeline somehow with best guesses. That’d be neat.
Thanks, Micah. I’d like to circle back around to this sometime to add dates, letters written, and the like.
Much appreciation for the hard work!
Of course! Hope you enjoy.
Yes, finally! Very cool and very helpful.
Thanks for the great timeline and the hard work. I’m a very visual person so this helped me to see in a different way how the ministries of various people in Acts overlapped.
Of course. And thanks for the kind words, Paula!