Historical Background to the New Testament


67 BC          Revolt of Maccabees, Beginning of Hasmonean dynasty

63                   Pompey’s Roman legions conquer Palestine, depose Hasmonean ruler

37                   Romans make Herod the Great the vassal king of Judea

27                   Octavian (Augustus) becomes Emperor, Pax Romana begins

20                   Herod the Great begins reconstruction of the Temple

 4                    Jesus is born (we think), Herod the Great dies, splits up kingdom among his 3 sons

6 AD             Archelaus, Herodian king of Judea & Samaria, exiled and the territory becomes Roman province

14                   Tiberias becomes Roman Emperor

27 c.               Jesus baptised by John, begins public ministry

30                   Jesus’ death and resurrection

36                   Conversion of St. Paul; Pilate replaced by Marcellus

37                   Tiberius succeeded as Caesar by Gaius Caligula who makes Herod Agrippa I, brother of Herodias, king of former tetrarchy of Philip in Gaulinitis–Trachonitis

41                   Caligula murdered, succeeded by Claudius.  Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great, made vassal king of all the territory ruled by his grandfather

44                   Herod Agrippa martyrs James, son of Zebedee; later that year he dies suddenly

50                   1 Thessalonians, earliest book of NT, written by Paul

52                   Marcus Julius Agrippa II, son of Herod Agrippa I, given the old tetrachy of Philip by Claudius.  M. Antonius Felix made procurator of Judea, marries Drusilla, sister of Agrippa II.  Before all these Paul pleads his case in Acts

54                   Claudius is succeeded by Nero as emperor

60                   Nero sends out Porcius Festus to succeed Felix as procurator; sends Paul to Rome as prisoner

64                   Peter and Paul martyred in the persecution of Nero

66                   First Jewish revolt begins in Jerusalem

68                   Nero dies

69                   Vespasian acclaimed emperor; his son Titus leads Roman armies against  Jerusalem

70                   Romans destroy Jerusalem and its Temple; approximate date for the writing of the 1st gospel

95 c.               John, the last of the gospels, put in final form around this time

135                 2nd Jewish Revolt and destruction of Jerusalem by Hadrian–it is rebuilt as a Roman City–no Jews allowed

This chronology of the New Testament period provides exact or approximate dates for the birth of Christ, the death and resurrection of Jesus, the dates for the Roman Emperors who reigned during the lifetime of Jesus and the apostles, the conversion of Saint Paul, the main events in the life of St. Paul including his conversion and martyrdom, the writing of the epistles and the gospels, and the first and second destructions of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans.

Born in Ireland in AD 543, the same year St. Benedict died at Monte Cassino, St. Columbanus (from the Latin word meaning “dove”) entered an Irish Monastery. At the age of 40, he received permission to depart with several disciples to preach the gospel on the continent. After establishing monasteries in what is now France, he traveled to Northern Italy where he was given a desolate parcel of land between Milan and Genova. The monastery of Bobbio, which he established there, became the center of orthodox Christianity in Northern Italy, where stubborn remnants of the Arian heresy still lingered. Columbanus wrote on many topics. His monastic rule, much shorter than the rule of St. Benedict, reflects the Celtic monastic tradition and its distinctive customs. The impact of his writings and his work as abbot was great– his disciples are credited with founding over 100 monasteries all over Europe. He died in AD 615 at Bobbio, where his relics remain to this day.