I’ve already written a general review of the new Completely Updated and Revised Edition of Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Life-Changing Truth For a Skeptical World by Josh and Sean McDowell. In it, I found this great summary of arguments for when the book of Acts was written:
The best estimate for the dating of Acts places the work between AD 62 and 64. J. P. Moreland lists several reasons why Acts should be given this early date (Moreland,SSC, 152–154):
• Luke shows a particular interest in the city of Jerusalem. He mentions the city about thirty times in the gospel of Luke and about sixty times in the book of Acts, which is far more than any other New Testament writer does.
• Acts reports many events that took place in Jerusalem, from the Day of Pentecost to the imprisonment of Paul. Yet Luke fails to mention one of the most important events to have ever happened in the city: the destruction of the temple in AD 70. It makes sense,then, to date the book of Acts before the temple was destroyed.
• Acts does not mention the severe percecutions of the Roman emperor Nero, which started in the mid-60s. Again, Luke would probably have recorded this dark time of Christendom had he written his book during or after those persecutions.
• Luke records the martyrdoms of Stephen and James the brother of John, but he is silent about the martyrdoms of Peter, Paul, and James. These three prominent figures in the book of Acts died between AD 61 and 67. If Luke wrote Acts after their deaths, he would probably have heard about their martyrdoms and included them in his history of the early church.
• One of the major themes in the book of Acts is the way in which the early church leaders welcomed new Gentile believers and included them in the growing communities of Christians.growing communities of Christians. The leaders also specified how the Gentile Christians should relate to Jewish believers. Moreland points out that this was a very important matter before the destruction of the temple in AD 70, but much less important after the destruction. Acts also deals with other subjects that fit most naturally into the years prior to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, such as different people groups (Jewish, Samaritan, Gen-tile) receiving the Holy Spirit, and the divisions between Palestinian Jews and Hellenistic Jews. Thus, we can make the case that Luke wrote before thetemple’s destruction, staying relevant to the issues of his time.
• Several distinctively Jewish expressions used throughout the book of Acts indicate a pre-70 Jewish-Christian audience. If the book of Acts was originally intended for the increasingly Gentile church of later decades, the author would have adjusted his vocabulary and phrasing to accommodate them. According to Moreland, “The phrases the Son of man, the Servant of God (applied to Jesus), the first day of the week (the resurrection), and the people (the Jews) are all phrases that readers would understand without explanation prior to 70. After 70, they would need to be explained.” (Moreland, HNT,online)
• Luke does not mention the wars against the Romans, beginning in AD 66. Once again, the most logical explanation for Luke’s silence about such important events in Jewish his-tory is that he wrote Acts before they all began.
Moreland sums up:
But this means that Luke should be dated just prior to [the wars against the Romans]. Further, Matthew and Mark should be dated even earlier, perhaps from the mid-40s to mid-50s. The picture of Jesus presented in the Synoptics is one that is only twelve to twenty-nine years removed from the events themselves. And they incorporate sources which are even earlier.
(Moreland, SSC, 154)
In conclusion, a very strong case can be made to date the composition of Acts in the early 60s. This in turn provides a reference point that historians can use to date the three Synoptic Gospels that preceded the book of Acts.
Adapted from the Completely Updated and Revised Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell, pgs 45-46, digital Launch Team edition.
This book goes on sale Oct 3rd. On Amazon, this book is already the #1 New Release based on pre-sales alone. There is also a pre-order special going on that if you order the book now (which is 45% off at the time of this writing), you can download two chapters, “The Martyrdom of the Apostles” and “The Historical Existence of Jesus” immediately! Both of these chapters are quite excellent! (You can find details on that here.)