Were Troops Really Stationed in Caesarea During Agrippa’s Rule?

Some scholars doubt that Roman soldiers would have been stationed in Caesarea at the time Luke describes in Acts 10, hence are skeptical of Luke’s reliability on this matter. The prestigious commentary of Ernst Haenchen, followed by some other scholars, suggests that no Roman soldiers would have lived there during Agrippa’s rule (from 41 to 44 CE), and that the event Luke describes must have occurred in that period. Roman legions certainly did not exist in Palestine during this period, but if he means that no gentile auxiliaries were stationed there (under Agrippa’s authority), his claim would be remarkable, for such a supposition flies in the face of explicit contrary evidence from Josephus, a military writer who was alive and present in the period described.

Three responses seem appropriate: first, does the Cornelius narrative occur during Agrippa’s reign? (It may, but need not, have done so.) Second, what was the military presence in Caesarea at the time? Josephus explicitly refers to auxiliaries of the Roman army in Caesarea during this period. Third, some argue that Cornelius was retired anyway. Of these arguments, the most important is the second from Josephus. Ultimately, Luke’s report of Roman soldiers in Caesarea is not historically problematic. Indeed, it is the one place in Judea where one would expect to find them, apart from the cohort in Jerusalem.

This content is by Craig Keener, but edited and posted by Defenders Media.

For more, please check out Dr. Keener’s Between History and Spirit.

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