Chronology of the Bible

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This article deals with the chronology of the Hebrew Bible (or Christian Old Testament). For material on the Christian New Testament, see Chronology of Jesus, Historical reliability of the Acts of the Apostles, and Timeline of Christianity. For a historical look at the Bible see The Bible and history. For the composition of the various books of the Bible, see Dating the Bible.

The Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) or Christian Old Testament indicates the passage of time and thus gives a chronological calibration to biblical history by means of various genealogies, generations, reign-periods, and other means.[1]

The passage of time in the earlier passages of Genesis is indicated by counts of generations: an individual lived so many years, begat a son, and died at such and such an age: when the ages at each birth of a new generation are added together, the result is the total number of years elapsed. In later books the passage of years is calibrated to events in the overall narrative (e.g., 1 Kings 6:1 states that the building of the Temple of Solomon began in the 480th year from the Exodus), or by inter-relationships of the reigns of kings (e.g., king A of Israel came to the throne in year X of king B of Judah and ruled Z number of years, for example in 1 Kings 15:25-28).

While some of the events during the monarchic period (10th to 7th centuries BCE) are historical and can be related to extra-biblical historiography, attempts to date Moses and the Exodus, or yet earlier events such as the birth of Abraham, Noah's Flood, or the date of Creation as real events have been unsuccessful. These events and the dates assigned to such events should not be relied upon as historical fact.[2]

Overview[edit source | edit]

The biblical chronology largely uses numbers which were significant to the authors: the basic numbers are 12, 40 (a "generation"), and 480 (12 generations of 40 years); other significant numbers include 10, 20, 60, and 100.[1]

The main events of the biblical chronology are the Creation (Year 0 AM), the birth and summoning of Abraham, the Exodus, the construction of the Temple of Solomon, the Edict allowing the return of the Jews to Jerusalem which, according to Ezra, was issued by Cyrus the Great during the first year of his conquest of Babylon, and the rededication of the Temple during the Maccabaean period.[1] The following table is from Seder Olam Rabbah:

EventYear AMYear BCE (non-biblical)Span
Creation of Adam03924 BCE0
Birth of Abram (Genesis 11:26)19481976 BCE1948
Promise to Abraham20181906 BCE70
Birth of Isaac20481876 BCE30
Descent into Egypt22381686 BCE190
Exodus from Egypt (Exodus 12:40)24481476 BCE210 (430 from Promise to Abraham; 400 from Birth of Isaac)
Foundation of Solomon's Temple (1 Kings 6:1)2928997 BCE480
Destruction of Temple3338587 BCE410
Return from exile (Ezra 1:2-4)3390535 BCE52
BCE means "Before the Common Era". There is no year zero in the transition from 1 BCE to 1 CE.

Creation to the Flood[edit source | edit]

Biblical dating commences with Creation or the creation of Adam, depending on the source. In the Seder Olam Rabbah, written during ca. 160 CE and meant to be a history of the world, Adam's creation is considered year 0,[dubious ] and his death 930 years later is considered year 930. The Jewish calendar currently in use terms the 5 days prior to Adam's creation year 1, and has Adam created on the first day of year 2.[citation needed]

The period to the Flood is derived using the genealogical table of the ten patriarchs listed in Genesis 5, and 7:6, termed the generations of Adam. According to the Masoretic Text, this period consists of 1656 years, and this dating is also followed by Western Christian Bibles derived from the Latin Vulgate. According to the Samaritan texts the period is 1307 years, and according to the Septuagint (Codex Alexandrinus, Elizabeth Bible) it is 2262 years.[3]

Masoretic
Date (AM)
Septuagint
Date [1]
EventReference
0 AM0 AMThe heaven and the earth were created, including Adam and Eve.Genesis 1:1
130 AM230 AMSeth born, son of Adam with EveGenesis 5:3
235 AM435 AMEnosh born, son of SethGenesis 5:6
325 AM625 AMKenan born, son of EnoshGenesis 5:9
395 AM795 AMMahalalel born, son of KenanGenesis 5:12
460 AM960 AMJared born, son of MahalalelGenesis 5:15
622 AM1122 AMEnoch born, son of JaredGenesis 5:18
687 AM1287 AMMethuselah born, son of EnochGenesis 5:21
874 AM1474 AMLamech born, son of MethusalehGenesis 5:25
930 AM930 AMAdam died at 930Genesis 5:5
987 AM1487 AMEnoch "walks with God"Genesis 5:23-24
1042 AM1142 AMSeth died at 912Genesis 5:8
1056 AM1663 AMNoah born, son of LamechGenesis 5:28-29
1140 AM1340 AMEnosh died at 905Genesis 5:11
1235 AM1535 AMKenan died at 910Genesis 5:14
1290 AM1690 AMMahalalel died at 895Genesis 5:17
1422 AM1922 AMJared died at 962Genesis 5:20
1557 AM2163 AMNoah begets Shem, Ham and Japheth. Noah is 500, nearly 501.Genesis 5:32
1651 AM2207 AMLamech died at 777Genesis 8:4
1656 AM2252 AMMethuselah died at 969Genesis 5:31
1656 AM2262 AMOn the seventeenth (Septuagint: 27th) day of the second month, the fountains of the great deep were broken up and the windows of heaven were opened.Genesis 7:4-11
1656 AM2262 AMOn the seventeenth day of the seventh month, Noah's Ark rested in "mountains of Ararat"Genesis 7:27
1657 AM2263 AMOn the twenty-seventh day of the second month, Noah and his family left the arkGenesis 8:13-14
1658 AM2264 AMArphaxad born, son of Shem
Shem is 100 years old, nearly 101.
Genesis 11:10

Flood to Abraham[edit source | edit]

The period from the creation to Abraham is measured by the genealogies at Genesis 5 and 11, elapsed time being calculated by the addition of the years of the patriarchs at the birth of their offspring. The genealogies exist in three main manuscript traditions, the Masoretic (in Hebrew), the Septuagint (in Greek), and the Samaritan Torah (Hebrew). The three do not agree with each other, here or elsewhere. (The Septuagint is represented in this table by two manuscripts, Alexandrinus and Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1209; dates are Anno Mundi, or AM, meaning year of the world):[4]

PeriodMasoretic
Alexandrinus
Vaticanus
Samaritan
Note
Year of the Flood1656 AM2262 AM2242 AM1307 AMThe Masoretic, Alexandrinus and Samaritan chronologies records the deaths of all the pre-Flood patriarchs except Noah either in or prior to the Flood, but Vaticanus has Methuselah outlive the Flood by 14 years.
Flood to Abraham292 years1072 years1172 years942 years
Year of Abraham's birth1948 AM3334 AM3414 AM2249 AMThe two sets of patriarchs before and after the Flood are exactly symmetrical: there are ten in each group, and the final members of each, Noah and Terah, each have three sons who will begin the next section of the chronology.

The following is a list of biblical patriarchs from Shem to Abraham, given with their Masoretic date.

Masoretic dateEventBible verse
1658 AMArphaxad born, son of ShemGenesis 11:10
1693 AMShelah born, son of ArphaxadGenesis 11:12
1723 AMEber born, son of ShelahGenesis 11:14
1757 AMPeleg born, son of EberGenesis 11:16
1787 AMReu born, son of PelegGenesis 11:18
1819 AMSerug born, son of ReuGenesis 11:20
1849 AMNahor born, son of SerugGenesis 11:22
1878 AMTerah born, son of NahorGenesis 11:24
1948 AMAbram born, son of Terah †Genesis 11:26

† This and subsequent dates rest on the assumption that Abram is the firstborn of Terah, which is not necessarily accepted within Christian tradition, because Act ch.7 v.4 is generally translated to mean that Abram left Haran after the death of his father. [5]

Abraham to United Monarchy[edit source | edit]

This table gives the Masoretic dates (Seder Olam Rabbah) in the Anno Mundi era and converted to the Dionysian era (1 AM = 3925 BCE).[citation needed]

The 40-year reigns of David and Solomon of the United Monarchy are probably schematic rather than historical, even though those two kings may be historical.[6]

The BCE dates, prior to the kings period, are estimated dates and based on a continuous judges rule which was not the case. Intermediary periods with no judges existed, and judges may have overlapped.[7]

Masoretic date
(AM)
Masoretic date
(BCE)
EventBible verse
1948 AM1976 BCEAbram born, son of TerahGenesis 11:26.
1958 AM1966 BCESarai born, wife of AbramGenesis 17:17
1996 AM1928 BCEPeleg diedGenesis 11:19
1997 AM1927 BCENahor diedGenesis 11:25
2006 AM1918 BCENoah diedGenesis 9:28
2026 AM1898 BCEReu diedGenesis 11:21
2034 AM1890 BCEIshmael born, son of Abram with Sarai's handmaiden HagarGenesis 16:16
2047 AM1877 BCEAbram and Sarai renamed Abraham and Sarah by the LORD.
Abraham was circumcised.
Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed
Genesis 17:10
2048 AM1876 BCEIsaac born, son of Abraham with SarahGenesis 21:5
2049 AM1875 BCESerug diedGenesis 11:23
2083 AM1841 BCETerah diedGenesis 11:32
2085 AM1839 BCESarah diedGenesis 23:1
2096 AM1828 BCEArpachshad diedGenesis 11:13
2108 AM1816 BCEJacob and Esau born, sons of Isaac with RebekahGenesis 25:26
2123 AM1801 BCEAbraham diedGenesis 25:7
2126 AM1798 BCEShelah diedGenesis 11:15
2157 AM1767 BCEShem diedGenesis 11:11
2171 AM1753 BCEIshmael diedGenesis 25:17
2187 AM1737 BCEEber diedGenesis 11:17
2199 AM1725 BCEJoseph born, son of Jacob with RachelGenesis 41:46
2216 AM1708 BCEJoseph was sold by his brothersGenesis 37:2
2227 AM1697 BCEJoseph interpreted the dreams of the butler and the baker while in prisonGenesis 41:1
2228 AM1696 BCEIsaac diedGenesis 35:28
2229 AM1695 BCEJoseph was elevated to Pharaoh's secondGenesis 41:46
2238 AM1686 BCEJacob moved to Egypt at the age of 130
After 7 years of plenty and 2 years of famine
When Joseph was 39
Genesis 47:9, 45:11, 41:46
2255 AM1669 BCEJacob diedGenesis 47:28
2309 AM1615 BCEJoseph diedGenesis 50:26
2365 AM1560 BCEAaron born, son of Amram with JochebedExodus 7:7
2368 AM1557 BCEMoses born, son of Amram with JochebedExodus 7:7
2448 AM1476 BCEThe Israelites left in a mass exodus from Egypt.Genesis 15:13,
see also 1 Kings 6:1
2487 AM1437 BCEAaron and Moses diedDeuteronomy 34:7
2488 AM1436 BCEThe Israelites entered CanaanJoshua 4:19
2448–2884 AM1476–1040 BCEPeriod of Joshua, Judges and Saul, first King of Israel1 Kings 6:1
2 Samuel 5:4
2853 AM1071 BCEJesse begat David2 Samuel 5:4
2883–2923 AM1041–1001 BCEDavid reigned as king of Israel1 Kings 2:11 - reigns for 40 years
2890 AM1034 BCEDavid moved his capitol from Hebron to Jerusalem1 Kings 2:11
2923–2963 AM1001–961 BCESolomon son of David reigned as king of Israel1 Kings 11:42
2927 AM997 BCEFoundation of Temple laid in the 4th year of Solomon's reign
480th year after the Exodus
1 Kings 6:1

Divided Monarchy[edit source | edit]

The biblical chronology of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah includes some historical events and can be compared to dates from Assyrian chronology such as the Battle of Qarqar.[8]

The sum of the reigns of the kings of Judah is 430 years, the same as the Septuagint's version of the period between the promise of the Land of Canaan given to Abraham and the covenant at Sinai.[9]

For this period, most historians follow either of the older chronologies established by William F. Albright or Edwin R. Thiele, or the newer chronologies of Gershon Galil and Kenneth Kitchen. See Kings of Israel and Kings of Judah for the differences between these chronologies. These scholarly chronologies may differ for up to about forty years from the traditional Masoretic dates in the early period, while all authorities agree that the last king of Judah, Zedekiah, ruled from 597 to 587 or 586 BCE.

The following table only gives the Anno Mundi dates of the Masoretic tradition and its conversion in the Dionysian era (AM 1 = 3925 BCE).

Masoretic date
(AM)
Masoretic date
(BCE)
EventBible verse
2963 AM961 BCEThe United Monarchy split into two rival kingdoms: Israel in the north and Judah in the south.1 Kings 12
2964–2981 AM961–944/3 BCERehoboam son of Solomon reigned as king of Judah (Albright: 922–915 BCE; Thiele: 931–913 BCE)1 Kings 12
2964–2986 AM961/60–939 BCEJeroboam I son of Nebat reigned as king of Israel1 Kings 12
2981–2984 AM944/3–941 BCEAbijam son of Rehoboam reigned as king of Judah1 Kings 15
2984–3025 AM941–900 BCEAsa son of Abijam reigned as king of Judah1 Kings 15
2986–2987 AM939–938 BCENadab son of Jeroboam I reigned as king of Israel1 Kings 15
2987–3010 AM938–915 BCEBaasha reigned as king of Israel1 Kings 15
2990 AM935 BCEJehoshaphat son of Asa born.1 Kings 22
3010–3011 AM915–914 BCEElah son of Baasha reigned as king of Israel1 Kings 16
3011 AM914 BCEZimri reigned as king of Israel for 7 days in Tirzah.1 Kings 16
3011-3015 AM914-910 BCEThe people of Israel were divided after the death of Zimri, as half wanted Tibni for King, with the other half wanting Omri for King. Omri is declared unofficially as king during 914 BCE.1 Kings 16
3011–3022 AM914–903 BCEOmri reigned as king of Israel, after the death of Tibni.1 Kings 16
3022–3042 AM903–883/2 BCEAhab son of Omri reigned as king of Israel1 Kings 16
3025–3050 AM900–875 BCEJehoshaphat son of Asa reigned as king of Judah, from 35 years old until his death at 60 years old.1 Kings 22
3042–3043 AM883/2–882/1 BCEAhaziah son of Ahab reigned as king of Israel1 Kings 22
3047–3054 AM878/7–871/70 BCEJehoram (Joram) son of Jehoshaphat reigned as king of Judah
3043–3054 AM875–871/70 BCEJoram (Jehoram) son of Ahab reigned as king of Israel
3054–3055 AM871/70–870 BCEAhaziah son of Jehoram reigned as king of Judah
3055–3061 AM870–864 BCEAthaliah wife of Jehoram ruled over Judah
3054–3084 AM871/70–841 BCEJehu son of Nimshi reigned as king of Israel
3061–3101 AM864–824 BCEJoash (Jehoash) son of Ahaziah reigned as king of Judah
3084–3100 AM841–825/4 BCEJehoahaz son of Jehu reigned as king of Israel
3098–3114 AM827/6–811 BCEJehoash (Joash) son of Jehoahaz reigned as king of Israel
3100–3129 AM825–796 BCEAmaziah son of Joash reigned as king of Judah
3103–3154 AM822–771/70 BCEJeroboam II son of Jehoash reigned as king of Israel
3117–3168 AM808–757/6 BCEUzziah (Azariah) son of Amaziah reigned as king of Judah
3154–3155 AM771/70–770 BCEZechariah son of Jeroboam II reigned as king of Israel
3155–3155 AM770 BCEShallum reigned as king of Israel
3155–3166 AM770–759 BCEMenahem son of Gadi reigned as king of Israel
3166–3168 AM759–757 BCEPekahiah son of Menahem reigned as king of Israel
3168–3184757/6–741/40 BCEJotham son of Uzziah reigned as king of Judah
3167–3188 AM758–737 BCEPekah son of Remaliah reigned as king of Israel
3184–3200 AM741/40–725 BCEAhaz son of Jotham reigned as king of Judah
3188–3206 AM737–719 BCEHoshea son of Elah reigned as king of Israel
3200–3229 AM725–696 BCEHezekiah son of Ahaz reigned as king of Judah
3206 AM719 BCENorthern kingdom of Israel fell to Assyria
3229–3284 AM696–641 BCEManasseh son of Hezekiah reigned as king of Judah
3284–3286 AM641–639 BCEAmon son of Manasseh reigned as king of Judah
3286–3317 AM639–608 BCEJosiah son of Amon reigned as king of Judah
3317 AM608 BCEJehoahaz son of Josiah reigned as king of Judah
3317–3327 AM608–598 BCEJehoiakim son of Josiah reigned as king of Judah
3327 AM598–597 BCEJehoiachin (Jeconiah, Coniah) son of Jehoiakim reigned as king of Judah
3327–3338 AM597–587 BCEZedekiah (Mattaniah) son of Josiah reigned as king of Judah
3338 AM587 BCEKingdom of Judah fell to Babylon. The destruction of the First Temple of Jerusalem. The start of the Babylonian Exile.
3386 AM539 BCEThe Babylonian Empire falls to the Persians, led by King Cyrus.Ezra 1
3387 AM538 BCEEnd of the Babylonian Exile, as King Cyrus the Great of Persia frees the Jews from exile, in the first year of his reign over Babylon.Ezra 1

Jewish computation[edit source | edit]

The Jewish calendar's reference point is traditionally considered to be about one year before the creation of the world.

The current Hebrew calendar year numbering system, which counts years from the creation, has been in use for more than 1000 years.[10] The year numbering system was adopted sometime before 3925 Anno Mundi (165 CE), and based on the calculation of Rabbi Yose ben Halafta during about 160 CE in the book Seder Olam Rabbah.[11]

The year numbers are based on the computations of dates and periods found in the Hebrew Bible. In Jewish tradition, "Year 1" is considered to have begun on the 25 of Elul, 6 days before the beginning of "Year 2" on the first of Tishrei, when Adam was created. The new moon of its first month (Tishrei) is designated molad tohu (the mean new moon of chaos or nothing). By Halafta's calculation Adam was created during the year 3761 BCE.[12] However, Seder Olam Rabbah treats the creation of Adam as the beginning of "Year Zero". This results in a two year discrepancy between the years given in Seder Olam Rabbah and the Jewish year used now. For example, Seder Olam Rabbah gives the year of the Exodus from Egypt as 2448 AM; but, according to the current system, the year would be 2450 AM.

Despite the computations by Yose ben Halafta, confusion persisted for a long time as to how the calculations should be applied.[13] During 1000, for example, the Muslim chronologist al-Biruni noted that three different epochs were used by various Jewish communities being one, two, or three years later than the modern epoch.[14] The epoch seems to have been settled by 1178, when Maimonides, in his work Mishneh Torah, described all of the modern rules of the Hebrew calendar, including the modern epochal year. His work has been accepted by Jews as definitive, though it does not correspond to the scientific calculations. For example, the Jewish year for the destruction of the First Temple has traditionally been given as 3338 AM or 421 BCE. This differs from the modern scientific year, which is usually expressed using the Gregorian calendar as 587 BCE. The scientific date takes into account evidence from the ancient Babylonian calendar and its astronomical observations. In this and related cases, a difference between the traditional Jewish year and a scientific date in a Gregorian year results from a disagreement about when the event happened — and not simply a difference between the Jewish and Gregorian calendars. (See the "Missing Years" in the Jewish Calendar.)

In Jewish thought the counting is usually considered to be to the creation of the world, as has been emphasized in many ancient texts dealing with creation chronology that the six days of creation till man are literal days — including the days before the creation of the sun and earth.[15][16] However, some understand these days metaphorically.[17]

The modern epoch year is set at 3761 BCE, taking into account that there is no year zero in the Julian year count.

See also[edit source | edit]

Sources[edit source | edit]

References[edit source | edit]

  1. ^ a b c Thomas L. Thompson, "The historicity of the patriarchal narratives" (Trinity Press, 2002) pp.14-15
  2. ^ Everett Jenkins, The creation: secular, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim perspectives
  3. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia: Biblical Chronology (WikiSource)
  4. ^ G.F. Hasel, "Genesis 5 and 11: Chronogenealogies in the Biblical History of Beginnings"
  5. ^ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ussher_chronology#cite_note-7
  6. ^ History and ideology in the Old Testament, by James Barr, fn.6, p.63
  7. ^ Judges 3:8
  8. ^ see e.g. The Jerusalem Chronology of the Israelite Monarchies, by Brad Aaronson (1989)
  9. ^ Wayne Sibley Towner, "Genesis", (Westminster John Knox, 2001) p.75
  10. ^ Maimonides (Times:Laws of 7th year, chapt 10): For instance this year is ... and which is also counted as 4936 to the creation... is a Shemita year."
  11. ^ p.107, Kantor. Note that the book Seder Olam Rabah has been continuously edited throughout the ages, and probably reached its current version around 806 CE according to the historian Leopold Zunz.
  12. ^ Genesis 2:7
  13. ^ Leopold Zunz On Time and Literature Zur Geschichte und Literatur opening chapter.
  14. ^ See The Remaining Signs of Past Centuries.
  15. ^ e.g.Maimonides Guide to the Perplexed (chapt 25): For two reasons, however, we have not done so, and have not accepted the Eternity of the Universe.... [A] mere argument in favour of a certain theory is not sufficient reason for rejecting the literal meaning of a Biblical text, and explaining it figuratively, when the opposite theory [of literalism] can be supported by an equally good argument. SacredTexts.com
  16. ^ e.g.Ramban on Genesis 1:3, And there was light: ...You should know that the "days" mentioned in the account of Creation, concerning the creating of heaven and earth, were real days, made up of hours and minutes, and there were six of them, like the [regular] six days of the work[week], in accordance with the simple understanding of the verse. (Translator's footnote:) Although there was no sun or moon for the first three days, so "day" cycles as we know them today did not exist then, nevertheless the six days of creation were six periods of twenty-four hours each. The Torah: with Ramban's commentary translated, annotated, and elucidated. Translated by Rabbi Yaakov Binder in collaboration with Rabbi Yoseph Kamenetsky. Artscroll Mesorah Publications, Ltd.
  17. ^ Rabbi A. Kook (Orot Hakodesh Book 2 Chapt 537): If these six days were simply six days, why then would they be called "The secrets of creation" and why would it be forbidden to learn them until correctly prepared... The theory of evolution is increasingly conquering the world at this time, and, more so than all other philosophical theories, conforms to the kabbalistic secrets of the world. Evolution, which proceeds on a path of ascendancy, provides an optimistic foundation for the world. How is it possible to despair at a time when we see that everything evolves and ascends? ... My Jewish Learning

External links[edit source | edit]