Monday, February 14, 2011

A "typical" Bible-based Timeline, reflective of Rohl's recent proposals

Bible chronology and its integration with ancient history is (and has long been) a contentious matter, but it is one that we must address on a reasonable basis, if we are to be taken seriously.

An excellent place to begin is with the rising impact of David Rohl's work in the face of the largely skeptical establishment. As the Times of London reports:

 . . . conventional academic wisdom holds that the OT is little better than a fairy story because no archeological evidence for it has been found. On the contrary, says Rohl. There's evidence galore, and all sorts of specialists have been staring at it for decades. The mistake, he argues, is that the ancient world has been dated wrongly. Take Joshua and his Israelite army destroying the city of Jericho. Jericho's tumbled walls are still there, along with storage jars, the grain inside burnt to a cinder, consistent with Joshua's infamous torching of the city. The glitch is that orthodox chronology would place Joshua at the end of the late Bronze Age, when no such fortified cities were built. Hence, either Joshua was born too late to have had anything to do with Jericho, or he never existed. Everyone's problem, of course, is that there were no calendars BC, only tantalisingly incomplete king lists and dynastic records. All we have, then, are evidence-based interpretations - and ferocious arguments . . . .

[T]he pendulum of serious opinion has begun to swing Rohl's way. Dr Ronald Wallenfels, for example, the curator of New York's Metropolitan Museum, and an Assyrian specialist, says there's plenty of flexibility in the ancient Assyrian dates. Given that all chronologies are interdependent, the same flexibility would inevitably apply to the Egyptian time line. Just recently, too, one of Rohl's peers, an American Egyptologist, cold-canvassed a number of other Egyptologists with a single question: if you were to place the Israelite sojourn and exodus in any period in history, what would it be? The majority picked the middle Bronze Age, concurring with Rohl . . . . A nonbeliever, Rohl has no religious mission to vindicate the Old Testament. 'I don't doubt that I've got some of the details of this historical reconstruction wrong,' he says, 'but I find the big picture so convincing. If I am wrong, so be it - but let's see the evidence, not the dogma's. ["How myth became history," October 13, 2002.]

A recent review of the archeological and textual evidence on the battle of Jericho -- that contrasts the now traditional dating based on the "missing" Cypriot pottery highlighted by Kathleen Kenyon in the 1950's with the evidence of Canaanite pottery (including apparent local imitations of the said imported Cypriot ware that had been found by John Garstang in the 1930's . . . ) --  is thus quite interesting:

In addition, there is a fair body of evidence providing archaeological and wider historical support for the Biblical story line, e.g. here:

And, here:

Also, here:

For the New Testament, it would be helpful to glance at summaries of archaeological evidences here, here, and here. A useful audio discussion by Moreland is here. A lecture by  Dr Peter Williams, here, reflects on the credibility of the Gospels as recorded eyewitness testimony:

 Similarly, the Acts, which documents the life of the church's crucial first generation, c.30 - 62 AD, is well supported by evidences, cf. here and here. This video gives a helpful, fairly short summary:

This J P Moreland video lecture on the case for Jesus is also well worth watching: 

So, we would be well advised to reflect seriously and soberly on the timeline implied or reconstructable from the Bible, once we have some anchor points such as the reign of Solomon for the OT, and the time when Gallio [elder brother of Seneca] was proconsul  in Greece for the New Testament. 

The classic Bible timeline, of course, is that of Bishop Ussher, which is now often simply dismissed, especially where the dates relate to the timeline of origins.  It is however, a notable early effort.  (Another, more detailed timeline is here. A yet more detailed source is here, but unfortunately incorporates events from Mormon literature; which are deeply questionable.)

Per fair use, here is an outline in diagram form:

A Bible History outline (Source: Goldsworthy and IVP)

 The following more detailed table is adapted (under fair use, the intellectual debt being hereby acknowledged) from a useful table by, with various adjustments, additional information and links added:

Table T.1: A suggested model for a Bible-based Chronology (Cf a discussion of strengths and weaknesses of modern geo-chronology here a short Bible-related archaeology survey here and a FAQ here; also. cf the Life Application Study Bible sampler with graphical timeline and gospels harmony, here):




Creation (a) 5315 [calc. per LXX. (NB: Josephus, Antiquities Bk I, has 3833 y, from Creation to the death of Isaac, implying about 5500 BC.) ]

(b) [Or, c. 4000
 per Ussher calculation on Masoretic text of OT]

(c) [Or, unknown, per unspecified, or unknown variables.]
[Ussher's date is c. 4000 BC, but the Septuagint date adds another 1,000 years because there are some additional listed patriarchs. (Cf. here on Masoretic and Septuagint.) In addition, Josephus' Antiquities, Bk I suggests ~ 5500 BC, adding 3800 y to a reasonable date for Isaac's demise. Against Apion [97 AD], in the opening words of  Bk I, rounds this to "[t]hose Antiquities contain the history of five thousand years." This variability has suggested to several theologians, such as Francis Schaeffer, that the lists show the overall flow and branching of the genealogies, rather than necessarily the direct, unbroken succession of father-son links; cf. as well genealogies of Jesus in the NT which do map on flow and branching. Young Earth Creationists tend to suggest an earth age of 6 - 10 thousand years on possible gaps in the genealogies, more or less following Ussher. Others (such as Schaeffer) have suggested upwards of 50,000 y as possible for Adam. Old Earth Creationist views -- there are several flavours, e.g. gap theories, progressive creation theories, and theistic evolutionary theories -- try to fit the Bible to generally accepted geochronology. There are also recent suggestions of ways in which under relativistic cosmologies and models, a cosmos of 15 BY is compatible with a timeline on earth of 6 - 10 thousand years, e.g. Humphreys "in no time at all model" 1, 2, 3. Cf. Machen's Bible History here, for a bird's eye overview of the Bible's story line.]
First people [date uncertain]

Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, Seth. [The first people in Genesis, the book of beginnings and foundations of the biblical worldview. Cf. how Paul addresses these themes in a skeptical pagan culture, in Acts 17:16 - 34.]
Flood [& aftermath to tower of Babel]
[date uncertain]

Noah: Shem, Ham, Japheth. [Nimrod, the Tower of Babel, the confusion of tongues and the scattering of the nations, leading to the creation of nationhood and government under God responsible to guard the civil peace of justice.] 
Septuagint Chronology
c. 3500-2500
Early Sumerians, Early Egyptians [i.e. LXX better fits conventional Egypt chronology]. Canaanites in Canaan, Conflicts between Sumer & Akkad, Egyptian pyramids built.
c. 2000 Amorites, Horites, Hittites, Egyptians trading freely with Mesopotamia. Egyptians make papyrus.
Abraham leaves Ur c. 2000-1900 12 and 13th Dynasty of Egypt. Ziggurat of Ur. Babylon becomes capital. [Genesis 14 is the first point of specific contact with archaeology and the reconstructed history of the Ancient Near East, and fits with about ~ 1800 BC. Alco cf. general discussion of archaeological support for the Bible here.]
1800 Hammurabi of Babylon in power. His code of law has been found.
1720 Hyksos invaders from Asia gain control of Egypt. Introduced horses & chariots.
Joseph in Egypt 1700 16 & 17 Dynasty. [There is a current debate on correlations of conventional Egyptian chronology and Biblical chronology, as David Rohl exemplifies. Cf. also a discussion of the historicity of the Exodus here. (A more radical challenge is found in these videos, and in articles here and here, with a suggested revised chronology here.)]
1600 Hittites conquer Babylon.
Israelite slavery begins 1570-1550 18 Dynasty. Egyptian Empire (New Kingdom) oppressed all Semitic people living in Nile Delta.

Hyksos rulers driven out of Egypt.

Thutmose lll rules Egypt. Empire reaches its height.
Birth of Moses 1525
Exodus from Egypt 1440 The Exodus began 480 years before Solomon began to build the Temple (l Kings 6:1). [Pentateuch -- Gen, Exod, Lev, Num, Deut -- composed, though perhaps Genesis is in key parts based on clay tablet chronicles of the patriarchs up to Adam.]
Conquest of Canaan 1400 Shang Dynasty flourishes in China. [Joshua. Cf. Miller's discussion on the issue of conquest and the fate of the Amorites.]
Period of Judges 1380



Assyria strong for a time but didn’t directly touch Palestine.

Colossi built by Rameses ll

Ramses lll rules Egypt. Trojan War.
Saul 1043-1011
 [Samuel, Books: 1 Sam and Judges]
David 1011-971  [Many Psalms written. Note the significance of the House of David inscription recovered at Dan in 1994]
Solomon 971-930
Assyria rising to power again. [Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon.]
Divided Kingdom 931
Jehu of Israel pays tribute to Assyria 825
Assyrian empire 824-625 BC. Prevalent language is Aramaic. [Writing prophets after about this time. Contents of I, II Chronicles  and I,  II Kings gradually composed.]
City of Rome founded by Romulus who became its first king. [Traditional time, used to date Roman history.]
Fall of Samaria 722
Assyrian captivity of Northern Kingdom (Israel). [Book of Isaiah. Note the significance of prophecy in Isa 52 - 53 c. 700 BC, fulfilled to the letter through the gospel as recorded in the AD 55 1 Cor 15:1 - 11 and tracing to the church's "official" testimony c. 35 - 38 AD.]
Assyria invades Judah 701  [Assyrian king boasts of how he caged Hezekiah in Jerusalem like a bird. Implication: as the Bible reports, the siege failed, credited to the power of God. Occasion of building Hezekiah's tunnel, which has a Hebrew inscription
recovered in C19.]
Fall of Assyria. Babylon gains control of empire. Nebuchadnezzar leads, first as general, then as king. [General time of Jeremiah.]
Jehoiakim 609
Nebuchadnezzar takes first captives from Jerusalem.
Babylonian Captivity 606-536
First group from Judah taken to Babylon.
Jehoiachin 597
Jerusalem captured by Babylon, more captives taken.
Zedekiah blinded 590/89
On 9 Tamuz [9th of Av], Jerusalem is captured. Zedekiah is taken to Nebuchadnezzar in Riblah and blinded. [General time of Daniel, Daniel written over some decades.]
Daniel [after two years in the "king's College" in Babylon] interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams [saving the guild of magi from mass execution at the hands of an angry king].
Fall of Jerusalem 589 - 6
Babylon captures Jerusalem. It is burned and plundered. Temple is destroyed. Gedaliah is appointed governor. Gedaliah is assassinated. Jeremiah is taken to Egypt with the refugees.
Conquest of Tyre. Many Jewish refugees taken to Bavel. Astyages becomes king of Media.
Nebuchadnezzar conquers Egypt.
Nebuchadnezzar dies. Exiled king Jehoichin released from prison.
Era of Evil-Merodach lasts 22 years. Jews are honored and favored.
Nirgal Sharetzar (Neriglasser) son-in-law of Nebuchadnezzar.
Nabunaid (also calls himself Nebucchadnezzar) adopts Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson, Belshazzar, and grants him royal powers.
 End of neo-Babylonian empire, rise of Persia

Daniel In Lion’s Den


Belshazzar reigns [as co-ruler under Nabonidus, who left him in charge of Babylon; hence appointment of Daniel as only third ruler when he interpreted the writing on the wall].
Belshazzar killed [when Babylon is captured by the Medes and Persians]. Nabunaid [= Nabonidus] captured [on his return]. Cyrus appoints Darius the Mede as acting king of the Chaldeans. He rules for less than one year. [Persia rises to power, the second kingdom in Nebuchadnezzar's dream.]

 Persia, end of 70 years capttivity
Persia gains control. Cyrus issues proclamation for Jews to return to their homelands. Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel.
Rebuild Temple 536
Samaritans and other enemies conspiring against Judah. First group returned from Babylon to Judah.

Cambyses (Ahasuerus) appointed coregent by his father Cyrus. Temple building stopped. Cyrus now also called Artaxerxes (Emperor) revokes proclamation.
Cyrus dies. Cambyses becomes sole emperor.
Queen Esther
Ahasuerus (Cambyses) conquers Egypt. He rules from India to Ethiopia.

Confucius lives in China. Buddha lives in India. Socrates lives in Greece. [That is, the three are viewed as near-contemporaries.]
 Haman falls, Jews are saved 523/22
Purim. [Time of book of  Esther.]
Cambyses dies. Persian empire revolts.
Darius I.
Building Resumed 520/19
Haggai, Zechariah. [Time of post exilic prophets. NB: Survey of minor prophets, here]
Temple Completed 516
Re-building of Jerusalem wall is begun.
Ezra 515/14
Darius takes Thrace and Macedon.
Darius I dies.
Preparing For Return 486/85
Ezra travels to Babylon to organize the exiles.
Mixed Marriages 479/78
Mixed marriages are dissolved.
Enemies burn Jerusalem’s walls 466/65
Darius’ son Artaxerxes occupies Athens in 480 but then is defeated twice by the Greeks and loses 1/3 of his ships before he dies in 465.
Ezra Restores Worship 458
Second group returns under Ezra. [NB: It is often suggested that Ezra, a great teacher of the law, compiled the bulk of the texts of the OT as one combined document.]
All Asia Minor was granted freedom from Persian control.

Walls [of Jerusalem] Re-built

Becomes governor. [Cf Nehemiah and Ezra]
Festive dedication of Jerusalem walls [leading to repentance and revival as the Law is publicly read and explained by Ezra and assistants, ending in renewal of covenant under God and national reformation, forever marking the end of falling into idolatry in Israel].
Malachi, Last Prophet 445-432
Restoration of Judah. [The 400 silent years ensue.]
Darius II (Nothan).
Artaxerxes II (Mnemon).
Olympic games began. [Socrates put to death in Athens 399 BC.]
Plato and Aristotle. Alexander the Great is educated by Aristotle.
Artaxerxes III (Ochus). Greece’s power rising.
Final temple restoration completed by Shimon Hatzadik (Simon "The Just").
Darius III (Codomanus).
Alexander the Great defeats Persians. Grecian empire is divided into 3 main parts [under his generals, after his death. The 4th part was only temporarily under Greek rule, reverting to Persian/Parthian control].
Ptolemy Soter conquers Jerusalem.
Greek domination of Jewish life starts in Elam (Media). Spreads all over the Jewish world within the next six years and lasts for 180 years.
Antifones conquers Jerusalem.
Ptolemy 1 reconquers Jerusalem.
Battle of Gaza. Ptolemy l (King of South or the Egyptian ruler no longer called pharaoh) and Selucus Nicanor (King of North or the Syrian empire) are in control of most of Alexander’s empire including Thrace, Asia Minor, Syria, Babylon, Media and on to India. Power lasted until 64 BC.
c. 300-100
Jews caught in power struggle between Syria and Egypt. Greek language was prominent. Old cities were renamed: Accho became Ptolemais; Bethshan became Scythopolis; Rabbah became Philadelphia.
Rome rapidly growing in power. Conquering toward north and west first. Temple of Diana in Ephesus. Greek philosophy prevalent.
Ptolemy (Philadelphus) 11 founded the Alexandrian Library. [According to traditions recorded in the Talmud, he] gathered 72 scholars and translated the Old Testament into Greek-- the Septuagint. [The general view is that it was done C3 - 2 BC.  This translation then became the "King James Version" of its day.] Six out of every seven quotes in the Gospels and Acts are direct quotes from the Septuagint rather than the original Hebrew.
Great Wall of China built.
Grecian-Syrian empire defeats Egypt.
Antiochus 1V forced the Samaritans to renounce their religion. Went on to Jerusalem setiing up a high priest favorable to Hellenistic program. He defiled the altar by offering swine. He outlawed Jewish ceremonies such as circumcision. He forbid observance of the Sabbath. He added the title "Epiphanes" to his name and declared himself to be Zeus forcing his subjects to worship himself and his idols.
Jews revolt against Syria under an elderly priest, Matthias Hasmoneas, living in Modein west of Jerusalem. The revolt was carried on by his son, Judas Maccabee. Samaria was conquered and Mt. Gerizim was destroyed.
Judas Maccabee re-took Jerusalem and the temple Mount. He cleansed the sanctuary and re-lit the lamps in the temple. Celebrated as Hanukkah or Feast of Dedication.
Beginning of Chashmonaim Era (103 years).
102-Mar 15,44
Julius Caesar.
Rome growing as a threat to Palestine.
Jerusalem falls to Rome under the Roman general, Pompey. Judea became a province of the Roman Empire.
Julius Caesar appointed Antipater over Judea.
40 -4
Antipater made his son, Phasaelus, governor in Jerusalem and made Herod the Great ruler of Galilee. Herod was then made King of Palestine by Rome’s authority.
Beginning of the Herodian Era (103 years).
Augustus Caesar born [Sept 23, 63 BC; posthumusly adopted by Julius Caesar, in his will]. Begins his rule (27 BC- AD 14) Contemporary with Mark Antony & Cleopatra. Reigned when Jesus was born.
Jerusalem was renovated into a city of marble. Herod built a combination palace and fort for himslef which he called the Upper Palace. Started to re-build the Temple [one part at a time, while it was still standing]. According to  a summary article "The Temple Mount was originally intended to be 1600 feet wide by 900 feet deep by 9 stories high with walls up to 16 feet deep, however it was never finished."
Birth of Christ
(NB: Cf. BLB Gospels Harmony)
4-6 BC Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots are major Jewish parties.
6 AD Augustus appoints Herod’s son, Archelaus, to rule Judea, Samaria and Idumea. Herod Antipas is tetrarh of Galilee and Peraea and Philip ruler of Trachoonnitis on Herod the Great’s death. Archelaus is removed from power in 6 AD because of immense cruelty and Judea is placed under a Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate.
14 Tiberius begins his reign (14-37) Lk 3:1 Jesus public ministry, resurrection & crucifixion [30 or 33].
Church Established, [on Jesus' death, burial and resurrection, ascension and sending the Spirit; cf.'s harmony of the resurrection narratives here, and the discussion of the timeline of the first Easter here. Wenham's Easter Enigma will repay a read as well.]

Acts 2
30 [or 33] -
10 yr governorship of Pontius Pilate ends [26 - 36].

[Notice, how until an inscription was discovered in 1961, it was skeptically assumed and confidently asserted by many scholars that the NT references to Pilate were legendary.  Given the equally confident and acid skepticism commonly encountered today, this bears noting, with many similar cases for both OT and NT.]
Church Spreads [& Saul of Tarsus converts on the Road to Damascus] Acts 8-9 31-37 Caligula becomes emperor (37-41) (Gaius "mad")

Birth of Josephus. [His Antiquities of the Jews (c. 94), Wars of the Jews (c. 75) and Against Apion (c. 97), are important extra-biblical historical works often referred to in biblical studies.]
39 Herod Antipas banished to Lyons, Gaul.
[Cornelius and other] Gentiles Converted Acts 10 40 Reign of Claudius. He conquers Britain. Herod Agrippa l appointed king and rules Judea and Samaria.
41 Claudius succeeds Caligula (41-54) Acts 11:28;8:2.
Persecution Acts 12 44 Agrippa l dies.
Paul’s Missionary Journey Begins Acts 13-14 c. 44 - 46 Aqueduct (Claudia) completed by Claudius in Rome. Herod Agrippa ll rules part of Palestine.
Council at Jerusalem Acts 15, [cf. Gal 1 - 2]

Galatians, composed c. 49/50

54 - 68 Reign of Nero.

c. 51 - 52
Antonius Felix appointed Procurator.
Junius Annaeus Gallio, elder brother of Seneca, proconsul in Achaea (Greece)
< 52 

  [Often dated at 49 AD.]
Claudius banished all Jews from Rome.
Paul’s Second Journey Acts 16

Ac18:12 - 18 Trial before Gallio in Corinth (pivot of Pauline chronology)

Third Miss Journey Acts 18

Paul in Caesarea Acts 24-25
c. 50-54


 c. 52

c. 54-58

c. 57 or 58

 Gallio proconsul in Achaea (per inscription at the Temple of Apollo, Delphi of an edict by Claudius) c. 51- 2

Three core Pauline epistles composed:  1 & 2 Cor, Rom

Paul imprisoned [in Jerusalem, transferred under guard to Caesarea, when an assassination plot is exposed]
Trials of Paul  

Paul sails for Rome Acts 27 [Often dated at 59 or 60]

57 - 59
Porcius Festus Procurator of Judea.
James leader of Jerusalem church,  writes epistle

Death of James

[Book of Acts]


Death of Festus before the death of James the Brother of Jesus.

[Acts (at least as the underlying draft) may have been written c. 61 - 62 as it does not deal with developments thereafter that would have been important, with Luke perhaps 59 - 61. Mark, used as a trusted primary source, would be c. 50 AD.]
Paul In Rome c. 60-62
Paul Released from Prison c. 63
64 City of Rome burned during reign of Nero. Nero’s persecution of christians begins. [Often dated at 64 AD, time of the great fire in Rome.]
Matt, Mk, Lk Written

1 & 2 Tim, Titus, Heb, 1&2 Pet, Jude
c 50/60 -70 Second Imprisonment [of Paul]
Paul & Peter Killed 65 -68
Reigns of Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian. Birth of Ignatius.
66 Beginning of great war between Romans & Jews.
68 Death of Nero. Galba, Otho, Vitellius emperors in same year.
69 Vespasian becomes sole emperor (69-79).
Jerusalem Destroyed 70 Titus later becomes emperor. Birth of Polycarp [Temple and city of Jerusalem captured by Romans, Temple burned.]
75 Colosseum built.
79 Mount Vesuvius erupts, buries Pompeii.
John, 1&2&3 John c 80-90  [Gospel of John, Epistles of John: I, II, III]
81 Domitian begins his rule (81-96) Took the title of Lord & God. John exiled to Patmos.
Revelation written 95 Nerva succeeds Domitian (96-98). [Book of Revelation]
98 Trajan becomes emperor. Roman empire reaches its greatest size.
Death of John 100 Birth of Justin Martyr.
98-117 Trajan. [General period of first writing church fathers, Clement of Rome (c. 96), Polycarp, Ignatius. Pliny the Younger's correspondence with Trajan about Christians in Bithynia and how they should be judged and punished.]
117-138 Hadrian.
138-161 Antoninus Pius. Peace prevailed for christians.
161-180 Marcus Aurelius took official action against christianity. He was responsible for death of Justin Martyr (AD 165).
303-305 Under Diocletian intense persecution of the church. Many churches were destroyed and Bibles burned.
313 Constantine reversed the persecution with his edict of Milan making christianity the [de facto] official religion of the Roman Empire.
476 Germans [sack Rome. End of Western Roman Empire.]



c. 1500 - 1800
Turks [capture Constantinople, ending the  Byzantine Empire (Eastern, Greek-speaking Roman Empire). Scholars flee west with many key manuscripts. On Islam, cf. here, here  and here.]
The Islamic invaders having been defeated after 800 years of war, the Spanish monarchs turn to other enterprises, and so Christopher Columbus, an Italian in service of Spain, sails West to find an alternative route to the spice lands. Discovers the Americas. (He hoped to fund a crusade to recapture the Holy Land from the Muslims.)
Vasco da Gama sails around the Cape of Good Hope to E Africa then onwards to India
Modern global world emerges, modern missionary era begins

c. 1500 -  1700

1543 - 1700

1700 - 1870

1859 -
Reformation era

Scientific revolution

Industrial revolutions

Darwin-Wallace theory of Evolution. (On origins science issues, cf. here)

1740 - 1900

1787 -
Era of evangelical awakenings, rise of Wesleyan movement, Whitefield led awakening in the American Colonies of Britain,  and of revival-based movements

Evangelical social reform movements, starting with that against the slave trade led by Wilberforce

1900 -

1960 -
Rise of modern pentecostal movement

Rise of Charismatic movement (protestant and Catholic) and Messianic Judaism

1870 - 1948



Rise of Zionist resettlement of Palestine/Judaea and Samaria, widely seen as a prophetic fulfillment

Foundation of modern Israel, under a UN Mandate of 1947 following the League of Nations mandates of the 1920's

 Israeli independence May 15, 1948: a nation founded in a day.

Next day, 5 Arab armies invade, vowing to wipe Israel out. Israel survives.

Recapture of Jerusalem (besieged and half-taken by Jordan in the War of Independence) during the 6- Day War, a renewal of the attempt to wipe Israel off the map, led by Nasser of Egypt