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For a historical look at the bible see The Bible and history. For the writing of the various books of the Bible, see Dating the Bible. For material on the Christian New Testament, see Chronology of Jesus and Timeline of Christianity.

Biblical chronology is the elaborate system of generations, reign-periods, and other means by which the narrative passages of the Hebrew Bible measure the passage of time and thus give a chronological framework to biblical history.

The narrative history begins with the creation and continues through the age of the patriarchy, the events of Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy through the history of ancient Israel and Judah, the Babylonian captivity down to the establishment of the Second Temple in 516 BCE.

It is unclear from what point this chronology can be taken to correspond to historical events. Some scholars have traditionally attempted to identify a date of the Exodus, suggesting historicity at least from the time of Moses, while mainstream biblical scholarship is more reserved about the historicity of any events predating the scope of the Books of Kings, beginning in the 10th century BCE. This leaves a space of several centuries, between the Exodus and the establishment of the United Monarchy, largely corresponding to the period of the Bronze Age collapse in the region, and depending on the author including parts of the Late Bronze Age, of dubious historical, or proto-historical, status.

Dating of Creation

Many attempts have been made to place Biblical chronology into historical time.

The passage of time in the earlier passages of Genesis is indicated not by dates but by counts of generations: Adam lives so many years, fathers a son, and dies 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 from the creation of Adam. However, the Septuagint, Samaritan, Masoretic and other textual variants of the Hebrew Bible give differing ages.

In later passages the passage of years is indicated by numbers 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 through inter-relationships of the reigns of kings (e.g., king A of Israel comes to the throne in the Xth year of king B of Judah and rules Z number of years, for example in 1 Kings 15:25-28).

Jewish computation

Creation of Light Detail 2

The Jewish calendar's reference point is traditionally held 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 over 1000 years.[1] The year numbering system was adopted sometime before 3925 AM (165 CE), and based on the calculation of Rabbi Yose ben Halafta in about 160 CE in the Seder Olam Rabbah.[2]

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 called molad tohu (the mean new moon of chaos or nothing). By Halafta's calculation first humans were created in the year 3761 BCE.[3] 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 today. 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.[4] In 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.[5] 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.)

Although in popular Jewish thought the counting is to the creation of the world, it had been emphasized in many ancient texts dealing with creation chronology [6] that the six days of creation till man are metaphoric days - especially the days before the creation of the sun and earth[7].

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

Other computations

Many scholars have over the centuries attempted to calculate the date of Creation, and their results show significant divergence. These include the following:[8]

No. Chronologist BCE Year
1 J. Africanus 5501
2 G. Syncellus 5492
3 J. Jackson 5426
4 W. Hales 5411
5 Eusebius 5199
6 M. Scotus 4192
7 L. Condomanus 4141
8 T. Lydiat 4103
9 M. Maestlinus 4079
10 J. Ricciolus 4062
11 J. Salianus 4053
12 H. Spondanus 4051
13 M. Anstey 4042
14 W. Lange 4041
15 E. Reinholt 4021
16 J. Cappellus 4005
17 J. Ussher 4004
18 E. Greswell 4004
19 F. Jones 4004
20 E. Faulstich 4001
21 D. Petavius 3983
22 F. Klassen 3975
23 Becke 3974
24 Krentzeim 3971
25 W. Dolen 3971
26 E. Reusnerus 3970
27 J. Claverius 3968
28 C. Longomontanus 3966
29 P. Melanchthon 3964
30 J. Haynlinus 3963
31 A. Salmeron 3958
32 J. Scaliger 3949
33 M. Beroaldus 3927
34 A. Helwigius 3836

Medieval historian Bede dated creation to 18 March 3952 BCE. The Chronicon of Eusebius and Jerome dated creation to the year of 5199 BCE.[9][10] Earlier editions of the Roman Martyrology for Christmas Day used this date,[11] as did the Irish Annals of the Four Masters.[12] The chronologists who date Creation in the top range of the scale base their dating on the Septuagint.

The objectivity of some scholars has been questioned. For example, J. Ussher's dating of Creation to 4004 BCE is believed to have been carried out from the presupposition that the Old Testament was the prelude to the New, and that the Biblical chronology therefore prefigured Christ. Some regard Ussher as having constructed his chronology and dating of Creation to 4004 BCE so that the birth of Jesus would be exactly 4000 AM, it being accepted that Jesus was actually born in 4 BCE. James Ussher, writing in 1654, dated Creation to 23 October 4004 BCE according to the Julian calendar, or 21 September 4004 BCE in the Gregorian calendar.[13]

Creation to Abraham

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 patriarchs' ages at death. 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 Vaticanus; dates are Anno Mundi, or AM, meaning from the Creation):[14]

Period Masoretic
Alexandrinus
Vaticanus
Samaritan
Note
Year of the Flood 1656 AM 2262 AM 2242 AM 1307 AM The Masoretic, Alexandrinus and Samaritan chronologies puts 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 Abraham 292 years 1072 years 1172 years 942 years The year which the Flood takes up appears to be excluded from the count of the chronology: Noah's son Shem is born in his 500th year, the Flood begins in his 600th, and he leaves the Ark a little more than a year later; yet we are told that Shem, who should be 102 in the second year after the Flood, is only 100. This is presumably because the world has been "deconstructed" (returned to the state of tohu wabohu, chaos) and time does not exist for this period.[15]
Year of Abraham's birth 1948 AM 3334 AM 3414 AM 2249 AM The 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.

Creation to the Flood

Biblical dating commences with Creation, which is numbered year 0, and in Jewish tradition is immediately followed by year 1. The period to the Flood is derived using the genealogical table of the ten patriarchs listed in Genesis 5, and 7:6, called 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. J. Ussher agrees with the dating until the birth of Abraham, which he argues took place when Terah was 130, and not 70 as is direct reading of Genesis 11:26, thus adding 60 years to his chronology until the Egyptian experience.[16] However, according to the Samaritan texts the period is 1307 years, and according to the Septuagint it is 2242 years.[17] There are no non-biblical sources which can assist in the dating.

The Jewish AM dates given below are those traditionally used by Rabbinic Judaism and found in Seder Olam Rabbah. The Septuagint AM dates are derived from the Septuagint. The Gregorian date of Creation is generally given as 3761 BCE, based on the Jewish reckoning.[18] However, a year of 3924 BCE is sometimes given. The deviation of about 163 years is explained in the article the "Missing Years" in the Jewish Calendar.

Jewish
Date (AM)
Septuagint
Date[1]
Event Reference
0 AM 0 AM The universe is created, including Adam and Eve. Genesis 1:1 ff
130 AM 230 AM Seth, son of Adam with Eve, born Genesis 5:3
235 AM 435 AM Enosh, son of Seth, born Genesis 5:6
325 AM 625 AM Kenan, son of Enosh, born Genesis 5:9
395 AM 795 AM Mahalalel, son of Kenan, born Genesis 5:12
460 AM 960 AM Jared, son of Mahalalel, born Genesis 5:15
622 AM 1122 AM Enoch, son of Jared, born Genesis 5:18
687 AM 1287 AM Methuselah, son of Enoch, born Genesis 5:21
874 AM 1454 AM Lamech, son of Methusaleh, born Genesis 5:25
930 AM 930 AM Adam dies Genesis 5:5
1042 AM 1142 AM Seth dies Genesis 5:8
1052 AM 1487 AM Enoch "walks with God" Genesis 5:23-24
1056 AM 1642 AM Noah, son of Lamech, born Genesis 5:28-29
1140 AM 1340 AM Enosh dies Genesis 5:11
1235 AM 1535 AM Kenan dies Genesis 5:14
1290 AM 1690 AM Mahalalel dies Genesis 5:17
1422 AM 1922 AM Jared dies Genesis 5:20
1556 AM 2142 AM Shem, son of Noah, born Genesis 5:32
1651 AM 2207 AM Lamech dies Genesis 5:31
1656 AM 2241 AM Methusaleh dies, the year of the Flood Genesis 5:27
1656 AM 2241 AM On the seventeenth day of the second month, the Flood begins. Genesis 7:11
1656 AM 2241 AM On the seventeenth day of the seventh month, Noah's Ark lands on "mountains of Ararat" Genesis 8:4
1657 AM 2242 AM On the twenty-seventh day of the second month, Noah and his family exit the ark Genesis 8:13-14

Flood to Babylon

Date
(AM)
Date
(BCE)
Event Reference

The Patriarchs

1658 AM 2266 BCE Arpachshad, son of Shem, born Genesis 11:10
1693 AM 2231 BCE Shelah, son of Arpachshad, born Genesis 11:12
1723 AM 2201 BCE Eber, son of Shelah, born Genesis 11:14
1757 AM 2167 BCE Peleg, son of Eber, born and the division of tongues Genesis 11:16
1787 AM 2137 BCE Reu, son of Peleg, born Genesis 11:18
1819 AM 2105 BCE Serug, son of Reu, born Genesis 11:20
1849 AM 2075 BCE Nahor, son of Serug, born Genesis 11:22
1878 AM 2046 BCE Terah, son of Nahor, born Genesis 11:24
1948 AM 1976 BCE Abram, son of Terah, born Genesis 11:26. According to J. Ussher

Terah was 130 when Abram was born, and not 70.[19] based on 11:32 and 12:4.

1958 AM 1966 BCE Sarai is born Genesis 17:17
1996 AM 1928 BCE Peleg dies Genesis 11:19
1996 AM 1928 BCE The Tower of Babel was destroyed Genesis 10:25
1997 AM 1927 BCE Nahor dies Genesis 11:25
2026 AM 1898 BCE Reu dies Genesis 11:21
2034 AM 1890 BCE Ishmael, son of Abram with Sarai's handmaiden, Hagar, born Genesis 16:16
2047 AM 1877 BCE Abram and Sarai are renamed Abraham and Sarah by God.
Abraham is circumcised.
Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed
Genesis 17:10
2048 AM 1876 BCE Isaac, son of Abraham with Sarah, born Genesis 21:5
2049 AM 1875 BCE Serug dies Genesis 11:23
2083 AM 1841 BCE Terah dies Genesis 11:32
2085 AM 1839 BCE Sarah dies Genesis 23:1
2096 AM 1828 BCE Arpachshad dies Genesis 11:13
2108 AM 1816 BCE Jacob and Esau, sons of Isaac with Rebekah, born Genesis 25:26
2123 AM 1801 BCE Abraham dies Genesis 25:7
<2126 AM 1798 BCE Shelah dies Genesis 11:15
2158 AM 1766 BCE Shem dies Genesis 11:11
2171 AM 1753 BCE Ishmael dies Genesis 25:17
2187 AM 1737 BCE Eber dies Genesis 11:17
2199 AM 1725 BCE Joseph, son of Jacob with Rachel, born Genesis 41:46
2216 AM 1708 BCE Joseph is sold by his brothers Genesis 37:2
2227 AM 1697 BCE Joseph interprets the dreams of the butler and the baker while in prison Genesis 41:1
2228 AM 1696 BCE Isaac dies Genesis 35:28
2229 AM 1695 BCE Joseph is elevated to Pharaoh's second Genesis 41:46
2238 AM 1686 BCE Jacob moves 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
2245 AM 1679 BCE Jacob dies Genesis 47:28
2309 AM 1615 BCE Joseph dies Genesis 50:26

Nationhood

2364 AM Aaron, son of Amram with Jochebed, born Exodus 7:7
2367 AM Moses, son of Amram with Jochebed, born Exodus 7:7
2448 AM 1477 BCE? The Israelites leave in a mass exodus from Egypt. Genesis 15:13,
see also 1 Kings 6:1
2487 AM Moses and Aaron die Deuteronony 34:7
2488 AM The Israelites enter Canaan Joshua 4:19
2448–2884 AM Period of Joshua, Judges and Saul, first King of Israel 1 Kings 6:1
2 Samuel 5:4

The Kings

Dates without biblical references[20]

Jewish
Date (AM)
Date
(BCE)
Event Reference
2853 AM 1071 BCE Jesse begets David 2 Samuel 5:4
2883–2923 AM 1041–1001 BCE David reigns as king of Israel 1 Kings 2:11 - reigns for 40 years
2890 AM 1034 BCE David moves his capitol from Hebron to Jerusalem 1 Kings 2:11
2923–2963 AM 1001–961 BCE Solomon reigns as king of Israel 1 Kings 26:42
2927 AM 997 BCE Foundation of Temple laid in the 4th year of Solomon's reign
480th year after the Exodus
1 Kings 6:1
2963 AM 961 BCE Israel splits into two rival kingdoms: Israel (in the north) and Judah (in the south) 1 Kings 12
2964–2981 AM 961–944/3 BCE Rehoboam son of Solomon reigns as king of Judah
2964–2986 AM 961/60–939 BCE Jeroboam I son of Nebat reigns as king of Israel
2981–2984 AM 944/3–941 BCE Abijam son of Rehoboam reigns as king of Judah
2984–3025 AM 941–900 BCE Asa son of Abijam reigns as king of Judah
2986–2987 AM 939–938 BCE Nadab son of Jeroboam I reigns as king of Israel
2987–3010 AM 938–915 BCE Baasha reigns as king of Israel
3010–3011 AM 915–914 BCE Elah son of Baasha reigns as king of Israel
3011 AM 914 BCE Zimri reigns as king of Israel
3011–3012 AM 914–913 BCE Tibni reigns as king of Israel
3011–3022 AM 913–903 BCE Omri reigns as king of Israel
3022–3042 AM 903–883/2 BCE Ahab son of Omri reigns as king of Israel
3025–3050 AM 900–875 BCE Jehoshaphat son of Asa reigns as king of Judah
3042–3043 AM 883/2–882/1 BCE Ahaziah son of Ahab reigns as king of Israel
3047–3054 AM 878/7–871/70 BCE Jehoroam (Joram) son of Jehoshaphat reigns as king of Judah
3043–3054 AM 875–871/70 BCE Joram (Jehoram) son of Ahab reigns as king of Israel
3054–3055 AM 871/70–870 BCE Ahaziah son of Jehoram reigns as king of Judah
3055–3061 AM 870–864 BCE Athaliah wife of Jehoram rules over Judah
3054–3084 AM 871/70–841 BCE Jehu son of Nimshi reigns as king of Israel
3061–3101 AM 864–824 BCE Joash (Jehoash) son of Ahaziah reigns as king of Judah
3084–3100 AM 841–825/4 BCE Jehoahaz son of Jehu reigns as king of Israel
3098–3114 AM 827/6–811 BCE Jehoash (Joash) son of Jehoahaz reigns as king of Israel
3100–3129 AM 825–796 BCE Amaziah son of Joash reigns as king of Judah
3103–3154 AM 822–771/70 BCE Jeroboam II son of Jehoash reigns as king of Israel
3117–3168 AM 808–757/6 BCE Uzziah (Azariah) son of Amaziah reigns as king of Judah
3154–3155 AM 771/70–770 BCE Zechariah son of Jeroboam II reigns as king of Israel
3155–3155 AM 770 BCE Shallum reigns as king of Israel
3155–3166 AM 770–759 BCE Menahem son of Gadi reigns as king of Israel
3166–3168 AM 759–757 BCE Pekahiah son of Menahem reigns as king of Israel
3168–3184 757/6–741/40 BCE Jotham son of Uzziah reigns as king of Judah
3167–3188 AM 758–737 BCE Pekah son of Remaliah reigns as king of Israel
3184–3200 AM 741/40–725 BCE Ahaz son of Jotham reigns as king of Judah
3188–3206 AM 737–719 BCE Hoshea son of Elah reigns as king of Israel
3200–3229 AM 725–696 BCE Hezekiah son of Ahaz reigns as king of Judah
3206 AM 719 BCE Northern kingdom of Israel falls to Assyria
3229–3284 AM 696–641 BCE Manasseh son of Hezekiah reigns as king of Judah
3284–3286 AM 641–639 BCE Amon son of Manasseh reigns as king of Judah
3286–3317 AM 639–608 BCE Josiah son of Amon reigns as king of Judah
3317 AM 608 BCE Jehoahaz son of Josiah reigns as king of Judah
3317–3327 AM 608–598 BCE Jehoiakim son of Josiah reigns as king of Judah
3327 AM 598–597 BCE Jehoiachin (Jeconiah, Coniah) son of Jehoiakim reigns as king of Judah
3327–3338 AM 597–587 BCE Zedekiah (Mattaniah) son of Josiah reigns as king of Judah
3338 AM 587 BCE Kingdom of Judah falls to Babylon

Second temple period

See also

Sources

References

  1. 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."
  2. 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.
  3. Genesis 2:7
  4. Leopold Zunz On Time and Literature Zur Geschichte und Literatur opening chapter.
  5. See The Remaining Signs of Past Centuries.
  6. e.g.Maimonides Guide to the Perplexed (chapt 25): We do not reject the Eternity of the Universe, because certain passages in Scripture confirm the Creation; for such passages are not more numerous than those in which God is represented as a corporeal being; nor is it impossible or difficult to find for them a suitable interpretation. We might have explained them in the same manner as we did in respect to the Incorporeality of God. We should perhaps have had an easier task in showing that the Scriptural passages referred to are in harmony with the theory of the Eternity of the Universe if we accepted the latter... but... If we were to accept the Eternity of the Universe as taught by Aristotle, that everything in the Universe is the result of fixed laws, that Nature does not change, and that there is nothing supernatural, we should necessarily be in opposition to the foundation of our religion... SacredTexts.com
  7. 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
  8. Floyd Nolen Jones, The Chronology of the Old Testament, 16th ed., p. 26
  9. The Penn Commentary on Piers Plowman by Andrew Galloway page 69
  10. Fourth Century (see 327 Eusebius of Caesarea)
  11. Wikisource-logo.svg Howlett, J.A. (1913). "Biblical Chronology". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/Biblical_Chronology. 
  12. from 5194 A.M. in the Annals at CELTUniversity College Cork's Corpus of Electronic Texts project has the full text of the annals online, both in the original Irish and in O'Donovan's translation
  13. Annales veteris testamenti, a prima mundi origine deducti ("Annals of the Old Testament, deduced from the first origins of the world") (1650); and Annalium pars postierior (1654)
  14. Data from G.F. Hasel, "Genesis 5 and 11: Chronogenealogies in the Biblical History of Beginnings"
  15. Philippe Guillaume, "Tracing the Origin of the Sabbatical Calendar in the Priestly Narrative (Genesis 1 to Joshua 5)" JHS (vol.5 art.13), pp.10-13
  16. The Chronology Of The Old Testament (2005) by Floyd Nolen Jones. ISBN 9780890514160. p 278.
  17. Catholic Encyclopedia: Biblical Chronology
  18. Jenkins, Everett (2002). The Creation: Secular, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant and Muslim Perspectives Analyzed. McFarland & Co. p. 330. ISBN 978-0786410422. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=L8WP0efW2F4C&pg=RA2-PA330&dq=seder+olam+rabbah+dates+3760&ei=HkdfSJu_NaDKjgGpkZSHDA&client=firefox-a&sig=9SYtAuVThwQYWtdUkbLRCnzCgCE. 
  19. The Chronology Of The Old Testament. (2005) by Floyd Nolen Jones. ISBN 9780890514160. p 295.
  20. The Jerusalem Chronology of the Israelite Monarchies, by Brad Aaronson (1989)

External links

Tabular summaries of biblical chronologies

Template:Chronology

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