Since the Bible is a collection of books, it is necessary to determine when and why they were written. The 66 books were written over a period of time -- especially from the days of Moses through the days of the Apostle John. This would be a period from about 1500 BC to AD 100, or about 1600 years. However, the collections were scattered out through patches of historical situations.
Genealogies are used to tie the historical parts together. Other genealogies are used to verify the importance of historical figures. In places, things are dated from historic events, be it the death of a king or the construction of a building. The reader's ability to contextualize is often necessary in understanding a passage.
As much as possible this dating should be done within the bounds of the text. However, sometimes the expositor needs to reach out to extra-biblical material for context. One source close to the Bible is the group of books deemed extra-biblical as early as AD 90 when the Old Testament books were "officially" endorsed by the surviving Jewish authorities of the dispersed tribes. These books came to be known as the Apocrypha and they were subsequently accepted by part of the Christian community. Having a record of the intertestamental period helps fix the limits of the chronology of the Old Testament.
With the New Testament, references to historical figures would be useless if there were no cross referencing with works outside of its 27 documents. However, the writer identified as "Luke the Physician" does mention internal dates, such as Jesus's approximate age, and Paul's own words as to his time in ministry.
Returning to the text itself, an approximate timeline can be constructed based on the genealogies in Genesis, the account of the construction of the temple, and the archives of the kings up to the exile from Judah. Further information, drawn from the accounts in the prophets, can be used to get within about 400 years of the birth of Christ. The relative date of the exile can be drawn from the text and then the genealogies of the gospels can be used to approximate the years between the testaments.
Matthew approximates a period of fourteen "generations" from the "carrying away into Babylon." Given 40 years as a generation, that would be 560 years, some of which were covered by the post-exilic writers. According to dating methods that correlate with the Bible, the exile ended in 538 BC. The exile was for 70 years, meaning that it began in 608 BC. Since the "generation" is only an approximate length of time (the average here is 43+), it is fair to say the record can be trusted.
In the New Testament, Jesus' ministry is "dated" by his entering the ministry 'at about 30 years old.' John mentions at least two, and probably three Passovers after Jesus's baptism. Jesus warns that within a generation Jerusalem would fall, putting a limit on all the historical events recorded. It has been debated that even John's writings were written before that date -- AD 70.
A Text Based Timeline Edit
For coherence of the flow of Biblical time, the following chart will provide as detailed of a time line in Anno Mundus -- Year of the World. Counting back from the best attested date in Biblical history, the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar, the date of creation is around 4062 BC.
The 430 and 480 periods leading to and from the Exodus provide a foundation onto the genealogies. Also note that the uncertain date of Abraham is 60 years, leaving a bit of room for adjustments..
|Event||Date AM||Approx. Secular date||Remarks|
|Creation of Universe||1/1/01||TBD BC||According to the Astrological calendar this date was on Sunday that year!|
|Fall of man||1/10/01||TBD BC||Sexual relations had begun, but not ovulation, leaving a small window for sin to introduce inborn sin nature (one theory). Also, this allows the fall to coincide with the later date of the Day of Atonement.|
|Birth of Cain||10/15/01||TBD BC||This assumes a 280 day pregnancy beginning with Eve's first period.|
|Birth of Abel||1/1/03||TBD BC||This is arbitrary, with the Birth of Christ in mind!|
|Birth of Seth||131||TBD BC||The Godly line began to "replace" Abel. Therefore the murder would have been later, rather than sooner in the timeline.|
|Birth of Enos||235||TBD BC||It was in these days that some among mankind "began to call upon the name of Yahweh."|
|Birth of Enoch||623||TBD BC||Adam is still alive, and probably active in schooling what must have been a dwindling proportion of the population in the reality of the Creator and of the dangers of sin.|
|Birth of Methuselah||688||TBD BC||This child was possibly born just as his father began to preach coming judgment. His name literally means "Man of the spear" and thus denotes violence. Alternately the name has been rendered "When shall it be sent," denoting the flood to come.|
|Death of Adam||931||TBD BC||Adam dies having seen the birth of Lamech, Noah's father in AM 874. The crossover of this name from Cain's line may indicate Methuselah at least had political ties. Over halfway to the end of the Antediluvian world, Adam died in troubling times.|
|Birth of Noah||1057||TBD BC||In his 500th year, Noah is said to be the father of three sons, one being Shem who would be 100 years old at the birth of Arphaxad two years after the flood. The evidence points to Shem being the middle child, with Japheth as the oldest.|
|The Great Flood begins||2/7|
|TBD BC||Said to have begun on 2/7/1657, passed in 300 days, but it would be over two months before Noah, his family and|
|Birth of Peleg||1788||TBD BC||It is written that "in his day the earth was divided."  Since the account just a few verses later speaks of the building of the great tower at Babel, and the subsequent dispersal of the people, that judgment from God came in about AM 1900 (c. 2100 BC).|
|Birth of Terah||1879||TBD BC||The text says that Terah was 70 years old when he became a father of three sons. Though the order has Abraham first, other texts seem to indicate that Abram was born later. Abram was 75 when he left Haran, where Terah is said to have died at age 205 (AM 2083). This leaves an uncertainty in the timeline|
|Birth of Abram||AM 1949--2009||TBD BC||The uncertainty gives 60 years of "wiggle room" determining a purely Biblical timeline up to New Testament event that can definitively be compared to generally accepted dates. The assumed date will be AM 2008, just a few years after Noah died.|
|Burial of Sarah||2146||TBD BC||Beginning with Abraham's birth being in 2008, Isaac would be born in 2108 when Sarah was 90. She lived to be 127. Adding 37 to 2108 brings us to 2145, when Isaac would be 37.|
|Birth of Jacob||2147||TBD BC||Though Abraham is said to be old when he acquired Rebekah for Isaac, Isaac took her into the tent as he was mourning his mother's death. This means Abraham had 38 years more years to live. Jacob and Esau would be born within a year.|
|Jacob enters Egypt||6/15|
|TBD BC||Jacob reveals to the Pharaoh that he is 130 years old.|
|TBD BC||Exactly 430 years passed between entering and exiting ancient Egypt.|
|The Law Given||8/3/2707||TBD BC||At the beginning of the "new" third month, God told Moses and the people that he would come down to the third day to give the Law on the mountain.|
|Birth of David||3113||TBD BC||David died the year Solomon's reign began, at the age of 70 (having reigned for 40 years, beginning at age 30).|
|Cornerstone of Temple Laid||3187||TBD BC||Solomon began to build the temple in the 480th year, in the second month of that year. This would be in early May, based on the ceremonial year.|
|Babylonian Exile begins||3523||TBD BC'||Starting with Solomon's remaining 36 years, and adding the reigns of the Judean kings together, the total comes to 336.5 years.|
The 360-day Year Edit
In places, especially in prophecy, it seems that the notion of a year has 12 months of 30 days each persists throughout Scripture. However, evidence from history indicates that the calendars were fixed even before Julius Caesar's calendar reform. It is possible that the perfect creation, in which the moon was designed as a sign for even months, may have been the origin of the 30-day month.
If the years were 360 days long, then year AM 1655 ended on a "Monday" with the year of the flood beginning on a "Tuesday." Thirty six days later, a Wednesday (the fourth day), the rains began and the fountains of the deep burst forth. This may have been caused by the moon being moved a sixtieth closer (reducing its orbit by a half-day). From that point, the year would take on its present length, and a new calendar was born.
The "Lunar" Calendar Edit
Based on the way months and years are measured in the scriptures, it is easy to imagine that there was a general ignorance of the true length of years based on the apparent movement of the sun. However, the calendar in the day of Moses was already clearly understood to be connected with the seasons. The whole Levitical Feast schedule was based on a "new" calendar to begin in the spring rather than the "old" calendar that began in the fall.
The old calendar had its roots back in creation itself, and like the rest of creation, it was created "very good." As late as the last book of the Bible the months were still considered to be 30 days long, with 12 of them in a year. Three and a half years is cited as "a time, times, and half a time," forty-two months, and 1260 days. These are citations going back to Daniel, where the puzzling phrase is used in prophecy.
Though the Bible does not explain the lunar calendar of the feast days in terms of days, there does seem to be a regular predictability to the seasons - the early harvest, the first fruits, and the final harvest. There seems to have been an understanding of an accurate calendar even among conflicting signals in the sky. It is most likely the case that the change from consistent 30-day months to alternating 30 and 29 days happened soon after the flood.
Antediluvian Dates Edit
Though there is an addition in the Greek translation (not verifiable to the 1st century AD) of a second "Cainan" (as a grandson of Noah as well as of Seth!) that appears to be authorized by Luke, this most likely represents a copyists error that was not corrected. That aside, only one change has been made to the traditional dating here: Adam fathered Seth after he himself had lived 130 years. With no "year zero," Seth would have been born in AM 131, pushing all dates ahead by one year. The duration of the period ended on the seventh day of the second month of the year AM 1657. Based only on the genealogy given, only nine years could be added assuming no overlap of years.
To assign today's calendar to those years will basically take multiplying the years by about 0.98, "saving" about 30 years in all. The dates to accomplish an accurate consistent calendar will be accomplished by dating backwards from the fall date in AM 1657. However some adjustments will probably be needed as over a millennium of season drift.
That being said, the calendar began on what we will call 1/1/01 on a "Sunday" and was interrupted 596,197 days later on 2/7/1657, on the Sabbath day! Life gave way to death, in a big scale, leaving only those saved in the ark of "in whose nostrils was the breath of life." Concurrent with 40 days and nights of rain and "fountains" bursting forth, waters rose a total of 150 days before receding. It took another 150 days for the water to flow back into the new sea bottoms, but the ark came to a rest before that happened. There are a few ambiguities as to when the ark came to rest (See the article The Great Flood), but assuming the a change in the calendar came at the very beginning of the flood, it can be shown that the new' solar year was established with the flood.
As the flood began that Sabbath day, there remained inclusively 24 days in the 30-day month. Allowing for the slowing, the months became 29.5 days long instead of 30. Alternating the ten months remaining in AM 1657, 295 days are added to the 24 in the second month, making 319 days. Adding 29 days (month one of 1658) and the 17 days of month two, the total is 365 days! Since the the rain fell for 40 days and 40 nights, we can assume they began at dawn. It might even be that Noah left the ark exactly one solar year after the rains began (noon versus 6:00 am). If so, the new 365.25 (approx.) days would have defined the flood itself.
- ↑ Since there has been a 'drift' in the equinoxes, this may have been in October. However, this can not be determined from Scripture.
- ↑ Gen. 4:25
- ↑ Gen. 4:26
- ↑ Jude 1:14
- ↑ Gen. 10:25
- ↑ Gen. 17:17; 21:2
- ↑ Gen. 23:1
- ↑ Gen. 24:67
- ↑ Exodus 12:40
- ↑ Gen. 1:14
- ↑ Gen. 1:18, 31
- ↑ Rev. 11:2-3; 12:6,14
- ↑ Dan. 7:25; 12:7
- ↑ Gen. 7:22
- ↑ Gen. 5:24