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Biblical Chronology

The arrangement of both dates and events within the biblical narrative. The sequencing of the biblical data may be determined by combining biblical textual, extra-biblical textual, and material evidences.

The Biblical Framework

The chronological framework of the Bible can be difficult to understand, particularly in the early periods. Because there is so little known concerning the distant past history of humanity, the chronologist may have little to go on. While the biblical text defines our past for us, when taken out of its ancient Near Eastern context the chronological information has often been misunderstood. Because of this, the language of the biblical text must be coupled with a proper understanding of the historical/cultural framework of the Bible in order to create the best possible answer to the question of when?

Some Basic Conservative Biblical Dates

​Birth of Abraham: ca. 2170 BC

Exodus: ca. 1446 BC

David is king: ca. 1000 BC

Jerusalem falls to Babylon: ca. 586 BC

Birth of Christ: ca. 5 BC

Jerusalem falls to Rome: ca. AD 70

Outside of textual tradition, historical dates are determined through a number of ways, but the standard is pottery chronology. Through archaeological research over the past decades, a standard chronology of pottery sequencing has been determined. Though these sequences are constantly being corrected with new evidences, when combined with other relative (textual, epigraphical, etc.) and certain absolute (radiocarbon, thermoluminescence, etc.) dating methods, they give a specified look at the biblical world through secular lenses and help to establish the archaeological periodization of biblical events. These periods are broken down into the Three Age system known as the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age, but we could add to this final age the social construct of the Age of Empires (from the Babylonian through the Roman). Thus, we can use the evidence within the biblical text to help guide the exegete into a proper placement within dated history.

Major Debates in Chronology

Some major chronological debates include Genesis 1-11, the Patriarchal period, and the Eisodos, Exodus, and Conquest. While dates are debated within the framework of the divided kingdom and for certain books, these are minor compared to the debates concerning earlier periods.

Archaeologically speaking, history begins at around 3000 BC with the so-called advent of writing—anything before this is considered prehistory. The pre-patriarchal period of biblical history extends from Creation to Abraham, including all of prehistory and some aspects of early history. According to Genesis, music, metallurgy, and other cultural advances are made before the flood, but archaeology cannot reveal pre-flood eras as, according to the text, the face of the earth had drastically changed during the flood (destroying previous cultural material). Assuming a global flood as accurate, the early post-flood inhabitants of the world would need to redevelop many of these lost skills. Dating these post-flood periods can be difficult, but if a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11 is accepted then the flood may be dated to anywhere between roughly 3300 BC and 2300 BC, though some allow for a date upwards of 10,000 BC.

The patriarchal period is that time extending from Abraham until the Eisodos (entrance into Egypt), and dating this era is also wrought with difficulty. Abraham is understood to have lived sometime between 2300 BC and 1800 BC, depending on ones views of the dates of the Eisodos and Exodus, particularly in view of Galatians 3:17. Arguments have been made for Abraham in the Early Bronze Age IV (roughly 2300-2000 BC) and Middle Bronze Age IIA (roughly 2000-1750 BC), but each of these have their advantages and disadvantages.

The date of the Exodus is perhaps the most widely debated issue in biblical studies today, with dates ranging from 1500 BC to 1200 BC. The traditional date of the Exodus is at 1446 BC, a date arrived at through purely textual sequencing. Some argue that the cultural material better represents a later date in the 1200s BC, but cultural material appears to allow for either interpretation.

As charts for this article, please compare Thiele's chronology (as the standard):

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