The Importance of Bible Chronology
The question arises occasionally as to why there is so much chronology in the Bible. The answer was supplied by Edwin Thiele, one of the most renowned biblical chronologists of modern times.
“Chronology is important. Without chronology it is not possible to understand history, for chronology is the backbone of history. We know that God regards chronology as important, for He has put so much of it into His Word. We find chronology not only in the historical books of the Bible, but also in the prophetic books, in the Gospels, and in the writings of Paul” (A Chronology of the Hebrew Kings, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977, p. 7).
Chronology pertains to the relationships of Bible events to actual dates within the framework of time. Let us address this matter briefly.
First, this point is crucial. The validity of the Christian religion depends upon whether or not certain events happened within the framework of actual history.
For example, if the “exodus” from Egypt did not occur, as portrayed in the Old Testament, then the Israelite religion was based upon fiction. The Hebrew system was preparatory to the coming of Christ and the establishment of Christianity (see Gal. 3:24-25). If, therefore, Old Testament history is not chronologically solid, Christianity itself is grounded upon a false foundation.
If Jesus of Nazareth did not live, die, and live again — within the parameters of historical reality —Christianity is a myth. It is absolutely imperative, therefore, that Jesus be rooted in genuine “calendar” history.
Tying certain events to verifiable dates in history, is, therefore, a vital element of biblical truth. Some Bible events are ambiguous in terms of date; others are more precise. The chronology of the Scripture is sufficient, however, for its intended purpose. Consider a few matters of chronological significance.
While the Bible does not provide a precise date for the creation of the world, two things are clear.
- Human history extends back to the very week of the creation of the Universe (Gen. 1; Ex. 20:11; Mk. 10:6; Rom. 1:20). One cannot argue for an earth billions of years old, and yet contend for a “recent” humanity, and, at the same time, maintain a respect for scriptural chronology. Far too many (even among Christians) have compromised biblical truth in this matter.
- The genealogical information in the biblical record limits man’s longevity to a span of thousands of years, not millions (Gen. 5; Lk. 3:23ff). From the present back to the time of Jesus is approximately 2,000 years. From Christ back to Abraham is likewise about two millenia. There are only twenty generations (noted, of course, for greater longevity) of human history from Abraham back to the Creation event. It is not possible, therefore, that man has been upon this planet for millions of years, as the disciples of Darwin allege.
The chronology of evolutionary dogma is false. Yet many, apparently, are unaware of how much of this erroneous chronology they have absorbed. This applies to the rank and file of the church, to ministers, and even to college professors, who ought to have studied the matter most carefully and be informed, rather than being swayed by superficial news media and the more sophisticated advocates of Darwinism!
It is also helpful to have a general picture of Bible chronology in order to put history in developmental perspective. The Bible student must have a sense of historical flow. Here are some focal points of chronology that the student should learn.
- Abraham lived about 2000 years before Christ.
- David reigned over Israel approximately 1,000 years before the Savior was born.
- Jesus was born around 5 or 4 B.C. (this reckoning takes into account an error in the early calendar); it is now generally believed that the Lord died in A.D. 30. The church was established fifty days later (Acts 2).
- From Acts 2, to Acts 18 (see vv. 1-2,12) there is little secular data that connects with biblical events in a precise manner. Some of the dates, therefore, such as the conversion of Paul (Acts 9), or the introduction of the Gentiles into the church (Acts 10), is a matter of some speculation, and will vary slightly from scholar to scholar.
- Paul was executed in Rome around A.D. 67, and the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans three years later.
- John penned the final book of the New Testament (Revelation) around A.D. 96.
Chronology is important. And it is vital that the student establish some sense of the historical contexts in which significant biblical events are located. It is a serious mistake to dismiss scriptural chronology as an irrelevant matter — as far too many have done.
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.