(an overview of what determines the accuracy of dates measured after Creation)
The accuracy of a chronology is only as strong as the assumptions that are made when constructing it. Here those assumptions are outlined. Also described is the major timeline that determines the overall length of the biblical chronology.
The chronology presented on this site pre-supposes two general assumptions:
- Modern Translations. This site assumes that the dates and time periods mentioned in modern English translations (specifically, the New International Version) are the correct ones, as opposed to other dates and time periods mentioned in other ancient manuscripts - such as the Septuagint.
- Chronological Intent. In order for a Biblical chronology starting at Creation to be true it must be assumed that the dates recorded in the Bible are accurate. Therefore, it must be assumed that the writer of much of the early Biblical chronology (i.e. Moses) received his information directly from God. Therefore, God would see to it that a complete chronological story was recorded. As a result, it must be concluded that what seems to be the most plausible solutions for chronological uncertainties are, in fact, correct. These conclusions, however, must be arrived at through careful considerations of Biblical context.
Major Biblical Timeline
The major timeline is the line that travels through the least number of people and events. This timeline is used as the backbone for all other timelines. As far as the Bible is concerned, there are a few pieces of information - such as age at death, age at birth of son, etc... - which are scattered throughout the biblical account. Taken together, these isolated pieces of information form the basis of the major timeline. An outline of the major timeline follows:
- Adam to Noah, Genesis 5 - This chapter succinctly summarises the chronology from Adam to Noah. Assuming Adam was born in 1 AM, this chapter places Noah's birth in 1057 AM.
- The Flood, Genesis 7:6,11 - These two verses state that Noah was 600 years old at the time of the Flood. This means that the Flood came in the year 1657 AM (which happens to be the same year that Methuselah died)
- Birth of Shem, Genesis 11:10 - The date for the birth of Shem is based on the verse Genesis 11:10. In this verse it states that 2 years after the Flood Shem was 100 years old. This means that Shem was born 98 years prior to the Flood - placing his birth in the year 1559 AM.
- Shem to Terah, Genesis 11:10-32 - These verses detail the chronological line from Shem to Terah. Taking Shem's birth as 1559 AM it follows that Terah was born in the year 1879 AM, and died in 2084 AM.
- Birth of Abraham, Genesis 12:4 - The date for the birth of Abraham is based on Genesis 12:4. Here it says that Abraham was 75 years old when he set out from Haran - this was shortly after Terah (Abraham's father) died. The assumption is made (because of close contextual association) that Abraham left in the same year that his father died. Therefore Abraham was born 75 years prior to his father's death - in the year 2009 AM. Genesis 11:26 says that Terah became a father at age 70 - the year 1949 AM. It lists Abram first, then Nahor and Haran. But as has been noted, Abram could not have been born until 60 years later, when Terah was 130 years old. Also, given that Haran died while his father Terah was still alive (Genesis 11:28), and that he was the father of Lot (who later in Genesis is treated contemporaneously with Abram), it seems likely that Haran was the eldest, and was born 60 years before Abram.
- Birth of Isaac, Genesis 21:5 - Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born, therefore Isaac was born in the year 2109 AM.
- Birth of Jacob, Genesis 25:26 - Isaac was 60 years old when Jacob and Esau were born, therefore Jacob was born in the year 2169 AM.
- Jacob (Israel) arrives in Egypt, Genesis 47:9 - According to this verse Jacob was 130 years old when he arrived in Egypt. This places the year as 2299 AM.
- Israelite Exodus from Egypt, Exodus 12:40, Acts 7:6 - According to this verse "the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years" (NIV). Taking the beginning of the Israelites' time in Egypt to be when Israel (Jacob) arrived in the year 2299 AM, this places the Exodus in the year 2729 AM. However, it is worth noting that other manuscripts (the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Septuagint) add the words "and Canaan" after Egypt in the above quote, so that it reads "the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt and Canaan was 430 years". This might mean, therefore, that the beginning of the 430 year period would be when Abraham arrived in Canaan - sometime during or soon after the year 2084 AM. This is 215 years earlier than Jacob's arrival in Egypt, and would shorten the Israelites' period in Egypt to 215 years (215 + 215 = 430). This was the view taken by James Ussher (see comments and link below for more information on James Ussher's chronology). However, in Acts 7:6, Stephen states that Abraham's descendants were to be "enslaved and mistreated four hundred years". This would not fit with a 215 year period in Egypt, and it is for this reason that the longer 430 year period is accepted in the timelines presented in this website. Add to this the use of the phrase "Israelite people" in Exodus 12:40 - it does not seem to make sense for the Israelite people to exist before Israel (Jacob), their namesake.
Despite the conclusion drawn in the previous paragraph, it must be acknowledged that this dating - either 215 or 430 years - is a contentious issue among many who seek to establish a biblical chronology. One verse in defence of James Ussher's chronology, which has not been reconciled on this website, is Galatians 3:16-17. Here Paul seems to make reference to a 430 year period from Abraham leaving Haran to Moses receiving "The Law".
- Start of Construction on Solomon's Temple, 1 Kings 6:1 - This verse states that construction of Solomon's Temple commenced 480 years after the Israelites' Exodus from Egypt. Assuming the Exodus took place in 2729 AM, this would place the year at 3209 AM. This verse also states that this was after 4 years of Solomon's reign. Therefore, Solomon began his reign in 3205 AM. (This verse can also be read as saying that construction started in the 480th year - i.e. 479 years after the Exodus - when Solomon was in the 4th year of his reign - i.e. 3 years after he came to power. Either way, the date of 3205 AM is arrived at.)
- Kings of Judah, 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles - It is possible to build up a solid chronology starting at the beginning of Solomon's reign and continuing right through to the death of Zedekiah in the destruction of Jerusalem. When the total of all reigns from Solomon to Zedekiah are added together it comes to 433 years. Therefore, starting with the beginning of Solomon's reign in 3205 AM the destruction of Jerusalem happened in 3638 AM. History records that Jerusalem was destroyed by the armies of King Nebuchadrezzar II of Babylon in 586 BC. This provides the necessary conversion factor between AM and BC dates, and allows the entire chronology to be presented using both AM and BC timelines.
The above major timeline is the timeline compiled by the author of this website - see Author's Comments for further information. Brief mention is made of other timelines here:
- James Ussher's Chronology - James Ussher (A.D. 1581 - 1656) in the 1650s published a chronology that became well known and widely circulated, and has remained so for centuries. In this chronology he places the world's creation in the year 4004 BC. For a chart giving an overview of chronology based on James Ussher, see Paul Hansen's chart available at http://creation.com/images/pdfs/other/timeline_of_the_bible.pdf . To explore Ussher's chronology in detail and compare his chronology with the one given above, please download and install the BWH Explorer software - see link below.
- Traditional Jewish Chronology - This is the standard Jewish chronology which places Creation in the year 3760 B.C. To see this timeline in detail, refer to http://www.akhlah.com/history_tradition/torah_timeline.php. To explore the Jewish chronology in detail and compare it with the one given above, please download and install the BWH Explorer software - see link below.
The bible contains lists of names showing the family trees of a number of families - but with no dates or ages. These genealogies are therefore outside the scope of this website. However, we have a vistor contribution on this site from Norman Tew which explores these genalogies in detail:
- The People of the Bible (Norman Tew) - a study of genealogies found in the Bible. It gives the reader a good sense of the extended family relationships involved throughout the Old Testament narrative, and how these relationships impact on the events described in the biblical narrative. It also gives insight into the culture and attitudes of various tribes and nations.
(Minor updates to explanatory notes in "Major Biblical Timeline" on 1 Sep 2006. Updated "Other Chronologies" section on 29 Jan 2010. Added "Genealogies" section on 16 Dec 2011. Updated "Genealogies" section on 23 Jan 2021)
Return to the Home Page
Copyright © 1999, 2012, 2018, 2021 by David Petrie