This article will try to give a rough idea of the chronology of the Bible books and related events.
Determining the dates of Bible events and writings is a difficult matter. That doesn't mean that we can't come up with a good idea of when key events happened, but we have to accept that we may not have the exact precision we would like.
To give an appreciation of the problem with trying to put together timelines of ancient events, let's discuss some of the difficulties.
To start with, calendars were funny things in ancient times. There were problems agreeing with how many days there would be in a year, how many days in a week or month. Even counting years was tricky-- years would be measured from the time of the beginning of a ruler. Due to the lack of worldwide communication that we take for granted in our time, each locale had its own references. Those who look to synchronize events in different areas have to look to common events that may point to a specific date.
Our modern calendar is roughly the same as the one developed by Julius Caesar inn the 1st century BC. The actual calendar we use now was first used in the 16th century.
As time went on, there were more writings of events and history, and the problem of piecing together history and times got easier. Some archeological discoveries in Bible lands have also helped with this problem. But even then-- trying to date a particular event of interest is very difficult if one cannot correlate it to other events somehow. In some cases, we are left with somebody writing about something decades or even centuries from when it happened, and their writings are only as good as the information those writers had.
What we are left with is some events whose dates are reasonably well known, and others that are guesses of varying degrees of accuracy. A lot of people have done a lot of work to come up with the best ideas on when these events have happened.
What follows is generally taken from three articles in the Expositor's Bible Commentary Volume 1: "The Chronology of the Old Testament" by Gleason L. Archer Jr., "Between the Testaments" by Harold W. Hoehner, and "the Chronology of the New Testament" by Lewis A. Foster. I would recommend these articles to the interested reader.
It is very difficult to come up with dates for events prior to Abraham, but once we get into his story and all that follows, the dates can be calculated by taking into the account the number of years various things were said to have lasted-- e.g. somebody's life span, times in captivity, etc.
There are several main periods of this era of history.
|2166-1991||Life of Abraham|
|2066-1886||Life of Isaac|
|2006-1859||Life of Jacob|
|2015-1805||Life of Joseph|
|1876-1446||The Israelites living in Egypt|
|1527-1406||Life of Moses|
|1406||Israel enters the Promised Land|
|1043-1003||Reign of Saul (1st king of Israel)|
|1040-970||Life of David|
|970-930||Reign of Solomon|
|966-959||Construction of the Jerusalem Temple|
|Rehoboam (1st king of Judah/Southern Kingdom)
Jeroboam I (1st king of Israel/Northern Kingdom)
|732-723||Reign of Hoshea (last king of Israel/Northern Kingdom)|
|597-587||Reign of Zedekiah (last king of Judah/Southern Kingdom)|
|605-562||Exile under Nebuchadnezzar|
|558-529||Exile under Cyrus|
|530||Death of Daniel|
|522-485||Exile under Darius|
|457||Ezra goes to Jerusalem|
|446, 433-430||Nehemiah's governorship in Jerusalem|
|435||Malachi (last OT prophet)|
There is a "gap" of history from the time of Nehemiah and Malachi until the birth of Jesus. While not covered in the Bible directly, the various kingdoms that arose prepared the world for the first century appearance of Jesus and the subsequent spread of the Gospel. This involved significant changes in the Mediterranean world-- establishing a common language (Koine Greek), improving roads, establishing regular commerce and shipping between ports. Even the calendar was standardized, as mentioned above. All of these things come into play when the church is established in the first century.
What follows are the rulers of the land of Israel during the inter-testamental period.
|331-143||Grecian Rule (Alexander the Great)|
|142-63||Hasmonean Rule (brief period of independence, rule by members of the Jewish high priestly family)|
The New Testament era begins with the births of John the Baptist and Jesus. A notable event near this time was the death of Herod the Great, which occurred in 4 BC. Thus, we know John and Jesus were born before that. (One might ask why Jesus wasn't born in 0 BC; it is because the years were simply miscounted when the modern numbering system was first created in the 6th century. Subsequent research has shown that the death of Herod the Great happened 4 years earlier than originally thought.) This event helps us pinpoint the beginning of the New Testament era.
The ministry is Jesus is generally considered to begin in 27 AD. Jesus was said to be "about 30 years old." This also matches up with the corresponding rulers and period Luke mentions in his gospel.
The crucifixion of Jesus takes place after his ministry to 3 to 4 years-- that length is determined by counting the number of Passovers during his ministry as recorded in the gospels.We thus arrive at a date of 30 AD (at Passover, in the spring) for the crucifixion, and the date of 30 (AD at Pentecost, mid-summer) for the beginning of the church.
Other dates in the New Testament era are determined comparing Biblical events with secular events.
There is some dispute about when the New Testament era ends exactly. Some hold that John's later epistles and Revelation were written in 80-95 AD. Others hold to an earlier date for those books, likely before 70 AD.
|4-5 BC||Births of John the Baptist and Jesus|
|4 BC||Death of Herod the Great|
|27 AD||Beginning of Jesus' public ministry|
|30, Spring||Crucifixion of Jesus|
|30, Summer||Pentecost, beginning of church|
|34||Conversion of Pau|
|47-49||Paul's first missionary journey with Barnabas|
|52||Paul's second missionary journey with Silas|
|54-57||Paul's third missionary journey|
|58||Paul's arrest in Jerusalem|
|60||Paul appeals to Caesar and goes to Rome|
|61||Paul imprisoned in Rome|
|63||Paul released from prison in Rome|
|67||Death of Peter and Paul|
|70||Fall of Jerusalem|
|98||Death of John, the last surviving apostle|