Introduction: How To Use This Timeline
The idea behind this Timeline is to make it easier to grasp the narrative, or story, of the Bible as it was written -- from the first book, Genesis, all the way to the last book, Revelation. It is hoped that by submitting all of the books of the Bible to various groupings in outline form it will be possible to make easier the difficult tasks of approaching the great depth of the Bible and coming to grips with its seemingly overwhelming details. Taking up the Bible as if it were a pleasant novel, relaxing to read and simple to understand is a huge misconception. It takes great scholars literally years to bring the entirety of Scripture under the control of the human mind. So it is hoped that this Timeline will make reading the Bible itself simpler and more subject to understanding. Here then, is the explanation for how to use the Timeline.
Old Testament Narratives of the Hebrew Past
The Bible is composed of different types of literature (or genres), and although many of the genres present writings about a past time, no literature in the Old Testament claims or presents itself to be a work of history. Ancient Hebrew writers of the earliest books of the Old Testament, which we will discuss repeatedly as a category herein (namely, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua and Judges), used standards to judge their source materials (mostly oral recollections of the people's past) that were vastly different from the standards that modern historians would later use. Noted Scripture scholars cannot agree on when ancient Hebrew authors started writing the Book of Genesis. However, the common agreement is that this written record of the people's past began about 1100 - 1000 B.C.
This written record of the earliest books of the Bible, without being modern scientific history, because of its lack of direct evidence by the authors, nonetheless presents a solid meaning to what is written, together with a critical attitude toward their writings by the authors. These two factors place their "narrative," (or dated story) of the the earliest books of the Old Testament in the same intellectual and scholarly category, even though much earlier than, the first truly scientific history written in the 5th Century B.C. by the Greek scholar, Herodotus, nicknamed "the Father of History." If Herodotus was the Father of History, we can go beyond him and say that, because Herodotus' sense of "meaning" was simply impersonal, blind fate, that the "Father of Meaning" in history was instead the Jewish authors of the the earliest books of the Old Testament. This sense of meaning, embedded in the basic theme of those early books is the Jewish authors' basing the Hebrew past on the people's human interaction with Yahweh, their personal God. This essential theme of the Pentateuch shows how God was revealed in a number of central events: (1) the choice of the patriarchs, (2) the giving of a covenant, (3) the law to be obeyed, and (4) the guidance through the wilderness to a promised land.
The narrative genres of the Old Testament present the Hebrew past from the creation of the world through the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. The timeline for this presentation of the past covers people and events dated from c.2000 B.C. in the days of Abraham up to and through 500 B.C. to 400 B.C., or in the time of the Jews' return from captivity in Babylon (see the Timeline, period number 8, below, for this "captivity"). As far as the earliest books of the Bible are concerned, while there is little direct evidence of what is written as we noted above, there is, however, a huge amount of circumstantial evidence, such as names, places, business contracts, marriage contracts and migratory patterns. Further, modern archaeology has generally confirmed the Bible's early efforts to present written history. As archaeology continues its digging into the past, we find that the more archaeologists discover of the earliest biblical era, the more we see that a tremendous amount of historicity appears in the text of the earliest books of the Bible. The findings of the 19th - 21st century archaeologists provide the true scientific foundation of a good part of the narrative genres of the Old Testament.
The underlying sense of meaning in the Old Testament writers' presentation of the Hebrews' past is to tell us the readers the crucial things that happened in the past that we need to know in order to discover and know God. The Pentateuch advances religious and theological lessons but warns us not to treat the five books like a textbook full of academic truths. In other words, the Old Testament authors did write about Israel's past in their narrative. But the writing of history was secondary to their other purposes. In addition to the narrative portions, there are books displaying non-narrative genres of the Bible -- laws, songs, prophetic oracles, proverbs and wisdom literature. These attest to the history of Israel only indirectly. The non-narrative texts served ritual, educational, moral and other functions in ancient Israelite society. The non-narrative authors, while mostly avoiding tales of the past, nonetheless believed that they and their readers were essential players in the narrative of Israelite history. Therefore, the authors of non-narrative portions of the Old Testament guided the Israelites in living their personal history as God's chosen people in accordance with God's plan. Such authors gave the people this guidance without making it sound historical as did the narrative in the the earliest books of the Old Testament.
New Testament Approaches to the Past
The word "narrative," as used above, does not apply to the New Testament authors, as they wrote about nothing before the birth of Jesus -- which took place, incongruously, probably about 4 A.D. The New Testament authors focused on what they might have called "the eternal present," rather than about anything that was intended as history, or even information of an earlier past epoch that existed before the earthly life of the Word made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth. (The one exception to this statement are the two genealogies of Jesus, i.e., Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3: 23-38, which dwell intensely on past important figures in the Old Testament, including as far back as Genesis.) The New Testament is very much "non-narrative" when compared to the narrative portions of the Old Testament, as we have talked about them above when considering the Pentateuch.
New Testament authors believed that the past had a religious plan and purpose, but for them that plan and purpose was completely embodied in the person of Jesus, who was the Messiah already on earth. The gospel writers could not see any purpose in writing about Jesus' life as a feature of world history -- as was characteristic of the narrative of the people and events in Old Testament history. St. Paul wrote more historically than the gospel writers. However, he too, believed that all history had come to fruition with the life of Jesus, both during his earthly ministry, and as continuing through to the Parousia, or end-time coming again of Jesus as the glorious Lord of all history. For New Testament writers, since Jesus was the Messiah already come to earth, risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, and since he was coming again to oversee the end of history, what purpose could be served by the New Testament authors' writing a history of the rest of earthly events?
Getting Into the Timeline
The Timeline below lists twelve time periods within which the various, respective books of the Bible are discussed under a thematic heading. Each of the twelve headings will summarize both the dates within which the books under the heading were written and the subject matters about which the respective books under the heading were written. Below the twelve time periods and the names, dates and subject matters of the various books, will be listed the name of the great power then dominating world history. Along with the name of the great power will be a brief statement of some point of secular history taking place during the period of the great power.
The chronology under each of the twelve time periods will move this Timeline of the Bible along, using narrative historical dates and events as discussed above. Non-narrative books, or what shall instead be designated below as "supplemental books" (to avoid the negative "non" description) will appear at the end of the remarks covering the narrative history of the respective twelve periods. The dates in which these supplemental books were written may be implicitly understood as having been written within the same time period covered for the narrative books of a given period. For example, we will consider the history of the return of the Jews to Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon and Persia during the 400's B.C. under the time period headed "Return." And since the Book of Job, while not at all related to the historical narrative of the period in general or to the Return in particular, was written during the same 400's B.C., we will include the "supplemental Book of Job" under the heading designated "Return," simply to situate it in the era of its composition.
Summary of the Set-Up of the Timeline
(1) The Twelve Time Periods and Their Dates.
(2) The Biblical Books Written During Each Time Period.
(3) The Subject Matter of Such Books.
(4) Any Supplemental (non-historical) Books Written During Each Time Period.
(5) The Leading World Power During the Time Period.
(6) A Short Point of Secular History Within the Time Period of the World Power.
Period Number 1
I. "EARLY WORLD" (CREATION -- 2000 BC)
II. GENESIS CHAPTERS 1 - 11
III. GEN 1-3 ADAM & EVE; CREATION; GEN - 4 CAIN, ABEL, SETH, FALL, CURSE AND PROMISE; GEN 9 NOAH FLOOD; GEN 10-11 JAPHETH, SHEM: PEOPLE SCATTERED AT BABEL
IV. SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKS: NONE
V. WORLD POWER: EGYPT.
VI.. SECULAR HISTORY: GREAT PYRAMIDS BUILT, c. 2685 B.C.; STONEHENGE CONSTRUCTED IN ENGLAND, c. 2000 B.C.
Period Number 2
I. "PATRIARCHS" (2000 B.C. -- 1700 B.C.)
II. GENESIS CHAPTERS 12 - 50.
III. GEN-12 GOD CALLS ABRAM OUT OF UR; GEN-14 MELCHIZEDEK BLESSES ABRAHAM; GEN -19 SODOM AND GOMORRAH; GEN-22 BINDING OF ISAAC; GEN-15, 17, 22 COVENANTS WITH ABRAHAM; GEN. 22 - PROMISE OF WORLDWIDE BLESSING (NEW COVENANT TO BE REALIZED UNDER AGE OF MESSIAH); GEN - 27 JACOB STEALS ISAAC'S PATERNAL BLESSING AWAY FROM ESAU; GEN 32 - JACOB WRESTLES WITH GOD, IS RENAMED "ISRAEL;" GEN - 35 TWELVE SONS OF JACOB (TWELVE TRIBES OF ISRAEL); GEN - 37 JOSEPH SOLD INTO SLAVERY; GEN - 46 JACOB'S FAMILY MOVES TO EGYPT
IV. SUPPLEMENTAL BOOK: NONE
V. WORLD POWER: BABYLON
VI. SECULAR HISTORY: CODE OF KING HAMMURABI OF BABYLON, 1760 B.C.
Period Number 3
I. "EGYPT & EXODUS" (1700 B.C.-- 1280 B.C.)
II. EXODUS (ITS ENTIRETY: CHAPTERS 1 -- 40)
III. EX 1:1 - 15:21 THE ISRAELITES ARE SLAVES OF PHARAOH; EX 3:14 THE BURNING BUSH; EX 7-11 EGYPT'S TEN PLAGUES; EX 12 THE FIRST PASSOVER; EX 15:4 THE PARTING OF THE RED SEA; EX 16 MANNA FROM HEAVEN; EX 24 GOD'S COVENANT WITH MOSES ON MT. SINAI (AND THE TEN COMMANDMENTS); EX 32 THE GOLDEN CALF; EX 29 ESTABLISHMENT OF THE LEVITICAL PRIESTHOOD; EX 25 - 39 CONSTRUCTION OF THE TABERNACLE; EX 37 CONSTRUCTION OF THE ARK OF THE COVENANT
IV. SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKS: LEVITICUS PRE- AND POST- ISRAEL'S ESCAPE FROM EGYPT; PRIESTS AND LAWS
V. WORLD POWER: EGYPT
VI. SECULAR HISTORY: FIRST URBAN CIVILIZATION IN CHINA, c. 1600 B.C.; GREEK LANGUAGE FIRST WRITTEN, c. 1450 B.C.
Period Number 4
I. "DESERT WANDERINGS" (1280 -1240 B.C.)
II. NUMBERS AND DEUTERONOMY
III. NM 1 - 10 CENSUS AND PREPARATION TO LEAVE SINAI; NM 10 - 25 DEPARTURE FROM SINAI, WANDERING FORTY YEARS IN THE WILDERNESS; NM 25 - 36 PREPARATION TO ENTER THE PROMISED LAND; DT 1, 4, 29 THREE DISCOURSES BY MOSES; DT 12 - 28 THE DEUTERONOMIC CODE; DT 34 THE DEATH OF MOSES
IV. SUPPLEMENTAL BOOK: NONE
V. WORLD POWER: EGYPT
VI. SECULAR HISTORY: BUILDING PROJECTS OF PHARAOHS SETI I AND RAMESES II.
Period Number 5
I. "CONQUEST & JUDGES" (1240 B.C. - 1050 B.C.)
II. JOSHUA AND JUDGES
III. JOS 1- 12 CONQUEST OF CANAAN; JOS 13 - 21 DIVISION OF THE LAND AMONG THE TWELVE TRIBES; JOS 22 - 24 RETURN OF THE TRANSJORDAN TRIBES AND JOSHUA'S FAREWELL AND DEATH; JGS 1 - 3 SITUATION IN CANAAN FOLLOWING THE ISRAELITE CONQUEST; JGS 3 - 16 STORIES OF THE JUDGES AND NAMES OF THE TWELVE JUDGES: OTHNIEL, EHUD, SHAMGAR, DEBORAH, GIDEON, TOLA, JAIR, JEPHTHAH, IBZAN, ELON, ABDON, SAMSON; JGS 17 - 21 STORIES OF THE TRIBES OF BENJAMIN AND DAN
IV. SUPPLEMENTAL BOOK: RUTH
V. WORLD POWER: EGYPT
VI. SECULAR HISTORY: EGYPT AT WAR AGAINST HITTITES, LIBYANS AND GREEKS; IT BEGINS TO LOSE ITS POWER AS IT GIVES UP ITS FORMER CONTROL OVER PALESTINE (1234 - 1165 B.C.)
Period Number 6
I. "ROYAL KINGDOM" (1050 B.C. - 930 B.C.)
II. 1 & 2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS 1 - 11
III. 1 SAMUEL 1 - 7 THE LAST JUDGES, ELI AND SAMUEL; 1 SAMUEL 8 - 12 ESTABLISHMENT OF THE MONARCHY; 1 SAMUEL 13 - 2 SAMUEL 2 SAUL AND DAVID; 2 SAMUEL 2 - 20 THE REIGN OF DAVID; 1 KGS 1 - 11 THE REIGN OF SOLOMON
IV. SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKS: PSALMS, 1 & 2 CHRONICLES, PROVERBS, ECCLESIASTES; SONG OF SONGS
V. WORLD POWER: EGYPT
VI. SECULAR HISTORY: EGYPT LOSES POWER AND PRESTIGE TO THE MESOPOTAMIAN EMPIRES, ASSYRIA, BABYLONIA, SUMER
Period Number 7
I. "DIVIDED KINGDOM" (930 B.C. - 722 B.C.)
II. 1 KINGS 12-22, 2 KINGS
III. 1 KGS. 12 JUDAH & ISRAEL TO THE TIME OF AHAB; 1 KGS. 17, 1- 22.STORIES OF THE PROPHETS; 2 KGS 1 - 17 THE KINGDOMS OF ISRAEL AND JUDAH; 2 KGS 18 -25 THE KINGDOMS DIVIDE WITH ISRAEL HAVING 10 TRIBES WITH ITS CAPITAL IN SAMARIA AND JUDAH HAVING 2 TRIBES WITH ITS CAPITAL IN JERUSALEM; THE KINGDOM OF JUDAH AFTER 721 B.C (WHEN THE NORTHERN KINGDOM OF ISRAEL WAS CONQUERED AND DEPORTED TO ASSYRIA.
IV. SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKS: 2 CHRONICLES CONT'D; HOSEA, ISAIAH, MICAH, OBADIAH, JOEL, AMOS, JONAH, TOBIT
V. WORLD POWER: ASSYRIA
VI. SECULAR HISTORY: ASSYRIA REPLACES EGYPT AS LEADING GREAT POWER, FIRST OLYMPIC GAMES, 776 B.C., FOUNDING OF ROME, 753 B.C.
Period Number 8
I. "EXILE" (722 B.C. - 539 B.C.)
II. 2 KINGS CONT'D
III. 2 KGS 2 ELIJAH & ELISHA;. 2 KGS 18, 19 HEZEKIAH, ISAIAH, 2 KGS 21 REIGN OF MANASSEH; 2 KGS KING TIGLATH-PILESER III INVADES AND CARRIES OFF NORTHERN KINGDOM TO ASSYRIA 722 B.C.; 605, 597, 587 (all three B.C.) THREE DEPORTATIONS BY BABYLON OF JUDAH; FIRST TEMPLE DESTROYED BY BABYLON 587 B.C.; 70 YEARS EXILE OF JUDAH IN "BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY"
IV. SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKS: NAHUM; HABAKKUK; DANIEL; EZEKIEL; JUDITH; LAMENTATIONS; JEREMIAH; ZEPHANIAH; BARUCH
V. WORLD POWER: BABYLON
VI. SECULAR HISTORY: HOMER'S ILIAD AND ODYSSEY WRITTEN 722 B.C., THE BUDDHA BEGINS HIS TEACHING, 563 B.C., CONFUCIUS, 551
Period Number 9
I. "RETURN" (538 B.C. - 168 B.C.)
II. EZRA, NEHEMIAH
III. EZRA 1 -6, JUDAH'S THREE-STAGE RETURN FROM EXILE (1) 538 B.C., (2) 525 - (3) 457 B.C., 444 B.C.; THE KINGS OF PERSIA: CYRUS, 538 - 529 B.C., DARIUS I, 521 B.C. - 485 B.C., DARIUS III, 336 - 330 B.C.; EZRA 7 - 10 THE DEEDS OF EZRA; NEHEMIAH 1 - 7 THE DEEDS OF NEHEMIAH, 8 - 13; HE REBUILDS WALLS OF JERUSALEM 444 B.C; ZERUBBABEL REBUILDS TEMPLE 537 B.C.; PROMULGATION OF THE LAW
IV. SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKS: ZECHARIAH, HAGGAI, ESTHER, MALACHI
V. WORLD POWERS: PERSIA (CYRUS); GREECE (ALEXANDER THE GREAT)
VI. SECULAR HISTORY: PLATO, 427 B.C., DEATH OF SOCRATES, 399 B.C., ARISTOTLE, 384 B.C., ALEXANDER THE GREAT 336, SEPTUAGINT BIBLE TRANSLATION WRITTEN IN ALEXANDRIA, 283 B.C., GREAT WALL OF CHINA 214 B.C.
Period Number 10
I. MACCABEAN REVOLT 167 B.C - END OF B.C., BEGINNING OF A.D.
II. 1 MACCABEES
III. 1 MACCABEES 1, HELLENISM IN ASIA MINOR; THE MACCABEAN REVOLT; 1 MACCABEES 3 - 9, THE LEADERSHIP OF JUDAS MACCABEUS; 1 MACCABEES 9 - 12, LEADERSHIP OF JONATHAN; 1 MACCABEES 13 - 16 SIMON HIGH PRIEST AND ETHNARCH
IV. SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKS: 2 MACCABEES, WISDOM OF SOLOMON, SIRACH
V. WORLD POWER: ROME
VI. SECULAR HISTORY: ANTIOCHUS EPIPHANES, 163 B.C., DEAD SEA SCROLLS, 100 B.C., JULIUS CAESAR, 44 B.C., POMPEY CAPTURES JERUSALEM, 63 B.C., HEROD THE GREAT, 4 B.C., VIRGIL WRITES AENEID, 30 B.C.
Period Number 11
I. MESSIANIC FULFILLMENT (1 - 33 A.D.
II. FOUR GOSPELS: MATTHEW, 80 A.D.; MARK, 69 A.D.; LUKE, 80 - 90 A.D.; JOHN 90 - 100
III. MATTHEW 1 -2, THE INFANCY NARRATIVE; MATTHEW 3 -7, PROCLAMATION OF THE KINGDOM; MATTHEW 8 - 11, MINISTRY AND MISION IN GALILEES; MATTHEW 11 -13, OPPOSITION FROM ISRAEL; MATTHEW 13-18, JESUS, THE KINGDOM AND THE CHURCH; MATTHEW 19 - 25, MINISTRY IN JUDEA AND JERUSALEM; MATTHEW 26 - 28, THE PASSION AND RESURRECTION.
IV. SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKS: MARK, LUKE, JOHN
V. WORLD POWER: ROME
VI. SECULAR HISTORY: EMPERORS TIBERIUS 14 - 37 A.D.; CLAUDIUS 41 - 54 A.D.
Period Number 12
I. THE CHURCH ( 33 A.D. ----
III. PAUL'S LETTERS: ROMANS, 1 & 2 CORINTHIANS; GALATIANS; EPHESIANS; PHILIPPIANS; COLOSSIANS; 1 & 2 THESSALONIANS; 1 & 2 TIMOTHY; TITUS; PHILEMON; THE CATHOLIC LETTERS: JAMES; 1 & 2 PETER; 1, 2 & 3 JOHN; JUDE; REVELATION; ACTS 80-90 A.D.
IV. SUPPLEMENTAL BOOK ACTS: MAJOR DATES IN CHURCH HISTORY OF FIRST CENTURY A.D. WITNESS IN JERUSALEM: PENTECOST; STEPHEN MARTYRED; CHOOSING OF SEVEN DEACONS; WITNESS IN JUDEA & SAMARIA; SAUL'S CONVERSION (33/34 A.D.); CORNELIUS' VISION; PETER'S ARREST AND DELIVERANCE; WITNESS TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH: PAUL'S THREE MISSIONARY JOURNEYS (45-58 A.D.); COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM (49 A.D.); JOHN'S APOCALYPSE (BOOK OF REVELATION) 68 A.D..
V. WORLD POWER: ROME
VI. SECULAR HISTORY: DESTRUCTION BY ROME OF JERUSALEM TEMPLE (70 A.D.); NERO (54 - 68 A.D.); VESPASIAN (69 - 79 A.D.); TITUS (79 - 81 A.D.); DOMITIAN 81-96 A.D.