Biblical Dating

(Not that other kind of dating)

The simplest way to construct a timeline of the Old Testament is to work backwards. The following seven steps outline a relatively simple procedure for building such a timeline.

1. Daniel 9:24-27 fixes the date of the crucifixion at 483 Jewish prophetic years after Nehemiah 2:1. For a detailed explanation of this, see The Coming Prince by Sir Robert Anderson.

2. The return from Babylon under Ezra (chapter 1) took place a little less than a century before the time of Nehemiah.

3. 2 Chronicles 36:21-23 tells us that the Babylonian exile began 70 years prior to the events of Ezra 1.

4. The dates in Kings and Chronicles can work us back through the kingdom years.

5. 1 Kings 6:1 specifies that it was 480 years from the Exodus to the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, so now we have dates back to the Exodus.

6. Galatians 3:17 states that it was 430 years from God’s promises in Genesis to the Law. This extends our timeline back to the time of Abraham.

7. Lastly, Genesis 5 and 11 give a fairly precise timeline from creation until Abraham.

Three points to keep in mind:

1. This is an extremely simplified approach to creating an Old Testament chronology. There are many issues (length of years, royal ascension years, etc.) that allow for a certain flexibility in the timeline, but nothing that would amount to a difference of centuries or more.

2. Regarding the dates in Genesis 5 and 11, some people point out that “became the father of” might mean “became the ancestor of” and, hence, there may be some generations skipped. However, that doesn’t change the dates at all. For example, when Genesis 5:12 says that Kenan lived seventy years and became the father of Mahalalel, from a dating point of view, it doesn’t matter if “father” means “father,” “grandfather,” or “great-grandfather.” The point is that Mahalalel was born 70 years after Kenan.

3. Historically speaking, there’s very little question about when Abraham lived. Since Genesis 5 and 11 so clearly outline the chronology from Adam to Abraham, the approximate date of creation can be calculated regardless of whether we go through the biblical or extra-biblical route of determining the date Abraham lived.