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Bible Chronology

Bible Chronology Video

.Prague Astronomical Clock Face.Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia 

Bible chronology is the study of the bible by arranging events in the order of their occurrence. This is relevant to bible prophecy because if we can see a pattern in God's timeline in the past then we can understand His purposes better. Also if we can see a pattern to events then this will help our understanding of things to come.

One of the earliest bible chronologists was a Christian writer called Julius Africanus. He completed a five volume chronology of the world from creation, which he placed at 5499 BC, up until the year 221 AD. He  lived from about 180 to 250 AD. We only have fragments of his works now but he was notable for putting the bible into a historical context. One particularly interesting fragment (Fragment Number 16) was about the Seventy Weeks of Daniel. He reckons the seventy weeks as 490 years and calculates from the time of the decree of Artaxerxes to Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:1-8) just as Sir Robert Anderson did in the 19th Century. However he reckons the whole Seventy Weeks brings us to the time of Christ rather than 69 weeks. He arrives at a year which is the equivalent of our 31 AD.

256px-James_Ussher_by_Sir_Peter_Lely wcm

One of the most famous bible chronologists was James Ussher (1581-1656), Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland, and Vice-Chancellor of Trinity College in Dublin. In 1650 he published a 1,600 page volume in Latin covering the history of the world from creation up until about 70 AD. In 1658 an English translation was published entitled "The Annals of the World". Bishop Ussher is now often mentioned in terms of scorn at his literal interpretation of the bible. However in his day he was highly regarded and his chronology of the bible was constructed with great diligence and attention to scripture. He established the first day of creation as Sunday 23rd October 4004 BC and, using scripture, produced his chronology from that date.

In general I think Ussher's chronology is excellent and treats scripture as real historical fact in a historical context. However in my opinion it was unfortunate that from the 1680s onwards it started to be incorporated in the King James Version of the bible. The effect of this was that in the eyes of many it took on the status of scripture itself rather than being regarded simply as a work of scholarship.

Bible chronology can be a vast subject but it can also be a simple and rewarding study that any believer can carry out. In particular the period of 1,656 years from the creation of Adam to The Flood is not disputed and can be calculated by simply adding up the years of lives of the patriarchs listed in Genesis. Only when we get to the birth of Abraham do the major differences of interpretation occur. Some believing that Abraham was born 1,948 years after creation and others that he was born 2,008 years after creation. I have attached a spreadsheet to show how a chronology can be constructed.

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