Biblical chronology I

Chronology is the science of dividing time into regular intervals and assigning dates to historic events in their proper order. Without it, we would find it impossible to understand the sequence of historical events, Biblical or non-Biblical. Chronology is the very foundation on which history rests and is the skeletal framework giving it structure and shape. Indeed, the events of history can only be meaningful and properly understood as long as they are kept in their proper time sequence. If the time sequence becomes altered, the interpretation of the events becomes distorted and no longer dependable. The basic unit of time in chronology is the year.


The following is part 1 of a summary of a larger work by Dr Floyd Nolen Jones (2001) entitled “The Chronology of the Bible.” This I scanned and converted to text from the back notes in my King James Easy Reading Study Bible (KingWord Press, Humboldt, TN) pp.523-527. Editorial comments are in {} brackets and my emphases in bold.


As historical events happened at precise moments of time, the chronologist must exert great care in not creating history while he is endeavoring to recover history. He must fit the events into their exact proper time sequence.

Although Biblical chronology has been studied for centuries, its importance has waned in the past century. Originally such studies were conducted by men who were committed to the position that the Sacred Writ was to be taken as an accurate, factual and historical record containing its own chronological agenda. With the emergence of rationalism and the modern development of the theory of evolution, humanistic scholars began to challenge the chronological framework of the Bible. These “progressives” were not willing to reject all of the historical data contained within the God given Hebrew record, but they did reject most or the chronological data. The result has been to separate history from Bible chronology. Eventually it was proclaimed by nearly all scholars, Christian as well as secular, that Biblical chronology was generally unreliable. Yet without the framework and foundation of chronology, Biblical history lies in ruins.

It should be evident that as the teaching of evolution entails as an integral part of its doctrine the concept of time (hence chronology), all those who have succumbed to its influence will of necessity tend to skeptically assess Biblical chronology.

Due to different worldviews with their accompanying frames of reference, Bible chronology cannot be discussed or considered by most as an independent subject. Presuppositions tend to cause the majority to suppose the matter of no consequence. After all, if one has been led to believe that the earth has been scientifically established, beyond all reasonable doubt, as being 4.6 billion years old rather than the approximate six thousand attested to by the Scriptures, the issue is completely closed from his perspective. Of what interest or value could that person ever place in Bible chronology? Yet, Dr. John Eddy admits:

“There is no evidence based solely on solar observations that the Sun is 4.5-5 × 109 years old. I suspect that the Sun is 4.5 billion years old. However, given some new and unexpected results to the contrary, and some time for frantic recalculation and theoretical readjustment, I suspect that we could live with Bishop Ussher’s value for the age of the Earth and Sun. I don’t think we have much in the way of observational evidence in astronomy to conflict with that.”

John A. Eddy, Ph.D. (astrogeophysics) (a solar astronomer at Boulder, Colo.) Geotimes, vol. 23, (September, 1978), p. 18.

Moreover, if the individual has accepted that the Scriptures are full of scribal errors, emendations, corruptions etc., no matter how painstakingly prepared, any chronology would be deemed of little worth and certainly not deserving of the time necessary to evaluate it. Due to the fact that the vast majority of educators and members of various news media have already succumbed to these beliefs, the worldview of the populace in general is rapidly falling in line, brainwashed by the unending torrent of misinformation, half-truths and lies.

220px-GodfreyKneller-IsaacNewton-1689

Isaac Newton

Doubtless the author will seem outrageously naïve to most, for the chronology presented herewith is so out of step with modern thinking, However it should be remembered that many brilliant scholars of the past accepted without hesitation the concept of Creation as being only about six thousand years ago. To name but a few who held to this “romantic” view includes not only Ussher, but his contemporary William Shakespeare (1564-1616) — himself a Biblical scholar. Another was Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), the undisputed greatest scientist and mathematician yet to live. He was also an outstanding Biblical chronologist. Indeed unlike nearly all today who fancy themselves scientists, Newton and many of his day who cleaved to the Scriptural account of Creation and the Deluge were scientists in the true sense. Being well grounded in many different disciplines of scientific investigation and study, they were able to discern when a theory or hypothesis in one field violated well known well established laws and principles in that of another.

Conversely, most moderns specialize to the point that they have no broad scientific base upon which to stand. The result is that while theorizing in their field (e.g., geology, biology) they are oblivious to the fact they are moving against the laws of physics, chemistry and statistics. In so doing they venture farther and farther from reality and fact, all the time deluded that such flights of imagination are science.

Newton defended the chronology of Ussher against those who tried to push back the date of Creation and wrote powerful refutations on atheism while defending the literal six day Bible Creation account. Moreover, he believed that the worldwide Flood of Noah’s day accounted for most of the geologic phenomena observed in his day. Newton’s authored two volumes addressing Biblical chronology, The Observations Upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the great work, The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended, published posthumously in 1728. In the latter, Newton decimated and overthrew the current dates of Greek, Latin and Egyptian chronology demonstrating the impossibility of using any of their chronologies as a stable foundation which could be used as a standard.

The actual fact is that neither geology, paleontology, nor any evolutionist can extract precise dating for the age of the earth and the antiquity of man. As Creation scientists have shown that all radiometric dating, including radiocarbon, is inaccurate {Ed. require unprovable assumptions, which are highlighted by wrong dates obtained for samples of known age}, historical records are still the only reliable method of obtaining these dates. It cannot be overemphasized that all the actual historical records agree in substance with the chronology as found in the Bible. Significantly longer chronologies, which are required to support the modern dogma of evolution, are all based on uniformitarian extrapolation and other assumptions associated with particular present physical processes.

As can be demonstrated, all such calculations are founded upon unproven, untestable, and often illogical and unreasonable assumptions; thus they can never be accurate or reliable in obtaining actual historical dates. We proclaim that the Word of the Living God is the most accurate and trustworthy source. Hence the weight of the scientific data, when properly understood, is firmly in support of a recent creation and the chronology of history which is in accord with the Biblical record. Comprehending this, we unashamedly stand beside the promises of God to preserve His Word as inerrant as He originally gave it and beside such men of God from the past whose faith stands forth unto this day.

HISTORY

The preceding has already alluded to the natural relationship that exists between history and chronology. It must be understood that real history requires an intelligent observer present to record the events, persons, dates, etc. Yet, even this essential prerequisite is not sufficient. The recorder or alert witness must be without bias for, rather than a factual account, a distortion will he created. Without such an observer, regardless of the amount of research or facts brought to bear upon a given subject, that which follows will be laced with conjecture and prejudice. Napoleon grasped this, at least in part, when he skeptically observed: “What is history but a fable agreed upon?” Accordingly, Historical Geology is not history. If the earth were 4.6 billion years old and if, as we are being told, life has been here hundreds of millions of years yet man has only occupied the planet for “merely” a few million years, then there was no intelligent historian present to record the presumed events. This is why originally such speculations were designated as “prehistoric”, i.e., before history.

True science is based on “what you can see”. The first statement in the Scientific Method declares that we begin with an “observed phenomenon”. This stringent limitation which excludes GOD from the arena of science also excludes evolution, as both are beyond the realm of human observation. This is especially true of the “punctuated” version of evolution {Ed: Eldredge and Gould’s punctuated equilibrium hypothesis}. Thus the problem is beyond and outside the realm of science.

As by definition real science deals with observed phenomena, it becomes obvious that the true realm of science is that of the present (or near present) and not that of the distant past. Despite all their protestations to the contrary, no matter how much intellect, technology etc., uniformitarian, evolutionists may bring to bear on the question of origins, by their own time-honored definition, such is not science.

If such views are neither History nor Science, what are they? They are merely philosophical “belief’ systems. Today’s society has a name for such. That name, hated among those who cleave to the dogmas of Historical Geology and uniformitarianism, is “religion”.

The truth that must be honestly faced and acknowledged by all is that both the Biblicist and the evolutionist are going through life practicing their faith. The problem is that only one side has been forthright enough to recognize and concede this as being the true assessment of fact. The other has long been self-deceived. Consequently, we are justified in contending and proclaiming that “real” history began, not billions, but only about six thousand years ago.

THE ASSYRIAN SCHOOL

In its quest for “more dependable data”, most modern scholarship has gravitated down and away from the data rich uninterrupted Hebrew testimony to that of other nations neighboring the Holy Land, especially that of the Assyrians. The modern school of Biblical chronology has attempted to establish its chronology by examining the Biblical record for a synchronistic point of contact between Israel and the Assyrian, Babylonian in Egyptian records. Assuming the chronologies of these kingdoms to be established, at least at the points of contact, the foreign kingdom’s date is assigned at the synchronous encounter to the Scriptural event. However, such procedure is founded on the fallacious presupposition and attending methodology that the Assyrian Eponym Canon, the royal inscriptions of the Assyrian and Babylonian records, the Canon of Ptolemy, and an eclipse with its assigned date are sources of absolute and accurate chronology.

The Assyrian Eponym List is a compilation of kin and important generals, officials and nobles after who the years were named. Each year was named in honor of one such man, and that man became the designated “eponym”. Eleven or so such lists are extant, though only 4 are usually referred to in the literature. None is complete, each is broken in places, and all but one of the four is very short. From these fragments a composite has been constructed.

Acceptance of these assumptions has been due the aura of precision given by astronomical “fixes” such as the solar eclipse found in the eponym of Bur-Sagale and the array of astronomical calculations produced the second century AD astronomer Claudius Ptolemy (Ptolemaeus). As this faction favors the Assyrian data above all other during the period of the Hebrew divided monarchy, using it to “establish” both the Hebrew and the Egyptian chronology of the XXII Dynasty as well as the earlier adjoining portion of the XXI Dynasty referred to by the author as the “Assyrian Academy.”

THE BIBLICIST SCHOOL

This is in stark conflict with the traditional Biblically oriented school which regards the Holy Scripture as the factual source against which all other material must be weighed. The goal of the members of this school is to construct a “Standard” chronology of the Bible from the chronological data embedded within the Hebrew Masoretic Text of the Old Testament, independent of any outside sources. In the past, James Ussher has been its leading proponent. The author designates the adherents of this position as “Biblicist”.

As the Biblical text contains much information of a chronological and mathematical nature, the chronology of the Biblical record can be fully substantiated with internal formulae documentation independent of religious overtones. This internal structure has been preserved in a specific rendering of the Biblical record, namely, the Hebrew Masoretic Text and the Greek Textus Receptus (the only current English translation being the King James Bible). Exhaustive study into the matter has led to the further conclusion that this preserved Text has best and most faithfully been rendered into English by the AD 1611 King James translators. Standard objections such as “generation gaps”, “scribal errors”, etc. can be resolved with forthright solutions and alternatives based upon internal Biblical data totally apart from so called “emendations”, “restorations” or “corrections” of the Text.

Long considered the “Gordian knot of Sacred Chronology,” the Divided Monarchy portion of the Hebrew record, which began at the death of Solomon and ended with the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar, is actually capable of straightforward solution. This is made possible because the Biblical text is a factual account of the actual history of the Hebrew people. It is both accurate and self-consistent complete and self-sufficient. Indeed, the Hebrew record of the kings of the Disruption is a cohesive unified entity. It forms a single orchestrated unit based on an unbroken chain of intertwined events between the Kings of Judah and Israel beginning at the accessions of Rehoboam and Jeroboam in BC 975 and extending to 721, the ninth and final year of Hoshea, last King of the northern kingdom.

Indeed, the author’s research has documented that most of the conflict reported to exist between the Hebrew Text and that of the Assyrian Annals etc. is the result of misunderstanding, misreporting, misrepresenting, misapplication and/or the taking of unjustified liberties in the emendations and restorations by the translators of the Assyrian records. [See: Floyd Nolen Jones, A Chronology of the Old Testament: A Return to the Basics, 14th edition, Revised & Enlarged, (The Woodlands, TX: KingsWord Press, 1999)]

EDWIN R. THIELE

Born in 1895, Dr. Edwin R. Thiele professed to have resolved the issues concerning the chronology of the period of the kings of the divided Monarchy of the Hebrews.

For nearly half a century his dates have dominated this segment of Bible chronology to the extent that almost all Bible commentaries, dictionaries, encyclopedias etc. in the marketplace reflect his views. Thiele’s dates are used and sanctioned by nearly every Bible college and seminary, conservative or liberal, on the globe today. Thiele’s book, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings has been published three times (1951, 1965, and 1983), each edition depicting major revisions.

Thiele’s results have completely replaced those of Ussher, long held in veneration by virtually all. Through-out his various works, Dr. Thiele professes to champion the Hebrew Scriptures. Over and over he claims that his solutions are superior to those of the past as he has not only brought the archaeological findings, especially those of the Assyrian Empire, to bear on the problem involved in Israel’s monarchical period, but that he has at all points honored the lengths of reign as recorded in the Hebrew Text.

However, Thiele did not honor the Hebrew Scriptures. Careful study reveals that his faith and loyalty were totally to the Assyrian Eponym List and the date of the solar eclipse in the year named in honor of the Assyrian, Bur-Sagale. When the Hebrew Text did not directly fit into the Assyrian chronological scheme, it was contorted and disfigured until it apparently conformed. The following reveals his true worldview with regard to Scripture:

“The only basis for a sound chronology of the period to be discussed is a completely unbiased use of biblical statements in the light of … the history and chronology of the ancient Near East…. If biblical chronology seems to be at variance with Assyrian chronology, it may be because of errors in the Hebrew records, …”

This is disturbing, but that which most distresses is that almost all conservative, evangelical scholars and schools alike have endorsed Thiele’s dates even though they do constant violence to the written Word of God and has problems with the secular historical dates of other nations. These conservatives have merely accepted Thiele’s results and have failed to protect the flock of God.

The problem with biblical chronology is that it does not tally with the current understanding of Assyrian chronology. Supposedly being nearly 45 years “too long”, Thiele creatively manipulated the biblical data and eliminated 45 years of history. This was accomplished by inventing co-rex or overlapping relationships between a king and his predecessor in order to shorten the span of their total reigns.

Dr. Thiele proposed nine such overlapping co-regencies. However, of the nine, five are neither mentioned nor demonstrable in the Holy Text. Thus Thiele’s frame of reference with regard to the Scriptures and the Assyrian archives betrayed him into fabricating and imposing these five contrivances. His use of many detailed diagrams over the divided kingdom period while using this approach as well as its being published by a well known university press gave his shortened chronology much credibility among academicians.

Inconceivably, Thiele’s slavish allegiance to his presuppositions drove him to ignore the Biblical witness to the extent that he actually concocted from a single abused Scripture (Hosea 5:5) an unprecedented third Hebrew kingdom, the nation of Ephraim. As a consequence, he was forced to violate the testimony of at least six other clear Scriptures in order to maintain this fanciful invention. The chronology of the Hebrew dynasties becomes no more than historical nonsense when adjusted to conform to such corruptions.

Thus, Dr. Edwin R. Thiele, long recognized as the “Assyrian Academy’s” leading proponent in the field of Biblical Chronology, while claiming to have defended the reliability of the Hebrew Text, again and again applied these often mishandled Assyrian data in violation of the clear Hebrew history. In so doing, he created problems with and greatly undermined the integrity of the Hebrew Text.

METHODOLOGY

As to the aforementioned Assyrian Eponym Canon, the royal inscriptions of the Assyrian and Babylonian records, the solar eclipse of Bur-Sagale and the astronomical calculations and eclipse identifications of Claudius Ptolemy, the author has carefully examined these and other profane data.

It must be seen that the Bible, even taken merely as a history book, is still the most remarkably unique book at man’s disposal because it provides a system of mathematical “checks and balances” which maintains accuracy in chronology via synchronism. Consequently, the study of Bible chronology, especially if approached from a believing frame of reference, is a most powerful apologetic tool and weapon in the defense of the Written Word. As a faith builder, it is second only to the study of Scripture itself. Many “discrepancies” and paradoxes (apparent errors) simply vanish when the data is charted on paper.

ARCHBISHOP JAMES USSHER

James Ussher Credit: Edited from wikipedia

James Ussher
Credit: Edited from wikipedia

The findings of this author’s research often yielded results reflecting, or nearly so, those made by Ussher. James Ussher (1581-1656), learned Archbishop of Armagh — the highest position in the Irish Anglican Church — was a scholar and historian of the first rank. Entering Trinity College at 13, he prepared a detailed work on Hebrew chronology in Latin at 15 and received a Master’s degree when 18. At 19 he engaged in controversy the Jesuit scholar Henry Fitzsimons. Overthrowing him, none could thereafter match him in debate. An expert in Semitic languages and history, at 20 he was ordained. At 26, he earned a doctorate and became Professor of Divinity at Dublin. So great was his repute of tolerance, sincerity and amassed learning (characterized by Selden as “miraculous”) that, despite the fact he had been critical of the rebellion against Charles the First, Oliver Cromwell — leader of the insurgence — greatly esteemed Ussher and awarded him a magnificent state funeral in Westminster Abbey.

Ussher prepared a chronology of Biblical events based on his study of the Holy Scriptures, deriving 4004 BC as the year of the creation of the universe. His dates were almost universally accepted until the mid-nineteenth century when the satanic attack against the Word of God in the areas of evolution, textual criticism and Bible chronology was launched. This assault has resulted in clouding the minds of the human race against the veracity and accuracy of the Holy Writ and, subsequently, to God’s claims on the lives of all mankind.

Having thoroughly perused his Annals of the World, it can only be concluded that those who deprecate this unrivaled piece of classical scholarship either have not so examined or lack the ability to perceive that which they have before them. Having now studied the works of over forty other scholars in this field, this author affirms that for him, Ussher is and will remain the unrivaled “prince” of chronologists.

Today, Ussher is oft maligned by men not worthy of his glance whose mindset is confident that modern scientific dating methods have punctured and totally invalidated his findings. Fossils and radiometric dating seemed to provide unchallengeable values for the age of the earth. However, those who know the trade secrets and the nuances concerning the differing radiometric dating techniques, they radiocarbon, potassium-argon, uranium-lead etc., are neither impressed nor intimated by such pretension. We are aware that the numerous scientifically invalid philosophical assumptions imposed upon the mathematics usually force the answers to balloon to enormous proportions in order to obtain sufficient time to justify the apparent feasibility of the untestable, unfalsifiable hypothesis of evolution. Moreover, the evolution hypothesis violates probability laws and numerous scientific laws in differing disciplines.

Two years after Ussher’s death, an English translation (with additions) of his original Latin was published in 1658 at London as the Annals of the World to the Beginning of the Emperor Vespasian’s Reign.

The marginal dates in the earlier Authorized Bibles (King James) represented in the main Archbishop Ussher’s chronology. However, from the beginning Ussher’s dates were slightly revised by Bishop William Lloyd of Worcester. Lloyd was entrusted with the task of editing the Bible for misspellings, typesetting errors etc. Lloyd adopted Ussher’s dates but made a few alterations in the 1701 Holy Bible with Chronological Dates and Index edition. Known popularly as “Lloyd’s Bible”, it was the first Bible with dates in the margins.

The foremost of these changes were the dates concerning Jacob’s marriages, the birth of his children, the departure from Laban by about seven years as the Book of Nehemiah. The alterations were explained by Lloyd at the back of the 1701 edition.

Ussher had set aside Ptolemy’s 465 BC date for the commencement of the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus in favor of BC 473 (AM 3531). This latter year was founded upon the much older historic writings of the great Greek historian of the fifth century BC, Thucydides of Athens. Ussher considered these more reliable than that of the Canon.

The 465 BC date places the twentieth year of Artaxerxes at BC 454 and brings the 483 year Daniel 9:25 prophecy to a 30 AD fulfillment for the crucifixion year of our Lord. However in 1701, fifty-one years after Ussher had published, Lloyd set aside Ussher’s chronology and inserted Ptolemy’s date in its place.

continued in Part 2

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