Chronology of the Bible

Rick Aschmann                Site Map

Why does Bible Chronology Matter?

   Bottom of main chart   
   Sources   
   Background information   
        Chronologies of the Kings   
        Chronology of the Early Church   
   Format, Searching, and Printing   
   Secular Chronologies   
   History of Additions and Adjustments   
   Future Additions and Adjustments   
   About the Author
   Appendix: Various Church Timelines   
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   New Testament Chronology Expanded  
   New Testament Chronology panoramic view   

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   © Richard P. Aschmann   

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          This online Bible history timeline shows the chronology of the Bible from 2300 B.C. through the first century A.D. Scroll down to see any part of it. To start at the bottom, click the “Bottom of main chart” link above.


Main Bible chronology chart

↑ Bottom of main chart (move up to see). ↑
Sources
          This chronology for the most part represents the consensus of conservative, Bible-believing scholars who have attempted to use the chronological information in the Bible and in the archeological record to produce a chronology. Examples of other web sites with chronologies that match most of the dates here are: biblehub.com/timeline/, bcresources.net/2000000-bst-bib-gen-rev-1p010yr-tml-bcrx/ (their dates are one year later than most of mine for the patriarchal period), and bible-history.com/resource/r_time.htm (his dates seem to be within one year of mine one way or the other), among others.
          However, specifically, for most of this chronology I have followed the dates in The Narrated Bible by F. LaGard Smith, which is a generally excellent and useful rearrangement of the Bible in chronological order. In a few cases I have disagreed with his dates and provided others. These are all marked with an asterisk, except for A. M. Cragg’s chronology of the Judges, which is clearly marked as such. (This book is published by Harvest House Publishers. It is now called The Daily Bible.)
          But of course the main source is God’s word, the Bible. Scripture quotations are either from the New International Version (NIV) or the English Standard Version (ESV). I usually don’t specify which I have used, unless I find one more helpful than the other in a particular case.
Background Information
          I first began developing this Bible chronology web site for my own use, so that I would understand what happened and how it all tied together. I later decided that it might be helpful to others, so I started this web site. I only pray that God will use it to encourage believers and to further his kingdom.
          I firmly believe that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God, meaning that it is without error (in the original manuscripts). (For further discussion about inerrancy, see sections 4. Appendix 2: Did Moses write the Pentateuch?
and 4.1. Later (Minor) Editing in When Was Hebrew First Written?.)
          However, the Bible does not provide a complete chronology which can be used to date each event described in it. Thus, the dates in any chronology of the Bible must necessarily be uncertain. In fact, in a way it is a bit presumptuous to try to make a complete Bible chronology, and any such chronology should only be used as a tool to help us put the events of the Bible into their historical perspective, and not used as major points of dispute among Christians. Even so, claims by unbelievers that the chronology provided in the Bible is faulty, or that the events described in it are mere stories or legends, are false, and web sites such as reasons.org and biblearchaeology.org provide ample evidence that the chronology of the Bible is accurate. (This does not mean that I agree with everything on the biblearchaeology.org website, but their general framework, especially from Joseph forward, is quite reliable).
          Though it certainly does not provide a comprehensive chronology, the Bible does provide some quite solid figures to allow us to construct a chronology. The main two such figures are the 430 years in Egypt mentioned in Exodus 12:40-41,51 and the 480 years between the Exodus and the founding of the temple mentioned in 1 Kings 6:1, both shown prominently in this chart. These and other figures provided in the book of Genesis allow us to calculate with some certainty that Abraham was born 1199 years before the founding of the First Temple in Jerusalem.
          However, the Bible gives no solid information to help us fix that date in the framework of our modern calendar system, leaving all of the preceding dates without an absolute anchor. This means that we must seek that information from historical and archaeological sources, rather than from the Bible itself. However, few Biblical characters appear in these sources before the time of the kings of Israel, at least in such a way that they can be dated in relation to other historical events.
          However, external sources allow us to date the founding of the temple fairly closely. Josephus provides information from sources available to him about the reign of King Hiram of Tyre which allow the date to be fixed between 969 and 967 B.C. (see the chart for more on this), which matches independent calculations made by Edwin Thiele working back from the death of King Ahab (see following section).
          Some other important early dates are the death year of King Ahab (853 B.C., based on his participation in the Battle of Qarqar) and the first year of the rule of King Jehu in 841 B.C. (Based on his mention on the Black Obelisk). These are shown in the chart with background information.

Edwin Thiele and Leslie McFall’s Chronologies of the Kings
          In 1951 Edwin Thiele (see this page and this page) was able to calculate a complete chronology of the kings of Judah and Israel, on the assumption that the figures found in the Bible for their reigns were accurate, concluding that in many cases the reigns of kings’ sons began before the death of their fathers, in a coregency with the father. This chronology proved to match all of the biblical and historical data very well, and has largely been accepted by conservative Christian scholars (but see the following paragraph). However, though Thiele evidently believed that the Old Testament “texts should be considered as primary and authentic historical records,” in the case of the reign of Hezekiah he “reluctantly concluded that at that point the ancient authors had made a mistake.” F. LaGard Smith’s Narrated Bible seems to follow Thiele in almost every case.
        However, in the 1990’s Leslie McFall, coming from a belief in the full inerrancy of Scripture, reexamined Thiele’s chronology, and was able to adjust the chronology in such a way as to rule out any errors in the Bible text. Many conservative Christian scholars now consider this to be the definitive chronology for the kings. I have now modified my chronology to follow Leslie McFall’s adjustments (under unpublished articles). (See also my enhancement of his chart mentioned in the main chart at the top of the Kings and Prophets of Israel section around 920.) (Modified dates are marked with * as usual.) McFall’s reasoning is explained in great detail in Some Missing Coregencies in Thiele’s Chronology [replaced bad link again Dec. 2016], and McFall even gives suggestions on how to make better translations of the Hebrew in the relevant passages in A Translation Guide to the Chronological Data in Kings and Chronicles. (Background on McFall can be found here, though some of the links to McFall’s web site are wrong.)
        This adjusted chronology also removes some obviously impossible situations, such as the implication that Ahaz was born when his father Jotham was only 11, or that Hezekiah was born when his father Ahaz was only 10, according to the figures in The Narrated Bible.
Chronology of the Early Church and the Life of Paul
          In early versions of this chronology I stated: “The letters explicitly attributed to Paul in the New Testament are surprisingly easy to date within the framework of Acts and its historical background...” This statement was naive and simplistic, and was not really true. In fact, I have to admit that I can no longer identify the source that I was following when I made this statement. The fact of the matter is that I have found lots of different timelines for the early church and the life of Paul, and not a single one agrees with the others!
          Apparently aware of this disagreement, F. LaGard Smith gives no dates at all between Pentecost (30 A.D.) and the Jerusalem Council (which he dates 48-50 A.D.). This is surprising, since all the sources I have seen at least agree that king Herod Agrippa I died in 44, which at least fixes Acts 12:20-23 to that year. The first really solid date Smith gives is 53 for the start of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus during the Third Missionary Journey, working back from a date of 60 for the accession of Porcius Festus in 60 (see below).

          I have built my chronology around the following anchor dates:

44 A.D.: Date of death of king Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:20-23). In Acts 12:3 we see that James’s execution and Peter’s arrest occurred during “the days of Unleavened Bread,” and according to Josephus Agrippa I died not long after Passover, so this fixes his death to April or May. Apparently this year is solid also because of Josephus, who stated that Agrippa became king of Judea at the accession of the emperor Claudius in 41, and reigned 3 years. Every source I have seen agrees with this date. This is an important date, although it only affects the events from Acts 11:29 through the end of chapter 12, since the immediately preceding and following events are undatable.

51 A.D., July: Gallio becomes proconsul of Achaia. The Delphi Inscription fixes his accession relative to the reign of the emperor Claudius, approximately 52, and this page calculates his accession more accurately to July 51. The few that mention Gallio say either 51 or 52. This date is important for dating all of the events in Paul’s Second Missionary Journey, and can even give an approximate date for the Jerusalem Council that preceded it.

60 A.D.: Porcius Festus becomes procurator of Judea. This date is much more uncertain, and different sources I have seen vary between 58 and 62, but most seem to prefer 60, and Conybeare and Howson (pages 899-900) give good reasons backed up by a lot of research for preferring the summer of 60 A.D. for the accession of Festus. This date is key, since it affects the dating of all events from the start of Paul’s Third Missionary Journey in Acts 18:23 all the way to the end of Acts.


          Around these anchor dates I have also made the following assumptions:

I assume that the “three years” of Galatians 1:18 and the “fourteen years” of Galatians 2:1 both start at the conversion of Paul. Most sources seem to agree with this, though a few take the numbers sequentially, giving a total of 17.

I further assume that the Jerusalem visit recounted in Galatians 2:1-10 is the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15. This would mean that there were 14 years between Paul’s conversion and the Jerusalem Council, and if the latter occurred in about 49 (working backwards from Gallio), then Paul’s conversion would have been in 35. A few work back from Gallio differently, putting the Jerusalem Council in 48, and even a few in 50.
            If we assume 17 years in Galatians, then Paul’s conversion would have been in 32, leaving very little time for all of the events of Acts 1-9.

            At least one source (replaced link 2-May-2017),
Julian Spriggs, assumes that this visit was not the Jerusalem Council but instead the Famine Relief Visit of Acts 11:29-30. The problem is that if this famine relief visit is assumed to occur before the death of Herod Agrippa I in 44 A.D. (Acts 12), as a plain reading of Acts 11:29-30 would seem to suggest, then this cannot be made to fit, since subtracting 14 from 44 gives 30, forcing all of the events of Acts 1-9 to fit into a few months, which is almost inconceivable. However, Spriggs says that the famine and the delivery of aid happened a couple of years after Acts 12, in 46 A.D. Josephus does discuss such a famine, but this page says that:
            “The date of the famine described by Josephus is uncertain, due to a difficult text. If under [Tiberius Julius] Alexander it occurred between 46 and 48 CE, but it may have started in [Cuspius] Fadus’ time, as early as 44. The Emperor Claudius ruled from 41 to 54, matching the dating in Acts.”
            This suggests that we should take the plain sequence of events in Acts 11. In any case, even if the famine occurred in 46, and we assumed that this was the occasion of the Jerusalem visit in Galatians 2, 32 A.D. is awfully early for Paul’s conversion. (Spriggs says 32 in one place and 33 in another, but the math requires 32.)

Format, Searching, and Printing
Searching
          Text in the main chart above or in the New Testament chart cannot be selected, copied, or searched for, since these are image files. I have not figured out a good way to make such a chart any other way! I have learned of various methods to overlay text on an image in HTML, or image over text, and I have tried these in many different ways, but for a chart as large and complicated as this one none of them really seems to work well. So as of February 17, 2017 I have given up! That’s okay, the chart and the links work, and that is the important thing! (However, I now have a separate file with just the text in it, without most of the clarifying graphics, which you can now search, after which you will need to go back to the main chart to see the graphical context of that text.)
Printing
          Some have asked how they can print out the main chart on multiple sheets of paper. My friend Nate Bonham has provided the following instructions for those who can use them. (These instructions are apparently for Macintosh. My comments are added afterwards in brackets, including variations for Windows.)
          • Open an EXCEL file.
          • Change the layout to “Page Layout View” (View > Page Layout). [Make sure your paper size is correct, e.g. Letter, A4, etc.]
          • Change the layout to landscape and reduce the side margins to the limits of your printer. [Page Layout tab in Windows. I had to check these margins in another program before I started.]
          • Right-click and COPY the timeline image from the Bible Chronology website.
          • Right-click and PASTE into the upper-left cell of the Excel sheet.
          • Click on the “Format Picture” tab. Lock the aspect ratio of the image and change the width to the width of the landscape page. [In Windows right-click on picture and select “Format Picture”. For the width I went to the Page Layout tab and did Width: 1 page instead of automatic.]
          • When you go to Print the document, it should show it on multiple pages.
          • It looks to be about 12 pages when it is printed on A4 size paper. [I only got 9 pages.]
Format
          The following colors and formats are used in the charts.

          Age or date figures which are explicitly provided in the Bible text, and which make explicit the progression of the chronology, often from father to son, normally has the following format:
2066 Isaac born (Abraham 100, Gen. 21:5)
and have a green background to make it easy to follow the chronology along. For the most part these are only given from Terah to Caleb, since after this for the most part other means of organizing or verifying the dating are used. Figures not explicitly provided in the Bible text, but which can be directly calculated from other figures provided in it, have a pink background:
1915 Birth of Joseph (Jacob 91, Gen. 30:22-25)

Some important characters or information are colored red to set them off.

Dates which I consider less certain are followed by a question mark, and those I consider quite uncertain are followed by two question marks.




  Key events in the chronology are shown in a box with red borders and a yellow background, and marked with a red line across the chart.  

   
  Genealogical and other information clarifying dates or events are provided in a box with black borders and a yellow background.  

  Other background information is provided in a box with black borders and an orange background.  

  Extra-biblical information which helps to synchronize the chronology is shown in lavender, and may or may not be in a box.  

  Other extra-biblical information which helps to show the historical context is shown in pink, and may or may not be in a box.  

  Information about when books of the Bible were written is shown in a box with orange borders, and is sometimes colored orange.  
(The prophets are handled separately, and have their own color scheme shown around 670.)

  Alternative timelines which I consider less probable are shown in a box with extra-thick dashed blue borders and a pale gray background. 
(Only used in Judges. The preferred timeline has a solid blue border.) 

  Non-Israelite dynasties of kings or other rulers are shown in a box with thick blue borders.  
Secular Chronologies of the Ancient Middle East and Egypt
          Archaeologists have found long lists of rulers of different dynasties in the ancient Middle East and Egypt, including the Sumerian King List for early Mesopotamia and various lists for Egypt, but none of these lists contains absolute dates which can be matched to our dating system. Using many different types of information, secular archeologists and historians have attempted to determine when exactly each ruler ruled. Some of the information used is discussed in articles such as the Chronology of Ancient Egypt and the Chronology of the Ancient Near East. These discuss the fact that there remain competing opinions among scholars about nearly every stage of these chronologies. However, typically articles in Wikipedia about a particular ruler will only list one opinion as to his dates, as if the other opinions are no longer held by any reputable scholars, when in fact this is not the case at all. Worse, I find that different Wikipedia articles select different dating options without specifying which option they have selected, making comparison of dates a nightmare.
          For many periods in both Mesopotamia and Egypt there are at least two chronologies, and sometimes three, with names like “long”, “middle”, and “short”, or “high”, “middle”, and “low”, and these terms may be based on different data in different periods. These terms are also occasionally used in the Wikipedia articles, though usually not. These variations in chronology complicate the task of determining which historical rulers correspond to those mentioned in the Bible, especially in the years prior to the Israelite kings.
Thankfully, I have found one (and so far, only one) web site which helps to make sense of this mess, called BcResources, which provides a series of charts somewhat similar to mine that match almost exactly the Narrated Bible dates, and are particularly useful for their earlier charts. The full set of their timelines can be found at: bcresources.net/2000000-bst-bib-gen-rev-1p010yr-tml-bcrx/.

History of Additions and Adjustments
          These are listed in reverse chronological order. This way you can see anything you missed since the last time you visited, or see the editing history of any document!
 
         If you open one of the pages mentioned below, but the date that appears at the beginning of the page does not correspond to the date I give here, you probably need to “refresh” or “reload” the page in your browser so that it loads it again to get the updated page. (You will need to find the method for doing this on the browser you are using.)
          Anytime there is a link labelled major changes or major edits, it links to a file showing all of the changes since the last time the article was posted, with the edits marked with Microsoft Word’s editing conventions, with a red line in the margin showing edits, and the edits marked in dark yellow. These files are PDFs.
          (Earlier, before moving to Windows 10 and Office 365
in September, 2019, I used red in these files, or sometimes pink if the text had lots of red. Also for a while I used HTML format for these, in which case there is no line in the margin, and all changes are in pink. However, I decided that the PDFs are more readable, so I went back to those. Older examples in the list below will have these older formats. Since I moved to Windows 10 and Office 365 in September, 2019, I mark all the changes in dark yellow, since the pink they gave me was too close to red or purple for my liking!)
          If you think there is an error in any detail of this chronology, or simply to share any commentary or question, please write to me. I view this project as a collaborative project, and will acknowledge any useful information provided by contributors.

If you would like to be updated each time I make major changes or add a new article, please send me an e-mail with “Subscribe” in the Subject line, and I will add you to the list. I don’t promise to send these updates out after every little change, but I will after major changes.
Future Additions and Adjustments
          This chronology is essentially complete, though I will still be making adjustments to existing articles as time goes by. I do not currently plan to add new articles, but I seem to keep finding new ones that I end up adding! To see any recently added articles, see the Site Map.
          As of 5-Apr-2018 I have now translated all of these web pages into Spanish, except 3 which are quite technical, and which I do not plan to translate into Spanish unless some readers explicitly request it. These are marked with an asterisk in the Site Map.)
About the Author

          Since I find that I like to know something about the authors of websites I find interesting, and where they are coming from, I thought the least I could do would be to provide that information here. I have been a missionary since 1979, and am a pastor and a linguist. I also grew up as a missionary kid in Mexico. My web site is: Aschmann.net/Rick/.

 

Appendix: Various Timelines for the Early Church and the Life of Paul

          I list these, mostly without comment, and in no particular order, except to say that there is tremendous variation, and that I have not necessarily taken information from all of these. There are plenty more out there!

The Life and Epistles of St. Paul by Conybeare and Howson, 1012 pages. This is almost certainly the oldest (sometime before 1885, the death of Howson, though the publication date of this edition is 1900) and certainly the one with the most thorough research, which is carefully explained. Their arguments for the dates of the Third Missionary Journey through the end of Acts are quite convincing, and I have followed them in my chronology.

st._paul_timeline.pdf This used to be at www.scotthahn.com/download/attachment/1514, and is by Scott Hahn, Catholic theologian and apologist. I don’t know what Philemon has to do with Paul’s birth year.
unbound.biola.edu/acts/index.cfm?item=table
biblehub.com/timeline/new.htm
www.evidenceforjesuschrist.org/Pages/bible/timeline-nt-events.htm This web site used to be called errantskeptics.org, but the author, Gary Butner, is not a skeptic, but a Bible-believing Christian, so I guess he decided to change the name to avoid confusion.
www.biblestudy.org/beginner/timelinent.html
www.newtestamenthistorytimeline.com/
www.blueletterbible.org/study/paul/timeline.cfm
www.julianspriggs.co.uk/Pages/Galatians Only a partial timeline, relating to the timeline given in Galatians.