Friday, October 07, 2016

12 Dates to Know that Make My Bible Reading Flow

I had lunch this week with a highly decorated soldier who has been attending Emmanuel for the past year. "Since I started attending, I've developed a desire to read the Bible. My wife gave me a Bible as a gift for Christmas, and my New Year's resolution is to read it through.  Is there something that could help me understand it better?"

I explained that nobody would begin building a house without a set of plans. Properly building a house requires a framework. So too, before one launches into reading the Bible, one must have a proper framework. I explained to him that the Bible is all about Jesus Christ.

"The Scriptures speak of me" (John 5:39), Jesus said.

All the Scriptures speak of Him, both the Old Testament and the New Testament. The problem many have when they start reading the Old Testament is they don't see how everything in the Bible revolves around the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

Christmas is that time we celebrate the Creator of the universe coming to earth (Emmanuel) to "humble Himself by becoming obedient to death" (Philippians 2:8) as a Man. God came to fulfill the Law of "sin and death" for sinners, setting His people free from the commanding and condemning power of the Law (Romans 8:2). The Creator told us to live life to its fullest, loving people the way He loves us.

We've broken God's Law, and deserve death for it (Romans 6:23).  But God in His love for sinners came to take our place, placing the penalty of sin (death) on Himself, conquering death through the Resurrection, and promising eternal life to those who trust Him (Romans 6:23).

Time for western civilization has historically been measured by the coming of God to this world in the form of Man, an act called "the Incarnation." Chili with "meat" is "chili con carne." When the invisibleimmortalimmutable God took on "flesh," we call it the In-carn-ation.

Celebrating the Messiah in a manger at Bethlehem has meaning only when comprehending the Messiah on a cross at Jerusalem. The mission of the Messiah was to die for sinners, bearing our punishment, that we might live forever. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. God can't die, but a Man can.
"For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation" (II Corinthians 5:19). 
Christ is the center of history.

Before Christ and The Year of Our Lord (Anno Domini)

B.C. is an abbreviation for "Before Christ" and A.D. is the Latin abbreviation "Anno Domini" which in English means, "The Year of Our Lord."  When the abbreviations are properly used,  B.C. is placed after the year, and A.D. comes before the year (ex. 1500 B.C. or A.D. 1500).

Since the 8th century A.D., Western Civilization has dated events with the tags B.C. or A.D. to quickly tell if those events occurred before the birth of Christ or after. 

Before the coming of Christ, dates were measured according in relation to the first Olympics (776 B.C.) so that people would say "in the third year of the XI Olympiad" which would be the date we know as 743 B.C. since an Olympiad occurred once every four years.

Later, dates would be measured by the reigns of Roman Emperors. The Jews have kept time (and still do) using the A.M. (anno mundi) which is Latin for "Year of the World." The Jews measure time from the year they believe God created the world. So, A.D. 2016 is to the Jew 5777 A.M. 

Around 1980, some influential academicians, including scientists at the Smithsonian, began using B.C.E. and C.E. to avoid having to use the name of Christ or the offensive "year of our Lord" in dating abbreviations. C.E. means "Common Era," and B.C.E. means "Before the Common Era." Of course, a person might ask "What makes our era common?" and one might respond, "The common Creator of all things has come into His Creation as a Man" (see Colossians 1:16). 

The use of B.C.E. and C.E. may be an attempt to avoid usage of Christ's name, but I am reminded that "those who are ashamed of Him will one day find He is ashamed of them" (see Luke 9:26). So, using the dates B.C. and A.D., the following 12 dates - when memorized - will give you a remarkable understanding of the Bible and the flow of its history. The dates I give are approximate dates until we get to the year of the first Olympics (776 B.C.) when the dates will be precise. 

4000 B.C. 
The Creation of Adam

We will let people fall all over themselves attempting to prove the age of the earth, but we will politely bow out. Whether you believe the earth and universe are "billions and billions" of years old, or relatively young (e.g. "thousands of years"), knock yourself out proving it. I only point out the creation of Adam, the first man, on this date. Scientists recently finished tracing the human genome and "discovered" that all human beings descend from one man and one woman. Science only confirmed what the Bible reveals. Since nobody was around when the first man and woman appeared, it seems to me it takes greater faith to believe all humans evolved from amoebas and apes than it does Adam and Eve were created by God in His image (see Genesis 1:27). 

2345 B.C.
The Flood of Noah

This date is easy to remember - 2 3 4 5 - years before Christ, a flood came. Some believe this flood is global and catastrophic, others believe this biblical flood is local and hyperbolic (exaggerated). As for me, since every nation of the world has a flood legend in her history, I lean toward a worldwide cataclysmic flood. God caused the population of the earth to perish because "man was evil." The re-population of the earth began again with Noah's sons (Shem, Ham, and Japheth) and their descendants, from whom all the people groups of the world can be traced. The Table of Nations in Genesis 10 is a stunning study on the world's population growth, as well as a key that unlocks the door to different cultures that cover the globe. The population of the world can only be what it is today if you begin populating the world with people from scratch in 2500 B.C. Otherwise, the world's population by the scientific rate of growth (a doubling of population every 74 years) would have our world population in the trillions (instead of 7 billion). 

2000 B.C.
The Birth of Abram

As a young man, Abram lived in "Ur of the Chaldees" (an ancient city in modern Iraq).  God told him to leave his country, his people, and his father's family to go "to a land that I will show you" (Genesis 12:1; Acts 7:2). This call of God to Abram is key to understanding the Bible. The Creator of the world is calling Abram to Himself to "make of him a great nation" (Genesis 12:2), through whom "all the peoples of the earth will be blessed" (Genesis 12:3). This call is the beginning the nation called Israel, through whom the Messiah - who would bless all peoples of the earth - would come. Abram had a son named Isaac, and Isaac had a son named Jacob, whose name God changed to "Israel." Israel had twelve sons, from whom the 12 Tribes of Israel find their origin. Thus, in the Old Testament, God identifies Himself as "The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" (Exodus 3:6).

1500 B.C. 
The Call of Moses

Though this date is approximate, I believe it is very close to accurate. We know that Israel (Jacob) and his family went down to Egypt during a great famine (Genesis 46), and Israel sojourned in Egypt, and God turned them into a "great nation" of people due to the influence of Joseph, one of Israel's sons. Over the next three centuries, the Israelites "multiplied greatly" (Exodus 1:7), growing very numerous in number.

The Pharaoh of Egypt who came to power grew afraid of the Israelites, so he enslaved them. God called an Israelite named Moses to lead His people out of their bondage in Egypt. The United States has been a nation for 240 years, less time than Israel lived in Egypt. and we have grown from 100 early settlers to 325,000,000 people. Even without population growth by "immigration" like the United States has had, it's not hard to understand how Israel became a "great nation" while in Egypt. When God called Moses at the burning bush, He said, "I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." (Exodus 3:6). Moses led God's people out of Egypt back to the land that God originally gave to Abraham, the land of Canaan. When the Israelites left Egypt in the 15th century B.C., God made a covenant with them at Mt. Sinai.

This conditional covenant of Law was a promise that IF Israel obeyed God, THEN Israel would be blessed by God. But IF Israel violated their conditions of the covenant, THEN Israel would experience the wrath of God. We call this covenant "the Old Covenant." Israel called it "The Law." The Law included everything about Israeli life in their new land - the calendar, the festivals, the taxes, the sacrifices, Temple worship, Sabbath days, dietary laws, civil laws, etc.,, - literally, everything about Israel revolved around God's Law. Why? The Law pointed to the Messiah who was to come through Israel to "bless all the peoples of the earth." (Genesis 12:3).  Jesus came "to fulfill the Law." Jesus is the true and faithful Israel who fulfilled the Law and deserves all the blessings of God.

1051 B.C. 
The Kingdom of Israel

God led Covenant Israel to the land of Canaan and empowered them to defeat the Canaanites and subdue the land (read Joshua and Judges). For the next four hundred years, God's people sought to live by the Covenant, but eventually, they began to forget they were a special people in covenant with God. The Israelites began looking at neighboring nations with kings and wanted "a king" for themselves. They asked their prophet Samuel for God to give them a king over Israel "like other nations" (I Samuel 8).

When God allowed Israel to have a king, it was the beginning of a decline that eventually led to a complete divorce of God from national Israel because Israel "broke the covenant with God" (Jeremiah 3:8)  Of course, this was all part of the providential. God's Law was intended to reveal the depths of man's sin (Romans 3:7-25) and the beauty of mankind's Savior. Jesus fulfilled the Law and gives perfect righteousness and corresponding blessings from God to all those who trust Him (Philippians 3:7-11).

A kingdom is "a king's dominion," and Israel had three kings in their history as a kingdom: Saul (1051-1011 B.C.) - David (101 - 971 B.C.) - Solomon (971 - 931 B.C.)

931 B.C.
The Division of the Kingdom of Israel

When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam wished to continue the heavy taxes his father had imposed to build the Temple. 10 tribes of Israel rebelled and started their own kingdom with another son of Solomon named Jeroboam. This split in Israel led to two nations. The 10 tribes formed a northern kingdom they called Israel, and they moved their capital to a city they called Samaria. They built for themselves their own temple, and began to worship pagan gods. Two tribes - Judah and Benjamin - remained in the south and formed the southern kingdom called Judah. The southern kingdom kept Jerusalem as their capital, continued to worship at the Temple, and tried to keep their covenant with God. Of the nineteen kings that would eventually rule the northern kingdom of Israel, not one of them was a good king in the sight of God.  Of the twenty kings that would eventually rule the southern kingdom of Judah, about half were good, and the other half were evil. I used to joke with my daughter that I would only allow her to date when the boy requesting a date could quote for me the nineteen kings of the northern kingdom in order, and the twenty kings of the southern kingdom in order. You will never understand the Old Testament until you know that the prophetical books of the Old Testament are words of warning to either the northern kingdom or the southern kingdom to repent of their violations of their covenant with God and return to Him.  The books of the Old Testament look like this: 

Historical books (17 - Genesis to Esther)
Poetical books (5 - Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon)
Prophetical books (17 - Isaiah to Malachi)

You will only comprehend the last seventeen books of the Old Testament when you understand that the prophets who wrote the prophetical books were either speaking to Israel, Judah or both kingdoms. 

722 B.C. 
The Fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel

The northern kingdom of Israel never followed God in covenant relationship. Their nineteen kings were all evil. Stories like that of King Ahab and Jezebel reveal how lost the people of Israel, and their leaders were. Prophets like Elijah, Hosea, and others came to northern Israel and spoke to the people and kings on behalf of God. Their message was "repent" or "perish." The people of Israel closed their ears to the warnings of God through the prophets,  God then raised up the Assyrians, the world's first empire, to bring to an end the northern kingdom of Israel. In 722 B.C. Assyria conquered the northern kingdom, took the Israeli men into captivity (Ninevah was Assyria's capital), and brought in pagan men they'd captured in other nations and forced them to intermarry with the Israeli women. The descendants of these "mixed marriages" were the Samaritans, considered "half-breeds" by the Jews of Jesus day. In fact, the Jews (Jew is an abbreviation for Judah, the people of the southern kingdom) would go to great lengths to avoid the Samaritans and the land in which they lived (Samraria). But not Jesus. "He must go through Samaria" (John 4:4) because Jesus is interested in giving life to the least, the lost and the littlest - those the world rejects. It was in the land of Samaria that Jesus met the woman at the well and gave her the water of life. Though the descendants of the mixed marriages were called "Samaritans," after the fall of the northern kingdom, the 10 northern tribes of Israel were forever lost - thus they are called the "Lost Tribes." The Mormons wrongly teach that these lost tribes became the Native Americans. In reality, the tribal identity of northern Israel was lost because they broke covenant with God, and God divorced Himself from them as a nation.

586 B.C.
The Fall of the Southern Kingdom 

After the fall of the northern kingdom, the southern kingdom (Judah), composed of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, would be the only families of Israel remaining. Of course, the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Jesus) was to come from Judah, and the Messiah would "reign over the house of David forever." King David was from the tribe of Judah. So the promise God originally made to Abraham that through Him "all the nations of the earth would be blessed" was still in effect. However, the people of Judah began to go the way of their northern brothers. Prophets like Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others began to warn Judah that they too would perish if they didn't repent and return to God. The world's second empire, the Babylonians, conquered the Assyrians, and in a series of three increasingly severe attacks on Jerusalem (609, 597 and 586 B.C.), Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, eventually destroyed the Temple and the city of Jerusalem, and took the Jews (the abbreviation for the people of Judah) into captivity. This captivity into Babylon (modern Iraq and Iran) is called "The Babylonian Exile." I date this 70 years of captivity from 609 B.C. when Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are taken by Nebuchadnezzar from Jerusalem to Babylon, to the fall of Babylon to the Persians in October of 539 B.C. Many amazing things occurred during the Jews captivity in Babylon. Synagogue worship begins. Daniel wrotes his prophetical books and names the date for the coming of the Messiah. The "magi' from the East who came looking for "he who has been born king of the Jews' came because they knew Daniel's scroll. He was the most revered magi of them all, and he was a Jew who never went back to Jerusalem, but stayed in Babylon (and is buried in Iran). 

400 B.C.
The Close of the Old Testament

When the Jews returned from Israel after their Babylonian captivity, they were led by men like Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, and they rebuilt the walls and the city of Jerusalem. The Jews rebuilt the Temple itself and re-dedicated it in 516 B.C. They tried to get back to their normal lives in the land of Israel. Esther, a Jew born in Babylonian captivity, would remain in Babylon and eventually marry a Persian king named Xerxes. Her story is the last historical book of the Old Testament. A ton of people read the Old Testament and get confused because they don't realize if you wish to read the Bible chronologically, you must stop at the 17th book (Esther). The middle five books of poetry in the Old Testament and the last seventeen books of the Old Testament (the books of the prophets) fit within the first seventeen books of the Old Testament according to the history of Israel. It's interesting to note that though the Jews picked up their worship of God at the re-dedication of the rebuilt Temple in 516 B.C., the Spirit of God was never again present in the Temple worship of the Jews. It is during this time period (from the close of the Old Testament, to the coming of Christ) that there is the rise of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. When there is the worship of God without the Spirit of God, you will either have the rise of legalism (Pharisees) or the rise of liberalism (Sadducees).  From the close of the Old Testament to the birth of Christ, you have a period where the Persians are defeated by the Greeks, the Greeks are then defeated by the Romans, and during the Roman rule of the world, the Messiah appears (see Daniel 11). Daniel prophesied all these events so precisely, skeptics assumed Daniel couldn't have written it (because a man can't tell the future). These skeptics were silenced at the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls which contained the complete book of Daniel and showed it was written before the events occurred. A man may not know the future, but God does.

4 B.C.
The Birth of Christ

I won't get into the reasons why the scholars in the middle ages made a four year error when they started B.C. and A.D. dating (Clue: It has to due with leap years), but it will help you understand the span and scope of the Old Testament if you remember the numbers 4 and 0. 4000 B.C. - The Creation of Adam. Take away a zero. 400 B.C. - The Close of the Old Testament. Take away two zeroes. 4 B.C. - The Coming of Christ. Remember, Jesus Christ came "to fulfill the Law" and make a New Agreement with the world. The Old Covenant was a conditional agreement whereby those who perfectly obeyed God were perfectly blessed by God. In the New Agreement (Covenant), all those who trust Christ -  who came to fulfill the Law - are perfectly blessed by God.  The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a life that actively fulfilled the Law through His personal obedience and passively fulfilled the Law through His death in the place of sinners. The coming of God in Christ to this world is the center point of history. History is His story. It's odd that followers of Christ speak more of Christ's second coming than we do His first coming. Christ's coming to earth in 4 B.C. changes everything.

A.D. 30 
The Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ

The death of Jesus Christ is God's mercy for sinners. God forsook the Son He loved that He might never forsake those who love His Son. The demons of hell will leave alone anyone who talks generically about God. But when someone begins telling others that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself" the demons go crazy. For those who have a hard time understanding how God can come to earth as a Man, it usually revolves around how the immortal, invisible and immutable Creator could ever be "limited" to a Man.  The answer is beautiful. We worship and serve only one God. But this God who created us so transcends our ability that we could never know Him except for the fact in His love for us God condescends to our level and reveals Himself to us. Christ came that we might know God. He is Emmanuel - God with us. When you come to understand that God conquered sin and death for those who will trust Christ, then the same power that raised Christ from the dead goes to work within you. Jesus came that we might have life, and this life is for those who trust Him. 

A.D. 70 
The Destruction of the Jewish Temple

The time between the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (A.D. 30) to the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans (A.D. 70) is what the Bible calls "the last days."  It's the last days of the Old Covenant, not the last days of the world. In fact, during this time of transition (40 years), the good news of what Christ came to do went to "the Jews first, then the Gentile" (Romans 1:16). Daniel prophesied the end of the nation of Israel (Daniel 9:24-27), and just like God gives a period of mercy during transitions in His dealings with His people (40 days of the flood; 40 years in the wilderness; 40 days of temptation, etc...), God gave His people 40 years before He brought the worship of the Jews at the Temple to an end. "The last days" of the Old Covenant are the beginning of a New Agreement between God and the world. 

Trust Christ and live.


Donald Johnson said...

Rather than dates, some of which are at best approximate as you point out, I try to use covenants (including initiation and termination of same) as the backbone structure on which the rest of Scripture hangs.

Wade Burleson said...

I would be interested in seeing how you do that Don. I emphasize just the two major covenants (Old and New). I see the Abrahamic covenant as a "type" of the eternal, New Covenant (as well as the Davidic Covenant). So, the Old Covenant (the Mosaic Covenant) I see as the history of God's dealing with Israel as a nation. The New Covenant I see as God's agreement with the world. Within the Old Testament I see many pictures or types (foreshadowings) of the New Covenant.

Aussie John said...


Great article! Likewise your comment to Don!

Bill said...

Great article.The bible as we know it in just a few short paragraphs Beautiful explanation.

Nancy said...

".... I only point out the creation of Adam, the first man, on this date. Scientists recently finished tracing the human genome and "discovered" that all human beings descend from one man and one woman. Science only confirmed what the Bible reveals. "
Hi, Wade! Sometimes I just enjoy being a pain.
Human beings descended from one man and one woman....... Noah and his wife?

Donald Johnson said...

Many of the names on your list are associated with covenants, as you know, so there is substantial overlap in the 2 methods. Also, one does need to know the general chronological order to put each book in Scripture in order to best make sense of it in the overall story of Scripture. I see Scripture as a progressive revelation and it helps to see how the revelation progresses if one puts each book into its appropriate time period in the overall story.

So what is a covenant? I see it as an agreement between 2 parties with emotional content. Marriage is a covenant and the emotion is love, David and Jonathan had a friendship covenant. A covenant is established by vows, when only one party makes
vows, it is called a promise covenant or just a promise. But normally both parties make vows to each other regarding how they will behave in the future. In other words, it is a way to try to reduce the uncertainty or chaos of life. A friend promises to respect your boundaries and aid you when needed, an unknown person might or might not. Important note: A person might or might not keep their covenant vows, when they do not, the other person can choose to declare the covenant void because the vow breaker "broke the covenant" or they can choose to maintain the covenant. A covenant between 2 people ends when one of them dies or when the covenant is terminated for cause (for breaking a vow).

So what changes with God's covenants? A few things, God is a covenant keeper, God never ever violates the vows God makes. Note that this is a fundamental difference between the Judeo-Christian conception of God and the Islamic conception. In both conceptions, God can make covenants, but in Islam God is seen as so powerful he can break any vows at will. When the Judeo-Christian God makes a vow, it sticks. Also, God is beyond the constraints of time (and in fact created time and space, etc.) and as such can make continuing covenants that do not end with the death of a party. They way this happens is that each new person makes their own covenant with God, we see this with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for example. Another way of saying this is God has many sons and daughters, but no grandchildren.

So how do we find God's covenants? Obviously, if God says he is making a covenant, then that is one way. But beyond that, when God makes a vow, a promise covenant is made. Also, one can look for the language of terminating a covenant and then figure out that a covenant was made previously. Once one knows what to look for, I have found they keep popping up and I get a chill sometimes as another piece of the puzzle has just been fit together.

Of course, Jesus institutes the new covenant and that is the most important one for us, and this is another reason that Jesus is the focus and goal of all Scripture. So I invite all students of Scripture to dive deeper into Scripture by studying covenants.

Rex Ray said...


Welcome to the ‘pain club’; sometimes known as trouble makers. :)

In (Genesis 6:2) there were some women from Adam and Eve that were wives of the “sons of God” that produced “giant Nephilites”. (Genesis 6:4)

What “genome” would scientists find in these giants?

Since none made the boat trip with Noah, where did Goliath come from?

Steve Miller said...

Nicely done Wade. One of the areas I appreciate about you is the ability to share very important thoughts, truths, and principles concerning the Word of God and yet its presentation is simple and structured. I recently shared this with your folks at a Double Honor gathering in Arkansas. Once again you accomplished the task for me.


Tom said...

The dates given in this blog are rather rubbery since many of the OT chronologists have creative errors in this timeline to make them appear acceptable. Bishop Ussher's timeline is the usually accepted timeline but his brother in-law who in his musings suggested Adam's creation was in the year 4103 BC which is probably the closest answer given so far. It is difficult to go beyond that time as there is little written evidence to establish the length of each of the six period of creation.

Many agree that Noah's flood occurred around the year 1656 AM and if we accept Ussher's Chronology, then the year 2345 BC is a reasonable Guess. However if we accept Lydiat's chronology places it around the year 2445 BC.

The call of Abraham was around the year 2000AM and the birth of Isaac the confirmation of the covenant was around the year 2050 BC.

Moses was probably born around the year 1510 BC and called to lead Israel out from Egypt 80 years later around 1430 BC.

Saul was made king of Israel around the year 1040 BC and the construction of the temple began around the year 950 and was dedicated about 18 year later and 18 years later Solomon died and Israel was split into the northern and southern kingdoms.

It comes down to our understanding of scripture. The Book of Judges with three parallel story lines, spans about 220 years, only because there is only 480 years between when Israel left Egypt and the foundation of Solomon's temple was laid.

Yes it is important to know the timeline but it is just as important to know which timeline is the right timeline and to be able to discern it from our individual study of the scriptures.

We must be careful of our biases and not be swayed by the story that we want to tell.

Wade Burleson said...


I don't disagree - my purpose is to give a framework only. If dates vary by a few years or even decades, that's fine - at least people have the framework.