The Forks in the Chronological Road of Mankind
By Randy Nettles
While reckoning my “Chronology of Mankind: 6000 Years of History”, I came across several “fork in the road” choices I had to make to determine the correct path to take. As I have stated in my chronology article and others, I believe in a “sabbatical millennium” chronology. This is the belief that there will be 6,000 years of recorded history for mankind before Jesus returns and establishes His millennial kingdom on planet Earth.
Just as the original creation week took six days of work and one day of rest for a total of seven days, so will mankind work on the earth for 6,000 years and will then rest for 1,000 years during the millennial reign of Jesus Christ. After 7,000 years, God will create a new heaven and earth for His faithful angels and redeemed human beings.
There have been many chronologies throughout history that have attempted to date creation and mankind. Probably the most famous one is Ussher’s Chronology by James Ussher, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, published in AD 1650. Ussher deduced that the first day of creation was October 23, 4004 BC. If this is the correct date, then we would now be approximately 26 years past the 6,000-year benchmark.
Sir Isaac Newton believed creation occurred in 4000 BC. Johannes Kepler, the great 17th-century German astronomer, mathematician, and astrologer, thought the date could be 3992 BC. Both of these learned men’s dates would also overshoot the 6,000-year benchmark. All of these chronologists reckoned from the Masoretic text and not the Septuagint text of the Old Testament. There are 1,466 years of difference between the MT and the LXX texts regarding the chronology of the antediluvian and postdiluvian patriarchs. The chronology of the LXX is nearly a millennia and a half longer than the MT.
A couple of religious and scientific men who are still “in the ballpark” (dates that have not yet gone beyond 6,000 years of mankind) are Joseph Justus Scaliger, a 16th-century French Calvinist religious leader and scholar, and Saint Bede (the Venerable Bede), an English Benedictine monk of the 7th and 8th century. Scaliger estimated creation began in 3949 BC, and Bede deduced it began in 3952 BC. Bede’s date for creation comes the closest to my date of 3960 BC.
Most chronologists agree that the antediluvian age lasted for 1656-1657 years, from the creation of Adam to the Great Flood. They also agree that there were 352-353 years from the flood to the birth of Abram. Most believe that 290 years after Abram’s birth, the children of Israel moved out of the land of Canaan and into Egypt and settled in Goshen. This would be the year 2299 or 2300 AM (anno mundi – from creation).
After this event, you come to one of the “forks in the road” where many chronologists differ in regard to the length of time that the children of Israel spent in the land of Egypt. Many believe the duration was for 430 years; others believe it was for 400 years; while some, such as myself, believe it was for only 215 years. This is due to the timing difference of the different translations of 3 Bible verses.
1. Genesis 15:13-14: “And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.”
2. Exodus 12:40-41: “Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.” The Septuagint adds, “and in the land of Canaan;” and the Samaritan version is, “the sojourning of the children of Israel, and of their fathers, in the land of Canaan, and in the land of Egypt.”
3. Acts 7:6-7: “And God spoke likewise on this, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years. And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place.”
We know Scripture can’t contradict other scripture, so which is it, 430, 400, or 215 years? The answer is yes…all three. The 430 years must begin in Abraham’s lifetime (specifically when he entered Canaan), not Isaac’s or Jacob’s because the 400 years, which ends also at the Exodus, specifically starts at Isaac’s affliction by Ishmael (Gen.15:13; 21:8-12; Acts 7:6), which therefore began 30 years after Abraham entered the land. Isaac would have been about 5 years old then.
So, according to the Septuagint and Samaritan texts, Exodus 12:40 says, “Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt and in Canaan, was 430 years.” Abraham and his descendants dwelt in Canaan for 215 years and the sons of Israel dwelt in Egypt for 215 years. The Exodus, which took place on Nisan 14/15 (on the Feast of Passover) in 2514 AM, occurred on the exact anniversary of the giving of the Abrahamic covenant, 430 years earlier in 2084 AM. Josephus says the same thing: “They left Egypt on the fifteenth day of the lunar month (Num. 33:3), four hundred and thirty years after our forefather Abraham came into Canaan” (Antiquities of the Jews, 2:15:2).
If you are of the opinion that the children of Israel dwelt in Egypt for 400 or 430 years, then the theory regarding 6,000 years for mankind before Jesus’ second coming is no longer valid as it exceeds the mark by several centuries. The 215-year duration in Egypt before the Exodus fits perfectly in the timeline required before the two biblical events mentioned in 1 Kings 6:1.
“And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord.”
If the children of Israel moved to Egypt in 2299 AM and spent 215 years there, then the Exodus would have occurred in 2514 AM. Since BC years reckoning differs because of the different dates for creation, we will stick with the anno mundi (years since creation) reckoning for now. Most chronologists who believe in a 215-year stay in Egypt agree that the children of Israel entered Canaan in 2554 AM (within a few years).
This is the point where there is another “fork in the road” in the biblical chronological records. It appears that there is another ‘discrepancy’ between two passages of scripture, one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament. I have already given the Old Testament scripture of 1 Kings 6:1, where the author of this Book recorded 480 years between the Exodus from Egypt to the start of the construction of the 1st Temple in Jerusalem (4th year of Solomon’s reign). 480 years from 2514 AM would be 2994 AM.
The other direction a chronologist could take is found in Acts 13:19-21, where Luke gives a short summary of events after the Exodus from Egypt. “And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he divided their land to them by lot. And after that, he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. And afterward, they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.”
This timeline of 450 years in Acts is basically the time of the Judges of Israel before Saul became king. So, after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the children of Israel entered Canaan in approximately 2554 AM. According to Luke, there were 450 years from this point until Saul became king of Israel. Adding 450 years to 2554 AM would place us in the year 3004 AM.
Now, to compare Acts 13:20 with 1 Kings 6:1, we need to figure in the years of Saul’s and David’s reign and the first four years of Solomon’s reign (when the Temple was built). Saul reigned for 40 years and David reigned for 40 years after that. If we add these two king’s reigns with Solomon’s first four years we have a total of 84 years. Adding 84 years to 3004 AM, we reach the year 3088 AM.
The timeline between the Exodus and the start of the building of Solomon’s Temple, as reckoned from Acts 13:20, is 574 years (40+450+84) whereas 1 Kings 6:1 reckons 480 years. That is a difference of 94 years. “Houston, we have a problem!” As I said before, scripture cannot contradict scripture, so how do you explain this conundrum? Before I attempt to explain this nearly century-length discrepancy, let’s look at what comes after our latest biblical event (1st Temple’s construction beginning) in our timeline to see if we can get a clue. We are looking for a known historical date that is almost universally agreed upon by scholars and chronologists.
Solomon ruled for 40 years and then came the division of the 12 tribes of Israel into two kingdoms. There are two main theories on the length of the kings of Judah until the destruction of the 1st Temple. Ussher believed there were approximately 387 years from Rehoboam’s (son of Solomon) reign until the destruction of the 1st Temple, whereas Edwin R. Thiele reckoned 344-345 years.
I believe Thiele figured out the different means of ascension years between the kings of Judah compared to the kings of Israel where Ussher didn’t account for this contrast. My chronology corresponds to Thiele’s on this point. This is where there is a 43-44-year difference (BC dates) between Ussher’s chronology and mine.
Ussher has a 4004 BC date for creation and I have a 3960 BC date. However, we both have the date for the destruction of the 1st Temple at approximately 586 BC (Ussher has 588 BC). This is the biblical and historical date we have been looking for as most reputable historians agree this date of 586 BC (within a few years either way) is when the first Temple was destroyed. Biblical scholars or historians/chronologists can account for 614-619 years of historical world events between Christ’s crucifixion in AD 30/33 to 585/587 BC without too much diversity.
Now, let’s get back to our previous conundrum between Acts 13:20 and 1 Kings 6:1. Regarding 1 Kings 6:1, we have 480 years between the Exodus (2514 AM) and the start of the 1st Temple’s construction (the 4th year of Solomon’s 40 year reign) in 2994 AM. Add 36 years for the remainder of Solomon’s reign and we come to the start of Jeroboam’s reign in 3030 AM. Add 344/345 years for the kings of Judah (Thiele’s reckoning) until the destruction of the 1st Temple and you come to 3374/3375 AM. To convert this to a BC date, you must subtract this AM date from the BC date for creation. My chronology reckons creation at 3960 BC, so 3960-3374 = 586 BC. The passage of scripture in 1 Kings 6:1 appears to agree with the “known historical date” of 586/587 BC for the destruction of the 1st Temple in Jerusalem, as well as my chronology.
So, let’s examine the Acts 13:20 account and see if it agrees with the known historical date of 586 BC for the destruction of the 1st Temple. We start at the year of the Exodus at 2514 AM and add the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness which brings us to 2554 AM. We then add 450 years per Acts 13:20, which brings us to the start of Saul’s reign in 3004 AM. We must then add the years of Saul’s and David’s reign and the first four years of Solomon’s, which is 84 years. That brings us to the year 3088 AM for the start of Solomon’s Temple. So, reckoning from Acts 13:20, from the Exodus to the start of Solomon’s Temple is 574 years. That is 94 more years than 1 Kings 6:1 duration of 480 years between these two biblical events.
If you continue down this chronological fork in the road, you need to add the remaining 36 years of Solomon’s reign to 3088 AM. This brings the timeline to 3124 AM. You would then need to add 344 years for the kings of Judah (starting with Jeroboam) by Thiele’s reckoning or 387 years for Ussher’s reckoning. I think in this instance, Thiele’s reckoning is the best-case scenario as it comes closest to a 586 BC date. 3088 AM + 344 years = 3468 AM. When you subtract 3468 AM from 4004 BC (Ussher’s and Bullinger’s date for creation), you get 536 BC. This is 50 years short (by BC reckoning- before the birth of Christ) of our “known date” of 586 BC for the destruction of Solomon’s Temple. If you went by Ussher’s reckoning for the kings of Judah, it would be deficient by 93 years and would occur in 493 BC.
Clearly, 1 Kings 6:1 is the best course for staying on the correct chronological path, for when you add up all the event years from the Exodus to the destruction of the 1st Temple, you land on a known historical date, which is 586/587 BC. So, once again we ask why doesn’t the 450 years of Acts 13:20 (the time of the Judges of Israel) align with 1 Kings 6:1 reckoning of the time of the judges which is 356 years (40+356+84=480 years)?
E.W. Bullinger believed Paul’s reckoning of events in Acts 13:20 was correct chronologically, and there were 450 actual solar years from the time of the crossing into Canaan to the start of Saul’s reign. However, he believed 1 Kings 6:1 was also correct in what he called “Anno Dei” reckoning. This was God’s reckoning or God’s calendar. With this method of reckoning, 93 anno mundi years were excluded from God’s calendar because they were considered ‘Lo-Ammi” (not my people) years. Lo-Ammi was a name given in Hosea 1:9 to a son of Hosea and Gomer.
These 93 years were the time Israelites were in servitude to different kingdoms of the pagan people of Canaan. With this reckoning, there were only 357 (Lo-Ammi) years for the time of the judges according to 1 Kings 6:1, but there were 450 years according to Acts 13:20. Bullinger believed the 450 years should be considered the correct chronology of anno mundi years and the 357 Lo-Ammi years were for God’s calendar for Israel.
However, nothing could be further from the truth. 1 Kings 6:1 is correct chronologically (anno mundi years) and does not exclude any years of servitude. Acts 13:20 is not really an accurate portrayal of chronology. Luke is merely giving a summary total, without any regard for the overlap of the different judges’ reigns (including Eli in 1 Samuel). There were different judges (approximately 15) from different tribes who ruled their tribe or region and some of the judges’ time overlapped with other judges in different regions at that time.
Luke, in Acts 13:20, is merely giving a summary total of all the years of servitude and peace as recorded in the Book of Judges and 1 Samuel. These years of servitude and peace look like this: 8+40+18+80+20+40+7+40+3+23+22+18+6+7+10+8+40+20+40=450 years. The years in bold are the servitude years of 93 years. The rest are the peace years. Each period of oppression overlapped with the time of peace that followed Israel’s deliverance by a judge. So, the actual time of the judges was 357 anno mundi years (and not 450 anno mundi years), which is a big part of the 480 years of 1 Kings 6:1.
The New Testament writers, Luke and Matthew, were not so concerned with chronology as they were with Jesus’ genealogy. Matthew’s genealogy left out many names. It appears Matthew is emphasizing the number 14 (2 x 7) to such a degree that he intentionally leaves out multiple generations of the line of David.
Matthew’s first set of 14 generations is complete. His second set is missing 3 Kings of Judah (Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah) that should be listed between Joram and Uzziah. Matthew’s third set is missing King Jehoiachin (Jehoiakim or Eliakim). There are probably many more names/ generations that aren’t listed from the time of the Babylonian exile until the time of Jesus, but Matthew definitely made his point (with his genealogy and Gospel book) that Jesus is the true King and Messiah of the Jews.
Luke’s genealogy is more historically reliable than Matthew’s. Luke took the genealogies from Genesis and 1 Chronicles until the time of David and then filled in the rest from David’s son Nathan to Jesus. Evidently, he went by the Septuagint text as he lists Cainan (between Shelah and Arphaxad). Cainan is not in the Masoretic text.
The problem with Bullinger’s chronology (and others) is that since he accepted Luke’s version of events in Acts 13:20 as chronologically correct (anno mundi years) it left him 93-94 years off track with the historical record. Bullinger counts 573 years between the Exodus and the year construction began on Solomon’s Temple. This is nearly a century longer than the 480 years that 1 Kings 6:1 records.
Bullinger’s date for the start of construction for the 1st Temple is 3087 AM (917 BC), while most chronologists believe it began in 2994 AM. Instead of reckoning for the overlapping reigns of the different judges of Israel, he accepted Acts 13:20 as historically accurate chronology and tried to reconcile the two passages of Scripture by inventing the “Anno Dei” reckoning (God’s calendar). Under the guise of “reckoning only from Scripture,” his chronology is inaccurate with the historical record and dating system.
Bullinger more closely follows Ussher’s reckoning for the kings of Judah than Thiele’s reckoning. Only he adds to it by 15 years. His date for the destruction of the 1st Temple is 3527 AM, or 477 BC, while most scholars record it occurring in 587/586 BC. Nettles’ chronology records it as 3375 AM or 586/585 BC. Other chronologists that have followed Bullinger’s lead (accepting Acts 13:20 as accurate chronology) but have followed Thiele’s reckoning of 344 years for the kings of Judah have 536 BC for the year of the destruction of Solomon’s Temple. Either way, these chronologists are ‘off’ by 50-109 years from the historically accepted date of 586 BC.
It is at this point that Bullinger and others had to compress history so they could achieve a 29-33 AD crucifixion date, and still entertain a 4004 BC date for creation. Let me explain. The following is a historical account of events that are recorded in the Bible and in history books. Their BC dates are well-known (within a few years).
The fall of Jerusalem and the 1st Temple in 586 BC. Babylon was captured by the Medes and Persia in 539 BC. Cyrus reigned over Babylon in 539/538 BC. Sheshbazzar led the return from Babylon to Jerusalem in 537 BC. Reconstruction of the temple began in 536 BC. It was stopped for a while and then resumed in 520 BC. The second temple’s construction was finished in 516 BC. Esther became queen of Persia in 479 BC. First Purim is celebrated in 473 BC. Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in 458 BC. Nehemiah approached the king of Persia, Artaxerxes, in 445/444 BC and was granted a decree to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (the start of Daniel’s prophecy of 70 weeks IMO). That is 142 years of recorded history (586-444 = 142).
Bullinger’s date for the fall of Jerusalem and the 1st Temple is 477 BC. His date for Artaxerxe’s decree to Nehemiah and the Jews is 454 BC. That is only 23 years. Wait, what? The other chronologists who followed Acts 13:20 but went by Thiele’s reckoning of the kings of Judah have 536 BC for the first event and 466 BC for the second event. That is only 70 years between the two events. There should be 142 years of recorded history between these two biblical events. You can have your own dates, but you can’t shorten history or time.
In other words, these chronologists chose to accept Luke’s history of the Judges of Israel per the Book of Judges and 1 Samuel (which was not a chronology but merely a recording of good and bad years) rather than accept true chronology from the Book of 1 Kings.
The author of 1 Kings is unknown although some have suggested Ezekiel, Jeremiah, or Ezra. These authors are much closer to the actual events in 1 Kings 6:1 than Luke was. I believe it was not Luke’s intention to give an actual chronology from the time the Israelites entered Canaan to the start of the reign of the kings of Israel, although evidently, some people believe it to be so.
Bullinger’s date for the birth of Jesus is 4 BC (4000 AM) and Ussher’s is 5 BC (3999 AM). Bullinger’s date for the death of Jesus is 29 AD (4032 AM) and Ussher’s is 33 AD (4036 AM). Ussher didn’t have to compress his chronology as Bullinger did because he chose to stay on the main chronological road of 1 Kings 6:1. Nettles’ date for the birth of Jesus is 5 BC (3955 AM), and the date of his death is 33 AD (3992 AM).
Out of the three chronologies, mine is the only one that still has a chance at the millennium sabbath reckoning of 6000 years of recorded history before the 1000-year reign of Christ begins. According to this reckoning, in 2033 AD it will be 5992 AM years from creation. I believe there could be a margin of error of approximately .133% which is about 8 years (deficit). Regardless, we are getting awful close to 6000 years of recorded history for mankind.
Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!