The three most widely used Bible Timelines are:
Ussher’s Chronology: included in the margins of the Authorized King James Bible is based on the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Old Testament. The Masoretic text had an unbroken history of careful transcription for centuries.
Thiele: a modern Biblical chronologist whose work is accepted by secular Egyptologists as well as biblical scholars – often used by modern Evangelicals.
The Septuagint: on which the Catholic Bible is based, is the Koine Greek version of the Hebrew Bible translated between 300 BC and 1 BC.
Most people who try to compute a Bible timeline are faced with the same dilemmas. The Rvd. Professor James Barr, a Scottish Old Testament scholar, has identified three distinct periods that Ussher, and all biblical chronologists had to tackle:
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Early times (Creation to Solomon). Anyone who starts out reading the Bible with Genesis, as many people do, can easily compute the years from Adam to Solomon. The key male players are all linked with genealogies and ages. It’s later that the problems start. Although also it’s here that the Catholic and Protestant (King James) Bible timelines differ. The Masoretic text and the Septuagint both link all the key male players, but the Septuagint gives longer time frames for many of them. There’s a 1500 year difference between the two timelines.
Early Age of Kings (Solomon to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity). Now we have gaps in the record. Times have to be calculated using cross-links between various people mentioned in the Bible and some inferences made.
Late Age of Kings (Ezra and Nehemiah to the birth of Jesus). Here events are just mentioned with no possible way to link or calculate time frames. Historians use well known secular kings or events mentioned in the Bible (i.e., Nebuchadnezzar) to calculate the Bible dates. Thiele is particularly interesting. He recalculated the dates of the Northern Kingdoms based on a new understanding of how reigns of kings were computed in ancient times. His calculation of the date of 931 BC for the division of the Israelite kingdom has been used by secular Egyptologists to give dates to Egypt’s 22nd Dynasty. The Bible timelines differ because they are based on different original texts (the Masoretic or the Septuagint), because some of the dates are based on dating of secular events that have been recalculated by modern historians and also by a re-reading of the Bible in light of new knowledge.
Related article: What is the date of the Exodus?
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7 thoughts on “The Three Bible Timelines: Why and How They Differ”
I thought you may be interested in the Jewish chronology I am working on, available in my web site http://www.seder-olam.info
The Catholic Bible is not actually based on the Septuagint, but Hebrew forerunner sources to the Masoretic Text. When Jerome was creating the Latin Vulgate in the late 300’s, St. Augustine warned him to use the Septuagint, as it was the version of Scripture that Jesus and the Apostles used. But Jerome ignored Augustine and used the newer Hebrew sources instead, only referring to the Septuagint when necessary to resolve difficulties from Hebrew into Latin. The Septuagint has remained the text of the Orthodox Christian Churches; the Catholic Bible is based on the Latin Vulgate by Jerome.
An in depth comparison by the ICC, of the Masoretic, Samaritan Pentateuch, and the Septuagint texts can be found here https://digitalcommons.cedarville.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1003&context=icc_proceedings
What would be even better would be a comparison of the Paleo Hebrew from both the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Square Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Septuagint, and the Peshitta with the Masoretic Text(s) as there is more than one MT.
The official Tanakh based upon the Masoretic Text (MT) today is corrupted:
Even the Talmud/Mishnah (good for historical place markers but not much else) says the Masoretic Text (a medieval text used by the KJV, NIV, NASB, etc) was corrupted as the Talmud/Mishnah describes conflicting texts, contradictions, and multiple, competing rabbis intentionally altering scriptures ultimately corrupting it). Je ws also used the Septuagint (translated in the mid 3rd century BC) and far older than the MT which isn’t original scripture and not a BC text.
Paleo Hebrew, used after Moses’ time from the 12th to 6th century BC (around 2,000 years older than the MT), gave way to Square Hebrew (around 1,300 years older than the MT), which eventually gave way to Greek, as evidenced by the Septuagint, around 1,000 years than the MT. The Septuagint predates Christianity, was used when Greek became the lingua franca, and its use in synagogues by Jews around the Mediterranean was substantial.
Paleo Hebrew, Square Hebrew, and the Septuagint (LXX) within the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) preserve the originals, and overwhelmingly disagree with the MT in numerous instances; the Septuagint predates Christianity and scrolls from it are found within the Dead Sea Scrolls.
1.) Exodus 1:5 in the DSS Square Hebrew agrees with the Septuagint against tthe MT that all the souls from Jacob were 75, not 70, thus agreeing with St. Stephen in Acts 7:14.
2.) The older DSS, the Samaritan Pentateuch, Aramaic Targums, etc, agree with the Septuagint against the MT for Deut. 32:8-9 in using sons/angels of God and not sons of Israel.
3.) The DSS for Deuteronomy 32:43 lines up with the Septuagint against the MT saying the angels are to worship messiah.
4.) The Septuagint for 1 and 2 Samuel are backed up by 3 DSS and the MT is known among scholars as butchering 1 and 2 Samuel.
5.) The MT wrongly (some evidence for #4) laughably has Saul becoming king at age one and ruling for two years.
6.) The MT actually left out an entire line from Psalm 145 that the DSS and the Septuagint preserved, thus the so-called masters of vowel memorization not only forgot vowels but also consonants as well.
7.) Psalm 40:6(7): a messianic proof text for the Incarnation:
The MT: Thou hast dug out my ears.
The Septuagint: A body thou hast prepared me.
8.) Concerning another messianic psalm (Psalm 22:16), the DSS agrees with the Septuagint against the MT.
9.) Baruch, Sirach, Tobit, and Psalm 151 are written in Hebrew in the DSS.
10.) ▪︎The chronology of Genesis 11 and the year of the flood of the Paleo Hebrew and the Septuagint line up against the MT. Shem is not Melchizedek:
▪︎Literary sources before 100 AD that agree with the LXX: 2 Esdras, Josephus and Philo (30/70 AD) did not use the Septuagint to come to their conclusion that lines up with the Septuagint.
▪︎Eupolemus, the Jewish 2nd century BC historian’s chronology, comes close to aligning with the Paleo Hebrew/Septuagint and not the MT.
▪︎Jewish Demetrius the Chronicler’s (3rd century BC) chronology comes very close to the Paleo Hebrew and Septuagint and against the MT.
*Justin Martyr said the scriptures in his time period were being altered.* See Jer. 8:8. The pre-AD Paleo Hebrew, Eupolemos, and Demetrius had no agenda.
Since synagogues around the Mediterranean used Septuagint and Square Hebrew, even in Palestine, Greek was the lingua franca, Jesus grew up near Sepphoris where Hebrew and Greek were both spoken and where Joseph could ply his trade, Christ quoted the scriptures, spoke to the Syrophoenician woman, and Mark/Luke were written to Romans/Greeks, some will be hard-pressed to prove Jesus used only Hebrew.
Outside Judea, close to 100% of the diaspora synagogue inscriptions are in Greek. In Judea, where the default language is Aramaic, 80% of these inscriptions are Greek.
Some have said the Deuterocanon was never written in Hebrew but the DSS has proven that to be false as at least 3 so far (Baruch, Sirach, and Tobit of the Deuterocanon), have been found within the DSS written in Hebrew; using the word “recension” against them is a continual knee-jerk reaction to the Deuterocanon being written in Hebrew and a moving of the goal posts.
Concerning key messianic scriptures, Catholics, Copts, Orthodox, and Protestants see that the leaven of the rabbis – and then the Masoretes – seemed to target scriptures that point to Jesus Christ. (Matthew 16:6).
The Paleo Hebrew, Square Hebrew, and the Septuagint all agree with each other against the MT far more than they disagree, thus the starting point is to sideline the MT.
There are dozens and dozens of instances where the Paleo Hebrew, Square Hebrew, and the Septuagint agree against the MT: By the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses let every word be established. Deut. 19:15; 2 Cor. 13:1.
Given that Septuagint scrolls were found with Paleo Hebrew and Square Hebrew scrolls in the DSS, one would again be hard-pressed to prove that Christians composed the Septuagint and, as well, the Torah was translated into Greek from 283-246 BC under Ptolemy II Philadelphus and the prophets and writings within the next 100 years.
Septuagint Chronicles is quoted by Eupolemos in the middle of the 2nd century BC, and Septuagint Job by Pseudo-Aristeas in the beginning of the 1st century BC. The translation of Isaiah contains allusions to historical situations and events that point to the years 170-150 BCE” (Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, Emanuel Tov, p 131, 2012).* The Torah was translated into Greek from 283-246 BC under Ptolemy II Philadelphus and the prophets and writings for the Septuagint within the next 100 years. Thus the Septuagint was not created by Christianity but preceded it by centuries. So-called “Pre-Masoretic” is actually Square Hebrew and constitutes less than 5% of the full Tanakh.
Septuagint fragments found at Qumran (Lev.), the Nahal Hever (Habbakuk, near Ein Gedi), date to 50 BC; there was almost exclusive use of Greek in all synagogue inscriptions everywhere in the world showing the proverbial torch had been passed vis-a-vis the Jewish translation of the Septuagint in the 3rd and 2nd century BC.
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So-called pre-Masoretic scrolls are actually Square Hebrew (no vowels) and constitutes less than 5% of the official Tanakh, don’t line up with it,and it would be conjecture and extrapolation to say the rest (the 95% no longer in existence if there was even that much) would line up and agree with the official Tanakh or rather would the official Tanakh today line up and agree with it.
What is your best guess as in what year BCE correlates to 1 AM and why?