A summary and critique of the article “The Chronology of the Old Testament” by Gleason L.


The author began with a discussion of the sources on which to reconstruct OT chronology – namely, the Scriptures as primary source, archeological artifacts or documents from ancient Near Eastern sites, astronomical records and geological sources based on the rate of decay of Uranium 238. Separated by a few thousand years of antiquity, it is understandable that such an undertaking is beset by limitations with regards to precision, which finally disproved the earlier chronology by Bishop Ussher. For example, there were almost certainly gaps or missing names in the genealogy listed in Genesis. That “A begat B” could mean that A was a distant ancestor of B, without necessarily being his immediate father. Conclusive archeological evidence from the Egyptian Dynasty I, which began circa 3100 B. C., had cast serious doubt on dating the Flood to 2518 B.C. as calculated by Ussher’s chronology. Sometimes, the recorded years for reign of kings or the career of judges may be overlapping as well. Concerning the monarchy, there were two conflicting chronological systems for king Hezekiah’s period, which was plausibly resolved as a textual transmission error. The resolution was more reasonable than an alternative two-source theory which would require the 2 Kings author to be unaware of using two conflicting sources only three verses apart.

Having qualified the impossibility of absolute dates for the pre-Abraham period due to the mentioned problems, Archer proceeded cautiously to establish a chronology with Abraham as the starting point, being confident that the biblical data indicated his birth at


2646 B.C. Two significant milestones used in the computation were 430-year period of the sojourn in Egypt (Exodus 12:40) and the 480-year period between the Exodus and the founding of Solomon’s temple in 966 BC. (1 Kings 6:1) From there, the writer reconstructed three separate charts from the time of Moses to the united monarchy, from the divided Kingdom to the fall of Jerusalem and from Exile to the Restoration. Some significant events in redemptive history were dated as follows – Exodus (1446 BC), reign of David over all Israel (1003 BC), Babylonian captivity (587 BC) and rededication of Second temple (516 BC). The period of exile and restoration were relatively free from disputes as the regnal dates of Chaldean and Persian kings were not in doubt. Interestingly, there was a seven-year window from 582 to 575 BC without any kind of activity in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar which would be explicable in view of the biblical record of his madness.

Although there are necessarily problems with establishing a chronology with absolute accuracy, it is not a fruitless exercise as even an approximate date would surely help us to place the biblical events along contemporary cultures or historical contexts. I believe that Archer’s chronology will be a handy resource when undertaking a serious book study on the Old Testament. By paying close attention to the chronology of a biblical event, an exegete could avoid the twin dangers of reading back extra-biblical information anachronistically or using obsolete information which was no longer applicable for the particular text.


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