Talk:Chronology of the Bible

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Framing the notion of chronology and views about it[edit]

Hi, let me suggest we discuss some recent edits here (rather than thru comments on reverts, etc), and I guess I should have broached this before my own edits. At the outset, let me acknowledge that this a great article that demonstrates a tremendous amount of care and work. @PiCo: @Melcous: Let's identify the questions which we are answering differently, here's what I'm seeing:

  1. Does the Hebrew Bible have a single, cohesive chronology? If so, then we can refer to it as "the" chronology (i.e., the internal narrative view of the Bible). This would work if there's a basic consensus among reliable sources on a single chronology. If not, then we might refer to various understandings, POVs, or interpretations of the Bible as a having a single chronology, or even understandings that the Bible contains multiple chronologies.
  2. Does Biblical chronology (whether one or all of them) function as a prophecy to an end point? If all reliable sources see it this way, then our opening is fine. However, if this function is posited by some scholars but not others, then it might be best to qualify it. For instance, it might be a majority view or, if we're not sure, it might be attributed to specific scholar(s).

To me, #1 is more complicated than #2. The Bible does not itself state or assert that it has a single, cohesive chronology, in the meaning of this article. (Well, the Bible does arguably assert a chronology through the Book of Chronicles, but that's not even mentioned in the article.) Instead, the Bible's chronology (or chronologies) is something that observed or read into the Bible, by both religious believers and academic scholars. It is my sense that there are quite a few POVs about Biblical chronology. It does seem that the final redactors of the Bible -- who themselves may or may not have been a cohesive group -- are seen by some historians as imposing or refining an overall chronology. But other historians don't see it this way, afaik, nor necessarily do they take the redactor's view as the ultimate or only way of seeing the Bible. So, I think we should be cautious about writing as if there's a single POV and a single chronology.

To me, #2 is a narrower question. Since I don't think enough reliable sources claim that biblical chronology is an implied prophecy toward an end point, then we should err on the side of caution and attribute that notion to Thompson.

Thanks! ProfGray (talk) 15:20, 16 January 2015 (UTC)

Thanks for opening this discussion ProfGray - you've raised some crucial questions.
First, with regard to the subject of the article, it's about a certain chronology which scholars refer to as "the" biblical chronology. It runs from Genesis to Kings with addenda in Jeremiah and it draws on Daniel's interpretation of Ezekiel, and it's unified. For this see the books by Tetley and Hughes.
You mentioned in an earlier edit that this is an argument from Thompson, but it's not - Thompson is merely mentioning it. It was first noted by Wellhausen, and is now pretty universally accepted, as the books in the bibliography demonstrate. It's true that there still exist some ultra-conservative evangelicals who insist that the Exodus really happened and that the Flod was real and these could be dated BC if only they could get the details, but they're outside mainstream scholarship.
It is indeed an implied prophecy, as out source says, and this is the standard interpretation. By way of background (this is not covered in the article), there was an original Deuteronomistic chronology, which can be found in Judges for example, and the final redacted chronology is called the Priestly chronology. We're dealing with the Priestly chronology - but at this point the subject gets far to complex for a simple article like ours.
So there's the opening position from me: we're dealing in this article with a specific chronology extending across the Torah and Former Prophets, with some additional touches in the Later Prophets, and we reflect the standard academic position as illustrated by the books in the bibliography.PiCo (talk) 23:16, 16 January 2015 (UTC)
Hi, PiCo, I appreciate the spirit in which you're discussing this. You mentioned Tetley and Hughes. But Tetley seems largely irrelevant to the framing question, since she's concerned with only a subset (Divided Kingdom) and (from what I can tell) doesn't acknowledge the overall Priestly schematic. Hughes seems incredibly helpful to the article (if I understand it correctly). He seems to take a critical perspective (I'm not 100% sure), sees Biblical chronologies as mythic schematics, and examines whether Kings has utility as historical evidence (Hughes is skeptical). However, correct me if I've missed something, Hughes is not claiming that the Bible itself has a single, coherent chronology. Instead he is differentiating:
  • the Priestly chronology (of the world)
  • the Deuteronomistic chronology
  • the "original" chronology of the Book of Kings
  • different Biblical canon chronologies, e.g., LXX and MT (e.g., 240f)
  • later Jewish and Christian efforts at Biblical chronology
Equally important, Hughes not only differentiates these, he does not see these chronologies as harmonized (e.g., 55f., noting where DTR is inconsistent with the P-chronology). The Priestly chronology does not simply and smoothly absorb the others (e.g., he says it is revised by LXX). Indeed, the Priestly does not even cover the whole Bible (see 42, if I grok his point about Ezra-Neh). (FYI. Moreover, he and another scholar (Cross) disagree about the key point of the Priestly schematic (49ff.), so this shows disagreement over whether P-chronology is an implied prophecy.)
Btw, I found a 1963 article by Patrides that listed 108 different chronologies (i.e., estimates of the year of creation). Moreover, Wacholder (HTR 61:3, 1968) shows that there were Hellenistic chronology interpretations that were neither Christian nor Jewish.
So, I'm still wondering about the framing or scope of the article. Certainly the Bible texts shows great interest in chronology. But, if we accept Hughes, there is no single, specific chronology. (If you believe there's a scholarly consensus on single scheme, then please explain your sources.) If the article is only about the Priestly, then we need different articles on the Dtr, LXX, MT, etc., chronologies. If it is about the Christian view of Biblical chronology, then we can focus on Ussher and the like, but it needs to be titled as Christian, right?
It's my sense that the article should open by explaining that the Bible contains a few chronological schemes (or chronologies), which have enabled Jewish and Christian thinkers to propose various reconstructions of an overarching Biblical chronology. Thanks. ProfGray (talk) 05:27, 18 January 2015 (UTC)
Yes, I understand, your concerned about the scope of the article. The background is that it was originally a whole set of attempts to give dates BC to Biblical events - the Creation, Abraham's birthday, and so on. It was mind-numbingly dull, and way out of kilter with modern scholarship, which sees the vast majority of those events as either fictionalised or outright fable - I guess the modern standard is that the bible only becomes reliable as history in Kings, and not 100% even then.
So, the re-written version narrows the scope down to something manageable and also academically respectable - the way a chronology has been written into the Torah and Former Prophets to underline a theological message through significant numbers. That chronology certainly exists, although not many scholars bother to study or write about it. Usually they write about smaller components, like the Patriarchal lifespans or the Flood chronology or (most popular) the chronology of the kings. But I think they'd all agree, if asked, that these are indeed only segments of a larger whole.
True, there are older chronologies underlying that one - Judges has one that's out of kilter with the overall one, the kings presumably had real chronologies once, and so on. And yes, the LXX and Samaritan chronologies are different. But I think that's getting into too much detail. People tend to come to this article wanting to know in what year the Flood occurred, they don't want to read about Deuteronomists. It will be quite enough if they learn that their question is not one that scholarship engages in, but that the chronology does have a reason for existing, and a message - but a message for 2nd century Jews, not us.
That reads as if it's just my own opinion, but it's not, it's the general opinion of scholars.
Anyway, thanks for reading Hughes so closely. I disagree very slightly with your interpretation of his aims. His aim is to recover an accurate chronology of the kings of Israel and Judah, which is why he sifts down through the Dtr and layers of P chronologies, and compares the LXX and Samaritan Torah - these do exist, but as I said above, it's too much detail for our article. And our article does touch on later Jewish and Christian interpretations of the chronology.
Not sure what I could ask you now ... but I hope this explains why the article is the way it is. PiCo (talk) 05:59, 18 January 2015 (UTC)
I'm glad the article has improved and your work on it, PiCo, is really appreciated. If the article scope is "a chronology <> written into the Torah and Former Prophets to underline a theological message," then the article framing (and perhaps name) should reflect that chronology. This is the Priestly Chronology, right? So, this should be stated up front. Then, the article can present a single, exemplary version of the P-chrono, but IMO it should recognize that other understandings of P-chrono exist in scholarship.
(Also, I disagree that the other Biblical chronologies (eg DTR) are "only segments of a larger whole." It might be details and nuance, but that's not what Hughes says and, besides, it's an ahistorical POV. That is, the other chronologies existed on independently and there are reliable sources about them. See what I mean?)
Let me be clear -- you personally do not have to put in details about the other chronologies (eg DTR or LXX). Nor is the article weak without those details. But "too much detail" is not much of a guideline for Wikipedia editing. There are enough scholars (i.e., reliable sources) who do write about those details and who give those details sufficient weight for potential inclusion. We are not required ourselves to write up the details, but let me ask that we frame the article in a way that acknowledges the existence of other chronologies and makes room for other editors to add the details if they wish.
So, I'm not requesting a big rewrite. Only that we choose between (1) an article titled and focused on the P chronology, as a potential subpiece of a main article, or <my preference> (2) an article on Biblical chronology schemes, which explicitly presents a focus on the P-chronology and a specific exemplary version of it. Thanks. I hope this is respectful of your work and a reasonable suggestion. ProfGray (talk) 15:40, 18 January 2015 (UTC)
Hi, I'm late to the discussion and also not sure I can add much expertise as the detail of this discussion is beyond my knowledge of the subject. However, my initial concern was with the way the opening paragraph of the article reads, so let me a offer a "lay" perspective on that. The article currently opens with "The chronology of the Bible is the elaborate system ..." which reads like the article is about one specific chronology, whether because there is only one, or this is the only one in the scope of this article. However, the opening line under the History of Interpretation section talks about the first attempt to turn "the biblical chronology" (different phrasing to lead) into "a chronology of the Bible." (same phrasing as lead) This to me is unclear. Is "the biblical chronology" (which I would understand to mean the chronological data contained within the biblical text) what the article as a whole means by "the chronology of the Bible" in the opening of the lead? Or is "a chronology of the Bible", here, that of the Book of Jubilees (which I would understand to mean an interpretation of the chronological data contained within the Bible extrapolated into a comprehensive chronology) what this article is about? And if it is the latter, which one, or is it about a number of different possible extrapolations?
I hope that makes sense. I would also say I don't think the article needs a major rewrite, I think the opening line (and perhaps as ProfGray has suggested the title) needs to be clarified so that someone who is not an expert on this subject can clearly understand (a) what the main topic of this article is; and (b) how the different chronologies mentioned under the interpretation section (Rabbinic, Christian, Kings) relate to that - the current structure of the article with the headings seems to indicate that they are different examples of what the article is about, but if my reading of your comments here is correct, that is not the case? Melcous (talk) 03:35, 19 January 2015 (UTC)
Melcous: I've re-written the first paragraph to refocus and refine the definition of the topic: the chronology is not a set of chronological data but an "implied prophecy" (Thompson's phrase).
I suggest changing the title to "Biblical chronology". This will help make sense of that first line in the Interpretations section, "The first attempt to turn the Biblical chronology into a chronology of the Bible...". What that means is that the authors who wrote the chronology into the Bible had their own agenda, the inauguration of the Temple in 164, but that for later generations this made no sense and they wanted to use the chronology in their own ways. And yes, the "interpretations" section is about later extrapolations, from the author of Jubilees down to Luther and Ussher, all of them theological in character.
The Biblical chronology is the one written into the books of Genesis through Kings by someone soon after the year 164 BCE; the "chronology/ies of the Bible" are the various uses/interpretations made of that Biblical chronology by later authors, from Jubilees to th Seder Olam to Eusebius to Luther and Ussher. But maybe that choice of phrases is too confusing?
ProfGray has raised the possibility of having more detail, or separate articles. He has a point of course. The Bible text we're dealing with is one of three - it's the Masoretic text, which is used by Jews and Western Christians. But Eastern Orthodox Christians use a different one, the Septuagint (or LXX). A Greek Christian reading this article would wonder what we're talking about. And the third is the Samaritan text, which deals only with the books from Genesis to Joshua, but is different again. Those three Bible texts, plus a few minor variations, can be called parallel texts - they exist side by side. Beneath them there are buried chronologies - the Deuteronomistic chronology in Judges, which makes a mess of any attempt to follow the 480 years that are supposed to pass between the Exodus and the building of Solomon's Temple, and various layers of the Priestly chronology. The one we're looking at in our bibles is the final version of the Priestly chronology, but clearly there were earlier ones. If ProfGray wants to write a comprehensive article on this ... well,ratherhim than me :) PiCo (talk) 10:04, 19 January 2015 (UTC)
PiCo, I gather that you are acknowledging that this article is about "the final version of the Priestly chronology." This is consistent with the academic study you highlighted above, Hughes. Neither Chronology of the Bible nor Biblical chronology is a sufficiently specific wording for the Priestly chronology. After all, Kings and DTR and LXX and Ussher et alia also offer Biblical chronologies. And we wouldn't want to snub them, eh? (joke) So, let's either rename this Priestly chronology of the Hebrew Bible or keep the current name for a comprehensive article about all the Biblical chronologies, including all POVs claiming to know "The" Biblical chronology. Which would you prefer? Thanks! ProfGray (talk) 16:14, 19 January 2015 (UTC) @Melcous: ProfGray (talk) 16:16, 19 January 2015 (UTC)
I believe most academic scholars would call the chronology in the modern OT the Biblical chronology, or possibly the Masoretic chronology (far less common). The Priestly chronology is the chronology of the Priestly source, found only in the Torah/Pentateuch - Hughes would dispute that of course - see his page 41. The Deuteronomistic chronology takes over where the Priestly source leaves of, and gets its name from the books it's found in, the Deuteronomistic History (Joshua to Kings), although in practice it's found only in Judges and Samuel, and Kings has a different chronology again although still called Deuteronomistic. The Kings chronology is interesting because it might be based on real history, at least for the last few kings. But the subject of our article is the unified chronology that runs through Genesis-Kings, and that's not Priestly. Or to put that another way, the Biblical chronology is the chronology of the canonical OT, and the Priestly and Deuteronomistic chronologies are older strata.
See Hughes on p.121 where he sets out his thesis that the Deuteronomistic chronology was modified by post-exilic priestly authors - this is quite interesting.
Can you suggest some books? this seems important (gets referenced frequently) though I haven't had time to read it yet. PiCo (talk) 01:18, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
Hi. I'm glad we're in conversation but I find this frustrating. It feels like we are going in circles because you continue to assert that there is "the unified chronology." As I've tried to explain, this strikes me as an uncritical (possibly religious) view, due to the multiple conflicting claims to such a chronology, and it suggests that the article here has WP:SYNTH as it harmonizes a single chronology without attribution to any given theologian or scholar. Instead, I'd say there are different theories or constructions of a unified chronology, eg Ussher's. Perhaps I'm wrong, but doesn't Hughes think that the priestly school edits more than the Pentateuch, also Ezra and others? As with you point about p.121? Anyway, I'm fine with the title and scope of Masoretic chronology as long as you've got reliable sources using that terminology. Otherwise, it seems that the article should be reframed and any harmonizing of chronologies must be attributed, even if to a religious source such as Ussher. ProfGray (talk) 03:31, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
PiCo, Just realized you added the link to Northcote's article. Do you like that Northcote? His piece again underscores the problem with talking about a single, unified chronology. He argues for several different, competing chronologies. If you want, you could use him to refocus the article on the Masoretic chronology or you could use him to help frame the multiplicity of overarching chronologies. (Personally, I would think that Hughes' approach also deserves mention.) Of course, the article should openly attribute Northcote's approach to him -- and be prepared to adjust the article if editors bring other scholars dispute or refute him. Ok? ProfGray (talk) 03:46, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
P.S. This book -- The Levitical Authorship of Ezra-Nehemiah by Kyung-Jin Min (and dissertation pdf is online) -- confirms that scholars have argued for priestly authorship of E-N and Chronicles, and hence (with the Pentateuch) a fair degree of editorial control over nearly an entire Biblical chronology (cp. Hughes). So, a Priestly chronology article remains an option. ProfGray (talk) 03:55, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
This is the nub of the problem: you don't agree with me that there's a single unified chronology, and you feel that "Priestly chronology" would be an acceptable term. How can I convince you otherwise?
Well, there's James Barr in the Oxford Companion to the Bible, which a pretty authoritative source. (This opens to page 117). He says that "the main body of chronological material in the Hebrew bible" falls into three segments - in other words, a single chronology, in three parts. Those three parts are explicit (he says) from Genesis to Kings - which is what our article says. Move then to page 119, where he says "if, as has been suggested, a figure of 4000 was held in mind..." - he's talking about the 4000 year chronology and the 164 end-date. In short, this is not something that T.L. Thompson dreamed up, but an area of serious academic study. As such, it's not a synthesis, and it merits an article.
I haven't read "The Levitical Authorship of Ezra-Nehemiah", so thanks for pointing it out. I haven't read Northcote's article yet either, but it seems to be important, I keep seeing it referenced. What you say about priestly authorship of much of the OT is pretty much correct, except that it's priestly, not Priestly - the Priestly chronology is the chronology in the Priestly source, it's just a conventional way of referring to that source in the Pentateuch, but it's not used for priests who write other works. PiCo (talk) 09:00, 21 January 2015 (UTC)


Hi. Let me amend your phrasing of the nub of our disagreement, which was helpful of you to clarify, PiCo. It's not whether I (Prof. Gray) agree that there's a single unified chronology. It might be True or not, for me that's irrelevant. My point is that it is not a matter of true/false, it is a Point of View that needs to be attributed to a source and not presented as "The" true interpretation of the Bible. We also disagree about whether or how to reframe the POVs in terms of which Bible (e.g. MT or LXX). So, we seem to disagree (though sometimes you seem quite flexible on this, in principle) about an adjective to narrow the term Biblical chronology and whether to attribute it to a POV or not.

You helpfully mention Barr's encyclopedic article. Yes, it's fine with me if you want to use that! However, let's read it precisely. First, he calls this the Theological chronology of the Bible (or theoretical or literary). That scope is fine with me (within the article we can discuss different POVs of a theological chronology). Second, he says about 4000 yr version, "as has been suggested." This means that (#1) somebody suggested it, and so it can be attached to a name, and (#2) it is only one of various suggestions. As I noted above, Patrides lists 108 suggested theological schematics to fit the Hebrew Bible. Barr isn't a thorough source, since he's leaving out details (like #1's attribution) in this short tertiary piece. Still, it is a Reliable Source that you accept, so let's go with it. To sum up: let me propose that we rename this article Theological chronology of the Hebrew Bible and, in the opening, explain that it's a literary construction of an ancient theoretical or schematic mindset for each version of the canon (Masoretic or LXX) and attribute the 4000 year example (used in the article) to Barr or prior thinkers. Ok? ProfGray (talk) 11:35, 21 January 2015 (UTC)

Barr says there are two aspects to the Bible chronology, the real chronology of actual events, and the theological. Our article looks at both of those. Section 1 discusses the theological chronology, and section 2 discusses various attempts to find a real chronology of real events. Under "real" chronology Barr discusses the ways in which chronological information is given (we do that in the first sentence), but doesn't try to actually give dates. His entire discussion of that aspect takes up a single column - we have far more detail in section 2. We also say what Barr does not, that attempts to give real dates to events like the Creation and the Flood and the Exodus are doomed to failure, as the multiple theories outlined in our article illustrates. This clears a bit for the events in Kings, for which we refer the reader to a separate article.
In short our article doesn't cover just the theological chronology and exclude the "real" one, it covers both.
Barr does say that the overarching 4000 year chronology has been "suggested", but the suggestion is a strong one with well-nigh universal acceptance, as witnessed by the fact that writers keep mentioning it - Barr, Thompson, Hughes, all used in our article, plus many more outside. It's more a broad consensus. But to settle this, can I suggest asking someone like Jim Davila at St Andrews or Niels-Peter Lemche? They're quite approachable and all we'd be asking would be their opinion on how widely-based is acceptance of this overarching 4000 year chronology. PiCo (talk) 00:59, 22 January 2015 (UTC)
The article is not about both the historical ("real") and theological chronologies. In describing the scope, the opening itself says, "It is theological, not historical in the modern sense." Section 2 barely touches on the historical, it's mostly about interpretations (rabbinic and Christian). The Kings section is very weak. If you really want the article to address both, then it needs a significant rewrite and certainly the first 2 paragraphs would need to be totally redone. It'd be fine to have an article that covers both, but this doesn't look like it right now, sorry. I'm surprised by this turn in the conversation. Are you sure this is what you want? ProfGray (talk) 01:56, 22 January 2015 (UTC)
When the article says the chronology "is theological, not historical in the modern sense," it's quoting a source (Christensen). Barr says much the same: "Biblical dates in the earlier stages, taken alone, leave us to question whether they rest on accurate memory or on theoretical schematicism" (page 118, top of the second column). More recent authors would be less charitable - it's pretty universally accepted that nothing prior to David is historically reliable, and that even David and Solomon and the earlier history in Kings is problematic (see the third para of the lead and the various books it cites). In real history, Israel (northern kingdom) emerges around 800 BCE and Judah a century or so later and there's no united kingdom. So the article accurately reflects current scholarship in saying that there is no "real" chronology except for the later kings, and even that's problematic. Or do you feel this isn't the case? PiCo (talk) 05:34, 22 January 2015 (UTC)
Is the article about theological and literary constructed chronologies alone? Or are you claiming that this article includes the real chronology of actual events of the Biblical period? If the latter, then it would need to be merged with History of ancient Israel and Judah and deal with all sorts of archaeological evidence, before, during, and after the kings. There is no indication that this article seriously grapples with the evidence of actual events, plus it would be a POV fork if it tried. While I don't mind discussing this aspect further, it is inappropriate to try to stop me from editing the article (as in your comment when you reverted my edit in toto) on this strained basis.
At this stage, we are at an impasse and need to go to dispute resolution. The dispute concerns: (a) the scope of the article, whether it is theological chronology or claims to encompass the real historical events covered in several other WP articles, (b) the name of the article, and (c) the use of a single chronology, without recognition of any others, vs. presentation of different theological chronologies as documented by reliable sources. Meanwhile, I strongly urge you to allow me to edit this article with info based on reliable sources. ProfGray (talk) 06:04, 22 January 2015 (UTC)
If you're a genuine university professor, I strongly suggest you send an email to Lemche or Davila or someone to find out more about this subject. PiCo (talk) 10:01, 22 January 2015 (UTC)

Reliable sources that estimate the Israelite theological chronology[edit]

While we continue to discuss the framing of this article (see above), let's list the scholarly arguments for different Israelite theological chronologies. This will help us identify (maybe categorize) the different chronological schemes attributed to the Hebrew Bible and link each to reliable sources. (I'm relying mostly on Northcote here.)

  1. 4,000 years from creation to Maccabees 164 BCE in the MT Bible. This POV is first argued (per Hughes p.234 fn,1, Northcote 2004, p.5) by Murtonen, A. "On the chronology of the old testament." Studia Theologica 8.1 (1954): 133-137. This theological chronology only applies to the MT. Scholars themselves concede problems with this POV: "It should be noted, however, that the synchronisation of the MT’s date of AM 4000 with the date of the 2nd temple rededication in 164/5 BCE is not an exact match, because the year AM 4000 actually falls on 161 BCE (if AM 3575 is calculated as Nebuchadnezzar’s 18th year) or 162 BCE (if AM 3575 is calculated as Nebuchadnezzar’s 19th year)." (Northcote p.5) Barr also refers to this POV in the Oxford Companion ("as has been suggested") without attribution. As Barr says, this and all chronologies are not derived only from the Bible but require extra-biblical evidence. Northcote shows this as well. (See Northcote 20-22, which also shows a 2 year variant that he prefers to harmonize).
  2. 3500 years from creation to Nehemiah mission, i.e., the Nehemiah chronology of the LXX (I think). Northcote says that this chronology was "probably composed by Levites in Jerusalem not long after Nehemiah’s mission, perhaps sometime late in the fifth century BCE (i.e. nearing 400 BCE)." (8) Bousset (1900) apparently sees this schematization, too, but calls it Proto-MT (see Northcote p.8).
  3. 3480 years from creation to the 2nd Temple finished, per B.W. Bousset (1900) (Northcote p.8). 1st Temple at 3000. This is the Proto-MT Jubilees bible.
  4. 4080 years from creation to the 2nd Temple finished, 3600 for 1st Temple. Northcote p.12 says that this ("Saros Chronology") is "the basis for the later LXX chronology and pre-SP chronologies."
  5. 4777 years from creation to the 2nd Temple finished, in a specific LXXA Codex Alexandrus manuscript. (See Northcote 14f) Yet this only works by supplementing LXX with the MT chronology of kings. (The LXX kings would add 45 years…) Even this mss has two other variations! Eusebius uses one variation, favored by Hughes and others. Northcote says the LXX schemes were meant to bring 5,000 years to around 300 BCE Ptolemaic Egypt.
  6. 3000 years from creation to Israelite settlement in the Samaritan Pentateuch. Northcote (p.17) reports this as "Proto-SP chronology" of John Skinner (1910). This is extended to 3900 years to the 2nd Temple finished, which Northcote (18) says shows 1300 rather than 1200 year segments.
  7. Jubilees version of the Hebrew Bible chronology. This differs from proto-MT, MT, SP, and LXXX. But it's "rather unschematic in nature" per Northcote (p.25)
  8. There is a chronology of the Hebrew Bible done by priestly school(s), which presumably incorporated P-source but went beyond Pentatuech. See Hughes, 233 and elsewhere

Note: Book of Jubilees, MT, LXX and SP each have different chronologies for their takes on the Hebrew Bible. These are chronologies that reflect ancient Israelite/Jewish theology -- not to be confused with the Christian theologies of Luther and Ussher, etc., who fit the Bible into 4,000 yr schemes. There are dozens of Christian POVs about the Israelite chronology. I suppose we could start listing those next. ProfGray (talk) 04:28, 22 January 2015 (UTC)

Floyd Nolan Jones - Chronology of the Old Testament[edit]

This article appears completely ignorant of the work of Floyd Nolan Jones, Chronology of the Old Testament, first published in 1992. Available online here: [1]

Jones solved the Divided Kingdom Chronology by recognizing that the Kingdom of Judah used accession year dating, while the Northern Kingdom of Israel did not. This resulted in additional years in the Northern Kingdom's chronology, as the same year was in many cases counted twice - once for the old king and once for the new king. The method developed by Jones, that he called "triangulation", places his chronology on very solid ground. He holds a duration to be confirmed when it is supported by two other durations that sum up to it.

Theil's work is outdated and has been made obsolete by the work of Jones. It is incomprehensible that the author of this article appears completely ignorant of the existence of Jones' work. It is widely available. Cadwallader (talk) 05:10, 13 June 2015 (UTC)

In academic terms, Floyd Nolan's work is the sort of work described on the wikipedia policy page wp:fringe, so that's why Wikipedia has ignored him.Alephb (talk) 08:48, 20 January 2017 (UTC)

Possibly reconciling discrepancies between chronologies[edit]

Greeting. Perhaps the different chronologies may be reconciled if it were taken into account that timekeeping had been evolving along with the evolution of time itself, e.g. the number zero had not been invented for the first c. two millennia (from a biblically literal perspective); hence a person in the first year of life could only be reckoned as being one year old, a conclusion positively confirmed in the Flood narrative, i.e. comparing “Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came on the earth” (Gen. 7:6 NRSV) with “In the six-hundredth year of Noah’s life [not ‘six hundred first’], in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened” (Gen. 7:11). Evidence of this remains in the way months and days are numbered beginning from one and not zero. Other passages point to the fact that time was counted in terms of the ceiling function, e.g. Joseph imprisoned his brothers three days and let them go the same third day (Gen. 42:17-18), not, as in our present penal system, after seventy-two hours. Another point to consider, though an obvious one, is that two persons born in the same calendar year would not necessarily be the same age all through the year, drawn from the fact that birthdays had been celebrated since at least the time of Pharaoh’s (Gen. 40:20). Grace and peace, Hebraeo (talk) 20:45, 6 November 2016 (UTC)

We cannot do this kind of research on Wikipedia (WP:OR). If a very notable work of a notable scholar (a reliable secondary source, WP:RS) discusses important new theological chronologies, then we may be able to include information about them, with references. (talk) 13:28, 14 February 2017 (UTC)

A Suggestion for the First Sentence[edit]

Because my suggestion partially retreads ground already discussed by User:ProfGray and User:PiCo, I don’t want to make any rash edits. So I’ll leave this here for discussion. I'll add little bolded bits to make it easier to skim through this monster comment. I apologize in advance for the length of this comment, and I hope I'm not bludgeoning the talk page by doing this.

The opening sentence currently reads:

"The chronology of the Bible is the elaborate system of life-spans, 'generations,' and other means by which the passage of events is measured over the 4,000 years between the Creation of the world and the re-dedication of the Temple in 164 BCE.[1]”

I will argue that (1) the source cited doesn’t quite make the claims the Wikipedia article derives from it. (2) that the 4000-year chronology should be treated as a common scholarly opinion rather than presented as fact. (3) that we can do a very slight rewrite to make the article better without needing any sort of major overhaul.

If we look to the source cited for the first sentence (Jeremy Hughes, Secrets of the Times, p. 234) we get a much more tentative claim that the Wikipedia article makes. For one, Hughes uses “MT’s chronology” instead of “The chronology of the Bible.” That is, he’s not quite willing to speak of a single unified chronology.

As to the 4,000-year period, he presents this with a series of “If” statements. I’ve bolded them here:

Long quotation bit. Feel free to skip to the summary below if you prefer.

“It has often been pointed out that if we ignore the 2-year period between the flood and the birth of Arpachshad, MT’s date for the exodus is two-thirds of the way through a 4000-year era. If this is a deliberate feature of the chronology, then one of the effects of this revision of MT’s chronology is to give greater prominence to the exodus and the events at Sinai, and this agrees with the importance of these events in later Judaism.

“. . . If this was devised to place the exodus two-thirds of the way through a 4000-year era, then it is striking to note that the 3999th year of this era is also the year of the Maccabean rededication of the temple in 164 BC. If we apply the postdating system used in the original version of Priestly chronology, the first year of the rededicated temple is exactly 4000 years from the creation of the world.”

Footnote (234-235): “This association between the year 4000 AM and the rededication of the temple was pointed out by Murtonen (1954:137) and Johnson (1969:32) and has been discussed by Thompson (1974:15) and Hayes (1979:25). Johnson calculated 3756 years for the exile, and 374 years from the edict of Cyrus (538 BC) to 164 BC to arrive at a total of 4000 years instead of 3999 years; but the interval between 587 BC and 538 BC is 49 years rather than 50 years.”

Then, on page 235, “The obvious inference to be drawn from this is that MT’s chronology was created in the Maccabean period and was devised to portray the Maccabean rededication of the temple as the start of a new era of history. But there is a problem that must be considered. This interpretation presupposes that the authors of MT’s chronology had access to accurate chronological information for the period from 587 to 164, whereas evidence from other ancient sources suggests that Jewish writers of the Greco-Roman period had a rather inaccurate notion of postexilic chronology” [Hughes goes on to give various examples of screw-ups by Jewish writers of the period.]

Summary of the quotes: Hughes doesn’t call the 4000 year sequence “the chronology of the Bible”, and Hughes does not express confidence that there actually is an implied 4000 year sequence in the chronology of the Bible. Instead, he views it as a possibility raised “often” (that is, by many scholars). Although he uses the word “often,” he doesn’t go so far as to claim that it’s a non-controversial fact.

Suggestion: Let’s replace the first sentence with the following text:

“The chronology of the Bible is an elaborate system of lifespans, ‘generations,’ and other means by which the passage of events is measured. Many scholars see in the standard Hebrew text (Masoretic Text) of the Bible an implied span of 4,000 years between the Creation of the world and the rededication of the Temple in 164.” And we’ll use the same citation to Hughes at the end of this bit.

I welcome feedback on this, and out of deference to PiCo’s greater experience as an editor, I won’t make any edit to this page if he objects. Alephb (talk) 04:21, 19 March 2017 (UTC)

PS I am perfectly content with the 4000-year chronology dominating the lead, because as far as I can tell it also has a very prominent place in scholarship. It's just that I have some doubts about whether it is considered scholarly consensus. Here's some quotes by scholars who don't go so far as to treat it as a consensus view:
Oxford Companion to the Bible (1993), entry for "Chronology" (James Barr). “If, as is possible, the Exodus took place in 2666 AM, is it perhaps significant that this is almost exactly two-thirds of 4000? . . . If, as has been suggested, a figure of 4000 was held in mind, the present biblical chronology might be predicated upon the rededication of the Temple (about 164 BCE) after its profanation by Antiochus, which would establish a connection with Daniel, as well as with the books of Enoch and Jubilees." This wording is reprinted here: [2].
“Perhaps the most widely accepted hypothesis regarding the chronology of the MT in its present condition is that the year AM 2666 for the exodus represents 26 2/3 generations of 100 year or two-thirds of a world cycle (Great Year) of 4,000 years.” page 32, Marshall D. Johnson The Purpose of the Biblical Genealogies. Second edition (2002), first edition (1969) by Cambridge UP. [3]
“Noteworthy, finally, is the hypothesis according to which the overall biblical chronology is based on a 4000-year cycle of Zoroastrian inspiration, a 'Great Year,' inserted into the biblical narrative calculating backwards from the same point in time, namely, the purification of the temple and the restoration of the temple cult in 164 BCE.” Joseph Blenkinsopp, Opening the Sealed Book. (page 87) [4]] Eerdmans (2006).
Blenkinsopp again (104, Sage, Priest, Prophet): “If this is not pure coincidence, it implies that the original chronology, focused on the sanctuary, was updated in the same spirit some time in the second century BCE.” [5]
Philip R. Davies (2015), The History of Ancient Israel: A Guide for the Perplexed. “More significantly, the Exodus occurs at a point (2666) that is two-thirds of 4,000. By adding the remaining 375 years we arrive - in our modern calculations - at 538 - 375 = 163 BCE, the date of the rededication of the temple by Judas Maccabee. Of course, this calculation implies that the framers of the chronology were aware of the accurate figure. So possibly the endpoint is the year of desecration (167), or even a date a little in the future, the date of the expected eschaton . . . If so, the present Masoretic chronology dates from the second century BCE.” [6] Note that while Davies does hold to some sort of 4000-year scheme, he doesn't claim that it is scholarly consensus, and he allows for some wiggle room about its endpoint.
All right. That's enough of my going on and on. I'll leave this up to the community to decide. Alephb (talk) 05:00, 19 March 2017 (UTC)
The Johnson quote you give us looks useful: “Perhaps the most widely accepted hypothesis regarding the chronology of the MT in its present condition is that the year AM 2666 for the exodus represents 26 2/3 generations of 100 year or two-thirds of a world cycle (Great Year) of 4,000 years.” This could be rejigged as "The chronology of the bible marks out a world cycle (Great Year) of 4,000 years, beginning with Creation and ending, presumably, in around 164 BCE, with the year AM 2666 for the exodus representing 26 2/3 generations of 100 year or two-thirds of the total.” We'd need a second source for the 164 date, but there are plenty. Would you like to draft it? I wouldn't be too concerned with mentioning the MT in the lead sentence - most readers simply assume that when we say Bible we mean MT. The nuance could be covered in a note. (No Notes section in the article at the moment; Don't wait toooooo long for additional comment, this isn't the most-watched article on Wikipedia :) ).PiCo (talk) 07:54, 20 March 2017 (UTC)
Agreed that we don't need to mention the MT in the lead -- anyone who wants to go deeper into the article figures out that the 4000-year set-up is based on the MT, and the default Bible for almost all readers is MT anyhow. (Reading Emanuel Tov got me into distinguishing the MT specifically when I write, but it's not needed here.) All right, combining the original wording with my suggestions and your suggestions, how about we replace the first sentence with the quote below? If it sits well with you, I won't wait for any additional comment -- I'll just put it in and if anyone objects we can cross that bridge when we come to it.
"The chronology of the Bible is an elaborate system of lifespans, 'generations,' and other means by which the passage of events is measured, beginning with creation and extending through other significant events. A widespread scholarly understanding is that the Bible marks out a world cycle (Great Year) of 4,000 years, beginning with Creation and ending, presumably, around 164 BCE, with the year AM 2666 for the exodus representing 26 2/3 of 100 years or two-thirds of the total." cite Johnson, cite Davies, cite Blenkinsopp (Opening the Sealed Book, not the other quote), cite Barr. Since Wikipedia's not paper and the quotes add useful detail, add the relevant quotes into the footnotes for Johnson, Davies, Blenkinsopp.
That would be the whole extent of my proposed change. The article handles everything else really well. How's that sound? Alephb (talk) 08:23, 20 March 2017 (UTC)
That looks fine to me :) PiCo (talk) 09:20, 20 March 2017 (UTC)