Faith & Science

HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED…WHY DIDN’T THE EGYPTIANS RECORD THE EXODUS?

DOES ARCHAEOLOGY DISPROVE THE BIBLE?

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO CREATE THE UNIVERSE? IS THE STORY OF JERICHO AND IT’S WALLS TRUE? IS THERE ANY EVIDENCE THAT JOSEPH EXISTED IN EGYPT?

EXPLORE THESE ISSUES AND MORE WITH D. LAING AT GRACE ALIVE

(7:30 – 8:30 p.m.) ON THE THIRD THURSDAY OF EACH MONTH.

 

The Biblical Timeline, A Chronology of Errors

by D. Laing

    In the 17th century, James Ussher, an Anglican archbisop of Northern Ireland, published “Annales veteris testamenti, a prima mundi origine deducti” (Annals of the Old Testament, deduced from the first origins of the world). Through exhaustive effort by adding up all of the periods of years referenced in the Bible he had concluded that God had created the world late in the afternoon of Saturday, October 24, 4004 BC. Archbishop Ussher provided a timeline that would be closely matched by the later efforts of others working strictly from the Bible and associated religious texts, notably by John Lightfoot, a contemporary and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. For this reason, Ussher’s chronology is often referred to as the Ussher-Lightfoot timeline:

4004 BC – Creation of Adam and Eve
2349 BC – Noah’s Flood
1996 BC – Birth of Abram (Abraham)
1690 BC – Death of Jacob (Israel)
1491 BC – The Exodus
1451 BC – Joshua leads the Israelites into the Promised Land.
1410 BC – Beginning of the period of the Judges
1050 BC – End of Judges period, beginning of the Kings
1012 BC – Founding of Solomon’s temple
  960 BC – Solomon’s temple built
  930 BC – Death of Solomon, division of the kingdom into Judea and Israel
  723 BC – Samaria, capital of Israel, falls to Assyrian King Shalmaneser V
  588 BC – Destruction of Jerusalem

    While these dates are quite similar to those derived by others, this is due to the similar method employed by most biblical scholars and theologians that attempted to derive a timeline from biblical narratives alone. At the beginning of the 20th century biblical historians were confident that the relatively new and evolving science of archaeology would serve to reinforce the Ussher-Lightfoot timeline. However, the association of the city of Pi-Ramses with the biblical narrative of the Exodus challenged the timeline in the early 20th century for it was named after Ramses the Great (Raamses II) who reigned 1292 – 1225 BC. In other words, it became somewhat widely accepted that the Exodus occurred around 1250 BC and not 1491 as Archbishop Ussher first determined so the timeline was revised. Additional archaeological finds either further obfuscated the timeline or indicated that biblical events as described in the narratives and when expected never occurred. The most publicized of these perhaps were the results of the excavations and studies conducted by archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon at Jericho. The walls had indeed fallen and there were even grain stores that had been burnt instead of taken as fits the narrative in the book of Joshua, yet instead of having occurred about 1250 BC or even 1450 BC, Kenyon dated the event to 1580 BC. She further proved that at the dates accepted by the biblical community for its destruction, Jericho was an abandoned site. Within the theologically accepted revised Ussher-Lightfoot timeline this along with the findings of other archaeological studies, the absence of Egyptian records concerning the Exodus, and any archaeological evidence that the 12 tribes of Israel had ever dwelt in Egypt seemed to have proven that the biblical narratives were nothing more than myth or fictional tales intended to teach a moral truth or to inspire loyalty to God. This is where science and biblical studies remained, in opposition, for much of the 20th century.

    In contrast to the Ussher-Lightfoot timeline, the archaeological timeline of modern man in the Levant extends back to 90,000 BC although it seems that the Neanderthal culture was already established. Intervening glaciations to the north and associated climate changes may have served to prevent the rich diversity required for the establishment of hunter gatherer settlements until between 52,000 and 50,000 BC. After the Late Glacial Maxima, modern man established a foothold in southern Palestine developing rudimentary settlements between 8,500 and 7,500 BC. It was not until after 6,000 BC however that herding was practiced and with a reliable source of food and clothing, farming appeared shortly thereafter and by 5,500 BC, farms relying upon a combination of agriculture and animal husbandry were somewhat common.

    Recent discoveries in archaeology, geology, climatology, and dendrochronology are pointing to a new and revised understanding of biblical events as well as the interrelationships between societies in the ancient world. These latest studies are poised on the brink of pulling down the established biblical timeline and redefining our understanding of the dynamics of ancient cultures and human migrations in response to invasions or natural disasters and catastrophes.