There is hope, however, for those struggling to remember a general timeline for the Bible. The good news is that we do not need to know EXACT dates in order to comprehend what the Scriptures teach or even to understand its story flow. This series of short Bible timeline lessons approaches the problem of learning a basic sequence of events from a different perspective.
These lessons on Bible chronology center on the lives, using easy to remember dates, of seven well-known characters in God's word. They briefly explore the life of each individual and the notable events occurring while they lived. This Bible study series uses approximate and easy to remember dates tied to the life of seven Biblical individuals.
The use of approximate dates will aid in our compiling a complete chronological story flow for the Bible. These dates are Adam (4000 B.C.), Noah (3000), Abraham (2000), Moses (1500), King David (1000), Daniel (500) and the Apostle Paul (1 A.D.). Before we begin our first lesson, we will cover a few general facts about dates and dating.
Throughout much of human history, most civilizations maintained their own unique method of dating. These dating systems usually began their counts from either a significant event (e.g. an earthquake) or an important ruler. For example, the ancient Babylonians dated events starting from the first year of Nabonassar, their first ruler. The Babylonian "Year 1" on their calendar corresponds to our date of 747 B.C. What is the basis, however, for the modern dating system in use by most of the world?
The date abbreviations we are all familiar with are B.C. and A.D. The letters "A.D." stand for the Anno Domini dating system. It is the creation of a Catholic monk who, while studying the Bible, sought to compute when the church's Easter festival occurred. The starting point of the calendar system is the year of Jesus' birth. Years that occur AFTER the birth of Jesus were labeled "A.D.," which is short for a Medieval Latin term meaning "In the year of our Lord."
The designation of years occurring BEFORE Jesus' birth as "B.C.," which means before Christ, did not come into general use until several years after the monk's death. The widespread use of this Christ-centered system, which would affect how the Bible is dated, did not occur until sometime after 800 A.D.
Dates before Christ's birth start with 1 B.C. while years after it begin with 1 A.D. Given this information, it is logical to conclude that Jesus's birth in the Bible happened in year zero. Over the years, however, research has shown that the initial calculations determining the year of Jesus' birth are off by anywhere from one to six years!
Many historians and researchers today believe our Savior's birth took place in 5 B.C. Since, however, the current calendar system has been in use for hundreds of years, no one has seriously suggested renumbered years.
A growing world movement exists that does not want to reference years with a "religious bias" toward Christianity or the Bible. Instead of using A.D. to mark years after the birth of Christ, the abbreviation C.E. (short for Common Era) is used as a replacement. The abbreviation B.C.E., short for Before the Common Era, replaces B.C. when referencing years before his arrival on earth. In our next lesson, we will visit the life of the first individual who will help us construct a basic timeline of the Bible.