Hebrew Bible Timeline
For nearly 1800 years after Alexander the Great's death, many Jews used April 311 BC, the start of the Greek Seleucid era, as their Year 1. It was the year that Seleucus, an important military general of Alexander's, had conquered Babylon in a battle, and in Jewish tradition it was said to be the year that followed the death of Malachi, whose testimony completed the last Book of the Prophets in their scriptures.
The rules that established their lunar months and solar years, applying seven leap months every 19 years, is said to have been set down by Sanhedrin president Hillel II in approximately AD 359.
Their modern year number is said to have been formalized by Maimonides in 1178, stating that Adam was created at the start of the seventh month of the year we now call 3761 BC. He based it on an earlier work "Seder Olam Rabbah", written about AD 160.
The Seleucid Era was used for many years. However, by the year 1500 the Maimonides calendar dating the year back to Adam had taken over.
In 2023, it places 3760 years between the seventh month of 3761 BC and the seventh month of 1 BC, and then 2023 years between the seventh month of 1 BC and the seventh month of 2023 AD (there is no year zero). Thus 16th September 2023 is the start of Jewish year AM 5784 at the close of 5783 years, not the close of 6041 years, a difference to the New Testament timeline (Bible NT Year) of 258 years.
Click here to confirm this on a Hebrew Date Converter page.
Click here for a full Jewish calendar for the 2023 calendar year.
Below I have set out places where the difference may have occurred, using New Testament references and beliefs that may well have not been acceptable in the original AD 160 calculations.
Click here for a reconciliation with Archbishop James Ussher's chronology, that said Adam was created at the start of 4004 BC.
(Bible NT Year)
Extract from Jewish Virtual Library
Adam Seth Enos Cainan Mahalaleel Jared Enoch Methuselah Lamech Noah (10th generation)
Click here for written records, worldwide, referring to these 10 "fathers" or "kings" pre-flood, also Noah, his 3 sons, and the 4 wives who were saved.
Shem Arphaxad Salah Eber(Hebrew) Peleg Reu Serug Nahor Terah (19th generation)
Also extracted from Jewish Virtual Library
Terah lived 205 years.
|Birth of his first children when Terah was 70 years old
|Abraham (20th generation) left Haran to go into the land of Canaan when he was 75 years of age. Here is the first passage where we need the New Testament to interpret it correctly. In Genesis 11:26 it says that Terah was 70 years old and he had 3 sons: Abraham and his 2 brothers. Abraham is mentioned first as he is the most important, but he was not the eldest. In Acts 7:4 it says Abraham lived in Haran until his father died. This point is only found in the New Testament. As his father was 205 years old when he died, Terah must have been 130 years old when Abraham was born. Thus we have a 60 year difference.
|The Exodus 430 years later
|Joshua enters Canaan. Commencement of the period of the judges/administrator-leaders.
| 911 BC|
|Samuel. During his administration, anoints Saul (a Benjaminite) to be king. Here is the second passage where we need the New Testament to interpret it correctly. In 1 Kings 6:1 it says the temple was built in the 480th year of being out of Egypt the place of servitude. However, this excluded the 94 years of servitude during the time of the judges. It meant the time from Joshua taking Jericho, up to the first year of David's reign, was just 396 years while Acts 13:20-21 clearly stated it was 490 years (the start of the 10th Jubilee). All Jews back then knew when a Jubilee occurred. Click here for a reconciliation of that 94 year difference.
Thus 356 years were assumed until the time of Samuel. His administration, including the reign of Saul, covers 40 years (see Acts 13:21)
| 871 BC|
|Reign of King David (from Judah) - 40 years (see 1 Kings 2:11)
| 831 BC|
|Reign of King Solomon (David's son) - Reigned 40 years (see 1 Kings 11:42)
| 791 BC|
|After his reign Israel splits into two. 390 years of division. (see Ezekiel 4:5)
| 419 BC|
|Beginning of Babylonian captivity in 1st year of Nebuchadnezzar (see Jeremiah 25:1-11)
| 401 BC|
|Jerusalem destroyed (including the temple) in July-August 506 BC in King Neb's 19th year (see 2 Kings 25:8). Judah sets off back to Egypt in 505BC. It is 390 years from end of Solomon's reign and exactly 1000 years from Exodus.
| 349 BC|
|70 years captivity complete. Babylon now completely fallen to the Medes and Persians. Zerubbabel with Joshua/Yeshuwa the High Priest leads the Jews back to Israel as decreed by King Cyrus in Persia. The temple eventually rebuilt and Ezra the scribe returns.
| 300 BC|
|Walls rebuilt by Nehemiah and restoration fully complete. People now await the coming of the Anointed One, known as Messiah (Hebrew) or Christ (Greek)
| 135 AD|
|It is now 483 years (69 sevens) from using the date of 349 BC for Cyrus's decree till the cutting off of the man the Jews believed was the Christ - see the prophecy in Daniel 9:25-26. Bar Kokhba (as assumed Messiah) leads a rebellion and both he and Jews in Jerusalem are cut off (104 years after Jesus was "cut off"). Here we have the third passage with a 104 year difference between the New Testament scriptures and Jewish belief. So, 60+94+104 equals 258.|
With regards to current scholarship:
- According to the Jewish Virtual Library timeline
- After Abraham is shown as being born (1813 BC), some records become more vague.
- Exodus according to a Sinai Torah regarding Canaan Entry 1280 BC (in NT records 1505 BC). An alternate timeline in chabad.org placed the Exodus in 1313 BC, 500 years from Abraham, and 400 years from Isaac's birth.
- Samuel 1050 BC (in NT records 1015 BC) follows the judges having a much, much shorter timespan.
- Destruction of temple in Jerusalem is about 586 BC (in NT records 506 BC) and matches up with Ptolemy / Greek / Ussher's records. It shows the Persian empire's reign over the Jews lasting 539 BC - 331 BC i.e. about 208 years (in NT records 134 years). Awkwardly, the bulk of Persian records were destroyed by Alexander the Great when he captured Persia.
- Click here for a fairly controversial 400 - 600 year gap theory written by Immanuel Velikovsky (1895 - 1979) in two best-sellers "Worlds in Collision" in 1950 and "Ages in Chaos" in 1952.
- The Exodus needed to be reset to the close of Egypt's Middle Kingdom around 1500 BC, and the Pharaoh who was responsible to Dedumose II. The reign had been followed by an invasion of the Hyksos (whom he identifies as the Amalekites) reigning in Egypt about 400 years.
- Velikovsky discounted the idea of any Hittite Empire reigning in Anatolia (Turkey) at that time. And in his view much of the "Dark Age" of Greece (1100 BC-750 BC) never occurred, a 400 year gap had been inserted by later historians.
- He shifted the 19th, 20th, and 21st dynasties (traditionally 1300 BC-945 BC) to a much later period, intermingling those Pharaoh names with the 26th to 30th Dynasty Pharaohs who reigned during the late Assyrian, Babylon and Persian empires.
- Click here again for Chabad.org's timeline, which holds that the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem occurred in 423 BC (Jewish Year 3338), its rebuilding under Darius recommenced in his second year in 353 BC (Jewish Year 3408), and was completed in 349 BC.
This is much closer to Maimonides calendar and was in accord with a statement found in the Jewish Talmud that the second temple stood for 420 years before its destruction in 70AD, and that the Persian timeline was super-compressed lasting only 52-53 years with just four kings.
- 372 BC Darius the Mede 1 year
- 371 BC Cyrus the Great 3 years
- 368 BC Ahasuerus 13 years (husband of Esther)
- 355 BC Darius II 36 years (also known as Artaxerxes in the book of Nehemiah). Defeated by Alexander the Great in 319 BC.
During his reign
- 353 BC - 349 BC Construction of the Second Temple
- 348 BC Ezra comes to Jerusalem
Traditionally, it was the time of the Great Assembly (Anshe Knesset HaGedolah), an assembly of 120 rabbis that ruled in the period after the time of the prophets up to the time of the development of rabbinic Judaism in 70 AD. The tradition teaches that they redacted the books of Ezekiel, the twelve minor prophets (The Trei Asar), and the books of Daniel and Esther. They also composed the Shemonah Esreh, the standing prayer (Amidah) of 18, later 19, prayers that are still recited by Jews today. They canonized the Tanakh. Most important, they enacted a democratization of Jewish education, making the Torah the possession of all, instead of just the priestly class.
- 335 BC Nehemiah returns to rebuild the walls over a period of 52 days.
Historically, the Great Assembly described in Nehemiah 8 - 10 was a public assembly of Jews who returned to Israel after the exile in Babylonia. In this gathering the leaders and people of Israel rededicated themselves to the Torah as their inheritance and code of law.
313 BC The End of Prophecy with the passing of Malachi in the year 3448.
312 BC The Commencement of the Greek Seleucid Era in the year 3449, with ancient writings (e.g. Book of Maccabees) showing Year 1 starting in March-April 311 BC (year 3450).
- Back to 465 BC
Click here for a full account of Persian, Jewish and Roman history at this time.
According to Josephus that is somewhat in accordance with Daniel 11, there were four kings that came after Cyrus, making six kings (at least).
Approximate Dates of these six kings
- 465 BC Darius the Mede with Daniel as senior administrator in Susa. During this time Astyages (Ahasuerus), Darius's father in Babylon, receives an accusation against the Jews and Jerusalem from their adversaries in the land of Israel.
- 453 BC Cyrus commands the Jews (42,360 in total) to return to Jerusalem and start rebuilding the temple.
- 444 BC (or so) Cambyses (Artaxerxes in Ezra 4:21) forbids any further work to be done on the temple.
- 437-436 BC First year of Darius. He gives permission in his second year, in Jan-Feb 435 BC, for the work to continue. It is 70 years since the temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. It is completed in time for the Passover in his sixth year in 431 BC.
- 423 BC First year of Xerxes (Artaxerxes in Ezra 7 and Nehemiah). In his seventh year Ezra returns. In his 20th year, in 404 BC, 49 years (7 weeks of years) since Cyrus's decree Nehemiah returns. Xerxes reigns at least 32 years.
- 390 BC (or so) First year of Cyrus (Artaxerxes II to the Greeks, Ahasuerus in Esther). Rich.
Click here for a timeline of Greek history during the period from Solon to Alexander the Great.
Click here for further thoughts in an email March 20, 2017.
End of Article