Bible Timeline – Introduction

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By Seth Bartley and Raymond Harrisµ

Paragraphs ending with were written by Seth Bartley.
Paragraphs ending with µ were written by Raymond Harris.

This article is designed to coincide with Faith and Conviction’s public release of the Bible Timeline. This is a First Edition production; while it has not yet been peer reviewed, it will no doubt receive future revisions and editions.µ

What is this Timeline?
This is not so much a “timeline” as it is a visual outline of how the Biblical Narrative flows. This work is specifically composed from the historical information found through the books of:

  • Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy,
  • Joshua, Judges, First and Second Samuel,
  • First and Second Kings (First and Second Chronicles as supplement),
  • Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, First Maccabees,
  • Luke (supplemented with Matthew), and Acts.µ

No information has been covered from other Scriptures; our focus has been to assist in providing an historical context for the Scriptures so that students may more easily review and comprehend the various Writings.

We certainly consider the Bible as God inspired; but it is still a vast library of literature. Since the Bible is a library, it includes poetry, wisdom, history, letters and prophecy. Some of which is in chronological order, but not all; this is why some publishers have assembled Chronological Bibles. While doing our research, no one seemed to visually demonstrate how the people and events interacted with each other; some timelines seemed to just have people and events in chronological order, while others associated Bible history with world events, but none seemed to have our style of narrative interaction.µ

Our Bible Timeline is intended to reveal not only chronological order, but also show the relationship of Bible history. Our Bible Timeline has major individuals (like Abraham), and groups (like the Nation of Israel) interact with biblical events (like Mt. Sinai, or wars).µ

This study tool is designed to visually represent the Biblical Narrative as the Scripture authors designed it to flow; if the narrative takes a seemingly nonsensical turn to some irrelevant topic, then so do we. This timeline divides the Scriptural narratives into context sections based on:

  • major grammatical breaks,
  • a single event or location,
  • a single individual or group,
  • a specific or general topic, and
  • the time period or era.µ

The primary division of this work is based on the development of what seems to be the central benchmark to the Scripture writers: the House of the LORD, the Tabernacle/Temple.

Section 1—Pre-Tabernacle
Genesis 1.1—Exodus 18.27. This section begins the study with the Creation of the Earth, the life of Abraham and his sons, the enslavement of Joseph, and the liberation of the Israelites.

Section 2—Tabernacle
Exodus 19.1—First Kings 4.34. In this era we find the Covenant at Sinai, the construction of the Tabernacle, the conquest of Canaan, the Rule of the Judges, and the reign of a Kingdom of Israel.

Section 3—First Temple
First Kings 5.1—Second Kings 25.21. Here we find the construction of the Temple, the division of the Kingdom of Israel, the idolatry of Israel and Judah, the Works of the Prophets, the destruction of Israel, the oppression of Judah, and the destruction of the Temple.

Section 4—Reconstruction
Second Kings 25.22—Acts 28.31. This is the most active section, we find the Babylonian Exile, the rule of Persia, the reconstruction of the Temple, the defiling of the New Temple by the Seleucid Kings, the Maccabean Revolt and the New Kingdom of Israel, the Roman conquest, the ministries of the Messiah and his Disciples, and finally completes the study with the obliteration of the Herodian Temple.

Bible Timeline – Sample Images

How did you create it?
During Minister Harris’ work in Indiana he approached me concerning this idea. We had already worked on several diagrams illustrating Covenant Theology and I was excited by the prospect of a new in depth project. Over the course of the next year we worked through the historical books and after deep investigative research and countless hours of tireless labor a First Draft was complete. Then, of course, we had to go back through the entire work again to correct mistakes and reformat anything which was not ‘up to snuff’ with what we learned going through it the first time. Yet another round of bucking heads and sleepless nights ensued.

As Seth has already mentioned, I was in Indiana when we did all the preliminary work on this project. My memory does not recall all the details on how the project came to full fruition, but I do seem to recall that the project had its genesis during our study of biblical history. We did some minor outlining on a huge white board and the project grew from there. Seth mentioned that it took about a year, if memory serves we began in late 2009 and finished around November 2010. Since then, we have been doing corrections in order to publish. As an interesting item, this Bible Timeline is designed to be printed landscape on legal size paper. We printed three initial Timelines, each when taped together to present a seamless Timeline measures over thirty feet.µ

How do I use it?
It is our hope that this tool will help every Bible student visualize the flow of the Bible and reveal the order for what may seem chaotic. This is a reference tool so that whenever you are reading a piece of scripture you can look at this “map” and instantly find your place in the general context. There are many things within the Scriptures which seem haphazardly placed for our linear mindset, but when the interactions of the narratives are depicted clearly, these haphazard tangent events suddenly become clear and integral and indispensable components of the overall narrative.µ

We must recall that the Bible was first designed to be heard. We live in the age post-invention of the printing press, and internet. We truly live with Mass Media. While we do tell ourselves narratives (stories around the water cooler, or through film), we still engage in a tremendous amount of reading. I feel that we spend millions of more hours reading than our Ancient Ancestors. Our Ancestors, even in the New Testament, were not, en masse, literate. This is why the Bible was designed for the audience to hear, not read. We know this from the Bible itself:µ

Then he [Moses] took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.”
Exodus 24.7 ESV, emphasis rah

And Moses commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing.
Deuteronomy 31:10-11 ESV, emphasis rah

And afterward he [Joshua] read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them.
Joshua 8.34-35 ESV, emphasis mine

When Jesus asked “Have you not read?”1 He was addressing the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the chief priests, the scribes or the elders. They simply were not the masses, these groups were representative of the learned men; leaders having the ability to read and write. It seems that the masses simply did not have these skills to the same degree as the trained leaders. As such and by necessity, the masses were dependent on those who were literate. To us moderns, it represents a deplorable dependency. We much prefer to read and determine the truth for our own self.µ

Paul, for all that many claim him to be, simply was not a common man, turned believer. Paul was a man learned in the scriptures, trained by Gamaliel,2 so Paul knew that leaders played an important role in the faith of each believer. This is why he told the Colossians “And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.”3 and told the Thessalonians “I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.”4 Knowing this, then it is interesting that Paul tells Timothy to give time to reading,5 he was to read for his own study, but Timothy was also to read the Scriptures to the audience.µ

The point of all this is to reveal the importance of seeing what the audiences heard. Since the Bible was intended to be heard, and while our reading is quite valuable, reading without the knowledge of Biblical narrative leaves us at a disadvantage. Knowing the narrative and knowing the ancients mainly heard the Bible, not read the Bible, should help us for the occasions when the Bible seems repetitious and/or odd to our reading. The whole point of the Bible Timeline is to visualize what they ancients heard, attempting “to paint” a linear graph that will help us see what they heard, providing the historical narrative in order to better understand the prophets, and the apostles.µ

In addition to using this Timeline, I, Seth, would encourage you to do something like this in your own studies. There is no substitute for first hand study and analysis; Self-education. Do not rely on our word, our commentary, seek to understand the Word for yourself. There has been no better aid to my assimilation of Biblical information than to develop this education tool.

Final Thoughts
In an effort to adequately communicate our intentions we offer to you this statement which we came across in our research.

     “The number of details and the bulk of material can be overwhelming for anyone who wants to read an account of the events. But I have attempted to simplify it for all readers; those who read for sheer pleasure will find enjoyment and those who want to memorize the facts will not find it difficult. Writing such a summary is a difficult task, demanding hard work and sleepless nights. It is as difficult as preparing a banquet that people of different tastes will enjoy. But I am happy to undergo this hardship in order to please my readers. I will leave the matter of details to the original author and attempt to give only a summary of the events.
     “I am not the builder of a new house who is concerned with every detail of the structure, but simply a painter whose only concern is to make the house look attractive. The historian must master his subject, examine every detail, and then explain it carefully, but whoever is merely writing a summary should be permitted to give a brief account without going into a detailed discussion. So then, without any further comment, I will begin my story. It would be foolish to write such a long introduction that the story itself would have to be cut short.”—2 Maccabees 2.24-32 (Good News Translation)

In this spirit we offer our labor to you and dedicate it to the Supreme Author of all Truth, our God and Master, YHWH.

May YHWH (the LORD) bless you and have a good day.µ

1. “Have you not read?” Matthew 12.2-3, 12.5 (Pharisees-cf. Matthew 12.2), Matthew 19.3-4 (Pharisees), Matthew 22.31 (Sadducees-cf. Matthew 22.23); Mark 12.10 (the chief priests, the scribes and the elders-cf. Mark 11.27), Mark 12.26 (Sadducees-cf. Mark 12.18), Luke 6.2-3 (Pharisees).
2. Paul was a man learned in the scriptures, trained by Gamaliel. Acts 22.1-3.
3. Colossians 4.16, emphasis rah.
4. 1 Thessalonians 5.27, emphasis rah.
5. Paul tells Timothy to give time to reading. 1 Timothy 4.13.