WHY CHRONOLOGY MATTERS

Here is the beginning of the opening chapter of Rebooting the Bible, Part 2.  I am still striving to have the book finished by May 1. It looks like it won’t be available until about May 15 or so.  Between now and then, I will begin sharing some of the new book to give you insight into where its going.  I hope this meets with your approval and generates interest.  Do let me know!  You can respond on my Facebook page or by emailing me at doug@faith-happens.com.  Blessings during this crazy time in which we live.


“We conclude that the Scriptures furnish no data for a chronological computation before the life of Abraham; and that the Mosaic records do not fix and were not intended to fix the precise date either of the Flood or of the creation of the world.”

William H. Green – Primeval Chronology, Bibliotheca Sacra, April 1890

Evolution of the Species? No Problem

Bishop James Ussher in his magnum opus, Annals of the World (1650) put his great mind to work halfway through the Seventeenth Century to determine the exact age for the Flood of Noah and the Creation of Humanity.

This was about four decades after the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible was first published and the ink, so to speak, was still drying. The linkage between the two, Ussher’s chronology and the King James Bible, has been a foundational tenet of biblical orthodoxy ever since; that is, until the Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871).  Science as well as Theology would never be the same.

Roughly three more decades passed before another landmark publication loosened the link between the KJV and its declarations concerning the dates of the Great Flood and God’s special creation of Adam and Eve (and perhaps the entire Cosmos).  This work was an 18-page article published in a famous theological journal, Bibliotheca Sacra, the April 1890 edition.[1] In the article, William Henry Green asserted that the chronogenalogies[2] in Genesis 5 and 11 were never intended to supply a timeline of biblical events nor the history of humankind from Adam to Abraham.  Two decades later, another noteworthy evangelical theologian, Benjamin B. Warfield, seconded the motion when he said, it is “precarious in the highest degree to draw chronological inferences from genealogical tables.”[3] By 1911, many conservative theologians had comes to terms with evolutionary theories, basically agreeing with Green and Warfield. It was no longer respectable to reference the Bible’s dates for the Flood, the Tower of Babel, and the Creation of the World.  Perhaps some biblical history could be trusted, but the Bible’s earliest history preserved in Genesis 1-11, its primeval history, couldn’t.

This “bulletin” hit like a tidal wave, clearing the deck for a multi-scholar project to reconcile Darwin’s evolution with the Bible – an endeavor that has lasted for over a century and continues unabated down to our day.  Needless to say, many theories have been put forth to sort this matter. Except for those who subscribe to the off-criticized counter response, Young Earth Creationism, all other views now consider Darwin’s “descent of man” (i.e., Darwinism) to be irrefutable. As the Twentieth Century began, “Science and the Bible became mortal enemies. Needless to say, this struck a near-mortal blow to the once-worthy task of interpreting biblical chronology. Afterward, most Orthodox Christians and Evangelicals were forced to sacrifice what had been sacred – the belief that Yahweh created Adam and Eve only a few thousand years before Christ. While Ussher’s date for the Cosmos’ genesis (October 23, 4004 B.C.)  became the origin of the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah – the day of Creation), for everyone else not following Orthodox Judaism, the mystery deepened for when the world began. In Europe, 20 years had passed since Nietzsche had a madman (the infamous Zarathustra) proclaim “God’s death.” However, in America, the undertaker was only then being summoned.

Fair minded historians know that Ussher’s efforts don’t deserve to be mocked; nevertheless, his conclusions are consistently derided with next to no objections from anyone considering himself or herself well-educated. Still, those who know the story realize Ussher had with all sincerity welded his immense intellect and historical memory bank to establish this precise date.  While not exactly matching the KJV (which some believe states the date of Creation a decade or two later), Ussher’s date has become synonymous with what the KJV teaches regarding biblical chronology. Young Earth Creationists (despite claims to the contrary) are wed not just to Ussher’s dating, but to the King James Bible too (even though the two don’t have to have a mandatory link – Creation Science doesn’t require the KJV account).

Ussher had studied sources in Aramaic, Greek, and Latin. And in fact his dates cling very close to accepted world history once we examine all pivotal events like the death of Alexander in 323 B.C., and Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. Nowadays, from the time when Solomon’s Temple was destroyed (586 B.C.), historians and theologians seldom differ on “red-letter” dates.  This isn’t so for the Jewish world which relies on their Jewish calendar which truncates time by 165-185 years from “Daniel the Beloved” (d. 535 B.C.) to Herod the Great (d. 1 B.C.). Besides this variance, the timing of biblical events for the last 2,500 years aligns well for historians, be they secular or religious.[4] Before that time, buyer beware. Archeology, Egyptology, and the King James Bible (based upon the Masoretic Text for its Old Testament) seldom see eye-to-eye. And yet, this conflict is resolvable. The Bible’s ancient timeline is far better represented by the Greek translation of the Hebrew, the Septuagint. That’s what this book will demonstrate. It’s not just the dates, it’s also the stories of Genesis 1-11 that the timeline of the Septuagint can reconcile with these sciences. When I use the phrase, “rebooting the Bible,” that’s what I mean. Getting our story straight breathes new life in the debate between science and the Bible as we shall see.

NOTES

[1] Green, William H., “Primeval Chronology,” Bibliotheca Sacra, April 1890, p. 285-303. Retrieved 7-7-2018 from http://www.genevaninstitute.org/syllabus/unit-two-theology-proper/lesson-5-the-decree-of-creation/primeval-chronology-by-dr-william-henry-green/.

[2] A chronogenealogy is a dual-purpose chronicle of ancestry and the timing of the birth and death dates of the individuals listed.  It is both a chronology and a genealogy. These two are the only such genealogies in the Bible (most scholars agree on this).  Many other genealogies exist, but they do not attempt to set the dates of when births and deaths happen (they aren’t also chronologies).  The uniqueness of Genesis 5 and 11 consists of the fact they establish the birthdate of each Patriarch, when they died, but importantly, when the Patriarch “brought forth” a specific son that dozens of generations later was the lineage of Messiah Jesus.  The issue that Green addressed was whether the numbers (birthday and date of death) should be taken literally. He made the notion of “gaps” in the generations popular. “Whether gaps?” will be a primary topic later in this chapter. As to “bringing forth a son,” this was the language used to express that the child was born because of the will of its father. Hidden here is a reflection of God the Father begetting God the Son, eternally, through His will continuously.

[3] Warfield, Benjamin B., “On the Antiquity and Unity of the Human Race,” Princeton Theological Review 9 / (1), 1911. p. 1-25.

[4] The Jewish Calendar, Seder Olam Rabbah was constructed circa A.D. 160 by Josef ben Halafta, based on rabbinic premises and a modified proto-Masoretic text crafted under the direction of Rabbi Akiba. This will be discussed later as it is the essential reason the MT and LXX don’t match.