Biblical Timeline for Dummies

I was halfway through college before I had a comprehension of basic Bible history. For all I knew, Elijah and Paul could have been pen pals. Ruth and Esther could have shopped together at Lydia’s purple store. And Exile and Exodus were cousins, right?

The truth is, most Christians’ grasp of biblical chronology is almost that bad, in part due to the random way many teachers and preachers jump around the Bible. Add in the way flannel-graph lessons use the same couple of bearded and robed Thespians to play all the parts and getting things in order is well nigh hopeless. (My friend Bob Roberts says when he was a kid he could barely restrain himself from yelling out, “That’s not the good Samaritan! It’s Moses!”)

I recommend a “quick and dirty” summary to help Christians start seeing events, people, and passages in historical context. I use 5 basic dates, each associated with a major biblical figure. It gives novice Bible students some hooks from which to hang everything else.

  • 2000 BC (Abraham)
  • 1500 BC (Moses)
  • 1000 BC (David)
  • 500 BC (Nehemiah)
  • 0, BC/AD (Jesus)

Simple, I know, but it’s a start. Perhaps those you teach are beyond this. But I doubt it.


11 Responses

  1. as explained in a GLBI class, most over 40 men are about at age 12 as far as bible knowledge.

  2. Are you familiar with The Jesus Storybook Bible? It presents the Bible as one story (which of course it is) instead of as a collection of a bunch of Bible stories that are often taught out of order. The Jesus Storybook Bible is great for all of us, not just for children. I bet if you had grown up with something like that you wouldn’t have had the order all mixed up. :)

    Yesterday (10/18/10) in BJU Chapel missionary JD Crowley also mentioned this issue of how we neglect to treat the Bible as one story. JD is preaching this entire week–great messages.

  3. Adam was before Moses. :)

  4. Hey, Chris,

    Shameless self promotion here, but you need to get my Thru the Bible DVD, where I preached chronologically through the Old and New Testaments in 17 months.

    I’ll send you a link if you want to know more.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  5. Adam was 4004 B.C.

    That’s what Ussher says and ushers always get the numbers right, don’t they?

  6. Has anyone read Travis Freeman’s article on the supposed gaps in the genealogies in Gen 5 and 11 in Coming to Grips with Genesis? His conclusion is that there is no good evidence to support the idea of gaps in those genealogies. I have just skimmed his article, so I haven’t evaluated it carefully, but if he is correct, then Ussher’s date isn’t going to be that far off.

  7. So we’re going to just let genderist, agist statements stand, are we??

  8. Interesting that from Adam to Abraham it was ~2,000 yrs., from Abraham to Christ it was ~2000 years and from Christ till now is just over 2,000 yrs. Praying the end is soon!

  9. So true and I spent most of my educational years in a Christian school ! Thanks Pastor Chris.

  10. Thanks so much for the encouragement. I saw the same need, and made a game for my 1st-6th graders children’s church class. I used a white board with 4×6 note cards that had 8 major dates written in red marker, like yours, and then the actions or people on other cards with blue marker, and made a big matching game out of it. Kids loved it and got a much better understanding of where biblical characters fall in history.

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