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The Biblical Chronology
Daniel H. King, Sr.

We shall begin our treatment of these matters with a word about our earlier article: Let it be understood that we stand by what we wrote, and are happy to offer comment upon the criticisms of others as to the soundness of our essay. Our detractors make it sound as if they wish to maintain the sacred text against the speculations of one who compromises it with observations from history and archaeology. Nothing could be further from the truth. And it assuredly sounds as if the “pot is calling the kettle black” when we read such allegations flowing from the pen of someone who is defending Hill Roberts’ views as more inherently biblical than our own! Believe it who may! No one among conservative brethren in the past half century, in my experience at least, has represented an agent of change on such matters related to science and the Bible any more than brother Hill Roberts. And his brother Phil is now publicly casting his lot with him.

Sincere Or Not?

Their allegations are transparently insincere on this matter, for neither Phil nor Hill believes that the world was created in Archbishop Ussher’s 4004 BC, or anywhere close to that. Thus it sounds utterly preposterous and strangely disingenuous for them to criticize someone who makes a genuine effort at wrestling with the Genesis text in its biblical context, especially when they both agree with the writer of the article about the fact that the genealogies of Genesis are not complete chronologies! How do we know this? Let me quote from the article by Mark Mayberry, to which we alluded earlier, who offers his own assessment of study materials handed out by Hill Roberts at one of his Lord I Believe Seminars:

    “How does Hill Roberts handle Biblical Genealogies? In a handout entitled Genealogy and Chronology, written by Hill Roberts and revised in 1994, he affirms that there is no question as to the date when Abraham lived: "By starting from events in the Bible which can be correlated to events which are well dated in secular history, historians are able to date the life of Abraham to within about a hundred years either side of 1900 BC." Nevertheless, Hill goes on to say that we cannot accurately date such events as the construction of the tower of Babel, the flood, Cain and Abel, the fall of man, or the creation. How much time elapsed from Adam to Abraham? Bishop Ussher, making no allowance for any generational gaps in the lineages, calculated that 2,000 years elapsed between Adam and Abraham. According to the Bible, twenty generations are under dispute. In the aforementioned handout, Hill correctly points out that sometimes several generations are skipped in Biblical genealogical listings. In at least one instance, Hill argues that a father/son generation is actually separated by 400 years. Okay, how much time can one reasonably insert into these 20 generations? For the sake of argumentation, let's say that each of the 20 generations from Adam to Abraham is separated by 400 years. According to this timetable, 8,000 years would have elapsed from Adam to Abraham (20 x 400 = 8,000). Hill does not dispute the Biblical dating from Abraham forward. He accepts that Abraham lived approximately 2,000 years before Christ, and that we live 2,000 years after Christ. Therefore, according to this method of calculation, Adam was created about 12,000 years ago (8,000 + 2,000 + 2000 = 12,000). Therefore, even if we grant that the first 20 generations of Bible history each cover over 400 years, this still does not help Hill Roberts. Having bought into the standard evolutionary timetable, Hill needs to make that 2,000 years become 100,000 to 250,000 years. Obviously, he has a problem. And we are not even touching the extra 4.5 billion years he has to get into the six days of creation” (pp. 4-5).

So, Hill Roberts has provided a handout at certain of his seminars which argues that the genealogies are not absolute chronologies! He makes the case for possible gaps in the genealogies! How very interesting indeed!

In addition to this, there is the fact that Phil Roberts has for many years worked amicably side by side with brother Ferrell Jenkins, who at this writing still had posted on his website an outline titled “The Antiquity of Man,” which relies heavily upon the work of another Princeton scholar, B. B. Warfield’s article from the Princeton Theological Review titled “On the Antiquity and the Unity of the Human Race” (Vol. 9, 1911). Warfield himself relies heavily on Green‘s essay. Ferrell’s paper is an excellent outline, and one that I would be glad to recommend to any reader. In this material brother Jenkins makes many of the same points regarding the biblical text which are made in the article I wrote, uses many of the same archaeological and historical references, and essentially reaches the same conclusion that I did in my article. Is it not interesting that Phil Roberts has not taken brother Jenkins “to task” for this fine piece of scholarship, which Phil sees as entirely inconsistent with a literal approach to Genesis chapter one (which Ferrell says he also prefers!)?

As a matter of fact, as Phil speaks of this issue, he does not raise the question of Hill Roberts’ handout Genealogy and Chronology which makes the case for incomplete chronology. Neither does he condemn Ferrell Jenkins’ outline on the Antiquity of Man which argues practically the same thing. He only denounces Dan King’s article on The Primeval Chronology! Isn’t that interesting? Can you see why I say that it is very difficult for me to take seriously any arguments leveled against me on this subject by these brothers?

Biblical Chronology Chart

One of Phil’s handouts is a “Biblical Chronology” chart. At the top are the following lines: “Most proponents of a recent creation say that the Bible does not say how old the earth is from the Bible. My question is, Why not? The Bible provides a clear and unbroken chronological sequence from the time of the Babylonian captivity back to Creation.” Interspersed on his chart are a number of passages marking the construction of the Temple, Exodus from Egypt, Birth of Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham, etc. In the last two lines of the chart he lists the Flood as 2465 BC and the creation of Adam as 4126 BC. At the bottom of the page he asks, “Which of these passages don’t you believe?” He then persists, “One simply cannot say that the Bible does not indicate how old the earth is unless one is ready to acknowledge that one of these passages does not mean what it seems clearly to say. [Most members of the CRS and the ICR (proponents of Flood Geology and advocates of a recent creation) allow that the earth is around 10,000 to 12,000 years old.]”

To answer Phil’s question rather directly, “I believe every one of those passages!“ Strange as it may seem, I have read all of the passages he cited on his chart and have not found a secular date attached to a single one of them in the sacred text itself! Obviously, the dating process is a human enterprise which is superimposed upon the text by Bible students to aid in human study. The Hebrews marked time in their literature, but their dating system is not precisely equivalent with ours, and they do not provide us with time-lines or chronological charts which are nearly so specific as are the charts of brother Phil Roberts.

We moderns speak of the Exodus from Egypt as having occurred around 1446 BC, whereas Moses merely tells us that “at the end of 430 years(all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt” (Ex. 12:41). Unless we are capable of marking the exact year in modern reckoning, i.e. that the 430 years either began or ended, it is indeed a challenging enterprise to specify the precise date of the Exodus of Israel from Egyptian bondage. Since the Bible does not mention either the name of the Pharaoh of Joseph’s time or that of Moses’ day, it becomes particularly troublesome to fix the year with absolute certainty. We may entertain the 1446 BC date for that event, as does this writer, but dogmatism is hardly appropriate in wrestling with open-ended statements like the one that is found in Exodus 12:41. Biblical chronology is fraught with such vexing questions at many different junctures. Establishing and proving many of the dates on Phil’s chart with exactitude is not nearly so easy as he would have us believe. Methinks, however, that if you ask some of brother Roberts’ students from past years at Florida College, you will find that he told them exactly what I am saying now!

What brother Roberts wishes us to do is “to acknowledge that one of these passages does not mean what it seems clearly to say.” Phil believes that if he can get us to do this he will have established a precedent which will justify viewing the Genesis account of the creation as “one of these passages” which “does not mean what it seems clearly to say.”

The problem is that he does not speak here of equivalent things. There are, in fact, many texts of Scripture which do not mean what they sometimes seem to say upon a surface investigation. That does not imply that they do not mean what they say. It only suggests that we sometimes do not understand at first glance what they do actually mean. For example, when we make a cursory reading of Revelation 12:6, there appears in the passage a “woman” who “fled into the wilderness” where she is protected by God. A deeper contextual reading tells us she is not a woman at all. She may have been so at the beginning of the chapter (Mary, but possibly also Israel). And the text clearly says the word “woman” when it describes her. But when it is read in context it is plain to all who read it that the “woman” is really the persecuted church. She signifies and represents the church. Admittedly, it does not say the word “church” or any of its counterparts in the text itself. It says “woman.” But it does not mean “woman,” it rather signifies “church.”

Now, it would be grossly unfair and totally inappropriate to say such a thing were it not for clear contextual indicators in the book of Revelation itself, the immediate context, and the remainder of the Bible. All of those factors are indeed present in this case. We shall not take the time to present all that evidence here, for I doubt whether anyone reading this will question our conclusion. This does not, though, indicate that it “does not mean what it seems clearly to say.” It only suggests that we may not yet have done our homework on the passage if we see this figure merely as a “woman.” We have not studied the entire context. After all, as the old adage affirms, “a text without a context is a pretext.”

Likewise, we may be tempted upon a surface reading of the Genesis genealogical material to see the genealogies as absolute chronologies, but that is not what the Bible calls them, and that is not what the entire biblical context shows them to be. As Benjamin B. Warfield has written, “The general fact that the genealogies of Scripture were not constructed for a chronological purpose and lend themselves ill to employment as a basis for chronological calculations has been repeatedly shown very fully. These genealogies must be esteemed trustworthy for the purpose for which they are recorded; but they cannot safely be pressed into use for other purposes for which they were not intended, and for which they are not adapted” (“Antiquity and Unity of the Human Race” in Biblical and Theological Studies 240-241).

Phil may press this point, but he does so to his own hurt, for he knows that neither he nor Hill are convinced of it. In one place he argues that the creation is to be dated at 4121 BC, and a few lines later he speaks unsympathetically of the “advocates of a recent creation” and thus admits (by inference) that he is not an “advocate of a recent creation.” He does not believe the world began in 4121 BC. In fact, neither he nor his brother see the genealogical data as straightforward chronological information. It is both insincere and hypocritical for them to argue as though they actually believe this, for they do not!

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