Our first meeting of the semester is less than a week away! We're calling it "Foundations," as we're going to introduce our spring series on the "Historic Foundations of Christianity" during the meeting. You may not have thought of this before, but to really understand the New Testament and the early development of Christianity, you need to have a good grasp of the Old Testament. That's why we're going to spend the second half of our meeting on the timeline of the Old Testament.
Most Christians who are raised in the church have heard many of the popular Bible stories. Jonah and the whale, David and Goliath, the Exodus, etc. While these are great stories, we often lose the greater context. They are presented as "stories," so it's not surprising when we come across people who think the Bible is just a collection of unconnected, self-contained stories.
In fact, they are all connected into the larger story of the Old Testament. That's why we're going to walk through all the major events in the Old Testament, in chronological order, and date them. I want you to see these for what they are: historical accounts based in actual history. The Bible is not a fictional narrative that's disconnected from reality. It is the over-arching story of God's interactions with mankind for the purpose of reuniting God and man for God's glory.
I'd like to give you a preview of Tuesday's presentation. Below you'll find a bird's-eye-view overview of the entire Old Testament. Tuesday we will use this to go into each time period from Abraham to The Return to see what events occurred.
The Pre-Abrahamic Period (Creation to Tower of Babel)
The Abrahamic Period (~2187-1800 BC)
The Egyptian Captivity (~1800-1446 BC)
The Exodus and Conquest (1446-1350 BC)
The Period of the Judges (1350-1050 BC)
The United Kingdom (1050-930 BC)
The Divided Kingdom (930-586 BC)
# Northern Kingdom (Israel) falls to Assyria (722 BC)
# Southern Kingdom (Judah) falls to Babylon (586 BC)
The Exile (586-515 BC)
The Return to Jerusalem (~538 & 515 BC - 450 BC)
As you can see, we have a lot of ground to cover. We plan to walk through all the major events within this timeline, especially the Divided Kingdom and exile. Most Christians don't have a firm grasp on that time period, and that's very understandable. There are many things going on and it's hard to keep track.
A point of interest is this timeline is a standard timeline that scholars use. However, I need to point out that the dates are approximations in some cases. There's also some disagreement in Christian circles whether Abraham lived in the 21st or 20th century BC, or when or how long the Egyptian captivity was. We'll get into some of the reasons why during the meeting.
The main thing to know is if these dates aren't exactly right, they are very close; that's just part of doing history. Some things we're more certain about than others. Regardless, as you use the chart I'm using next week in your personal studies, you'll have a great idea with reasonable certainty of when they happened.
Just in case you're curious, we're not dating events before Abraham. This is because they bring up many side-issues that we'd like to address in future semesters, and they would distract from our goals for this semester.