For most of my life I’ve had a great love for exploring the chronology of the Bible. I’ve spent many wonderful hours searching the pages of the Bible and walking in the footsteps of great chronologists like Ussher, Newton, Jones, and Davidson. So it was with great expectation and pleasure that I opened Ed Hindson’s and Thomas Ice’s new book on chronology entitled, Charting the Bible Chronologically: A Visual Guide to God’s Unfolding Plan.
Of all the books I’ve read on the subject of Bible chronology over the years, I must say this book is the most concise and visually pleasing of them all. I really like the way the authors provided just enough written information (in most cases) to lay out their point of view without overwhelming the reader with chronological details and endless calculations. I felt there just enough of an overview that it led naturally into a perusal of the charts.
The charts in this book were fantastic. Someone with a real eye for simplifying and explaining complex information had a hand in creating these colorful and visually stimulating charts. Few if any of the charts are out of the reach of the average reader with just a few minutes of thoughtful investigation.
As the subtitle of this book hints the chronology developed in this volume is used by the authors to support their view of Biblical history, Bible prophecy and dispensational teachings. Although I don’t agree with all of the authors interpretation of the evidence, in many cases this book complimented their points of view. In a few cases I believed they reached too far and in some cases erred from a reasonable interpretation of the evidence but I did not feel that this took from the book as a whole.
This book has been on the coffee table of our living room over the past week as I’ve been reading it and it has really drawn the attention of curious hands to explore its pages. If your interests lie in the pages of the Bible I would recommend this well written volume as a great addition to your library or the coffee table in your home. This book will bring real context to the people and events described in the Bible.
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Now in the spirit of respectful and hopefully constructive criticism I believe there are several area in this book that need further explanation or in some cases need to be reconsidered altogether. A few worth mentioning include:
- The 360 day year
- The Feasts of “Israel”
- The chronology of the 2nd temple era
- The prophecy of Daniel 9
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First regarding the 360 day year. In this book the authors conclude that a 360 day year was used in the Bible in the era preceding the flood as well as some time after. (Chapter 6 & 10) This position is problematic for several reasons. First their 360 day calendar is based initially upon the statement of Genesis 8 which describes 5 months as equal 150 days.
From this information the authors extrapolate a 12 month 360 day solar year. Historically speaking there are several examples of such 360 calendars in antiquity. But in most cases these ancient cultures understood that these 30 “months” were roughly 5 days short of a the 365.24 day solar year. They did not mistake them for a true solar year. In the case of the Bible it does not say that the year was 360 days in length. While this appears to be a well-meaning assumption, I believe a reasonable assessment of the evidence show it to be erroneous.
A 365.24 day year is well documented in antiquity. The cubit, the Great Pyramid, Stonehenge, the Sothic cycle, and many ancient calendar documents are just a few of the many examples which clearly testify to this. The reason this is important is that Genesis 1:14 & Leviticus explains that the Bible’s calendar is based upon both the lunar and the solar cycles.
While the pre-flood era may have kept a calendar based upon a 30 day month this by no means proves that the solar year was 360 days in length. This calendar may have been simply a calendric convenience as was used by many ancient cultures and not necessarily an actual record of lunar or solar cycle lengths of their day. If this seems strange to you keep in mind that today we use such a calendric convenience. Our own months are based not upon the cycle of the moon but an abitrary calculations meant to synchronize a 12 month calendar with a 365.24 day year. Remember nearly everywhere you have evidence of a 360 calendar you also had the knowledge that a 5 day intercalation was also required to make the monthly cycles equal to the solar year. So cultures called this “five days over the year”.
Because the 360 year is foundational to the authors eschatological framework I think these facts should have been explained more clearly.
In any case from the time of Abraham onward there is considerable evidence that the solar year was 365.24 days and the lunar cycle was 29.53 days. There is even evidence for this solar/lunar calendar in the 2nd temple era in the book of Ezekiel where the chronology requires a 13th month.
Further evidence for this lunar/solar calendar is found in YHWH’s instructions for the Biblical festivals Israel’s was required to keep which were based upon the 365.24 day year and the 29.53 day month. By the authors own admission “Christ fulfilled the four feast in the spring cycle at the exact times they were celebrated on Israel’s annual calendar.”
This presents the authors with the untenable position of justifying two different calendar years. (a 360 & 365.24) Further this complicates their future eschatological expectations.
The authors propose that during Daniel’s 70 week the calendar will revert to a 360 day year and a 30 day month. This calendar conversion will require a major celestial readjustment at some point well prior to the 7 year tribulation so that the lunar/solar cycles can stabilize to a new 360/30 day cycle. To my knowledge these implied events are not discussed in any of the author’s writings to date.
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Regarding the “Feast of Israel” in the Bible the authors provide a confusing view of these sacred Biblical holy days. First of all, in the Bible these holy days are called “Feast of YHWH”. While admitting that Yeshua fulfilled the first 4 holy days, the authors go to some lengths to minimize the redemptive message of the feasts and instead apply them to national Israel. This is confusing to me since the New Testament clearly explains these feast days were not about Israel but about Yeshua. Further Revelation 19:10 explains that the “spirit of prophecy” is the testimony of Yeshua (YHWH’s Salvation). By this criteria the Biblical Feast days are not about Israel but Yeshua. I think the authors have misplaced their focus in this regard.
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Regarding the chronology of the 2nd temple era the authors really did not hold themselves to the same standard as in other parts of the book. For example the chronology they provided in chapters 25-28 undermined the Exponential Decay Curve they proposed in Chapter 11.
According to the authors, mankind’s life span after the flood was reduced to 70-80 years. Yet according to a careful reading of the book of Ezra and Nehemiah the authors would have the reader believe that Ezra was nearly a quarter of a century older than Moses. This chronology also implies a similar age for many of the priests and Levites who came up with Joshua and Zerubbabel under the decree of Cyrus.
Chronologically speaking this part of the book was the most lacking in reasonable scholarship. Too much hangs on the 2nd temple era chronology for it to be treated with such neglect. Hopefully the authors will deal with this subject in a more thorough manner in some future publication.
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This leads me to author’s interpretation of Daniel 9 and the 70 “weeks” prophecy. The authors go to great lengths to explain this prophecy because it is in essence the framework upon which much of the eschatological interpretations rest.
What is troubling about their interpretation of this prophecy is that it rests upon 360 day calendar which did not exist in the 2nd temple era. As explained above this 360 day solar “year” is a misunderstanding of how the ancient civilizations understood and kept time.
Their view of Daniel 9 and the 70 “weeks” is further complicated by the fact that they cannot provide a reasonable Biblical chronology for the 2nd temple era which accounts for the pertinent facts found in the Biblical books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, and Zechariah. In order for their interpretation of the 70 weeks to work they must ignore their own evidence related to the decay curve.
Finally, in regards to 70 weeks prophecy the authors overlook the clear context of the “commandment (dabar) to restore and build Jerusalem” given by the living God of the Bible. Any discussion of the prophecy of 70 weeks is incomplete without accounting for this decree which was witnessed by Haggai 1, Zechariah 1 and Ezra 6.
Until the author’s address these challenging aspects related to the prophecy of Daniel 9 their interpretation must be taken with a Berean’s skepticism.
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In closing my criticism’s notwithstanding, this was a fantastic book on Bible chronology, one which any believer who has a serious interest in Biblical history would do well to pursue. After you’ve read this book I’d encourage you to open up your own Bible’s and see if these things be so.
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Author: Ed Hindson & Thomas Ice
Book Title: Charting the Bible Chronologically: A Visual Guide to God’s Unfolding Plan
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Book Reviewed by: William Struse