Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Saturday, June 23, 2018

MsgrLiptak_TNHistorical datings

Q. Would you help me to line up the dates for Biblical events in terms of world history? I am often confused when the Bible reading at Mass is about ancient Babylon or King David or the Queen of Sheba or even the Exodus from Egypt. Is there any way to line up the Biblical dates for these happenings in the light of what we know from ancient history?

A. First, remember that the Bible does record historical truths, such as the Exodus, and the Reign of King David, and the Queen of Sheba’s visit to King Solomon. I stress this because secularists often refuse to acknowledge the historical character of events recorded in the pages of Sacred Scripture. Every search for truth must begin by shaking off prejudicial, anti-religious sentiments.

One useful way to start such a survey, is to consider Egypt first, since it probably dates back to 3500 B.C. Hieroglyphic writing occurred there as early as 3500 B.C. The Great Pyramid at Gizeh appeared around 2550 B.C.

Meanwhile, Sumerian civilization was developing; cuneiform writing took form as early as 3100 B.C. Abraham, the Father of the Hebrew people and our Father in Faith (as the Roman Canon for Mass describes him), was born in the area, where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers meet (the "Great Fertile Crescent"). Abraham’s birth is dated about 1800 B.C.

The City of Troy, in Asia Minor, was settled slightly after 3000 B.C.

Greece, where the amazing adventure of Western man formally was launched, emerged as a group of City States (e.g., Athens, Sparta, etc.) around 776 B.C.

Rome was still governed by Etruscan kings as late as 700 B.C.; the Republic was formed in 509 B.C.

Back in Greece, the philosopher Socrates was executed in 399 B.C.; the Peloponnesian Wars, recorded by the historian Josephus, were fought from about 431 B.C. to 404 B.C. Alexander the Great, who conquered the world, died in 323 B.C. Caesar went to Egypt, incidentally, in 30 B.C., when it was made a Roman Province. This is about the date of Cleopatra VI.

So much for the broad outline; now we turn to sacred history and how it relates to world history.

Abraham (Abram) was born in Ur of the Chaldees (Mesopotamia, then Babylonia, now Iraq) around 1800 B.C. Moses appeared on the world scene about 1290 B.C.; the Exodus, under him, began around 1280 B.C. The conquest of the Promised Land (Canaan) under Joshua happened around 1250 B.C. The Age of Judges followed. Saul became the first King just before 1000 B.C.; David, about 1000 B.C. Solomon’s dates are probably 961-922 B.C.

The Babylonian Captivity (the Fall of Judah to what is now Iraq), happened around 587 B.C.; the Jews were allowed to return to Zion around 538 B.C., and the Walls of Jerusalem were restored around 440 B.C. The Maccabean Period began in 198 B.C.; the Roman takeover, from about 40 B.C.

Christ died and rose in or around 30 A.D. Saint Paul’s First and Second Missionary Journeys occurred from about 46 to 53 A.D.; his Third Journey, from 54-58 A.D.; Saints Peter and Paul were martyred around 67 A.D.

The above is only a quick survey, of course. Much more can be written about the great Assyrian, Hittite and Persian Empires.