Friday, May 15, 2009

Review of The Chronology of the Old Testament

Chronology of the Old Testament, by Dr. Floyd Nolen Jones, is a history of the ancient world relying primarily on the most complete, detailed, consistent, and verifiable text known to man, the record of the Hebrew peoples as found in their Scriptures. Beginning with a commitment to the sufficiency and perfect reliability of the Old Testament, the chonologer establishes a timeline of history comparable to Ussher’s famous work.

The first section establishes periods of history whose lengths are defined by specific verses in the Old Testament, including the genealogies leading up to the flood, and from the flood to Abraham; the duration of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt; the period of the Judges; and then the dates of the kings of Judah and Israel. This last comprises the majority of the work, as Dr. Jones treats the various accounts of the kings’ ascensions, reigns, ages, and associations with each other particularly as found in the books of Kings and Chronicles. He refutes the compromise position of Dr. Thiele, whose dates for that era have been considered standard in conservative evangelical study.

To close the principal manuscript, a study is done of the kings of Assyria, Babylon, and Media-Persia particularly as they compare to the 70 weeks prophecy of Daniel 9, predicting the exact year at which Messiah was to be expected. I was especially interested in the identification of the kings Darius, Ahasuerus, and Artaxerxes (of Ezra-Nehemiah).

Though necessarily long, The Chronology of the Old Testament is one of the smoothest narratives of history that I have ever read. Showing care, comprehensive understanding, and a desire to communicate to an audience ranging from the novice to the studied skeptic, each technique of chronology and every theory of dates and history is presented in a way that is easy to understand and, from the perspective of this novice, unquestionable. Along the way like an enthusiastic tour guide the author revealed the little discoveries he had made, unsuspecting, and the significance we miss when we do not appreciate the precise chronology and its implications. For example, we learn that Jonathan son of Saul was actually decades older than David, yet they were dear friends.

Dr. Jones is honest about the limitations of his science, confident in His God (who preserved the record for us), and firm in his stand against giving historical precedence to the Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, or Greek histories since, even from a secular viewpoint, they are less complete, immediate, obvious, and consistent than the Hebrew Bible. They are acknowledged, however, as useful tools in corroborating the testimony of the Scripture and of placing the internal timeline of the Bible into its place in our modern calendar system. Some space is given to discrediting the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament proceeding from Alexandria and containing multiple errors and contradictions. Also discussed are worldviews, and the King James translation of the Bible into English. The author is avidly loyal to this translation, and occasionally vehement in his criticism of those whose opinion differs.

A CD-ROM is included with the book containing most of the charts and timelines discussed (the rest of the charts are alongside the narrative).

The Chronology of the Old Testament is an impressive, helpful book that I would even consider employing as a history book for homeschool children. I enjoyed the book, learned things, and was corrected in some points which I had believed. (One point that comes to mind is the arrival of the magi to visit Jesus. Formerly I had been convinced that they arrived months or even years after Jesus’ birth, while the family was residing in Bethlehem. However, the account of Jesus’ presentation at the temple in Luke precludes this possibility.) The detailed harmony of the various Old Testament books was brought forth in a broad way I had never before envisioned. My only concerns are these: the strength of his personal criticisms in some places for weakness in understanding or imagination (resulting, I grant, in slighting the authority and accuracy of the Bible); and the incomplete understanding that remains about the events and timeline of Esther. Without reservation, however, I would recommend this book.

Chronology of the Old Testament

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn


Dr. Claude Mariottini said...


I read your review of Jones' book. I also read the PDF sample of Jones' book which introduces Charter One of his book.

Jones places the beginning of the reign of Solomon in 1015 BC and the Exodus in 1491.

These dates contradict all historical and archaeological evidences available today which are used in dating these events.

If I were you, I would not put to much credence on Jones' chronology.

Claude MariottiniProfessor of Ols Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

Lisa of Longbourn said...

Dr. Mariottini,
Thank you so much for reading my review and for commenting. I love to know who is reading my blog and what they think.

You are right; I have nothing with which to compare the Chronology of the Old Testament by Dr. Jones, so cannot absolutely say that I believe his dates to be correct.

However, I think it is unfair to dismiss his dates without reading the book in whole. If he had been content with the accepted dates commonly used, I doubt Dr. Jones would have invested so much time and study to redo the work of men like Ussher, Archer, Thiele, and Newton.

As for your specific example, from what I learned in this book, some contributing factors are:
- acceptance of the Assyrian eponym lists for dating the period of the kings, from whence the reign of Solomon is counted (going back in time).
- using the wrong dating scheme for the kingdom of Israel to date backwards from the exile/not using the more straightforward chronology of the kingdom of Judah
- something about 480 years between the Exodus and the Temple.

Dr. Floyd Nolen Jones goes into a lot of the 'historical and archaeological evidences available today,' and is never satisfied to simply assert his dates, especially when contradicted by the consensus. I think that is one of the strengths of the book, in tone at least - even if a reader is unconvinced by the explanations given.

This book is not all that expensive for what it constitutes. If you are interested in the subject, I would recommend it as a good resource to read before you pass judgment on it. As I say, you who have read more on the subject may conclude that this author is wrong, but I think you would learn at least a few things and have some pretty decent facts, charts, comparisons of theories as a reference.

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn