on December 19, 2000
This book is intended to help the sudent of the bible become familiar with the various issues and problems in biblical chronology. It is NOT intended to defend the biblical chronology from divergent chronologies derived from extrabiblical sources. My own area of interest being the Old Testament of patriarchal and Exodus times, I can say that the book does a fantastic job of both revealing difficulties in the biblical chronology as well as offering possibilities for solving those difficulties and preserving the reliability of the biblical record. References to extra-biblical sources are only used when explaining the intrabiblical discrepancies or apparent discrepancies. Finegan has no interest in the Egyptian and near-eastern chronologies in their own rights. He wants only to present the chronology that the bible presents. Finegan accepts the centuries long lifespans of the antedeluvians without a second thought. His aim here is not to convince or defend the validity of any statements in the bible. He only wants to help you see what the bible is telling you. While this makes the book useful to sceptics and the faithful alike, it can be frustrating to those who want to see where the bible measures up against the other ancient chronological sources. I had hoped that the bibliographic references in this book would point me to other works covering the obscure fields of Babylonian and Egyptian chronology, but they do not. If the book had discussed biblical chronology against the backdrop of other systems of chronology, I would have given it five stars. It does do its job of laying out the chronology of the bible perfectly, though, and is a fantastic reference for all students of the bible. Historians of the ancient Middle East might be a bit frustrated, though.
on March 21, 1999
Amazingly, at the age of 89, Jack Finegan has revised his 1964 classic and has done a wonderful job! The new book reads a lot like the first edition, but is substantially revised to include many references up to 1996. Sections on Jesus' birth and Herod's death now discuss both the standard dating (nativity before 4 BC), and that of Martin, Keresztes, etc (3/2 BC); Finegan favors the latter dating, as well as 33 AD for the crucifixion. The new section on John the Baptist mainly focuses on the chronology of the cycle of priestly courses, which Finegan seems to over-emphasize. Literature listings and scriptural & subject indexes are each about double the lengths in the first edition. Overall, I find it a very valuable tool with up-to-date information.
on June 11, 1999
Absolutely essential for straigtening out the chronology associated with Herod's death. Professor Finegan now makes it clear that Herod DID NOT die in 4 B.C. as all of us historians and theologians have thought, but in 1 B.C. This information is indispensible for the student of New Testament history and the chronology of Jesus' life and it illumines one of the darkest periods in the early imperial history of Rome. This volume changes all previous standard works for the past 100 years dealing with the Nativity of Jesus and the history dealing with it. There is much more too for the biblical student. A first class work that every library must have. Professor Finegan must be congratulated (in his 89th year of life) for producing such a splendid and profitable volume of research.
Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D. Academy for Scriptual Knowledge Portland, OR 97825
on November 12, 2008
The Handbook of Biblical Chronology is a highly detailed and exhaustively researched reference that correlates biblical accounts in the Old Testament (OT), New Testament (NT), and the so-called Apocryphal Books with an absolute chronology of the modern Gregorian calendar. It is built on meticulous studies by dozens of scholars over the past hundred years, and especially the past few decades; this edition has been recently updated to take into account the best and most recent research in this field. Anyone who is a serious biblical scholar will need to have a copy of this book for the purpose of cross-correlating biblical accounts with known dates and ages for ancient empires and dynasties.
The book begins with excellent introductory material that describes the calendrical systems of the ancient Middle East (including Jewish calendars), Egypt, Greece, Persia, Mesopotamia, and Rome; the modern Julian date system is described as well. The book then breaks into hundreds of individual sections, most only a paragraph or two long, that individually place biblical events on an absolute timeline. The methods that are used to derive these dates are described at length in each section. The book progresses roughly in the same time-sequence as the events themselves. Given that the events of Genesis are purely mythological (but that the methods of Bishop Ussher and his contemporaries are described), the chronology truly begins during the Age of the Patriarchs and then progresses through the events of Exodus. The range of possible date-brackets for the quasi-historical events of the lives of Abraham, Jacob, Joesph, and Moses are necessarily quite broad, as the text acknowledges. But the date-brackets become increasingly specific during the reigns of David and Solomon. Events during the subsequent periods of the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah can often be worked down to the year, and some events occurring by around 600 BCE (such as, for example, the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE) and later can sometimes be identified on a particular year, month, and day.
This book provides the best material available for dating the events of the New Testament as well, and is a must-read for anyone who is really curious about the best current estimates for the chronology of events in Jesus' life. Among the fascinating tidbits that the book carefully documents for the events of the NT:
* Jesus was almost certainly born between Nov. of 3 BC and Feb. of 2 BC, mid-to-late December in fact being most likely;
* Old Man Herod (as distinct from the Herod boys who succeeded him) almost certainly died in 1 BC rather than the more commonly cited date of 4 BC (with collateral effects on the dating of Jesus' birth);
* Jesus must have been about 2 years old when the magi arrived at Herod's palace and freaked him out with their account of the birth of a messiah about two years prior (hence Herod's order that boys aged two and younger were to be killed);
* the astrologically significant planetary alignment that the magi probably saw (and which this book carefully documents) occurred about two years --before-- they arrived at Herod's palace;
* Jesus had to have either been crucified in 30 CE or 33 CE;
* 33 CE is the most likely of the two dates because there was in fact a total lunar eclipse that occurred at Passover that year, and which most likely is the basis for the NT account of an eclipse at the moment of the crucifixion. (The NT account says a total solar eclipse occurred, but this is astronomically impossible; an assumption of a simple scribal transposition of the term "solar" for "lunar" in the account explains everything nicely, however.)
The really great things about this book are: exhaustive calendrical information, correlations, and data; exhaustive descriptions of the methodologies used to achieve these calendrical correlations; and an extremely good index that allows the reader to immediately locate every reference in the book to any particular person or event mentioned in the OT, NT, and Apocrypha.
on February 22, 2016
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book. Excellent information written by a person who is obviously very well studied in the Bible and who knows exactly what he is talking about. He goes through every single chapter of the Bible and the chronology--all the supposed "problems" that man says it has--and proves without a shadow of doubt that there aren't any.
Excellent for a Pastor, teacher or Bible Student. This is the 1998 Revised Edition.