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'NT Backgrounds' - Chronology

Chronology on the Roman Empire is much easier to sort through than chronology on the New Testament for one simple reason – because ancient historians like Livy, Tacitus and Cassius Dio followed the custom of writing in Annalistic fashion. In other words, they wrote Year Books. Other writers on Roman Events left accounts that blend easily in with the major sources. Chronological problems become easier to judge by using the Annals.

Dating events in Palestine is a little bit harder because Josephus rarely stops to tell us the year and often litters his narrative with flash-backs and flash forwards, and sometimes flash-backs which give way to flash-forwards before jumping back to the previous narrative-time. Sequencing these events can be tricky enough, but for actually dating them we rely heavily on tie-ins with Roman sources. Without dates for the terms of the Governors of Syria, many events in the lives of the Herods would be undatable with any kind of precision.

Roman History also gets dates from inscriptions and archaeology, of course, but the major Timeline comes from the literature. Translations of these works can be found commonly in bookstores, while Greek and Latin versions are available online.

Here is a sample of what I'm working towards putting together - all the major Roman source material, arranged by date of events told in content, for 9 BC to AD 14, a span which covers the Advent and first 20 years of the Lord Jesus' personal lifetime. (For source notes, see below chart.)


YEARS
Roman History (Major Sources)
New Testament


9 BC
thru
AD 14
Josephus’ Antiquities
Dio Cassius’ History
Suetonius’ Lives
Velleius’ Compendium
Matthew
Luke
John


9 BC
Ant.16.271ff; Dio 55.1.1-5.4; Suet.2.61; Vell.92
Lk.1.5-23


8 BC
Ant.16.c.320ff; Dio 55.6.1-7.6; Suet.2.31
Mt.1.18-25a
Lk.1.24-80


7 BC
Ant.16.c.358ff Ant.17.1-45; Dio 55.8.1-7
Mt.1.25b-15a
Lk.2.2-38
*Lk.2.1 @27 BC*
Jn.1.1-5,9-14,18


6,5 BC
Ant.17.c.46ff; Dio 55.9.1-9; Suet.3.10-11; Vell.99
Mt.1.15a


4 BC
Ant.17.c.148ff
Mt.1.15-23
Lk.2.39-40


3,2,1 BC & AD 1
Ant.17.c.324-340; Ant.18.27-28; Dio 55.9.10-10a.5; Suet.2.48,65,69,93; Suet.3.13-16; Vell.99-103
Lk.2.40


AD 2,3,4,5
Ant.17.341; Dio 55.10a.6-24,9; Suet.2.65; Suet.3.13-16; Vell.102-109
Lk.2.40


AD 6,7
Ant.17.342ff; Ant.18.1-26,29a; Dio 55.25.1-32.4; Suet.2.49,65; Suet.3.15-16; Vell.109-114
Lk.2.41-52


AD 8,9,10,11
Ant.18.29b-31; Dio 55.33.1-7; Dio 56.1.1-25.1; Suet.2.23; Suet.3.16-19; Vell.114-121
Lk.2.52


AD 12,13,14
Ant.18.32-33; Dio 56.26.1-47.2; Suet.2.97-101; Suet.3.20-21; Vell.121-124
Lk.2.52



Again, these are the major sources.  Swan’s excellent commentary on Cassius Dio Books 55 & 56 happens to cover precisely this span of years and provides many other cross references for each Annum’s worth of Roman events, including minor source material.  Naturally, a similar work on Josephus’ Antiquities would be very difficult to produce, because of his non-annalistic structure, but Richardson and Hoehner’s studies are among the best studies on Herod the Great and his son Antipas, respectively.

Chronological placement of scriptural events is according to me, natch. For year-by-year explanations on those points, visit my Timeline page, or search the site for particular points.

1 comment:

Bill Heroman said...

To the commenter 'ab138501':

Your comments were very worthy of reply, but much too long to publish beneath this post. Please send me an e-mail at the address in my sidebar.

I have saved your remarks, and will gladly forward them back to you.

Thanks for your dedication.