Chronological History of the Bible - pre 15th Century

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3500-3300 B.C.         The invention of Cuneiform Writing. (Auzou, p. 2)

2300-2000 B.C.         Enuma-Elish, composed to the glory of Marduk, a god of Babylon. “The biblical interest of this poem lies in its beginning which treats of “origins”; …resemblances between it and the beginnings of Genesis can be noted.” (Auzou, p.10-11).

2300-2000 B.C.         Gilgamesh; Named for its main character, an Babylonian Epic Poem found in several versions. “The eleventh of the twelve tablets of the poem contains the account of “The Deluge”.  The resemblances and parallelism between this account and the biblical passage are immediately evident…and make it possible for us to understand the way in which a tradition and a Babylonian document were “reused” by the writers of Israel.” – (Auzou, p. 11)

2000 - 1185 B.C.         The Hebrew Patriarchs - The Nomadic Era.

1500 B.C.                 Hebrews in Egypt

1250 - 1220 B.C.         Exodus of Hebrews from Egypt

1185 - 1000 B.C.         Hebrews in Palestine

1000 B. C.                The Hebrew Judges

1000 - 500 B.C.           The Hebrew Kings

600 - 580 B.C.             Jewish (Kingdom of Judah) Exile

539 - 332 B.C.              Return to Palestine.  Foreign Rule.

300 - 200 B.C.              Judaic scribes preserve Hebrew Holy Scriptures while in captivity.  Also referred to as the Samaritan Pentateuch, the text having been kept by the Samaritan community.  The first five books of the Old Testament are known as the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), and are a history of the Jews from Creation to the death of Moses.  Elohim and Jehovah are the most common names given to the Diety by the ancient Hebrews and are used interchangeably in the Pentateuch, which has led to the theory that the group of five books were written in two different periods. The Elohistic Scriptures are more simple and primitive, thus said to be older;  The Jehovistic Scriptures are more elaborate, show a knowledge of history, geography, and the priesthood, and are thought by some to have been incorporated into the Elohistic writings.


300 - 200 B.C.               The Septuagint (LXX). The first translation of Hebrew Scriptures into Greek.  Written at Alexandria, Egypt from circa 286 - 280 B.C.  The oldest known copy of this work (the Codex Alexandrinus, owned by the British Museum) is on vellum and dates from the Fifth Century.


200 B.C.           The Dead Sea Scrolls (aka Qumram Manuscripts), the oldest dating from 200 B.C., are the fragmentary remains of the Jewish sect of Essenes.  Discovered in 1947, over a hundred of the scrolls comprise the Old Testament, except for the Book of Esther.  There are also thousands of other fragments, and all were discovered in a cave of the Qumram Valley near the Dead Sea.


200 - 63 B.C.           The Macabean Priest-Kings.  Their history is told in 1 and 2 Maccabees, the last two books of the Apocrypha.  They delivered the Jews from the persecution of the Syrians, and their reign ended when King Herod came into power.

63 B.C. - 70 A.D.           Roman occupation of Palestine

4 B.C.           Birth of Jesus is now placed from 20 to 4 B.C. depending on calendar calculations; 1950 research tended towards 4 B.C.

30 A.D.           Crucifixion of Jesus, depending on calendar interpretations.

50 - 150 A.D.           Formulation and completion of New Testament, in Greek;  earliest known manuscripts date from the 3rd & 4th Century  A.D.   One such 4th Century parchment manuscript (the Codex Sinaiticus) was discovered by scholar-editor Constantine Tischendorf at the Convent of St. Catherine in 1844.  Initially, Tischendorf saved 43 leaves of manuscript from being burned (taking them to Leipzig), which caused a halt to further burning by the monks.  However, it wasn't until 1859 that he succeeded in obtaining the entire remaining manuscript, after he convinced the St. Catherine's Prior to present it as a gift to the Emperor of Russia.  In 1933 the British Museum purchased the manuscript from Russia for $510,000.

70 A.D.                Destruction of Jerusalem and the temple; The Gospel of Mark written in Rome.

70 - 100 A.D.          During this first century A.D., the so-called Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum (LAB) is written, the title of which was given many centuries later by Sichardus, the editor of Editio Princeps.  Scholars disagree as to whether Philo of Alexandria (Jewish philosopher of the First Century) or another Philo was the author of the LAB, and the date of authorship is also in dispute.  An important example of Pseudepigrapha, the LAB is considered a significant link between early haggadah and rabbinic midrash.  Originally in Hebrew, translated to Greek, then Latin and finally English, is said to be an unadulterated Jewish Book of the First Century, a product of the same school as the Fourth Book of Esdras, and is contemporary with some of the New Testament (N.T.) writings.

90 - 100 A.D.             Hebrew Holy Scriptures canonized by Rabbinical Council at Jamnia (or Jabneh), Judaea, Palestine.

100 - 600 A.D.           Talmudic Works.

300 - 500 A.D.           Early codices:  papyri, parchments, lectionaries, etc.  (codex - manuscript book);  by the fourth century, the washed, stretched and polished animal skin (parchment) became the preferred method of recording biblical teachings; parchment leaves sewn together in groups were more durable than single rolls of fragile papyrus, and when large groups of parchment “leaves” were sewn together at one end (the spine), and then covered with a larger piece of leather, they could be protected and kept clean and dry.  A large codex could be copied by a scribe from a number of fragile papyrus rolls into one book, with both sides of the skin being written on.  Images from the walls of churches could also be drawn on the parchment leaves, creating a method of reinforcing the written word with a beautiful picture, in color!  The bound codex could be easily transported from town to town, spreading knowledge, art and culture, and the word of God.

331 A.D.           Emperor Constantine orders fifty Bibles for his churches in Constantinople from Eusebius of Caesarea.     

367 A.D.           Twenty-seven books of the New Testament are listed; the canon defined.

382 A.D.           Translation began of the Vulgate, (the Old and New Testaments in Latin) by Eusebius Hieronymus (St. Jerome) at the request of Pope Damascus.   Jerome revised existing "Old Latin" versions, producing a N.T.  and two versions of the psalms.  The Vulgate became the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church in 1546 when the Council of Trent declared it to be the "authentic" Bible.

405 A.D.           St Jerome issues a Latin Old Testament, translated from the Hebrew.

553 A.D.           Roman Emperor Justinian issues a decree commanding exclusive use of the Greek and Latin versions of the
Bible and forbidding the Midrash, but accepting the Hebrew exposition of the Old Testament.

600 A.D.           Jewish scholars begin work on the Masoretic text of the Old Testament.

716 A.D.           Pope Gregory II is presented with a new transcript of the Vulgate.  Considered the best extant manuscript of the Latin Bible, it is known as the Codex Amiatinus, and resides in the Laurentian Library, Florence.


801 A.D.           Charlemagne is presented with a revised Vulgate by Alcuin on Christmas Day.  This Charlemagne's Bible is now in the British Museum.

9th Century           Vespasian Psalter;  an interlinear gloss of the book of Psalms, written in Mercia, sometime during the course of the first half of the ninth century (H. Sweet, Oldest English Texts, London, 1885). See 14th Ed., Ency. Britannica, v3 p 529.

1000 A.D. (c)           Masoretic text completed in the 10th century, and has remained the Hebrew canon. An extant copy known as the Codex Sassoon is comprised of all 24 books of the Hebrew Bible, and is the oldest known copy.

13th Century          Bible chapters are introduced (chapter headings)

1250           The Illuminated Paris Bible; edited by scholars and theologians of the University of Paris;  a uniform recension of the Vulgate which became known as the Paris text;  Its smaller size made it ideal for individual use;  (courtesy of Dick Wursten, Antwerp, Belgium)

1255          The monumental three-volume [Copenhagen, Kongelige Bibliotek, MS G. K. S.] Hamburg Bible (in folio) is completed.  The scribe was Karolus, and the work was made on the initiative of Bertoldus, the Dean of Hamburg, [Germany] himself a former scribe;  in the volumes are a series of illustrations by an unknown artist showing the production of a medieval book;  The Royal Library in Copenhagen acquired the bible in 1755 through an auction of  The Chapter Library, Hamburg.


1380 - 1388 (c)           Wyclif Bible (sometimes Wycliffe) produced by the followers of John Wyclif, an English theologian and reformer (also called the Morning Star of the Reformation) who was critical of the papacy.  Wyclif felt that all Christians should have access to the Bible in the vernacular.  The Wyclif becomes the first complete, word-for-word translation of the Vulgate into English, into a Midland dialect. Two versions were completed, the first by Nicholas of Hereford up to Baruch 3:20, with the remainder completed by an unknown scholar.  A few years later a second revised version (less literal and less Latinate) was completed by John Purvey.  The complete Wyclif Bible remained unprinted until 1850.  Also known as the Lollard Bible, extant in 170 copies.


1409          The Synod of Canterbury at St. Paul’s, London, issues a decree forbidding the translation  of the Scripture from one language to another, and the reading of a translation later than that of John Wyclif under penalty of greater excommunication, unless special license be obtained.

Continually revised and updated. Corrections, suggestions welcome.
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