If one attempts to harmonize biblical and secular histories, working back from the time of Christ, little difficulty is encountered until one gets back prior to the United Kingdom (i.e., until before the time when Saul became King of Israel). There is no doubt that the central people and places named in the New Testament existed, for example, and a number of Israel's kings are named in the literature of surrounding countries.
But when one begins to work back much prior to the United Kingdom period the picture changes completely. For example: none of the prominent figures of the Exodus can be positively identified in secular records; the chronology and history of Egypt seem incompatible with the biblical account; the archaeology of Jericho cannot be made to fit the biblical record of Joshua's defeat of that city without sacrificing biblical and scientific integrity; and the situation at Ai is even less workable. The trail of harmony between biblical and secular history is lost as one moves back into the period of the judges.
This problem is widely recognized. In fact, the majority of scholars today have concluded that the Bible is simply not historically reliable before the United Kingdom period. They explain away the earlier portions of the Bible as folktales bearing little if any resemblance to real history. Until recently, conservative, Bible-believing scholarship has been in a difficult position. If the Bible tells an accurate story of history, why do archaeology and the Bible not agree prior to the United Kingdom period?
Gerald E. Aardsma, Ph.D., has proposed that this apparent disharmony results from a problem in traditional biblical chronology. Traditional biblical chronologies are constructed by assembling the various chronological data given in the Bible itself. Interpretive issues have given rise to relatively minor variations in traditional biblical chronologies, depending on the scholar. The traditional chronology displayed in the time chart at left is typical.
The key biblical chronological link used to determine the date of the Exodus is a number in 1 Kings 6:1. This verse reads, "And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel...". Solomon's reign is usually calculated to have begun around 970 B.C., thus placing the Exodus around 1450 B.C. As stated above, the archaeology of Egypt and Canaan at this time is incompatible with the biblical record. In addition, the Bible lists consecutive events between the Exodus and Solomon's reign which total at least 600 years.
In 1990, Dr. Aardsma proposed a major adjustment to traditional biblical chronology. He proposed that the "480" of 1 Kings 6:1 was originally "1,480" but the Hebrew letters corresponding to the "one thousand" were lost at an early stage of copying.
This proposal is applied in the second time chart at left. The new biblical date for the Exodus becomes ca. 2450 B.C., and prior biblical events are similarly shifted to earlier times, by exactly 1000 years relative to traditional biblical chronology.
This change is radical, and at first unimaginable. However, as one begins to examine the archaeology at the new dates, the harmony between biblical and secular accounts is overwhelming. Egypt is struck by national disaster, effectively causing the collapse of the Old Kingdom at the end of the sixth dynasty. The trail of the Israelites in the desert at the time of the Exodus, and remains of their encampment dating to exactly this time period have been found. Both Jericho and Ai were destroyed ca. 2400 B.C., with destruction layers accurately fitting the biblical descriptions. The evidence that Dr. Aardsma's proposal is correct has become overwhelming and continues to mount.
This discovery and the ensuing research have resolved the conflicts between biblical and secular histories prior to the United Kingdom period. Dr. Aardsma's research has also led to many exciting discoveries surrounding early biblical events such as Noah's Flood. Conservative, Bible-believing scholarship today has an answer for those who claim that the Old Testament stories are mere fabrications. This discovery is of extreme significance to anyone who believes the Bible or studies biblical archaeology.
The foregoing article was abstracted from the book A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History from Abraham to Samuel. Full details and references can be found there.