Definition: Dates mark the time at which events occur. The Bible expresses dates in relation to the lifetime of individuals, the period during which certain rulers were in office, or other notable events. It contains the only complete chronology reaching back to the time of Adam’s creation. Bible chronology also pinpointed in advance the time when certain important events in the fulfillment of God’s purpose would take place. The Gregorian calendar, which is now popular in much of the world, did not come into use until 1582. In secular sources there is disagreement on dates given for events in ancient history. However, certain key dates, such as 539 B.C.E. for the fall of Babylon, and hence 537 B.C.E. for the Jews’ return from captivity, are well established. (Ezra 1:1-3) Using such dates as starting points, it is possible to express in terms of current calendars the dates for ancient Biblical events.
Have scientists proved that humans have been on earth for millions of years, not merely some thousands of years as the Bible indicates?
The dating methods used by scientists are built on assumptions that can be useful but that often lead to very contradictory results. So, dates given by them are constantly being revised.
A report in New Scientist of March 18, 1982, reads: “‘I am staggered to believe that as little as a year ago I made the statements that I made.’ So said Richard Leakey, before the elegant audience of a Royal Institution evening discourse last Friday. He had come to reveal that the conventional wisdom, which he had so recently espoused in his BBC television series The Making of Mankind, was ‘probably wrong in a number of crucial areas.’ In particular, he now sees man’s oldest ancestor as being considerably younger than the 15-20 million years he plumped for on television.”—P. 695.
From time to time, new methods of dating are developed. How reliable are these? Regarding one known as thermoluminescence, The New Encyclopædia Britannica (1976, Macropædia, Vol. 5, p. 509) says: “Hope rather than accomplishment mainly characterizes the status of thermoluminescence dating at the present time.” Also, Science (August 28, 1981, p. 1003) reports that a skeleton showing an age of 70,000 years by amino acid racemization gave only 8,300 or 9,000 years by radioactive dating.
Popular Science (November 1979, p. 81) reports that physicist Robert Gentry “believes that all of the dates determined by radioactive decay may be off—not only by a few years, but by orders of magnitude.” The article points out that his findings would lead to the conclusion that “man, instead of having walked the earth for 3.6 million years, may have been around for only a few thousand.”
It should be noted, however, that scientists believe that the age of the earth itself is much greater than the age of man. The Bible does not disagree with that.
Were the ages of people before the Flood, as stated in the Bible, measured according to the same kind of years that we use?
If it was reasoned that the “years” must be equivalent to our months, then Enosh became a father when he was seven years of age, and Kenan was only five years old when he fathered a son. (Gen. 5:9, 12) That is, clearly, impossible.
Detailed chronology provided in connection with the Flood indicates the length of months and years used at that time. Comparison of Genesis 7:11, 24 and 8:3, 4 shows that five months (from the 17th of the 2nd month to the 17th of the 7th month) was equal to 150 days, or five 30-day months. Specific reference is made to a “tenth month” and to further periods beyond that before coming to the next year. (Gen. 8:5, 6, 8, 10, 12-14) Evidently, their years were made up of twelve 30-day months. At a very early time, the strictly lunar calendar was adjusted periodically to the length of the solar year, as indicated by Israel’s holding seasonal festivals of ingathering on specified dates. In that way the festivals continued to fall in the appropriate seasons.—Lev. 23:39.
Keep in mind that God made humans to live forever. It was Adam’s sin that led to death. (Gen. 2:17; 3:17-19; Rom. 5:12) Those who lived before the Flood were closer to perfection than we are today, so they lived much longer. But each one died within a thousand years.
Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses say that God’s Kingdom was established in 1914?
Two lines of evidence point to that year: (1) Bible chronology and (2) the events since 1914 in fulfillment of prophecy. Here we will consider the chronology. For fulfillment of prophecy, see the main heading “Last Days.”
Read Daniel 4:1-17. Verses 20-37 show that this prophecy had a fulfillment upon Nebuchadnezzar. But it also has a larger fulfillment. How do we know that? Verses 3 and 17 show that the dream that God gave to King Nebuchadnezzar deals with the Kingdom of God and God’s promise to give it “to the one whom he wants to . . . even the lowliest one of mankind.” The entire Bible shows that Jehovah’s purpose is for his own Son, Jesus Christ, to rule as His representative over mankind. (Ps. 2:1-8; Dan. 7:13, 14; 1 Cor. 15:23-25; Rev. 11:15; 12:10) The Bible’s description of Jesus shows that he was indeed “the lowliest one of mankind.” (Phil. 2:7, 8; Matt. 11:28-30) The prophetic dream, then, points to the time when Jehovah would give rulership over mankind to his own Son.
What was to happen in the meantime? Rulership over mankind, as represented by the tree and its rootstock, would have “the heart of a beast.” (Dan. 4:16) The history of mankind would be dominated by governments that displayed the characteristics of wild beasts. In modern times, the bear is commonly used to represent Russia; the eagle, the United States; the lion, Britain; the dragon, China. The Bible also uses wild beasts as symbols of world governments and of the entire global system of human rulership under the influence of Satan. (Dan. 7:2-8, 17, 23; 8:20-22; Rev. 13:1, 2) As Jesus showed in his prophecy pointing to the conclusion of the system of things, Jerusalem would be “trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations” were fulfilled. (Luke 21:24) “Jerusalem” represented the Kingdom of God because its kings were said to sit on “the throne of the kingship of Jehovah.” (1 Chron. 28:4, 5; Matt. 5:34, 35) So, the Gentile governments, represented by wild beasts, would ‘trample’ on the right of God’s Kingdom to direct human affairs and would themselves hold sway under Satan’s control.—Compare Luke 4:5, 6.
For how long would such governments be permitted to exercise this control before Jehovah gave the Kingdom to Jesus Christ? Daniel 4:16 says “seven times” (“seven years,” AT and Mo, also JB footnote on verse 13). The Bible shows that in calculating prophetic time, a day is counted as a year. (Ezek. 4:6; Num. 14:34) How many “days,” then, are involved? Revelation 11:2, 3 clearly states that 42 months (3 1/2 years) in that prophecy are counted as 1,260 days. Seven years would be twice that, or 2,520 days. Applying the “day for a year” rule would result in 2,520 years.
When did the counting of the “seven times” begin? After Zedekiah, the last king in the typical Kingdom of God, was removed from the throne in Jerusalem by the Babylonians. (Ezek. 21:25-27) Finally, by early October of 607 B.C.E. the last vestige of Jewish sovereignty was gone. By that time the Jewish governor, Gedaliah, who had been left in charge by the Babylonians, had been assassinated, and the remaining Jews had fled to Egypt. (Jeremiah, chapters 40-43) Reliable Bible chronology indicates that this took place 70 years before 537 B.C.E., the year in which the Jews returned from captivity; that is, it took place by early October of 607 B.C.E. (Jer. 29:10; Dan. 9:2; for further details, see the book “Let Your Kingdom Come,” pages 186-189.)
How, then, is the time calculated down to 1914? Counting 2,520 years from early October of 607 B.C.E. brings us to early October of 1914 C.E., as shown on the chart.
CALCULATING THE “SEVEN TIMES”
“Seven times” = 7 X 360 = 2,520 years
Early October, 607 B.C.E., to December 31, 607 B.C.E.= 1/4 year
January 1, 606 B.C.E., to December 31, 1 B.C.E. = 606 years
January 1, 1 C.E., to December 31, 1913 = 1,913 years
January 1, 1914, to early October, 1914 = 3/4 year
Total: 2,520 years
What happened at that time? Jehovah entrusted rulership over mankind to his own Son, Jesus Christ, glorified in the heavens.—Dan. 7:13, 14.
Then why is there still so much wickedness on earth? After Christ was enthroned, Satan and his demons were hurled out of heaven and down to the earth. (Rev. 12:12) Christ as King did not immediately proceed to destroy all who refused to acknowledge Jehovah’s sovereignty and himself as the Messiah. Instead, as he had foretold, a global preaching work was to be done. (Matt. 24:14) As King he would direct a dividing of peoples of all nations, those proving to be righteous being granted the prospect of everlasting life, and the wicked being consigned to everlasting cutting-off in death. (Matt. 25:31-46) In the meantime, the very difficult conditions foretold for “the last days” would prevail. As shown under the heading “Last Days,” those events have been clearly in evidence since 1914. Before the last members of the generation that was alive in 1914 will have passed off the scene, all the things foretold will occur, including the “great tribulation” in which the present wicked world will end.—Matt. 24:21, 22, 34.
When will the end of this wicked world come?
Jesus answered: “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.” However, he also stated: “Truly I say to you that this generation [that was alive when “the sign” of “the last days” began its fulfillment] will by no means pass away until all these things occur.”—Matt. 24:36, 34.
Also, after telling of events that would follow the establishment of the Kingdom in the hands of Jesus Christ in 1914, Revelation 12:12 adds: “Be glad, you heavens and you who reside in them! Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.”