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Catholic Culture Podcasts

The Old Testament: A Chronological Reading, Part Two

by Salvatore J. Ciresi


Salvatore Ciresi provides a "snapshot" of the wide scene of Sacred History within the Old Testament. This time period of divine revelation is complex and exact dates and chronology are disputed in scholarly circles. Still, this article brings out the highlights from the Old Covenant, set as best as possible, in chronological order.

Larger Work

Latin Mass


24 - 26

Publisher & Date

Keep the Faith, Inc., Ramsey, NJ, Spring 2005

The existence of divinely inspired Scripture is so essentially bound up with the existence of religion itself that they stand or fall together. Ancient history and modern history make the existence of an authentic written message from God to man a necessity. The writers of the Old Law abundantly proved by miracles the divine commission to deliver in writing the message of God. The great revelation of God through Christ added certainty to certainty . . . Father A.E. Breen — A General Introduction to the Study of Holy Scripture.

Our previous article aimed for a greater understanding of the Old Testament by laying a foundation for the study of Sacred History (i.e., Salvation History). We observed the utility of the Old Testament for the depositum fidei by examining testimonies from the New Testament (the Savior and St. Paul); the Church Fathers (St. Irenaeus and St. Augustine); the Scholastics (St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure); and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church (The Roman Catechism). Next, we placed Sacred History into a threefold division: History; Wisdom; and the Prophets. Further, we listed the specific books of the Old Testament that facilitate a chronological reading of Sacred History (Gen.; Ex.; Num.; Josh.; Judg.; 1-2 Sam.; 1-2 Ki.; Ezra; Neh.; and 1 Macc.). Finally, we mentioned ten crucial events for grasping Sacred History; starting with "The Beginning of History" and ending with "The Maccabean Revolt."

Our Pedagogical Method: A "Snapshot" of Sacred History

These foundational points allow us to proceed with our present article: the chronological reading of those ten major events within the epoch of the Old Covenant. The pattern for this study will be a "snapshot" of these ten milestones. The following format will be employed: an identifiable title for each milestone with its approximate dates; followed by a listing of the pertinent historical events; and accompanied by the corresponding Scripture passages.

The snapshot approach appears to be the easiest method for grasping Sacred History. This method requires no additional commentary from this writer; all that remains is for the interested Bible student to read the texts at his own leisure. Moreover, by memorizing the milestones and their main events, one can master the whole panorama of the Old Testament. For those who are interested in acquiring some background information for each milestone, the reader can consult books such as Daniel-Rops' Sacred History; Ricciotti's History of Israel; and De Vaux's Ancient Israel (texts mentioned in an earlier issue of this publication).

A knowledge of Sacred History should be advantageous to a wide audience: the home school where history is the subject; the theology student trying to comprehend one of the sources of revelation; the Bible reader attempting to grapple with the Old Testament; or Catholics who simply cherish the Roman Missal of 1962 and its prayers and readings traced to the Holy Bible.

Nota bene: credit goes to Mr. Jeff Cavins and his video series, "The Great Adventure: A Journey through the Bible." Its supplement guide has provided most of the material for this article, with slight modifications in places. All Catholics, viewing this series in light of Tradition, would benefit from these videos (1-800-526-2151).

The Magisterium and Sacred History

Before examining the earliest part of Sacred History, the reader should consult the applicable Pontifical Biblical Commission responses. The key documents are Concerning the Narratives in the Historical Books Which Have Only the Appearances of Being Historical (1905); On the Mosaic Authorship of the Pentateuch (1906); On the Historical Character of the First Three Chapters of Genesis (1909); and Concerning the Time of Documents of the Pentateuch and Concerning the Literary Form of the Eleven Chapters of Genesis (1948). Ignored today in many theological circles, these texts are a beacon of light and clarity.

Other Magisterial pronouncements that address the topic of Creation, and related doctrines, are also relevant to early Sacred History. Valuable statements from local councils are the Synod of Constantinople's Canons against the Origenists (543) and the Synod of Braga's Canons against the Priscillianists (561). Important documents produced by ecumenical councils are the Council of Constantinople IV's Canons against Photius (869-870); the Council of Lateran IV's Profession of Faith (1215); the Council of Florence's Decree for the Jacobites (1441/2); the Council of Lateran V's The Human Soul against the Neo-Aristotelians (1513); and the First Vatican Council's Dei Filius (1870). Noteworthy papal declarations include Pope Innocent XIII's Profession of Faith (1208); Pope John XXII's edict The Errors of Eckhart (1329); Pope Benedict XII's text The Errors of the Armenians (1341); Pope Pius IX's Syllabus of Modern Errors (1864); and Pope Pius XII's Humani Generis (1950).

As we see above, the teaching office of the Catholic Church has expended a significant amount of effort on addressing theological points related to early Sacred History. With the assistance of such Magisterial documents, certainly not meant to be an exhaustive list, the reader may now interact intelligently with Divine Revelation. The snapshot of the Old Testament is given below.

1. The Beginning of History (Creation - 2000 B.C.)

— Creation of the World and Man (Gen. 1:1-2:4)

— Creation Retold: Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:5-25)

— The Fall of Man and the Promise of a Redeemer (Gen. 3:1-24)

— Cain Kills Abel (Gen. 4:1-16)

— Birth of Seth (Gen. 4:25-26)

— The Flood (Gen. 6:1-8:12)

— God's Covenant with Noah (Gen. 8:13-9:1-17)

— The Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9)

2. The Time of the Patriarchs (2000 – 1675 B.C.)

— God Gives Abram a Three-Fold Promise (Gen. 12:1-9)

— God's First Covenant with Abram: Land (Gen. 15:1-21)

— God's Second Covenant with Abraham: Royal Dynasty (Gen. 17:1-11)

— Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18:16-19:29)

— Birth of Isaac (Gen. 21:1-7)

— God's Third Covenant with Abraham: Universal Blessing (Gen. 22:1-19)

— Jacob Gets Esau's Blessing from Isaac (Gen. 27:1-46)

— Jacob's Name Changed to Israel (Gen. 32:22-32)

— Joseph Sold into Egyptian Slavery (Gen. 37:12-36)

3. Israel in Egypt (1675-1275 B.C.)

— Bondage of Israel (Ex. 1:1-22)

— Birth of Moses (Ex. 2:1-10)

— Moses Kills an Egyptian and Flees (Ex. 2:11-15)

— Moses and the Burning Bush (Ex. 3:1-6:30)

— Moses, Pharaoh, and the Ten Plagues (Ex. 7:1-11:10)

— The Passover (Ex. 12:1-32)

— The Exodus (Ex. 12:33-14:31)

— Covenant at Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:1-31:18)

— Worship of the Golden Calf (Ex. 32:1-35)

4. The Conquest of Canaan (1275 – 1220 B.C.)

— Spies sent from Kadesh (Num. 13:1-33)

— Forty Years Wandering in the Wilderness (Num. 14:1-24:25)

— Sin of Baal of Peor (Num. 25:1-18)

— Covenant of Deuteronomy (Deut. 29:1-29)

— Moses' Final Words and Death (Deut. 31:1-34:12)

— Joshua's Invasion of Canaan (Josh. 1:1-6:27)

— Covenant Renewed at Mount Ebal (Josh. 8:1-35)

— Division of the Land by Tribes (Josh. 13:1-19:51)

— Joshua's Final Words and Death (Josh. 22:1-24:31)

5. The Period of the Judges (1220 - 1050 B.C.)

— Israel Fights the Remaining Canaanites (Judg. 1:1-2:23)

— Deborah Defeats Sisera (Judg. 4:1-5:31)

— Gideon Defeats the Midianites (Judg. 6:1-9:57)

— Jephthah Defeats the Ammonites (Judg. 10:6-12:7)

— Life of Samson (Judg. 13:1-16:31)

— All Right in their Own Eyes (Judg. 17:1-21:25)

— Life of Ruth (Ruth 1:1-4:22)

— Birth of Samuel (1 Sam. 1:1-20)

— Samuel Overcomes the Philistines (1 Sam. 7:1-17)

6. The United Kingdom (1050 – 930 B.C.)

— Israel asks for a King (1 Sam. 8:1-22)

— Samuel Anoints Saul as King (1 Sam. 9:1-10:27)

— Samuel Anoints David as King (1 Sam. 16:1-23)

— David Slays Goliath (1 Sam. 17:1-58)

— David Becomes King of Israel (2 Sam. 1:1-5:25)

— God's Covenant with David (2 Sam. 7:1-29)

— Solomon Anointed King (1 Ki. 1:28 – 2:12)

— Solomon Builds the Temple (1 Ki. 5:1— 8:66)

— Solomon's Downfall (1 Ki. 11:1-43)

7. The Divided Kingdom (930 - 722 B.C.)

— Rehoboam Refuses Advice of the Elders (1 Ki. 12:1-15)

— Divided Kingdom in 930 B.C. (1 Ki. 12:16-20)

— Northern Kingdom of Israel: King Jeroboam (1 Ki. 12:16-20)

— Southern Kingdom of Judah: King Rehoboam (1 Ki. 14:21-31)

— Jehoshaphat the King of Judah (2 Chr. 17:1-20:37)

— Ahab the King of Israel (1 Ki. 16:29-22:40)

— Elijah The Prophet (2 Ki. 1:1-2:18)

— Jonah the Prophet (Jonah 1:1-4:11)

— Isaiah the Prophet (Is. 1:1-66:24)

8. The Exile (722 – 538 B.C.)

— Israel Led Captive by the King of Assyria in 722 B.C. (2 Ki. 17:1-41)

— Tobit and his Son Tobias (Tob. 1:1-14:15)

— Josiah's Reform in Judah (2 Ki. 22:1-23:30)

— Jeremiah Speaks of the Fall and Restoration of Jerusalem (Jer. 1:1-52:34)

— Judah Led Captive by the King of Babylon in 586 B.C. (2 Ki. 25:1-30)

— Lamentations (Lam. 1:1-5:22)

— Ezekiel the Prophet (Ez. 1:1-44:31)

— Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Dan. 3:1-30)

— Daniel in the Lion's Den (Dan. 6:1-28)

9. The Return from Exile (538-430 B.C.)

— The Exiles Return to Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-2:70)

— The Temple is Rebuilt by Zerubbabel (Ezra 3:1-6:22)

— Ezra Returns from Babylon (Ezra 7:1-8:36)

— Mixed Marriages and Ezra's Reform (Ezra 9:1-10:44)

— Queen Esther (Esther 1:1-10:3)

— Nehemiah Returns to Jerusalem and Rebuilds the Walls (Neh. 3:1-4:23)

— Ezra Reads the Law to the People (Neh. 8:1-9:38)

— Prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi (Hag., Zech., Mal.)

10. The Maccabean Revolt (175 – 63 B.C.)

— Hellenism in Asia Minor (1 Macc. 1:1-64)

— Revolt of Mattathias (1 Macc. 2:1-70)

— Leadership of Judas Maccabeus (1 Macc. 3:1-26)

— Purification of the Temple (1 Macc. 4:36-61)

— Defeat and Death of Antiochus IV (1 Macc. 6:1-16)

— Leadership of Jonathan (1 Macc. 9:23-12:54)

— Leadership of Simon the High Priest and Ethnarch (1 Macc. 13:1-16:24)


Bringing our series to its end, we have taken a picture of the wide scene of Sacred History within the Old Testament. Admittedly, this time period of divine revelation is complex. Exact dates and chronology are disputed in scholarly circles. Still, our snapshot has attempted to bring out the highlights from the Old Covenant, set as best as possible, in chronological order. Our reading, even with some uncertainties in disputed areas, will nevertheless contribute toward a fuller comprehension of the New Testament. Let us close with the simple yet profound advice of Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., writing in his monumental The Three Ages of the Interior Life: "Besides the Holy Eucharist, the true food of the saints is to be found in the Scriptures."

Salvatore J. Ciresi is a civilian employee with the U.S. military and faculty member of Christendom College's Graduate School. He resides with his wife and children in Spotsylvania, Virginia, where he directs the St. Jerome Biblical Guild.

© Keep the Faith, Inc.

Part One: The Old Testament: A Survey and Chronological Reading

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