Timeline(s) of Biblical and Extra-Biblical Literature

This summer has been a bit of whirlwind adventure for our family. I’m part of a graduate studies program at Northern Seminary with Dr. Scot McKnight, the program director for the Master of Arts in New Testament degree. One of the classes for the MANT is Pauline trip to Turkey, Greece, and Italy to fully immerse yourself as a student in the places being studied. By far my favorite places on the trip were the reconstructed ruins of Ephesus and magnificently preserved Pompeii.

Thankfully, the trip was early in the summer, allowing me the freedom to do some personal studies during the rest of the break. The project I wanted to focus on the most was reading through biblical and extra-biblical literature between the beginning of the Exilic period through the ante-Nicene period. I decided on reading the material in a (generally) chronological order to follow the development of the texts and their interactions or similarities. After reaching out to a number of scholars to find a general timeline for this literature, I was surprised to learn such a timeline didn’t seem to exist. So, I dedicated a bit of time to creating one.

There are actually two timelines I will make available. The first is a timeline separated into different categories common to biblical and extra-biblical literature (i.e. apocrypha, pseudepigrapha, etc.). The second timeline is a combined version of the first. This allows for a quick glance of chronological parallel texts. There are some biblical books excluded on account of the overwhelming uncertainty concerning when their final forms took shape.

  1. Separated Timeline of Biblical & Extra-Biblical Literature
  2. Combined Timeline of Biblical & Extra-Biblical Literature

Most, if not all, of the literature was written after the events referenced or after the proclamation of the prophet mentioned. My priority was to find most probable period when the text would have been finalized and had begun to circulate in use among Jews and Christians. To be clear, these timelines are more about when the people of God began to use the literature popularly and is not intended to answer with any specific certainty the origin of the texts themselves. My interest lies in how the people of God would have used these texts, in their (likely) final and disseminated forms, to understand their context theologically, and then how these texts may have affected those subsequently formed.

This timeline distills comprehensive research, but it does not reflect every possible research avenue for each of the texts. Such a project would have taken much more time than I had to give to it. This is available for others to use, firstly, because I hope it is a useful document, but secondly, because I hope others who are more studied in a particular set of biblical or extra-biblical literature or texts would reach out to me. I am very open to being convinced of different dates for many of these texts. I’m also aware there may be texts I’ve overlooked altogether, denying them a place in the timelines, which should be corrected. Please don’t hesitate to help me make this resource more accurate!

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