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The study of Bible chronology involves understanding the sequence and dating of events mentioned in the Bible. The term “chronology” comes from the Greek words “khronos” (meaning “time”) and “lego” (meaning “to say or tell”), indicating the computation of time. This allows for the proper placement and association of events in the Bible and the determination of accurate dates for specific events.
Jehovah, known as “the Ancient of Days” and the God of Eternity, is an accurate timekeeper, as demonstrated by the precise movements of celestial bodies and the fulfillment of his promises and prophecies at the exact time foretold. This includes events that occurred within a day, year, decade, century, or even millenniums. Additionally, we can trust that his plans for the future will be executed at the predetermined time.
God also intended for man, created in his image and likeness, to measure the passage of time. The Bible states that the “luminaries in the expanse of the heavens” were made to serve as a division between day and night and as signs for seasons, days, and years. This concept of measuring and recording time has been ongoing since the time of Adam and continues to the present day.
Eras are Long and Distinct Periods of History with a Particular Feature or Characteristic
Accurate chronology requires the identification of a specific point in time as a reference point from which to measure forward or backward in units such as hours, days, months, or years. This reference point can be as simple as the sunrise for measuring hours in a day, or the start of a new moon for measuring days in a month, or the start of the spring season for measuring the span of a year. However, for measuring longer periods, people have established a particular “era” using a significant event as the starting point.
For example, in Christian nations, the Common Era (C.E.) is used as a reference point for measuring time. When someone says, “today is January 29, 2023, C.E.,” they mean that it is the twenty-ninth of the first month of the two thousand twenty-third year, counting from what is believed to be the time of the birth of Jesus Christ. This era serves as the reference point for counting the years and is widely used in the western world.
The concept of using an era as a marker to measure time periods is not a new one but rather has its origins in ancient history. The earliest known secular example of this method of chronological reckoning is believed to be the Greek era, which was established around the fourth century BCE. The Greeks used four-year periods called Olympiads as a means of measuring time, with the first Olympiad calculated as beginning in 776 BCE. They also often identified specific years by referencing the term of office of a particular official. The Romans also established an era, which was based on the traditional date of the founding of the city of Rome in 753 BCE, and they designated specific years by referencing the names of the two consuls in office at that time. However, it wasn’t until the sixth century CE that a monk named Dionysius Exiguus calculated what is now known as the Common Era or Christian Era. In contrast, other ancient civilizations, such as the Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians, do not appear to have used era systems consistently over a significant period of time.
The use of eras, or a specific starting point in time to measure periods of years, is not explicitly outlined in the Biblical record. However, this does not mean that the people of Israel or their ancestors did not have a system for assigning specific dates to past events. The Bible writers often cite precise figures involving periods of several centuries, demonstrating that there was a strong interest in chronology among the people of Israel. For example, Moses writes that the Israelites left Egypt after 430 years after the time God validated the covenant with Abraham. Additionally, the book of Kings states that the construction of the temple in Jerusalem began 480 years after the Israelites left Egypt. However, neither the validation of the Abrahamic covenant nor the Exodus was commonly used as the start of an era for recording other events.
The Bible is not a modern historical text that dates events according to a single fixed point in the past, such as the start of the Common Era. Instead, the Bible writers typically located events in the stream of time in relation to relatively current time markers. For example, an event might be described as taking place “the year after the drought” or “five years after World War II.” As a result, it is not always possible to determine a precise starting point or time marker used by Bible writers. Additionally, a writer might use more than one starting point to date events during a certain historical period. This variation in starting points does not imply that the writers were vague or confused, but rather it reflects the way people naturally relate events to time in everyday life. Despite this, the Bible is a remarkably accurate and well-preserved text, and copyists’ errors are not assumed where no sound evidence exists.
Bible Chronology and Secular History
The question of how to reconcile the chronology found in the Bible with that of ancient secular records is a complex one. The validity of such an endeavor is dependent on the assumption that ancient secular records are unequivocally accurate and reliable. However, this assumption is not always the case, as the accuracy and reliability of these records have been called into question by scholars. Therefore, it is important to examine the ancient records of various nations and peoples whose activities and history intersect with that of the people and events described in the Bible, in order to gain a deeper understanding of the historical context in which these events took place. This can provide valuable insights into the accuracy and reliability of the Bible’s chronology and help better to understand the relationship between the Bible and secular history.
The Bible is a historical text, particularly when compared to other ancient writings. The historical records of ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes, Persians and others are often fragmentary, and their earlier periods are often obscure or mythological. An example of this can be seen in the ancient document known as The Sumerian King List, which states that “When kingship was lowered from heaven, kingship was (first) in Eridu. (In) Eridu, A-lulim (became) king and ruled 28,800 years. Alalgar ruled 36,000 years. Two kings (thus) ruled it for 64,800 years.” This document, and others like it, serves as a reminder that the historical records of ancient civilizations are not always as accurate or reliable as one might assume. In contrast, the Bible provides a detailed and consistent account of history, making it a valuable resource for understanding the past.
Secular sources provide insight into the ancient nations mentioned in the Bible. However, the information obtained from these sources is often limited and fragmentary. The earlier periods of these ancient nations are either not well-known or are presented in a mythological manner. For example, the Sumerian King List, an ancient document, begins with the claim that kingship was lowered from heaven and that the first king ruled for 28,800 years. This type of information is clearly not based on fact. In order to learn about the history of these ancient nations, scholars must piece together information obtained from monuments, tablets, and later historical texts, such as those written by Greek and Roman historiographers. Archaeologists have uncovered many clay tablets with cuneiform inscriptions and papyrus scrolls from Egypt, but the majority of these are religious texts or business documents. The smaller number of historical texts that have been preserved, such as tablets, cylinders, and monumental inscriptions, often focus on glorifying emperors and recounting their military campaigns in grandiose terms. These texts do not provide a comprehensive understanding of the history of these ancient nations.
The Bible is a historical book that provides a detailed and coherent account of events over a period of approximately 4,000 years. Unlike other ancient records, the Bible presents a continuous history from the beginning of humanity to the time of Nehemiah’s governorship in the 5th century BCE. Additionally, the Bible, specifically the book of Daniel, provides a basic coverage of the period between Nehemiah and the time of Jesus and his apostles. The Bible presents a candid and realistic portrayal of the nation of Israel, including its strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures, and religious practices. The honesty and integrity of the Biblical writers and their commitment to recording the truth provide a sound basis for confidence in the accuracy of the Bible’s chronology.
The Bible provides detailed historical records of events and individuals, as evidenced by the extensive genealogies and factual accounts of the reigns of kings found in texts such as First and Second Kings and First and Second Chronicles. The accuracy of these records is supported by the existence of other historical documents, such as “the book of the Wars of Jehovah,” “the book of the affairs of the days of the kings of Israel” and “the book of the affairs of the days of the kings of Judah.” Furthermore, the Bible cites governmental records of other nations, indicating that the information was carefully researched and well-documented rather than relying solely on oral tradition. Despite some uncertainty surrounding the dating of certain Assyrian and Babylonian kings, there is no doubt about the chronological sequence of the kings of Judah and Israel. The Bible was written by many authors who were able to access these records and even written in different parts of the world, such as Egypt, Babylon, and Persia.
The accurate measurement of time in the Bible is likely attributed to the Israelites’ adherence to the Mosaic Law, which included the observance of sabbatical and Jubilee years, dividing time into 7-year and 50-year intervals. This system of measuring time is distinct from that of the contemporaneous pagan nations and is further distinguished by the emphasis on not only the past and present but also the future. This sense of time is evident in the Bible’s prophetic element, which often involves specific time periods. The importance of chronological accuracy in the Bible, as the word of God, is emphasized through the emphasis on God’s punctuality in fulfilling prophecies and the use of accurate prophecies as proof of God’s sovereignty. This concept is highlighted in verses such as Ezekiel 12:27, 28, Galatians 4:4, Isaiah 41:21-26, and 48:3-7.
While some non-biblical documents may predate the oldest known copies of the Bible, the material on which they are written, and their age do not necessarily indicate their accuracy or truthfulness. The writer, their purpose, respect for truth, and adherence to righteous principles are the important factors that give a sound basis for confidence in the chronological accuracy and overall accuracy of the information they contain. The Bible, although not written on durable materials such as stone or clay, has been carefully copied and preserved through divine inspiration. This, along with the quality of its contents, outweighs the age of secular documents. The Bible’s historical accuracy is further reinforced by its divine inspiration, as affirmed in verses such as 1 Peter 1:24-25 and 2 Peter 1:19-21.
The accuracy of Bible chronology is often questioned and compared to secular histories. However, it is important to note that secular histories do not serve as a reliable standard for judging the accuracy of Bible chronology. This is exemplified by the statement of archaeological writer C. W. Ceram who, when discussing the modern science of historical dating, notes that ancient historical records are often scarce, inaccurate, or even false. Additionally, these records have been further degraded over time due to the passage of time and the carelessness of men. Ceram also describes the framework of chronological history as “a purely hypothetical structure, and one which threatens to come apart at every joint.” This highlights that secular histories should not be used as the primary measure for determining the accuracy of Bible chronology. Instead, the Bible’s divine inspiration serves as the basis for its reliability in chronological matters.
There is a lack of confidence in the accuracy of secular records when compared to the Biblical chronology. The accuracy of the Bible should not be doubted based on discrepancies between secular records and the Bible. Instead, confidence in ancient secular dating can only be justified when it aligns with the Biblical record. Some of the apparent discrepancies between secular records and the Bible may be due to the inability of modern historians to interpret ancient methods correctly. Additionally, there is evidence of carelessness, inaccuracy, and even deliberate falsification on the part of pagan historians and chronologers. Overall, the Bible should be considered a more reliable source of historical information than secular records.
The chronology of ancient Egypt is intricately linked with the history of Israel. According to the Bible, Israel entered Egypt in about 1715 BCE and left 215 years later in about 1500 BCE, known as the Exodus. Additionally, the Bible records several other significant events that occurred between Egypt and Israel, such as Pharaoh Shishak’s attack on Jerusalem in 993 BCE, King So of Egypt’s contemporaneous rule with Hoshea’s reign (758-740 BCE), and Pharaoh Necho’s battle that resulted in the death of King Josiah in 629 BCE. However, these dates differ from the ones commonly accepted by modern historians, with the discrepancy being as much as a century for the Exodus and narrowing down to around 20 years by the time of Pharaoh Necho. Despite these discrepancies, we prefer to rely on the chronology based on the biblical accounts.
Modern historians use various documents, such as king lists and annals, to understand and study the chronology of Ancient Egypt. These sources include the fragmentary Palermo Stone, which provides information on the first five dynasties of Egyptian history, the Turin Papyrus, which gives a list of kings and their reigns from the Old Kingdom to the New Kingdom; and additional fragmentary inscriptions in stone. These separate lists and inscriptions have been placed in chronological order using the writings of Manetho, an Egyptian priest from the third century BCE. Manetho’s works, which focus on Egyptian history and religion, organize the reigns of Egyptian monarchs into 30 dynasties, a system that is still used by modern Egyptologists today. Additionally, astronomical calculations based on Egyptian texts about lunar phases and the rising of the Dog Star (Sothis) are also used to construct a chronological table of ancient Egyptian history.
Problems with Egyptian chronology. The study of Egyptian chronology is a complex and challenging task for historians. One of the main sources of information for reconstructing the timeline of ancient Egypt is the works of Manetho, an Egyptian priest who lived in the 3rd century BCE. However, the writings of Manetho have come down to us only through later historians, such as Josephus, Sextus Julius Africanus, Eusebius, and Syncellus, all of whom lived hundreds of years after Manetho’s time. This means that the quotations of Manetho’s work that have been passed down to us are often fragmentary and prone to distortion, making it difficult to determine which parts of the writings are authentic and which are not.
Furthermore, Manetho’s original source material likely included unhistorical traditions and legends that did not adhere to chronological order, introducing errors into his work from the beginning. Many of the lengths of reigns that he recorded have been found to be impossible in light of other evidence, and the names and sequence of kings that he gave have not been able to be supported by monumental evidence.
One possibility for the discrepancies in the historical record is that many of the kings recorded by Manetho may have ruled concurrently rather than successively. This idea is supported by the book Studies in Egyptian Chronology, which suggests that the Manethonian dynasties were not lists of rulers over all of Egypt, but rather lists of more or less independent princes or princely lines from which later rulers of all Egypt emerged. This concurrent rule could explain the excessive total number of years recorded by Manetho, as several kings would have been reigning at the same time in different regions. Despite the challenges, historians and Egyptologists continue to work to piece together an accurate chronology of Ancient Egypt using a variety of sources and methods.
The study of Egyptian chronology is a complex and nuanced field with many uncertainties and challenges. One major issue is the fact that the works of Manetho, a key source for understanding the fragmentary lists and inscriptions of Egyptian history, have been passed down through later historians such as Josephus, Sextus Julius Africanus, Eusebius, and Syncellus. These historians lived hundreds of years after Manetho, and their quotations of his writings are often fragmentary and distorted, making it difficult to determine what is authentic and what is not. Additionally, Manetho’s source material included unhistorical traditions and legends, which further complicates the task of understanding the true history of Ancient Egypt.
Another major issue is the fact that many of the lengths of reigns recorded by Manetho have been found to be impossible, and the names and sequence of kings, as given by Manetho, have not always been supported by monumental evidence. Some scholars have suggested that concurrent reigns, rather than successive reigns, may be responsible for many of Manetho’s excessively long periods. This would mean that several Egyptian kings ruled at the same time in different regions, which would account for the high number of years recorded in Manetho’s dynasties.
Despite these challenges, Egyptologists continue to rely on ancient inscriptions as a key source for understanding Egyptian history. However, it is important to keep in mind that the ancient scribes who created these inscriptions were not necessarily careful, truthful, or morally upright. They may have manipulated the chronology of events to add praise to the particular monarch in power, so historians must be prepared to modify their understanding of the past as new materials come to light.
Egyptian history is known for its lack of information about the Israelite people and their 215 years of residence in Egypt. This is likely due to the Egyptians’ tendency to erase records of previous monarchs that were not favorable to themselves. This practice was evident in the destruction of records of Queen Hatshepsut by Thutmose III. As a result, there is no known Egyptian record of the Israelite residence in Egypt or their Exodus. The Bible does not name the pharaoh who ruled at the time of the Exodus, which contributes to the uncertainty and the wide range of dates proposed by modern historians for the event, from 1441 to 1225 B.C.E. The absence of concrete evidence and the reliance on conjecture contribute to the difficulties in determining a precise date for the Exodus.
Assyrian chronology, specifically from the time of Shalmaneser III, is a topic of interest as it mentions contacts with the Israelites and names certain kings of Judah and Israel. The primary source of information for this period comes from Assyrian inscriptions, which include display inscriptions found on palace walls, royal annals, king lists, and the limmu or eponym lists. However, it is important to note that these inscriptions should be approached with caution.
Albert Olmstead, in his work Assyrian Historiography, explains that the main purpose of display inscriptions was not to provide a connected history of the reign, and they often lack chronological order. Olmstead also notes that the annals, while providing a regular chronology, are not always trustworthy and have been known to contain errors. He advises that earlier historians have too readily accepted the statements in the annals without proper verification and that new material and references in foreign sources, such as Hebrew or Babylonian, should be used to critique the Sargonide documents.
Furthermore, D.D. Luckenbill notes that the accurate portrayal of events was not the primary motive of the royal scribes and that, at times events were shifted around without reason, and that royal vanity often led to playing fast and loose with historical accuracy.
In conclusion, Assyrian chronology is a complex topic that is primarily sourced from inscriptions, but these inscriptions should be approached with caution and cross-referenced with other sources. The main purpose of the inscriptions was not to provide a connected history of the reign, and they often lacked chronological order. Additionally, the annals, while providing a regular chronology, are not always trustworthy and have been known to contain errors.
The royal annals, which were a primary source of information for Assyrian history, were often revised and edited as the king’s reign progressed. However, these later editions were not always entirely truthful, and the facts and figures were often manipulated to suit the king’s narrative. This practice is noted by Professor Albert Olmstead in his work Assyrian Historiography, where he references Ashurbanipal and how he took credit for the accomplishments of his father in later editions of the annals.
This manipulation of facts and figures in the annals is not an isolated occurrence. There are numerous examples of this evident unreliability, whether it is deliberate or not. For instance, the compilers of tribute lists sometimes listed vassal kings as paying tribute even though they were known to be dead at the time. George Smith, in his work The Assyrian Eponym Canon, notes an instance where the same tribute list of Esar-haddon is credited to his son Ashurbanipal 13 years later, but this later list is most probably a literal copy of the earlier document, without any effort to verify if these kings were still reigning and if they really paid tribute.
In summary, the royal annals were often revised and edited as the king’s reign progressed, but these later editions were not always entirely truthful, and the facts and figures were often manipulated to suit the king’s narrative. This practice of manipulation is not an isolated incident, and there are numerous examples of this evident unreliability, whether it is deliberate or not, in the annals and other inscriptions.
The Assyrian eponym lists, also known as limmu lists, are lists of officials’ names and ranks or lists of such names accompanied by brief mentions of a warring campaign or other noteworthy events. Despite being considered less corrupt than other forms of Assyrian historiography, these lists still have their limitations. The lists do not contain actual dates, but each name is believed to represent a year, allowing for a year-by-year count. Modern historians use these lists to synchronize Assyrian and Biblical history, particularly for the period from 911 to 649 B.C.E. They rely on a reference to an eclipse of the sun mentioned in an entry opposite the name of a certain governor, which is believed to have occurred on June 15, 763 B.C.E. However, the reliability of this date and the synchronization of Assyrian history with that of Judah and Israel is debatable.
The eponym lists contain a reduced amount of information compared to other forms of Assyrian historiography, making it difficult for historians to discover errors. When apparent contradictions are found between the eponym lists and the annals, such as the placing of a certain campaign in a different year of a king’s reign, historians usually blame the error on the annals rather than the eponym lists.
Furthermore, even with regard to the so-called Assyrian synchronistic history, no claim for positive accuracy is made. A famous tablet containing a terse account of the relations between Assyria and Babylonia during a period of centuries is only considered to be an inscription erected to the glory of Ashur, the chief god of Assyria, and of his people. Therefore, it is not considered a true history, and its numerous mistakes reduce its value.
In light of these limitations and inaccuracies, modern historians have difficulty arriving at an exact chronology using the eponym lists. They also feel justified in adjusting or overruling the count of the lists when other factors or evidence make such action advisable. Due to these limitations and inaccuracies in Assyrian historiography, it is not considered reliable enough to attempt to coordinate the Biblical chronology with history as presented in the Assyrian records.
The Babylonian Empire, also known as the Neo-Babylonian Empire, was a significant historical period in the Bible. It began with the reign of Nabopolassar and ended with the reigns of Nabonidus and Belshazzar and the eventual overthrow of Babylon by Cyrus the Persian. This period is of particular interest to Bible scholars as it includes the time of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and the majority of the 70-year period of Jewish exile.
Jeremiah 52:28 states that the first group of Jewish exiles was taken to Babylon in the seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar II. This is further supported by a cuneiform inscription from the Babylonian Chronicle, which states that in the seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar, he captured the city of Judah and appointed a new king, taking vast tribute to Babylon. However, for the final 32 years of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, there are no historical records except for a fragmentary inscription of a campaign against Egypt in his 37th year.
Additionally, tablets dated up to the second year of rule of Awil-Marduk (also known as Evil-merodach) and contract tablets dated to the fourth year of Neriglissar, who is considered to be the successor of Awil-Marduk, have been found. A Babylonian clay tablet also helps to connect Babylonian chronology with Biblical chronology. The tablet contains astronomical information for the seventh year of Cambyses II, the son of Cyrus II, and includes references to two lunar eclipses that can be identified as those visible at Babylon on July 16, 523 B.C.E. and January 10, 522 B.C.E. This allows for the identification of the spring of 523 B.C.E. as the beginning of the seventh year of Cambyses II, with his first year of rule being 529 B.C.E. and his accession year and the last year of Cyrus II as king of Babylon being 530 B.C.E. Furthermore, the latest tablet dated in the reign of Cyrus II is from the 5th month, 23rd day of his 9th year, which allows for the calculation of his first year as king of Babylon as 538 B.C.E. and his accession year as 539 B.C.E.
Berossus was a Babylonian priest who lived in the third century B.C.E. He wrote a history of Babylon in the Greek language, which was evidently based on cuneiform records. However, very little of Berossus’ original writings have survived to the present day. Professor Olmstead states that “only the merest fragments, abstracts, or traces” of Berossus’ work have been preserved. Furthermore, these fragments have been passed down through a complex tradition of translations and copies. Today, the most important fragments of Berossus’ work can only be accessed through a modern Latin translation of an Armenian translation of the lost Greek original of the Chronicle of Eusebius. This is further complicated by the fact that Eusebius borrowed from Alexander Polyhistor and Abydenus, who in turn borrowed from Juba and other sources, leading to a confusion of accounts. Additionally, Eusebius seems to have used a poor manuscript of Polyhistor, further decreasing the accuracy of the information. The Jewish historian Josephus also claims to have quoted from Berossus, but it is uncertain how much weight can be given to chronological data supposedly from Berossus. Overall, due to the complex and flawed tradition of transmission, it is difficult to consider the information from Berossus as conclusive.
Scholars have discussed the challenges faced by historians in determining the reigns of Babylonian kings based on the cuneiform tablets that have been discovered. They note that many of these tablets were not written contemporaneously with the events recorded on them and may have been copies of earlier, damaged documents. Furthermore, there is a lack of contemporary historical records, and it is easy for data to be altered over time, which makes it difficult to rely on traditional figures for the reigns of the Neo-Babylonian kings.
Additionally, they have noted that the absence of tablets covering the later years of a king’s reign cannot be used as a strong argument against the possibility that the king had a longer reign than the traditional figures show. There are examples of kings whose reigns come much further along in time for whom no such confirming tablets have been found.
They also point out that there are cases where historians do not know where to place certain Babylonian kings for whom records do exist and that the information available is often based on conjecture. This highlights the challenges faced by historians in accurately determining the reigns of Babylonian kings and the need for caution when interpreting the historical records that have been discovered.
The Persian period, which lasted from approximately 550 BCE to 330 BCE, was a significant time in the history of the ancient world. During this period, a number of important events from the Bible took place, including the fall of Babylon, the release of the Jews by King Cyrus, and the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Additionally, the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt by Nehemiah during this time.
One important aspect of understanding the Persian period is determining the chronology of events. One way to do this is through the use of Ptolemy’s canon, a historical document that lists the dates of various events. However, other sources can also be used to establish a timeline for this period. For example, the historian Diodorus, as well as Africanus and Eusebius, provide information on the dates of Cyrus’ reign as king of Persia. Additionally, cuneiform tablets, which were inscriptions made on clay tablets in ancient Mesopotamia, can also be used to establish the date of the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus.
Despite the presence of these historical sources, determining the exact length of the reigns of Persian kings can be challenging. For example, a number of dated tablets were found at the Persian capital of Persepolis, but the names of the kings are not included. This makes it difficult to use these inscriptions to establish the exact length of a king’s reign. Overall, the Persian period was a significant time in history, and understanding its chronology can provide valuable insights into the events of the Bible and the ancient world.
Astronomical calculations are often used to convert relative chronologies (which simply establish the sequence of events) into absolute chronologies, which are systems of dates related to our calendar. However, the correlation of astronomical data with human events in the past is subject to various factors and human interpretation, which can introduce errors. Many synchronizations of astronomical data with events or dates of ancient history are based on solar or lunar eclipses. However, it should be noted that any particular town or city would experience about 40 lunar eclipses and 20 partial solar eclipses in 50 years, but only one total solar eclipse in 400 years. Therefore, only in the case of a definitely stated total solar eclipse visible in a specific area would there be little reason for doubt in the fixing of a particular historical date by such means. In many cases, the material from ancient cuneiform texts (or other sources) concerning eclipses does not provide such specific information.
An example of this is the solar eclipse that historians rely on to correlate Assyrian chronology with Biblical chronology. It is mentioned in the Assyrian eponym lists as taking place in the third month (counting from the spring) during the eponymy of Bur-Sagale. Modern chronologists calculate it to be the eclipse occurring on June 15, 763 B.C.E. Counting back 90 years (or 90 names on the eponym lists) from this date, they arrive at 853 B.C.E. as the date for the battle of Karkar in Shalmaneser III’s sixth year. They claim that Shalmaneser lists King Ahab of Israel as in the enemy coalition facing Assyria in that battle and that 12 years afterward (Shalmaneser’s 18th year), the Assyrian king refers to King Jehu of Israel as paying tribute. They then deduce that the year 853 B.C.E. marked the date of Ahab’s last year and 841 B.C.E. the start of Jehu’s reign.
However, there are several issues with these calculations. Firstly, though it is assumed that the solar eclipse was total, the eponym list does not state this. Additionally, while most historians today would apply this reference to the eclipse of 763 B.C.E., not all scholars have done so, some preferring the year 809 B.C.E., during which year an eclipse occurred that would have been at least partially visible in Assyria (as was also the case in 857 and 817 B.C.E., etc.). Moreover, the presence of King Ahab at the battle of Karkar is very unlikely. Thus, even if the reigns of Ahaziah and Jehoram (which intervened between Ahab and Jehu) could be reduced to just 12 years, the evidence is against any precise synchronization of the battle of Karkar with Ahab. Shalmaneser’s mention of Jehu, therefore, may very well not relate to Jehu’s first year of rule.
Furthermore, the accusation that the Assyrians juggled the years of their campaigns and credited kings with receiving tribute from persons no longer living might reduce even more the supposed value of the synchronization. The chart “Outstanding Dates During the Period of the Kings of Judah and of Israel,” accompanying this article, shows Ahab’s death as occurring about 920 B.C.E., with Jehu’s kingship counting from about 904 B.C.E.
Claudius Ptolemy was a Greek astronomer who lived during the 2nd century CE, more than 600 years after the end of the Neo-Babylonian period. He created a canon or list of kings that was connected to a work on astronomy. Many modern historians have accepted Ptolemy’s information about the Neo-Babylonian kings and the length of their reigns. However, it is important to note that Ptolemy’s historical information was based on sources that date from the Seleucid period, which began more than 250 years after Cyrus captured Babylon. This makes it unsurprising that Ptolemy’s figures align with those of Berossus, a Babylonian priest from the Seleucid period. It’s important to note that Ptolemy’s canon was written centuries after the Neo-Babylonian period, and the information may have been subject to changes and inaccuracies over time. Therefore, while Ptolemy’s canon is widely accepted among modern historians, it is important to consider the context in which it was written and the potential for errors.
Lunar Eclipses Used to Substantiate Dates
Lunar eclipses have been used as a method of dating historical events in the past, specifically the reigns of certain Neo-Babylonian kings. However, the accuracy of this method is called into question due to the fact that even though Ptolemy, an ancient astronomer, may have accurately recorded the dates of certain eclipses, this does not necessarily mean that his correlation of eclipses with certain historical events is based on true historical fact. This is exemplified by the death of Herod the Great, where many scholars date his death as 4 B.C.E. and cite the lunar eclipse of March 11 of that year as proof, but this eclipse was of only 36-percent magnitude and would not have been a significant event. Additionally, there were two other eclipses in 1 B.C.E. that could have been the eclipse in question, making the exact date uncertain.
Furthermore, the use of astronomical diaries, which give the position of the moon and certain planets at specific times, to date events in ancient history also has its limitations. These observations may have contained errors due to factors such as sandstorms obscuring the horizon in Babylon, and the majority of the astronomical diaries found were written in the Seleucid period rather than the Neo-Babylonian or Persian empires. Therefore, while astronomical information may provide some insight into dating historical events, it is not a foolproof method and should be used in conjunction with other forms of evidence.
Problems concerning man’s efforts at setting dates based on artifacts found in excavations will be discussed in our second INTRODUCTION 2 Biblical Archaeology.
Archaeological dating is a complex and nuanced process that involves determining the age of artifacts and other materials found at archaeological sites. The primary method of dating in archaeology is through the use of stratigraphy, which is the study of the layers of soil and other materials that have accumulated over time at a particular site. By examining the layers and the artifacts found within them, archaeologists can determine the relative age of different strata and their contents.
However, it is important to note that this method of dating is only comparative and can never be more than that. This means that the archaeologist can only say that a particular stratum in one mound belongs to the same general period as a certain stratum in another mound but cannot give a specific date for the artifacts found within that stratum. This is because there are many factors that can affect the accuracy of archaeological dating, such as the preservation of the artifacts, the soil conditions, and the limitations of the dating methods used.
Furthermore, the results of archaeological dating are often subject to change and correction as new information becomes available. For example, in 1937, archaeologist Barton assigned “Early Bronze Age” pottery to the period 2500-2000 BCE, whereas in the following year, W. F. Albright listed the same period as 3200-2200 BCE. This illustrates the fluid and constantly evolving nature of archaeological dating and the need for ongoing research and refinement of existing hypotheses.
It is also important to keep in mind that the dates given by archaeologists for the age of certain cities or events are not always certain and may be subject to change as new information becomes available. For example, the date of the conquest of Palestine by Israel is still a matter of debate among archaeologists, and the overall chronology of the region is still considered “fluid” by experts in the field.
In conclusion, archaeological dating is a complex and nuanced process that involves determining the age of artifacts and other materials found at archaeological sites through the use of stratigraphy and other methods. The results of this process are only comparative and subject to change and correction as new information becomes available. It is important to keep this in mind when evaluating the dates given by archaeologists for the age of certain cities or events.
Historians of the Classical Period
The term “classical” refers to the period and culture of Ancient Greece and Rome. The writings of certain classical historians, such as Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Ctesias, Strabo, Diodorus Siculus, Alexander Polyhistor, Plutarch, Titus Livius, Gnaeus Pompeius Trogus, Pliny the Elder, Sextus Julius Africanus, Manetho, Berossus, Josephus, and Eusebius, are used by modern historians to fill in gaps or confirm certain data in the record of ancient civilizations such as Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Syria, and Palestine. However, it is important to note that these historians lived after the Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian period and only the first four mentioned lived during the period of the Persian Empire. Therefore none of these writers present information based on personal knowledge but rather record the traditional views they heard or read. Additionally, the accuracy of their data depends on the accuracy of the sources they used, and the information we know of their writings today is dependent upon copies of copies, the oldest often dating no farther back than the medieval period. Furthermore, the qualifications and reliability of these ancient historians have been called into question by scholars. For example, Herodotus’ approach to history has been praised but it is also said that at times “his data were unsatisfactory” and that “he offers a rational explanation side by side with the irrational.” Similarly, it is said that Xenophon lacked “objectivity, thoroughness, and research” and adorned his narratives with “fictitious speeches.” Furthermore, Ctesias has been accused of deliberately extending the period of the Median monarchy. Additionally, Roman history of the kingly period is said to stretch back into the regions of pure mythology and is little more than a collection of fables. Even after the establishment of the Republic, historians were still ready to set down popular tradition alongside historical fact without distinguishing between them.
Thucydides is a classical historian who is widely considered to be an exception to the common criticisms of inaccuracy and carelessness that are often directed towards historians from this era. He is known for his meticulous research methods and is highly respected for his historical writings. According to The New Encyclopædia Britannica (1987, Vol. 11, p. 741), “His authority is hardly equaled by that of any other historian. He kept to a strict chronological scheme, and, where it can be accurately tested by the eclipses that he mentions, it fits closely.”
While the works of classical historians such as Thucydides can provide important information on certain historical periods, particularly the Persian period and the early Christian era, it is important to note that their chronologies and accounts should not be considered on the same level of accuracy as the Bible. The Bible, written by either eyewitnesses or by those who carefully researched the events, such as Luke, can be relied upon as a more accurate record of history. This is particularly evident in the accurate chronological information provided in the accounts of events related to the life of Jesus and the early Christian era.
The Biblical Count of Time
The chronological accuracy of the Bible has been a topic of debate for centuries. While ancient secular records have been known to contain inaccuracies, the Bible has consistently proven to be a reliable source of historical information. However, when measuring Biblical periods in relation to modern dating methods, it is important to keep in mind the difference between cardinal and ordinal numbers. Cardinal numbers, such as 1, 2, 3, 10, 100, etc., have full value, but ordinal numbers, such as 3rd, 5th, and 22nd, require the subtraction of one to obtain the full number. For example, in the reference to the “eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar,” the term “eighteenth” is an ordinal number and represents 17 full years plus some days, weeks, or months.
Additionally, when counting the number of years from a calendar date in the “B.C.E.” period to one in the “C.E.” period, it is important to remember that from a date such as October 1st of the year 1 B.C.E. to October 1st of the year 1 C.E. is only one year, not two. This is because year dates are ordinal numbers. Therefore, from approximately October 1st of the year 2 B.C.E. (the approximate time of Jesus’ birth) to October 1st of 29 C.E. (the approximate date of Jesus’ baptism) is a total of 30 years. This includes one full year plus three months in the B.C.E. period and 28 full years plus nine months in the C.E. period. In conclusion, while there are nuances and complexities to consider when interpreting the chronology of the Bible, it remains a reliable source of historical information when approached with a clear understanding of its conventions and limitations.
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