Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
The Chronology of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther
Lunar eclipses alone are an inaccurate way to try to pin down ancient historical events. The reason is that the Saros cycle of the moon causes eclipses to repeat every 18 years generally, every 54 years at the same longitude for the observer on Earth, and every 345 years under almost perfectly exact circumstances. The same eclipse will repeat for centuries before being replaced by another one. Likewise with a cluster of eclipses.
© 2007 Kenneth Charles Griffith
The author proposes a revision of Ussher and Jones' reading of the chronological data in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel and John such that the Bible provides a continuous and unbroken chronology from the Creation until The Baptism of Christ. This paper supports the findings of Martin Anstey.
I have loved Biblical chronology since I was a child. After spending several years studying Dr. Floyd Nolan Jones' “Chronology of the Old Testament”, Dr. Jones' commitment to the inspired Word of God inspired me to wonder if we must rely upon Ptolemy's Cannon to bridge the chronology from Cyrus to Christ. Surely the Jewish Scribes of Christ's day did not depend upon the writings of the Greeks for their calculation of history, especially as the long-awaited Anointed One was due to arrive.
Furthermore, the “Ezra and Nehemiah Problem” as described by Jones1 and Anstey goaded me to suspect that there was a problem with the conventional chronology based on Ptolemy's Cannon. The problem is that the men listed as elders at the beginning of Ezra are also listed near the end of Nehemiah. If Nehemiah completed the wall in the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus as the Ussher-Jones chronology requires, every one of these elders must have lived to be over 135 years old. This suggested to me that something is amiss.
Therefore, I set out to study the problem trusting solely in the Word of God to provide the chronology – not concerning myself whether it contradicts Ptolemy or eclipse records. Operating upon that assumption I have made an interesting discovery concerning the 49 th year that supports the findings of Anstey, Faulstich and Jordan that Ahasuerus of Esther, Darius the Persion of Ezra and Nehemiah, and Arataxerxes of Ezra and Nehemiah are all names of the same king: Darius Hystapses. This solution bridges the chronology from Cyrus to Christ without appealing to secular sources.
My method is based on three assumptions:
1. When the Teachers of the Law came to John the day before Christ's Baptism to ask if John was the Messiah or Elijah, their reason for doing so was that they knew that the following day the 69-week prophecy of Daniel was due to be fulfilled in the Anointing of the Messiah.
2. The reason Daniel 9:24-26 breaks the 490 years to the messiah into “7 weeks” and “three score and two weeks” and “one week” is explained in the following two verses. The two events listed are the two milestones along the way. The city and wall will be completed by the end of the first 7 weeks. The Anointed One will come at the end of the three score and two weeks.
3. The terms Xerxes and Artaxerxes are used interchangeably in Ezra and Nehemiah to mean the Persian Emperor. There are only two (or at most three) kings mentioned in these two books; however, they are called by several titles.
The Timing of Christ's Baptism
Two verses of Scripture lead me to believe that the time of Jesus' baptism was the completion of the 483 years from the decree.
And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not. — Luke 3:15
And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. — John 1: 19-29
We know from the testimony of Josephus2 , as well as Gamaliel3 , that Judea had no shortage of fanatics leading sects in the desert. The Essenes had been living near the border of the Dead Sea for over a century at this time. However, it is evident from the expectation of the Teachers of the Law that they think John might be The One because of the timing of his ministry. The following day Christ is baptized. This is also the best-dated event in the Gospels. I propose this is the specific end date of the 483 years predicted by Daniel4 .
The Division in Daniel's 70 Weeks
Taking Hoehner5 , Keyser6 7 and Martin's8 independent calculations that the Baptism of Christ occurred in the Fall of 27 AD, this brings us back to 457 B.C.
The question is, what happened in 457 B.C.? Was this the decree of the 20 th year of Artaxerxes Longimanus as Ussher and Jones assert9 , or was this the decree of Cyrus?
While agreeing with Jones that the letter sent by Artaxerxes to Asaph by the hand of Nehemiah is the only command of the king that specifically mentions the gates and the wall, there are two big problems with identifying this as the decree that kicks off Daniel's seventy weeks.
First, this is a letter to the king's forester, Asaph, directing him to supply timber to Nehemiah. It is not a published decree of the king as the prophecy requires.
Second, the prophecy of Daniel indicates that the decree will be at the beginning of a period of 49 years, during which the temple and city will be rebuilt; the letter in the 20 th year of Artaxerxes is near the end of the rebuilding of the city and the temple.
When Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild the Temple, the rebuilding of the city walls was logically included. The reason is that all ancient temples were repositories of wealth offered to the god worshiped there. As such, temples were the prime targets for sacking by invading armies and marauding bands. To rebuild the Temple without a wall around the city, would be an public invitation to bandits and petty tyrants of neighboring domains. This very concern seems to have been the main part of Nehemiah's fear for the city of Jerusalem that led him to petition the king.
I suspect that Dr. Jones has focused in so narrowly on the wording of the decree that he has missed the bigger picture. The Temple, houses and the wall were all part of the city. It makes sense that in re- building Jerusalem the people would build the “heart” — the Temple — first, and then complete the rest of the city. The Decree of Cyrus kicked off the process that resulted in the city being rebuilt, including the walls, gates and street.
When we look at the text of Daniel 9:24-26, it is evident that the first period of 7 weeks (49 years) is completed when the city, temple and wall are finished.
Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. — Daniel 9:25-26.
This passage is a classic Hebrew parallelism. A B A' B'.
A – Seven Weeks
B – Threescore and two weeks
A' – The street shall be built again and wall in troublous times.
B' – After threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off...
In this passage A' and B' are the events that mark the completion of the time periods described in A and B.
Based on this interpretation the Temple and City of Jerusalem would be rebuilt during the 70 weeks, not before. It appears that the ministry of Ezra and Nehemiah covered or completed the first 7 weeks of this passage. If this interpretation is correct, we should expect to find a date in Ezra and Nehemiah that comes 49 years after the Decree of Cyrus.
We will soon see that the text in Nehemiah requires us to identify Darius the Persian as Artaxerxes in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah.
The last date in the Book of Nehemiah is repeated twice. In verse 5:14 we are told Nehemiah served from the twentieth year of Artaxerxes until his thirty-second year. Again in verse 13:6 Nehemiah tells us that he returned to the King in the 32 nd year and the king sent him back to Jerusalem shortly thereafter, probably allowing him to retire from service.
In verse 2:6 we find that the king asked Nehemiah how much time he needed to complete the task, and Nehemiah gave him a “set time.” Now Nehemiah undoubtedly had access to the prophecy of Daniel. As we shall see, the time that he chose appears to have been the end of the first 49 years. Nehemiah Page 4 completed the city wall within a few months of returning. But he stayed on the full twelve years and then returned to the King to report at the “set time” they had agreed upon twelve years earlier. During those twelve years he probably concerned himself with rebuilding the houses and infrastructure of the city and restoring the rule of the Torah Law of Yahweh in the hearts and minds of the people.
Who Were the Kings in Ezra and Nehemiah?
I propose to identify the kings of Ezra and Nehemiah as follows:
|VERSE||BIBLE NAME||CONVENTIONAL NAME|
|Ezra 1||Cyrus||Cyrus the Great|
|Ezra 4:6-7||Xerxes & Artaxerxes||Darius the Great|
|Ezra 4-6||Darius||Darius the Great|
|Ezra 7||Artaxerxes of Persia||Darius the Great|
|Nehemiah 2||Artaxerxes||Darius the Great|
|Nehemiah 12:22||Darius the Persian||Darius the Great|
In Ezra 4:6-7 the name Xerxes and Artaxerxes are used one after the other. Scholars have generally assumed these were two different kings, also being different from Darius who followed them. However, there are three good reasons for believing they are two ways of referring to the same king.
1. The Author of Ezra & Nehemiah already set a precedent by using two names or titles for Zerubbabel. As we shall see, He continued the practice of using multiple titles for important rulers in the book. (Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah appear to have originally been one scroll. They were separated into four books by the time of Jerome at the end of the fourth century.)
It was common in antiquity for kings and rulers to have several names and titles that were used in different situations. We have an explicit example of this in Ezra where Zerubbabel is called “Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah” four times10 . Ezra and Haggai both refer to Zerubbabel as governor or “prince” of Judah, and clearly state that Zerubbabel laid the foundation of the Temple.
Lest there be any doubt that Sheshbazzar is the same person as Zerubbabel, we are told in Ezra chapter 5, verses 14 and 16 that Cyrus appointed Sheshbazzar as governor, and this same Sheshbazzar laid the foundation of the Temple.
The fact that the name Sheshbazzar occurs twice in the passage relating to Cyrus' appointment, and twice again in the letter written to the Persian King, would lead us to suspect that Sheshbazzar is a Persian name or official title that Zerubbabel held. So, in Ezra – Nehemiah there is a precedent for using multiple titles for the same man.
2. The reign of Pseudo-Smerdis was so brief (7 months) that it is doubtful that there was time for news of his accession to reach Judah and the enemies of the Jews compose a letter and send it back and then get an answer from the usurper. In fact we know from several scriptural accounts that the journey from Jerusalem to Babylon took four months. Therefore it would have taken eight to twelve months for Jerusalem to receive news of “Smerdis” taking the throne, send a letter to him and receive and answer back.
Cambyses and Darius marched for Babylon as soon as they heard the news of the usurper. 10 Ezra 1:8, 1:11, 5:14, 5:16 Page 5 Cambyses apparently died en route, but Darius continued the march with the Army and with his seven friends, killed Pseudo-Smerdis and assumed the throne of the Medo-Persian Empire.
Furthermore, neither of these kings are likely to be Cambyses because he spent his entire reign in the field of conquest and died on the way back home from Egypt. Thus the accession of the first king after Cambyses provided the first real opportunity the enemies of the Jews had to obtain a reversal of Cyrus decree. Furthermore, these enemies of the Jews may have considered Darius to the be the beginning of a new dynasty, and therefore been more likely to change the decree than Cambyses.
3. The structure of the passage is a classic Hebrew parallelism where the author repeats the same idea more strongly for emphasis. It opens the explanation of what the enemies of the Jews did to shut them down during the reign of “Artaxerxes”.
A. In the days of Ahaseurus, in the beginning of his reign
B. They wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.
A'. In the days of Artaxerxes
B'. Also, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabel, and the rest of their companions wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the letter was written in Aramaic script, and translated into the Aramaic language. 8 Rehum [a] the commander and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to King Artaxerxes in this fashion: (text of letter follows with the king's reply)
The passage is telling us about one letter written by the opposition to a King of Persia who followed Cyrus. The passage starts generally, “in the days of Ahaseurus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation...”. In the second part of the parallelism, the author specifies exactly what he meant in the first part, “In the days of Artaxerxes...[lists the actual names of the men who wrote the letter and the text of the letter.]”
Therefore, the literary structure of the passage strongly suggests that the Ahaseurus here is the same man as the Artaxerxes mentioned here.
Furthermore, the passage is bracketed by references to Darius the Persian. In Ezra 4:5 the scope of the resistance is defined as being from Cyrus down to Darius the Persian. The next verse tells us about the letters written against them. Then we are told the building ceased until the second year of Darius the Persian (Ezra 5:24). Thus Ezra chapter four names the first (Cyrus) and last (Darius) of the three rulers of Persia during whose reign the city and temple were being rebuilt. The impostor Pseudo-Smerdis was evidently not considered to have been a real king. His execution was celebrated annually by the people of Persia down to Roman times.
As the narrative of Ezra continues, these enemies appealed again during the reign of a king identified as “Darius the Persian” in 4:24. Therefore the Xerxes and Artaxerxes of chapter four must either be the king who preceded Darius – namely, Cambyses, or Darius himself.
It is clear from the frequent use of the term Artaxerxes that is was a title of the King of Persia. There is an extant inscription in Persepolis of Xerxes, son of Darius in which he signs his inscription, “Xerxes the Arta” which means “Xerxes the Great”. Jordan argues that Artaxerxes means “The Great King” or “The Emperor” in all of the places it is used in Scripture, similar to the way “Pharaoh” means the king or emperor of Egypt.
These names are not necessarily personal names, but are most likely throne names or even titles. It used to be thought that Xerxes means "king" and Artaxerxes means "high king." This is based on a statement in Herodotus, "In Greek, the name Darius means the Doer, Xerxes means the Warrior, and Artaxerxes means the Great Warrior" (Herodotus, The History 6:98; trans. David Grene; Chicago: University of Chicago, 1987; p. 448). The Persian for Xerxes is Khshyarsha or Ksharsa, "which seems to correspond to the modern Persian shyr-shah, lion-king" (McClintock and Strong, Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature I:116). Artaxerxes "is a compound, the first element of which, arta — found in several Persian names — is generally admitted to mean great; the latter part being the Zend Khshethro, king" (ibid., I:440).11
Darius issued a decree to finish the Temple in his second year. This is the same Darius who is called “Ahauserus” or Xerxes in the Book of Esther. He married Esther about the 7 th year of his reign after several years of foreign conquest, and was deceived into Haman's plot in the 12 th year of his reign.
Anstey pointed out that Ezra mentions the sons of Darius Hystaspes:
The mention of the "King's sons" in Ezra 7 corroborates the identification of the Artaxerxes of Ezra 7 with Darius Hystaspes, for he had several sons before he became King, who disputed the succession with his sons by his second wife Atossa, the daughter of Cyrus, one of whom Darius Hystaspes appointed to succeed him, viz. Xerxes.12
There is another clue that tells us that Darius the Persian is Artaxerxes in Ezra, Nehemiah, and Xerxes in the Book of Esther. Herodotus tells us the circumstances under which Darius came to power with the help of his seven friends who became the Seven Noble Men and were the closest advisors of the King. This was the cabinet of Darius the Persian.
In the decree of Artaxerxes recorded in Ezra 7 we read in verse 14, “You are sent by the king and his seven advisors to inquire about Judah and Jerusalem...”
Likewise, we find the seven nobles in Esther:
And the next unto [Xerxes] was Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, which saw the king's face, and which sat the first in the kingdom... -- Esther 1:14
Despite the strong appearance that Darius, Artaxerxes, and Xerxes are all the same man, conventional chronologists may argue that the seven nobles of Darius became a permanent institution of Persian government. And that may be so.
Let us assume for a moment that Darius the Persian is Artaxerxes of Ezra and Nehemiah and Xerxes of Esther. Here is the time-line of his reign:
1st letter from the enemies of the Jews. Darius forbids them to build the walls of Jerusalem.
Darius spends the first two years putting down rebellion and securing his throne.
Zerrubabel re-starts building the Temple, and Tattenai writes a letter to Darius.
|2||Darius replies to Tattenai's letter with a decree to finish the Temple.|
Darius has a great six-month feast to celebrate peace in the Empire. Vashti deposed.
|3-6||Darius invades India and outs tribute on the Isles of the (Agean) Sea.|
|6||The Temple is completed in the last month of the year (Adar).|
|7||Ezra departs in the month of Nisan to beautify the Temple.|
|7||King completes virgin selection, Esther installed as the new Queen of Persia.|
|12||Haman's plot to destroy the Jews foiled. Jews pillage their enemies.|
|20||Darius and his Queen (Esther) send Nehemiah to finish the city and the walls.|
|32||Nehemiah returns to report to Darius that his project is complete.|
|32||Darius sends Nehemiah back to Jerusalem to finish his life there.|
|36||Secular sources -- Darius dies.|
Darius spent the first two years of his reign putting down rebellions and consolidating his power. Thus is it not surprising that the enemies of the Jews portrayed Jerusalem as a rebellious city. Darius said, no to the wall, but did not forbid the building of the Temple. When the governor of Trans-Euphrates wrote back for clarification about the Temple, Darius issued the decree to build it.
Notice that this chronology shows how the plot of Haman occurred in the interval between the rebuilding of the Temple and the construction of the Wall of Jerusalem. Haman attacked the Jews right at the most vulnerable time of their re-establishment in the Land. By waiting until after the most holy articles had been returned to the Temple but before the wall was built, Haman's decree13 would have given the enemies of the Jews the opportunity to sack and burn the newly rebuilt temple, and loot the sacred vessels that had been preserved from the ancient days of the Tabernacle. Since Darius was favorable to the Jews at the beginning of his reign, Haman must have gradually poisoned the heart of the King against the Jews.
Does this historical revision comport with secular chronology? If we trust the Bible, and if my assumptions here are correct, we should find that the 32 nd year of Darius the Persian was the 49 th year from the Decree of Cyrus.
Now we have to turn to secular sources, not to bridge any gap, but to see if my hypothesis that the last recorded date in Nehemiah is the end of the first “seven weeks” is supported externally.
According to Ptolemy's Cannon the reigns of the three kings mentioned in Ezra 4:5 are as follows:
|Darius the Persian||36|
If Nehemiah returned to Susa in the 32 nd year of Darius then it was the 9+8+32 = 49 th year from the decree of Cyrus to restore Jerusalem14! Nehemiah returned to tell the King Darius and Queen Esther that the work of the first Jubilee15 of Daniel's prophecy were complete. His reward was to be granted retirement in Jerusalem.
Thus is appears the most consistent interpretation of Ezra and Nehemiah is that Artaxerxes, Xerxes and Darius the Persian are all throne names refering to the same man, whom who know from Greek history as Darius Hystaspes.
The Final Proof
This is all very convenient, but as I will now show, the text of Nehemiah requires us to identify Darius the Persian as the King in power during the career of Nehemiah.
The Levites in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, and Johanan, and Jaddua, were recorded chief of the fathers: also the priests, to the reign of Darius the Persian. — Nehemiah 12:22
The NIV translates the same verse, “The family heads of the Levites in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan and Jaddua, as well as those of the priests, were recorded in the reign of Darius the Persian.”
We have some men listed who were contemporary with Darius the Persian in whose time the family heads were recorded. These men, it turns out, are four generations of the family of the high priesthood:
And Jeshua begat Joiakim, Joiakim also begat Eliashib, and Eliashib begat Joiada, and Joiada begat Jonathan, and Jonathan begat Jaddua. — Nehemiah 12:10-11
Jeshua was the high priest in the generation that returned under Cyrus. He appears to have been a survivor of the exile, so he was over eighty years old when he returned in the first year of Cyrus. The men listed in the two verses above are his descendants through the fifth generation. Verse 12:22 just told us that these men, through Jaddua, were alive before or during the reign of Darius the Persian.
In chapter 13 we learn that the middle generation, Eliashib the High Priest, was in office when Nehemiah returned to the King in the 32 nd year.
And before this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, was allied unto Tobiah... — Nehemiah 13:4a
But in all this time was not I at Jerusalem: for in the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon came I unto the king, and after certain days obtained I leave of the king... — Nehemiah 13:6-7a
And one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was son in law to Sanballat the Horonite: therefore I chased him from me.— Nehemiah 13:28
From these three verses we can see that even if the Eliashib of verse 13:4 was not the high priest, the Eliashib of verse 13:28 is clearly the same high priest and father of Joiada as the Eliashib of verse 12:10.
Since the family heads of the priests were recorded in the days of Darius the Persian, which were the days of Eliashib and his son and grandson, and since Eliashib was still high priest when Nehemiah returned to Jersualem the second time, we must conclude that Nehemiah returned to “Artaxerxes, King of Babylon” in the 32 nd year of Darius the Persian. This means that Darius the Persian is Artaxerxes of Nehemiah and the latter part of Ezra.
Anstey, Bullinger, Newton, Newton and others have argued against the reliability of Ptolemy's Cannon. The Arundelian Marble (“Parian Marble”), carved shortly after Alexander the Great, lists far fewer Persian kings than Ptolemy. Furthermore, the list of Persian kings in Daniel's final vision only lists five Persian kings – Xerxes, son of Darius, being the last mentioned.
The objection that is most difficult for me is the testimony of three lunar eclipses that seem to verify the conventional chronology for Nebuchadnezzar and Cambyses. However, I see three possible answers to this objection.
First, lunar eclipses alone are an inaccurate way to try to pin down ancient historical events. The reason is that the Saros cycle of the moon causes eclipses to repeat every 18 years generally, every 54 years at the same longitude for the observer on Earth, and every 345 years under almost perfectly exact circumstances. The same eclipse will repeat for centuries before being replaced by another one. Likewise with a cluster of eclipses.
These cycles had been discovered and named by Babylonian astronomers no later than the Seleucid period. Both Hipparchus and Ptolemy were aware of them, to the degree that Ptolemy says that Hipparchus was able to compare the lunar eclipses of his era with those recorded by Babylonian astronomers 345 years earlier16 .
Whenever you encounter a historical date that was supposedly “astronomically verified” by a lunar eclipse alone be skeptical. Due to their repetitive nature, eclipses can be used to verify whatever chronological scheme a person desires to prove.
The only way to pin down an ancient date with absolute certainty is if the positions of several planets are precisely recorded along with the position of the moon or the date – something of extreme rarity in ancient records.
It is quite possible that the same eclipse data cited by Ptolemy will match the shortened chronology indicated here by the Holy Scriptures.
A second possibility is that Ptolemy fabricated the eclipse data by back-calculating using his lunar model to make his chronology seem unquestionable. Newton and others have suggested this kind of fraud on Ptolemy's part17 .
However, I think there is a third, and most likely possibility that does not require us to accuse any man of deliberate deception. Eratosthenes of Cyrene (276 B.C – 194 B.C.), librarian of the Great Library of Alexandria, created a historical chronology in which he interpolated year dates by estimating the number of generations to a given historical character in the past. He erroneously18 assumed that the average generation was forty years19 20 . If this was the case, then he might very easily have doubled the length of Greek history, because generation lengths can be highly variable and the historical average is closer to twenty-five years. Since the Persian Wars were a crucial part of the formative stage of Greek history, he naturally would have fit the Persian kings into his chronological system.
Velikovsky goes further and makes a strong case that Eratosthenes deliberately extended Greek history to make his nation appear more ancient compared to the stretched chronologies of Berossus and Manetho21 .
We know from astronomical diaries found from the third and fourth centuries before Christ that Babylonian astronomers calculated lunar eclipse dates that sometimes were not observed. This happened because their calculations were not precise enough to predict in which area of the Earth the eclipse would be visible.
A couple of generations after Eratosthenes lived Hipparchus (190 B.C. - 120 B.C.), the greatest astronomer of Greek history. It is entirely possible that Hipparchus or one of his students calculated a table of lunar eclipses several centuries into the past and then overlaid them on the chronology of Eratosthenes. By the time these records reached Ptolemy through the Great Library of Alexandria in the second century after Christ's Advent, they may very well have appeared to be a collection of observed eclipses, when they were in reality only a lunar ephemeride table that had been overlaid on Eratosthenes' chronology. (Any ephemeride table would have to be overlaid on a chronological scheme in order to have any meaning. Since the historical reference points for chronology have always been the reigns of kings, it would be natural to use a king list as the matrix for an ephemeride.)
In this scenario, Ptolemy back-calculated lunar eclipses using his own model and found his predicted eclipses matched the “observed” eclipses from antiquity. It is quite possible that he had merely duplicated the lunar calculations of Hipparchus using a different coordinate framework (geocentric vs. heliocentric). Furthermore, this would mean that most of the eclipses dated to certain regnal years in Ptolemy were never observed at all. They were calculated eclipses by either Hipparchus or Ptolemy or one of their contemporaries.
Astronomers since 1970 use NASA's most advanced lunar mathematics to back-calculate eclipses and their calculations showed that some of the “recorded” eclipses in Ptolemy's Cannon could not have been observed because they were not visible from the region of Babylon22 . This strongly suggests that some or all of the “ancient eclipse records” in Ptolemy were calculated eclipses, not real observations.
We should start with the Scripture and then test Ptolemy's eclipse data against it. If Ptolemy is wrong, it would not be the first ancient secular source to disagree with the Scriptures.
I also note that my suggested chronological revision does no damage to Dr. Jones' chronology from Solomon to Cyrus. The entire ancient system shifts as one piece with the date of the accession of Cyrus.
There is one possible objection from the Bible text. Ezra 6:14 says, “They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia.”
It appears that since there were three decrees the Bible uses the three signatures on the decrees here. So if Darius assumed the title “Artaxerxes” between his sixth and seventh year, we would expect his decree sent with Ezra to be signed “Artaxerxes”. Likewise, Esther, written after the 12 th year of Darius would refer to him as Xerxes or Artaxerxes. Another possibility is that the Author of the Bible conferred the title Artaxerxes (Great King) on Darius as soon as he completed God's Temple.
Jones rejects this argument on the weight of a vaw translated as “and” intead of “even”. It seems a flimsy argument to make such a determination on the weight of a “vaw” that could be translated either way.
The Great Jubilee
To the Hebrew mind, the seventy weeks of seven years would immediately call to mind the sabbath years instituted by Moses. Furthermore, the completion of the Temple and the city after “seven sevens” would bring to mind the both the 49 year Jubilee and the 49 days of the barley harvest feast from First Fruits to Pentecost. The seventy weeks of sevens, would total ten Jubilees in length. Thus the coming of the Messiah at the conclusion of seventy sevens would be a “super-Pentecost” of sorts. Indeed it was!
Christ preached that the fields were ripe for harvest during the first summer of His ministry. Given that the grain harvest was normally finished by Pentecost, this suggests that his first year of ministry fell during either a Sabbath or a Jubilee year when the fields were left fallow and unharvested. Shortly thereafter he read the passage about the freedom for the captives in the synagogue. This passage was strongly associated with the Jubilee as opposed to the Sabbath year. (Slaves were freed in the seventh year of their servitude, not in the Sabbath year. But in the Jubilee, the slaves were set free early.)
I have here proposed that the first seven of Daniel's “sevens” were the forty-nine years from the Decree of Cyrus until Nehemiah's triumphant return to king Artaxerxes (Darius Hystapses) in the 32 nd year. This suggests that the Jubilee count was reset with the re-entry of Israel into the land under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua. This would make sense because the Sabbaths and Jubilees were specifically commanded for the Israelites to follow when they were in possession of the Land. Zerubbabel and Jeshua were a new Moses and Joshua, leading the people into the Holy Land, and when they took possession the Sabbath and Jubilee count were restarted.
It is also possible that the new Sabbath and Jubilee count perfectly intermeshed with the former one begun under Joshua's first conquest. However, the Moses-to-Nebuchadnezzar chronologies of Ussher, Jones and Anstey do not support this. They may all be wrong – they certainly don't agree with each other, so at least two of them are wrong. A full examination of this possibility is outside the scope of this paper.
Christ's crucifixion at his fourth Passover was exactly one Jubilee after Herod's rebuilding of the Temple was initiated. At His first Passover, the Jews said they had been 46 years in building the Temple. Three years later, He was crucified at Passover. This was not the end of the seventy weeks, as the Messiah came at the beginning of the last “week” (seven years) and was crucified in the middle of the last week. However, it is notable that the city and temple were built in 49 years at the beginning of the ten Jubilees to Messiah; and then the Temple was beautified for the last 49 years prior to Christ being offered as the Lamb of God.
The text of Daniel 9 appears to state that Jerusalem would be rebuilt during the first seven weeks of the 70 week prophecy. The Scripture text in Nehemiah requires us to identify Darius the Persian as the king in power when Nehemiah finished his mission to rebuild Jerusalem. If Nehemiah finished his job in the 32nd year of Darius the Persian, we find that was the 49th year from the decree of Cyrus to restore Jerusalem and the Temple. This forces us to conclude that Ptolemy's Cannon is in error by 82 years in the era of the Persian Empire and the Decree of Cyrus was in the year 457 B.C.
Nolan Jones, The Chronology of the Old Testament, Master Books,
2005, Appendices A & M, pp. 267-272, 300-308
2 Flavius Josephus, The Jewish Wars, II, 8
3 Acts 5:33-38
4 However, the Crucifixion or the Birth of Christ are alternative candidates that have been advocated by various scholars such as Jones and Anstey.
5 W. Hoeher, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, pp. 29-37
6 John Keyser, The Mysterious Events of the Year 31 A.D., Hope of Israel Ministries, http://www.hope-of-israel.org/31ad.html
7 John Keyser, What Year Was Yeshua the Messiah Nailed to the Tree?, Hope of Israel Ministries, http://www.hope-of-israel.org/crucifixion_year.htm
8 Ernest L. Martin, The Star that Astonished the World, ASK Publications, 1996, Appendix 4, pp. 252-253
9 Nehemiah 2:1, 5:14
10 Ezra 1:8, 1:11, 5:14, 5:16
11 James Jordan, Biblical Chronology Newsletter, 3/04, "The Chronology of Ezra & Nehemiah (III)," April 1991, www.biblicalhorizons.com
12 Martin Anstey, The Romance of Biblical Chronology, Marshall Brothers, Ltd., London, Edinburgh and New York. 1913.
13 The Decree of King Darius made at the request of Haman
14 Anstey calculated this as 46 years, but failed to explain how he arrived at this: "Nehemiah was only 46 years older than he was when he came to Jerusalem with Zerubabel in the 1st year of Cyrus." Could Anstey's 46 be a typo for 49?
15 One Jubilee is 49 years or "seven weeks of years".
16 Claudius Ptolemy, Almagest IV.2; [A. Jones, 2001]
17 Robert R. Newton, "The Crime of Claudius Ptolemy," Scientific American, October 1977, pp. 79-81
18 In Biblical symbolism, 40 years is one generation, based on the 40 years of Israelites wandering in the desert. Furthermore, Jesus was 100 generations from Adam, a period of about 4000 years, or 40 years per generation. However, the long-lived pre and post-flood patriarches who did not have first children until they were over fifty, significantly skew the average upward. From David to Christ the average generation was closer to 35 years. In the general population the average generation is closer to 25 years.
19 Anstey "Eratosthenes (b. B.C. 276) has been called the 'Father of Chronology,' and it is worth noting that his method was the method of conjecture, not the method of testimony. He was a native of Cyrene, a man of letters under the Ptolemies of Egypt, and keeper of the famous library at Alexandria in the reign of Ptolemy IV. Euergetes (B.C. 246-221). He discovered the obliquity of the ecliptic, and wrote some important works on mathematical geography and on the constellations. He made the first scientific measurement of the earth, but his result was one sixth too large. He made the parallel of Rhodes, in ancient astronomy what the meridian of Greenwich is to us. His Chronographia is an exact scheme of general chronology. He wrote about 100 years after Alexander the Great, and arrived at his chronological conclusions by reckoning about 30 or 40 years to each generation or succession of Kings, Ephors or Priestesses, and thus greatly exaggerated the antiquity of the events of Greek history."
20 A. R. Burn, "Dates in Early Greek History," The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 55, Part 2 (1935), pp. 130-146, doi:10.2307/627366
21 Immanuel Velikovsky, The Dark Age of Greece, Competing for a Greater Antiquity, 1983, http://www.varchive.org/dag/cogrant.htm
22 Robert R. Newton, "The Crime of Claudius Ptolemy," Scientific American, October 1977, pp. 79-81
More articles by Kenneth Griffith may be found at http://www.toledoth.net.
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