[b-hebrew] Dates of Ezra and Nehemiah

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Sun Sep 17 23:11:48 EDT 2006

Dear Shosanna,

The traditional dates for the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II and of his 
destruction of the temple in Jerusalem (587-86) are based on astronomical 
dating, that is, on the interpretation of cuneiform tablets with positions 
of the moon and the stars in particular years of particular kings. There are 
about 220 datable astronomical diaries between the first century and the 
seventh century B.C.E. On the basis of these, we can say that there is no 
possibility that the date for the destruction of the temple can be two 
hundred years off  (422-21) compared with the traditional dating (587-86).

However, science is not as scientific as scientists like to portray it. As a 
matter of fact, before a single cuneiform tablet was unearthed, the New 
Babylonian Empire was chronologically fixed on the basis of the king list of 
the astronomer Claudius Ptolemy (2nd century C.E.), and the newly found 
cuneiform tablets were interpreted in the light of this chronology. On this 
background, the publishing of the astronomical diary VAT 4956 in 1915 was 
heartily welcomed, since it contains about forty observations of the moon 
and the planets connected with Nebuchadnezzar´s thirtyseventh year. Now the 
date of the destruction of the temple could be established once and for all. 
After this, a few other astronomical tablets that have a bearing on the New 
Babylonian chronology, have been published, and these are taken as 
additional proofs in favor of the traditional chronology.

Two important weaknesses of modern science dealing with ancient history and 
chronology are the belief in the authority of the "big names" and in the 
tendency to minimize and explain away data that contradict the traditional 
view. I have for the past two years carefully studied the monuments and 
stelae ascribed to the New Babylonian kings, chronicles dealing with their 
reigns, dated business documents from their reigns, and the mentioned 
astronomical diaries. My conclusion is that the New Babylonian chronology is 
in need of a revision. There are about fifty dated business tablets that 
contradict the traditional chronology in addition to many other data that 
suggest that the traditional chronology is too short. Ancient chronology 
cannot be proven, but in my view a strong case can be made for a 
prolongation of the New Babylonian Empire by twenty years (a new 
interpretation of VAT 4956 corroborates this). This means that the first 
year of Nebuchadnezzar II was 625 and not 605 B.C.E.. Interestingly, the 
last thirty years of the New Assyrian Empire is a complete mess, as far as a 
meaningful chronology is concerned. I will soon publish a book where all 
these data will be presented and discussed.

The answer to your question is that a date in the fifth century for the 
destruction of the temple is impossible, but the traditional chronology 
should be adjusted somewhat.

Best regards,

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Shoshanna Walker" <rosewalk at concentric.net>
To: "b-hebrew" <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Monday, September 18, 2006 2:58 AM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Dates of Ezra and Nehemiah

> As I recall, the whole basis of discrediting Rashi, and the counting
> of events from the year of creation, is that first Temple was
> destroyed - according to secular sources - in 586 BC, while Seder
> Olam, and Rashi, says it was 422 BC (as computed from the time of
> creation of the world) - and my question, is - what are the sources
> for saying that it was 586 BC??  Who had better records than
> Chazal????
> Shoshanna
> On 9/17/06, Shoshanna Walker wrote, quoting me:
>> > Belief in prophecy is not a condition for reconstructing history,
>>much less so
>> > when the text involved (Daniel) is a complex prophecy that is not
>>clear on what
>> > it refers to.
>> It is very clear when you agree that Chazal made it their business to
>> know our history and record it in writing.
> It is not a matter of agreement.  I offered evidence, that R' Yose's 
> dating
> scheme for the Persian period was erroneous.  In fact, I think most
> Orthodox Jews (I don't know about Haredi Jewry), would accept that R'
> Yose may have been in error.  Similarly, most would accept that the
> traditional interpretation of Daniel which is based / related to R' Yose's
> dating scheme may be similarly wrong.  In any case, even though I
> offered evidence his dating scheme was erroneous based on documents
> that were written (not simply copied or passed down orally) during the
> times "events really happened", you have not countered this evidence.
> You don't have to, but it makes no sense to then criticize me a week
> afterwards for not "agreeing" that HZ"L made it their business to know
> our history.
> The very fact that you claim to need HZ"L to interpret the text means that 
> the
> text itself is not straightforward and simple, but complex.  The HZ"L
> traditions
> may be one way to interpret the text, and may even offer several competing
> ways to interpret the text, as is Christian tradition, and as is reviewing 
> the
> text itself to see what it means based on the merits of the text
> itself.  In fact,
> I view the exact dating independently of the events so that I do not
> necessarily
> believe that the exact dating of the years corresponds to actual events. 
> They
> may or they may not, and this itself has to be judged, in my opinion, on 
> the
> merits of the text itself.
> Yitzhak Sapir
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