[b-hebrew] Dates of Ezra and Nehemiah

Peter Kirk peter at qaya.org
Mon Sep 18 05:51:15 EDT 2006

On 18/09/2006 04:12, Yitzhak Sapir wrote:
> ...
> I skimmed through the article.  Unfortunately, it makes various
> assumptions that make it hard for me to accept the work as a work that
> investigates all possibilities.   He doesn't investigate a 364-day calendar
> for Ezekiel.  This isn't a big issue, especially because I think a 364-day
> calendar fails miserably.  But there is an important theory that involves
> calendarical calculations in the post-exilic period and it is important to
> explore this possibility when one claims to explore all possibilities.
> Furthermore, he assumes that months were counted from Nisan even if
> the year begins in Tishri (p. 27).  This is an unproven and even unlikely
> assumption. ...

No, he doesn't assume this, he discusses the issue in great detail in 
his other paper.

> ... Also, he assumes that he can use the Babylonian Talmud
> for dating, when, as you can see from the discussion with Shoshanna,
> the Babylonian Talmud had different ideas from him about when to date
> Josiah.  It is therefore problematic for him to use this data.  The very
> least, there should be a discussion on the validity of the data, in view
> of the Talmud's dating scheme, and in view of the specific arguments
> where the data is found.  For example, he uses two pieces of data from
> different places in the Talmud regarding the Jubilee cycle.  How do these
> pieces of data relate to each other?  Are they independent?  Are they
> both brought in or related to one side of an argument?  Are they related
> to different sides of the same argument on some halachic issue?  You
> can't just pick up sentences from the Talmud like that.  A case in point
> is b. Meg 14b.  It doesn't say that the 18th year of Josiah was a Jubilee
> year.  It says the Jubilee year began to be counted again during this
> year.  This is based on the consideration that the Jubilee should have
> stopped being observed in Hezekiah's time when the Northern Israelite
> tribes were exiled, and the Talmud interprets Lev 25:10 "to all its
> citizens" to mean that if all the citizens are not present (in exile), the
> Jubilee is not observed.  The Talmud figures from Ezek 7:13 that the
> Jubilee is in force when Ezek prophecies because Ezekiel won't prophecy
> that the Jubilee will stop unless it was in force.  Jerusalem has not yet
> been destroyed so that exile wasn't affecting the Jubilee observance.  So
> when did it start being observed again?  In Josiah's 18th year, because in
> that year, Josiah goes to Huldah, and it wouldn't be honorable to Jeremiah
> (an elder prophet) to go to Huldah unless Jeremiah wasn't around.  So
> obviously Jeremiah must have gone to bring the 10 tribes back from exile.
> There is a competing explanation that Jeremiah was around but as Huldah
> was Jeremiah's relative and Huldah was, being a woman, more
> compassionate, Josiah went to Huldah to attempt a more compassionate
> prophecy.  None of this says that Josiah's 18th year was a Jubilee year --
> just that it was a year when the Jubilee started being counted again.
> Perhaps they started counting from the point they left off in Hezekiah's
> time, or perhaps they counted as if Jubilees were still counted all this time,
> just from now the Jubilee was in force again.  All of this is one side to an
> argument, and it is inconsistent with viewing Ezek 40:1's 25th year as a
> jubilee year because the 25th year was 14 years after the city was
> destroyed, and according to this argument, once the city is destroyed the
> Jubilee won't be in force because the exile begins.  The argument's reading
> of the Talmud is therefore problematic to say the list.
> And if we mentioned Ezek 40:1, just how did this guy get the word "ahar"
> (p. 26, top)?  I mean, doesn't he have a bible that he can type it in properly?
> I'm not sure which is more problematic: This, or misusing the Talmud.
A typo, very likely not the author's fault but the typesetters'. If this 
problem is a bigger one than "misusing the Talmud", the latter must be 
extremely trivial!

I have discussed these issues with Rodger Young. I'm sure he would be 
interested in your comments on use of the Talmud. He says a little more 
about this in his other paper, p.600. I can let you have his e-mail 
address privately if you would like it.
>> So, could the 20th year of Nehemiah 1:1 also refer to a jubilee cycle?
> But Neh 2:1 refers to Artaxerxes' 20th year.  The straightforward reading is
> that it refers also to Artaxerxes' 20th year. ...

Indeed, as I wrote:
> But this reconstruction does require an emendation to Nehemiah 2:1. And 
> it does require that jubilee cycles were still being recognised in this 
> post-exilic period.
Please don't quote my own points back at me as arguments against me.

> ... A jubilee year reading is really
> very forced.
>> Young's date for the next jubilee cycle is 574, the next would be 525,
>> then 476.
> And Young also mentions that Ezek 40:1's jubilee year is the last.  Not
> that it matters much given Young's misuse of the Talmud, but now you
> are misusing Young.
No, Young understands (misuses?) the Talmud as saying that the Ezekiel 
40:1 jubilee year was the last. I have discussed with Young the 
possibility of later jubilees, and from memory he thinks they were 
celebrated but the cycle was restarted after the exile from a different 
starting point. But I forget his evidence for this, which was not 
convincing. I think he suggested that Jesus was announcing a jubilee 
year in Luke 4:18-19.

Young differs from you in not considering the Talmud to be infallible, 
but to understand it as preserving some useful information, such as that 
Ezekiel 40:1 was a jubilee year (which by the way contradicts your 
interpretation of the Talmud as denying the possibility of jubilee years 
during the exile) while perhaps understanding points like this being the 
last jubilee as later interpretations - or perhaps because subsequent 
jubilees were not celebrated properly although they may still have been 
used for dating purposes.

Peter Kirk
E-mail:  peter at qaya.org
Blog:    http://speakertruth.blogspot.com/
Website: http://www.qaya.org/

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list