Revelation In Space: Bible Data:

Many people don't realize the far superior reliability of the Bible over secular history when it comes to dating, chronology and history itself. The first step is to make sure you are aware of cardinal and ordinal numbers and how they differ. Cardinal numbers (1, 2, 3, 10, 100, et cetera) have full value but with ordinal numbers (3rd, 5th, 22nd, etc.) you have to subtract 1. For example, the "18th year of Nebuchadnezzar" at Jeremiah 52:29 would actually be 17 full years and however many months, weeks or days elapsed from the end of the 17th year.

When considering the number of years from BCE to CE you have to keep in mind that from a date such as October 1, 1 BCE to October 1, 1 CE is only 1 year, rather than 2. They are ordinal numbers. So, from October 1, 2 BCE (about the time of Jesus' birth) to October 1 of 29 CE (about the time of his baptism) there is a total of 30 years. 1 full year plus 3 months in BCE and 28 full years plus 9 months in the CE.

Next, we would need to set a pivotal date that both Biblical and secular history can pretty much agree upon like 29 CE; the early months of 29 CE were in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar, named emperor by Roman Senate on September 15, 14 CE (Gregorian calendar) and the year that John the Baptizer started his preaching - six months later he baptized Jesus. (Luke 3:1-3; 3:21, 23; 1:36)

Or we could use 539 BCE when Cyrus the Persian overthrew Babylon. See Diodorus, Africanus, Eusebius, Ptolemy and the Babylonian tablets.

Cyrus gave the decree releasing the Jews from exile most likely in the winter of 538 BCE or spring of 537 BCE That would have given them enough time to make preparations and make the four-month journey to Jerusalem, arriving by the seventh month (Tishri - October 1) of 537 BCE. (Ezra 1:1-11; 2:64-70; 3:1)

Egyptian chronology is uniquely important because it is used in so much of ancient historical observation but also because at times Egyptian history meets with that of Israel. 1728 BCE Israel entered into Egypt and 215 years later the Exodus in 1513. Pharaoh Shishak's attack on Jerusalem took place during Rehoboam's fifth year in 993 BCE. King So of Egypt reigned about the same time as Hoshea, c. 758 - 740 BCE, and Pharaoh Necho's battle that resulted in Josiah's death was likely in 629 BCE. (1 Kings 14:25; 2 Kings 17:4; 2 Chronicles 35:20-24) Modern historians would differ from this as much as a century but narrow down to about 20 years by Necho's time.

The reason is that modern historians rely upon documents such as the Egyptian king lists and annals. The fragmentary Palermo Stone with the first five "dynasties," the Turin Papyrus which only gives fragmentary lists of kings and their reigns from the "Old Kingdom" into the "New Kingdom," and other fragmentary inscriptions. These and other independent inscriptions were coordinated in chronological order by Manetho, an Egyptian priest of the third century BCE. He divides the Egyptian monarchs into 30 dynasties which modern Egyptologists still use today. With astronomical calculations based upon Egyptian texts of lunar phases and the rising of the Sothis (Dog Star) a chronological table can be produced.

Manetho's work is preserved only through the writings of later historians such as Josephus, Sextus Julius Africanus, Eusebius and Syncellus. Third, fourth and late eighth to early ninth centuries CE. They are fragmentary and often distorted. His work is distorted not only through scribal errors and revisers but untenable from the start, consisting a great deal of legend and myth.

Part of the problem was that he listed princely lines from which later rulers over all Egypt sprang. Several Egyptian kings ruled at one time and the same time, so it was not necessarily a succession of kings on the throne one after the other but several reigning at the same time in different regions. The result is a great total number of years. So, when the Bible indicates 2370 BCE as the date of the deluge, Egyptian history must have begun after that date even though Egyptian chronology goes all the way back to the year 3000 BCE it actually doesn't.

Egyptologist Dr. Hans Goedicke of Johns Hopkins University has a nonsensical theory that the Biblical record of the events at the Red Sea and the Exodus coincided with a 1477 BCE volcanic eruption at Thera resulting in a tsunami or tidal wave that drowned the Egyptian forces, but his theory doesn't pay much attention to the Biblical account which mentions no wave.

The Hyksos period of Egyptian history warrants the same degree of caution and suspicion. Some believe that the Hyksos were a foreign people that gained control of Egypt and place Joseph's and then his family's entry into Egypt as being during that period of the Hyksos rulers, but only on the premise that it would have been more likely for a foreign ruler to have given a non-Egyptian the position of second ruler. That theory disagrees with the Bible. Potiphar the court official was an Egyptian and Joseph was surrounded by native Egyptians. (Genesis 39:1; Genesis 43:32)

Josephus, the source of the name Hyksos, accepted some connection between them and the Israelites but argued against many of the details found in Manetho's account. He (Josephus) preferred the term Hyksos as Captive Shepherds rather than Shepherd Kings.

Manetho presented the Hyksos as gaining control of Egypt without a battle and then destroying their cities and temples. Many years later the Egyptians supposedly rose up and fought a long and terrible war against them. Finally, an Egyptian force of 480,000 men besieged them at their chief city, Avaris, and then, oddly enough, an agreement was reached that allowed the Hyksos to leave the country unharmed. They went to Judea and built Jerusalem. Manetho adds to the account what Josephus labels a fictitious addition of a large group of 80,000 leprous and diseased persons being allowed to settle in Avaris after the shepherds had left. Those persons later revolted and called back the "shepherds" (Hyksos?) who destroyed the cities and villages etc. (Against Apion 1:14; 26; 28)

Though modern historians agree with the idea of a Hyksos conquest, they believe Josephus quotations to be inaccurate in associating the Hyksos with the Israelites. They can't find much information from ancient Egyptian sources to fill in the records of the "Thirteenth to the Seventeenth Dynasties." Since they can't find it, they assume that some disintegration of power occurred in the "Thirteenth and Fourteenth Dynasties" based upon not much information, Egyptian folklore, and conjecture they conclude that it was the "Fifteenth and Sixteenth Dynasties" that Egypt was under the domination of the Hyksos.

Some archaeologists depict the Hyksos as northern hordes sweeping through Palestine and Egypt with swift chariots. Others present them moving as a creeping conquest, a gradual infiltration of migrating nomads or semi nomads who slowly took control or as a swift coup d'etat. In The World of the Past, 1963, p. 444 archaeologist Jaquetta Hawkes says: "It is no longer thought that the Hyksos rulers . . . represent the invasion of a conquering horde of Asiatics. The name seems to mean Rulers of the Uplands, and they were wandering groups of Semites who had long come to Egypt for trade and other peaceful purposes."

If that were true how would these wandering groups have gained control of Egypt in the "Twelfth Dynasty" which was about the time of Egypt's peek of power. It would seem to indicate a considerable amount of confusion on the parts of not only ancient Egyptian history but modern interpreters as well. No validity of the Hyksos Period can be achieved.

Another point of consideration is the fact that Egypt, like many Near Eastern lands, was heavily linked with the priesthood and the scribes were well trained under their tutelage leaving the very possible fact that propagandistic explanations were invented to account for the Egyptian gods to deal with Jehovah and the exodus. If the Exodus account can be questioned it is only because the Pharaohs of Egypt didn't make any record of it. That is not unusual. They tended to record only their victories and not their defeats and they tried to erase anything historical that was contrary to their nationalistic image or ideology. Thutmose III, for example, chiseled away inscriptions made of Queen Hatshepsut on a stone monumental record found at Deir al-Bahri in Egypt.

Manetho hated the Jews and Josephus quotes Manetho as saying that the ancestors of the Jews "entered Egypt in their myriads and subdued the inhabitants," Josephus said that Manetho "goes on to admit that they were afterwards driven out of the country, occupied what is now Judaea, founded Jerusalem, and built the temple." (Against Apion 1:26).

Though Manetho's account is regarded as unhistorical the fact remains that he mentions them as being in Egypt, going out and in other writings identifies Moses with Osarsiph, an Egyptian priest. Josephus also mentions two other Egyptian historians; Chaeremon, and Lysimachus who said that Joseph and Moses were driven out of Egypt at the same time. (Against Apion 1:26; 32; 33; 34)

Jeroboam fled to Egypt to escape Solomon when Shishak ruled (1 Kings 11:40). Later, in the fifth year of Solomon's successor Rehoboam's reign (933 BCE) Shishak invaded Judah but didn't bring Jerusalem to ruin. (2 Chronicles 12:1-12) Archaeological evidence of Shishak's invading the area of Palestine was found on a fragment of stele at Megiddo and mentions Sheshonk as a victory of his. (Ancient Near Eastern Texts, edited by J. Pritchard, 1974, pp. 263, 264) A relief on a temple wall at Karnak, the north part of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes, lists numerous cities and villages that Shishak conquered. (Supplements to Vetus Testamentum, Leiden, 1957, Vol. IV, pp. 59-60) It is likely that his campaign was not so much to assist the ten-tribe kingdom but to gain control of the trade routes located in the territory of that kingdom, thus extending Egypt's power and influence.

Necho was a pharaoh of Egypt, who, according to Herodotus (II, 158, 159; IV, 42) was the son of Psammetichus (Psammetichos, Psamtik I) and succeeded his father as ruler of Egypt. He began construction on a canal linking the Nile with the Red Sea but didn't complete the project, though he did send a Phoenician fleet on a voyage around Africa in three years.

At the close of Josiah's 31-year reign (659 - 629 BCE) he was on his way to help the Assyrians at the river Euphrates. Josiah disregarded "the words of Necho from the mouth of God" and was killed while attempting to turn the Egyptians back at Megiddo. Three months later Necho took Jehoahaz, Josiah's successor, captive and made 25-year-old Eliakim his vassal, changing his name to Jehoiakim. He (Necho) also put a heavy fine on Judah. (2 Chronicles 35:20-36:4; 2 Kings 23:29-35) About 3 or 4 years later Necho's forces were defeated at Charchemish at the hands of the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar. (Jeremiah 46:2)

The history of Babylon enters the Biblical chronology from Nebuchadnezzar II. His father, Nabapolassar marked the beginning of the Neo-Babylonian Empire which ended with Nabonidus and his son Belshazzar when Cyrus overthrew Babylon. Thus enters the destruction of Jerusalem and the 70-year exile.

Jeremiah 52:28 says that it was in the seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar (Nebuchanrezzar) when the first Jewish exiles were taken to Babylon. A cuneiform inscription of the Babylonian Chronicle (British Museum 21946) says: "The seventh year: In the month Kislev the king of Akkad mustered his army and marched to Hattu. He encamped against the city of Judah and on the second day of the month Adar he captured the city (and) seized (its) king [Jehoiachin]. A king of his own choice [Zedekiah] he appointed in the city (and) taking the vast tribute he brought it into Babylon." (Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles, by A. K. Grayson, 1975, p. 102; compare 2 Kings 24:1-17; 2 Chronicles 36:5-10) For the final 32 years of Nebuchadnezzar's reign there is no historical records of the chronicle except a fragmentary inscription of a campaign against Egypt in his 37th year.

Tablets dated up to the second year of the rule of Awil-Marduk (Evil-Merodach 2 Kings 25:27-28) have been found. Neriglissar is thought to have been his successor and there are tablets dated to his fourth year.

Astronomical information for the seventh year of Cambyses II son of Cyrus II says: "Year 7, Tammuz, night of the 14th, 1 2⁄3 double hours [three hours and twenty minutes] after night came, a lunar eclipse; visible in its full course; it reached over the northern half disc [of the moon]. Tebet, night of the 14th, two and a half double hours [five hours] at night before morning [in the latter part of the night], the disc of the moon was eclipsed; the whole course visible; over the southern and northern part the eclipse reached." (Inschriften von Cambyses, König von Babylon, by J. N. Strassmaier, Leipzig, 1890, No. 400, lines 45-48; Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel, by F. X. Kugler, Münster, 1907, Vol. I, pp. 70, 71)

Those two lunar eclipses can be identified as those that were visible at Babylon on July 16, 523 BCE and January 10, 522 BCE. (Oppolzer's Canon of Eclipses, translated by O. Gingerich, 1962, p. 335) This with the tablet puts the seventh year of Cambyses II as starting with the spring of 523 BCE. Which means his first year of rule was 529 BCE and his accession year, also the last year of Cyrus II of Babylon would have been 530 BCE. The last tablet of the reign of Cyrus II is dated from the fifth month, 23rd day of his ninth year. (Babylonian Chronology, 626 BC - AD 75, by R. Parker and W. Dubberstein, 1971, p. 14) Since the ninth year of Cyrus II was 530 his first year would have been 538 BCE and accession year 539.

According to the Book of Daniel the last ruler in Babylon before it fell to the Persians was Belshazzar. (Daniel 5:1-30) Since there was no mention of Belshazzar outside the Bible his very existence was in doubt, but in the 19th century there was found several small cylinders inscribed in cuneiform in southern Iraq. A prayer to the health of Nabonidus, king of Babylon's eldest son - Belshazzar. Nabonidus was the first king, his son Belshazzar was second and at Daniel 5:16 Belshazzar himself offered to make Daniel the third.

The Importance of the Death of Herod to Dating Christ
Josephus said of Herod's painful death: "an intolerable itching of the whole skin, continuous pains in the intestines, tumors in the feet as in dropsy, inflammation of the abdomen and gangrene of the privy parts, engendering worms, in addition to asthma, with great difficulty in breathing, and convulsions in all his limbs." (Jewish Wars 1:656)

The problem with the dating of his death when considering Bible chronology is that some put it in the year 5 or 4 BCE based primarily upon Josephus' history. In dating Herod's being appointed as king by Rome Josephus uses a consular dating, which is a location of events occurring during the rule of certain Roman consuls. According to this method Herod was appointed as king in 40 BCE, but another historian - Appian - set the event in 39 BCE.

Josephus places Herod's capture of Jerusalem at 37 BCE but he also says that this occurred 27 years after the capture of the city by Pompey which was in 63 BCE (Jewish Antiquities 14:487) So in that case the date of Herod taking the city of Jerusalem would be 36 BCE so 37 years from the time that he was appointed king by the Romans and 34 years after he took Jerusalem (Jewish Antiquities 17:188) would indicate the date of his death as 2 or 1 BCE.

It might be that Josephus counted the reigns of the kings of Judea by the accession year method which was used in the case with the kings of the line of David.

If Herod was appointed king in 40 BCE his first regnal year would probably begin at Nisan 39 to Nisan 38 BCE. If counted from the capture of Jerusalem in 37 or 36 BCE his first regnal year would have started in Nisan 36 or 35 BCE. So, if Herod died 37 years after his appointment by Rome and 34 years after his capture of Jerusalem and those years are counted both according to his regnal year his death would have been 1 BCE.

In The Journal of Theological Studies (Edited by H. Chadwick and H. Sparks, Oxford, 1966, Vol. XVII, p. 284), W. E. Filmer indicates that Jewish tradition says that Herod's death occurred on Shevat (January - February) 2.

Josephus stated that Herod died not long after an eclipse of the moon and before a Passover (Jewish Antiquities 17:164). There was a partial eclipse on March 11, 4 BCE (March 13, Julian) and so some conclude that this was the eclipse mentioned by Josephus, but there was a total eclipse of the moon in 1 BCE about three months before Passover on January 8 (January 10, Julian) 18 days before Shevat 2 the traditional day of Herod's death.

There was also another partial eclipse on December 27 (December 29, Julian).

Most scholars date Herod's death as 4 BCE citing the March 11 eclipse as proof and so place the birth of Jesus as early as 5 BCE, but that eclipse was only 36 percent magnitude and early in the morning. The other two taking place in 1 BCE would both fit the requirement of having taken place not long before Passover. The one of December 27 would have been observable in Jerusalem but not as a conspicuous event. Oppolzer's Canon of Eclipses (p. 343), says the moon was passing out of the earth's shadow as twilight fell in Jerusalem so by the time it was dark the moon was shining full. That particular one isn't included in the Manfred Kudlek and Erich Mickler listing. I personally think you can rule that one out because it is uncertain that it was visible in Jerusalem.

The January 8, 1 BCE was a total eclipse where the moon was blacked out for 1 hour and 41 minutes and would have been noticed. (Solar and Lunar Eclipses of the Ancient Near East From 3000 BC to 0 With Maps, by M. Kudlek and E. H. Mickler; Neukirchen-Vluyn, Germany; 1971, Vol. I, p. 156.)

Also, the calculation of Herod's age at the time of death is thought to be about 70, according to Josephus and he received his appointment as governor of Galilee (generally dated 47 BCE) when he was 15, though scholars think that to be an error that should read 25. Though Josephus has many inconsistencies in his dating of events and not the most reliable source. The most reliable source is the Bible itself.

The evidence is pretty clear that Herod likely died in the year 1 BCE as Luke says that John began baptizing in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar. (Luke 3:1-3) Augustus died on August 17, 14 CE. On September 15, Tiberius was named emperor by the Roman Senate. They (the Romans) didn't use the accession year method so the 15th year would have run from the latter part of 28 CE to the latter part of 29 CE.

John was six months older than Jesus and began his ministry in the spring of that year (Luke 1:35-36) Jesus was born in the fall of the year and was about 30 years old when he came to John to be baptized (Luke 3:21-23) putting his baptism in the fall - about October of 29 CE. Counting back about 30 years would put us at the fall of 2 BCE, the birth of Jesus. Daniel's prophecy of "70 weeks" points to the same time (Daniel 9:24-27) From the year 455 BCE when King Artaxerxes of Persia, in the 20th year of his rule, in the month of Nisan, gave the order to rebuild the wall of the city of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:1-8) to 29 CE when Jesus was baptized was 69 weeks or 483 years.

Skeptics of the Bible often question the dating of accurate Bible chronology regarding Jesus' birth based upon the incorrect notion that there was only one census taken while Publius Sulpicius Quirinius was governor of Syria, at about 6 CE. The one that sparked a rebellion by Judas the Galilean and the Zealots. (Acts 5:37) That was the second, actually. Inscriptions found at and near Antioch reveals that some years earlier Quirinius served as the emperor's legate in Syria. As the Dictionnaire du Nouveau Testament in Crampon's French Bible (1939 ed., p. 360) says: "The scholarly researches of Zumpt (Commentat. epigraph., II, 86-104; De Syria romana provincia, 97-98) and of Mommsen (Res gestae divi Augusti) place beyond doubt that Quirinius was twice governor of Syria."

In 1764 an inscription called the Lapis Tiburtinus was found which concurs. All of this demonstrates without a doubt, the reliability of the Bible's historical value and the importance of Bible chronology.

Image Credit