A Proposed Chronology Of Ezra, Nehemiah, And The Persian Kings

After reading another excellent book on chronology by Dr. Floyd Nolen Jones, The Persian Problem, I thought I should write out my thoughts on the subject while the topic was fresh in my mind. 

Bible Chronology is tough.  Although there are many reasons why that is, there is one MAIN reason.  The main reason is because the chronology given by secular historians is a disaster.  Their chronology isn’t a complete and unusable disaster, but it is a mess.  

I have some qualifications to be able to say this.  I spent 5 years studying history at a major state university in the United States and I received my Bachelor’s degree in History.  After that, I attended Bible school in Florida.  About half of the books which I read in a given year are history books.  I speak as a fool, but hopefully it will add to the credibility of what follows. 

We can confidently say that Bible chronology is tough because it is like building an arch and only one side of the arch is firm and stable.  The other side is wobbly and unstable.  The firm side is the absolute and authoritative chronology as given in the Scriptures.  The wobbly side is the chronology of secular history.  It’s not easy to build a sturdy arch with one wobbly side.  Thus it is with chronology.  

Dr. Jones writes about the Persian chronologies, “almost all the Persian records were destroyed by the Greeks and the Muslims. Therefore, we will be forced to rely on the oft unreliable and prejudicial opinions of neighboring kingdoms – who likewise were frequently their enemies.”  I also read a proverb from Africa which says, “Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”  You have to deal with the fact that history is full of lies and biases.  Napoleon correctly observed that, “History is a set of lies agreed upon.”  

These caveats apply to secular history but not to the Bible chronology.  Bible chronology is not unbiased, but it is based on the correct bias.  That is to say it is based on the bias of God himself.  

Dr. Jones is a master on the subject.  I recommend his material to anyone who would desire to tackle the subject, especially his magnum opus, which is titled The Chronology of the Old Testament.  But just as how Doctor Ruckman is a master of dozens of subjects and we recommend his material, it goes without saying that I find some of his conclusions to be incorrect.  “Yea, let God be true, but every man a liar.”  Let’s face it folks, sometimes we even disagree with ourselves.  Only God is 100% correct.  

Now to the problem at hand.

Dr. Jones correctly identifies a chronological problem that exists during the times of the Persian empire.  The way that most people line up the lives of Ezra and Nehemiah with the Persian kings results in them being way too old. 

Dr. Jones sums up the common problem by saying, “The Book of Ezra begins in the 1st year of Cyrus, about 536 BC (Ezra 1:1), and the Book of Nehemiah ends around the 32nd year of a Persian king designated as “Artaxerxes” (Neh. 2:1; 13:6). As nearly all scholars identify this monarch as being Artaxerxes Longimanus, the Book of Nehemiah is seen to close near 434 BC (his 32nd year).”

That would put the books of Ezra and Nehemiah as starting at 536 BC and ending at 434 BC.  It gives us a period of 102 years covered in those books.  Therefore, the question is: how can Ezra and Nehemiah (and other characters in the narrative) be alive that long?  Of course this assumes an obvious point that the men were not babies at the beginning of the story.  It would be reasonable to assume that the men were 30 or so at the beginning, which when added to the timeline of 102 years, puts them at around 130 years old at the end of the story.  This is an incredible age at that time in history.  

Dr. Jones gives an amazingly insightful overview of the various ways people deal with this issue and in the end he ends up solving much of the conundrum.  (Doctor Ruckman seems to endorse Bullinger’s chronology which VERY STRANGELY seems to put the walls of the city being built before the Temple.  I CANNOT endorse that view.)  To sum up Dr. Jones’s conclusion, he (based on Isaac Newton of all people) is able to get around the ages of the side characters in the story and then leaves the advanced ages of Ezra and Nehemiah as the only unresolved issue.  They end up with the period of time of Ezra and Nehemiah being 91 years and those two men will still have a great age, but not as much (120 as opposed to 130).

I say that as the Biblical text stands, Dr. Jones and Isaac Newton are correct.  What I have written this article to take issue with is the Persian Chronology.  Admittedly, I am not going to be able to give much proof.  Please understand that I am only giving you a theory that I think is correct.  

I think that the chronology of the Persian kings is off by either 27 or 30 years.  You need to understand that in terms of chronology there is no real difference between 27 and 30 years and so, either one is still true of my point.

I have a hunch or a gut feeling that Jesus Christ was baptized exactly 4000 years from the day that Adam took his first breath.  (I have a side theory that the Gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 was exactly 2000 years, but that is another matter.)  That baptism would also mark the end of the 69 weeks (483 years) of Daniel 9.  

Adam’s first breath<———————–>4000 years<———————>Christ’s Baptism

Commandment of Dan 9:25<————>483 years<———————->Christ’s Baptism

We know that Christ’s Baptism is usually given as either 27 or 30 AD, which would translate to 4030 years from Adam.  I am proposing that the chronology is off by that difference of 30 or so years.  The 4000 is exact.  The 483 is exact.  

The error in chronology has to happen before the start of the 483 years.  We can be reasonably certain of the Bible chronology until the end of the 70 year captivity which would put us at around 536 BC.  So the difference has to be somewhere between 536 BC and 483 BC.

Adam (4000 BC)<—————————–>End of Babylonian Captivity (536 BC)

So there is something off in this period:

End of Babylonian Captivity (536 BC)<——————————–>Start of 483 years

The start of the 483 years is often given as 453 BC and I find that to be correct.  Therefore:

End of Babylonian Captivity (536 BC)<——————————–>Start of 483 years (453 BC)

So I am proposing that somewhere in the 83 years between 536 and 453 is a mistake of 27 or 30 years.  This leads to the conclusion that the supposed 83 years to really just be 53 years.  Dr. Jones’ 91 years of Ezra-Nehemiah ends up being just 61 years and their advanced lifespans become much more realistic.  The 61 years and 53 years are because of different starting and ending dates. I apologize that it gets so complicated but that’s the nature of these things… 

I find the assumption that there is an extra 30 years to be solid, but of course if you have a different way of looking at it, I’d love to hear it.  

It’s interesting to note that the Jews themselves reject the standard Persian Chronology and that is a factor in why instead of our current year being about 6000 years since Adam, they end up calling the year 2022 as the year 5782.  Other problems with the Jewish chronology notwithstanding, they end up with 52 years for the Persian kings but I can’t track down where those years start and end.  The real problems with their system are that they end up with a date of the destruction of the Temple of 423 instead of a year around 606 BC.  

Most Jews are kind of secretive about their chronological studies.  I suspect they don’t want them to be examined too closely, lest they be found to have purposely modified them in order to not point to Christ.  

So in conclusion, I am proposing that the complicated messes that result in trying to iron out all the intricacies of Bible chronology are fixed if we assume that Christ was baptized in 1 AD and that the secular chronology is off 30 years between the end of the 70 year Captivity of the Jews in Babylon and the start of the 69 weeks of Daniel 9.

It’s just a theory folks.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

PS – It is interesting to note that if we make the terminus of the 69 weeks be an autumn baptism of Christ, then we also end up with exactly 40 years (an important length of time if you know your Bible) until the Temple of Jerusalem is burnt down.  This event is typically said to be September 8, 70 AD.  

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