539 BCE and an astronomical tablet

by Doug Mason 14 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Doug Mason
    Doug Mason

    Page 453 of the WTS’s book, “Insight on the Scriptures” says that the eclipse records for the 7th year of Cambyses can be used to calculate 539 BCE for the Fall of Babylon.

    To do this, the “Chronology” article refers to J. N. Strassmaier, F. X. Kugler, T. Oppolzer, and O. Gingerich.

    What did those people actually write?

    How does the WTS manage to travel from the 7th year of Cambyses to the date of the Fall of Babylon?


    Note that the file is over 6 meg in size, so it takes some time to download.

    Please let me know of any corrections, errors, and so on.


  • Atlantis

    Doug Mason:

    Thank you Doug for all your hard work! Your material looks very nice.


  • breakfast of champions
    breakfast of champions

    Whoa, Doug! This is awesome. Thank you so much for all your work! I'll check this out more closely later.

  • AnnOMaly

    It's wonderful that you've made scans of these sources readily available to view, Doug, and your article further underlines the WTS' embarrassing inconsistency in using these sources.

  • Doug Mason
    Doug Mason

    Thank you for your kind comments.

    I expect and hope that others will be able to make use of these pages from Strassmaier etc., now that they are available to them.

    Interestingly, the most difficult book to access was that by Gingerich. You can see the cost at Amazon (wow!), and there is only a handful in public libraries in Australia (one here at the State Libarary of Victoria).

    If you wish, I can email the original scans that I used, so you can produce your own works using these source materials. You will find my email addrss at my web site: www.jwstudies.com

    As you can guess, I was beside myself (two of me, what a horrible thought) as I collected these items. The only book I bought is that by Kugler (quite inexpensive at Amazon).

    The relatively recent book by Stephenson was a great help, since he looks at the tablets at the British Museum, just as Strassmaier had.

    I have an image in my mind of a dart board located at a certain Brooklyn address, with my name on it. Maybe they have a voodoo doll? If so, I am certain that this study would cause them to throw more darts or insert more pins. It's not working, though, I can assure you.



  • Doug Mason
    Doug Mason

    Here's a short study that someone else could consider:

    In 1942, Rutherford died and Parker and Dubberstein released their study on Babylonian chronology.

    A short time later, the WTS moved the Fall of Babylon to 539 BCE.

    Today, the WTS says that the 539 date is based on calculations from the works of Jesuit Roman Catholic priests Strassmaier and Kugler, and by Professor Oppolzer.

    Those people lived and worked at the time of CTR. Why did their works not influence Russell, even though they provide the WTS with its most absolutely significant starting date of - 523/522 for Cambyses' 7th year?


  • Larsinger58

    Thanks, Doug. Don't worry about any dart board with your picture on it! They like you! You're a popular life-size cutout they use for target practice on their gun range. But I wouldn't take that personally, JWs are not great shots! (tee hee) All kidding aside, CO Jonsson discusses the SK400 text you mention and apparently it is considered a very confusing text. My first encounter with debating COJ was regarding this very text. I had pointed out that it was fraudulent because it referenced a "9th year" for Kambyses. COJ said I was lying stating Kambyses didn't rule 9 years, only 8 at the most; which is true. But that didn't mean the text didn't contain a 9th year reference. It was curious he took that position since I quoted the entire text in my post which gave the "9th year" reference. Later on when I ran into COJ in discussions at one of the XJW discussion boards, he admitted to his "mistake" in saying there was no "9th year" reference in the text. He swears it was a "mistake." Of course, he was speaking as an expert and contradicting me, making the false claim I was lying about any "9th year reference." The problem I saw with this was, indeed, if he were such an "expert" he would have known already there was a "9th year" reference and had some explanation for it. Further investigation with astronomical programs showed the reference to the "9th year" where Mars was behind Leo on a certain day of the month, actually matched the 9th year of Cyrus in 530 BCE. Of course, as everyone must know by now, much like the VAT4956 that double-dates year 37 of Neb2 to 511 BCE, two lunar eclipse references for the same year match 541 BCE but are a mismatch for 523 BCE. With the context of the "9th year" of Cyrus in the text, when we apply the 541 BCE context of "year 7" to some other potential Neo-Babylonian or Persian kings, we get a relevant match for Neb2. That is, when you date year 7 of Neb2 to 541 BCE, then his 37th years falls in 511 BCE, just matching the VAT4956. So it is another text with apparent cryptic references to what must have the the original timeline. In the meantime, when you date year 541 BCE to year 7 of Neb2, then the year of the last deportation falls in 525 BCE, which is followed by 70 years of exile per Josephus ending the 1st of Cyrus. Thus that dating would date the 1st of Cyrus to 455 BCE, the strict Biblical date for that event. Thus now the VAT4956 and SK400 together support the Bible's timeline which dates year 1 of Cyrus to 455 BCE! As with the VAT4955, it is not those astronomical observations that match the current timeline of 523 BCE for year 7 of Kambyses, but those "errors" in the text that link to another date, in this case, year 7 of Neb2 matched to 541 BCE. Doug, while you're here, do you have a comment on "year 9" of Kambyses in the text? Did you realize there was a "year 9" reference in the text? Thanks. LS P.S. I'll comment on your download if I see anything of note. Thanks for the reference!!!

  • Larsinger58

    DOUG NOTES: First, thanks, Doug, for this wonderful reference. Here are your research notes which I think will improve your article: 1. You hit the nail on the head as does COJ that the WTS uses the SK400 to help date the fall of Babylon in 539 BCE, but dismisses the VAT4956 as accurate. Total hypocrisy. My criticism here for your article is that both of these texts are never mentioned to be from the Seleucid Period and thus are "copies" of original astronomical information. The WTS, therefore, correctly can dismiss the VAT4956 as fraudulent history though the astronomy is correct, since this is a "copy" and thus likely revised historical text. The dismissability relates to the "historical" information and not the astronomical information. Of course, again, if you can dismiss the VAT4956 for being a "copy/revision" text, the same doubly applies to the SK400 which was written after the VAT4956!! So the "hypocritical" application stands. Except, of course, neither can be used for preemptive dating for any other references since they are "copies" and thus presumed from the beginning to be likely revised texts. 2. You emphasize how the WTS relies on secular sources to match these two eclipses in the SK400. Again, you emphasize and suggest they did not check these references but relied on the application of the secular source. This is not entirely accurate. If you can, get a copy of the "Aid To Bible Understanding" where this eclipse reference first appears. They revised their statement to defer to the secular source in the "Insight" book. But they apparently checked these eclipses themselves when this first appeared in the "Aid" book because for the second eclipse they indicate it "apparently" was a match for the Tebet eclipse. So they did look it up! Here is your quote: "Insight thus completely relies on the computations made by the expert secular sources. Using the same experts, whose methods have been shown to be accepted by Insight, enables the other astronomical tablets to be dated." This is a cop-out which is a propaganda technique. That is, when forcing a scholar into a corner which he doesn't want to go on record about, or doesn't want to contradict since it would seem he's an idiot, he will often claim this is not his area of expertise and refer you to someone who has written a book on the topic, thus sending you on a wild goose chase without agreeing or disagreeing with you. So that's what we are seeing in the "Aid" reference versus the "Insight" reference. The WTS is having you follow the secular reference, which is not a critical reference, to make you presume there is a match, when there is not. What do I mean? 3. As you stated, this first ecilpse on Tammuz 14 is extremely rare because it has a second reference in Ptolemy. The problem is, Ptolemy gives you the precise time of this eclipse, which is one hour before midnight. That means we can equivocate the specific time in the SK400 of two and a half double hours, which is 3 hours and 20 minutes. Thus 3 hours and 20 minutes after "night" (not "sunset"!) should equal to within 4 minutes of 11 p.m. That is, 11 p.m. is one hour before midnight for those who are not following. Turns out that is precisely correct when "night" begins a new division of the night which is 32 minutes after sunset. As you note, calculations are accurate to within 4 minutes. Sunset occurs at 7:09 on Tammuz 14. You then add 32 minutes to the beginning of "night" to get 7:41 p.m. To that you add 3:20 which gives you 10:61, which is 11:01 p.m. That is within 4 minutes of 11 p.m. which is "one hour before midnight." This introduces 2 problems, which is why Stephenson abandoned any comparison. Problem #1: That is, he obviously did the comparison and since it totally didn't work, he made the presumption this was a "predicted" eclipse event, since the time did not match the current canon. That is, Ptolemy gives you the precise hour this eclipse should have occurred over Babylon, which is one hour before midnight. Again, the SK400 matches that precise time as well. But the currently adjusted canon, based on eclipse choices by the scholars shows this eclipse occurring at 10:03 p.m. at Babylon, which is 57 minutes too early! So this great chance to use two references to align lunar times and earth times and thus earth's rotational position, is ignored for this reference! The time does not work. Problem #2: Because Ptolemy's canon for the eclipse in Tammuz teaches us precisely when to begin the division of "night" and "morning", which is 32 minutes after sunset or 32 minutes before sunrise, we can calculate precisely when the Tebet eclipse takes place. Tebet is month 10. Tammuz is month 4, so the eclipses are exactly 6 months apart. The Tebet eclipse is "5 hours before morning." Sunrise is at 7:19 which is 6:79 a.m. We subtract 32 minutes which gives us 6:47 a.m. 6:47 a.m. is when morning begins. 5 hours before 6:47 a.m. is 1:47 a.m. Thus you have another specific time of the day for this eclipse to happen. As I noted, the first eclipse is some 57 minutes too early. Well, the second eclipse compared to the first one is exactly 2:46 hours in interval difference. That is, the first eclipse is 1 minute after 11 p.m. The second one is 1:47 after midnight. So if we add an hour then substract 1 minute we get 2:46. That is, the interval between these two eclipses is 2 hours and 46 minutes. So it doesn't matter what time you want to assign the first eclipse to, the other one must be adjusted to the same timing and it must occur 2:46 minutes later. This brings up the second problem which is why Stephenson doesn't want to touch this problem. The eclipse interval is fixed by the SK400. So even when you use the canon time for this eclipse, the second eclipse in 523 BCE is 4:46 minutes apart! That is, there is a 2-hour error for this double eclipse! That's why the WTS in the "Aid" book said that the second eclipse "apparently" was a match, because it is some 2 hours off. Now one might think 57 minutes could be rounded off or something and they presume this error if they don't know what 3:20 "after night" is. But there is no excuse because Ptolemy tells us EXACTLY when this eclipse occurs, which is "one hour before midnight." So you have a clear contradiction. But it gets a bit more complicated. That's because as you noted, the Babylonians clearly understood lunar eclipses occur in similar patterns every 18 years. That is, every 18 years and 11 days later you have similar eclipses occurring. Thus when we compare the eclipses in 541 BCE, which is 18 years earlier than the eclipses in 523 BCE (523 + 18 = 541 BCE) we note something rather interesting, too interesting to be coincidental. And what is that? The eclipse interval for 541 BCE is EXACTLY 2:46! Therefore, the eclipse times and interval don't belong to "year 7" of Kambyses in 523 BCE at all, but to "year 7" of Nebuchadnezzar II in 541 BCE. Thus the SK400, like the VAT4956, both diaries, actually are designed to link back to the original timeline. Original timeline? Yes. Per the Bible, 455 BCE should date the 1st of Cyrus. This is followed by 70 years of exile per Josephus, which began "when the people were removed off their land" (Ant. 11.1.1) which means at the time of the last deportation in year 23 of Nebuchadnezzar II. Add 70 years to 455 BCE and you get 525 BCE for the 23rd year of Neb2. Of course, since you are so smart, you realize that when year 23 falls in 525 BCE, then year 7 falls in 541 BCE, to match the SK400 eclipses, and year 37 falls in 511 BCE to match the VAT4956 double-dating! So at this point we're done. We understand WHY these DIARIES exist. They are politically correct to match to the revised chronology for the casual reader. But each text contains critical "errors" that the astronomers can't explain. That is, until you try and see if there is relevance to the true chronology, the Bible's chronology. When you do that, then the SK400 gives you a match for "year 7" of Nebuchadnezzar II in 541 BCE and the VAT4956 "diary" gives you a match for its two "errors" in lines 3 and 14 to the true date of 511 BCE. SUMMARY: So in summary, the WTS' hypocrisy comes back to bite them in the arse! That is, they were correct in doubting the historical information in post-dated "copy" some 200+ years after the fact, which they do with the VAT4956. Only they should have equally applied that dismissal to the SK400, which they expect us to consider as reliable, even though they knew the 2nd eclipse being 2 hours off was hardly a match. Instead of drawing attention to that fact by stating "apparently" this is accurate as they do in the "Aid" book, in the "Insight" they refer you to a secular reference which simply gives you the date for this eclipse, without a match for the specific time. That is, in 523 BCE, on Tammuz 14, there was a 50% partial eclipse. The same occurred in 541 BCE. On Tebet 14 in 523 BCE, there was a total eclipse, which also occurred 18 years earlier in 541 BCE. But the TIME of both eclipses are specific. The precise eclipse times don't match the current canon times, which is very subjective and flexible. However, the eclipse interval is not flexible. The interval is 2:46 (2 hours 46 minutes) apart. So the creators of the SK400 were being very clever, which was to give you the precise times of these two eclipses so that there is a cryptic reference to 541 BCE, year 7 of Neb2, in a text dated to "year 7" of Kambyses for other references. Apparently, the "year 9" reference is a clue to solving the complex reference once you realize it belongs to the reign of Cyrus, that is, another king. Thus unlike the VAT4956 which is a reference to two different years for year 37 of the same king, Nebuchadnezzar, to solve the "year 7" reference in the SK400, you need to substitute a second king, in this case, Nebuchadnezzar's 7th year in 541 BCE for Kambyses' 7th year in 523 BCE. The "year 9" reference which is spurious for Kambyses and for 521 BC, does match "year 9" of Cyrus. So you have a context of multiple kings in reference in this text so substituting Nebuchadnezzar II for Kambyses is within the context of more than one king's rule in this one text. It's quite clever! Furthermore, it is likely that Jews created this text inspired by Jehovah for later reference. That is, the casual reader and non-astronomer would not recognize the technical astronomical mismatches in the texts. Astronomers who noted the mismatch would presume it was a "scribal error" and that would be the end of it. But on later critical examination, once the Biblical timeline became apparent for comparison, then you get the matches for both texts to the original dating. Another hint these are "safety texts" (i.e. texts that preserve or keep safe the original chronology) is the fact that you have up to 5 extant copies or fragments of the SK400! Thus this text which hides clues to the original chronology were copied multiple times. But why? Obviously to increase the odds of survival! Even so the WTS loses here! They want to dismiss the VAT4956 and keep the SK400 when both are "copies/revisions" from the same Seleucid Period. But COJ is also hypocritical here. He doesn't put the SK400 in the same category as the VAT4956 which he calls the "most important" astronomical text from the NB Period! So COJ, like the WTS, cherry picks his own favorite texts. He thus notes the hypocrisy of the WTS in using the SK400 vs. the VAT4956, but at the same time doesn't want to throw any light on the SK400 being an inferior text reference because of the complicated errors for this text, especially since you have the rare confirmation of precisely when the eclipse must occur, which is "one hour before midnight" per Ptolemy, which is not matched by the eclipse times. So between the SK400, VAT4956 and Ptolemy you have a can of worms, which is why Stephenson and others don't want to include it as a good reference to dating the NB Period because all it does is points to revisionism during the Seleucid Period, something the British Museum would rather keep as their own dirty little secret. BIBLE'S TRUE TIMELINE VINDICATED BY SK400 AND VAT4956: But regardless of when or where the dust settles for these controversial eclipses, you have a strong absolute alternative reference to dating the NB Period. That is, you can't just decide to date it any time you want to once you dismiss the VAT4956 and the SK400. You have to first make comparisons for the matched astronomical references of 541 BCE for the SK400 year 7 of Neb2, and 511 BCE for year 37 of Neb2, both matching the same timeline for Neb2. Then that is compared to the Biblical dating of year 23 of Neb2 in 525 BCE based on 455 BCE as the 1st of Cyrus. Of course, that gives you the same dating. So the SK400 and the VAT4956 are secular references that independently date and confirm the Bible's own dating. This is bad news for JWs who need 607 BCE to mark the fall of Jerusalem so they can validate 1914 as the year of the 2nd coming. But once you correct the timeline, using these and several other eclipse adjustments, Jerusalem falls in 529 BCE which dates the second coming 2520 years later to 1992. 1992 is also the "1335 days" date for the second coming because 1947 ends the gentile times and begins the 70th jubilee, which ends the 1290 days. The messiah arrives to fulfill the 1335 days, which is 45 years later and thus 1992. 1290 + 45 = 1335 1947 + 45 = 1992 So even if some does not agree with this interpretation, it still is nice to have secular sources that point to the original timeline and that prove the original timeline was, indeed, distorted for the NB through Greco-Persian Period some 57-82 years at certain points. So, Doug, thanks again for your reference. This is a good focus but a can of worms. Finally, I don't know if you know this, but Prof. Robert Newton who wrote, "Crimes of Claudius Ptolemy" who totally dismisses Ptolemy's canon references and calls him a "fraud" does claim there are two texts apart from Ptolemy that can be used to date the the NB Period. Those two exceptional texts are none other than the SK400 and the VAT4956. Little did he know of their cryptic references to a second timeline. So at the end of the day, dismissing Ptolemy's references entirely and converting the SK400 and VAT4956 to the correct timeline, it's just a matter of academic incompetence at this point not to recognize the true timeline. But if you can't seem to do so, it still will not change those who believe the Bible's own chronology must date the 1st of Cyrus to 455 BCE based on the baptism of Christ in 29 CE as does Martin Anstey in his "Romance of Bible Chronology." Anstey, unlike the WTS, when faced with a contradiction between the Bible and secular sources, dismissed the secular sources are unreliable. The WTS tried to pussyfoot around and use the secular sources they needed for 1914 but dismissed the others. Now that has come back to bite them. Only now, both the SK400 and the VAT4956 can be used as independent references to date the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II which turns out to be the precise dating the Bible provides. Thanks, Doug, again, for your reference!! LS

  • Diest

    Can someone break this down into cliffnote version...Lars is the only 607 apologist i have seen here and not sure where it really falls without knowing all the back story....

  • Larsinger58

    Can someone break this down into cliffnote version...Lars is the only 607 apologist i have seen here and not sure where it really falls without knowing all the back story.... I'm not a 607 BCE apologist. The basics here are that the WTS use the SK400 astrotext, the text that is otherwise dated to 523 BCE, year 7 of Kambyses, to establish the fall of Babylon in 539 BCE, a date they feel is a "pivotal date" in secular history that is correct that can date other critical dates in the Bible. In a nutshell, if year 7 of Kambyses falls in 523 BCE, then the end of the rule of Cyrus would fall in 530 BCE. He ruled for 9 years so his rule would begin in 538 BCE. They fudge at little and claim the "decree" to rebuild Jerusalem would have gone out in his first year, 538 BCE, though the actual rebuilding started later in the fall of 537 BCE. 537 BCE is the date they assign to the return from Babylon to Judea. This ends the 70-year exile mentioned in the Bible, which they believe began when the Jews fleed out of Judea after the assassination of Gedaliah, and thus the same year Jerusalem fell! Thus they date the fall of Jerusalem to 607 BCE. 537 + 70 = 607 BCE This contradicts another key astronomical text, the VAT4956, which is no different than the SK400 in that it was created during the Seleucid Period. This text dates year 37 of Nebuchadnezzar to 568 BCE and thus dates year 19/18 to 587/586 BCE for the fall of Jerusalem. That's a 20-year discrepancy they see between the VAT4956 and the true Biblical chronology. So they dismiss the VAT4956 as historically not accurate. But this weakens their position on the SK400 which comes from the same period and is just as dismissible. So Doug and others are calling out the WTS on their hypocrisy; how they could promote one text as being accurate and another as being inaccurate, when both come from the wrong period and are "copies" of original texts. In reality, the WTS is correct in dismissing the credibility of the VAT4956, which also supports 539 BCE for the fall of Babylon, but they should have been consistent and also dismissed the SK400 as a fraudulent document as well. The SK400 belongs to the same revised timeline as does the VAT4956, the one that dates the fall of Babylon in 539 BCE! So if you use 539 BCE for dating the Neo-Babylonian Period, which both the SK400 and the VAT4956 do, then you are going to reflect dates based on the revised timeline. Thus 607 BCE is just as wrong as 587 BCE for the fall of Jerusalem. MY POSITION is to follow the Bible's strict timeline and date the 1st of Cyrus in 455 BCE, which is when the rebulding would have begun, 483 years prior to the baptism of Christ in 29 CE. In that case, the last deportation, year 23 of Neb2 (Jer. 52:30) would fall in 525 BCE and the fall of Jerusalem 4 years earlier in year 19 would fall in 529 BCE. 529 BCE is thus the true Biblical date for the fall of Jerusalem. Of course, the SK400 and the VAT4956, both "diaries" are used to hide references to the original timeline while sporting support by their dating to the revised timeline. The cryptic references to the original timeline are found in "errors" in both these texts. The "errors" are not matches for the promoted dating in the text, but match the original dating. For instance, the eclipse interval and times in the SK400 for two eclipses do not match 523 BCE, year 7, of Kambyses, but do match 541 BCE, which is the original date for year 7 of Nebuchadnezzar II. The VAT4956 contains two "errors" in lines 3 and 14, giving a lunar position about a day earlier than needed to match 568 BCE for year 37 of Neb2. But if you compare the two errors, they match the year 511 BCE. If you date year 37 to 511 BCE, then year 7 would fall in 541 BCE, the year you get from the SK400. So now you have two "diaries" that show you the original timeline and dates. It is more critical to compare these dates to the Bible's timeline because we know the promoted dates in these texts are just camouflage and these are false dates belonging to the revised chronology. When we look at strict Bible chronology, as above, year 1 of Cyrus would fall in 455 BCE and thus the last deportation in year 23 of Neb2 to 525 BCE. 525 BCE for year 23 is thus compared to the VAT4956 and the SK400 dates for Nebuchadnezzar. Obviously, it is precisely the same dating. Year 23 falling in 525 BCE means year 7 falls in 541 BCE and year 37 falls in 511 BCE. So we basically know WHY these 'diaries" were created and why several copies were made of them. It's because they are "safety texts" created to preserve astronomical information from the original timeline, which dates the 1st of Nebuchadnezzar II to 547 BCE just as the Bible does. So 607 BCE or 587 BCE for the fall of Jerusalem is wrong, and 539 BCE is also wrong for the fall of Babylon. The true dating that survives in both these "diaries" dates the 1st of Nebuchadnezzar II to 547 BCE, which agrees with the Biblical dating for year 23 of Neb2 in 525 BCE based on the baptism of Christ in 29 CE. Sorry my original post ended up in one long paragraph due to a formatting error of some kind. Of course, those who promote this false evidence are hoping it is too complicated for you to understand and they will not discuss the "errors" in these texts that create the premise for revisionism, though the mere fact these are "copies" automatically tells you they are likely fraudulent documents representing false dates. These are not contemporary texts from these years, which sometimes you presume if they don't mention these are "copies" that are made over 200+ years after the fact. Thus people are deceived unless they are well informed about the evidence. The evidence actually supports the Bible's timeline now. Both the SK400 and VAT4956 both re-date the rule of Neb2 to where it should be, totally in agreement with the Bible. LS

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