Did you guys notice that this is going to be a two part series? This is the first of two articles to address this issue.
When Was Ancient Jerusalem Destroyed? Why It Matters - What the Evidence Shows
Obviously 607 is a problem, Watchower coming out full forces on this one in the latest Public Edition.
Have made a career on the internet,out of Debating 607BCE.. And..
Had their Ass`s Kicked at Every Debate..Over the years,thats Alot of Advertising..
It`s come back to Bite the WBT$ in the Ass..
There are LOADS of claims and dates in this article that are going to prove VERY useful for us apostates in the future. We're gonna want to keep this article handy.
Make sure you save the linked PDF since the society removes the PDFs from their site after they've been up for a month. (How low on storage can they be?)
Imma paste the article here to keep things simple, it's hard to copy and paste from the pdf so I'm doing the work for you so you can just copy and paste from this post. For some reason a lot of the spaces disappear when you copy watchtower documents. . . I ain't fixing it, you'll have to learn to read without a few spaces.
There are three supplemental information boxes and lots of little notes all over the place on this article. Posting those here would require some magic formatting that is barely possible in this forum, or clipping them out as pictures. I'm probably not gonna bother with that.
Everything after this line is COMPLETEY copied from the Watchtower article. I haven't edited the content in any way, aside from formatting.
When Was Ancient Jerusalem Destroyed?
PART ONE WHY IT MATTERS
WHAT THE EVIDENCE SHOWS
“According to historians and archaeologists, 586 or 587 B.C.E. is generally accepted as the year of Jerusalem’s destruction. Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses say that it was 607 B.C.E.? What is your basis for this date?”
SOWROTE one of our readers. But why be interested in the actual date when Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II razed the city of Jerusalem? First, because the event marked an important turning point in the history of God’s people. One historian said that it led to “a catastrophe, indeed the ultimate catastrophe.” The date marked the end of a temple that had been at the heart of the worship of Almighty God for more than 400 years. “O God,” lamented a Bible psalmist, “they have dishonored your holy temple. They have left Jerusalem in ruins.”—Psalm 79:1, God’sWord Bible.
Second, because knowing the actual year when this “ultimate catastrophe” began and understanding how the restoration of true worship in Jerusalem fulfilled a precise Bible prophecy will build your confidence in the reliability of God’s Word. So why do Jehovah’s Witnesses hold to a date that differs from widely accepted chronology by 20 years? In short, because of evidence within the Bible itself.
“Seventy Years” for Whom?
Years before the destruction, the Jewish prophet Jeremiah provided an essential clue to the time frame given in the Bible. He warned “all those living in Jerusalem,” saying: “This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” (Jeremiah 25:1, 2, 11, New International Version) The prophet later added: “This is what Jehovah has said, ‘In accord with the fulfilling of seventy years at Babylon I shall turn my attention to you people, and I will establish toward you my good word in bringing you back to this place.’” (Jeremiah 29:10)What is the significance of the “seventy years”? And how does this time period help us to determine the date of Jerusalem’s destruction?
Instead of saying 70 years “at Babylon,” many translations read “for Babylon.” (NIV) Some historians therefore claim that this 70-year period applies to the Babylonian Empire. According to secular chronology, the Babylonians dominated the land of ancient Judah and Jerusalemfor some 70 years, from about 609 B.C.E. until 539 B.C.E. when the capital city of Babylonwas captured.
The Bible, however, shows that the 70 years were to be a period of severe punishment from God—aimed specifically at the people of Judah and Jerusalem,whowere in a covenant to obey him. (Exodus 19:3-6)When they refused to turn fromtheir badways,God said: “I will summon . . . Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon . . . against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations.” (Jeremiah 25:4, 5, 8, 9, NIV)While nearby nations would also suffer Babylon’s wrath, the destruction of Jerusalem and the 70-year exile to follow were called by Jeremiah “the punishment of my people,” for Jerusalem had “sinned greatly.”—Lamentations 1:8; 3:42; 4:6, NIV.
So according to the Bible, the 70 years was a period of bitter punishment for Judah, and God used the Babylonians as the instrument for inflicting this severe chastisement. Yet, God told the Jews: “When seventy years are completed, . . . Iwill . . .bring youbacktothis place”—the land of Judah and Jerusalem. —Jeremiah 29:10, NIV.
When Did “the Seventy Years” Start?
The inspired historian Ezra, who lived after the 70 years of Jeremiah’s prophecy were fulfilled, wrote of King Nebuchadnezzar: “He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power. The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah.”—2 Chronicles 36:20, 21, NIV.
Thus, the 70 years were to be a period when the land of Judah and Jerusalemwould enjoy “sabbath rests.” This meant that the landwould not be cultivated—therewould be no sowing of seed or pruning of vineyards. (Leviticus 25:1-5, NIV) Because of the disobedience of God’s people, whose sins may have included a failure to observe all the Sabbath years, the punishment was that their land would remain unworked and deserted for 70 years.—Leviticus 26:27, 32-35, 42, 43.
When did the land of Judah become desolated and unworked? Actually, the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem twice, years apart. When did the 70 years commence? Certainly not following the first time that Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem. Why not? Although at that time Nebuchadnezzar took many captives from Jerusalem to Babylon, he left others behind in the land. He also left the city itself standing. For years after this initial deportation, those left remaining in Judah, “the lowly class of the people,” lived off their land. (2 Kings 24:8-17) But then things drastically changed.
A Jewish revolt brought the Babylonians back to Jerusalem. (2 Kings 24:20; 25:8-10) They razed the city, including its sacred temple, and they took many of its inhabitants captive to Babylon.Within two months, “all the people [who had been left behind in the land] from the least to the greatest, together with the army officers, fled to Egypt for fear of the Babylonians.” (2 Kings 25:25, 26, NIV) Only then, in the seventh Jewish month, Tishri (September/October), of that year could it be said that the land, now desolate and unworked, began to enjoy its Sabbath rest. To the Jewish refugees in Egypt, God said through Jeremiah: “You have seen all the disaster that I brought upon Jerusalem and upon all the cities of Judah. Behold, this day they are a desolation, and no one dwells in them.” (Jeremiah 44:1, 2, English Standard Version) So this event evidently marked the starting point of the 70 years. And what year was that? To answer, we need to see when that period ended.
When Did “the Seventy Years” End?
The prophet Daniel, who lived until “the kingdom of Persia came to power,” was on the scene in Babylon, and he calculated when the 70 years were due to end. He wrote: “I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to theword of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.”—Daniel 9:1, 2, ESV.
Ezra reflected on the prophecies of Jeremiah and linked the end of “the seventy years” tothe timewhen “the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation.” (2 Chronicles 36:21, 22, NIV) When were the Jews released? The decree ending their exile was issued in “the first year of Cyrus the king of Persia.” (See the box “A Pivotal Date in History.”) Thus, by the fall of 537 B.C.E., the Jews had returned to Jerusalem to restore true worship.—Ezra 1:1-5; 2:1; 3:1-5.
According to Bible chronology, then, the 70 years was a literal period of time that end-
ed in 537 B.C.E. Counting back 70 years, the start date of the periodwould be 607 B.C.E.
But if the evidence fromthe inspired Scriptures clearly points to 607 B.C.E. for Jerusalem’s destruction, why do many authorities hold to the date 587 B.C.E.? They lean on two sources of information—the writings of classical historians and the canon of Ptolemy. Are these sources more reliable than the Scriptures? Let us see.
Classical Historians—How Accurate?
Historians who lived close to the time when Jerusalemwas destroyed givemixed information about the Neo-Babylonian kings. (See the box “Neo-Babylonian Kings.”) The time line based on their chronological information disagrees with that of the Bible. But just how reliable are their writings?
One of the historians who lived closest to the Neo-Babylonian period was Berossus, a Babylonian “priest of Bel.” His original work, the Babyloniaca, written about 281 B.C.E., has been lost, and only fragments are preserved in theworks of other historians. Berossus claimed that he used “books which had been preserved with great care at Babylon.”1 Was Berossus really an accurate historian? Consider one example.
Berossus wrote that Assyrian King Sennacherib followed “the reign of [his] brother”; and “after him his son [Esarhaddon ruled for] 8 years; and thereafter Sammuges [Shamashshuma- ukin] 21 years.” (III, 2.1, 4) However, Babylonian historical documents written long before Berossus’ time say that Sennacherib followed his father, Sargon II, not his brother, to the throne; Esarhaddon ruled for 12 years, not 8; and Shamash-shuma-ukin ruled for 20 years, not 21. Scholar R. J. van der Spek, while acknowledging that Berossus consulted the Babylonian chronicles, wrote: “This did not prevent him from making his own additions and interpretations.”2
How do other scholars view Berossus? “In the past Berossus has usually been viewed as a historian,” states S. M. Burstein, who made a thorough study of Berossus’ works. Yet, he concluded: “Considered as such his performance must be pronounced inadequate. Even in its present fragmentary state the Babyloniaca contains a number of surprising errorsof simple fact . . . Inahistorian suchflaws would be damning, but then Berossus’ purposewas not historical.”3
In view of the foregoing, what do you think? Should Berossus’ calculations really be viewed as consistently accurate? And what about the other classical historians who, for the most part, based their chronology on the writings of Berossus? Can theirhistorical conclusions really be called reliable?
The Canon of Ptolemy
The Royal Canon of Claudius Ptolemy, a second-century C.E. astronomer, is also used to support the traditional date 587 B.C.E. Ptolemy’s list of kings is considered the backbone of the chronology of ancient history, including the Neo-Babylonian period.
Ptolemy compiled his list some 600 years after the Neo-Babylonian period ended. So howdid he determine the date when the first king on his list began to reign? Ptolemy explained that by using astronomical calculations based in part on eclipses, “we have derived to compute back to the beginning of the reign ofNabonassar,” the first king on his list.4 Thus, ChristopherWalker of the British Museum says that Ptolemy’s canon was “an artificial scheme designed to provide astronomers with a consistent chronology” and was “not to provide historians with a precise record of the accession and death of kings.”5 “It has long been known that the Canon is astronomically reliable,” writes Leo Depuydt, one of Ptolemy’s most enthusiastic defenders, “but this does not automatically mean that it is historically dependable.” Regarding this list of kings, Professor Depuydt adds: “As regards the earlier rulers [who included the Neo-Babylonian kings], the Canon would need to be compared with the cuneiform record on a reign by reign basis.”6
What is this “cuneiform record” that enables us to measure the historical accuracy of Ptolemy’s canon? It includes the Babylonian chronicles, lists of kings, and economic tablets—cuneiform documents written by scribes who lived during, or near, Neo-Babylonian times.7
How does Ptolemy’s list compare with that cuneiformrecord? The box “HowDoes Ptolemy’s Canon Compare With Ancient Tablets?” (see below) shows a portion of the canon and compares this with an ancient cuneiform document. Notice that Ptolemy lists only four kings between the Babylonian rulers Kandalanu and Nabonidus. However, the Uruk King List—a part of the cuneiform record— reveals that seven kings ruled in between. Were their reigns brief and negligible? One of them, according to cuneiform economic tablets, ruled for seven years.8
There is also strong evidence from cuneiform documents that prior to the reign of Nabopolassar (the first king of the Neo- Babylonian period), another king (Ashuretel- ilani) ruled for four years in Babylonia. Also, for more than a year, there was no king in the land.9 Yet, all of this is left out of Ptolemy’s canon.
Why did Ptolemy omit some rulers? Evidently, he did not consider them to be legitimate rulers of Babylon.10 For example, he excluded Labashi-Marduk, a Neo- Babylonian king. But according to cuneiform documents, the kings whom Ptolemy omitted actually ruled over Babylonia.
In general, Ptolemy’s canon is regarded as accurate. But in view of its omissions, should it really be used to provide a definite historical chronology?
The Conclusion Based on This Evidence
To sum up: The Bible clearly states that there was an exile of 70 years. There is strong evidence—and most scholars agree—that the Jewish exiles were back in their homeland by 537 B.C.E. Counting back from that year would place Jerusalem’s destruction in 607 B.C.E. Though the classical historians and the canon of Ptolemy disagree with this date, valid questions can be raised about the accuracy of their writings. Really, those two lines of evidence hardly provide enough proof to overturn the Bible’s chronology.
However, further questions remain. Is there really no historical evidence to support the Bible-based date of 607 B.C.E.? What evidence is revealed by datable cuneiformdocuments, many of which were written by ancient eyewitnesses? We will consider these questions in our next issue.
A quick summary:
? Secular historians usually say that Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 B.C.E.
? Bible chronology strongly indicates that the destruction occurred in 607 B.C.E.
? Secular historians mainly base their conclusions on the writings of classical historians and on the canon of Ptolemy.
? The writings of classical historians contain significant errors and are not always consistent with the records on clay tablets.
Openy bit footnote: * Both years are mentioned in secular sources. For simplicity, we will refer to 587 B.C.E. in this series. B.C.E. means “Before the Common Era.”
Paragraph 1 footnote: # Jehovah’s Witnesses produce a reliable Bible translation known as the NewWorld Translation of the Holy Scriptures. However, if you are not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, youmay prefer to use other translations when considering Bible subjects. This article quotes from a number of widely accepted Bible translations.
Clasical historians footnote * The Neo-Babylonian Empire began with the reign of Nebuchadnezzar’s father, Nabopolassar, and ended with the reign of Nabonidus. This time period is of interest to scholars because it covers most of the 70 years of desolation.
1. Babyloniaca (Chaldaeorum Historiae), Book One, 1.1.
2. Studies in Ancient Near Eastern World Viewand Society, page 295.
3. The Babyloniaca of Berossus, page 8.
4. Almagest , III, 7, trans lated by G. J. Toomer, in Ptolemy’s Almagest, published 1998, page 166. Ptolemy knew that Babylonian astronomers usedmathematical schemes to “compute” the times of past and future eclipses because they discovered that eclipses of the same character reoccur every 18 years.—Almagest, IV, 2.
5. Mesopotamia and Iran in the Persian Period, pages 17-18.
6. Journal of Cuneiform Studies, Volume 47,1995, pages 106-107.
7. Cuneiformis a formofwriting inwhich a scribe pressed various signs into the surface of a soft clay tablet using a sharp stylus with awedge-shaped point.
8. Sin-sharra-ishkun ruled for seven years, and 57 economic tablets of this king are dated from his accession year through year seven. See Journal of Cuneiform Studies, Volume 35, 1983, pages 54-59.
9. The economic tablet C.B.M. 2152 is dated in the fourth year of Ashur-etelilani. (Legal and Commercial Transactions Dated in the Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian and Persian Periods—Chiefly From Nippur, by A.T. Clay,1908, page 74.) Also the Harran Inscriptions of Nabonidus, (H1B), I, line 30, has him listed just before Nabopolassar. (Anatolian Studies, Vol. VIII, 1958, pages 35, 47.) For the kingless period, see Chronicle 2, line 14, of Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles, pages 87-88.
10. Some scholars contend that certain kings were omitted by Ptolemy—who supposedly listed only kings of Babylon— because thesewere called by the title “King of Assyria.” However, as you will note in the box on page 30, several kings included in Ptolemy’s canon also had the title “King of Assyria.” Economic tablets, cuneiform letters, and inscriptions clearly reveal that kings Ashur-etel-ilani, Sinshumu- lishir, and Sin-sharra-ishkun ruled over Babylonia.
Here is what "they will consider" in the second part.
Is there really no historical evidence to support the Bible-based date of 607 B.C.E.? What evidence is revealed by datable cuneiform documents,many of which were written by ancient eyewitnesses? We will consider these questions in our next issue
I wonder what "evidence" they are going to bring to the table, probably some silly numerology to 1914 will be the so called evidence.
This article seems almost intentionally super long and boring. There is LOADS of fluff in it that doesn't have any logical link to the conclusions they draw.
(Although they don't really draw any conclusions they just ask leading questions like: "But in view of its omissions, should it really be used to provide a definite historical chronology?")
It's pretty obvious they are expecting the witnesses to just look at the pictures and assume the wall of text proves them right.
The "Why It Matters" is the part that I want to hear intellegently explained...
The prophecy they based on it FAILED.
It would still have FAILED if they had used the 586/587 date -
Because the whole prophetic numerology they made up is quite simply bat-shit crazy.
The missing kings in Ptolemys list is a red herring as they have no effect on the period between Nabopolassar and Nabonidus which is the period under discussion. Very sad.
But most JWs will say "SEE there's MISSING KINGS!!" You just can't trust those secular historians an inch...
Oh goody part 2 with "evidence" to follow....
I wonder if Rolf Furuli had anything to do with this article.
They know they are full of it. I bet my mom will hit me with this article since it was my biggest fault with WT.
The WTS has painted itself into a corner with this article and its sequel. Thanks for posting the text and providing the link, Lore. It will prove very useful for us "apostates" in the future. I suppose that what puzzles me the most is what is the reason and purpose for publishing this pablum? I can only assume it is to tighten the vise grip the Governing Body has on the rank and file. They know the general public doesn't buy their chronology and predictions, but it is most important that the rank and file do. The cornerstone of this religion is the teaching that the Gentile Times expired in 1914. They must maintain that belief at all costs.
Here's a question I will pose. Does anyone think this article could also be a way of preparing the rank and file to keep the faith when the one hundredth anniversary of the Gentile Times' "expiration" arrives three years hence? From what I hear, quite a few Witnesses are looking forward to the year 2014 in the hopes something extraordinary will happen. Are there some on the Governing Body as well as the Writing and Service Departments who are doing likewise? Could this two-part series be laying the groundwork for this, or is it just another way of saying, "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"?