VAT 4956 Astronomical Observations

by VM44 55 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Alleymom

    The WTS knows about the importance of the Lunar Three measurements on VAT 4956. They refer to them in footnote 18a on page 28 of "When Was Ancient Jerusalem Destroyed? Part Two," WT 11/1/2011. In that footnote they try to discount the findings of scholars F. Richard Stephenson and David M. Willis, who calculated the Lunar Three intervals on VAT 4956 and found them to be very accurate, to within four minutes (one time-degree).

    I wrote about the Stephenson/Willis article on this board four years ago, so I immediately picked up on footnote 18a. Speaking of the Lunar Three measurements recorded by "ancient observers" on VAT 4956, the WTS states, "Such measurements were not reliable."

    Stephenson & Willis were impressed that the measurements were accurate to within four minutes; the WT says the "measurements were not reliable." If we go through the Lunar Three calculations step by step in this thread we can see for ourselves whether or not the measurements are accurate.

    (I did this once before, back in 2007. I ran the calculations for the year 568/567 BCE and also for Furuli's made-up calendar for 588/587 BCE. The Lunar Three measurements clearly rule out the WT's date.)

  • Alleymom

    The Lunar Three measurements recorded on astronomical diary VAT 4956 are:

    Obverse, Line 4 Month I, day 14 The interval between sunrise and moonset. SR-MS 4° = 16 minutes
    Obverse, Line 11 Month II, day 26 The interval between moonrise and sunrise. MR-SR 23° = 92 minutes
    Obverse, Line 12 Month III, day 1 The interval between sunset and moonset. SS-MS 20° = 80 minutes
    Reverse, Line 5’ Month XI, day 1 The interval between sunset and moonset. SS-MS 14.5° = 58 minutes
    Reverse, Line 12’ Month XII, day 1 The interval between sunset and moonset. SS-MS 25° = 100 minutes
    Reverse, Line 16’ Month XII, day 12 The interval between sunrise and moonset. SR-MS 1.5° = 6 minutes

  • VM44

    Here is footnote 18a:

    18a. These time intervals (“lunar threes”) are the measurement of time from, for example, sunset to moonset on the first day of the month and during two other periods later in the month. Scholars have tied these time measurements to calendar dates. (“The Earliest Datable Observation of the Aurora
    Borealis,” by F. R. Stephenson and David M. Willis, in Under One Sky—Astronomy and Mathematics in the Ancient Near East, edited by John M. Steele
    and Annette Imhausen, published 2002, pages 420-428) For ancient observers to measure this period required some sort of clock. Such measurements were not reliable. (Archimedes, Volume 4, New Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, “Observations and Predictions of Eclipse Times by Early Astronomers,” by John M. Steele, published 2000, pages 65-66) On the other hand, calculating the position of themoon in relation to other celestial bodies was done with greater certainty.

    Note that an article written by John M. Steele is referenced both when describing the "lunar threes" measurements and when discounting them as not reliable.

    The article says that "lunar threes" measurements required a time measuring clock, and that such measurements were not reliable.

    Note that the article does not investigate if the specific "lunar threes" measurements are accurate or not. It just makes a general claim about time measurements, which is very likely true, and then applies it to a specific case without further consideration.

    I would NOT call that presenting a "thoroughly researched" answer to the question as the introductory blurb to the article claims!

  • AnnOMaly

    Alleymom, I have your 2007 results in table format:

  • Alleymom

    Big hugs to AnnOMaly! Thank you so much for posting my old chart! I have misplaced my original notes (I know they are here somewhere!), the jpegs are on an old computer, and when I went to the old thread on JWN the chart is just displayed as a teeny tiny thumbnail. Wow, you are amazing.

    VM44 -- You have probably seen the response Dr. Steele sent me when I wrote to him a couple of weeks ago. I specifically drew his attention to footnote 18a. Dr. Steele's response is posted on the Part Two thread.

    I would suggest that we work through the Lunar Three calculations very slowly, step by step, using the online astronomy program Sky View Cafe. It is easy to do. The Lunar Three intervals just involve looking up the times of sunrise, sunset, moonrise, and/or moonset for certain dates specified in VAT 4956 and then figuring out the elapsed time between two events.

    #1 -- How much time elapsed between sunrise and moonset in Babylon on Month I, day 14 in the year 568 BCE?
    That is the first of the Lunar Three measurements recorded on VAT 4956.
    The measurement is on line 4 of the front ("obverse") side of the tablet.
    According to VAT 4956, the time which elapsed between sunrise and moonset on that date was 4
    ° (which equals 16 minutes.)

    If we start with that question and go step by step through all six of the Lunar Three measurements recorded on VAT 4956, we can prove for ourselves that the Lunar Three measurements fit the year 568/567 BCE and DO NOT fit the year 588/587 BCE.

    I am convinced that with a little help in explaining how to input the dates and location, anyone on this board could find the time of sunrise and moonset in Babylon on that date in history. And then it is very easy to calculate how much time elapsed between sunrise and moonset. I promise - no algebra or high school math is required!

  • Alleymom

    Let's start by looking at:

    The Lunar Three measurements recorded on astronomical diary VAT 4956 are:

    Obverse, Line 4Month I, day 14The interval between sunrise and moonset.SR-MS4° = 16 minutesObverse, Line 11Month II, day 26The interval between moonrise and sunrise.MR-SR23° = 92 minutes
    Obverse, Line 12Month III, day 1The interval between sunset and moonset.SS-MS20° = 80 minutes
    Reverse, Line 5’Month XI, day 1The interval between sunset and moonset.SS-MS14.5° = 58 minutes
    Reverse, Line 12’Month XII, day 1The interval between sunset and moonset.SS-MS25° = 100 minutes
    Reverse, Line 16’Month XII, day 12The interval between sunrise and moonset.SR-MS1.5° = 6 minutes

    Note that the word "obverse" means the front side of the tablet.
    "Reverse," of course, is the back side of the tablet.

    So we need to look at Sachs and Hunger's translation of the obverse (front side) of VAT 4956, Line 4.

    That is found in volume 1 of their work Astronomical Diaries and Related Texts from Babylonia.
    Here is a link:

    Look on Line 4 of the obverse side. The second half of the line says:

    " On the 14 th , one god was seen with the other; sunrise to moonset: 4 o ."

    That's the first of the six "Lunar Three" measurements.
    Sunrise to moonset was 4° (time-degrees).
    One time-degree is equal to 4 minutes.
    So 4 ° = 16 minutes.
    They are saying that on Month 1, day 14 (of the Babylonian calendar) there were 16 minutes between sunrise and moonset.

    I am deliberately taking this extra slowly and going step by step so that anyone who wants to can follow along.
    If you have ANY questions or don't get something, please say so.

  • VM44

    Celestial Measurement in Babylonian Astronomy

    J. M. Steele

    pages 293-325

    Annals of Science

    Volume 64, Issue 3, 2007

    Currently, the entire article is available for free.


    Late Babylonian astronomical texts contain frequent measurements of the positions of the Moon and planets. These measurements include distances of the Moon or a planet from a reference star and measurements of the position of celestial bodies within a sign of the zodiac. In this paper, I investigate the relationship between these two measurement systems and propose a new understanding of the concepts of celestial longitude and latitude in Babylonian astronomy. I argue that the Babylonians did not define latitude using the ecliptic but instead considered the Moon and each planet to move up or down within its own band as it travelled around the zodiac.

  • AnnOMaly

    I already have the results of comparing between the two years' Lunar Three results from an old forum discussion, but it's not in an easy-to-view format. It needs putting into a table. I can do that if you want. Or does anyone else want to have a go?

    Alleymom, I saved your chart at the time because I was just starting to get my teeth into this subject and I thought it was something real useful to keep

  • Alleymom

    AnnOMaly -- I found some notes from several years ago, but decided the easiest thing to do (or at least the most careful thing to do) would be to re-check my numbers. I sent you a PM. I would like to know what location you are using for Babylon in your software programs. I'd love to see your results even if they are not in an easy-to-view format.


  • Doug Mason
    Doug Mason


    Looking at the www, I drew up these parameters for Babylon, Iraq (not that I have applied these figures anywhere):

    Latitude: 33 degrees, 32 minutes 27 seconds

    Longitude: 44 degrees 25 minutes 27 seconds

    Elevation: 27 meters

    Time Zone: + 3 hours (no daylight savings time)


Share this