Do All 13 Sets Of Lunar Positions On VAT 4956 Fit The Year 588/587 B.C.E.?

by AnnOMaly 13 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • AnnOMaly
  • AnnOMaly
    AnnOMaly

    DO ALL 13 SETS OF LUNAR POSITIONS ON VAT 4956 FIT THE YEAR 588/587 B.C.E.?

    According to the Watchtower article titled, 'When Was Ancient Jerusalem Destroyed?-What the Clay Documents Really Show?' (November 1, 2011 pp. 22-28), the following claim is made:

    "Because of the superior reliability of the lunar positions, researchers have carefully analyzed these 13 sets of lunar positions on VAT 4956. They analyzed the data with the aid of a computer program capable of showing the location of celestial bodies on a certain date in the past. What did their analysis reveal? While not all of these sets of lunar positions match the year 568/567 B.C.E., all 13 sets match calculated positions for 20 years earlier, for the year 588/587 B.C.E." - p. 25, 27 (emphasis added)

    The only researcher, that I am aware of, who has previously made this claim is Dr. Rolf Furuli. In the book Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, and Persian Chronology- Vol. II, (2nd edition, 2008), he says:

    "In the year 588/87, the positions of the stars and the constellations before, after, above, and below the moon fit perfectly, and the same is true with the distances between these and the moon, to the very degree. This strongly suggests that the lunar data on VAT 4956 were copied from a tablet having genuine observations from 588/87." - p. 332-3

    "Because of the excellent fit of all 13 lunar positions in 588/87, there are good reasons to believe that the lunar positions represent observations from that year ... ." - p. 333

    PUTTING THE CLAIM TO THE TEST:

    The introduction to Table C.5 on p. 332 outlines the criteria for determining an excellent, inaccurate or bad fit with the tablet's data:

    "Below in table C.5 is a comparison of good and bad fits of the lunar positions for the three different years that have been analyzed. An 'Excellent' fit can include a deviation of 1°, an 'Inaccurate' fit can include a deviation of 2°, and a 'Bad' fit has a deviation of more than 2°."

    Table C.5 The fit of the 13 sets of lunar positions related to years [adapted to include my comments on those results]

    [Please note: the column for 586/5 B.C.E. has been left out as it is irrelevant. The astronomy program used for comparison is the online version of Sky View Café.]

    588/87

    Comments

    568/67

    Comments

    Nisanu 1

    Excellent

    Sunset May 2: The moon was positioned as was stated on the tablet. However, contrary to the tablet's statement about the moon being visible, this moon would not have been (and thus the month is starting a day too early). As Furuli agrees that the lunar data on the tablet seem to be "genuine observations" (p. 333), it is puzzling that this moon could not be 'genuinely observed' and yet be seen as fitting the tablet's description 'excellently.'

    Excellent

    Sunset April 22: The moon was visible and its position consistent with the tablet's statement.

    Nisanu 9

    Excellent

    May 10: The moon couldn't be described as 'in front of' the star, but the distance from it matches that on the text.

    Bad

    April 30: The moon's position is, for the text's date, indeed bad.

    Ayyaru 1

    Excellent

    Sunset June 1: A good positional fit, however the rest of the observation details for the moon that day are ignored.

    Bad

    Sunset May 22: This should have been labeled an EXCELLENT fit. The moon's stated characteristics and position match very well (only 1° deviation) with the astro-program's results.

    Simanu 1

    Excellent

    Sunset June 30: Again, contrary to the text, this moon was not visible. Also, the modern computed time interval (sunset to moonset) does not fit the text's figure by a long shot. However, the moon's position was consistent with the tablet's statement.

    Excellent

    Sunset June 20: All the boxes are ticked - visibility, position, time interval and other characteristics. Yes, excellent.

    Simanu 5

    Excellent

    July 4: This should have been labeled BAD under F's criteria in the introduction. The moon is approx. 5½-6° behind the star rather than F's 2°36' above it or the 2° <above/below> it, as indicated in the text (a deviation of 3½° or more).

    Bad

    June 24: Assuming the star has been correctly identified, the moon's position for the text's date is bad.

    Simanu 8

    Excellent

    July 7: Should be marked BAD. The moon could not be described as 5° 'below' the star (or, as F. claims, 4°24' below it), but it was about 12° in front of it.

    Excellent

    June 27: The moon was about 4° below the star (only 1° deviation) - excellent fit with the tablet.

    Simanu 10

    Excellent

    July 9: Contrary to F's calculated distance of 7° 16', the moon was, in fact, about 10½° above the star and thus deviates 3½° from the 7° indicated on the tablet. Therefore, this position should also be entered as BAD.

    Excellent

    June 29: The moon was about 5½° above the star. The tablet indicates a distance of 7° which is a 1½° deviation from my chosen program's calculation. So, using F's criteria, this could mean an INACCURATE tag.

    Sabatu 1

    Excellent

    Sunset February 22 [see note 1 below]: The position of the moon is consistent with the tablet's statement, however, contrary to what the tablet said, it is unlikely that it was visible. In addition, the stated time interval poorly fits the computed time.

    Excellent

    Sunset February 12: The moon's position and its visibility are consistent with the tablet's testimony. The time interval is a better match than the one for 587 B.C.E.

    Sabatu 6

    Excellent

    February 27: This should be labeled BAD. [See note 2 below.]

    Excellent

    February 17: This date yields a compatible result with the specified celestial objects falling within the halo's parameter.

    Sabatu 11 ?

    Excellent

    No day number can be seen on the tablet, so 'Sabatu 11' is speculation. Curiously, F's comments and the table's 587 section (p. 328-329) are based on calculations for Sabatu 12, and he says that the moon's position is "exactly as the tablet says." Logically, then, there cannot be an 'Excellent' fit for the moon's position on Sabatu 11 as well! This isn't the only problem, but for the sake of simplicity, the above criticism will suffice.

    This one should be marked INVALID.

    Excellent

    February 22: There is a good fit with this corresponding date to Sabatu 11, but seeing as no date is given on the tablet at all, and because of the confusion of dates on the 587 side, it is better to omit the result from this table.

    Addaru 1

    Excellent

    Sunset March 24: The moon's position is a good match with the tablet. Other details could conceivably match too - with the exception of the time interval which would be classed as a poor fit.

    Excellent

    Sunset March 14: Ticks all the boxes - the moon was visible, its position consistent with the tablet's statement, the time interval is a good match, good probability of other stated details fitting. Yes, excellent.

    Addaru 2

    Excellent

    March 25: The moon was about 9° behind and over 5½° below the Pleiades. In fact, the moon was right in the middle of Taurus' head. The tablet indicates the moon "was balanced" 8° below the Pleiades. This is a poor fit - even according to F's criteria - and should be marked BAD.

    Bad

    March 15: The moon was 7° straight below the Pleiades (1° deviation) and is, therefore, an EXCELLENT match with the tablet!

    [The reason why F. classed it as 'Bad' is explained below in note 3.]

    Addaru 7

    Excellent

    March 30: The moon's position is consistent with the tablet's details.

    Excellent

    March 20: The moon's position is likewise consistent with the tablet's details.

    Note 1:

    The discussion of the lunar data on the tablet's Reverse is a little confusing in Furuli's 2nd edition. In his table, he had dated Sabatu 1 to February 22, 587 BCE in his 1st edition (p. 318), but to February 21/22 in his 2nd edition (p. 327).

    Yet the Julian day number he provides corresponds to February 22 at 6 p.m. local time (similar inconsistencies between the table's Julian date and the Julian day number occur for Sabatu 6 and Addaru 1).

    Regarding the moon's position, he says,

    "The position is calculated at the end of Sabatu 1, because the moon could not be seen at the beginning of the day." (p. 326)

    If sunset February 21 was supposed to begin Sabatu 1, it would be correct to say the new moon could not be seen, since this date was just before conjunction. It's unclear what is meant by 'the end of Sabatu 1' - the Julian day number gives a time after sunset which starts a new day (i.e. day 2).

    If sunset February 22 was supposed to begin Sabatu 1, visibility would also be unlikely because of its azimuthal proximity to the sun, low altitude and having less than 1% illuminated fraction. According to both the Parker & Dubberstein and Anderlic/Firneis tables, and the criteria of both Schoch and Neugebauer, the likelihood of visibility would have been the next evening, February 23.

    As February 22 seems to be the more reasonable date out of the two Furuli opts for, I'll run with that and the dates that follow on from it.

    Note 2:

    Reverse, line 6': Night of the 6th, first part of the night, the moon was surrounded by a halo; Pleiades, the Bull of Heaven, and the Chariot [stood in it .... ]

    Halos come in specific sizes due to uniformly shaped ice crystals in the atmosphere and the angle at which light passes through them. The most commonly seen halo is 22° in radius. Rarely, there are larger 46° ones. (See http://ww2010.atmos.uiuc.edu/(Gh)/guides/mtr/opt/ice/halo/22.rxml and http://ww2010.atmos.uiuc.edu/(Gh)/guides/mtr/opt/ice/halo/46.rxml for a quick overview on halos.)

    On February 27, 587 BCE, during the first part of the night, the moon was more than 30° away from the Pleiades. Assuming the scribe wanted to say the constellations 'stood in' the halo (the line is broken, but it's likely), the question is: which halo was seen that night? Can we know?

    Yes we can. According to both R.C. Thompson (The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon, p. xxiv, xxv - http://www.etana.org/coretexts/20312.pdf*) and Sachs/Hunger (quoted below), the ancients had two words for halo: the smaller 22° one was called tarbasu (TÙR or TUR 3 ), and the larger one of 46° was called supuru (AMAŠ).

    "TÙR 'halo'

    Akk. tarbasu 'pen, fold'. ... The larger type of halo called supuru is not so far attested in diaries." - Astronomical Diaries and Related Texts From Babylonia, Vol. I, p. 33.

    (See also the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, Vol. 15, p. 398 and Vol. 18, p. 221-2 - http://oi.uchicago.edu/research/pubs/catalog/cad/ .)

    Consequently, it is the word tarbasu, describing the common 22° halo, which is used in VAT 4956.

    Therefore, Neugebauer & Weidner comment:

    "The halo with a 22° radius around the sun and moon is meant by tarbasu ... . Halo observations are mentioned quite often in our text. Obv. 3, 5; Rev. 3, 8 report on halos around the sun; Rev. 6, 7, 14, 15 on halos around the moon. The latter are particularly important; indeed, as it is regularly stated which stars and constellations are seen in the halo, an important clue is given for identifying them by approximately fixing the limits." - Ein astronomischer Beobachtungstext aus dem 37. Jahre Nebukadnezars II (-567/6), 1915, p.41 - translated from the German.

    Sabatu 6 appears to be the only occasion under Furuli's scheme, and where lunar halos are mentioned, that the celestial objects on the tablet would fall outside the 22° parameter.

    ---

    * Report no. 117 is also known as SAA 8, 494 and can be read here - http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/cgi-bin/oracc?prod=srch&project=saa&seq=volume,ch_no,designation&perpage=25&k0=sGRtCDR&zoom=4&zoomforce=1&page=2&item=21&trans=en

    Note 3:

    This is among the most embarrassing gaffes made in Furuli's 2nd edition. Bizarrely, despite the tablet clearly saying 'night of the 2nd' and considering that the moon would only be visible for 2½ hours or so after sunset, the given 587 B.C.E. Julian date translates into March 25 at 9 a.m local time (i.e. still Addaru 1), and the given 567 B.C.E. Julian date corresponds to March 16 at 9 a.m local time - broad daylight! It is on this ludicrous foundation that these rapidly-changing lunar positions are calculated and Furuli concludes, this time, that the Addaru 2, 587 B.C.E. position is excellent, while the Addaru 2, 567 B.C.E. position is bad!

    SUMMARY OF THE 13 SETS OF LUNAR DATA RESULTS:

    588/87

    568/67

    Nisanu 1

    Partially good

    Excellent

    Nisanu 9

    Excellent

    Bad

    Ayyaru 1

    Partially good

    Excellent

    Simanu 1

    Partially good

    Excellent

    Simanu 5

    Bad

    Bad

    Simanu 8

    Bad

    Excellent

    Simanu 10

    Bad

    Inaccurate?

    Sabatu 1

    Partially good

    Excellent

    Sabatu 6

    Bad

    Excellent

    Sabatu 11 ?

    Inconclusive

    Inconclusive

    Addaru 1

    Mostly good

    Excellent

    Addaru 2

    Bad

    Excellent

    Addaru 7

    Excellent

    Excellent

    CONSEQUENTLY:

    588/87

    568/67

    Excellent

    2

    9

    Mostly good

    1

    -

    Partially good

    4

    -

    Inaccurate?

    -

    1

    Bad

    5

    2

    Inconclusive

    1

    1

    CONCLUSION:

    It should have become clear by now that, even when the premises and criteria of the "researchers" are used in examining VAT 4956 (e.g. a late May start to the Babylonian new year, sometimes having a new month begin before first lunar crescent visibility, omitting key data and including speculative data in the analysis), the claim "all 13 sets [of lunar positions] match calculated positions ... for the year 588/587 B.C.E." still remains totally false!

  • AnnOMaly
    AnnOMaly

    Comments, questions, constructive criticism and the results of anyone else's research are welcome

  • breakfast of champions
    breakfast of champions

    Awesome work! I really do appreciate your efforts.

    In the end isn't VAT4956 the only cuneiform text out of thousands that can even be twisted to read 588/7?

    And hasn't the society also denigrated the authenticity of VAT4956 in the first place by saying it was a copy from a later (selucid?) time period?

    Forgive me for my ignorance, my attention has been divided with school over the past weeks and I really haven't given this information the time it deserves...

  • AnnOMaly
    AnnOMaly

    In the end isn't VAT4956 the only cuneiform text out of thousands that can even be twisted to read 588/7?

    You can twist any cuneiform text you like to fit any year you like, if you do enough jiggery-pokery with it and filter out the parts you don't want. Look at what Larsinger/JCanon does, for example.

    But back in the real world, if there was no VAT 4956, there are enough astronomical and economic texts to establish when Neb. and the other Neo-Babylonian kings reigned and for how long.

    And hasn't the society also denigrated the authenticity of VAT4956 in the first place by saying it was a copy from a later (selucid?) time period?

    They have to be careful here. None of the original autographs of the biblical books are in existence either. All the manuscripts are copies of earlier ones. If the fact that VAT 4956 is a later copy is somehow evidence of its unreliability, then what of the Bible?

  • moggy lover
    moggy lover

    It is true that VAT 4956 is a copy of an original document, and the Watchtower leadership has often cited this fact as a reason for questioning its veracity. But this need not be a valid reason, but rather it is a futile ploy to undermine a text that proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the Watchtower teaching on this subject is utterly false and without any true foundation.

    Doubtless there are several archaeological documents, not just of the Bible, but secular notices as well, that are copies of an original, yet no one in their right mind would question these documents simply on the basis of the fact that they are copies. The question that requires investigation is whether the document in hand is an accurate copy of its original.

    Several stele or pillars had notifications carved into their columns which were copies of each other. Finding one such stele would be as valuable as finding the one that was supposedly the original.

    Indeed, Watchtower apologists using such "reasoning" would be hard pressed to provide a reason for studying the current Watchtower magazine they have on hand, since it is but a copy of an original which is placed somewhere in the bowels of the Watchtower HQ.

    No one has the actual original $ 50 bill printed by the mint. All of us have copies. [Some, like the leaders of the Watchtower have more than others!] Now some of these bills may be fraudulent because they may be counterfeit, but exacting tests would prove this one way or other. If the information available on the bill is incorrect even by so much as a millimeter, then proof is there that it is a fraud. A very good fraud, but fraudulent all the same.

    What AOM has done is shown us how this invaluable document has stood the test of the most severe examination and has been vindicated in all its aspects every time. Therefore, whether an original or a copy, the information garnered from its writing is accurate.

    It is this issue that the Watchtower and its apologists must address.

  • Jeffro
    Jeffro

    I think it's hilarious that what was previously considered a “defective copy” “which contains numerous gaps” (Awake!, 8 May 1972) is now being touted as entirely accurate and compatible with observations for a year supporting JW chronology.

    And it's pretty funny that poor old Furuli doesn't get any 'credit' as a source for the 1 November 2011 Watchtower. (Shhh... maybe no one will make the connection.)

  • Hoffnung
    Hoffnung

    C.O. Jonsson did an excellent comparison exercise. It can be found on his website http://kristenfrihet.se/english/epage.htm.

    On the lower side on the page you find:

    A Review of: Rolf Furuli: Assyrian, Babylonian and Egyptian Chronology

    (Oslo: Awatu Publishers, 2007) Part I: The astronomical “diary” VAT 4956

    Same conclusion. VAT 4956 can only fit 568/7.

    Hoffnung

  • AnnOMaly
    AnnOMaly

    And it's pretty funny that poor old Furuli doesn't get any 'credit' as a source for the 1 November 2011 Watchtower. (Shhh... maybe no one will make the connection.)

    He's not going to plug his own book in the WT, is he? (I still think he wrote or part-wrote the articles.)

    Even Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig and his work gets a mention in the new "Was Life Created?" brochure.

  • designs
    designs

    Ann, others-

    Have you sent this information to the Society to get a response.

  • Jeffro
    Jeffro
    Have you sent this information to the Society to get a response.

    Back in 2004 when I first starting researching 607, I wrote to the Watch Tower Society. As anticipated, a witchhunt ensued. They already know they're lying, so writing to them doesn't really do much good. The only benefit in writing to them is to let them know that people don't believe their lies.

  • AnnOMaly
    AnnOMaly

    Have you sent this information to the Society to get a response.

    "Has your mind been melded?" ;-) I've learned from others' experiences.

    They don't care. The Society has known about the problems with their chronological scheme since the beginning of the 20th century, since Russell's time. People within the Org. and outside of it have been telling them for over a century now. JWs who write will given stock arguments that were rebutted long ago or be silenced by threat of expulsion. Non-JWs who write will be given stock arguments that were rebutted long ago or will be ignored. Two-way (anonymous) email communication isn't the Society's 'thing.'

    These two articles were a desperate attempt to quell the continued unease about this issue and they didn't realize that, particularly with regard to claims of cuneiform support for 607 BCE, they've gone and backed a lemon.

    Anyway, the information is on the internet for anybody who wants to look and give a response to it.

  • wobble
    wobble

    Thank you so much Ann for posting this info and for your work over the years, I appreciate so much you passing on the fruits of your labours to us.

    Any honest person reading your words will see that the WT are a bunch of liars simply bent on retaining their membership so that they can manipulate them and bleed them dry of their money and their lives.

    It really shocked me when, still nominally a JW, I realised that they actually knew about the 1914 doctrine beimg total hogwash, now nothing shocks me about them, I am just sad that I did not wake up earlier, had I come across your work earlier I would have.

    Please keep posting here, you are a diamond !

  • breakfast of champions
    breakfast of champions

    In our public talk today, the speaker mentioned how the Bible was "vindicated" by archaeology with regards to the 607 date in the recent articles. He mentioned That the ancient "tablets [sic]" in these articles proved this date. This inspired me to look up info about VAT 4956 on the CD rom. This is related to a question I posed earlier on this thread. According to the 5/8/72 Awake:

    " Nevertheless, someone may ask, Is there not an ancient astronomical tablet, “VAT 4956,” that places the thirty-seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign exactly in the same year as does Ptolemy’s Canon?

    It should not be overlooked that the source of corroborative evidence should bear the earmarks of dependability. Can this be said about “VAT 4956”? Not really. The text is not an original and it contains numerous gaps. Certain terms found therein cannot even be understood now. Twice in the text the notation hi-bi (meaning “broken off, obliterated”) appears. Thereby the scribe acknowledged that he was working from a defective copy.

    Even if, despite these problems, the astronomical information presents a true picture of the original, this would not establish the correctness of the historical data. As Ptolemy used the reigns of ancient kings (as he understood them) simply as a framework in which to place astronomical data, so the copyist of “VAT 4956” may, in line with the chronology accepted in his time, have inserted the ‘thirty-seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar.’ As admitted by the German scholars Neugebauer and Weidner (the translators of this text), the scribe evidently changed words to conform with the abbreviated terminology common in his day. But he was both inconsistent and inaccurate. So he could just as easily have inserted other information to suit his purposes. Hence both Ptolemy’s Canon and “VAT 4956” might even have been derived from the same basic source. They could share mutual errors.

    Opposed to Ptolemy’s Canon and “VAT 4956” stands the unanimous testimony of Jeremiah, Zechariah, Daniel and the writer of 2 Chronicles, that Judah and Jerusalem lay desolate for seventy years. Thousands of ancient manuscripts of these writings contain the identical testimony. So, because of the problems inherent in Ptolemy’s Canon and “VAT 4956,” it takes more faith to accept them than it does to accept the Bible’s testimony, which would place the desolation of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 607 B.C.E"

    To me, this begs the question, What happened to "the problems inherent in. . .VAT 4956"? Unfortunately, few would even bother to search VAT 4956 on their cd rom. What a snow job.

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