"THE ONLY ANCIENT AUTHORITY OF VALUE ON
BABYLONIAN HISTORY IS THE OLD TESTAMENT"
(Encycl. Brit., 11th (Cambridge) edition, vol. iii, p. 101).
1. The great prophecy of the seventy years of Babylonian servitude in Jeremiah 25 is prefaced, in vv. 1-3, by one of the most important date-marks in the Scriptures :--
"The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all
the people of Judah IN THE FOURTH YEAR OF
JEHOIAKIM the son of Josiah king of Judah, that
WAS THE FIRST YEAR OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR king
of Babylon; the which Jeremiah the prophet
spake unto all the people of Judah, and to all
the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, From the
thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon king
of Judah, even unto this day, that is the three
and twentieth year, the word of the LORD hath
come unto me."
On what is called "received" dating, the fourth year of Jehoiakim (being the first year of Nebuchadnezzar) is usually given as 606 B.C.; whereas in The Companion Bible, both in the margin, and in Ap. 50. V, p. 60, and VII, p. 67, it is shown as 496 B.C. -- a difference of 110 years. This is a serious matter, but the reason is simple, and is as follows :--
In the majority of the systems of dating extant, chronologers have ignored, and omitted from their sequence of Anno Mundi years, the ninety-three years included in St. PAUL'S reckoning in Acts 13:19-22; and also, in the majority of cases, the interregnum and "gaps" in the later kings of Judah, amounting together to 110-113 years (*1); and, further, by accepting the 480th year of 1Kings 6:1 as being a cardinal, instead of an ordinal number; and as being an Anno Mundi date, instead of one to be understood according to Anno Dei reckoning (see Ap. 50, Introduction, § 6).
The Holy Spirit, we may believe, expressly made use of St. Paul, in
the statement in the passage referred to, in order to preserve us from
falling into this error. CLINTON (1781-1852) well says on the point
(*2) : "The computation of St. Paul, delivered in a solemn argument
before a Jewish audience, and confirmed by the whole tenor of the history
in the Book of Judges, out-weighs the authority of that date" (480).
In spite, however, of this Divine warning, many accept the 480th year as
being a cardinal number, and reckon it as an Anno Mundi date.
But, if ST. PAUL is correct in adding ninety-three years to the period
between the Exodus and the Temple (making thus 573 instead of 479); and
if the inter-regnum between Amaziah and Uzziah, and the "gaps" clearly
indicated in the sacred record and shown on the Charts in Ap. 50 are recognized,
then it is perfectly clear that the majority of the chronologers are 110
to 113 years out of the true Anno Mundi reckoning, and, instead
of the Babylonian servitude commencing in the year 606 B.C. (the fourth
year of Jehoiakim and first year of Nebuchadnezzar), the real Anno Mundi
year for that most important event is 496 B.C., as shown in Ap. 50.
On the authority of certain well-known names, we are asked to believe that "profane history", and the annals of ancient nations, supply us with infallible proofs and checks, whereby we can test and correct the chronological statements of Holy Scripture.
But we need to be reminded that this is very far from being true.
Chronologists of all ages are, as a rule, very much like sheep -- they
follow a leader : and, once the idea became current that the "correct"
(supposed) dates of certain epochs and periods in Greek (and other) history
could be brought to bear upon and override certain Biblical chronological
statements, which presented "difficulties" to these modern chronologers,
then it soon became almost a matter of course to make the figures
of Divine revelation submit and conform to "profane" figures, derived from
parchment or clay, instead of vice versa. (*3)
"The history contained in the Hebrew Scriptures presents a remarkable and pleasing contrast to the early accounts of the Greeks. In the latter, we trace with difficulty a few obscure facts preserved to us by the poets, who transmitted, with all the embellishments of poetry and fable, what they had received from oral tradition. In the annals of the Hebrew nation we have authentic narratives, written by contemporaries, and these writing under the guidance of inspiration. What they have delivered to us comes, accordingly, under a double sanction. They were aided by Divine inspiration in recording facts upon which, as mere human witnesses, their evidence would be valid. But, as the narrative comes with an authority which no other writing can possess, so, in the matters related, it has a character of its own. The history of the Israelites is the history of miraculous inter-positions. Their passage out of Egypt was miraculous. Their entrance into the promised land was miraculous. Their prosperous and their adverse fortunes in that land, their servitudes and their deliverances, their conquests and their captivities, were all miraculous. Their entire history, from the call of Abraham to the building of the sacred Temple, was a series of miracles. It is so much the object of the sacred historians to describe these, that little else is recorded. The ordinary events and transactions, what constitutes the civil history of other States, are either very briefly told, or omitted altogether; the incidental mention of these facts being always subordinate to the main design of registering the extraordinary manifestations of Divine power. For these reasons, the history of the Hebrews cannot be treated like the history of any other nation; and he who would attempt to write their history, divesting it of its miraculous character, would find himself without materials. Conformably with this spirit, there are no historians in the sacred volume of the period in which miraculous intervention was withdrawn. After the declaration by the mouth of Malachi that a messenger should be sent to prepare the way, the next event recorded by any inspired writer is the birth of that messenger. But of the interval of 400 (*4) years between the promise and the completion no account is given."
And then CLINTON significantly remarks :--
"And this period of more than 400 (*4) years between
Malachi and the Baptist is properly the only portion in the whole
long series of ages, from the birth of Abraham to the Christian era, which
is capable of being treated like the history of any other nation.
"From this spirit of the Scripture history, the writers not designing to give a full account of all transactions, but only to dwell on that portion in which the Divine character was marked, many things which we might desire to know are omitted; and on many occasions a mere outline of the history is preserved. It is mortifying to our curiosity that a precise date of many remarkable facts cannot be obtained.
"The destruction of the Temple is determined by concurrent sacred and profane testimony to July, 587 B.C. From this point we ascent to the birth of Abraham. But between these two epochs, the birth of Abraham and the destruction of the temple, two breaks occur in the series of Scripture dates; which make it impossible to fix the actual year of the birth of Abraham; and this date being unknown, and assigned only upon conjecture, all the preceding epochs are necessarily unknown also."
This important statement deserves the most serious consideration; for CLINTON himself frequently transgresses its spirit in his Scripture Chronology : e.g. he "determines" the "captivity of Zedekiah to June, 587 B.C." And this he accomplishes by "bringing", as he says, Scripture and profane accounts to "a still nearer coincidence by comparing the history of ZEDEKIAH and JEHOIACHIN with the dates assigned to the Babylonian kings by the Astronomical Canon" (Fasti Hellenici, I, p. 319). In other words, this means that he "squares" the scriptural records of events some 200 years before the commencement of the period which he has before stated is alone "capable of being treated like the history of any other nation", by means of the Astronomical Canon of Ptolemy.
PTOLEMY'S Canon (cent. 2 A.D.) is to CLINTON and his disciples what
the monuments are to PROFESSOR SAYCE and his followers. Both "necessitate"
the accommodation of Biblical chronology to suit their respective "Foundations
of Belief" in dating.
And it may be strongly urged that failure on the part of the majority
of chronologers, and partial failure on the part of others to recognize
this, so to speak, double entry system of the Bible dating has "necessitated",
as we are told, the adjustment of the Biblical figures to suit the
requirements of Astronomical Canons and ancient monuments.
CLINTON'S Calendar of Greek dates, it must be borne in mind, only commences with the traditional date of the first Olympiad (*6) (776 B.C.). From that year on and backwards, everything in his Scripture Chronology is assumed to be capable of being arranged, and made to harmonize with that date.
But, it must also be remembered that grave suspicions have been entertained as to the correctness of this view.
SIR ISAAC NEWTON (1642-1727), for instance, in his Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended, charges the Greek chroniclers with having made the antiquities of Greece 300 or 400 years older than the truth. The whole passage reads thus (Works, vol. v, p. 4 of the Introduction) :--
"A little while after the death of ALEXANDER THE GREAT, they began to set down the generations, reigns, and successions, in numbers of years; and, by putting reigns and successions equipollent (equivalent) to generations; and three generations to an hundred or an hundred and twenty years, as appears by their chronology, they have made the antiquities of Greece 300 or 400 years older than the truth. And this was the original of the technical chronology of the Greeks. ERATOSTHENES wrote about an hundred years after the death of ALEXANDER THE GREAT; he was followed by APOLLODORUS; and these two have been followed ever since by chronologers."
NEWTON then goes on to quote the attack on HERODOTUS by PLUTARCH (born about 46 A.D.), for chronological nebulosity (*7), in support of his contention as to the uncertainty and doubtfulness of the chronology of the Greeks. He further adds :--
"As for the chronology of the Latins, that is still
more uncertain ... The old records of the Latins were burnt by the Gauls,
sixty-four years before the death of ALEXANDER THE GREAT : and QUINTIUS
FABIUS PICTOR (cent. 3 B.C.), the oldest historian of the Latins, lived
an hundred years later than that king."
EUSEBIUS, the Church historian and bishop of Caesarea (A.D. 264-349), is mainly responsible for the modern system of dating which results in squaring scriptural chronology with the Greek Olympiad years, and it is upon EUSEBIUS'S reckonings and quotations that CLINTON also mainly relies.
In his Chronicle of Universal History, the first book, entitled Chronography, contains sketches of the various nations and states of the old world from the Creation to his own day.
The second book of this work consists of synchronical tables with the names of the contemporary rulers of the various nations, and the principal events in the history of each from ABRAHAM to his own time. EUSEBIUS gets his information from various sources. He makes use of JOSEPHUS (A.D. 37-95), AFRICANUS (cent. 3 A.D.), BEROSUS (cent. 3 B.C.), POLYHISTOR (cent. 1 B.C.), ABYDENUS (about 200 B.C.), CEPHALION (cent. 1 A.D.), MANETHO (cent. 3 B.C.), and other lost writers -- equally "profane".
In his turn, he is largely used by moderns to "determine" scriptural dates; and it is mainly through his instrumentality that many of the so-called "received" datings of the O.T., from Abraham to the Christian era, have been "fixed".
In addition to these and other ancient records, and "systems" of chronology, we have notably the Canon of Ptolemy referred to above. PTOLEMY, an astronomer of the second century A.D., give a list of Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Egyptian, and Roman rulers, "from about 750 B.C. to his own time."
The Seder Olam is a Jewish chronological work of about the same date (cent. 2 A.D.).
Now to-day, we have what is called "the Witness of the Monuments", of which it may be remarked that frequently their testimony is accepted in preference to the scriptural record, and is often used to impugn the statements and chronology of the Bible. The result of recent modern explorations in Assyria, Babylonia, and Egypt, has been that we have almost every date in the O.T. redated, because we are told by some (as PROFESSOR SAYCE, quoted above) that this is "necessitated" by the Assyrian Canon.
The Assyrian Eponym Canon is a list, compiled from several imperfect copies (*8) on clay tablets of lists of public officials (called "Eponyms") who held office, one for each year. This list contains some 270 names, and is supposed to cover the period from soon after the close of Solomon's reign to the reign of Josiah. It is spoken of as showing "some slight discrepancies, (*9) but on the whole is held to be highly valuable". This is the Assyrian Canon which, according to PROFESSOR SAYCE, "necessitates" the redating of the Biblical events and periods!
The Babylonian and Egyptian Monumental Records also contribute their quota towards the "fixing" of scriptural chronology; but these are, it is acknowledged, more of less incomplete, and therefore, more or less untrustworthy.
So far as supplying interesting sidelight details of the
with which they deal, and that impinge upon sacred history, these sources
are all more or less useful. But, so far as affording absolutely
trustworthy material from which a complete chronological compendium
can be formed from the Creation to Christ, is concerned, they are all more
or less useless, for the simplest of all reasons, viz. that they have no
line or start-point in common. They possess, so to speak,
no "common denominator".
CENSORINUS (quoted in the note on p. 122) may be taken to voice the whole body of ancient chronologers when, in writing on chronological subjects, he says :--
"If the origin of the world had been known unto man, I would thence have taken my beginning ... Whether time had a beginning, or whether it always was, the certain number of years cannot be comprehended."
And PTOLEMY, the author of the famous "Canon", says :--
"To find observation upon the passages of the whole world, or such an immense crowd of times I think much out of their way that desire to learn and know the truth."
He means, it was a hopeless matter to fix upon the original start-point
For this purpose two things are absolutely necessary to the engineer : viz. a "bench-mark" (or marks) and a "datum line".
The "bench-mark" is a mark cut in stone of some durable material in a fixed position, and forms the terminus a quo, from which every measurement of distance on the whole length of line is measured off.
The datum line is supposed perfectly horizontal line extending
beneath the whole distance between the proposed termini; and from
which all the levels are to be calculated. The first bench-mark
is the starting-point a line of levels for the determination of altitudes
over the whole distance; or one of a number of similar marks, made at suitable
carefully measured distances, as the survey proceeds, in order that the
exact distances between each, and ultimately between the terminus a
quo and the terminus ad quem may be ascertained
work is carried out.
All are agreed that the FOURTH YEAR OF JEHOIAKIM, and the FIRST YEAR OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR form a point of contact between sacred and profane history of the utmost importance.
From this point of contact it is claimed that a "complete scheme of dates may be derived", as some put it; or, according to others, "from this date we reckon on to Christ and back to Adam."
The year of the point of contact is generally said to be 606 B.C. or 604 B.C.
It is perfectly justifiable to occupy this position; but, only if the dating of the point of contact can be demonstrated and maintained.
It is quite easy to say that this year of contact between the sacred and profane history is 606 B.C. or 604 B.C., and from this we can reckon "back to Adam and on to Christ".
But a question of paramount importance at once suggests itself, viz. What is the datum, or foundation, or bench-mark date from which the year, say 606 B.C., is obtained?
The answer usually received is "we determine it from (the date of) the
captivity of Zedekiah" (CLINTON). Or, "the agreement of leading chronologers
is a sufficient guarantee that David began to reign in 1056-1055 B.C.,
and, therefore, that all dates subsequent to that event can be definitely
fixed." Or else we are told that the Assyrian Cannon (and the "Monuments"
generally) "necessitate" the date of this year of contact as being 604
B.C. (PROFESSOR SAYCE).
This exactly describes the present case, because this
(i.e. 606 or 604 B.C.), so to speak, makes its appearance in the middle
of the supposed line (or, to be more accurate, towards the end of
it) without being referred back to datum, that one definite "fixed"
departure point or bench-mark at the teminus a quo from which
the years can alone be accurately reckoned.
It would be impossible to find an engineer who would be guilty of such
folly. He would accurately measure his distances from a fixed point
at the terminus a quo, referring everything back to that,
and using his datum line to check his levels, otherwise he might as easily
find himself 100 miles or more out.
In the chronology of the Bible we have given to us one primal fixed point (or bench-mark) and one only, from which every distance-point on the line of time, so to speak, must be measured, and to which everything must be referred back as datum!
That datum-point, or bench-mark, is the creation of Adam, and
is represented by the datum-mark 0 (nought) or zero. And as
the unit of measurement, in the illustration suggested above, is one mile
(*11), so the unit of measurement in the chronology of the Bible is one
year (whether sidereal or lunar matters not for the sake of the argument).
If Holy Scripture had definitely stated the exact period in years between the creation of "the First Man Adam", and "the Last Adam", or had given us the exact date of the Incarnation or Resurrection of Christ, we should then have been justified in reckoning back from this fixed date as from the known and authoritative terminus ad quem.
But this is not the case, although we believe the period is clearly inferred and indicated, as the Charts in Ap. 50 show, which thus agree with USSHER'S conclusions, although not reaching them by USSHER'S methods, or figures. (*12)
We have therefore no alternative. We must make our measurements,
i.e. reckon our years, from the only terminus we possess, viz. the
start-point or bench-mark laid down for us in "the Scriptures of
truth", that is, the creation of Adam.
Acting on this principle we recognize the fact that ST. PAUL'S period,
from the Exodus to the Temple, is the real period of 573
years; while the 479 (480th) years of 1Kings 6:1 are to be taken as according
to Anno DEI reckoning. Thus, by accepting this, and admitting,
instead of omitting, the "gaps" so clearly indicated in the line of the
later kings of Judah, it will appear that the important chronological contact-point
between sacred and secular history, which Scripture calls "THE FOURTH YEAR
OF JEHOIAKIM and THE FIRST YEAR OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR", is to be dated 496
B.C., instead of the usually "received" date of 606 B.C., or thereabout.
(*2) Fasti Hellenici, Scripture Chronology, I, p. 313.
(*3) e.g. in The Variorum Aids to Bible Students we are told by Professor SAYCE, in a special head-note to his article The Bible and the Monuments, that the dates he gives throughout are necessitated by the Assyrian Canon (p. 78).
(*4) CLINTON, apparently in these two passages, speaks of the
400 years as being a round number; meaning that is was about
400 years from MALACHI to the birth of JOHN THE BAPTIST, and therefore
A reference to Ap. 50. VII, p. 67, VII (6), p. 69, and Ap. 58, p. 84, will show that the 400 years he speaks of are not a round number, but the actual number of years that elapsed between the prediction of MALACHI -- "the seal of the prophets" -- and the coming of "My messenger" (John the Baptist) followed by "the Messenger of the Covenant", 3:1 (Jesus Christ). From its internal evidence it is perfectly clear that the prophecy of Malachi -- "the burden of Jehovah" -- must be dated several years after the Restoration, and the Dedication of the Temple of Zerubbabel.
From the first Passover in Nisan 404 B.C. -- following immediately after the Dedication -- to the birth of John the Baptist in the spring of the year 4 B.C. was four hundred years (10 x 40), the Incarnation being six months later in the same year.
But the ministries of both the Baptist and Christ began thirty years later; i.e. in 26 A.D.
Four hundred years back from this date gives us 374 B.C., and 374 B.C. is of course thirty years after the recommencement of the Mosaic ritual dating from the Passover in Nisan 404 B.C.
It is therefore a fair inference that the "seal of the prophets" should have been affixed thirty years after the Restoration of the Temple services, and exactly four hundred years before the fulfillment (Matt. 3:1-3. Mk. 1:2, 3. Lk. 3:2-6. John 1:6-23) of Malachi's prediction in 3:1.
The language used by Malachi describes a condition of things that could not well have been reached under twenty or thirty years.
On the other hand the period could not have been longer. See Ap. 77, p. 113, and the notes on Malachi.
Another illustration of the principle of Anno DEI reckoning should be noted here.
The fourth year of JEHOIAKIM and first of NEBUCHADNEZZAR is dated 496 B.C. : that is, 492 years from the Nativity.
The Babylonian servitude, seventy years, and the succeeding twenty-two years, from the decree of Cyrus (426 B.C.) to the First Passover after the Dedication of the Temple (404 B.C.), are together ninety-two years. If this, the Great Lo-Ammi period (corresponding to the ninety-three Lo-Ammi years in Judges), is deducted we get again 400 years (496 - 92 - 4 = 400). Thus we have the scriptural Great number of probation (10 x 40 = 400) significantly connected with this fourth year of JEHOIAKIM. Cp. also Gen. 21:10. Acts 7:6; and see Ap. 50, pp. 51-53. There are other examples in the Scriptures.
(*5) See note on 2Kings 15:27.
(*6) His authority for this date is given in the following sentences
"The first Olympiad is placed by CENSORINUS (c. 21) in the 1014th year before the consulship of ULPIUS and PONTIANUS in A.D. 238 = 776 B.C. ... If the 207th games were celebrated in July, A.D. 49, 206 Olympiads, or 824 years had elapsed, and the first games were celebrated in July, 776 B.C." That is to say, a date is taken, supposed to be A.D. 49 (Fasti Hellenici, Vol. I, Tables, p. 150), on testimony quoted from another ancient writer (SOLINUS, cent. 3 A.D.), that in that year the 207th Olympic games were held; and, as 206 Olympiads = 824 years, therefore the first games were celebrated in 776 B.C. This year 776 B.C. therefore has become the pivot upon which all chronology has been made to depend, and Scripture events to "fit" in!
(*7) HERODOTUS was in the same boat with CENSORINUS and PTOLEMY. See. p. 123.
(*8) No complete list is yet known.
(*9) See note on 2Kings 15:27.
(*10) And for comparison with the 4,000 years in question.
(*11) Of course, the real unit is one inch; but, for convenience, the mile is considered as the unit in such a case.
(*12) See his Annales Veteris et Novi Testamenti (1650-1654).