Archive for the ‘chronology’ Category

>The post-exilic chronology. Part 1: A common timeline

2009 December 20 Leave a comment

>Sorting out the post-exilic Israelite chronology has its difficulties. Modern biblical scholarship relies heavily on Persian material. The ESV Study Bible is probably typical in its outline. See table below (abridged).

Event Year (BC)
Cyrus king of Persia captures Babylon 539
First year of King Cyrus; issues proclamation freeing Jewish exiles to return 538–537
Jewish exiles, led by Sheshbazzar, return from Babylon to Jerusalem 537?
Altar rebuilt. 537
Temple rebuilding begins 536
Adversaries oppose the rebuilding 536–530
Temple rebuilding ceases 530–520
Temple rebuilding resumes (2nd year of Darius) 520
Temple construction completed (6th year of Darius) 516
Ezra departs from Babylon to Jerusalem (arrives in 7th year of Artaxerxes I) 458
Hanani brings Nehemiah a report from Jerusalem (20th year of Artaxerxes I) 445–444
Nehemiah before King Artaxerxes 445
Nehemiah repairs Jerusalem walls 445
Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem (32nd year of Artaxerxes I) 433–432

The problem I have with this reconstruction (which I will refer to as the common reconstruction) is that it tries to meld the biblical data with the secular perspective of the Persian data. Reading Ezra-Nehemiah using this scheme makes less sense and constant reference to a study Bible is needed to understand when events are happening.

This is the list of Persian kings as they appear in the Bible.

King Reference
Cyrus Ezra 1:1–4:3
Ahasuerus Ezra 4:6
Artaxerxes Ezra 4:7–24
Darius Ezra 4:24–6:22
Artaxerxes Ezra 7:1–Nehemiah 13:9

The common reconstruction places Cyrus ~530 BC. The opposition described in Ezra 4:1–6 is during the time of Cyrus to Darius ~530–490 BC, so Ezra 4:7 onwards is proposed to be describing a similar situation, i.e. opposition, even though it is several years later. There is a single verse about the time of Ahasuerus ~480 BC then several verses dedicated to Artaxerxes who is placed later ~460 BC. This aside supposedly stops at Ezra 4:23 with the next sentence returning to the opposition under Darius. Effectively the text is interpreted thus,

Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. [Aside on Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes.] Then the work on the house of God that is in Jerusalem stopped, and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

After the discussion about rebuilding the temple under Darius ~520 BC the text moves to the return of Ezra under Artaxerxes ~460 BC (some 50–60 years later).

Then Nehemiah returns some 13 years after Ezra, also during the reign of Artaxerxes.

Having laid out the common reconstruction I would like to point out what I see are the deficiencies.

Probably the most obvious issue is the distortion of the narrative around the opposition to building. We read of opposition in Ezra 4:4–5 and instead of any explanation we get a diversion some 50 years into the future. When the story returns to the previous era there are no details about the opposition previously mentioned. Ezra does go on to talk about letters sent in the days of Darius but this does not appear to be so much external opposition as enquiry. The governor Tattenai does ask about the authority under whom the Jews were acting in rebuilding the temple, but he does not stop them, and then he asks Darius if the Jewish claim can be confirmed from the archives.

There is also a possible issue with the common reconstruction in that Artaxerxes opposes the building of the city, which includes the walls (Ezra 4:12), yet he sends Nehemiah back to repair the walls in the 20th year of his reign (Nehemiah 2:8). It is possible that Artaxerxes did change his mind, but this does give one pause.

Further, the context of Ezra 4:24 fits the preceding verse 23 better than the earlier verse 5. We have a letter of opposition from the surrounding people leading to a decree by Artaxerxes to stop building the city,…

Then, when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe and their associates, they went in haste to the Jews at Jerusalem and by force and power made them cease. Then the work on the house of God that is in Jerusalem stopped, and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia. (Ezra 4:23–24)

If we read these verses together it says that the Jews were rebuilding the city and were compelled to stop, therefore the work on the temple also ceased. And there was no further building until the time of Darius.

Lastly, if one were not attempting to fit his prior ideas about the reigns of the Persian kings, would the common reconstruction come out of the book of Ezra?

In part 2 I will discuss a revision of this scheme.

>Potential advent astronomical events

2009 December 18 Leave a comment

>Below is a table of astronomical events that occurred near and up to 1 BC as seen from Jerusalem.

Dates are according to the Julian calendar.

Time is Jerusalem time. For universal time (UTC) subtract 2 hours. For Babylon time add 1 hour. Time is specified as such

  • Conjunction: time of closest approach.
  • Eclipse: time of central shadow.

Jerusalem is longitude 35°14′ East

Date Time Sun Moon Planet Star Const* Event
5 BC
Mar 23 20:21 Yes Total lunar eclipse
Sep 15 22:12 Yes Total lunar eclipse
4 BC
Mar 13 2:41 Yes Partial lunar eclipse
3 BC
Feb 15 14:30 Yes Yes Partial solar eclipse
May 20† 0:47 Mercury Saturn Conjunction: 40′
Jun 12 18:06 Venus Saturn Conjunction: 7.2′
Aug 12 7:20 Venus Jupiter Leo/ Cancer Conjunction: 4.2′
Aug 31 23:03 Mercury Venus Conjunction
Sep 8–10 Yes Yes Virgo Sun and Moon in Virgo
Sep 11 Yes Yes Virgo Sun in Virgo. New Moon at feet of Virgo
Sep 14 7:05 Jupiter Regulus Leo Triple conjunction (1): 20′
Dec 1 Jupiter Jupiter stationary
2 BC
Feb 17 17:15 Jupiter Regulus Leo Triple conjunction (2): 51′
Mar 29 Jupiter Jupiter stationary
May 8 18:10 Jupiter Regulus Leo Triple conjunction (3): 43′
Jun 17 19:53 Venus Jupiter Leo Conjunction: 6″. Close to Regulus. Full Moon
Jul 17 7:14 Yes Partial lunar eclipse. Not visible from Jerusalem
Aug 26 17:15 Mars Jupiter Leo Conjunction. Venus and Mercury also massing with Mars and Jupiter
Dec 25–30 Yes Jupiter Virgo Jupiter stationary. December 25 is solstice
1 BC
Jan 10† 1:09 Yes Total lunar eclipse
Dec 29 14:31 Yes Partial lunar eclipse. Only end of eclipse visible

*Const. = constellation.
†Date given based on time in Jerusalem. Times are usually given in UTC which for these events would be 1 day prior.

These dates were obtained from The Star that Astonished the World by Ernest Martin and NASA’s lunar eclipse site.

Categories: astronomy, chronology, nativity

>Dating of the Hammurabi Code

2009 May 24 6 comments

> When was the Code of Hammurabi written?

Similarities have been noted with the Law of Moses. For example in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia parallels are identified for Exodus 21:2, 15, 18, 22, 24, 28-32; 22:7,10; Leviticus 19:35f; 20:10; 24:19f; 25:39f; Deuteronomy 19:16f; 21:15f, 18f; 22:22; 24:1, 7.

Legal codes from ancient history can be helpful in understanding why specific laws existed. They can show us that a certain way of thinking was more widespread in the ancient world. It is claimed that Moses borrowed from Hammurabi because the latter antedates Moses. Other legal codes include those of Ur-Nammu and Eshnunna.

There is no intrinsic problem with the Bible having parallels to a prior code. The parallels may be because similar issues were being faced by the community. And the Bible claims to be historical, thus it interacts with nations surrounding it. God can approve of the practices of other nations or disapprove of them. Frequently we see the prophets condemning Israel for her actions which are worse than their pagan neighbours. Because God may approve or disapprove of a nations laws it is important to look at the differences as well as the similarities.

Nevertheless, I am not convinced that Hammurabi antedates Moses. I have previously mentioned my disagreement with secular ancient chronology.

Hammurabi was a king of Babylonia. Dating of the reign of Hammurabi is difficult and as has been noted several times, the chronology of ancient history is highly dependant on the chronology of Egypt. The chronology of the Egyptians is known to be a mess, even by those holding to the traditional dating. Alternate secular Egyptian dating systems have been proposed. Peter James, author of Centuries of Darkness states,

Numerous synchronisms have been drawn between Egypt and Mesopotamia, but many of these are based on unproved assumptions. Of those that are genuine, closer examination reveals that in many cases Mesopotamian chronology is actually dependent on Egyptian – and not the other way around. For example it is clear (Brinkman 1976) that the list of kings for the late Kassite period in Babylonia, conventionally 14th-13th centuries BC, has been heavily restored from Egyptian and Hittite evidence. (Hittite dating is directly dependent on that of Egypt.)

Scripture alone demands an Egyptian rewrite.

My knowledge of Babylonian history is limited. I am going to propose an alternative date for the code based on scriptural considerations and various secular synchronisms.

Pinches dates Hammurabi c. 2000 BC. Van De Mieroop dates him c. 1800 BC. Other suggestions based on shorter chronology suggest c. 1700 BC. Based on king lists Hammurabi son of Sin-mubalit son of Abil-Sin belonged to the First Babylonian Dynasty.

Following traditional dating we have the following (approximate) claims

  • 1750 BC in traditional Egyptian chronology corresponds to the 12th and 13th Egyptians dynasties
  • The first Babylonian dynasty ended with the fall of Babylon
  • The fall of Babylon is dated c. 1500–1600 BC which corresponds to the beginning of the 18th Egyptian dynasty

Following Scripture we have the following data

  • The very earliest date for the beginning of the Egyptian dynasties is c. 2200 BC
  • Moses led the exodus of the Israelites out from Egypt around the time of the 12th and 13th dynasties (which may also correspond to the 6th dynasty)
  • The 18th dynasty was of some duration. The beginnings of which are possibly about the time of Samuel and Saul

Comparing secular Egyptian and Babylonian synchronisms and and correcting the dates from the biblical data we have Hammurabi ruling about the time of Moses at the earliest.

While I am confident in the reduction of the date of the Hammurabi Code, I have not established significant synchronisms between Babylon and either Israel or Egypt. More data or a closer review of the data may lead to a more exact and more confident date.

This suggests that the the correspondence between the Hammurabi Code and the Law of Moses is unlikely due to the latter’s dependence on the former. The Hammurabi Code may be dependant on the Mosaic Law based on chronological considerations alone. Both codes could relate to underlying customs of the Ancient Near East. Or they both could have some relationship to prior laws. Many who hold to the Mosaic authorship of Genesis propose Moses had access to more ancient Hebrew records.

>Chronology of Abraham and his descendants

2009 April 19 3 comments

>Abraham was born about 2000 years after creation, nearly 2000 years BC. He was the son of Terah, son of Nahor, son of Serug, son of Reu, son of Peleg, son of Eber, son of Salah, son of Arphaxad, son of Shem, son of Noah.

Here is a chronology of the events of his life followed by that of his son Isaac, Isaac’s son Jacob, and Jacob’s son Joseph. The age of the relevant patriarch is given until their death and then in italics for comparison.

Event Abraham Isaac Jacob Joseph
Abraham born 0
Sarah born 10
Reu dies 18
Serug dies 41
Terah dies. Abraham goes to Canaan 75
Abraham visits Egypt ?
Hagar conceives 85
Ishmael born 86
Arphaxad dies 88
God renames Abraham, Abraham and household circumcised. Sarah conceives 99
Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed 99
Isaac born 100 0
Isaac to be offered on Moriah ? ?
Salah dies 118 18
Sarah dies 137 37
Isaac marries Rebekah 140 40
Shem dies 150 50
Esau and Jacob born 160 60 0
Abraham dies 175 75 15
Eber dies 179 79 19
Esau marries Judith and Basemath 200 100 40
Ishmael dies 223 123 63
Jacob flees to Aram 237 137 77
Jacob’s 1st year for Laban 238 138 78
Jacob’s 7th year for Laban 244 144 84
Jacob marries Leah & Rachel 245 145 85
Jacob’s 14th year for Laban. Joseph born. 251 151 91 0
Jacob’s 20th year for Laban 257 157 97 6
Jacob returns to Canaan and meets Esau 258 158 98 7
Rachel dies ? ? ? ?
Joseph sold into slavery and goes to Egypt 268 168 108 17
Joseph interprets butler and baker’s dreams in jail 279 179 119 28
Isaac dies 280 180 120 29
Joseph ruler 281 181 121 30
1st year of plenty 282 182 122 31
7th year of plenty 288 188 128 37
1st year of famine 289 189 129 38
2nd year of famine. Jacob goes to Egypt 290 190 130 39
7th year of famine 295 195 135 44
Jacob dies 307 207 147 56
Joseph dies 361 261 201 110

Points to note.

  • Most of Abraham’s postdiluvian ancestors are alive during Abraham’s lifetime: all from Shem bar Peleg and Nahor.
  • The Israelite sojourn in Egypt begins when Jacob shifts to Egypt age 130. Some argue for 430 years from then (Exo 12:40), though a better case can be made for the 430 years starting from Abraham’s shift to Canaan.
  • Levi was the 3rd son of Leah and was probably born in the 11th year of Jacob working for Laban when Jacob was 88. This is helpful information as Levi age when he died was 137 (Exo 6:16).
Categories: chronology, history

>Should Christmas be in June?

2008 December 16 2 comments

> The Daily Mail had an article last week claiming that Jesus was born on June 17.

Scientists claim the Christmas star was most likely a magnificent conjunction of the planets Venus and Jupiter, which were so close together they would have shone unusually brightly as a single ‘beacon of light’ which appeared suddenly.

Mr Reneke says the wise men probably interpreted it as the sign they had been waiting for, and they followed the ‘star’ to Christ’s birthplace in a stable in Bethlehem, as described in the Bible.

Generally accepted research has placed the nativity to somewhere between 3BC and 1AD.

Using the St Matthew’s Gospel as a reference point, Mr Reneke pinpointed the planetary conjunction, which appeared in the constellation of Leo, to the exact date of June 17 in the year 2BC.

Although it somewhat simplifies the matter, the article may be correct. It has long been debated when Jesus was born, and they are right in that it probably wasn’t December 25. There is much that can be gained from a close reading of the nativity accounts in Matthew and Luke. Readers that have joined me this year may be interested in a post I wrote last Christmas titled “Getting the facts of Christmas sorted.” The only thing I would change would be my comment about the stable.

The Mail article is incorrect about generally accepted research and the date of Jesus’ birth though. While I agree with the timeframe suggested; many, and possibly most, date Herod’s death in 4 BC and Jesus’ birth, which antedates this, circa 5 or 6 BC. I think Jesus’ birth was in 2 or 3 BC and that 1 BC is a more likely date for Herod’s death.

The astronomical data (eclipses and catastrophic events aside) is very firm. We can be sure about the dates of various conjunctions. What is more difficult is knowing which astronomical events correspond to which terrestrial events. I think a reasonable argument can be made for Jesus’ conception occurring 3 BC September 11, his birth 2 BC June 17 (281 days, 15 days longer than usual), and the visit by the Magi 2 BC December 25.

Here is a presentation of the conjunctions during 2 and 3 BC. The June 17 conjunction is the last one shown; that of Venus with Jupiter near the star Regulus.

Categories: astronomy, chronology, nativity

>Bible glasses

2008 April 11 6 comments

>Young Earth Creationism claims that the world is about 6000 years old and God created it in 6 24-hour days. Geology is interpreted as being in a large part due to Noah’s flood. These views are held because it is claimed that the meaning of the Bible, especially Genesis, demands this chronological interpretation and that the Noachian deluge was global in its extent. There is good grammatical reason to assert this belief. And I see few difficulties with scientific data finding it more compatible with this belief than biological or stellar evolution.

While my initial creationist beliefs were strengthened thru scientific evidences, my conviction is probably stronger now because of biblical considerations. Not because the science is less convincing than the biblical evidence but because philosophically I think that truth is more firmly grounded in Scripture.

This change to a more biblical approach has been quite helpful. When I was younger I wondered how the Bible could be reconciled with secular evidences, especially archaeological “facts” that pre-date creation, ie. are “older” than 6000 years. This “problem” is actually more acute as these “facts” only need to pre-date the Flood to cause a dilemma given the Flood’s removal of antediluvian artefacts. This led to ideas like favouring the Septuagint chronology because it “gives more time.” My approach now is, “How can secular claims be reconciled with Scripture?” The Bible is assumed to be true and contrary claims are treated with scepticism.

This is actually quite reasonable. Why should every secular interpretation be held up as the standard that the Bible is judged by? Especially given that these interpretations change, are inconsistent with each other, and often derive from an anti-biblical bias. Further, the Bible has been vindicated multiple times, and its documentation of the failings of its heroes points even more so to its authenticity.

The Flood was approximately 4500 years ago. Any claim for artefacts that pre-date this I assume is incorrect. I assume some bias by the claimants, even if it is not revealed. And I think that the true solution will be compatible with the biblical record.

This is my default position. I think that God intended for Scripture to be a true description of reality: historical, moral and prophetic. It is not exhaustive for sure, but correct in what it does assert.

Is this a biased approach? Definitely. But all approaches are biased. Do I base my bias on the pride of men or on the revelation of the true God? The secular bias is very real. It assumes that its foundations are firm, that Middle East dating should be based a reconstructed Egyptian dating, that any ancient historical text should have precedence over the Bible. All of these assumptions are based in the ideas of men and there are even good non-biblical reasons to reject them.

It is astonishing how much of what we read and hear has this bias. Claims about history are especially affected by secular assumptions. These secular biases are frequently present in study Bibles which give a multitude of unlikely synchronisms, conservative reasoning based on underlying liberal theology, wrong assumptions about the the origins of monotheism. I think it is prudent to hold secular historical claims and several other factual claims very tentatively.

And there is a need for developing a completely biblically based history and chronology thru which all claims, historical, archaeological, and others, can be filtered.

>Textual problems with a Wednesday crucifixion

2008 April 2 37 comments

>Thanks for the responses Mark Call and Starwind. I wish to respond to some of the issues raised. To be clear, I don’t think there are any real issues with a Friday crucifixion. Sans the 3 days and 3 nights passage, there is nothing in the other passages that would contradict this interpretation. Given that I think that “3 days and 3 nights” is an idiom, this fits a Friday crucifixion also.

If we propose a Wednesday crucifixion we strike some difficulties. I think these difficulties are great enough to refute it. The issues are:

  • Other Sabbaths
  • Friday activities
  • Duration of death
  • Discontinuity
  • The phrase “on the 3rd day”

The reconstructed view is to allow 72 hours in the tomb. It is proposed that Jesus died late Wednesday, that he is buried about the time of dusk (new day starting) and rose at dusk at the end of the Sabbath on Saturday. This proposal is consistent with some verses, for example several of the passages referenced by Art Kohl in his article Is it “Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday?” Or, “Palm Friday, Good Wednesday and Easter Saturday?”. However it does seem to contradict several passages that are not referenced. It is not so much whether one can defend his position with several verses but rather does the interpretation do justice to the entirety of relevant Scripture.

Other Sabbaths

Are there other days referred to as Sabbath other than the 7th day? I am open to this possibility. Leviticus 25 refers to a Sabbath of years. The concept of 6 days work and 1 day rest is paralleled in 6 years and 1 year implying the land “works” in growing food and gets “rest” every 7th year. I have yet to be convinced this is the case for the Feast of Unleavened Bread. In Leviticus 23 we read

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the LORD that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.

“6 days shall work be done, but on the 7th day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the LORD in all your dwelling places.

“These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them. In the 1st month, on the 14th day of the month at twilight, is the LORD’s Passover. And on the 15th day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for 7 days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the 1st day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. But you shall present a food offering to the LORD for 7 days. On the 7th day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work.”

Here God is introducing his holy convocations. These are the weekly Sabbath (7th day) and 1st day of Unleavened Bread and the 7th day of Unleavened Bread. Later in the chapter it identifies several other holy convocations: the 50th day of the Feast of Weeks (always the 1st day of the week), the Day of Trumpets (1st day of the 7th month), the 1st day of the Feast of Booths (15th day of the 7th month) and the day after the Feast of Booths (22nd day of the 7th month). So we have several days during the major feasts and every Sabbath (7th) day all labelled holy convocations. This however does not imply that holy convocations are all called “Sabbaths.” Dogs are animals, birds are animals, but birds are not dogs. I have not identified the word “Sabbath” used other than for the 7th day, the analogy to years excepted, though I would be interested to be pointed to any.

Friday activities

Assuming that Jesus was crucified on the Wednesday and Wednesday dusk thru Thursday was a special Sabbath what happened on the Friday? The women went to the tomb to wrap Jesus’ body in spices on the 1st day of the week. They would have done this on the Friday. That they did not is a strong argument against a Wednesday crucifixion.

Duration of death

While minor, if Jesus’ specification of 3 days and 3 nights means 72 hours, why is this counted from his burial and not his death? If the starting point is his death, which it should be, he would have risen prior to the Sabbath, not as the Sabbath was beginning.


Part of the problem I have with the reconstructed view is that there is no explanation of multiple Sabbaths in the gospel narratives. Luke likely wrote to a Gentile who may not be familiar with the intricacies of special Sabbaths. Why not explain this? even in minor detail. And should not all the days be mentioned? It reads like a continuous narrative and yet there is no mention of the Friday and what happened on that day.

The phrase “on the 3rd day”

The meaning of “after 3 days” can reasonably be interpreted to mean during day 3. The phrase “on the 3rd day” can not reasonably be interpreted to mean on the 4th day after 3 whole days have been completed. Further, the guards were to be placed until the 3rd day which, at the most, could mean until the Saturday and they would not be expected to still be there on Sunday morning.

As mentioned the reconstructed view is an attempt to allow 72 hours in the tomb based on an unnecessary, excessive literalism of an idiom—I don’t deny that the phrase is somewhat literal: it means days and not months, years, or an unspecified time period. In doing so the reconstructed view solves one “problem” at the expense of creating many. A Wednesday crucifixion is untenable based on other passages that discuss the crucifixion.

It is not the passages that are consistent with a reconstructed view I am interested in, these are non discriminatory as the traditional view is consistent with them also. It is the problematic passages I am interested in. How does one understand these passages within the reconstructed view?

Categories: chronology, crucifixion, Easter

>3 days and 3 nights

2008 March 24 22 comments

>How do we resolve this phrase with the other verses we have examined?

It is an idiom.

This may sound like an unusual position for a young earth creationist. However my hermeneutic seeks to understand Scripture in a straightforward manner which means that I am not a literalist or a symbolist but rather try to interpret what the passage is actually saying in context. The relevant passages are:

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be 3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (Mat 12:38-41)

An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed. (Mat 16:4)

And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish 3 days and 3 nights. (Jon 1:17)

Looking at the 2 passages in Matthew it is clear that the sign of Jesus’ Messiahhood parallels the sign of Jonah. And Jesus condemns them for failing to recognise him noting that the Ninevites repented at the message of a lesser person. This suggests that the sign of Jonah was that he had been swallowed by a great sea creature yet lived to speak of it. It is as if Jonah had come back from the dead and indeed Jonah uses the metaphor of Sheol (Hades) for his predicament.

“I called out to the LORD, out of my distress,/
and he answered me;/
out of the belly of Sheol I cried,/
and you heard my voice. (Jon 2:2)

So the focus of the argument is that Jesus will parallel Jonah’s experience which is the sign. And they should repent as Jesus is greater than Jonah. The passage in Jonah says 3 days and 3 nights so Jesus quotes this and then applies it to himself.

The days and nights are literal, the association with day and night means the day is literal and the association with a number means the days are literal, but the phrase can encompass less than a whole day. We have:

  • 1 day(time) and 1 night meaning 1 (revolution) day (or part thereof)
  • 2 day(time)s and 2 nights meaning 2 (revolution) days (or part thereof)
  • 3 day(time)s and 3 nights meaning 3 (revolution) days (or part thereof)

The phrase is “day and night” with the number mentioned twice for emphasis.

Consider the phrase:

For in 7 days I will send rain on the earth 40 days and 40 nights,… (Gen 7:4)

The emphasis is not on the fact it will rain for precisely 960 hours. It is on the continuous nature. The 7 refers to revolutional days, the 40 refers to daytime days. God could say, “…I will send rain on the earth 40 (revolutional) days,…” it means the same thing. But by saying day and night it is saying that the rain will come continually—even during the nighttime!

The other data we have previously examined states that Jesus was raised on the 3rd day with specific details that

  • Jesus died on Preparation day (1st day)
  • which was followed by the Sabbath day—7th weekday (2nd day)
  • then he rose on the following day—1st weekday (3rd day)

Combining this with an understanding that “x days and x nights” is an idiom meaning x revolutional days (or part thereof) with emphasis on daytime and nighttime, we see that all the texts are compatible and justice is done to every biblical, chronological record of the crucifixion.

Categories: chronology, crucifixion, Easter

>How many days in the tomb?

2008 March 23 6 comments

>The traditional understanding is that Jesus was crucified on the Friday and rose on the Sunday. Based on Jesus statement of 3 days and 3 nights some have argued that Jesus was dead for 72 hours, dying Wednesday at sundown and rising Saturday at sundown (which would be at the end of the Sabbath).

Clarity is needed on how days are recorded. Jews at the time of Jesus counted days from sundown to sundown, so at dusk on a Friday the next day would begin, being their Sabbath. The West follows a midnight to midnight reckoning of days with midnight being the mid point between 2 noons and noon being when the sun is at its zenith (though there are some modifications to this).

The points to resolve are:

  • Day of crucifixion
  • Sabbath day and any intervening days
  • Day of resurrection
  • Number of days in the tomb

I would like to tackle the days in reverse order. In general I will not be quoting Scriptures already mentioned in the previous few posts.

Day of resurrection

There is little room for movement here. Several passages clearly state the Jesus rose on the 1st day of the week. This occurred before dawn as the women arrived at the tomb before dawn and Jesus had already risen. Jesus could have risen any time from the end of the Sabbath at dusk the previous evening till near dawn. We are not told exactly when (I favour early in the morning) but there is no disagreement between the schools of thought on the specific day here.


The day before the 1st day of the week must be the 7th. This is the Sabbath day. At least some of the verses discussing the Sabbath are referring to the normal weekly Sabbath as they specify that it came prior to the 1st day.

  • Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the 1st day of the week,… (Mat 28:1)
  • When the Sabbath was past,… very early on the 1st day of the week,… (Mar 16:1-2)
  • On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment. But on the 1st day of the week, at early dawn,… (Luk 23:56-24:1)

The only way further days can be included is if there are more “Sabbaths” prior to the 7th day. Chuck Missler argues for this in an article titled, The Day of Debt. He claims that the Jews had other “Sabbaths” including the 1st day of Unleavened Bread which was to start on Nisan 15. The references he gives for this argument are Exodus 12:16; Leviticus 23:5-7 and Numbers 28:17. These verses are discussing regulations for the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread but none of them actually say that the 1st day of Unleavened Bread is a “Sabbath.” Further, the feast was to last 7 days so any “Sabbath” would likely be at the end of the 7 days not the beginning.

What further complicates matters is that there is disagreement over whether the last supper occurred on the Passover or the day before the Passover. The synoptic gospels state that the day of the last supper was the 1st day of Unleavened Bread. I am uncertain what exactly this implies but it suggests that the crucifixion was on the 2nd day of Unleavened Bread, and further that the customs of the Jews in the 1st century may have not occurred exactly as prescribed in the Law of Moses. Whatever the solution to this is, it means that even one argues that the 1st day of Unleavened Bread was a “Sabbath,” this “Sabbath” was over before the crucifixion.

The other argument put forward for 2 “Sabbaths” that week is that Matthew 28:1 (see above) should be translated:

Now after the Sabbaths,…

That is, in the plural. I cannot adequately comment on this not being conversant in Greek. None of the English translations do this (though this does not disprove the argument). The word “Sabbath” in Matthew 28 is σαββατων and it appears in this form for both the word “Sabbath” and the word “week” later in the verse, to wit, “the 1st day of the week.” The parallel passages in Mark and Luke use the forms σαββατου and σαββατον. Those versed in Greek can enlighten me but I suspect there is nothing in this.

John mentions that this Sabbath was a high day. By this I think it is likely that he means it occurs during a festival.

Day of crucifixion

All 4 gospels confirm that Jesus was crucified on the day of Preparation; mentioned once in each of the Synoptics and 3 times in John. They all state that the day of Preparation was immediately prior to the Sabbath; Luke informing us that Sabbath was in fact beginning near the time Jesus was laid in the tomb. John adds that the request for breaking the legs was to ensure the death of the men so their bodies could be got down before the Sabbath commenced.

Thus the day of Preparation, if we are correct about there being only 1 Sabbath, must be the 6th day of the week—Friday.

What are we to make of John’s comment?

Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. (Joh 19:14)

John mentions the day of Preparation 3 times and connects this with the Passover specifically in this verse. This had led to disagreement over the date Jesus was crucified, some claiming this day was lead up to the Passover and others the day previous with the Passover corresponding to the Last Supper (John 18:28 is also relevant here). Without resolving this issue, I will put forward my provisional thoughts.

Does the day of Preparation mean the 6th day every week? Is it when they prepared for the Sabbath? as they were not allowed to work on the Sabbath.

While there could be be preparation for the Passover, the words do not necessarily imply this. If “day of Preparation” was the name of the day, albeit a very descriptive one, then genitive case could just mean the day that occurred during that festival. Consider if we translated it:

Now it was the Passover’s Day-of-Preparation

In English we say Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The adjectives describing the days refer to the holiday. Friday and Sunday are not days that happen at Easter, they happen every week; the same may be true of the day of Preparation.

Number of days in the tomb

There are multiple mentions of the number 3 and the adjective 3rd as documented in previous posts. This could mean that there were 3 days from the crucifixion then on that 3rd day, or after the end of that 3rd day Jesus would rise. One cannot say which is intended for several of the passages and if we had them alone we would be less certain.

The additional information as detailed above would suggest that an inclusive rendering is what is meant.

But several of the passages specifying 3 days show that these were to be counted inclusively.

Several times Jesus says that he will rise on the 3rd day. After the resurrection Jesus reminds people that he was to rise on the 3rd day, the angel says the same to the women at the tomb. And Peter and Paul both say Jesus rose on the 3rd day. On the road to Emmaus the 2 disciples tell Jesus that this is the 3rd day since this happened. Jesus had already risen but they were still within the 3rd day.

Further evidence that “after 3 days” can be equated with on the “3rd day” in the minds of 1st century Judaism is seen in the Pharisees’ request to Pilate:

“Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After 3 days I will rise.’ Therefore o
rder the tomb to be made secure until the 3rd day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” (Mat 27:63-64)

Though they mention after 3 days, in their minds they only needed to place the guard until the 3rd day, not thru that day until the 4th day.

Thus the information we have considered so far consistently points to a Friday crucifixion and a pre-dawn Sunday resurrection; and that the 3 days were to be counted inclusively. Now onto the Jonah analogy.

Categories: chronology, crucifixion, Easter

>Resurrection accounts

2008 March 22 Leave a comment

>The previous passages quoted predictions of the Passion. Following are the passages that describe the death and resurrection of Jesus at the time of these events.

These passages state that the day of his crucifixion was “Preparation Day.” They mention the Sabbath day. They state that on the first day of the week when the women went to the tomb before dawn Jesus had already been raised. Most people agree that at the time of the New Testament a new day commenced at sundown (dusk) and sunrise (dawn) occurred half way thru a 24-hour day (See Luke 23:54).

Mentions of Preparation day, Sabbath and the first day of the week

And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After 3 days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the 3rd day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. (Mat 27:59-28:6)

And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the Council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. (Mar 15:42-43)

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. (Mar 16:1-6)

This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.

On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

But on the 1st day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the 3rd day rise.” (Luk 23:52-24:7)

So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the 6th hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” (Joh 19:13-15)

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. (Joh 19:30-31)

Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

Now on the 1st day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. (Joh 19:41-20:1)

On the evening of that day, the 1st day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” (Joh 20:19)

Mention of the duration

And there are some further passages after the event mentioning the duration. Jesus meets 2 men walking to Emmaus.

And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the 3rd day since these things happened. (Luk 24:19-21)

The same day Jesus appears to the Eleven and teaches them.

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the 3rd day rise from the dead,… (Luk 24:45-46)

Peter teaches the Gentiles about Jesus.

And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the 3rd day and made him to appear,… (Act 10:39-40)

Paul reminds the Corinthians what he has previously taught them

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the 3rd day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the 12. (1Co 15:3-5)

So we have several mentions of the number of days and a reasonably detailed chronology of the events which I will unpack later.

Categories: chronology, crucifixion, Easter

>Mentions of the crucifixion prior to the event

2008 March 21 Leave a comment

>There are several places where the death of Jesus and it duration are predicted. I have included duration specific prophecies and these are predominantly Jesus’ own words, though prediction of his death occurs in the Old Testament.

Jesus’ predictions of his own death

There are numerous verses to be found where Jesus mentions he was to be put to death then rise after 3 days. This is because Jesus told his disciples several times and these episodes are recorded in the synoptic gospels which describe several of the same events.

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the 3rd day.” And they were greatly distressed. (Mat 17:22-23)

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the 3rd day be raised. (Mat 16:21)

And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the 3rd day.” (Mat 20:17-19)

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after 3 days rise again. (Mar 8:31)

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after 3 days he will rise.” (Mar 9:30-31)

And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after 3 days he will rise.” (Mar 10:32-34)

Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”

And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the 3rd day be raised.” (Luk 9:20-22)

And taking the 12, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the 3rd day he will rise.” (Luk 18:31-33)

Jesus’ temple analogy

Jesus was explicit with his comments to his followers about his death and resurrection. He alluded to it in public with his comment about the temple.

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken 46 years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in 3 days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. (Joh 2:18-21)

Jesus frequently spoke in figures of speech, he spoke in parables to the crowds but explained the meanings to his close followers. Those who wanted to gain understanding sort out the truth, those who cared little continued in their ignorance.

This is obvious in these words of Jesus for they were remembered by many which testifies to the 3 days, though they continued to misapply the temple of which Jesus spoke to the building and not his body. Firstly at Jesus’ trial:

Now the chief priests and the whole Council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last 2 came forward and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in 3 days.'” (Mat 26:59-61)

For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in 3 days I will build another, not made with hands.'” Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. (Mar 14:56-59)

And then at the crucifixion:

And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in 3 days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” (Mat 27:39-40)

And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in 3 days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” (Mar 15:29-30)

Even though these people were incorrect about what Jesus meant by “temple” (note the irony in the derision of the last 2 comments), their statements are useful in their testimony that Jesus had predicted 3 days.

Analogy to Jonah

Many of those who did not believe in Jesus asked for a sign. Matthew records Jesus referring to Jonah on at least 2 occasions.

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be 3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (Mat 12:38-41)

An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed. (Mat 16:4)

The famous episode in the book of Jonah mentions that he was swallowed by a large sea creature where he remained for 3 days:

And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish 3 days and 3 nights. (Jon 1:17)

This is relevant because of the phrase “3 days and 3 nights” which some claim implies Jonah was in the sea creature for 72 hours and Jesus would be dead for 72 hours. We will come back to these passages for further consideration later.

An Old Testament allusion

There are several passages that discuss the death of the Messiah, Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 being good examples. Some suggest that there is also an allusion to the duration of his death in Hosea:

“Come, let us return to the LORD;/
for he has torn us, that he may heal us;/
he has struck us down, and he will bind us up./
After 2 days he will revive us;/
on the 3rd day he will raise us up,/
that we may live before him./
Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD;/
his going out is sure as the dawn;/
he will come to us as the showers,/
as the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hos 6:1-3)

Hosea married a prostitute as a symbol of God’s relationship with unfaithful Israel. The interesting thing about this passage is that it invites people to return to the Lord even though they have been unfaithful and God has disciplined them for this (torn, struck). God has disciplined Israel in order that he may restore them to right relationship (heal, bind up). The mention of 2 and 3 days is concerning the reviving and raising of Israel to right relationship, though this can only occur through atonement and therefore the time frame would apply to atoning sacrifice.

It is possible that when Jesus mentions that Scripture teaches that he must rise after 3 days (Luke 24:46) that he was referring to this passage.

Categories: chronology, crucifixion, Easter

>On what day was Jesus crucified?

2008 March 20 Leave a comment

>During discussion on my facts of Christmas post Starwind stated

I also note the Star of Bethlehem site endeavors to place the crucifixion on a Friday for which there is no biblical warrant, and which leads to no reconciliation of Jesus being 3 days & nights in the tomb.

I mentioned that I held to a Friday crucifixion and Starwind asked for my reasoning, specifically how I

count 3 days and 3 nights leading up to Sunday morning.

I will address this over the next few posts.

There are several passages that give us information about the day of crucifixion and resurrection. They can be arranged in several groups.

  • Jesus’ predictions of his own death
  • Jesus’ temple analogy
  • Analogy to Jonah
  • Resurrection accounts
    • Mention of Preparation day
    • Mention of the Sabbath day
    • Mention of the first day of the week
    • Mention of the duration
  • Other allusions

I will quote all the relevant passages with some discussion, remembering that one of my hermeneutical principles is to favour an interpretation that does justice to all relevant Scripture.

Categories: chronology, crucifixion, Easter

>Getting the facts of Christmas sorted

2007 December 23 11 comments


Given the season it may be a good time to summarise the chronology and other details of the incarnation.

Joseph was engaged to Mary and they both dwelt in Nazareth. Nazareth was a small town in Galilee. Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel when her cousin Elizabeth was 6 months pregnant. Knowing when Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah was serving in Jerusalem may give us some clues to the month of Jesus’ conception and birth. Zechariah was a priest of the division of Abijah (compare Luke 1 with 1 Chronicles 24).

Joseph intended to divorce Mary when he learnt of her pregnancy; quietly so as not to shame her. Divorce is not the term we would use for breaking an engagement but a betrothal in Israel 2000 years ago was a strong commitment and divorce (apoluo) would be the single term used in both situations (unlike English which has more terms). This is not saying that betrothal is the same as marriage, sex was forbidden until after the wedding.

An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and informed him of the situation and Joseph then married Mary. He did not have sex with her until after Jesus was born. Mary had already conceived Jesus so the activity would not have made Joseph the biological father, but abstaining presumably honoured God in the situation. So Jesus was conceived when Mary was betrothed and born after Mary was married, but still a virgin.

The genealogy given in Matthew is that of Joseph. The genealogy in Luke is that of Mary. Heli was likely Mary’s father. Luke 3 states:

Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli,…

Some have considered Heli the adoptive father of Joseph if Heli had no sons of his own, though I believe the passage may be acceptably translated as:

Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son, as it was supposed, of Joseph, but was actually the son of Heli,…

Caesar Augustus sent out a decree that a registration was to be performed. The time frame for this is uncertain. What is known is that Quirinius was governor of Syria. The registration is frequently referred to as a census, presumably for taxation purposes. However Luke does not say that it is a tax census, he specifies they were registered (apographo) for a registration (apographe). Dating Jesus birth has proven difficult, for several reasons, not the least historically identifying the tax census that occurred during Jesus birth. However if the registration was not for taxation then the range of possible dates is potentially expanded. Some have suggested in was a registration to make a proclamation about Caesar Augustus. Ernest Martin suggests that the title Pater Patriae (father of the Fatherland) was bestowed on Augustus about this time and the registration was for the inhabitants of the Roman Empire to swear an oath of obedience to the Emperor.

Joseph with his new bride went from Nazareth to Bethlehem because he was descended from David whose home town was Bethlehem. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Angels appeared to the shepherds that night and they visited Mary, Joseph and Jesus. There is some evidence to suggest that Jesus may have been born in autumn, perhaps in the month of Tishri which corresponds to about September. I think it likely that Jesus was born about 2 or 3 BC.

8 days later Jesus was circumcised according to the Law of Moses (Leviticus 12). Joseph and Mary presented Jesus at the temple at Jerusalem 40 days after he was born and a sacrifice of doves was offered. Leviticus states that a lamb is to be offered but a pigeon is acceptable for the poorer Israelites. Joseph and Mary were therefore poor.

Some time after this while Joseph and Mary were still in Bethlehem the Magi from the East arrived in Jerusalem. We are not told the number who came. That 3 are depicted may relate to the number of gifts. The Magi were from the region of Persia and were interested in, amongst other things, astrology. They interpreted the skies as pointing to the birth of the king of the Jews. Much speculation has been made on what the star was. Matthew quotes the Magi saying,

Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.

and he further comments,

the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. (Matthew 2)

It is likely that the star was a conjunction between planets or planets and stars. The best suggestion is that of Martin who mentions several astronomical events of significance including Jupiter stopping (at the time of its retrogression). The Magi had an audience with Herod in Jerusalem and were informed by the priests and scribes that the king was to be born in Bethlehem based on Micah’s prophecy. When Jupiter stopped in the sky (for 6 days) its position was over Bethlehem as viewed from Jerusalem. The date was December 25, 2 BC. Jupiter was in the constellation of Virgo.

This was not the time of Jesus’ birth as the Magi visited Jesus in a house not a stable. Jesus was a young child (paidion), though that word probably does not aid us as to exactly how old Jesus was. Herod ordered the massacre of children under the age of 2 in his attempt to kill Jesus. Herod choose this age in accordance with the time he ascertained from the wise men. If Jesus was born in 3 BC he would have been approximately 15 months old; if in 2 BC, 3 months. Joseph had previously been warned by an angel to depart and they were already in Egypt. On Herod’s death an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream for the third time and Joseph returned with Mary and Jesus to his home town of Nazareth. Herod probably died in early 1 BC, only some weeks or months after the Magi’s visit.

Flash presentation of astronomical events near the time of Jesus’ birth.

>Afflicted 400 years

2007 October 22 3 comments

>I have been revisiting the Egyptian sojourn in some recent correspondence. It raised the possibility of another option I had not previously considered.

Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for 400 years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” (Genesis 15)

I wondered if the “for 400 years” could be read “until 400 years” giving the translation:

Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted until 400 years (from now).

I would appreciate thoughts from anyone who can read Hebrew.

Categories: chronology, translation

>The postdiluvian patriarchs

2007 October 13 1 comment

>Only the age at the birth of the son and the remaining years are mentioned for the postdiluvian patriarchs. The age at which they died can easily be calculated. Again the figures vary depending on the texttype.

Texttype Masoretic Septuagint Samaritan
Name Son Years Died Son Years Died Son Years Died
Noah 502 448 950 502 448 950 502 448 950
Shem 100 500 600 100 500 600 100 500 600
Arphaxad 35 403 438 135 430 565 135 303 438
Shelah 30 403 433 130 330 460 130 303 433
Eber 34 430 464 134 370 504 134 270 404
Peleg 30 209 239 130 209 339 130 109 239
Reu 32 207 239 132 207 339 132 107 239
Serug 30 200 230 130 200 330 130 100 230
Nahor 29 119 148 79 129 208 79 69 148
Terah 70 135 205 70 135 205 70 75 145

The figures for Terah are to his first son. Genesis 12 and Acts 7 imply that Abram was 75 at Terah’s death and therefore Terah was 130 when Abram was born, so the year in which Abram was born is 75 years prior to Terah’s death.

So we can calculate the year of the flood, the year in which Abram was born and the time elapsed.

Texttype Masoretic Septuagint Samaritan
Period Flood Gap Abram Flood Gap Abram Flood Gap Abram
1656 352 2008 2242 1132 3374 1307 942 2249

Again I prefer the Masoretic. There seems to be a rationale for lengthening the times so as to make one’s culture ancient, but to shorten the timeframe would seem unlikely. As there is no summary age as there is in Genesis 5, the fact of the systematic change in Genesis 5 and the frequent difference of 100 years suggests this was conscious, not accidental.

If the Masoretic is original, then the Samaritan has added years till the year of the first child but subtracted them for the remaining years leaving the total calculated age the same even though this is not given in Scripture. The exceptions being Eber and Nahor. The interesting thing about Eber is that the age after the son was born is 100 years less than the Septuagint. Was there are further Hebrew text which gave 370 years to Eber after his son was born?

Explaining the derivation of the Septuagint is difficult. Arphaxad, Salah and Eber don’t appear to derive from the Masoretic at all. A smoothing effect (so that the ages drop off steadily from 900 years) is not clearly apparent and is an inadequate explanation.

If the Masoretic is correct we have the situation where Abram potentially could have known his ancestors. Abram was born in 2008 AM. Note the year of death.

Name Birth Death
Noah 1056 2006
Shem 1558 2158
Arphaxad 1658 2096
Shelah 1693 2126
Eber 1723 2187
Peleg 1757 1996
Reu 1787 2026
Serug 1819 2049
Nahor 1849 1997
Terah 1878 2083
Abram 2008 2183

Of Abram’s 10 ancestors following the Flood, 7 of them were alive at his birth. Noah died 2 years before Abram was born. And Peleg and Nahor also died prior to his birth. The others were all alive. Shem, who had seen the Flood, only died 25 years before Abram, Abram would have been 150 years old and Isaac 50. Eber, from whom the Hebrews derive their name, outlived Abram!

Categories: chronology, manuscripts

>The antediluvian patriarchs

2007 October 4 3 comments

>The ages the patriarchs had their sons and their age at death differs according to the various text types. Most English Bibles use the Masoretic figures.

Texttype Masoretic Septuagint Samaritan
Name Son Years Died Son Years Died Son Years Died
Adam 130 800 930 230 700 930 130 800 930
Seth 105 807 912 205 707 912 105 807 912
Enosh 90 815 905 190 715 905 90 815 905
Kenan 70 840 910 170 740 910 70 840 910
Mahalaleel 65 830 895 165 730 895 65 830 895
Jared 162 800 962 162 800 962 62 785 847
Enoch 65 300 365 165 200 365 65 300 365
Methuselah 187 782 969 167 802 969 67 653 720
Lamech 182 595 777 188 565 753 53 600 653
Noah 500 450 950 500 450 950 500 450 950

Noah was 500 when he became the father of Japheth. Genesis 7 tells us that Noah was 600 when the Flood came. This would make the date of the Flood according to the various texttypes:

  • 1656 AM, Masoretic
  • 2242 AM, Septuagint
  • 1307 AM, Samaritan

So which is correct?

The corrupt texts have been deliberately changed. This is obvious because in Genesis 5 the age of fathering the son, the remaining years and the total age is given. As the first 2 figures sum to the 3rd an error in one of the figures would lead to an incorrect sum yet in all texttypes all figures add up. Josephus gives different figures again though they are similar to the Septuagint. I have not seen figures for the Dead Sea Scrolls, I do not know whether there are any manuscripts of the early chapters of Genesis found. It would be interesting to know as some Dead Sea Scrolls preserve in Hebrew a more Septuagint texttype.

One thing that points away from the Septuagint is that by its chronology Methuselah outlives the Flood which is not possible. If the meaning of Methselah is “when he dies it shall be sent,” then this points to the accuracy of the Masoretic and the Samaritan which both have Methuselah’s death in the year of the Deluge.

A further possible argument against the Septuagint is that is was translated perhaps 250 BC. Many cultures claimed antiquity for themselves. There may have been a desire to lengthen Hebrew history, either to make claims for priority, or to allow time to accommodate the claims of other cul
tures; it would not do to have Yahweh creating the earth many years after Egypt was founded. Egyptian history is not as old as is sometimes claimed, it postdates the Flood which leaves even less time for it to develop, but this is a possible argument for the translators changing the figures in Genesis 5 and 11. Interestingly the age at fatherhood for the Septuagint is exactly 100 years greater than the Masoretic for most men. Setterfield suggests a mark for 100 has been omitted in the switch from paleo-Hebrew glyphs to the square Hebrew (Setterfield favours the Septuagint as being original as did many church fathers). I am not convinced this is an adequate explanation as there is a loss of 100 years for the years they lived after fathering the relevant descendant: a deliberate change in whichever texttype is errant.

This does raise an interesting point though, how old was Jared when Enoch was born? If the Masoretic is original and the Septugint routinely added 100 years (except for Noah for other reasons) why not make Jared 262? Is the Samaritan correct here? Was 262 seen as just too old? Noah was 500. Does the Samaritan decrease the age in line with the surrounding patriarchs? But why would a culture want to minimise its ancestry? And if we decide to follow the Samaritan then both Methuselah and Lamech die in the year of the Flood. Possible but it does seem a little convenient.

The fact that the first 2 figures add up to the third in all versions (corrupt and original) is evidence that the men changing the ages in translation understood the chronology to be airtight, there are no gaps.

Though I think the Septuagint is underrated in current English translations, I tend towards the Masoretic figures in Genesis 5. I have no desire to make the world any older or shorter than it is. Claims of cultural antiquity no longer bother me, all cultures must post date the Flood and even using the Septuagint leaves one at odds with secular dating for many post-Flood artefacts. And good arguments can be made for shortening many chronologies.

There is a place for looking for common themes amongst the varying figures. The problem is that the corrupt figures are not accidental, they are deliberate, and deducing the original is that much harder. It is not the case that a misread letter explains variant readings. The most similarities can do is fix ages for specific men. The only agreement for the antediluvian patriarchs across all 3 texttypes is that of Noah.

It would be wonderful to find a manuscript in paleo-Hebrew. It may help point us toward the original.

Categories: chronology, manuscripts

>Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus?

2007 September 29 22 comments

>The pharaoh who was in power when Moses fled Egypt died (Exodus 2:23). A subsequent pharaoh, perhaps the next, continued to oppress the Hebrews. Moses returned to Egypt c. 2513 AM. Moses appeared before Pharoah with a sign of a staff turning into a snake. This pharaoh had 2 magicians named Jannes and Jambres (2 Timothy 3).

God sent 10 plagues over several months. They were the plagues of blood, frogs, gnats, flies, pestilence on the livestock, boils, thunder/ hail/ fire, locusts, darkness, and death of firstborn. The death of the firstborn was on the 13th or 14th of Nisan in the year 2514 AM.

~2,000,000 Hebrews and Egyptians left Egypt from Rameses and Sukkoth. They went thru the wilderness to Etham on the edge of the desert then to Pi-hahiroth. Pharaoh with his army caught up to them there at which point the Hebrews crossed the Red Sea but the pursuing army, including Pharaoh, drowned in the Red Sea.

Some of the places may prove difficult to identify but there is plenty of information given to help us identify the pharaoh. There are several catastophes which befell Egypt that there may be records of. Pharaoh died in the Red Sea and therefore his body was not mummified. His eldest son died so did not ascend the throne. It is possible that this pharaoh was the last in his family line. Egypt was also without an army for sometime.

Several persons have variably identified the pharaoh of the Exodus based on the biblical data. Some correlate the plagues to verses in the Ipuwer Papyrus, this may be so though the main theme of the poem seems to be a reversal of social order.

Various identities for this pharaoh are:

Neferhotep I

This identity is made by David Down. Neferhotep is a pharaoh of the 13th dynasty. The chronology of the 13th dynasty is difficult to untangle. Down places him as the last pharaoh of this dynasty before the Intermediate Period dominated by the Hyksos whom he identifies with the Amalekites as per Velikovsky who first proposed this. Neferhotep’s corpse has not been identified.


This is the proposal by Immanuel Velikovsky. I am unable to identify him further though Velikovsky places him at the end of the middle kingdom which would be about the 13th dynasty.


Which in Greek would be Cencheres. Donovan Courville identifies a 13th dynasty pharaoh by this name. Neferhotep is also known by his throne name Khasekhemre and his brother Sobekhotep IV has the throne name Khaneferre; both names having some resemblance. Courville suggests that Brugsch identified Ka-Ankh-Re as Sobekhotep IV (or V). Charles Taylor agrees with Courville on KaAnkh-Re being the pharaoh of the Exodus.

Amenemhat IV

Alan Montogomery suggests that this is the pharaoh of the Exodus. Amenemhat was earlier than Neferhotep, the former belonging to the 12th dynasty, though possibly not by many years (< 100).

? Menrenre Nemtyemsaf II

Bruce Alan Killian suggests that the long reign of Pepe II corresponds to the birth and life of Moses for the first 80 years. He suggests that Pepe’s successor was the pharaoh who pursued the Hebrews and died in the Red Sea. He does not mention the pharaoh by name so Nemtyemsaf is my guess. Pepe II reigned during the 6th dynasty.

Dudimose I

Or Tutimaeus. This is suggested by Barry Setterfield based on Manetho who gives this pharaoh as the last one before the invasion of the Hyksos. Again the relationship to the other pharaohs is not immediately apparent because of the messy state of affairs with ancient Egyptian chronology and the multiplicity of names. Setterfield states Dudimose comes after Khaneferre whom he places at the time when Moses flees Egypt.

Amenhotep II

Curt Sewell proposes this pharaoh of the 18th dynasty. This is consistent with his identification of Moses adoptive mother as Hatshepsut, also of the 18th dynasty. My difficulty with this is Amenhotep’s body has been identified. Sewell claims that while the army is at the bottom of the Red Sea, the pharaoh did not follow them in and thus survived. While Exodus does not specifically state that pharaoh dies (though it is a reasonable inference), Psalm 136 does.


There have been multiple attempts at identifying the pharaoh of the Exodus. I have surveyed a few who take the biblical record seriously. We know that there were 10 plagues in the months prior to the Exodus and the Egyptian economy was devastated; there was a mass exodus of slaves and some of the natives from Egypt; and Pharaoh and his army drowned in the Rea Sea. I think that the identification of Sewell contradicts a scriptural passage, as mentioned above, which leaves the identities proposed as being the later kings on the 13th dynasty except Montogomery who suggests the 12 dynasty and Killian the 6th. The 12th and 13th dynasties were closely aligned and the 13th may not have lasted very long. The documentation of the 13th dynasty is in shambles which would not be unexpected if it ended in such disaster. Interestingly, Courville claims dynasties 6 and 12 were concurrent. While these chronologists are not independent, a not unreasonable inerrantist identification of the pharaoh of the Exodus is a late or final pharaoh of what is commonly identified as the 13th dynasty.

>Pharaohs of the Bible

2007 September 21 Leave a comment

>There several Pharaohs mentioned in the Bible. Many are unnamed and overlaps are not always certain. For example was the Pharaoh who spoke to Joseph at his father’s death the same one who had the dreams? There are also at least 4 women of royal blood; the princess who adopted Moses, the princess Bithiah who married Mered, the princess who married Solomon, and (the) Queen (of) Sheba.

Correlating the biblical mentions with the Egyptian records is difficult for several reasons. The Pharaohs having several names and the difficulty in translating these names is one of them. But the main difficulty comes from incorrect synchronisms. If dates are held more tightly than events, then poor correspondences will be accepted and strong ones resisted. Conversely, if the persons and events are reviewed closely then we may have to play more freely with the dates. Obviously if events match the dates actually do match, it is just that the dates are not those that are commonly held.

The Flood occurred in 1656 anno mundi (AM, year of the world). The early Egyptians are descendants of Mizraim (Mizraim is the Hebrew for Egypt). Mizraim was a son of Ham. Mizraim or his early descendants established Egypt. The ancient kingdom of Egypt postdates the Flood and probably postdates Babel. Establishing the time of Babel is more elusive. If the reference to Peleg corresponds to the Babel event, it possibly occurred shortly before or around the time of Peleg’s birth (1757 AM), certainly before his death (1996 AM).

If we take Peleg’s birth as the earliest reasonable time for the establishment of Egypt then Mizraim, born after the flood, would have been less than 100 years old. The dynasties of Egypt cannot predate this year. 1757 AM is c. 2200 BC (my reckoning). The first Pharaoh of Egypt, Menes, conventionally dated c.3000 BC, actually started his reign nearly 1000 years later.

>Reasons that Genesis 1 means a literal 6 days

2007 September 16 8 comments

>Firstly I have a question for those who deny the days are literal: “If God decided to make the world in 6 days, how would he convey this so we would not misunderstand him?” I mean, if God did take 6 days, there is nothing he could say more than what already is in Genesis 1 to convince us. Whatever further details that could be written would be explained away by those who disagree just like they do now. If the days were not intended to be read as literal the wording used in Genesis seems an unusual choice, and there are plenty of ways in Hebrew to say otherwise.

Several reasons why I think the days in Genesis 1 are of 24 hour duration:

  1. Style is narrative. This is clear from just reading it, but technical analysis concurs.
  2. The word “day” is prefixed by a number. This always means a literal day elsewhere in Scripture. Some questions of interpretation of day with a number is raised when the passage is prophetic.
  3. The word “day” is prefixed by the phrase “there was evening and there was morning,” a phrase that is also used for a literal day. Again, some dispute around prophetic usage.
  4. The first day also mentions the day was divided into daytime and nighttime according to whether it was light or dark.

    And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day(time),” and the darkness he called “night(time).” And there was evening and there was morning, one day. (Genesis 1:3-5)

  5. Comparison is made to creation when God commanded the Israelites to rest on the Sabbath. God said,

    Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 6 days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the 7th day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in 6 days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the 7th day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20)

    The reason this parallel is exact is because the word day is used. One can have a Sabbath of other time periods, usually years (Exodus 23, 2 Chronicles 36), but no comment is made about those periods being the same as the creation periods, ie. days.

    In fact the existence of the week is a strong pointer to the literalism of Genesis 1. Day, month and year all have astronomical events that define them. Other time divisions are clearly a division or multiplication of these 3 fundamental periods. Decade and century from the decimal numerical scheme; seconds, minutes and hours from the sexagesimal scheme. The week is clearly a period based on days that has no logical explanation other than divine decree.

The first day is particularly instructive because, in a way, it is acting as a definition. Not only is it literal because of the mention of a number and evening and morning, the day is defined based on a period of daylight followed by darkness.

For those who deny the days are 24 hours this needs explaining. And it is likely the proposed hermeneutic will be invoked because of a prior, extra-biblical commitment to an ancient earth.

>Newton on chronology

2007 June 28 Leave a comment

>A letter from Isaac Newton states that the world would not come to an end until after 2060. He was not setting that date as the end of the world but rather that it could not end until at least then. This was based on his understanding of Daniel. And he was trying to put to an end speculation on dates in his day.

This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail.

While I have not seen Newton’s dating of creation, his work on ancient chronology would be consistent with being a Young Earth Creationist. While this was not unusual at the time I find it interesting that my views on origins are in line with the greatest scientist who ever lived. Other creationists were Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo.

It was frustrating to read this comment in the article:

Luckily for modern scientists in awe of his achievements, Newton based this figure on religion rather than reasoning.

It is bad enough that Newton’s religiosity was kept hidden from centuries while his scientific musings were published. They just don’t get it: Newton’s chronological theories were based on his reason, not an absence of it. He reasoned with scripture, not despite it. I happen to disagree with his chronological conclusions but that is beside the point which was he weighted certain scriptures and interpretations and the logical consequence of this led to his conclusions; if he was wrong it was in his incomplete or inadequate premises.

Theology is the queen of science and reason is one of her tools. Science arose in Christian society and was a consequence of an immutable God of whose thoughts we can think after. Science is losing its way as it disregards theism and it is becoming subservient to political ideology instead.