EVIDENCE THAT THE 1914 A.D. AND 607 B.C. DATES OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES ARE WRONG
WHY 1914 A.D. IS IMPORTANT TO JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES
Prior to 1914, Jehovah’s Witnesses proclaimed that the end of this period would culminate in the destruction of all earthly governments in the “Battle of Armageddon.” 1. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, it seemed to them that such prophetic declarations by the Watchtower Society were indeed being fulfilled and that the new system of things under Christ’s millennial reign of one thousand years was just around the corner. Heralding such statements, Jehovah’s Witnesses flocked to the streets, urging prospective converts to join the Watchtower organization in order to avoid the impending doom that they claimed would occur near this date.
When Christ failed to appear in 1914 and World War I failed to abolish earthly governments, Joseph F. Rutherford, successor to Charles Taze Russell, enacted a major shift in the way Jehovah’s Witnesses view 1914. No longer was 1914 promoted as the conclusion of the prophetic “time of the end,” 2. but rather as it is seen now, the “beginning” of this period.3. This major shift in Watchtower chronological doctrine on 1914, has allowed Jehovah’s Witnesses to continue to promote this false date as the time that Christ setup an “invisible” reign in the heavens. They assert that this time period will eventually climax with the end of human governmental rule at the Battle of Armageddon.
HOW 1914 IS CALCULATED
Jehovah’s Witnesses calculate the 2,520-year time period between 607 B.C. to 1914 A.D. by hijacking a simple prophecy of Daniel chapter 4 that refers specifically to the seven years (“seven times”) that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was to become an outcast from his kingdom and misapplying this prophecy to Jerusalem, which they say represents “God’s rulership.”
They then claim that Jerusalem was “trampled” in 607/606 B.C. by Babylon and that the “seven times” refers to seven prophetic years of 360 days each, times a day for a year. Thus, 7 years x 360 days = 2,520 days x a day for a year = 2,520 years. So, they claim that for 2,520 years, from 607/606 B.C. to 1914 A.D., the nations trampled God’s kingdom until 1914 in which “‘the appointed times of the nations’ ended, and Jesus Christ was installed as God’s heavenly King.” 4.
IF 1914 IS WRONG, ARE JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES FALSE PROPHETS?
Absolutely foundational to their 1914 prediction concerning Christ’s alleged invisible reign in the heavens is the Jehovah’s Witness’ claim that 607 B.C. marks the date for the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon. Yet, secular historians all disagree with the Watchtower’s date by claiming that the fall of Jerusalem did not occur until 20 years later in 587 B.C. So, if the Watchtower’s 607/606 B.C. date for the fall of Jerusalem is incorrect, their 1914 predictions fall apart in accordance with Jesus’ condemnation of false prophets in Matthew 24. Not only is the chronology behind the Watchtower’s 1914 date something to consider, but the strong warnings Jesus gave about what to watch out for when He returns should also be considered.
“While he was sitting upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached him privately, saying: ‘Tell us, When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?’ … And many false prophets will arise and mislead many … ‘Then if anyone says to YOU, “Look! Here is the Christ,” or, “There!” do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise … Look! I have forewarned YOU. Therefore, if people say to YOU, ‘Look! He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out; ‘Look! He is in the inner chambers,’ do not believe it. For just as the lightning comes out of eastern parts and shines over to western parts, so the presence of the Son of man will be.” (Matthew 24:3, 11, 23-27 5.)
A VISIBLE OR INVISIBLE COMING?
Jesus warned that one of the signs of His soon return would be that false prophets would proclaim an inaccurate date for His presence (parousia). To keep His true followers from being deceived, Jesus likened His presence to lightening that would shine from east to west. How gradual and invisible is lightening? Doesn’t it appear quickly and immediately? Regardless of this fact, the Watchtower Society argues that Christ’s presence began in 1914 and that His presence will gradually be felt until some point in the future when Jesus will invisibly come (erkhomai) and execute judgment against worldly governments at the “war of Armageddon”. 6. Yet, Jesus went on to elaborate on the visible appearance of His presence and coming when He said:
“And then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in lamentation, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:30)
If “all” the tribes of the earth will “lament” when they “see” Christ, how could His coming be invisible to all but His true followers? Certainly, they would not be lamenting if they were truly Jesus’ followers. Yet, the Watchtower Society endeavors to get around these clear statements on the visible return of Christ by claiming that Jesus has an invisible spirit-body so that the only way people on earth will be able to “see” Him is by being able to discern the events of His coming that will be occurring around them.7. Such symbolizing of the text of Scripture only proves the length that false prophets will go to try to convince people of their failed prophecies.
Not only is Scripture clear about the visibility of Jesus’ coming, but it clearly declares that Jesus raised His physical human body (John 2:18-22 and Luke 24:39). It is beyond the scope of this article to address all of the arguments that Jehovah’s Witnesses raise against the physical, bodily resurrection of Christ. Yet, if you are interested in more information on this subject, we encourage you to read our article entitled, “DID JESUS RESURRECT FROM THE DEAD IN AN INVISIBLE SPIRIT-BODY? – Insight into the Watchtower View of Resurrection.”
We have now established why the Watchtower’s 1914 prediction of Christ’s presence is so serious. Indeed, if it is wrong, Jehovah’s Witnesses are false prophets and are not in “the truth.”
DOES THE WATCHTOWER’S 607 B.C. DATE AGREE WITH THE BIBLE?
THE JERUSALEM TEMPLE WAS DESOLATE FOR HOW LONG, 70 YEARS OR 90 YEARS?
The Watchtower Society admits that its 607 B.C. date for the fall of Jerusalem does not agree with secular chronology which places the destruction of Jerusalem in 587/586 B.C.8. Yet, they claim that their date aligns better with Biblical chronology than the date given by secular historians. Is this true? Let’s examine what Scripture has to say on this subject.
The first line of evidence from the Bible that supports the secular date of 587 B.C. for the fall of Jerusalem is the fact that in the fourth year of king Darius’ reign, the Jerusalem temple had been lying in ruins for seventy years, not ninety years. The Biblical account in Zechariah proclaims:
“‘And those who are far away will come and actually build in the temple of Jehovah … Furthermore, it came about that in the fourth year of Da·ri´us the king the word of Jehovah occurred to Zech·a·ri´ah … saying: ‘Shall I weep in the fifth month, practicing an abstinence, the way I have done these O how many years? … When YOU fasted and there was a wailing in the fifth [month] and in the seventh [month], and this for seventy years, did YOU really fast to me, even me?’” (Zechariah 6:15; 7:1, 3, 5)
When did this weeping for Jerusalem and its temple start? Was the temple in Jerusalem destroyed seventy years (in 587 B.C.) or ninety years (in 607 B.C.) back from the fourth year of king Darius’ reign? Since Zechariah 7:1 clearly shows that it was “seventy years” back from this date that this destruction occurred, all we need to know in order to calculate when the temple was destroyed is to determine what date was Darius’ fourth year of reign. It is here that the Watchtower Society actually agrees with the date given by secular historians when it correctly states:
“Darius I, also known as Darius the Great, ascended the throne in 521 B.C.E., the work of rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem was under ban. Upon recovering the document containing Cyrus’ decree in the archives at Ecbatana, Darius did more than remove the ban in 520 B.C.E. he also provided funds from the royal treasury for rebuilding the temple.” (Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy!, 1999, p. 52)
So if Darius’ first year of reign was in 521 B.C., what date marks the “fourth year of Da·ri´us the king” in Zechariah 7:1? Wouldn’t that be the date of 517 B.C.? Seventy years back from 517 B.C. points to 587 B.C. for the fall of Jerusalem, not the Watchtower’s date of 607 B.C.
70 YEARS OR 90 YEARS OF SERVITUDE TO BABYLON?
The next line of evidence from Biblical Scripture for the 587 B.C. date is the fact that the “nations” were to “serve” the King of Babylon for only seventy years, not ninety years. Speaking of the land of Israel and its surrounding nations, Jeremiah says:
“And all this land must become a devastated place, an object of astonishment, and these nations will have to serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it must occur that when seventy years have been fulfilled I shall call to account against the king of Babylon and against that nation,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘their error, even against the land of the Chal·de´ans, and I will make it desolate wastes to time indefinite.” (Jeremiah 25:11-12)
According to this passage, what event was to mark the completion of the seventy years of servitude that the nations around Israel were to give to the “king of Babylon”? Jeremiah 25:12 says “that when seventy years have been fulfilled” Jehovah will “call to account against” what? The KING of Babylon!
According to verse 12, is there any way Jehovah’s judgment against the “king of Babylon” could have occurred prior to the completion of the seventy years of servitude? No! It says, “when seventy years have been fulfilled.”
Yet, both the Watchtower and secular historians agree that Babylon was destroyed by the Medes and Persians when the “king of Babylon” died in 539 B.C. 9. Even Daniel describes the night that Jehovah’s judgment fell against the “king of Babylon.” It says:
“In that very night Bel·shaz´zar the Chal·de´an king was killed and Da·ri´us the Mede himself received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.” (Daniel 5:30-31)
So, why is this important? According to the Watchtower’s chronology, if the seventy years of servitude started in 607 B.C., it would have had to end in 537 B.C. . 10. This is two years AFTER Belshazzar the Chaldean king of Babylon died! How could Jehovah “call to account against” a DEAD king in 537 B.C., who died two years prior in 539 B.C.?
Since the Bible is clear that the death of the “king of Babylon” in 539 B.C. marks the “fulfillment” of the “seventy years” of servitude, what date marks the beginning? It is 609 B.C., not 607 B.C. So what is significant about the year, 609 B.C? Historian Stefan Zawadzki notes:
“In 609 Assyria was mentioned for the last time as a still existing but marginal formation in northwestern Mesopotamia. After that year Assyria ceased to exist.” (The Fall of Assyria, (Poznan: Adam Mickiewicz University Press, 1988), p. 16)
So although Nineveh, Assyria’s first capital fell in 612 B.C., it wasn’t until 609 B.C. when Assyria attempted to re-conquer Harran and was re-defeated by Babylon that its influence was fully felt by the nations. We can, therefore, reasonably point to 609 B.C. as the date that the seventy years of servitude to Babylon by the nations began to be reckoned. As can be seen, these dates, set by secular historians, fit perfectly with the Biblical account of chronology.
Regardless of these facts, the Watchtower Society disagrees with these dates and adds an additional twenty years to the Neo-Babylonian period. Thus, they push the fall of Nineveh back to 632 B.C. and the ultimate defeat of Assyria to 629 B.C. 11. These dates given by the Watchtower Society (without any historical support) clearly disagree with the Biblical account, because they require the nations to have been serving Babylon ninety years by 539 B.C., instead of seventy years!
How does the Watchtower Society try to justify their false date for the fall of Jerusalem? The Society quotes Jeremiah 29:10 from the New World Translation Bible of Jehovah’s Witnesses and claims that the servitude referred only to the time that the Jews were exiled “at Babylon.” The Watchtower Society states:
“Jehovah’s ‘good word’ is bound up with the foretold 70-year period, for God said: ‘This is what Jehovah has said, “In accord with the fulfilling of seventy years at Babylon I shall turn my attention to you people, and I will establish toward you my good word in bringing you back to this place.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:10) … Hence, counting back 70 years from when the Jews returned to their homeland in 537 B.C.E., we arrive at 607 B.C.E. for the date when Nebuchadnezzar, in his 18th regnal year, destroyed Jerusalem.” (Let Your Kingdom Come, 1981, p. 189)
Yet, notice the discrepancy between how the New World Translation renders Jeremiah 29:10 compared to most modern translations:
NWT: “In accord with the fulfilling of seventy years at Babylon I shall turn my attention to YOU people.”
- NIV: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you.”
- ESV: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you.”
- NASB: “For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you.”
- ASV: “For thus saith Jehovah, After seventy years are accomplished for Babylon, I will visit you.”
- DBY: “When seventy years shall be accomplished for Babylon I will visit you.”
While a few translations like the King James Bible can be found to support the rendering of “at Babylon” instead of “for Babylon,” the vast majority of translations support the rendering of “seventy years … for Babylon.” Even the Interlinear Bible – Hebrew, Greek, English by Jay P. Green, published by Hendrickson, agrees with the translation of “for Babylon.” Thus, the Watchtower’s claim that the servitude did not start until after the Jews were exiled to Babylon at the fall of Jerusalem based upon Jeremiah 29:10 is unjustifiable. Furthermore, notice who truly was to serve Babylon for seventy years. Was it the exiled Jews or the nations around Israel?
“And all this land must become a devastated place, an object of astonishment, and these nations will have to serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” (Jeremiah 25:11)
Notice it is the nations around Israel who were to serve seventy years, NOT Israel herself! Again, this points to the fall of Assyria to Babylon as the start of the seventy years of servitude by the nations; not the Watchtower Society’s ninety years of servitude by the nations.
So how does knowing the beginning date for the seventy years of servitude starting with the fall of Assyria to Babylon in 609 B.C. establish 587 B.C. for the fall of Jerusalem? Jeremiah explains that the destruction and exile of Jerusalem occurred in the 18th regnal year of Nebuchadnezzar. It states:
“And in the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month, that is, [in] the nineteenth year of King Neb·u·chad·rez´zar, the king of Babylon, Neb·u´zar·ad´an the chief of the bodyguard, who was standing before the king of Babylon, came into Jerusalem. And he proceeded to burn the house of Jehovah and the house of the king and all the houses of Jerusalem; and every great house he burned with fire … In the eighteenth year of Neb·u·chad·rez´zar, from Jerusalem there were eight hundred and thirty-two souls.” (Jeremiah 52:12-13, 29 12.)
Since the Watchtower agrees with secular historians who state that Nebuchadnezzar began to reign at the death of his father Nebopolassar after the Battle of Carchemish that occurred four years after the fall of Assyria, 13. one can easily calculate Nebuchadnezzer’s 18th year of reign. By establishing 609 B.C. as the date Assyria fell and Babylon began to rule over the nations, one can easily calculate 587 B.C. as the date when the fall of Jerusalem occurred in the 18th year of Nebuchadnezzer’s reign.
To put it simply, take the fall of Assyria in 609 B.C., add four years to the Battle of Carchemish being in 605 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar began to reign at the death of his father. Then, add 18 years from 605 B.C. and we arrive at 587 B.C. for the fall of Jerusalem.
Thus, we can see from a Biblical standpoint, the conquest of Babylon over Assyria in 609 B.C. and her serving nations in subjection to Babylon for seventy years until 539 B.C., along with Zechariah’s statements that Jerusalem was in ruins for seventy years on the fourth year of Darius the Mede in 517 B.C., provides solid Biblical evidence for the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C., not in 607 B.C.
WHAT DO THE HISTORICAL RECORDS REVEAL?
Having just established the solid Biblical support for the dates provided by secular historians, we will now turn our attention to the archeological records preserved in the Neo-Babylonian cuneiform tablets. Do these records agree with the Watchtower’s ninety-year period for the reign of Babylon over the nations around Israel, or do they agree with the Biblical account of “seventy years … for Babylon”?
On pages 186 to 187 of their 1981 book, Let Your Kingdom Come, the Watchtower Society admits that secular chronology bases its dates for the reign of Babylon upon a number of historical documents. These documents include the following: The Neo-Babylon Chronicles, Ptolemy’s Canon (also called the Royal Canon), Berossus’ record of the kings, the Uruk King List, royal inscriptions, the Neo-Babylonian contemporary business tablets, eclipse records and astronomical diaries. Together, these sources confirm the following accession and regnal years for the kings of Babylon:
REGNAL YEARS DURING THE 70-YEAR PERIOD
|Nabopolassar||4 Years (Assyrian rule ended in the 17th year of his 21-year reign)||
|Labashi-Marduk||0 Years (only reigned 2-3 months)||
70 YEARS NATIONS SERVED BABYLON
We will now examine each of these sources to see how they verify the information in the above chart.
THE NEO-BABYLONIAN CHRONICLES
Several historical records covering the history of Neo-Babylon have been preserved in ancient cuneiform tablets made of clay. A.K. Grayson published an English translation of the cuneiform chronicles that are kept in the British Museum, London in his book, Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles. Chronicles 2-7 in his series begin with the accession-year of Nabopolassar in 626 B.C. and end at the beginning of the reign of Cyrus in 538 B.C. We will now examine some of these documents.
CHRONICLE 3 (BM 21901) confirms that Assyrian rule ended in 609 B.C. in the 17th year of Nabopolassar.
“Events recorded by B.M. 21901 … “609 Nabopolassar 17 … Assur-uballit and Egyptian army advance on Harran. Assyro-Egyptian siege of Harran ended on approach of Nabopolassar. Babylonian operations in Izalla and up to Armenian border. Nabopolassar returns home.” (D.J. Wiseman, Chronicles of Chaldaen Kings (626-556 B.C.) in the British Museum, 1956, p. 45)
CHRONICLE 5 (BM 21946) confirms that Nebuchadnezzar became king in the 21st year of his father Nabopolassar’s reign.
“[The twenty-first year]: The king of Akkad stayed home (while) Nebuchadnezzar (II), his eldest son (and) the crown prince, mustered [the army of Akkad]. He took his army’s lead and marched to Carchemish which is on the bank of the Euphrates. … At that time Nebuchadnezzar (II) conquered all of Ha[ma]th. For twenty-one years Nabopolassar ruled Babylon. On the eighth day of the month Ab he died. In the month Elul Nebuchadnezzar (II) returned to Babylon and on the first day of the month Elul he ascended the royal throne in Babylon.” (A.K. Grayson, Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles, 1975, pp. 99-100)
CHRONICLE 7 (BM 35382), also called the Nabonidus Chronicle, shows that Babylon was conquered in the 17th year of the reign of Nabonidus.
“The seventeenth year: … the army of Cyrus (II) entered Babylon without a battle. Afterwards, after Nabonidus retreated, he was captured in Babylon.” (A.K. Grayson, Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles, 1975, pp. 109-110)
THE KING LISTS
A king list differs from the Neo-Babylonian chronicles because it merely lists the names of the kings and the number of years they reigned, and does not provide details on the historical events that occurred during their reigns. While the chronicles we have available today do not provide a complete chronology for the Neo-Babylonian period, the strength of a king list such as Ptolemy’s Canon is that this record was likely derived from the Neo-Babylonian chronicles series as well as other king lists from the time of Babylon. The fact that Ptolemy’s Canon and the record of the kings provided by Berossus were derived independently of each other and yet agree with each other indicates that these records can be trusted.
PTOLEMY’S CANON (THE ROYAL CANON) verifies the reigns of all kings except Labashi-Marduk.
Ptolemy’s Canon lists the kings and their reigns from Nabonassar in Babylon (747-734 B.C.) through the Roman and Byzantine empires. While this list was prepared by Claudius Ptolemy, an astronomer in the first century A.D., there is evidence that king lists like this one were in existence long before Ptolemy. Thus, we can assume that this list was derived from much earlier sources, including the Neo-Babylonian Chronicle series. While Ptolemy’s Canon does not list the short reign of Labashi-Marduk, it does verify all of the regnal years given for all of the other kings during this period. The Greek version of the list is reproduced in a German book entitled, Handbuch Der Matematischen Und Technischen Chronologie, vol. 1, p. 139 by F.K. Genzel (Leipzig 1906), and an English translation of the portion of Ptolemy’s Canon that covers the Neo-Babylonian era reads as follows:
“Chaldaen … Nabopolassar 21 … Nebuchadnrezzar 43 … Amel-Marduck 2 … Neriglissar 4 … Nabonidus 17.” (Leo Depuydt, “More Valuable Than All Gold”: Ptolemy’s Royal Canon and Babylonian Chronology in Journal of Cunieform Studies, vol. 47, 1995, p. 98)
BEROSSUS’ RECORD OF THE KINGS verifies the reigns of all kings except a discrepancy in Labashi-Marduk’s reign.
Berossus was a Babylonian writer who lived in the third century B.C. during the Hellenistic era. Fragments of his writings have been preserved in the writings of first century A.D. Roman and Jewish historians, such as Flavius Josephus who records his statements about Babylonian kings in his books, Against Apion and The Antiquities of the Jews. Regarding the Battle of Carchemish and Nebuchadnezzar’s rise to the throne, Josephus quotes Berosus (Berossus) as stating that Nebopollassar reigned for 21 years before his son Nebuchadnezzar succeeded him.
“Now Berosus makes mention of his actions in the third book of his Chaldaic History, where he says thus: — (220) ‘When his father Nebuchodonosor [Nabopollassar] heard that the governor whom he had set over Egypt, and the places about Celesyria and Phoenicia, had revolted from him … he committed to his son Nebuchadnezzar, who was still but a youth, some parts of his army, and set them against him. (221) So when Nebuchadnezzar had given battle, and fought with the rebel, he beat him … and made it a branch of his own kingdom; but about that time it happened that his father Nebuchodonosor [Nabopollassar] fell ill, and ended his life in the city of Babylon, when he had reigned twenty-one years.” (The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 10, Chapter 11, The Works of Josephus, (Hendrickson Publishers, 1987), p. 281)
Elsewhere, in Josephus’ Book One of his Against Apion, he quotes Berossus as providing a list of regnal years for each of the other Babylonian kings:
“Now, as to what I have said before about the temple at Jerusalem, that it was fought against by the Babylonians, and burnt by them, but was opened again when Cyrus had taken the kingdom of Asia, shall now be demonstrated from what Berosus adds farther upon that head; (146) for thus he says in his third book: — ‘Nabuchodonosor, after he had begun to build the forementioned wall, fell sick, and departed this life, when he had reigned forty-three years; whereupon his son Evil-merodach obtained the kingdom. (147) He governed public affairs after an illegal and impure manner, and had a plot laid against him by Neriglissoor, his sister’s husband, and was slain by him when he had reigned but two years. After he was slain, Neriglissoor, the person who plotted against him, succeeded him in the kingdom, and reigned four years; (148) his son Laborosoarchod obtained the kingdom, though he was but a child, and kept it nine months; but by reason of the very ill temper and ill practices he exhibited to the world, a plot was laid against him also by his friends, and he was tormented to death. (149) After his death, the conspirators got together, and by common consent put the crown upon the head of Nabonnedus, a man of Babylon, and one who belonged to that insurrection. In his reign it was that the walls of the city of Babylon were curiously built with burnt brick and bitumen; (150) but when he was come to the seventeenth year of his reign, Cyrus came out of Persia with a great army; and having already conquered all the rest of Asia, he came hastily to Babylonia.” (Flavius Josephus Against Apion, Book 1, The Works of Josephus, (Hendrickson Publishers, 1987), p. 782)
The only discrepancy in Berossus’ record of the kings is Labashi-Marduk’s reign that he lists as being nine months instead of the two to three months given by other historical records. Yet, this discrepancy can be reconciled when one considers the possibility of a potential scribal error in Josephus’ works. Paul-Alain Beaulieu explains:
“According to Berossus, Labasi-Marduck reigned nine months, which is impossible according to dated documents. It is likely that, if Berossus’ own manuscript used a numeral instead of the spelled-out number, confusion between 9 (theta) and 2 (beta) could easily have arisen, hence the original text may have said two months (Parker and Dubberstein 1956:13). The Uruk king list credits him with a reign of three months (Grayson 1980:97), data not at variance with documents from this city, especially YBC 3817, which shows that Labasi-Marduk was recognized as king there until at least Jun 19 (Goetze 1944:44). The earliest dated document of Nabonidus from Uruk is dated July 1 (YOS VI:1). The archive of Sippar provides similar dates: the latest date of Labasi-Marduk is June 20 (Lab 3), while the earliest one of Nabonidus is June 26 (Nbn 1). The situation at Babylon, however, is problematic. The last document of Labasi-Marduk from this city is dated May 24 (NBC 4534), roughly a month after his accession. The following day Nabonidus was recognized king in the region of Nippur. It has generally been assumed on this basis that the conspiracy took place in Babylon and succeeded at the end of May, while outlying regions such as Uruk and Sippar recognized Labasi-Marduk for one more month, possibly because his death had been concealed until the end of June. … In consideration of all this evidence the usual reconstruction of Nabonidus’ accession seems correct. He was probably recognized as king as early as May 25 in central Babylonia (Babylon and Nippur), but outlying regions would have recognized Labasi-Marduk until the end of June. This reconstruction of events fits the data provided by the Uruk king list and Berossus perfectly if one accepts that while the latter reads nine months for Labasi-Marduk, two months is correct.” (Paul-Alain Beaulieu, The Reign of Nabonidus, 1989, p. 86-88)
URUK KING LIST confirms 21 years for Nabopolassar, 43 years for Nebuchadnezzar, 2 years for Evil-Merodach and 3 months for Labashi-Marduk.
The Uruk King list was composed approximately 300 years after the Neo-Babylonian period and was based upon older documents. While certain portions of the Uruk King List are poorly preserved, the fact that it was written much earlier than Ptolemy’s Canon and based upon writings that are older that Berossus’ work provides valuable confirmation for the regnal years given in these records. The portion of the list that covers the 70 years of Babylonian rule, reads as follows:
“The Uruk King List from Kandalanu to Seleucus II … 21 years: Nabopolassar 43 [ye]ars: Nebuchadnezzar (II) 2 [ye]ars: Amel-Marduk [X] + 2 years, 8 months: Neriglissar […] 3 months: Labash-Marduk [x] + 15 years: Nabonidus.” (James B. Pritchard, The Ancient Near East, Volume II – A New Anthology of Texts and Pictures, 1976, pp. 118-119)
THE ROYAL INSCRIPTIONS
Up until now, all of the records we’ve reviewed were composed over 200 years after the Neo-Babylonian era. While one could argue that these records may be inaccurate due to the limited material available at the time of their writing, such concerns are alleviated when we compare the information in these documents with the royal inscriptions and business tablets contemporary with the Neo-Babylonian time frame.
HARRAN INSCRIPTION NABON H 1 Bor ADAD-GUPPI’ STELE (NABON Tadmor No 24) confirms the reigns for all Babylonian kings except Labashi-Marduk and Nabonidus.
Written during the 9th year of the reign of Nabonidus, this pillar commemorates the life of Nabonidus’ mother Adda-guppi who was born during the 20th year of the Assyrian king Assurbanipal and lived until the 9th year of Nabonidus. As this stele lists the regnal years for the Assyrian and Babylonian kings that she lived under, it provides strong confirmation for the figures given in the preceding records. It states:
“From the 20th year of Assurbanipal, king of Assyria, that I was born (in) until the 42nd year of Assurbanipal, the 3rd year of Assur-etillu-ili, his son, the 21st year of Nabopolassar, the 43rd year of Nebuchadrezzar, the 2nd year of Awel-Marduk, the 4th year of Neriglissar, in 95 years of the god Sin, king of the gods of heaven and earth … he looked upon me with a smile for he heard my prayers … From the time of Assurbanipal, king of Assyria, until the 9th year of Nabunaid king of Babylon, the son, offspring of my womb 104 years of happiness … In the 21 years of Nabopolassar, king of Babylon, in the 43 years of Nebuchadrezzar, son of Nabopolassar, and 4 years of Neriglissar, king of Babylon, (when) they exercised the kingship, for 68 years with all my heart I reverenced them, … (Now) in the 9th year of Nabu-na’id, king of Babylon, the fate of herself carried her off, and Nabu-na’id, king of Babylon, (her) son, issue of her womb, her corpse entombed.” (C.J.Gadd, “The Harran Inscriptions of Nabonidus” in Anatolian Studies, Journal of the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara, vol. VIII, 1958, pp. 47-51)
HILLAH STELE INSCRIPTION (NABON Tadmor No 8 or Beaulieu No 1 or STELEN-FRAGMENT Berger XI) astronomically confirms 555 B.C. for the first regnal year of Nabonidus (Accession year in 556 B.C.) and 610 B.C. for the 16th year of Nabopolassar.
According to Paul-Alain Beaulieu, this pillar was inscribed during the first two years of the reign of Nabonidus. 14. It mentions the completion of three 18-year lunar cycles that totaled 54 years in which the moon-god’s Ehulhul temple in Harran had been lying desolate after its destruction by the Medes that occurred in the 16th year of Nabopolassar’s reign. Since astronomical phenomenon like these lunar cycles are so precise, one can calculate the exact date in which these events occurred in history. Thus, this royal inscription provides an exact date, not only for the start of Nabonidus’ reign in 556/555 B.C., but for the 16th year of Nabopolassar in 610 B.C. Beaulieu translates column X of the stele as follows:
“Col. X … (Concerning) Harran (and) the Ehulhul, which had been lying in ruins for 54 years because of its devastation by the Medes (who) destroyed the sanctuaries, with the consent of the gods the time for the reconciliation approached, 54 years, when Sin should return to his place.” (The Reign of Nabonidus, 1989, pp. 106-107)
While this stele mentions that the Harran temple was destroyed 54 years prior to the first regnal year of Nabonidus, it does not state who was reigning at the time of its destruction by the Medes. Yet, this information is found in the Nabon H 1 BAdad-Guppi’ Stele which states:
“Whereas in the 16th year of Nabopolassar, king of Babylon, Sin, king of the gods, with his city and his temple was angry and went up to heaven — the city and the people that (were) in it went to ruin.” (C.J.Gadd, “The Harran Inscriptions of Nabonidus” in Anatolian Studies, Journal of the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara, vol. VIII, 1958, p. 47)
Concerning these records, Hayim Tadmor testifies:
“Col. X of Nab. 8 … The 54 years are counted from 610, the sixteenth year of Nabopolassar (when Sin ‘was angry with his city and his house and went up to heaven’), to 556, the accession year of Nabunaid. The special importance attached to the period of 54 years should not be surprising; it represents, as Professor A. Sachs kindly informs me, the complete cycle of the moon (i.e., three 18-year cycles). Accordingly, ‘Sin’s returning to his place’ would mean that the moon cycle was completed. I believe that this coincidence—Nabunaid’s coming to the throne exactly 54 years after the destruction of Harran—was interpreted as a most favorable omen, that the moon-god had become reconciled. … Hildegard Lewy suggested (ArOr XVII 2, p. 54) that the celestial phenomena mentioned in the text (vii 1 ff.) took place in the 3rd month of 555/554, Nabunaid’s year 1.” (Hayim Tadmor, “The Inscriptions of Nabunaid: Historical Arrangement,” in Studies in Honor of Benno Landsberger on his Seventy-Fifth Birthday April 21, 1965 [Assyriological Studies, No. 16], ed. H. Guterbock & T. Jacobsen, The Chicago University Press, 1965, p. 355)
WHERE ARE THE MISSING 20 YEARS?
In order to place the fall of Jerusalem in Nebuchadnezzar’s 18th regnal year, the Watchtower dates his reign between 624 and 582 B.C. 15. whereas all secular historians place the regnal years of Nebuchadnezzar between 604 and 562 B.C. Thus, the Watchtower’s chronology requires an extra 20 years to be added to the Neo-Babylonian period making a total of 43 years between the end of Nebuchadnezzar’ reign and the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C., 16. instead of the 23 years indicated by the historical records. Thus, we must ask: Where are these missing records? Where are we to place the missing 20 years?
THE NEO-BABYLONIAN CONTEMPORARY BUSINESS TABLETS
The economic-administrative and legal documents of Babylon are perhaps the most compelling evidence against the Watchtower’s 90-year chronology for Babylon. They prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no way to add the additional 20 years needed to place the fall of Jerusalem in 607 B.C. instead of the 587 B.C. How do they do this?
According to Paul-Alain Beaulieu, over 3,000 cuneiform legal and administrative texts dated to the reigns of the Neo-Babylonian kings have been discovered. 17. Just as business contacts and receipts of today are dated to the month, day and year of a particular period, so these documents are dated to the month, day and the year of the reigning Babylonian king. Why is this significant? Due to the great quantity of the economic texts available and the fact that some of the documents overlap the periods between each reigning king, historians have been able to calculate with great precision exactly how long each king reigned. The result, W. St. Chad Boscawen summarizes:
“From the examination of the pedigree of the Egibi family, we next pass to the regnal years of the kings, as given us in the tablets, and with following results:— We have tablets dated in 43 years of Nebuchadnezzar … 2 years of Evil-Merodach … 4 years of Neriglissar … 17 years of Nabonidus … 9 years of Cyrus…” (W. St. Chad Boscawen, Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, vol. VI (London, Jan 1878), p. 10)
We will now examine the evidence given in these contemporary business tablets that interlock the reigns of each Babylonian king to prove that there is no place where an extra 20 years can be inserted into the 70-year chronology for Babylon.
NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S 43rd YEAR INTERLOCKS EVIL-MERODACH’S ACCESSION YEAR
The Watchtower Society admits, “Nebuchadnezzar ruled as king for 43 years.” 18. Yet, the Society moves the years of his reign back 20 years prior to any historical record of today. So, we ask the question, Is it possible to add an additional 20 years to the reign of Nebuchadnezzar or the period between his reign and Evil-Merodach’s accession year? That answer is “No” as we will see below.
The first contemporary business tablet of Babylon we will examine is BM 30254. It interlocks the one-year period between the 43rd year of Nebuchadnezzar and Evil-Merodach’s accession year. The English translation by Ronald H. Sack reads as follows:
“The lady Lit-ka-idi … was placed at the disposal of Nabuahheiddina, the son of Sula … forty-third year of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon … in the month of Kislimu, accession year of [Amel]-Marduk, king of Babylon, … Gugua bought (Lit-ka-idi) [to] Nabuahheiddina. … [access]ion year of [Amel-Mar]duk, king of Babylon.” (Ronald H. Sack, Amel-Marduk 562-560 B.C., (Neukirchen-Vlyun: Verlag Butzon & Bercker Kevelaer, 1972), p. 63)
Sack summarizes this transaction as follows:
“One such transaction involved the purchase of the slave girl Litka-idi, and took place during the ninth month of Amel-Marduck’s accession year. … It seems that the slave girl was placed at his disposal in the forty-third year of Nebuchadnezzar. In return, he produced twelve shekels of silver, which ‘guaranteed’ the return of the slave. However, in the next year, he bought Litka-idi ‘for the full price’ (ana simi gamrutu) of nineteen and one-half shekels of silver.” (Ronald H. Sack, Neriglissar-King of Babylon, (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1994), pp. 37-38)
Not only does BM 30254 prevent the addition of 20 years between Nebuchadnezzar’s 43rd year and the first year of Evil-Merodack, the Bible also confirms that Nebuchadnezzar only reigned for 43 years. Here is how it does this. At 2 Kings 24:11-12, we read of the exile of Jehoiachin the king of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem who were taken to Babylon during Nebuchadnezzar’s “eighth year of his becoming king”. It states:
“And Neb·u·chad·nez´zar the king of Babylon proceeded to come against the city, while his servants were laying siege against it. At length Je·hoi´a·chin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he with his mother and his servants and his princes and his court officials; and the king of Babylon got to take him in the eighth year of his being king.”
This same exile of Jehoiachin and Jerusalem is described as taking place in the “seventh year” of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign at Jeremiah 52:28. This discrepancy between the years listed is reconciled when one realizes that the “eighth year” in 2 Kings 24:12 counts Nebuchadnezzar’s “year of his becoming king” or accession year while the “seventh year” in Jeremiah 52:28 only counts the regnal years which are the total number of complete years that Nebuchadnezzar reigned to this point. Thus, for our calculation, we will go with Jeremiah’s statement that Jehoiachin was exiled in Nebuchadnezzar’s 7th regnal year. Next, we will look at the statement about the length of this exile at Jeremiah 52:31:
“At length it came about in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Je·hoi´a·chin the king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-fifth day of the month, that E´vil-mer´o·dach the king of Babylon, in the year of his becoming king, raised up the head of Je·hoi´a·chin the king of Judah and proceeded to bring him forth from the prison house.”
So, 7 regnal years of Nebuchanezzar, plus 37 years of exile that led into Evil-Merodach’s accession year, equals a total of 44 years. Thus, the Bible confirms 43 years for Nebuchadnezzar and interlocks this with the accession year of Evil-Merodach in the 44th year.
EVIL-MERODACH’S 2ND YEAR INTERLOCKS NERIGLISSAR’S ACCESSION YEAR
Having established the fact that one cannot add an additional 20 years between Nebuchadnezzar’s forty-third year of reign and Evil-Merodach’s first year of reign, we will now turn our attention to Evil-Merodach’s successor Neriglissar. Is it possible to add 20 years to the period between Evil-Merodach and Neriglissar? Again, the answer is “No.”
The Watchtower Society admits that archeological evidence indicates Evil-Merodach reigned for two years and his successor Neriglissar reigned for four years. They state:
“For Awil-Marduk (Evil-Merodach, 2 Ki 25:27, 28) tablets dated up to his second year of rule have been found. For Neriglissar, considered to be the successor of Awil-Marduk, contract tablets are known dated to his fourth year.” (Insight on the Scriptures, vol 1, 1988, p. 453)
One of the best contemporary economic tablets to demonstrate the impossibility of adding 20 years between the reigns of Evil-Merodach and Neriglissar is NBC 4897. Regarding this tablet, historians G. van Driel and K.R. Nemet-Nejat comment:
“NBC 4897 is a two-dimensional ledger summarizing the annual growth of an institutional herd of sheep and goats, their respective yields of wool and goat hair, and the number of hides and the number of animals given as wages, from the thirty-seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar II to first year of Neriglissar. … The tablet deals with the regular growth of a herd from one year to the next…” (G. van Driel and K.R. Nemet-Nejat, Journal of Cuneiform Studies, vol. 46:4, 1994, p. 47)
Since NBC 4897 meticulously lists the growth of the sheep and goat herd “from one year to the next” from the end of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign to the first year of Neriglissar, it conclusively proves the impossibility of adding an additional 20 years between the reigns of these kings. A translation of NBC 4897 reads as follows:
“Grand total: 487, the 43rd year … Total: 104 as income from the month of Addaru, the accession year of Amel-Marduk … Grand total: 665, the 1st year … Grand total: 789, the 2nd year … Grand total: 922, the 1st year of Nergal-sarra-usur, king of Babylon.” (G. van Driel and K.R. Nemet-Nejat, Journal of Cuneiform Studies, vol. 46:4, 1994, p. 53)
Another tablet of interest is AO 8561 (or Sack’s text no 95). It records the estimated harvest for three years. Ronald H. Sack comments:
“Another interesting text is no. 95 … This probably comes from the accession year of Neriglissar, as the month of Kislimu of his accession year is indicated as the time when this ‘estimated yield’ from the reigns of Amel-Marduk and Nebuchadnezzar was distributed.” (Ronald H. Sack, Amel-Marduk 562-560 B.C., (Neukirchen-Vlyun: Verlag Butzon & Bercker Kevelaer, 1972), p. 41)
Ronald H. Sack’s translation of AO 8561 reads:
“Document concerning … the estimated yield of the first year of Amel-Marduk, king of Babylon … Month of Kislimu, accession year of Nergal-sarra-usur. Total of one hundred eighty-five kurru, two pi, and twelve qa of dates received (from the above personnel). The remaining three hundred forty kurru, one pi, nine qa of dates are at the disposal of Nabu-ahhe-sullim. … (Concerning) the [twelve hundred] kurru of dates, the estimated yield of the watercourse of [Iddina] [for] the forty-second and forty-third years … A total of seven hundred thirty-nine kurru, one pi, of dates were received … Four hundred eighty-two kurru, thirty qa of dates, the estimated yield of the watercourse of Iddina for the first year is at the disposal of Zerija, son of Nabu-iddina.” (Ronald H. Sack, Amel-Marduk 562-560 B.C., (Neukirchen-Vlyun: Verlag Butzon & Bercker Kevelaer, 1972), pp. 116-117)
Since this tablet shows that the yields from these fields (covering the three-year period between the last year of Nebuchadnezzar and Evil-Merodach’s two-year reign) were distributed in the first year of Neriglissar, it proves the impossibility of adding an additional 20 years between Nebuchadnezzar and Neriglissar as 23 years would have been a very long time to wait for the distribution of this harvest.
NERIGLISSAR’S 4TH YEAR INTERLOCKS WITH LABASHI-MARDUK’S 2-3 MONTHS AND NABONIDUS’ ACCESSION YEAR
YBC 4012 is an economic tablet from the Babylonian Collection of Yale University that records the silver that was paid to Babylon for the construction done on the Eanna temple during the “3rd year of Nergal-[sarra-usur], king of Babylon.” The document is dated to the “Month of Ajaru, 22nd day, accession year of Labashi-Marduk, king of Babylon.” 19. This is significant because it proves that Labashi-Marduk took the throne early in his father’s 4th year of reign. How does it do this? The Watchtower Society admits:
“Regnal years were the official years in the kingship and were generally counted from Nisan to Nisan, or from spring to spring.” (All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial, 1963, 1990 edition, p. 284)
Since the month of “Ajaru” corresponds to the April/May months of our calendar and immediately follows the month of Nisan 20. from which regnal years were reckoned, it is clear that Labashi-Marduk took the throne at the very beginning of his father Neriglissar’s 4th year of reign. Concerning the economic tablets that document Labashi-Marduk’s short reign, Parker and Dubberstein explain:
“Nergal-shar-usur’s death occurred in late April or early May, 556. … Labashi-Marduk seems to have been recognized as king only in May and June, 556, and even then possibly not throughout Babylonia … Nabunaid must have been a contender for the throne almost from the death of Nergal-shar-usur. By the end of June, 556, he was the sole ruler of Babylonia.” (Richard A. Parker and Waldo H. Dubberstein, Babylonian Chronology 626 B.C. – A.D. 45, (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL 1942, 1946 edition), pp. 10-11)
Nabon 13 is another tablet that proves the impossibility of adding an additional 20 years between Neriglissar’s reign and Nabonidus’ accession year. Historian Muhammad A. Dandamaev explains:
“Nbn 13 [cf. Peiser’s transliteration and translation in KB 4:206-209]: ‘Belilitu … declared the following to the judges of Nabonidus, king of Babylon: “In the month of Abu, the first year of Nergal-sar-usur, king of Babylon, I sold my slave … but he did not pay cash and drew up a promissory note.” Babylon, the 12th day of (the month) Sabatu, the accession year of Nabonidus, king of Babylon.’ As is clear from the text, Belilitu sold a slave … but three years later she filed a complaint that she still had not received the money for her slave.” (Muhammad A. Dandamaev, Slavery In Babylonia from Nabopolassar to Alexander The Great (626 – 331 BC), (Dekalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 1984), pp. 189-190)
Three years from the first year of Neriglissar to the “accession year of Nabonidus” seems like a reasonable amount of time for a person to wait before filing a complaint about not receiving payment for a transaction. Yet, if we were to add an additional 20 years to this period to make Belilitu’s wait a total of 23 years, this would seem quite improbable. Thus, we have yet another economic text confirming the recognized 4 years between Neriglissar and Nabonidus.
NABONIDUS’ 17 YEARS OF REIGN INTERLOCK WITH THE FALL OF BABYLON IN 539 B.C.
From the statements made in Watchtower publications, it is clear that the Society agrees with secular historians on the length of Nabonidus’ reign and the dates provided during his reign. For example, concerning the Babylonian king Belshazzar mentioned in the Bible, the Watchtower Society notes in a footnote on page 139 of their publication All Scripture is Inspired of God and Beneficial, that he “began to reign as coregent in the third regnal year of Nabonidus (Nabonaid), which was 553 B.C.E. Daniel 7:1.” This statement, along with the Society’s quote of Berossus in Josephus’ work stating that Babylon fell to Persia “In the seventeenth year of his [Nabonidus’] reign” 21. confirms that the Watchtower Society agrees with historians on the 17 years that Nabonidus reigned. Yet, to demonstrate the impossibility of adding an additional 20 years to Nabonidus’ reign and the fall of Babylon, we will examine another contemporary business tablet from the Neo-Babylonian period.
SAKF 165 or OBERHUBER FLOREZ 165
There are several economic tablets that interlock Nabonidus’ 17th year of reign with Cyrus of Persia’s 1st year of reign. While we will focus the majority of our attention on text number 165 from Oberhuber Florez’s records, a few of the other documents that interlock Nabonidus’ 17th year with Cyrus’s 1st year are worth mentioning. Historian Jerome Peat comments:
“As well as this direct evidence for the co-regency in Cyrus’ first year, there is also reference in CT 57 56 to ‘Year 17,’ clearly Year 17 Nabunaid’s reign. … By contrast, CT 57 52:3 mentions ‘Year 17,’ and then the text itself is dated to Year 1 of Cyrus, sar matati. … Oberhuber Florenz 165 lists articles for the temples of Uruk for Year 17 to Year 1 of Cyrus, sar babili sar matati.” (Jerome Peat, “Cyrus ‘King of lands,’ Cambyses ‘King of Babylon’: the Disputed Co-regency,” Journal of Cuneiform Studies, vol. 41/2, Autumn 1989, p. 209)
As can be seen, the interlock of the 17th year of Nabonidus with Cyrus’ 1st year of reign is clearly established in the economic tablets of this period. Concerning SAKF 165 mentioned above, J.A. Brinkman of the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago explains:
“In 1958 and 1960 Professor Karl Oberhuber of the University of Innsbruck published 165 cuneiform texts in the collection of the Archeological Museum in Florence. Of these texts thirty are from the Neo-Babylonian period. … With the exception of two letters (Nos. 139 and 152), all the documents are economic, i.e., legal or administrative in character. … In another interesting document that inventories woolen garments made from the cult statues of the gods in Uruk, we find out that cult procedures there suffered no interruption during the Persian take-over of the political administration of the land.” (J.A. Brinkman, “Neo-Babylonian Texts in the Archeological Museum at Florence,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol. xxv, Jan-Oct 1966, p. 202)
On pages 208-209 of the same article, Brinkman goes on to describe text SAKF 165 saying:
“No. 165 … This text is also a unique inventory of wool garments in that it is arranged chronologically. Furthermore, it covers the vital years before and after the Persian conquest of Babylonia … Nabonidus, year 17 … Cyrus, year 1.” (J.A. Brinkman, “Neo-Babylonian Texts in the Archeological Museum at Florence,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol. xxv, Jan-Oct 1966, pp. 208-209)
So by these contemporary business tablets, we have clear evidence that the fall of Babylon occurred in the 17th year of the reign of Nabonidus when it was taken by Cyrus, king of Persia. As to the 539 B.C. date for the fall of Babylon, the Watchtower Society mentions another confirmation for this date on page 453 of their publication, Insight on the Scriptures, volume 1.
Here the Society speaks of a Babylonian clay tablet dated to the “seventh year of Cambyses II” that provides evidence of “two lunar eclipses” that “can be identified with the lunar eclipses that were visible at Babylon on July 16, 523 B.C.E., and on January 10, 522 B.C.E.” (Oppolzer’s Canon of Eclipses, translated by O. Gingerich, 1962, p. 335.) They go on to explain:
“Thus, this tablet establishes the seventh year of Cambyses II as the beginning in the spring of 523 B.C.E. This is an astronomically confirmed date. Since the seventh year of Cambyses II began in spring of 523 B.C.E., his first year of rule was 529 B.C.E. and his accession year, and the last year of Cyruss II as king of Babylon, was 530 B.C. E. … As the ninth year of Cyrus II as king of Babylon was 530 B.C.E., his first year according to that reckoning was 538 B.C.E. and his accession year was 539 B.C.E.” (Insight on the Scriptures, vol. 1, 1988, p. 453)
Thus, the Watchtower Society agrees with the astronomical dating that confirms the date given by secular historians for the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C.E. Since we have conclusively proved that there is no way to add an addition 20 years to the Neo-Babylonian period, we will now examine another archaeological document that substantiates an astronomically confirmed date for Nebuchadnezzar’s 37th year of reign.
VAT 4956 PROVES 568/567 B.C. WAS NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S 37TH YEAR.
Numerous eclipse reports and astronomical diaries from the Neo-Babylonian period have been discovered that have been used by astronomers to confirm dates during this period. These provide details on the location of the moon and the then-known five planets in our solar system. One astronomical diary of interest is VAT 4956 dated to Nebuchadnezzar’s 37th year. It states:
“Year 37 of Nebukadnezar, king of Babylon. … Month II … Saturn was in front of the Swallow … The 10th, Mercury [rose] in the west behind the [Little] Twins … Venus was balanced 1 cubit 4 fingers above a Leonis. … Month III … Mercury passed below Mars to the East; Jupiter was above a Scorpii; Venus was in the west opposite ə Leonis … The 15th, one god was seen with the other; sunrise to moonset: 7° 30’. A lunar eclipse which was omitted.” (A.J. Sachs & H. Hunger, Astronomical Diaries and Related Texts from Babylonia, vol. I (Wien: Verlag der Osterreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1988), pp. 47, 49)
Commenting on this diary, Bartel L. VanderWaerden states:
“The text VAT 4956, dating from year 37 of Nebuchadnezzar II (–567) … It is preserved only in a copy of much later date, but that appears to be a faithful transcript (orthographically somewhat modernized) of an original of Nebuchadnezzar’s time. … On the 15th Simanu we find the interesting remark: ‘Eclipse of the moon, which failed to occur’. This refers to the eclipse of the moon of 4th July –567, which was invisible in Babylon because the full moon occurred there shortly after noon.” (Bartel L. VanderWaerden, Science Awakening, vol. II, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974), pp. 96-97)
There are several facts that confirm the date of this eclipse. Saturn’s position is clearly stated in relation to four other planets. Since Saturn’s orbit takes 29 years to complete, 22. such position, along with the positions of the other planets, proves the impossibility of dating this eclipse to any other period. Given the precision of such diaries, the Watchtower Society admits:
“Modern chronologers point out that such a combination of astronomical positions would not be duplicated again in thousands of years. These astronomical diaries contain references to the reigns of certain kings and appear to coincide with the figures given in Ptolemy’s canon.” (Insight on the Scriptures, vol. 1, 1988, p. 456)
So, the Watchtower Society admits to the strength of astronomical diaries like VAT 4956 that confirm the king’s reigns given in Ptolemy’s canon and the many other archeological artifacts we have discussed above. Yet, what does the Watchtower Society do with this overwhelming evidence against their dates for Nebuchadnezzar’s reign and the fall of Jerusalem? We will examine their arguments below.
EXCUSING AWAY THE EVIDENCE WITH NO SUPPORT
EXCUSE #1: Astronomical Diaries and Eclipse Reports may have contained errors.
In spite of the fact that the Watchtower Society has no problem accepting the accuracy of astronomical diaries that confirm the 523 B.C. date given by historians for Cambyses II’s reign and the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C., when these diaries disagree with their dates for the fall of Jerusalem, the Watchtower Society suggests that these records “may have contained errors.” 23. By quoting Professor O. Neugebauer who noted that astronomer “Ptolemy complained about ‘the lack of reliable planetary observations [from Babylon],’” the Watchtower questions their veracity.
While there were times due to sandstorms and clouds that the Babylonians could not observe certain celestial movements, this does not mean that the observations they did make were unreliable. For example, the text of VAT 4956 states the that location of Saturn was “in front of the Swallow” which was in the south-west part of the constellation Pisces.24. It is highly improbable that this statement is inaccurate as Saturn can be observed within “each of the 12 constellations of the zodiac for about 2 ½ years.”25. Again, the Watchtower’s claims against the reliability of astronomical diaries like VAT 4956 are unjustifiable given the evidence.
EXCUSE #2: The Astronomical Diaries we possess today may be in error because they are copies.
Concerning VAT 4956, the Watchtower Society states: “This tablet is admittedly a copy made in the third century B.C.E. so it is possible that its historical information is simply that which was accepted in the Seleucid period.”26. Likewise, they state: “Historians assume that they are copies of earlier documents. Actually contemporaneous astronomical texts are lacking by which to establish the full chronology of the Neo-Babylonian and Persian periods.”27. While it is true that VAT 4956 is a copy of an original text from the Babylonian period, there is NO indication that anything substantial was changed in the copying process. Concerning the accuracy of text of VAT 4956, Bartel L. VanderWaerden states:
“It is preserved only in a copy of much later date, but that appears to be a faithful transcript (orthographically somewhat modernized) of an original of Nebuchadnezzar’s time.” (Bartel L. VanderWaerden, Science Awakening, vol. II, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974), p. 96)
While the Watchtower Society complains about the lack of “contemporaneous astronomical texts” from the Neo-Babylonian period, they completely disregard the fact that the information contained in VAT 4956 and other astronomical texts copied in the Seleucid period, completely agree with the information given in the contemporaneous royal inscriptions and business tablets written during the Neo-Babylonian era. Again, the Watchtower Society’s claims against these documents are completely unjustifiable.
EXCUSE #3: Ptolemy’s Canon, Berossus’ record of the kings and the Neo-Babylonian Chronicles were written during the Seleucid period, so they reflected the “popular” chronology of that time.
Concerning the Neo-Babylonian Chronicles, the Watchtower Society states:
“Casual students of ancient history often labor under the misconception that the cuneiform tablets (such as may have been used by Berossus) were always written at the same time or shortly after the events recorded on them. But, aside from the many cuneiform business documents that were truly contemporary, the Babylonian historical texts and even many astronomical texts often give evidence of being of a much later period. … So, not only was this writing separated from the events recorded on it by anywhere from 150 to 250 years but it was also a copy of a defective earlier document, perhaps an original, perhaps not. … We have already seen that data, including numbers, can easily suffer change and even perversion at the hands of pagan scribes in the course of a few centuries. In view of all these factors it is certainly not wise to insist that the traditional figures for the reigns of the Neo-Babylonian kings be received as definite.”28.
Concerning the astronomical diaries from which Ptolemy compiled his information, the Watchtower Society states:
“Finally, as in the case of Ptolemy, even though the astronomical information (as now interpreted and understood) on the texts discovered is basically accurate, this does not prove that the historical information accompanying it is accurate. Even as Ptolemy used the reigns of ancient kings (as he understood them) simply as a framework in which to place his astronomical data, so too, the writers (or copyists) of these astronomical texts of the Seleucid period may have simply inserted in their astronomical texts what was then accepted, or ‘popular,’ chronology of that time.” (Insight on the Scriptures, vol. 1, 1988, p. 456)
In another publication, the Society goes on to claim:
“Evidently Ptolemy based his historical information on sources dating from the Seleucid period, which began more than 250 years after Cyrus captured Babylon. It thus is not surprising that Ptolemy’s figures agree with those of Berossos, a Babylonian priest of the Seleucid period.” (Let Your Kingdom Come, 1981, p. 186)
What evidence does the Watchtower Society provide for the claim that the copyists of the astronomical texts and the Neo-Babylonian chronicles “inserted … popular chronology” from the Seleucid period into their texts? As we have already seen, numerous contemporary business tablets from the Neo-Babylonian period have been found that are dated to the reigns of the Babylonian kings. These are NOT copies from the Seleucid period, but rather original documents written during the Babylonian period. Why would the original astronomical texts and documents from which the Neo-Babylonian Chronicles were compiled from this period be any different? Why would a copyist from the Seleucid period be required to “insert” a date contrary to the dates found on the original texts from Babylon that they were copying? Again, the Watchtower Society makes these claims with NO evidence.
While it is true that the kings’ reigns given in the writings of Berossus and Ptolemy were inserted into their texts, this does not change the fact that they were dealing with documents written much earlier to their time and were compiling their information from the king’s reigns given in those documents. Again, the Watchtower Society ignores the fact that the information given in these writings and the Neo-Babylonian chronicles agree completely with the contemporary business tablets and royal inscriptions from the Neo-Babylonian period.
EXCUSE #4: Babylonian records may have been altered by dishonest kings or perhaps be incomplete with “undiscovered material” that could change its chronology.
Trying to shed doubt against the ancient testimony for the dates given by secular historians, the Watchtower speculates:
“From a secular viewpoint, such lines of evidence might seem to establish the Neo-Babylonian chronology with Nebuchadnezzar’s 18th year (and the destruction of Jerusalem) in 587/6 B.C.E. However, no historian can deny the possibility that the present picture of Babylonian history might be misleading or in error. It is known, for example, that ancient priests and kings sometimes altered records for their own purposes. Or, even if the discovered evidence is accurate, it might be misinterpreted by modern scholars or be incomplete so that yet undiscovered material could drastically alter the chronology of the period.” (Let Your Kingdom Come,” 1981, p. 187)
What purpose would altering a king’s regnal year in a contemporary royal inscription or an economic business tablet serve the writer? Given the fact that over 3,000 legal and administrative texts have been found for the Babylonian period that attest to the accuracy of the king’s regnal years listed in contemporary royal inscriptions and the Neo-Babylonian chronicles, how could the altering of a single text “drastically alter the chronology of the period”? What evidence does the Watchtower Society present to indicate this has been done? NOTHING! Again, the Watchtower speculates with NO evidence whatsoever. To the contrary, Hayim Tadmor testifies:
“In contrast to Sargon’s inscriptions the account in the Babylonian Chronicle is much more reliable. This is evident when one considers that this chronicle mentions not only Assyrian or Elamite defeats but also Babylonian ones. … Thus there is no reason to suspect that the author of the Babylonian Chronicle has abused the facts in order to put Babylonia in a more favourable light. … With regard to internal evidence, the principle has been established above that the Babylonian Chronicle is an objective historical document whereas the Assyrian royal inscriptions are quite the opposite.” (Hayim Tadmor, “The Inscriptions of Nabunaid: Historical Arrangement,” in Studies in Honor of Benno Landsberger on his Seventy-Fifth Birthday April 21, 1965 [Assyriological Studies, No. 16], ed. H. Guterbock & T. Jacobsen, The Chicago University Press, 1965, pp. 341-342)
As far as any “undiscovered material” that could “drastically alter the chronology of the period,” again we ask, where would a missing king or a missing 20 years be inserted into the chronology of the Neo-Babylonian period? Since the 3,000 legal and administrative texts that have been discovered completely confirm the reigns of each king and rule out any possibility of inserting an additional 20 years into this period, how can ANY “undiscovered material … drastically alter” Babylonian chronology? Since the testimony of interlocking each king’s reign with the previous one occurs throughout the economic texts of this period, wouldn’t any “undiscovered” document that would challenge this testimony come under serious suspicion as being an aberrant text or a counterfeit document? Of course it would! Again, we ask, How can an additional 20 years be added to this period without completely destroying the picture of the economic system of Babylon given in these contemporary texts?
EXCUSE #5: The Bible supports the Watchtower’s 607 B.C. date against the 587 B.C. date given by secular historians.
When all else fails, the Watchtower Society contends that their interpretation of the Bible’s prophecies concerning Babylon fits better with their dates than the dates given by secular historians.29. Yet, we have already seen that the Bible DOES NOT support the Watchtower’s chronology, but rather the dates given by historians. So, again, the Watchtower is left with NO evidence for their faulty 607 and 1914 dates. Indeed, this organization passes the test of being one of the false prophets condemned by Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:11, 23-25:
“And many false prophets will arise and mislead many … ‘Then if anyone says to YOU, “Look! Here is the Christ,” or, “There!” do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise … Look! I have forewarned YOU.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE:
THE GENTILE TIMES RECONSIDERED—Chronology and Christ’s Return 3rd Edition, by Carl Olof Jonsson (Commentary Press, Atlanta 1998) – http://www.amazon.com/Gentile-Times-Reconsidered-Carl-Jonsson/dp/0914675079
1. See The Time is At Hand, Studies in the Scriptures, vol. 2, 1886, 1911 edition, p. 101
2. See Thy Kingdom Come, Studies in the Scriptures, vol. 3, 1891, 1914ed, p. 23; Zion’s Watch Tower, July 15, 1894, p. 226-231 [Watchtower Reprints, p. 1677]
3. See Jehovah’s Witnesses — Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, 1993, p. 135
4. What Does the Bible Really Teach?, p. 217
5. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the Jehovah’s Witness Bible, The New World Translation.
6. See Reasoning from the Scriptures, 1989, p. 340-341
7. See Reasoning from the Scriptures, 1989, p. 342-343
8. See“Let Your Kingdom Come”, 1981, p. 138, 186-189
9. See Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy!, 1999, p. 112
10. See “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial,” 1963, 1990 edition, p. 285
11. See Insight on the Scriptures, vol. 1, p. 205
12. The difference between the “eighteenth year” and “nineteenth year” mentioned in this text is due to the fact that one reference adds Nebuchadnezzar’s accession year into the total, while the other figure does not. See Insight on the Scriptures, vol. 2, 1988, p. 481 and “All Scripture is Inspired of God and Beneficial,” 1963, 1990 edition, pp. 284-285 for an explanation of Regnal and Accession Years.
13. Notice that the Watchtower’s dates for these events are 20 years back from the dates given by secular historians. So while historians list 609 B.C. for the fall of Assyria, the Watchtower lists 629 B.C. in Insight on the Scriptures, vol. 1, p. 205. Likewise, secular historians list 605 B.C. for the Battle of Carchemish when Nebuchadnezzar ascended the Babylonian throne, while the Watchtower lists 625 B.C. for Carchemish in Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy, 1999, p. 31.
14. See The Reign of Nabonidus by Paul-Alain Beaulieu, 1989 pp. 20-22
15. See Insight on the Scriptures, vol. 2, 1988, p. 480
16. See Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy!, 1999, pp. 50-51
17. Paul-Alain Beaulieu, Legal and Administrative Texts from the Reign of Nabonidus, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2000), p. 1
18. Insight on the Scriptures, vol. 2, 1988, p. 480
19. Ronald H. Sack, “Some Remarks on Sin-Iddina and Zerija, qipu and shatammu of Eanna in Erech…562-56 B.C.,” Zeitschrift Fur Assyriologie, Band 66 (Berlin, Ney York: Walter de Gruyter, 1976), pp. 287-288
20. See Muhammad A. Dandamaev, Slavery In Babylonia From Nabopolassar to Alexander the Great (626-331 B.C.), (Dekalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 1984), p. xiii
21. Insight on the Scriptures, vol. 1, 1988, p. 567
22. See Duncan Brewer, Saturn, (New York: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 1992), p. 8
23. Insight on the Scriptures, vol. 1, 1988, p. 456
24. See Bartel L. VanderWaerden, Science Awakening, vol. II, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974), p. 97
25. Duncan Brewer, Saturn (New York: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 1992), p. 8
26. “Let Your Kingdom Come,” 1981, p. 186
27. Insight on the Scriptures, vol. 1, 1988, p. 456
28. Insight on the Scriptures, vol. 1, 1988, pp. 453-454
29. See “Let Your Kingdom Come,” 1981, p. 187-189