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Calculating Date of Jerusalem's Destruction Using Watchtower Publications

Jack Ryan

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As a Witness, I have realized that we JWs are just about the only group who are vexed about the seventy years, because there are very few others who have any kind of a doctrinal stake or tradition tha

It's not just apostates and other opposers who would say that the destruction of Jerusalem was within a year or two of 587 BCE. It's easily about 99% of everyone who has studied the currently ava

Add 2 years: Evil-Merodach "After reigning but two years King Evil-Merodach was murdered" Babylon the Great Has Fallen - God's Kingdom Rules p.184 Add 2 or 12 or 18 years -  wp_E_20111001

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1 hour ago, Eoin Joyce said:


Do you mean 1934 CE is significant then?


That depends on whether the Dan. 4's '7 times' calculation = (360 days x 7 =) 2,520 days = ('day for a year') 2,520 years is sound hermeneutic, and also depends on whether Luke 21:24 has anything to do with Dan. 4.

If not, then 'no.'

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19 hours ago, Jay Witness said:

Add 2 or 12 or 18 years

It's very easy to be misled by the chart, because it was only looking for the major areas of disagreement. In fact the chart should have had at least 10 columns that would show the many ways in which we find agreement among historical and archaeological sources. The idea that we even need to care what classical historians said about the Babylonian period can also be misleading. That's because we have contemporary records (thousands of them) that already give us a complete picture of the Neo-Babylonian chronology. On average, we dozens of documents from EACH YEAR of the reign of EACH king of the Neo-Babylonian period from Nebuchadnezzar through Nabonidus. We also have BABYLONIAN official records, and additional banking/commerce records that summarize the entire period.

So literally THOUSANDS of sources already give us a complete picture of the chronology of the period. We do not need to rely on Josephus or Ptolemy or Berossus or Polyhistor.

Of course, if anyone is interested, it turns out that all these thousands of contemporary sources create the exact same picture and summary given by Berossus and Ptolemy, which are in perfect agreement in the above chart.

Also, not that it should matter, but it turns out that Josephus is in agreement with Berossus and Ptolemy, too. I might add another post to show why.

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The OP has changed since the last time I checked in here. 

The somewhat misleading table from the Watchtower article makes it look as if the classical historians sourced the kings' regnal years independently from each other and that's why there are different figures. Yet most readers will be unaware that Berossus is the ultimate source for all of them

Polyhistor got his data from Berossus. Polyhistor's works are lost. To get Polyhistor's figures, you have to consult Eusebius.

Eusebius in Chronicon, bk. 1.9 cites Polyhistor, whose source was Berossus, who gives 20 years for Nabopolassar and 12 years for Evil-Merodach.

Eusebius in Praeparatio Evangelica, bk. 9, ch. XL (and in Chronicon) cites Josephus, whose source was Berossus, who gives 21 years for Nabopolassar and 2 years for Evil-Merodach.

Interestingly, Insight Vol. I, p. 453 provides a possible ... um ... insight into why some of Polyhistor's figures (as given by Eusebius) are different:

"Of his [Berossus'] writings Professor Olmstead remarks: ' . . . only the merest fragments, abstracts or traces have come down to us. And the most important of these fragments have come down through a tradition almost without parallel. Today we must consult a modern Latin translation of an Armenian translation of the lost Greek original of the Chronicle of Eusebius, who borrowed in part from Alexander Polyhistor who borrowed from Berossus direct, and in part from Abydenus who apparently borrowed from Juba who borrowed from Alexander Polyhistor and so from Berossus. To make a worse confusion, Eusebius has in some cases not recognized the fact that Abydenus is only a feeble echo of Polyhistor, and has quoted the accounts of each side by side!' He continues: 'And this is not the worst. Although his Polyhistor account is in general to be preferred, Eusebius seems to have used a poor manuscript of that author.' (Assyrian Historiography, pages 62, 63)" [emphasis added]

Could the different figures attributed to Polyhistor be corruptions in the text? It would seem so.

The full quote by Olmstead is available at http://www.aina.org/books/ah.pdf. To punch home the point about all roads leading back to Berossus, Olmstead adds in his following paragraph,

"Summing up, practically all the authentic knowledge that the classical world has of the Assyrians and Babylonians came from Berossus."

As regards the Josephus column in the Watchtower article's table, it's telling that only the figures from Antiquities, X.11 are given, as if these are solely the ones Josephus uses. Nabopolassar's regnal years are omitted in the table presumably because in the midst of that section, Josephus quotes Berossus who assigns 21 years to him. Naturally, Josephus' later book, Against Apion, has regnal years identical to the first Berossus column in the table - indeed, to get these Berossus figures in the table, one has to consult Josephus!

The Ptolemy column matches the Berossus column anyway - with the exception of Labashi-Marduk who reigned less than a year and didn't need counting.

Here is a table that doesn't compare Berossus with a row of historians whose source was ultimately Berossus (other than, perhaps, Ptolemy):

Berossus Manetho table.png
Source: Berossos and Manetho, Introduced and Translated: Native Traditions in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt - Gerald Verbrugghe, John Wickersham, John Moore Wickersham (University of Michigan Press, 2001).

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Wow! Ann! Much appreciated.

I started to work out a post like yours, but didn't have time yesterday. Even if I had, it wouldn't have been as good and not half as complete.  Also, I got bogged down in finding some other interesting material. I even read about half of a book called:

The Bodleian Manuscript of Jerome's Version of the Chronicles of Eusebius


It was most interesting in the introduction where it discussed the state of the extant manuscripts and how closely they came to going all the way back to manuscripts that were written in a hand that matched the time of Jerome himself. It's easy to forget that everyone worked from copies, and errors sometimes creep in. But sometimes these types of errors can be corrected when there are at least two "families" of copies and translations of Josephus, or two major manuscripts of Eusebius. (The translation of Eusebius from the old Armenian copy is excellent: http://www.attalus.org/armenian/euseb2.htm by Robert Bedrosian.) 

Eusebius' Chronicle - The Chaldean Chronicle

Of course, Eusebius (4th century - Constantine) compared some of these same discrepancies among the classical historians. Some of the items that Eusebius reviewed get directly to the point that the Watchtower ultimately wishes to make about the 70 years. In his section quoting Josephus, he is able to show that Josephus is in agreement with the Bible chronology:

Nebuchadnezzar . . . . He had reigned for 43 years. His son Amel-Marduk took the kingship. . .  He was murdered by his sister's husband, Neriglissar, after ruling for two years. Then that Neriglissar, who had committed the murder, held power for four years. The latter's son Labesorachus ruled as a child for nine months. . . . After his murder, the conspirators . . .placed . . . Nabonidus on the throne. . . .  Now in the 17th year of his reign, Cyrus [g72] came from Persia with an enormous army with which he conquered all the other kingdoms. . . . . After Cyrus had taken Babylon, he ordered that the city's outer wall be razed to the ground because of its [effective] fortification and the trouble it had presented [to him] in capturing the city.

This is all true and in accord with our literature, which states that in the 18th year of Nebuchadnezzar our temple was destroyed, and remained ruined for 50 years. In the second year of the kingship of Cyrus the foundations were laid and in the sixth year of Darius' reign it was completed.

That "50 years" is the same period for which the Watchtower has traditionally assigned a period of "70 years." (Eusebius: c. 587 - c. 537 B.C.E.) The temptation to make that same mistake goes back many years because the temple destruction seems like a more definitive event from which to start counting the 70 years, instead of counting it from closer to the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar's rule. Just a couple of sections back when Eusebius is reviewing Polyhistor's account, he makes a specific point to note that the beginning of the 70 years must begin with the start of Nebuchadnezzar, not the 18th year. (i.e., 19 years prior to the temple destruction).

The account chronologically is in harmony with what is [g43] written in Scripture. According to Polyhistor, Sennacherib ruled during the period of Hezekiah for 18 years; his son succeeded him for 8 years; Sammuges followed, for 21 years; followed by his brother, for 21 years. Then Nabupalasar ruled for 20 years, followed by Nebuchadnezzar, for 43 years. From Sennacherib up to Nebuchadnezzar the regnal years total 88.

If one examines Hebrew writings, nearly the same [information] will be found. For following Hezekiah, his son Manasseh ruled over the remaining Hebrews for 55 years. Then Amos [ruled] for 12 years, followed by Josiah, followed by Jehoiakim. At the beginning of the latter's reign, Nebuchadnezzar came and besieged Jerusalem and took the Jews captive to Babylon. From Hezekiah to Nebuchadnezzar there are 88 years, just as Polyhistor calculated from the Chaldean sources.

. . .Then Nebuchadnezzar ruled for 43 years. He massed troops and came and took captive the Jews, Phoenicians, and Assyrians. Since the Hebrew sources are in harmony with Polyhistor here, there is no need to elaborate.

Following Nebuchadnezzar, his son Amilmarudochus  [Amil-Marduk] ruled for 12 years. .  . . After him, Polyhistor says, Neglisarus ruled the Chaldeans for 4 years, followed by Nabodenus for 17 years. It was during his reign that Cambyses' son, Cyrus, massed troops and came against the country of the Babylonians.

Berosus described the Chaldean kings briefly one by one, and so does Polyhistor. Now it is quite clear that from the time when Nebuchadnezzar massed troops and took the Jews captive until the time of Cyrus' rule over the Persians, 70 years had transpired. Hebrew history also confirms this, considering that they had been in captivity for 70 years, reckoning [that event] from the first year of Nebuchadnezzar until the time of Cyrus, king of the Persians.


Eusebius was able to add up the 88 years from Senacherib to Nebuchadnezzar and check it against the Bible account correctly. So he must have also been able to check that from the accession year of Nebuchadnezzar to the 2nd year of Cyrus was about 70 years. Yet, Polyhistor is listed in Eusebius as having 12 years for Amel-Marduk instead of two which would make this same period about 80 years. But since he elsewhere noted that Amel-Marduk ruled only two years, and he summarizes the total as if it says only 2 years, then it's clear that there is a copyist error that crept in somewhere.

(If Amil-Marduk's reign may have been documented somewhere as only about 18 months, this could also explain the "18" in the Josephus column, but we also know that Eusebius quotes Josephus above as having correctly listed it as only 2 years. So in either case a copyist error is obvious.)

The potential to assume 70 years instead of 50 from the destruction of Jerusalem to the first couple of years of the reign of Cyrus is a mistake with a long tradition among Jewish Bible commentators, and it was easily fixed by historians who looked at the specifics more closely, which of course included the work of Berossus who actually lived in Babylon only a few hundred years after these events, and who could also read the cuneiform writing.

Some interesting footnotes in the book here https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0567629309  in the section on "Priestly Chronology of the World." on page 40 and 41 showing that some Jewish traditions had shown confusion over the 50 and 70 year periods so that later Jewish tradition moved the 70 years "desolation" from the destruction to the foundation in the second year of Darius, not Cyrus using Zechariah 1:1. Footnote 30 says:

  • Bimson is incorrect . . . 2 Chronicles 36:21; the previous verse refers to the prophecies of Jeremiah. However the Jeremiah passages which refer to ta period of 70 years ascribe this to the total duration of Babylonian domination, which followed Nebuchadnezzar's victory at Charchemish in 605 ('the fourth year of Jehoiakim).

See also the comments on page 78 of his book: https://books.google.com/books?isbn=9004117911

Of course, one of the most interesting types of corrections is when the author makes it himself in a later attempt to address the same chronology. You mention this with Josephus when he wrote "Against Apion." Previously he had assumed, evidently, that 70 years had transpired from the time of the destruction of Jerusalem to Cyrus, but after all these years of writing and reviewing sources like Berossus, he made a correction -- and even stated that the source was already to be found in various other Jewish books, too. The direct quote from Josephus (not just through Eusebius) is in "Against Apion" Book 1, 21: (found here: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/josephus/apion-1.html )

Josephus' Against Apion

These accounts agree with the true histories in our books. For in them it is written, that Nebuchadnezzar, in the eighteenth year of his reign, (16) laid our temple desolate; and so it lay in that state of obscurity for fifty years. But that in the second year of the reign of Cyrus, its foundations were laid; and it was finished again in the second year of Darius

The second year of Darius was considered to be 70 years later, so this was a solution that addressed the confusion over tying a 70-year period to two important events betwen the temple destruction and the restoration of the Jews by Cyrus (the second year of Cyrus). The Jews in Zechariah's day also understood that this was a 70-year period (about 587 BCE to about 518 BCE). The events were too close in their memory in Zechariah's time to have made the 20-year mistake that we have made today. In any case it shows that persons living in Zechariah's day understood that there were NOT 70 years from the destruction of Jerusalem to the second year of Cyrus, as the Watchtower has traditionally claimed:

The Bible - Zechariah

(Zechariah 1:1-16) 1 In the eighth month in the second year of Da·riʹus, the word of Jehovah came to the prophet Zech·a·riʹah son of Ber·e·chiʹah son of Idʹdo, saying: 2 “Jehovah grew greatly indignant at your fathers. . . . 7 On the 24th day of the 11th month, that is, the month of Sheʹbat, in the second year of Da·riʹus, the word of Jehovah came to the prophet Zech·a·riʹah son of Ber·e·chiʹah son of Idʹdo, saying: . . .12 So the angel of Jehovah said: “O Jehovah of armies, how long will you withhold your mercy from Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with whom you have been indignant these 70 years?” . . .16 “Therefore this is what Jehovah says: ‘“I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and my own house will be built in her,” declares Jehovah of armies, “and a measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem.”’

Because of the 20-year mistake required to make the 607 BCE date work, the Watchtower has been forced to claim that this period that the angel of Jehovah called "70 years" (587-518) was actually about "90 years" (607 - 518).




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Apo-states and other opposers argue that Jerusalem was not destroyed in 607 BCE, but in 587 BCE, and provide what they claim is archaeological evidence to support this. If 607 BCE is wrong, then the “seven times” prophecy ending in 1914 CE would be wrong also.



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20 hours ago, Kurt said:

Apo-states and other opposers argue that Jerusalem was not destroyed in 607 BCE, but in 587 BCE

It's not just apostates and other opposers who would say that the destruction of Jerusalem was within a year or two of 587 BCE.

It's easily about 99% of everyone who has studied the currently available archaeology and the evidence. There is still no evidence that it could be anywhere near 607 BCE. The idea of 607 was promoted by some Adventists who influenced C.T.Russell to accept the date. Today only JWs and a few remaining Russellites and Adventists hold to a date near 607. In fact, over the years, even Adventists who have studied the evidence have had to become "apostates" to their original Adventist belief.

Also, there were at least 3 members of the Governing Body, at least one since 1974 and at least one since 1978 who also didn't believe that Jerusalem was destroyed in 607, and at least one who later admitted he had problems with that belief while writing the Aid Book article on chronology (admitting this in a book from around 1983 after being disfellowshipped.) There was at least one additional member of the GB who may or may not have believed in 607 but who didn't believe we were correct in saying that the generation had started counting in 1914. I worked for that same "one additional member" from 1977 to 1982. In 1980, he was able to get the two other members of the GB Chairman's committee to sign onto a proposal that would have moved the start of "that generation" from 1914 to 1957. That would have brought the total members of the GB who had in some way expressed doubts about 1914 from 4 to 6. There may have been others, but I have never heard that any others had said anything to anyone, if that were the case.

I knew the beliefs of two of these GB members personally, and learned of one other from his book after he was disfellowshipped. A very close friend and confidant told me of the beliefs of the 4th member. 

I have no idea what the current members of the Governing Body believe about 1914 and/or 607 BCE, but I do personally know one member of the current Writing Department who does not believe that either of those dates are related to Daniel's prophecy.

I know that the implication that it's "apostates and other opposers" actually comes from the link you provided where that same wording is used in the introduction. But I don't believe it is right, because it implies that even members of the Governing Body could be counted among these same apostates and opposers.

Also, I should add that those links you provided are full of false claims, false information, and specious reasoning. 


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5 hours ago, JW Insider said:

Wow! Ann! Much appreciated.

I started to work out a post like yours, but didn't have time yesterday.

It was prepared soon after those 2011 articles came out - pretty much c&p'ed from my files. :)

5 hours ago, JW Insider said:

Just a couple of sections back when Eusebius is reviewing Polyhistor's account, he makes a specific point to note that the beginning of the 70 years must begin with the start of Nebuchadnezzar, not the 18th year. (i.e., 19 years prior to the temple destruction).

Absolutely. This is important, and very often missed/ignored by those JWs who try to find similar '70 years' interpretations among Bible scholars and classical historians: 'Such-a-body from [distant] century also counted 70 years from 607 or 606 BCE just like us, so there is scholarly support for our position.' But actually, 'such-a-body' thought 607/606 BCE was the beginning of Neb's reign - not the year of Jerusalem's destruction, so 'such-a-body' doesn't support the JW position. If memory serves, only those who have been associated with the Watchtower Society in some way count the '70 years' from Neb's 18th year and Jerusalem's destruction

Thanks for expanding on the copyist error problem too - very helpful.

Kurt  - the two links you provided ... well, certainly the first one (I'm less familiar with the second) ... contains much misinformation. If you or anyone wants to know why, please refer to this LINK.

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6 hours ago, JW Insider said:

The Jews in Zechariah's day also understood that this was a 70-year period (about 587 BCE to about 518 BCE). The events were too close in their memory in Zechariah's time to have made the 20-year mistake that we have made today. In any case it shows that persons living in Zechariah's day understood that there were NOT 70 years from the destruction of Jerusalem to the second year of Cyrus, as the Watchtower has traditionally claimed:

Another thought on this is that some people remembered both temples. They remembered the old one destroyed 70 years earlier, according to Zechariah, and were celebrating the dedication of the new temple in Zechariah's and Haggai's time. Of course, the Watchtower's tradition that this was a 90-year period instead of 70 means that these same people who were celebrating were likely about 96-100 years old or more. Since the Bible says that a lifespan was 70, or 80 only "by special mightiness" it is surprising that nothing more was said about these persons of  super "special mightiness" who were nearly 100 years old or more. (And survived the ravages of war and forced travel as prisoners and exile and long travel back at an advanced age.)

Of course, if Zechariah was right that these persons were more likely only 75 to 80 or more, then it's understandable that there could have been quite a few of them.

  • (Psalm 90:10) 10 In themselves the days of our years are seventy years; And if because of special mightiness they are eighty years,. . .
  • (Ezra 3:12, 13) 12 Many of the priests, the Levites, and the heads of the paternal houses—the old men who had seen the former house—wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, while many others shouted joyfully at the top of their voice. 13 So the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shouts from the sound of the weeping, for the people were shouting so loudly that the sound was heard from a great distance.

Note, from Ezra, that there are enough of the 75-85 year olds (per Zechariah) that their loud weeping competes with the loud cries of joyfulness. If these were really 95-105 year olds (per current teaching) among the remnant who came back, then it is less likely that such a small mumber in this "remnant" of a "remnant" would really have been able to compete in volume.

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4 hours ago, Kurt said:

The trouble is, if we take the table of classical historians' figures from the WT article, we end up with those of Berossus (as reproduced in Josephus) and Ptolemy. It's simple math. Working backwards from Babylon's fall, which everyone agrees on ...

539 BCE

+ 17 (Nabonidus)

+ 4 (Labashi-Marduk and Neriglissar combined because Labashi-Marduk's accession year = Neriglissar's 4th year)

+ 2 (Amel-Marduk)

+ 25 (Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in his 18th year and reigned 43 years in total, so 43 -18 = 25)

= ? BCE


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