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Biblical numbers and the chronology of the Bible

PostPosted: Sat 10 Nov 2012 9:30 am
by Phillip
I would like to introduce a new subject, Biblical numbers and the chronology of the Bible. For a general overview of the subject you might like to read the Wikipedia entry on the subject title and by putting the title into your search engine you will find plenty of articles and references to people such as Larsson and Stenring and a variety of other theological observations. I've steered clear of Creationist sites as they tend to be dogmatic on this issue and I was spurred to include this subject on the forum as in Eric's email thread any questioning of Biblical numbers is either ignored or draws a response that seems to be, why must people always criticise the Bible when nobody is doing anything of the kind. It is all about trying to understand what was in the heads of the people writing and editing the Bible. Daphne actually has an article on the subject in SIS Review 1994 (XVI) along with Tony Rees.

Re: Biblical numbers and the chronology of the Bible

PostPosted: Sun 11 Nov 2012 11:37 am
by Phillip
Expanding the first post and getting a flavour of what is out there, I read a piece by David Stern, 'Recent Trends in Biblical Source Criticism' which puts the situation up to date. Well, as far as I was concerned anyhow as I can still quote extracts from people like Van Seters and Thompson. Apparently these are out of favour as we can read, all hypothesis are working proposals until confirmed in detail. Many must be discarded while others will require overhauling due to new evidence etc. There is a grave temptation to hold on to a hypthesis that has served well in the past and a serious temptation to bend data to fit, or to dismiss that which cannot be accommodated. Well, that could apply to any scientific discipline or debate and we can all think of situations where it should apply but in practise, does not. In this instance he is referring almost exclusivily to the Source Criticism that has been the dominant form of biblical research since the 19th century. The Old Testament, it was claimed, was not due to a single source but several, and this panned out into J, E, P and D. Until recently this was considered to be unshakable bedrock. In the 1980s and 1990s a resurgent group of scholars challenged the Documentary Hypothesis, including Gerhard Larsson, who said, 'there is no real objective method for recognising the different sources and no real consensus about the character and extent of sources such as J and E' etc. According to Greenstein each scholar defines and adapts the evidence according to their own viewpoint. This has led to endless arguments between scholars who simply reiterate prejudices.
The documentary Hypotheis, Stern continues, has always been criticised, it seems, as scholars have variously conducted and refuted arguments made over divine names, doublets, contradictions in the narrative, late words, late morphology, Aramaisms, and every other aspect of the hypothesis. The problems have brought source criticism to a sad state. This has led to the study of the Bible synchronically, a method which renders source criticism irrelevant. Larsson said, source criticsim obscures the analogies. Only when the text is considered as a whole do the special features and characters emerge.
Stern was writing for the Jewish Bible Quarterly, see

Re: Biblical numbers and the chronology of the Bible

PostPosted: Mon 12 Nov 2012 8:01 pm
by barry
It seems that there are two distinct periods of Old Testament chronology, either side of 853 BC (when Ahab is recorded as an ally at the Battle of Karkar against the Assyrian Shalmaneser III). From this date on there are many cross-links between the Old Testament record and Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian historical records.

Before 853 BC, with no definite links between Hebrew history and that of its neighbours, the situation is quite different. However the accuracy of the post-853 period must give confidence that much of the earlier narrative is likely to be reasonably accurate. The greatest problem for the early phase is that neither the archaeology or the history of Israel's neighbours provides any confirmation, and generally they provide contradiction. This is where the revisionist comes in, and many have actually been brought to the subject by those contradictions.

Hebrew history is the only one, which has a continuous detailed narrative stretching back into the second millennium BC and yet historians give it little credence. Thankfully revisionists have shown that the early period can be illuminated by both archaeology and the history of others. Most important in this is the work of Velikovsky on the Amalekite/Amu equation and the early work of John Bimson on the Conquest, which has been expertly developed by David Rohl.

Of course , the conventional view that there is little real history in the earlier parts of the Old Testament would be perfectly acceptable if no reasonable adjustments to ancient history produced better results, but the fact that a conquest and a subsequent settlement of a new group in Israel can be identified (in the Middle Bronze period) must suggest that there is some truth after all.

Re: Biblical numbers and the chronology of the Bible

PostPosted: Thu 15 Nov 2012 10:06 pm
by Phillip
I'm with you on this Barry. The Judges period must be a key to chronology yet is rarely mentioned in revisionist circles - even by Velikovsky. He accepted the Numbers, shall we say, which is the whole point of this post. Now, take 40 years, as applied to Solomon and David, and to Moses, the wilderness and so on. It seems to me that 40 years means an indeterminate period, on the one hand, but something else beside that as 40 years always crops up when Yahweh (or Jehovah) is directly concerned in the events that affect mankind. Now, you can accept there was a king called Solomon and a king by the name of David - there must have been a David as the name of the dynasty persisted for so long. Now, David, it is assumed, comes from Daud, and more specifically, from Ha-Dad, the name of the deity associated with catastrophe (if you like). In addition, Solomon is linguistically the equivalent of Salman, as in Shalmaneser, the name of an Assyrian king, and variously. Shalom means peace so there is a double meaning here but either could go back to a deity, a son (shall we say) of Hadad. Hence, are the names of these two kings decided by their theological associatian or do they really apply to two gods rather than two humans. This is the key chronological point I am aiming at. Now, if the two names are theological, and refer to two gods that may or may not have been active in the 11th century BC, and then we do not know what their real names were. The argument that David and Solomon are not mentioned by their contempories may be invalid not because we don't have enough documentation but because they would have been recorded by different names. What were their names is what the end game of this thread is?

Re: Biblical numbers and the chronology of the Bible

PostPosted: Sat 29 Dec 2012 11:32 pm
by ericaitch
Hi there Phillip and Barry,

This will be a difficult post for me because my catastrophism is limited by my passion for chronology, but here goes.

Dwardu Casrdona, GOD STAR, page 209 has the name of Solomon linled to Shalem. thence Jerusalem and Shulman later Shalman.
Thus there is a celestial link to the kings of Israel. David bought the site of the Temple when he saw an angel with outstretched arm holding a sword. I Chronicles 21: 16.

But back to Biblical numbers. In my "Chronological Email Group" there are two contending Biblical histories, both claiming the use of INERRANCY. To decide which method of approaching "inerrancy" we must get into the mindset of those who recorded the data.

Barry quite correctly reminds us that the Bible is one of the oldest integrated histories, but with not too many links to other histories. Barry's lock on 853 BC is sustainable for other national links.

Josephus started the rot with Biblical numbers when he listed the Judean kings and their regnal periods. The sum of those regnal periods do not equate with a similar Israelite kingly list, so the numbers are immediately suspect. This is where inerrancy can be a problem. There is no question that the numbers given by Josephus are not in the Bible. It is the approach to those numbers that sets the problem of Biblical Numbers in question.

If we cannot agree with such basics how can we set store on other numbers that set the scene for earlier Biblical stories.

This is not to say that those earlier numbers might yet be suspect but credibility in one group of numbers surely will engender trust in others.

Blocks of numbers appear to be doubtful when we look again at how Josephus arrived at 514 years between Saul and Zedekiah. Here he simply listed and added.

My doubts on the veracity of older numbers, 480 years from I Kings is the best example, is driven by the error in arriving at 514. Might it be then possible that old blocks of numbers have been padded by the inclusion of individual sets of numbers that have major or even minor overlaps. This applies not only to the Bible but to ancient recorders such as Eusebius and Jerome.

In my humble opinion once we can set trust in Older Numbers, padding accepted, we can create a time line into which our catastrophic incidents can take place.


Re: Biblical numbers and the chronology of the Bible

PostPosted: Sun 30 Dec 2012 11:01 pm
by Phillip
Hello Eric. Great to have you here. On Biblical numbers, I posted a comment on your thread that there were 21 kings of Israel = 3 times 7, but I was shot down in flames by Daphne. There were only 20. I took Tony Rees literally as the idea appealed to me but I seem to be wrong - although I'm sure if I did a bit of juggling I could still make it 21. However, Daphne came back with somebody and a book which I thought I'd get from Amazon - but it was an astronomical price. This guy is able to make sense of Biblical chronology to a greater effect than Thiele. Can't think for the moment of the author but ask Daphne on the email thread as from what I've seen of him on the internet he is a very clever chappie. It might make you think. It did me. However, not sure I buy his version so would like your opinion.

Re: Biblical numbers and the chronology of the Bible

PostPosted: Wed 02 Jan 2013 3:52 am
by ericaitch
Hi Phillip,

I do not understand that twenty one kings was challenged in preference to twenty for Israel.

Actually if you include Saul it should be twenty-two. My spreadsheet tried to make sense of Josephus' numbers but for some perverse reason I began with David, possible because that's what Josephus did.

I think its imperative to date David as there are catastrophic mentions within his reign.

I've tried rolling back in 64 year blocks from 687 BC but that exercise seems futile whilst we argue semantics.

Sorry about all that rain,

Eric A.

Re: Biblical numbers and the chronology of the Bible

PostPosted: Tue 22 Jan 2013 8:21 pm
by Phillip
Just a quickie on dating David. Baillie, in one of his books or articles, made the claim that David and Solomon should be dated later in time as he was convinced that roughly 480 years was significant as a number of years between disasters. He had the Exodus event coinciding, I think, don't quote me on this, at 1628-5BC, and therefore the reign of David should be dated at 1150BC - which is where he dates the end of LB, end of dyn 19 etc., and all this on the basis that in the story of David we have comets, plagues, famine and drought, and banishment to a far away land (or region of the sky). What I find interesting here is that if these dates are adjusted by around 150 years the low growth tree ring event comes out around 1000BC, where David is traditionally dated. The suggestion is that somewhere along the line the tree ring dates have been made to conform with the system of calibration accepted by the consensus. Why was one calibration system better than various others that were explored? We don't know but we could hazard a guess that it was the one calibration that didn't upset the Egyptologists and it was important to get them onboard if the science was going to have lift-off following some dubious results leading up to the calibrations. In retrospect, it may be that no calibration was required and all the problems revolved around C14 plateaus, caused by increased amounts of solar radiation from big solar flares at various times in the past, and possibly as a result of reduced solar radiation as a result of opaque skies caused by dust in the stratosphere (or something like that). The science involved here is all up for grabs it seems to me as it is increasingly becoming clear that the Sun plays a role in terrestrial climate in ways unimagined 30 years ago (but even then there were lone voices in the wilderness).
When we come to Biblical textual criticism the consensus appears to be that there was somebody called David and he founded a dynasty in Judah, but Saul was perhaps a king in the territory of the northern kingdom, which might let in David Rohl's theory concerning Labaya. In other words, the two figures have been gelled together in the Biblical narrative representing a joined up kingdom and cult of Yahweh, probably after the Asssyrian conquest of Samaria when large numbers of refugees from the north ended up in Judah, otherwise the backward part of Palestine, and the most infertile. It was the addition of the Shephalah that made Judah of Hezekiah so important and when that was lost they had to rely on other factors, such as the caravan trade from southern Arabia (collecting dues in transit etc)(Finkelstein). From this you can see that Saul could have lived long before David. In Biblical chronology there is the umbilical cord of Samuel - but is this a device to gell them together? While it may not be so it must also be considered as a possibility rather than dismissed out of hand. We don't know. In other words, Labaya as Saul is firmly dated to the Amarna age (in Rohl's scheme) but that doesn't mean David necessarily has to be dated any earlier than late dynasty 19 or early dynasty 20. At the same time we should also note that Habiru were active not only in the Amarna period but in the dynasty 20 period too so even Saul could be located fairly late which would of course spoil Rohl's chronological revision. I'm not sure how Barry sees David and Solomon without reading it up - I've got his CD saved on my computer so all I have to do is read it (so might get back on this).
Having said all that and I recently came across the fact that the cult of Baal Saphon, from N Syria (and recorded in texts from Ugarit) was transferred by Phoenicians to the coastal zone of Egypt, in the proximity of the Sea of Reeds. Now, in the time of Jeremiah there were Jews and Phoenicians living on the eastern arm of the Nile delta and the cult site of Baal Saphon would have been well known to them as it was associated with the only hill for miles around, a pin prick of 300 feet high, about the same height as one of the hills in the Chilterns where I live. This hill occurs on a narrow strip of land seperating the Mediterranean from the Sea of Reeds (a marshy area that caused problems to Persian and Greek armies alike). If you go to Exodus 14 you will find the Israelites fled from Egypt by way of the Sea of Reeds, but more importantly, via Baal Zephon, which can only be Baal Saphon. The big question here is when did a site that was associated by the Egyptians with the clash between Horus and Seth, become associated with a Phoenician god. Logic says it happened when large numbers of Phoencians involved in trade across the bottom end of the Mediterranean settled there - but when did this happen. It couldn't have been as early as the Exodus event could it? I'll pose a question for others to pick up, such as Daphne and Barry. If the inclusion of Baal Zephon in the Exodus account reflects the political situation in the 6th and 5th centuries BC how much else in the Exodus account has such a late origin - and in the Biblical narrative as a whole. I know people don't like to talk about this and Alan gets rather agitated when the Biblical text is criticised in any kind of way, so it is best to keep this to the forum. Having said all that I have also read that Baal Saphon had a temple at Ugarit and the Egyptians donated a statue of the god made of sandstone from the desert and with an Egyptian inscription inscribed on said statue. There may also have been a temple of Baal Saphon at Memphis - not sure if this is true however. This indicates Baal Saphon/Zephon had a much older pedigree in Egypt (in orthodox chronology). All this could have happened at any point in Egyptian dynastic history as Egypt had close links with Byblos and presumably other Phoenician cities all the way back to the Old Kingdom period. However, the statue from Ugarit is associated with the LB period, and not to the remoter past. It therefore falls within the revised period of history being discussed on your email thread - so where does Baal Zephon fit into any of the revised schemes?

Re: Biblical numbers and the chronology of the Bible

PostPosted: Fri 25 Jan 2013 8:43 am
by barry

The 1628 BC date was based on Kuniholm's tree-ring dating of the Thera eruption. His work has been heavily criticised in recent times, by Peter James and also Sturt Manning, Kuniholm's successor at Cornell. Also see my SIS article on Anatolian Dendrochronology, which identifies serious errors in the Cornell work.

With regards to David and Solomon, I stand by my earlier post. The evidence from the ninth century BC suggests that the previous hundred and fifty years of Hebrew history is probably recorded accurately. The key to this is the use of written records. The Stele of Mesha shows that writing was well-developed in the ninth century, so it's likely that written records were available for the earlier kings.

Re: Biblical numbers and the chronology of the Bible

PostPosted: Wed 30 Jan 2013 5:13 am
by ericaitch
Hi Phillip, Barry,

I agree with Barry that the Mesha Stele indicates literacy, thus accurate historical knowledge.

Dwardu Cardona, writing on the Exodus route, says that the Israelites worshipped at BAALZEPHON on their way out of Egypt, prior to the destruction of Pharaoh.

Thus we have another date for this religion.

Are we not straying into chronology?