The Bible and the Counting of Time/Part 2
|By: Lorri MacGregor; ©October 2002|
|As we discussed in the previous article, cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses often establish dates by the “hunt and peck” method, linking unrelated scriptures from various parts of the Bible. However, any exact dates are not so easily arrived at, as we will see in Part 2.|
As we discussed in the previous article, cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses establish dates by the “hunt and peck” method, linking up unrelated scriptures from various parts of the Bible. We considered how they arrived at their date 1914 for the beginning of the “gentile times.” However any exact dates, such as 1914 are not so easily arrived at, as we shall see.
To recap briefly, the dates, or the chronology in the Bible, is not absolute, but relative. Old Testament chronology ends at a point hundreds of years before the beginning of our Christian era, and no absolute dates are found in the Bible at all. Our Christian era extends back only about 2,000 years.
Events prior to that time can be related to each other in a relative way, but establishing these events in relation to our time frame and method of counting time is a difficult, if not impossible task. Since the Bible contains no absolute dates, scholars are forced to use secular dates as a basis for their Bible Chronology. In this article we will discuss how scholars establish dates for the Bible events, and how the cults are in error on their datelines.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have fluctuated over the years on the setting of an “absolute date,” but finally settled on 539 BC as the correct date for the fall of Babylon (WT 2-1-55, p. 93-95).
Counting back seventy years to accommodate Jeremiah 25:11 and 29:10 and the 70- year desolation period for Jerusalem, they conclude that Jerusalem was devastated in 607 BC. At various times they have quoted the following secular works to establish the 539 BC “absolute date,” to fix all their later dates from. They are hard-pressed to find anyone to agree with their 607 BC date for the fall of Jerusalem.
This canon is a list of kings and their reign beginning with the Babylonian King Nabonassar (about 747 BC) and ending with the Roman Emperor Pius, about 900 years later. Ptolemy used about eighty solar, lunar, and planetary positions to augment his historical dates. Although the Watchtower at one time supported Ptolemy’s Canon and declared it correct, we find in the Watchtower of December 15, 1977, page 747, that they called him a fraud. In any event, the majority of scholars agree that Ptolemy’s Canon sets the date for Babylon’s downfall at 538 BC, not 539 BC.
The Great Pyramid
The Watchtower supported their so-called “absolute date” of 539 BC with extensive measurements and calculations from the Great Pyramid of Giza, allowing “an inch for a year” (WT 6-15-22, p. 187). This nonsense has since been quietly dropped by the Society and never mentioned again. Various groups keep resurrecting the great pyramid from timeto-time likewise trying to set dates. 1914 is particularly popular with pyramid-based groups.
The Nabonidus Chronicles
This is a cuneiform tablet found near Baghdad in 1879. It fixes only the day that Babylon fell, namely, Tishri the 16th, or October 6-7, but not the exact year. The Watchtower of August 15, 1968, page 490 claimed that the year was definite in the Nabonidus Chronicle, but a later Watchtower reversed this (WT 5-15-71, pp. 315-316) and admitted that only the day was known, not the year.
The Greek Olympiad Reckoning
The Greek Olympiad era started in 776 BC, the first year of the first Olympiad. The Greeks held Olympic games much earlier, but the eras based on the games were first mentioned in historical sources in the 3rd century BC and date back to 776 BC. This reckoning of time, then, is 500 years out of date before it even began! Copies of copies were used, and their exact accuracy is in question.
The Greek Olympiad does not support the 539 BC “absolute date” for the Watchtower either, and in fact establishes 587 BC as the 18th year of Nebuchadnezzar, and the desolation of Jerusalem and its temple. The Watchtower desperately wants this date to be 607 BC, but no historical records will accommodate them!
Does this mean then that we can never set exact dates for Bible events? No, it does not, and we will explain further now.
Problems with Ancient Dates
Since Bible Chronology is all relative and not absolute, and the modern counting of time did not begin until the Christian era some 2,000 years ago, can we set accurate dates for Old Testament happenings?
We know the Old Testament began and ended at some point in time and we can relate all events to each other with accuracy, but pinpointing the dates in our stream of time is more difficult.
How Best to Determine Ancient Dates
It is possible to establish accurate dates with the assistance of astronomically fixed dates, provided the observation of, for example, eclipses, were correctly recorded by these ancient historians. An example would be, “in the 18th year of the reign of King [whatever] the moon was darkened, and the exact location of the other planets was a follows:…”
The Babylonians were accomplished astronomers in their day, and gave exact descriptions, for the most part, of these heavenly happenings and tied them to earthly events. In the cuneiform texts, we find they record days and months, time of day or night, duration of eclipse, whether total or partial, etc.
Ptolemy records a partial eclipse in great detail in the fifth year of King Nabopolassar. So great is the accuracy of details supplied that modern astronomers know that this occurred on April 22nd, 621 BC, and can date Babylonian chronology from that fixed point. The precise recording of the planetary positions given will not repeat again for thousands of years.
So, the astronomical texts for the Babylonian era have proven to be the most correct for determining Bible Chronology. The “STRM.400”, the “VAT 4956” and “Ptolemy’s Canon” support each other and the Bible writers, and have made possibly the most correct setting of dates for Bible events. The Watchtower dates, on the other hand, have no basis in biblical or secular sources and have proven to be false in the past.
False Watchtower Dates
The so-called “absolute year” of 539 BC used by the Watchtower is without support and false. This fact sets off a whole string of equally false dates. The year 607 BC for the desolation of Jerusalem is likewise false. The “seven times” or “Gentile times” used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and calculated as 2,520 years is also incorrect and without biblical basis.
Their “keystone year” of 1914 is likewise in error. Recently they have had to scrap the teaching that Armageddon will occur within one generation of 1914. Many Jehovah’s Witnesses gave their whole lives to preaching that doctrine, believing they would survive Armageddon into a new earth. All this was in vain. Certainly seekers after truth need to carefully examine the chronology used by their organization.
Obviously Christ has not been ruling by “an invisible presence” since 1874, later altered to 1914, a doctrine invented by Jehovah’s Witnesses when their date for Christ’s visible second coming failed. 1914 did not make the slightest difference to the Gentiles, so it appears their “time” has not ended. God did not allow His word to be distorted to agree with man’s fleshly, uninspired speculation concerning time.
So, one might wonder, what time period are we all living in, according to the Bible? We are presently in a time period called “The Day of Salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:1,2 reads, “And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain—for
He says, ‘At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you’; behold, now is ‘THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,’ behold, now is ‘THE DAY OF SALVATION’.”
During this Day of Salvation there is still time to receive Christ’s free gift of salvation. Belief in the Jesus Christ of the Bible results in salvation. The Jesus Christ of the Watchtower Society of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who is a secondary god, an archangel named Michael, and merely a man, is not the Jesus Christ of the Holy Scriptures.
A Footnote for Seventh-day Adventists
Just as the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ time reckoning is faulty, so the Seventh-day Adventists’ use of the 2,300 days of Daniel 8:14 to arrive at their 1844 date is likewise false. The Hebrew words translated “days” in Daniel 8:13-14 are not “years” as the Seventh Day Adventists publications have stated. The words translated “days” in the King James Bible are actually two Hebrew words, ereb boqer, literally meaning “evening and morning.” Obviously a literal solar day of 24 hours is meant, and there is not the slightest justification for changing “evening-mornings” into years.
In conclusion, rather than supporting organizations with questionable dates, let’s put our full faith in Jesus Christ, and trust Him to get the timing right concerning His coming and the end of the world. As for those of us who would love and serve Him, we need to remember His instructions to His servants: “occupy until I come again” (Luke 19:13).