'Studies in the Old Testament'

Accuracy of the Canon - 5

October 2008

(Continued from page 474)

Notice the importance of the Assyrian Eponym List!

In chronological studies it is possible to make elementary mistakes through misunderstanding some basic facts to the art which will result in the loss of years in our reckoning.  A prime example is the use of the abbreviations B.C., "Before Christ," and A.D., "Anno Domini" (The Year of Our Lord).  We find that a great many Christians and others too, believe that AD stands for "After Death." Of course, if this were true, we would have a 33 year gap in our chronological records.  The anti-Christian sentiment prevalent today has also resulted in the Christian terminology B.C. being reclassified B.C.E., "Before Christian Era," by such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, who still fail to see that they have replaced "the name above every name" (Ephesians 1:21; Philippians 2:9) with the "best guess" name of Jehovah!

Thus we have some form of anchor point for us to identify with our existence on this earth.  Most of us are familiar with daily events in modern history and can pinpoint events in our lives by our recollection of such infamous events as the death of President John F.  Kennedy, Elvis, or John Lennon - or the fall of the Berlin Wall.  But what did the ancient peoples have as an equivalent to determine similar events in their history?

In many ways they used similar dating methods - by events, such as a recent catastrophic earthquake, or by the rule of a king such as Jeroboam.  In Isaiah 6v1 we have the prophet Isaiah famously recording "in the year that King Uzziah died." Again, as the author of 1 Kings 6:1 recorded:

Now it came about in the four hundred and eightieth year after the sons of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD.

Thus "the fourth year of Solomon's reign" is preserved for us as a point to hang our chronology on and we notice that they, too, recorded events by catastrophes, important topical events, or the extent of the reign of kings in power.  From our viewpoint of the Old Testament we can observe the sequences of historical events and chronologies and put a positive date on them.  One of the most important pieces of extant evidence, which enables us to measure our Old Testament chronology against a secular historical sequence, is the Assyrian Eponym List (also known as Assyrian Limmu List).  In Assyria an official (king, cupbearer, Field-Marshal, high chamberlain, or governor etc.) holding office gave his name to that particular calendar or solar year and he was called the Eponym and the year was called the Eponymous Year.  Remarkably complete lists of these officials have survived covering the period 892-648BC, when significant events during their period of office were noted down, such as a revolt in the city of Asher which coincided with an eclipse of the sun (mentioned in the month Simanu when Bur-Sagale was Limmu
6), which astronomers have since determined to have occurred on the 15th June 763BC.  This date provides a reliable basic starting point for determining all other dates in the Limmu (Eponym) Lists and, since biblical and Assyrian histories converge at various points, biblical events can also be dated accurately.

Although the Bible is silent about the matter, we can, for example, be assured that 853BC is the date for the battle of Qarqar, fought on the Orontes river in Syria between the Assyrian king, Shelmaneser III, and a Syrian coalition (led by their King Ben-hadad I) with several small states including Israel under King Ahab.
6  We also learn that Ahab died in 853BC during the battle in which he encouraged Jehoshaphat to join him against the Syrians.  Twelve years later (841BC) the Eponym List still agrees with the Scriptural record and reveals that Jehu gave tribute to the Assyrians; the archaeological record, namely the (Black) Obelisk of Shelmaneser III, agrees with this detail of Jehu offering tribute to the Assyrian monarch by picturing him bowing before his conqueror.6  According to Assyrian chronology it was 152 years from the sixth year of Shelmaneser until Sennacherib invaded Jerusalem in 701BC which was Hezekiah's fourteenth year as recorded in 2 Kings 18:13:

"Now in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and seized them."
So we recognize that we can match our biblical chronology against secular chronology and our dating moves away from "inspired" guesswork because we have historical proof from extant sources to corroborate and authenticate our Old Testament chronology.  Additional extant sources includes the Khorsabad King List which agrees with the Assyrian Eponym (Limmu) List and gives a complete list of Assyrian kings until 745BC (often including the length of their reigns).  The Canon of Ptolemy, although it dates from the 2nd century AD, has proven to be useful in this respect because it preserves the names and lengths of reign of the Babylonian kings from the accession of Nabonassar in 747BC.  The tablets containing the Babylonian Chronicle deal with Babylonian history during the period from Hezekiah to the fall of Jerusalem and are of special interest to us since they deal with the period when Judah was subject to Babylon (i.e. after 605BC).

(Continued on page 476)

'Accuracy of the Canon'

Internal evidences help us confirm that thirty-nine books comprise the complete Old Testament canon

An accurate understanding of the Old Testament chronology is important!

The significance of Isaiah 44:28

1 Kings 6:1 can be used as a starting point to highlight four important Old Testament dates

The importance of the Assyrian Eponym List!

An understanding of when the Patriarchs lived contributes to our understanding of that time period

Archaeology contributes to our understanding of the period of the patriarchs

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