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History of an Error: Wrong dates can lead to Bad Theology

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by asterisktom, Jun 6, 2011.

  1. asterisktom

    asterisktom Well-Known Member

    May 29, 2007
    This post is necessary background to understanding a certain error that has crept into modern eschatology. A seemingly trivial point actually has profound Christological application. But before we get to the application,the error has to be corrected.

    History of an Error
    Wrong dates can lead to Bad Theology

    They don't usually. But in the case of Archbishop William Ussher and his dates that did happen. Or at least, let us say, it needlessly obfuscated an already complicated problem. However, as we shall see, the original obfuscation started happening thousands of years before Ussher.

    But first the more recent boo-boo: In 1701, thanks to a well-meaning scholar, Church of England's Bishop William Lloyd, the English Bible began to be side-noted with dates. These dates were based on Ussher's chronology of a half-century earlier. Throughout the Bible Lloyd faithfully followed Ussher dates - - - except where he didn't. Case in point is the passage that describes, as I have (hopefully) already proven, the permission that starts the 70 weeks of Daniel 9. This is Nehemiah 2. Ussher sets this permission that Artaxerxes grants to Nehemiah as 454BC. However Lloyd sets the date at 445BC.

    This error has both a fruit and a root.
    The fruit is that more recent Bible editions - most famously, that of C.I. Scofield - followed this innovation of Lloyd's. And many other reference Bibles and authors have since followed Scofield's misguided lead. This date is now the most common one put forth for the permission in Nehemiah 2. The result is that, given the math ...

    490 - 445 - 1 = 44 AD,

    or, shaving off the last week,

    482 - 445 - 1 = 36 AD,

    the end point is clearly beyond the usually accepted time for Christ's earthly ministry.

    This needlessly causes scholars to look elsewhere for the starting point of the seventy weeks; usually either Ezra 7 (same king, earlier date) or Ezra 1 (earlier king, Cyrus, much earlier date). More on the unsuitability of Cyrus is found here.

    The ones who settle on Cyrus are then forced to part what God has joined together - the seventy weeks - contrary to any Scriptural example or precept. This is where the unscriptural gap is introduced, and stop-watch chronology. Sir Robert Anderson, knowing that the math did not add up, added an innovation of his own: a 360-day year! Though the Jews did use months of 30 days, never do we read of a year of 360 days, nor of larger spans of time entirely made up of these artificial - and fictional - units of time. But Anderson needed to tweak the dates to finesse the endpoint to the time of Christ's earthly ministry.

    The Root came much earlier.
    I wrote "needlessly" above because that is exactly what all this is. This brings me back to the original, root mistake that happened well over two thousand years ago.

    Once again we have a very careful historian, like Ussher. And once again we have a later generation of less careful historians covering up the tracks of the first; to the point where the testimony of the first - Thucydides, a contemporary of the actual events he writes - is discounted, or even forgotten, in the shuffle of time.
  2. asterisktom

    asterisktom Well-Known Member

    May 29, 2007
    Artaxerxes Gives the "Word" in Nehemiah 2. And the Seventy Weeks Time-clock starts.

    This post actually should have come before the one above it.

    54 BC: The Seventy Weeks
    Artaxerxes Gives the "Word" in Nehemiah 2
    And the Seventy Weeks Time-clock starts.

    There is an interesting, oft-overlooked significance to that word "word", and a wealth of meaning that connects both Testaments. But I need to first tackle some preliminaries. Some of these were already touched upon yesterday in my response to a reader. The first question is...

    Why this Decree? Wrong Question!
    There are several possible decrees. How can we settle on the one that would fit the wording of Daniel 9:25? Some have said that it needs to be an official decree, like Cyrus's. That is what a decree is, after all; an official, royal, public proclamation. Not a private, or semi-private permission like that of Artaxerxes to Nehemiah.

    But the problem is that Daniel 9:25 doesn't specifically refer to a decree at all. Instead of the usual word for decree - and one that is more or less semantically limited to that narrow definition - we have a very significant word instead - "word" (Hebrew, DVR)! This word, in the eighteen places in the Bible it is used in this particular form more often than not refer to communications that are not decrees.

    Some interesting points of usage of DVR: Daniel 9 is the only prophetic passage - or book - that uses the word. A third of all the uses (6 out of 18) are from Esther, one of them being the tipsy king's summon for Vashti to show herself for the amusement of his guests. On the other end of the scale, some of the references are to God, to His commandments.

    Why this Commandment? A much better question.
    The main reason why this commandment of Artaxerxes (Neh. 2) fits is that the details fit. Daniel 9:25 speaks of rebuilding the city - not the temple - and the permission of Nehemiah deals with this as well, Neh. 2:5, 8. Ezra's edict as recorded in Ezra 1:1 - 4 makes no mention of building the city. So, to be concise:

    Ezra's edict makes no mention of rebuilding the city, just the temple.
    Gabriel, in Dan. 9:25, mentions only the city being rebuilt, not the temple.
    The two don't match.

    The permission by Artaxerxes Longimannus, Neh. 2, certainly does match.
    It matches precisely in detail.
    It matches perfectly in timing.

    Well, it didn't always match perfectly in the timing - and it may not match in your
    study Bible notes - but that was the fault of more recent historians 3 and certain Study Bible editors. But more on that next time.

    The previous articles were:
    454 BC: SeventyWeeks = One Unit
    454 BC:The SeventyWeeks Begin
    Answering a Response to Yesterday's Article

    1. (Wilson's Old Testament Word Studies, "command" p.87 - 88, "word" p.488)

    2. Among the Jewish teachers the word has often been referred to the Messiah, Christ, the "Servant" of the latter chapters of Isaiah. We see this even in the Bible. See David's prayer concerning the temple, using this very word: 2 Sam. 7:21 and 1 Chron. 17:19, two verses referring to the same prayer sentence. One translates the word as "word", the other as "servant".

    3. The following is from J.P. Burns (emphasis added):
    "The date which stands in our Bibles for the 20th year of Artaxerxes is B.C. 446. This makes the commencement of his reign B.C. 465; but the date fixed by the best and most nearly contemporary historian will put the matter in a different light. Thucydides mentions that the accession of Artaxerxes had taken place before the flight of Themistocles. This authorizes us to adopt Ussher's date and to place the commencement of the reign 473 or 474 B.C. This would give the date of 454 or 455 B.C. as his twentieth year and the date of the commission."

    Updated January 8, 2011
  3. webdog

    webdog Active Member

    Mar 31, 2005
    Its error to discount the theology as a whole due to some who have chosen to usurp Christ by date setting. It can be argued that the belief in no future date is also bad theology.
  4. asterisktom

    asterisktom Well-Known Member

    May 29, 2007
    I am not quite sure what you mean in your first sentence. I understand the second to be a dig at Preterism. Others say, quite incorrectly, that all I write about is Preterism. This article here is not on that subject, neither am I going to go that route. It would be a sidetrack here.
  5. revmwc

    revmwc Well-Known Member

    Mar 28, 2011
    If you really want to correctly find a specific time use the Jewish calender.
    It will show when certain events happened. Such as passover and the feast.
    April 33 A.D has 13th Nisan falls on a Wednesday, with Passover on the 14th. The 13th was the day of preparation of which the Lamb would be slain.

    John 19: 13When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.

    14And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!

    15 But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.

    Notice John says it was the preparation of passover about the sixth hour when Jesus was condemned. If He died on the day of preparation 33 A.D that would have been Wednesday as the day of Preparation and in the Grave that evening beginning 14 Nisan or Passover. Making a perfect three full day and three full nights in the Grave. With Him being seen the first time on Sunday morning. Not that He rose on Sunday morning but was seen early that morning. That is if the calender is accurate, but that far back it may not be accurate.
    That would make the decree to rebuild the Temple and city around 449 B.C. We cannot know just how accurate we are but 33 A.D. seems to fit I have always heard he 33 1/2 years old. That would put him born in 1 B.c. or A.D how would that work? Instead 3 B.C.