Law, Evidence and Archaeology: Errors in Biblical Chronology II

The New Year is coming soon on January 1, 2006 and it might interest our readers to read how we inherited that New Year’s date. Why January 1? See here.

The following material provides additional calendric analysis concerning our previous posting on Law, Evidence and Archaeology: Errors in Biblical Chronology, where we demonstrate that there is a 28-year error in conforming Babylonian sources to Biblical history.

How did the 28-year error find its way into Biblical Chronology – and thus also – into Roman Chronology?

The same error is found in the related Roman Chronology because of scholarly reliance on Ptolemy’s list of kings and because of the failure to identify the famous mid-day eclipse of Amos (8;9) as the astronomically significant (our discovery)
June 24, 791 B.C. eclipse
(this eclipse occurs on the Summer Solstice during the day)
rather than the currently and erroneously accepted (and relatively insignificant)
eclipse of June 15, 763 B.C.
(this eclipse occurs in the morning and not at all at “mid-day”).
See Starry Night Pro for those dates.

As written by James B. Jordan at Biblical Horizons:

The eclipse recorded in the 10th year of Ashur-dan III might not have been on 15 June 763 after all.”

That is a true statement. It was not that eclipse at all, and this is the reason that the Biblical and Babylonian records currently do not mesh, because mainstream scholarship has selected the wrong eclipse as its cardinal historical date. Alan Montgomery, who correctly assigns a much earlier date to Exodus than present scholarship, as we also have done for many years, points to the chronological problems:

There is a significant statement recorded in the 10th year of Ashur-Dan III who reigned supposedly to 772-755 BC. In the text accompanying the eponym year named Pur-Sagale (the Assyrians named each year) is a statement that there was a solar eclipse in the month of Simanu (May/June). Astronomers have calculated that there was a solar eclipse on June 15, 763 BC which was visible in Assyria. This would seem to confirm the Assyrian eponym and kinglists. However, the details of time and place are missing. There is not enough information to be absolutely sure about this eclipse. But note that 3 years have been added to this chronology in the Chaldean period so that the 10th of Ashur-Dan III is now 766 BC. There was no solar eclipse visible from Assyria in May/June of that year. At least 25 additional years must be added between T-P and Ashur-Dan III to make his 10th year have a solar eclipse in the late spring of 791 BC. Such a date would require a major adjustment to the accepted biblical chronology to keep the accepted synchronisms between the earlier Israelite kings Ahab, Jehu and Jehoash and Assyrian kings Shalmaneser III and Adad-Nirari III. It is not hard to understand why historians and chronologists want to keep such a valuable independent confirmation of the conventional chronology.”

Any scholar who examines the evidence critically could not possibly abide by the 763 B.C. eclipse date. It will be difficult of course for mainstream scholarship to admit that they have made this crucial error, but they have no choice. The presently accepted chronology is built on sand.


[For Ptolemy’s data, see Ptolemy’s Almagest, translated by Gerald J. Toomer, Princeton University Press, 1998. There is also a translation by Owen Gingerich of Harvard.]

There is a great deal of dispute about Ptolemy’s chronology, not only in Toomer’s book above, but also in Robert R. Newton, The Crime of Claudius Ptolemy, Johns Hopkins University Press.

See particularly James B. Jordon on Biblical Chronology.

Newton’s book alleges that Ptolemy has severe errors in his data and that he either forged his astronomical data to make it agree to an erroneous preconceived historical chronology or copied that erroneous data from Hipparchus.

Newton is no slouch – he is a professional astronomer who was updating the solar system data for NASA and examining Ptolemy’s data in the course of his research.

As noted about Newton’s book by George J. Parrish, Jr. at Astronomical Dating:

It must also be noted that Hipparchus, from whom Ptolemy might have obtained some of his data, is suspected of having obtained his information base by working backward from the results he expected. This would mean that Hipparchus was working only with astronomical records made in a later period, and that he assigned a king’s year number based on the opinion popular in his time.”


Edwin R. Thiele – a supporter of Ptolemy – writes in his A Chronology of the Hebrew Kings (44):
For many years Old Testament scholars have noticed that a total of 128 regnal years for the rulers of Judah from the accession of Athaliah to the end of Azariah … was about a quarter of a century in excess of the years of contemporary Assyria….” [emphasis added]

Professor Samuel A. Mitchell wrote in Eclipses of the Sun (p. 19):

As a result of the Babylonian eclipses, it has been necessary to alter the chronology of the Bible by lowering the dates to the extent of TWENTY-FIVE years ….”

That chronological adjustment downward is clearly erroneous. The present Biblical calendar must be moved back 28 years. The Biblical dates should not have been lowered, but rather the Babylonian dates should have been set backward to correspond to Biblical chronology.

Hollstein’s Dendrochronological Data

Let us review in more detail Ernst Hollstein’s book, Mitteleuropäische Eichenchronologie, the chronology of Europe by dendrochronology (study of tree rings), Trierer dendrochronologische Forschungen zur Archäologie und Kunstgeschichte, 1980, XI, 273 pages, Philipp von Zabern, Mainz. See also here and here.

As Hollstein states, when you have enough samples, dating to a year by tree rings is no problem. His massive volume of nearly 300 pages of oversize paper is an astute, detailed synthetic scientific work of the kind which made German scientists famous in past centuries.

In Hollstein’s book, published in 1980 (he has since passed away), there is found what “mainstream” historians subsequently have erroneously alleged to be a ca. 26-year error in Hollstein’s tree-ring data, since that data diverges from accepted chronology by that amount of time – not by any particular intent of Hollstein, but simply because that is what the dendrochronological data gave as results.

No one had any idea “why” the data diverged. Mainstream scholars of course thought Hollstein had erred, never thinking to examine their OWN historical chronology, which in fact is based on less solid grounds than Hollstein’s work. In the end, mainstream chronology is simply wrong. Mainstream scholars have erred, not Hollstein.

At page 74 of his book, Hollstein discusses his tree-ring data for the Roman Bridge at Cologne, Germany, which according to an analysis of the remains of trees used to build it, was built ca. 336 A.D. But by current chronology, the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (the first emperor to adopt Christianity, thus bringing it to the Western world) held a speech in Trier about the building of this very same bridge at the end of July, viz. beginning of August in 310 A.D. – a full 26 years PRIOR to the actual building of the bridge. It is a 26-year error.

Someone had erred – was it Hollstein? No, the tree ring data are clear and there is no serious dispute about these tree ring findings. In fact, as Hollstein himself observes, earlier dendrochronological dates from the nearby grave under the later-built Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) had already pointed to a date of ca. 338 A.D. and since then – underneath the southern “Querhaus” of the Cathedral – twelve wooden posts were found – arranged as Hollstein notes in a “circular stave” fashion [astronomy?], with evidence that they supported a roof. This construction is ALSO dated by dendrochronology to ca. 338 A.D. So there are three separate sources for Hollstein’s dates, all giving the same result.

Hollstein even writes that he regretted (p.5) already in 1972 not having accepted his earlier dendrochronological findings as fact, even though they contradicted the 310 A.D. date used by the mainstream historians for the comparable period. In Hollstein’s words in German “Ich hätte das jetzt vorliegende wahre Datum dieser Pfähle 336 n.Chr. (vgl. Köln, Rheinbrücke) bereits 1972 akzeptieren müssen….

We might add to Hollstein’s proof additional observations about bridge-building on rivers. Obviously, especially in ancient times, when the building of such bridges was far more arduous than currently, the engineers would have tried to get “dry years” for bridge-building on great rivers, since then the water would be lower, the current would be less strong, and building problems would be lessened. The amount of rain is in fact reflected in tree-rings, with very narrow tree rings shown in rainfall-meager periods and large tree-rings in periods with much rainfall – although of course there are other factors as well. Nevertheless, in ca. 336 A.D. – as shown in Hollstein’s graph of the width of tree rings from 250 to 350 A.D. (p. 192) there must have been a sharp drop in rainfall starting ca. 332 A.D, which continued for a number of years to an absolute low in ca. 336 A.D. (as judged by the narrowing of tree rings). Hence, it was in fact an ideal period for bridge-building across large rivers whose waterflow was reduced by drought.

Hollstein himself was by no means thrilled with the dates which resulted from his studies, as these put him into a scientific quandary, having data which contradicted mainstream chronology, and having no explanation available for the deviation from that chronology.

For accurate chronology, however, the results of Hollstein are essential, useful and correct. Not only must Biblical chronology be completely revised, but Roman chronology as well.

Old Ideas vs. New Ideas

Here is something to think about.

My personal Google Page runs the following quote today from “The Quotations Page“.

I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas.
I’m frightened of the old ones.

– John Cage