It would helpful if this article examining Ptolemy's Canon of Kings could be read first.


Chronology is a long chain of numerous links. Some links are so obviously solid that it is only too easy to assume the chain is flawless and unassailable. Often dates of very early events are asserted confidently disregarding weak links upon which the chain depends. Such weak links entail in particular the succession of the Medo-Persian monarchs, which Claudius Ptolemy made plausible by accomnodating them in his eclipse based Royal Canon of Kings. 

Among those who have disputed the validity of this period is Van Lennep, who stated of Ptolemy, that "he named certain men as kings who never reigned". Likewise E.J.Bickerman claims that, "the compiler also made successive some dynasties which were contemporary". 

It is well known that the Royal Canon does not readily slot into Bible based chronology. And as one truth cannot be in conflict with another truth, it raises these questions. Which of the two is the wrong one ? Can the error be located ? Can the two systems be made compatible ? 

The two main discrepancies where biblical data is at variance with the Royal Canon are : - 

(1) In Daniel 11.2. the prophet was told, during the reign of Cyrus, that four more kings would arise in Persia prior to the king of Greece. The fourth can be identified with Codomannus, while the first two were Cambyses and Darius Hystaspis. But in the Royal Canon there are five major monarchs where Scripture calls for just one. 

(2) In the 20th Year of Darius Hystaspis (501 BC), when Nehemiah began planning the walls renewal the High Priest was Eliashib. He was followed by Joida, Johahan and Jaddua before the latter in turn was succeeded by Onias in 320 BC. This means that 181 years covered the jurisdiction of four high priests, so giving an average of 45 years each. While not impossible this is highly improbable, so is suspect. 

As Ivan Panin remarked, "an eclipse properly observed - - - will never conflict with true Bible chronology. But the true adjustment to the events they are supposed to attest by folk living long after their occurrence is a wholly different matter". 

The fact is that an eclipse reappears in the same place after a period known as a triple saros, which amounts to 54 years and one month. To a lay observer the appearance will seen identical. That the Royal Canon has inadvertently incorporated a superfluous triple saros was proposed back in 1928 by Van Lennep. A similar suggestion has been made by E.L.Martin in 1990. No one before has had the courage to extend the probable discrepancy to a double triple saros; because there appears to be a reticence to conceive that Ptolemy could be that much in error. But Ptolemy was not in error; he only accepted the data provided by historians - and of these even Herodotus admitted, "I know not what the truth may be; I tell the tale as told to me". 

No less a person than Isaac Newton asserted, "The years of Cambyses and Darius Hystaspis are determined by three eclipses and cannot be disputed". It is not intended to dispute the occurrence of these eclipses: it is intended to dispute that they were "properly observed" relative to the events concerned. It is therefore here advanced that the events pertaining to these eclipses took place later by a double triple saros, that is by 108 years and two months.

The three eclipses Newton alludes to are as follows with their amended dates : - 

Cambyses, 7th year, (July 16th 522) should be Sept 414 BC 

Darius Hys. 20th year, (Nov ,19th 501) should be Jan. 392 BC 

Darius Hys. 31st year, (Apr .25th 490) should be June 382 BC 

saac Newton, without giving his sources, also made the remarkable comnent that, "all the Jews condense the Persian Empire (i.e. after Dar.Hys.) to Artaxerxes Longimanus and Nothus - - - - taking Longimanus, Mnemon and Ochus for the same, and Nothus for Codomannus". This is neither continued nor contradicted by Josephus. 

To test this theory the first year of Codomannus may be taken as it stands in the Canon as the year 335 BC. If the 31st year of Darius Hystaspis was 382, then his 36th and final year was 377 BC. Now Cambyses and Darius were the first two additional kings to arise in Persia as was foretold in Daniel 11.2.; and as Codomannus was the fourth the third would have reigned from 376 to 336, which is forty-one years inclusive. Undoubtedly the link in the chain was Artaxerxes Longimanus, to whom the Canon assigns forty-one years. 

This revision of the chronological succession accords with eclipse evidence and also harmonises with Scriptural data. Whether Nothus, Mnemon and Ochus were distinct persons, or whether they may have reigned simultaneously elsewhere, is not the issue. The basic fact is that they were not in the royal line of the Persian kings.

What about Xerxes ? This question is one that will immediately present itself. Well, he never existed as a distinct person. It has been a mistake to regard this word as a proper noun when it is a common noun and only means "a Medo-Persian king". The Greek historians rendered in phonetic Greek what they heard from their Persian informants who would not have dared utter the sovereign's name. 

Recognition of the impersonal sense of the term "xerxes" helps in understanding Josephus. In Antiquities Bk.XI.ch.5, if the first paragraph be excepted, every reference to xerxes is to Darius Hystaspis. The first paragraph seems to be misplaced from the end of the chapter, as its sentiments would pertain to Darius and his successor Longimanus, who, in his maturer years adopted the added appellation of Artaxerxes. 

The conflict of opinion regarding Thermistodes and the identity of the Persian king whom he met becomes pointless. Thucydides and Charon were right to identify him as Artaxerxes Longimanus; but no less right were Clitachus, Dinon, Ephorus and Herach'des, since their xerxes was that man. 

Accepting the date of the 20th year of Darius Hystaspis as 392, the accession of Onias being rightly given as 320, the difference of 72 years covers the sequence of four high priests. This now makes the average term of each to be 18 years, a more likely period of office. 

The vexed question of the date of the destruction of the first temple can now be settled. On the basis of the Canon the most acceptable date was probably (585); and if the 108 years be deducted the date sought is 477 BC. That year was the llth of King Zedekiah, and in the Adah of that year the sabbatic year begun in 478 ended, though the then current series of the priest's courses was allowed its completion to Maaziah before the temple was destroyed on 9th Ab. 

Tne seventy years Desolation of Jerusalem thus comprised ten sabbatic terms, and they were due to end at 408 BC. The difference between this year and the historically admitted sabbatic year 163 amounts to 245 years, which divides into 7x35 and validates the septennial basis of 478 and 408 BC. 

Nehemiah, cupbearer to Darius Hystaspis, in Nisan of the king's 20th year, namely 392, petitioned him for help in respect of the dilapidation of Jerusalem's walls. Immediately before that moment Nehemiah had talked to some Hebrew speaking strangers, as told by Josephus. It seems to have activated an earlier concern when he had conversed with his relative, Hanani, about it during an occasion stated to be in Chisleu of the 20th year. This can only mean the 20th year of a 49 year sabbatic series. The adjacent sabbatic year was 394 BC, shown thus to be the 21st, and signifying that 415 had been a 49th and a jubilee year. 

That Jubilee year of 415 BC was just seven years, or one Week, before the due ending of the seventy years Desolation of Jerusalem in 408 BC. Now if to 415 we add 441 years (9 jubilees); or if to 408 we add 62 Weeks (cf. Dan.9.25.) the answer in either case is the Sabbatic/Jubilee year 27 AD, the 15th year of the government of Tiberius, even that when in Tishri the prophecy of Isaiah 61.1/2 was fulfilled in the Nazareth synagogue. 

When the meaning of the "seven sevens" is understood it will be possible to locate just when the command to restore Jerusalem was given. 


NB. Dates shown in brackets are those considered misplaced. 

M. S. Lloyd Glasgow January 1995

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