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Why the probs with Old Testament dating?

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#1
I get the impression that liberal scholars have a problem with biblical chronology as put forward by conservative scholars. Can someone tell me where the problem lies? Im referring to the Old Testament from Abraham onward. (Can we avoid the pre-flood era please because that topic tends to get thrashed on Internet forums.)

As I understand it, Bible historians use the destruction of the first temple in 586 BC as their point of reference. No one argues about that by more than a couple of years do they? The key touchpoint reference is Jeremiah 25.

The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah (that was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon) (Jer. 25:1-2)
This reference sounds straight forward enough and allows both secular as well as Bible students an agreed point in time - 604/5 BC to work from. Then, using Hebrew records we can extrapolate the reigns of kings and other major events backwards to Abraham and/or forward to Christ.

So, what’s the problem?
 
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#2
Hi Cyberseeker,

I can actually explain this extensively, but I will have to do so a little bit later since I am headed to Church tonight. Studying Old Testament scholarship and archaeology is a major hobby of mine so I'd be glad to help answer your questions.

The biggest chronological question, in short, is when Joshua's conquest took place. The archaeology and the recorded biblical time periods for when the conquest happened "appear" to clash, according to some archaeologists. The dating of the destruction of Jericho has been a very big debate point (because Kathleen Kenyon dated its destruction to the 1200s B.C. - not in the traditional 1400s). Everything from the 10th century on though (David & Solomon's reign) is pretty much set in stone and agreed upon as to chronology. Even scholars like William Dever who deny that the Exodus was a literal historical event acknowledge the established chronology of Israel from the 10th century B.C. on.

If you would like a book reference written by a very well-credentialed Christian scholar which thoroughly discusses all the chronological, archaeological, and textual evidence to establish the historicity of the Old Testament see Kenneth Kitchen's On the Reliability of the Old Testament. Kitchen is a renowned Egyptologist and knows the history of the Levant (and naturally Egypt) very well. You could read no better scholarly defense of the Old Testament than that book IMO. A much slimmer and shorter primer on biblical archaeology/history, but equally recommended & has dozens of great full-color photos, is James Hoffmeier's The Archaeology of the Bible. I would actually recommend reading Hoffmeier's book first because he concisely and adequately deals with all the chronological "questions" that biblical scholars have as relates to archaeology (and it's a much quicker and easier read too [192 pgs.] - whereas Kitchen's book is 684 pages!), and Hoffmeier also is a well-credentialed Christan Egyptologist. You couldn't go wrong with either book though.

I'll try to come back when I have more time to answer more specific questions.

P.S. Could a moderator consider moving this to the Biblical History & Archaeology section please? That section was designed for threads like this.
 
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WIP

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#3
I think that sounds like a good idea.
 
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Thanks for those Cyberjosh. :) I have also seen a title called, "Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho?" by Bryant G Wood. Which of the 3 would be best for starters in your opinion?
 
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Thanks for those Cyberjosh. :) I have also seen a title called, "Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho?" by Bryant G Wood. Which of the 3 would be best for starters in your opinion?
Hi Cyberseeker,

Yeah I've heard of Bryant G. Wood, he is active in reevaluating the evidence from Jericho (especially Kathleen Kenyon's excavation reports) which he thinks actually sets it firmly back in the 1400s. I didn't find any book titled that when I googled for it but I did find an article with the identical title by Bryant Wood which was from the Biblical Archaeology Review magazine (which I subscribe to BTW) in a 1990 article: Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho? It looks like it has all the original pictures from the magazine too. Looks like it is worth reading that article. But as far as book recommendations I would heartily recommend buying/reading James Hoffmeier's book (linked to in my previous post). It's not that expensive (for a book with full color photos & glossy pages) and is comprehensive in its outlines of the "out-standing" issues and debates in biblical archeology today.

Hoffmeier has a good section on the conquest of Canaan by Joshua and he also gives a great defense of the Exodus as well, which is his personal specialty since he has dug in the Egyptian Delta and the Sinai. I like his careful evaluation of the Biblical text to check what the Bible actually says about such things as the conquest (for example, that very few cities were actually said to be burned down [I think only three - Jericho, Ai, and Hazor] whereas archaeologists assume that they should find mass burning layers at all the significant cities at that time). He also has a refreshing introduction that summarizes the different interpretational camps and the "state of the debate" in the field of biblical archaeology up to present day. The historical perspective helps a lot.

I had the chance to meet Dr. Hoffmeier and he is a great guy, personally and professionally. I don't think you will be disappointed with the book. From there if you want to hone in on more specific issues then I would recommend reading more specialized books. Take it from me though that it really helps to have a "big picture" perspective in the field of biblical scholarship & archaeology, and Hoffmeier's book gives a great overview for that purpose. The field too often gets mired in minutiae and nit-picky details. Seeing the forest for the trees can help. :)

P.S. If you read it please let me know what you think! I have some other resources on my website too about other (recent) dating issues such as "How old is the kingdom of Edom?" which is a hot topic right now (and increasingly leaning in favor of the Bible).
 
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#6
I get the impression that liberal scholars have a problem with biblical chronology as put forward by conservative scholars. Can someone tell me where the problem lies? Im referring to the Old Testament from Abraham onward. (Can we avoid the pre-flood era please because that topic tends to get thrashed on Internet forums.)

As I understand it, Bible historians use the destruction of the first temple in 586 BC as their point of reference. No one argues about that by more than a couple of years do they? The key touchpoint reference is Jeremiah 25.



This reference sounds straight forward enough and allows both secular as well as Bible students an agreed point in time - 604/5 BC to work from. Then, using Hebrew records we can extrapolate the reigns of kings and other major events backwards to Abraham and/or forward to Christ.

So, what’s the problem?
If you are interested in an approach to chronology that is similar to how you framed it here, by starting with the exile & known dates and moving backwards into time, adducing the evidence as you go, then you might like Kenneth Kitchen's lecture "Solomon in his context - He's for real!" from the Biblical Archaeology Society (who also publishes that magazine [BAR] where the Bryant Wood article was published). I have that lecture and it is quite good. Kitchen draws on substantial Assyrian and Egyptian sources to help establish the chronology and align it with the Bible as he goes back in time. He focuses on David & Solomon's reign but I think he mentions the Exodus & conquest periods as relates to the Egyptian chronology. Kitchen's book which I mentioned above in another post takes a similar chronological approach of starting with the later dates and moving backward into time, accruing the strength of evidence as it goes along.

Two caveats (I thought I would warn you) if you decide to buy that lecture though. Unfortunately, it is only available on VHS (hope you have a VCR!). Secondly, for a VHS it is admittedly a little pricey ($20). If you can afford it though you would have a great resource that you can even share with skeptics if you loaned it to them and asked them to watch it. I bit the bullet and bought it. You even get some of Kitchen's unexpected British whit and "humour" along the way.

P.S. Kitchen is getting old by now (late 70s-80 maybe?) but he is not senile. He is a giant in the study of Egyptology (he is the namesake of a common scholarly reference for bibliographies/footnotes in Egyptological books: Kitchen's Ramesside Inscriptions - it's so common & authoritative on the Ramesses pharaohs it's commonly just written KRI), and happily is an evangelical Christian. The oddest thing about the lecture though is that he seems to teach 90% of the lecture with his eyes closed(?!). Maybe it's the lighting (dimmed for his powerpoint presentation) or he might be constantly looking down? Somehow he sees his slides on the projector though. He's quite a lively old man though. :) He will be missed when he is gone to a better place.
 
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#7
cyberjosh said:
P.S. If you read it please let me know what you think!
O.K, Ive just ordered James Hoffmeier's 'The Archaeology of the Bible' and Ill keep you posted. Thanks for the heads up.

My own dates for the Exodus is 1445 BC, and Jericho 1404 BC. My area of research has been in the internal chronology of the Old Testament as it synchronizes with the shmita. External archaeological evidence has not been my strongest point. :ohwell
 
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#8
cyberjosh said:
... Kitchen draws on substantial Assyrian and Egyptian sources to help establish the chronology and align it with the Bible as he goes back in time. He focuses on David & Solomon's reign but I think he mentions the Exodus & conquest periods as relates to the Egyptian chronology.
Ive been googling around and Dr.Kenneth Kitchen is recognized as the leading authority on ancient Egyptian chronology. From his study of the Hebrew Kings he starts Solomon’s reign at 971 BC but I cannot find what date he places the Exodus. Does anyone know?

I assume he takes Solomons 4th year and deducts 480 years to arrive at 1446 BC as per the information we have in 1 Kings 6:1

And it came to pass in the 480th year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, in the 4th 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.
However, I find it strange how so many experts (liberal as well as conservative) treat the book of Kings and Chronicles as highly precise historical records then come to a dead-stop at 1 Kings 6:1. It’s very odd. Can we slice the Old Testament at 1 Kings 6:2 and say, “Every verse from here on is dated right, but every verse before it is unreliable?†This is quite incongruous to me. Has anyone else noticed? :confused:
 
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#9
Ive been googling around and Dr.Kenneth Kitchen is recognized as the leading authority on ancient Egyptian chronology. From his study of the Hebrew Kings he starts Solomon’s reign at 971 BC but I cannot find what date he places the Exodus. Does anyone know?

I assume he takes Solomons 4th year and deducts 480 years to arrive at 1446 BC as per the information we have in 1 Kings 6:1
Hi Cyberseeker,

Sorry, I've been busy for a while and the near future isn't looking much better in terms of free time. I unfortunately don't have time to consult Kitchen's On the Reliability of the Old Testament (OROT) book right now, but I wanted to say for some reason that I got the impression (though he is a conservative Christian) that he dated the conquest of Canaan to the 1200s as well from an archaeological stand point. I disagree with that stance but you will have to consult his book to see how he justifies that from the scriptures. If you have a Barnes & Noble or Books a Million near you you can often find a copy of OROT on the shelf in the Bible Reference section. Maybe you can pick it up in the store and find where he discusses that. If I happen to find time and manage to remember I may consult the book as well if the opportunity arises. Anyway, I hope that is of some help.

P.S. Have you gotten/read any of Hoffmeier's book yet?
 
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However, I find it strange how so many experts (liberal as well as conservative) treat the book of Kings and Chronicles as highly precise historical records then come to a dead-stop at 1 Kings 6:1. It’s very odd. Can we slice the Old Testament at 1 Kings 6:2 and say, “Every verse from here on is dated right, but every verse before it is unreliable?” This is quite incongruous to me. Has anyone else noticed? :confused:
As for this observation, I haven't noticed in particular. Are you reading certain commentaries or articles that show this pattern? I'd be interested to know what you are talking about here.

Thanks,
~Josh
 
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As for this observation, I haven't noticed in particular. Are you reading certain commentaries or articles that show this pattern? I'd be interested to know what you are talking about here.

Thanks,
~Josh
Well, Kitchen is a case in point unfortunately. He dates Solomons reign beginning 971BC but the Exodus in the 13th century BC. It is contradictory IMO to have a 'Book of Kings' chronology married to a late-date Exodus. :shame

Im liking Hoffmeirs book. :study He argues a case for Canaan being conquered without many cities being burned - hence the lack of archaeological finds along our preconceived expectations. Its a good case and makes a lot of sense.