Volume 12, Number 1, July-August 2008

Books Worth a Look

by Bill Buckman

The Chronology of the Old Testament

By Floyd Nolen Jones, Th.D., Ph.D., Master Books © 1993-2004 by the author, 15th edition

This reviewer realizes that Bible chronology may not be everyone’s favorite subject. This book was not chosen because of its particular chronology, but because of the author’s approach to the subject. The chronology may or may not be precisely accurate, however this reviewer believes it is very close, at least down to the Babylonian captivity.

Dr. Jones considers virtually every issue of Bible chronology from creation to the crucifixion. He points out the inaccuracies of Septuagint chronology, which has Methuselah surviving the flood by 14 years! (p. 11). (The chronology in most Bible translations accurately shows that Methuselah died in the year of the flood.)

In recent decades a number of Old Testament histories and chronologies have been written. Many of them rely to a great extent upon the work of one man, Edwin R. Thiele. Thiele’s book, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, (in several editions) has been the standard for Old Testament chronologies for many years for many writers, including many Bible believers. The problem is that in some cases Thiele totally rejects the Scriptural account! In particular he rejects the Scriptural statement in 2 Kings 18:9-10 that Hezekiah was ruling Judah in Jerusalem at the time Samaria was conquered by the Assyrians. Thiele does so because he places greater value on the Assyrian records than he does on the Bible. In so doing he has undermined some believer’s faith in the accuracy of God’s Word.

Dr. Floyd Jones takes issue with Thiele and those who follow him, whom he refers to as the “Assyrian School”. Dr. Jones makes the case that the Assyrian records are not nearly as complete or reliable as they are often proclaimed to be. He shows that there is no need to compromise the Bible.

Jones deals quite extensively with the Assyrian Eponym List in which the king’s or some prominent official’s name was given to each year. This is used as the basis for several hundred years of Assyrian chronology. Jones points out that “Eleven or so such lists are extant, though only four are usually referred to in the literature. None is complete, each is broken in places, and all but one of the four is very short. From these fragments a composite has been constructed.” This Eponym List is supposedly anchored to the BC time scale by the mention of a solar eclipse in the eponymy of a certain Bur-Sagale. This has been dated to 763 BC, on the Julian-Gregorian calendar. Jones reminds us that “the famous eclipse of Thales mentioned by Herodotus has been awarded five different dates ranging from 607 to 585 BC by different astronomers.” (p. 113) “Moreover, the June 15, 763 BC date for the eclipse of Bur-Sagale has been challenged several times in the past. Some have fixed this solar phenomena as that of June 24, 791 [BC], others identified it with the eclipse of June 13, 809 [BC].” (p. 147)

Jones goes on to show many specific examples of inconsistencies and incompleteness in the Eponym List as well as in other Assyrian records. The author personally examined hundreds of these ancient secular texts and found “the vast majority of the relevant data” to be in an “overall marred condition”, while in translations there was an “extensive amount of unsubstantiated filling in of words, names, phrases, clauses, etc…” “The undeniable reality is that the history of Assyria and Babylonia, although sometimes giving detailed dates, exists only in a mutilated condition with no continuous chronology. This fact cannot be overstated.” In contrast, “No history of any ancient peoples is even minutely comparable to the detailed and flowing continuous record of the Hebrew witness nor is there any nation of antiquity other than that of the Hebrews whose annals record their military defeats.” (pp. 148-149)

In chastising both Catholic and Protestant scholars, the author makes a most interesting comment. “It is an incontestable natural consequence that whenever and wherever the authority of Scripture is diminished in the minds of a people, the power of a priesthood of men is proportionally increased.” Dr. Jones clear position is that “it is the continuous uninterrupted flowing Hebrew history that should be utilized in amending and interpreting the often fragmented discontinuous records of the kingdoms contiguous to those people—not the reverse, as is the custom in this day.”

Those of you who may be into Bible chronology will likely find this work to be fascinating, as this reviewer has. It is very thorough and well documented. It contains a lot of information not easily accessible elsewhere, including the complete Assyrian Eponym List. There are numerous charts and timelines, 14 appendices, bibliography and index. At the back of the book is the author’s chronology chart from 981 to 320 BC. Included is a CD of all the chronology charts. Information on ordering printed sets of these charts is on page 325.

Again this book was chosen for review because the author uses the Bible as his “knowledge filter”, and because it deals with an important present day scholarship issue.    &

 

 
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