Missing years (Jewish calendar)

The missing years in the Hebrew calendar refer to a chronological discrepancy between the rabbinic dating for the destruction of the First Temple in 423 BCE (3338 Anno Mundi)[1] and the academic dating of it in 587 BCE.

Dating in academic sourcesEdit

Siege of Jerusalem (597 BC)Edit

Both the Babylonian Chronicles and the Bible indicate that Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem. The Babylonian Chronicles (as published by Donald Wiseman in 1956) establish that Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem the first time on 2 Adar (16 March) 597 BCE.[2] Before Wiseman's publication, E. R. Thiele had determined from the biblical texts that Nebuchadnezzar's initial capture of Jerusalem occurred in the spring of 597 BCE,[3] while other scholars, including William F. Albright, more frequently dated the event to 598 BCE.[4]

Second siege and destruction of the First TempleEdit

According to the Bible, Nebuchadnezzar installed Zedekiah as king after his first siege,[5] and Zedekiah ruled for 11 years before the second siege resulted in the end of his kingdom.[6]

Although there is no dispute that Jerusalem fell the second time in the summer month of Tammuz,[7] Albright dates the end of Zedekiah's reign (and the fall of Jerusalem) to 587 BCE, whereas Thiele offers 586 BCE.[8] Thiele's reckoning is based on the presentation of Zedekiah's reign on an accession basis, which was used for most but not all of the kings of Judah. In that case, the year that Zedekiah came to the throne would be his first partial year; his first full year would be 597/596 BCE, and his eleventh year, the year Jerusalem fell, would be 587/586 BCE. Since Judah's regnal years were counted from Tishrei in autumn, this would place the end of his reign and the capture of Jerusalem in the summer of 586 BCE.[8][9]

Dating in traditional Jewish sourcesEdit

A variety of rabbinic sources state that the Second Temple stood for 420 years.[10] In traditional Jewish calculations, based on Seder Olam Rabbah, the destruction of the Second Temple fell in the year 68 of the Common Era, implying that it was built in about 352 BCE.[11][12][13] Adding 70 years between the destruction of the First Temple and the construction of the Second Temple, it follows that the First Temple was destroyed in around 422 BCE.[11][14] Modern day scholars place the Second Temple's destruction in 70 CE and the First Temple's destruction in about 586 BCE.[citation needed]

The traditional Jewish date recognized by the rabbis as the "year of destruction" is approximately 165 years later than the accepted year of 587 or 586 BCE. This discrepancy is referred to as the "missing years".

Details of rabbinic chronologyEdit

According to the Talmud[15] and Seder Olam Rabbah,[16] the Second Temple stood for 420 years, with the years divided up as follows:

103 years (35 BCE–68 CE) = Herod's Dynasty.
103 years (138 BCE–35 BCE) = Hasmonean Dynasty.
180 years (318 BCE–138 BCE) = Grecian rule over Israel
34 years (352 BCE–318 BCE) = Persian rule while the Second Temple stood (not including additional years of Persian rule before the Temple's construction).

The date of 318 BCE for the Greek conquest of Persia was later confirmed by Rabbeinu Chananel, who wrote[17] that Alexander the Great rose to power six years before the beginning of the Seleucid era (which occurred in 312/11 BCE).[18][19]

Seventy years passed between the destruction of the First Temple and the building of the Second Temple in the seventy first year,[20] so construction of the Second Temple in 352 BCE implies that the First Temple was destroyed in 423 BCE.

Similarly, Megillat Antiochus implies that the Second Temple was built in 352 BCE, and thus that the First Temple was destroyed in 423 BCE.[21]

The figure of 420 years is derived from the prophecy of seventy weeks in Daniel 9:24–27, which the rabbis interpreted as referring to a period of 490 years which would pass between the destructions of the First and Second Temple - 70 years between the Temples, plus 420 years of the Second Temple, starting in the 71st year after the destruction.[citation needed]

Proposed explanationsEdit

If traditional dates are assumed to be based on the standard Hebrew calendar, then the differing traditional and modern academic dating of events cannot both be correct. Attempts to reconcile the two systems must show one or both to have errors.

Missing reign lengths in the Hebrew datingEdit

Scholars see the discrepancy between the traditional and academic date of the destruction of the First Temple arising as a result of Jewish sages missing out the reign lengths of several Persian kings during the Persian Empire's rule over Israel. Modern scholars tally ten Persian kings whose combined reigns total 208 years. By contrast, ancient Jewish sages only mention four Persian kings totaling 52 years. The reigns of several Persian kings appear to be missing from the traditional calculations.

Missing years in Jewish traditionEdit

Azariah dei Rossi[22] was likely the first Jewish authority to claim that the traditional Hebrew dating is not historically precise regarding the years before the Second Temple.[23]: 262  [24]: 82  [25]: 77 

Nachman Krochmal[26] agrees with dei Rossi,[24]: 51 pointing to the Greek name Antigonos mentioned in the beginning of Avot as proof that there must have been a longer period to account for this sign of Hellenic influence. He posits that certain books of the Bible such as Kohelet and Isaiah were written or redacted during this period.

David Zvi Hoffmann points out that the Mishnah in Avot (1:4) in describing the chain of tradition uses the plural "accepted from them" even though the previous Mishnah only mentions one person. He posits that there must have been another Mishnah mentioning two sages that was later removed.[citation needed]

The traditional account of Jewish history shows a discontinuity in the beginning of the 35th century: The account of Seder Olam Rabbah is complete only until this time. It has been postulated that this work was written to complement another historical work, about subsequent centuries until the time of Hadrian, which is no longer extant.[citation needed]

It appears that Jewish dating systems only arose in the 35th century, so that precise historical records would naturally have existed only from that time onwards.[citation needed] The Minyan Shtarot system, used to date official Jewish documents, started in the year 3449. According to Moshe Lerman,[27] the year-count "from Creation" was established around the same time (see Birkat Hachama for elaboration).

It has also been posited that certain calculations in the Talmud compute better according to the academic dating. Two possible harmonizations are proposed by modern rabbis:

  • Shimon Schwab points to the words "seal the words and close the book" in the book of Daniel as a positive commandment to obscure the calculations for the Messiah mentioned within, so that the true date of the Messiah's arrival would not be known.[28] However, Schwab later withdrew this suggestion for numerous reasons.[23]: 281-285  [24]: 66–67 [25]: 67–68, 93 
  • An alternative solution suggests that the sages were concerned with the acceptance of the Mishnah. There existed a rabbinical tradition that the year 4000 marked the close of the "era of Torah". The authors of the Ḥakirah article propose that the sages therefore arranged the chronology so that the redaction of the Mishnah should coincide with that date and thus have a better chance of acceptance.[25]: 67–115 

Critiques of academic datingEdit

Attempts have been made to reinterpret the historical evidence to agree with the rabbinic tradition. The reinterpretation of the Greek, Babylonian and Persian sources that is required to support the traditional dating has been achieved only in parts and has not yet been achieved in its entirety. Similar problems face other attempts to revise dating (such as those of Peter James and David Rohl) and mainstream scholarship rejects such approaches. Where and how the Gregorian or Julian calendric differential gets factored in, remains another argument entirely.[citation needed]

The Babylonian Chronicles are known to be lacking in certain regnal years ascribed to some kings, besides disagreeing in other places with the ancient Egyptian records outlining the regnal years of eight successive Persian kings, preserved in the Third Book of Manetho.[29][original research?]



  1. ^ Rashi on Babylonian Talmud, Avodah Zara 9a; Seder hadoroth year 3338 Anno Mundi
  2. ^ D. J. Wiseman, Chronicles of Chaldean Kings in the British Museum (London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1956) 73.
  3. ^ Edwin Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, (1st ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1951; 2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965; 3rd ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Kregel, 1983). ISBN 0-8254-3825-X, 9780825438257, 217.
  4. ^ Kenneth Strand, "Thiele's Biblical Chronology As a Corrective for Extrabiblical Dates," Andrews University Seminary Studies 34 (1996) 310, 317.
  5. ^ 2 Chronicles 36:6–10
  6. ^ 2 Chronicles 36:11
  7. ^ Jeremiah 52:6
  8. ^ a b Edwin Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, (1st ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1951; 2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965; 3rd ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Kregel, 1983). ISBN 0-8254-3825-X, 9780825438257.
  9. ^ Leslie McFall, "A Translation Guide to the Chronological Data in Kings and Chronicles," Bibliotheca Sacra 148 (1991) 45.
  10. ^ Seder Olam Rabbah chapter 30; Tosefta Zevahim 13:6; Jerusalem Talmud Megillah 18a; Babylonian Talmud Megillah 11b-12a, Arakhin 12b
  11. ^ a b Hadad, David (2005). Sefer Maʻaśe avot (in Hebrew) (4 ed.). Beer Sheba: Kodesh Books. p. 364. OCLC 74311775. (with endorsements by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Rabbi Shlomo Amar, and Rabbi Yona Metzger)
  12. ^ Sar-Shalom, Rahamim (1984). She'harim La'Luah Ha'ivry (Gates to the Hebrew Calendar) (in Hebrew). Tel-Aviv. p. 161 (Comparative chronological dates). OCLC 854906532.
  13. ^ Maimonides (1974). Sefer Mishneh Torah - HaYad Ha-Chazakah (Maimonides' Code of Jewish Law) (in Hebrew). 4. Jerusalem: Pe'er HaTorah. pp. 184–185 [92b–93a] (Hil. Shmitta ve-yovel 10:2–4). OCLC 122758200. According to this calculation, this year which is one-thousand, one-hundred and seven years following the destruction, which year in the Seleucid era counting is [today] the 1,487th year (corresponding with Tishri 1175–Elul 1176 CE), being the year 4,936 anno mundi, it is a Seventh Year [of the seven-year cycle], and it is the 21st year of the Jubilee" (END QUOTE). = the destruction occurring in the lunar month of Av, two months preceding the New Year of 3,829 anno mundi.
  14. ^ Maimonides (1989). Jehoshua Blau (ed.). R. Moses b. Maimon Responsa (in Hebrew). 2. Jerusalem: Meḳitse nirdamim / Rubin Mass Ltd. pp. 666-668 (responsum #389). OCLC 78411726.
  15. ^ Avodah Zarah 8b–9a
  16. ^ Chapter 30
  17. ^ In his commentary on the Talmudic passage (Avodah Zarah 10a)
  18. ^ Feeney, D. (2007). Caesar's Calendar: Ancient Time and the Beginnings of History. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 139. ISBN 9780520251199.
  19. ^ Stern, Sacha (2001). Calendar and Community: A History of the Jewish Calendar Second Century BCE–Tenth Century CE. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 281 (note 33).
  20. ^ II Chronicles 36:21
  21. ^ See Megillat Antiochus#Chronology in Megillat Antiochus
  22. ^ In Me'or Einayim (c. 1573)
  23. ^ a b Schwab, Shimon (1991). "Comparative Jewish Chronology?". Selected speeches : a collection of addresses and essays on hashkafah, contemporary issues and Jewish history : including "Comparative Jewish chronology" (PDF). CIS Publishers. ISBN 9781560620587.
  24. ^ a b c First, Mitchell (1997). Jewish History in Conflict: A Study of the Major Discrepancy between Rabbinic and Conventional Chronology. Jason Aronson, Incorporated. ISBN 9781461629122.
  25. ^ a b c Epstein, Sheldon; Dickman, Bernard; Wilamowsky, Yonah (2006). "A Y2K Solution to the Chronology Problem" (PDF). Hakirah. 3.
  26. ^ In Guide to the perplexed of our times (Hebrew, 1851)
  27. ^ Moshe Lerman (2005-05-08). "Why Do We Live in the Year 5765?". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 2009-02-17.
  28. ^ Simon Schwab (1962). "Comparative Jewish Chronology". Ateret Tsevi: Jubilee volume presented in honor of the eightieth birthday of Rabbi Dr. Joseph Breuer (PDF). New York: Feldheim. pp. 177–197.
  29. ^ The Ancient Fragments, ed. I. P. Cory, Esq., p. 65, London 1828. Manetho was the high priest and scribe of Egypt who wrote down his history for Ptolemy Philadelphus.


  • Dawn of the Gods: The untold timeline of Genesis, by Marco Lupi Speranza (self published, 2018) – reconstruction in accordance with Sumerian history.
  • Jewish History in Conflict: A Study of the Major Discrepancy between Rabbinic and Conventional Chronology, by Mitchell First (Jason Aronson, 1997)
  • Talmudic and Rabbinic Chronology, by Edgar Frank (New York: Feldheim 1956)
  • Chronology of the Ancient World, by E.J. Bickerman (Cornell University Press, 1968, 1982)
  • The Crime of Claudius Ptolemy. Robert R. Newton (The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London, 1977)
  • Daniel 9 in You Take Jesus and I'll Take God by S. Levine, revised edition, Hamoroh Press, Los Angeles, 1980 – explains the Jewish understanding of Daniel 9:24–27
  • The Romance of Biblical Chronology, by Martin Anstey (London: Marshall Brothers, 1913) – interprets Daniel as prophesying the crucifixion of Jesus, so the Temple as having been destroyed in 502 BCE
  • R' Shimon Schwab in "Comparative Jewish Chronology in Jubilee Volume for Rav Yosef Breuer" pp. 177–197.
  • David Zvi Hoffmann "Ha'mishna Rishona" (Heb.)
  • Fixing the History Books, Dr. Chaim S. Heifetz's Revision of Persian History, by Brad Aaronson – Jewish scholarly critique of secular dating
  • Fixing the Mind by Alexander Eterman – a rebuttal of Heifetz's critique.
  • Secular Chronology by Walter R. Dolen – Christian scholarly critique of secular dating
  • Significant Events In Jewish And World History – timeline based on traditional Jewish sources