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Published by Rudolph C. Klein

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Published by: Rudolph C. Klein on Sep 24, 2013
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INSIGHT: The Journal of the Prophecy Society of Atlanta Volume 3, Number 1
July, 2013
© 2012 Dan Bruce All Rights Reserved. ~ www.prophecysociety.org Page 1
How Useful is Seder Olam for Doing Research?
 by Dan BruceSeder Olam, the name generally used in biblical chronological circles to denote a work also known as the Seder Olam Rabbah (
, “The Long Order of the World”), is a book 
of Jewish rabbinical chronology explaining biblical events from the Creation down to the end of the Achaemenid Persian Period and the advent of Alexander the Great in 331
, with a brief mention of the later bar Kochba revolt in 132-135
. It was compiled from traditional Hebrewrecords first edited into a single volume by the famous early Talmudist, Rabbi Yose ben Halafta,around 160
. It has 30 chapters, formed into three thematic “gates,” each
encompassing tenchapters. The purpose of the work appears to be calendrical, with specific chronological detailsgiven for various biblical events, and with comments that seek to explain the many chronologicaldifficulties found throughout the Hebrew biblical text (Masoretic Text).In my books, I have used selected chronologies from the Seder Olam, mainly as a way of cross-checking the biblical chronology produced by my own research. For example, the Seder Olam says that there were 155 years from the year that Solomon finished building and dedicatingthe Temple until the year that Joash of Judah renovated the Temple in his 23rd regnal year, andthat there were 218 years from the renovation by Joash until the renovation by Josiah of Judah inhis 18th regnal year, which is known to have begun in 622
. Using this information, one cancompute that the 23rd regnal year of Joash was the year 840
+ 218 years), and thatSolomon completed and dedicated the Temple in 995
+ 155 years). This cross-references perfectly with what I calculated from the chronology for the kings of Israel and Judahand the construction of the Temple given in biblical text, using the chronology provided inDaniel, chapter 4, to define the starting date for the period of the divided monarchies. Thus, theSeder Olam can be used as a cross-check on occasion, although it can never be used as the primary source in biblical interpretation. That role is reserved for the biblical text itself.In working out the chronology of the kings of Israel and Judah for my boo
Sacred Chronology of the Hebrew Kings
(complete text available online at no charge, click here), I have found that the Seder Olam is fairly accurate with regards to its chronological relationships, suchas the example about the Temple given in the paragrah above, but not necessarily in its exactdates. For the dates after the Babylonian Exile, the chronology in the Seder Olam seems to have been subject to rather serious error, either accidental due to the turmoil of the times, or perhapseven intentional later on to counter Christian exegesis relating to Jesus. For instance, the PersianPeriod is shortened to only thirty-four years in duration (fifty-two in French manuscripts), probably to accommodate an erroneous post-Second Temple rabbinical interpretation derivedfrom Daniel, chapter 9, that interprets that passage to say that the time between the destruction of the First Temple and the Second Temple had to be 490 years. Historians almost universally agreethat the First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586
, but the Seder Olam produces a chronology for the destruction that has it occur in the year 423
, a 165-year difference from actual history, in this way allowing it conform to the incorrect 490-year rabbinic
INSIGHT: The Journal of the Prophecy Society of Atlanta Volume 3, Number 1
July, 2013
© 2012 Dan Bruce All Rights Reserved. ~ www.prophecysociety.org Page 2
 interpretation about the time span between the two Temple destructions. The duration of thePersian Period is arbitrarily shortened in the Seder Olam to accommodate the rabbinicalchronology.
Wikipedia says this: “The traditional dates of events in Jewish history are often expressed
in relation to the Gregorian calendar. For example, the traditional Jewish date for the destructionof the First Temple (3338
= Gregorian 423
) differs from the modern scientific date,which is usually expressed using the Gregorian calendar as 586
. Implicit in this practice isthe view that if all the differences in structure between the Hebrew and Gregorian calendars aretaken into consideration, the two dates can be derived from each other. This is not the case. If thetraditional dates of events before the Second Temple era are assumed to be using the standardHebrew calendar, they refer to different objective years than those of the secular dates. The
discrepancy is some 165 years.”
 My use of the Seder Olam for research purposes is confined mainly to cross-checking thevery accurate biblical chronology produced from the Bible, especially during the period of thedivided monarchies, and, I emphasize again, it is never used as the primary source to supplantthe biblical text. However, the Seder Olam can be a useful work for cross-checking and verifyingthe chronological details of events and time periods that occurred before the Exile, but only after the overall chronology has been derived from the biblical text. Note: If you are a serious student of Bible chronology, you can secure a copy of anEnglish edition, as follows:
Seder Olam: The Rabbinic View of Biblical Chronology
 by HeinrichW. Guggenheimer (ISBN

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