INSIGHT: The Journal of the Prophecy Society of Atlanta

Volume 3, Number 1 – July, 2013

How Useful is Seder Olam for Doing Research?
by Dan Bruce Seder Olam, the name generally used in biblical chronological circles to denote a work also known as the Seder Olam Rabbah (‫רבה עולם סדר‬, “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 BCE, with a brief mention of the later bar Kochba revolt in 132-135 CE. It was compiled from traditional Hebrew records first edited into a single volume by the famous early Talmudist, Rabbi Yose ben Halafta, around 160 CE. It has 30 chapters, formed into three thematic “gates,” each encompassing ten chapters. The purpose of the work appears to be calendrical, with specific chronological details given for various biblical events, and with comments that seek to explain the many chronological difficulties 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 dedicating the Temple until the year that Joash of Judah renovated the Temple in his 23rd regnal year, and that there were 218 years from the renovation by Joash until the renovation by Josiah of Judah in his 18th regnal year, which is known to have begun in 622 BCE. Using this information, one can compute that the 23rd regnal year of Joash was the year 840 BCE (622 BCE + 218 years), and that Solomon completed and dedicated the Temple in 995 BCE (840 BCE + 155 years). This crossreferences perfectly with what I calculated from the chronology for the kings of Israel and Judah and the construction of the Temple given in biblical text, using the chronology provided in Daniel, chapter 4, to define the starting date for the period of the divided monarchies. Thus, the Seder 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 book 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, such as the example about the Temple given in the paragrah above, but not necessarily in its exact dates. 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 perhaps even intentional later on to counter Christian exegesis relating to Jesus. For instance, the Persian Period is shortened to only thirty-four years in duration (fifty-two in French manuscripts), probably to accommodate an erroneous post-Second Temple rabbinical interpretation derived from 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 agree that the First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, but the Seder Olam produces a chronology for the destruction that has it occur in the year 423 BCE, a 165-year difference from actual history, in this way allowing it conform to the incorrect 490-year rabbinic

© 2012 Dan Bruce All Rights Reserved. ~ www.prophecysociety.org

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INSIGHT: The Journal of the Prophecy Society of Atlanta

Volume 3, Number 1 – July, 2013

interpretation about the time span between the two Temple destructions. The duration of the Persian Period is arbitrarily shortened in the Seder Olam to accommodate the rabbinical chronology. 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 destruction of the First Temple (3338 AM = Gregorian 423 BCE) differs from the modern scientific date, which is usually expressed using the Gregorian calendar as 586 BCE. Implicit in this practice is the view that if all the differences in structure between the Hebrew and Gregorian calendars are taken into consideration, the two dates can be derived from each other. This is not the case. If the traditional dates of events before the Second Temple era are assumed to be using the standard Hebrew 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 the very accurate biblical chronology produced from the Bible, especially during the period of the divided monarchies, and, I emphasize again, it is never used as the primary source to supplant the biblical text. However, the Seder Olam can be a useful work for cross-checking and verifying the 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 an English edition, as follows: Seder Olam: The Rabbinic View of Biblical Chronology by Heinrich W. Guggenheimer (ISBN 978-0765760210).

© 2012 Dan Bruce All Rights Reserved. ~ www.prophecysociety.org

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INSIGHT: The Journal of the Prophecy Society of Atlanta

Volume 3, Number 1 – July, 2013

About Us …
The Prophecy Society of Atlanta publishes books and papers about a widely-neglected topic, sacred chronology, and provides access to Bible-based interpretations of chrono-specific predictive prophecies that you may not have heard explained in your local church or synagogue. When you examine our publications, you will quickly discover that the chronologies and interpretations presented by the Society answer many of the questions left unanswered, or poorly answered, in the study Bibles and biblical commentaries popular today. Our research and its resulting scholarship are centered on the Bible, which we believe is the revealed word of the one true Living God, and it is sustained by the belief that the Bible can be understood by anyone who is genuinely seeking to understand it with an open mind and a seeking heart. We trust that you will find our Bible-based discussions thought-provoking and spiritually enriching. If there is anything you don't understand about our publications, ask us about it. We're here to help you as you seek to understand the mind of God. … read more about us!

To read more …
Daniel Unsealed
An exposition revealing what the seven chrono-specific predictive prophecies in the Book of Daniel say about the history of the Jews, Jerusalem, and the Anointed One of Israel. Paperback, 224 pages (6 x 9); ISBN 978-1489505415. (click here)

Sacred Chronology of the Hebrew Kings
A harmony of the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah, and how the chronologies and histories of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia synchronize with their reigns. Paperback, 160 pages (6 x 9); ISBN 978-1489509048. (click here)

Synchronized Chronology
Synchronized Chronology of the Ancient Kingdoms of Israel, Judah, Egypt, Assyria, Tyre, and Babylon from 1006 BCE to 560 BCE. Paperback, 36 pages (8½ x 11); ISBN 978-1489557773. (click here)

© 2012 Dan Bruce All Rights Reserved. ~ www.prophecysociety.org

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