Are Science and Secular History compatible with Faith?

Synchronizing History

It's interesting how knowledgable people in various fields size one another up. I recently visited the bookstore of a university. Having read one of several books written by the resident Egyptologist, I was curious to scan the required reading of his courses. After a few minutes, a graduate student entered and was greeted as the protege of the resident Egyptologist. We engaged in conversation and it didn't take long to realize our views on the chronology of Egypt (and the ancient world) were centuries apart.

How is it possible after all the years of archaeological discovery and scholarship that there can be so much disagreement on the chronology of the ancient world?

The answer became apparent during our discussion. The difference was in the way the problem was approached.

The approach of the student, following the rules of dating established by the scholarly community, adhered to a methodology of fitting ancient chronologies into the Sothic cycle (heliacal rising of Sirus), a 1450-year solar cycle, by scholarly interpretation. Within the 1450 year cycle, the scholar uses sophisticated methods to measure the passage of the various eras (Paleolithic, Neolithic, Stone, Bronze, Iron, etc.) primarily by dating artifacts found in excavation sites (food items, tools, materials, pottery, weapons, etc.). (This is a little simplistic but touches on the main points.) One can see how much study would be required to qualify as a participant in this endeavor.

Historians, using this approach, have been forced to reduce chronological time tables a number of times, some 3,000 years to date.

The Biblical approach is quite different. It is also a simple approach. If we start with an accepted date [to secular historians and Biblical chronology] that has an historic underpinning, then we can pivot backward and forward in time from that date.

Is there is a date where Biblical chronology and secular history converge? Yes, the date is 853 B.C..

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Synchronizing History

853 B.C. - King Ahab of Israel battles King Shalmaneser III of Assyria at Karkar. (The date is confirmed in Unwrapping the Pharaohs, p. 206.)

825 B.C. - Jehu, king of Israel brings tribute to Shalmanser III (and is depicted on "The Black Obelisk of Shalmanser III). (Using our chronological guide in Unwrapping the Pharaohs, p. 208, the date of 824 B.C. is provided.)

"From the middle of the ninth century onwards it is no longer necessary for us to rely on Egypt to date biblical events. Indeed Israelite chronology is verifiable through other, primarily Mesopotamian, sources. For it is in 853 B.C. that Shalmaneser III of Assyria records the participation of King Ahab of Israel in the Battle of Karkar. Later, in circa 825 B.C., the same Assyrian ruler depicts the receipt of tribute from Jehu, king of Israel, on his 'Black Obelisk'. On the Moabite Stone (c. 840 B.C.) we have independent confirmation of the wars between the Transjordanian kingdom of Moab and the 'House of Omri' of Israel (2 Kings 3:4-27)."

(David Rohl, A Test of Time, Vol. 1, (Century Ltd, London, 1995) p. 32.)

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The Black Obelisk of Shalmanser III

"The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III was discovered by the late Henry Layard in 1845. The 7 foot black limestone monument was found in the ruins of the palace of Shalmaneser III at ancient Calah, near Nineveh. It contains many panels displaying the Assyrian kings exploits. The Black Obelisk is one of the most important discoveries in Biblical Archaeology because one of the panels depicts the Hebrew king Jehu, or possibly one of his servants bringing gifts to Shalmaneser and kneeling at his feet. The inscription above it reads:

"The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri, silver, gold, bowls of gold, chalices of gold, cups of gold, vases of gold, lead, a sceptre for the king, and spear-shafts, I have received."

(http://www.ancientreplicas.com/black-obelisk-shalmaneser.html)

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This, then becomes the first date in the secular record that can be synchronized with Biblical chronology. In 853 B.C., King Ahab of Israel is defeated by the Assyrian King Shalmaneser III. From this date, using Biblical chronology, it is possible to calculate earlier events in Egyptian history.

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Now that there is an agreed upon date in the secular record that is confirmed by Biblical chronology, let's look at how that date lines up with older secular chronologies.

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The Reign of Ramses II

Secular historians still hold to Ramses II as being the Pharaoh of the Exodus. But how can this be defended in light of the agreed upon date of 853 B.C. for the battle between Ahab, King of Israel and Shalmanser III at Karkar? The Exodus occurred 592 years before the battle between these two kings. At the time of this battle, Amenhotep III (Akhnaton) is king of Egypt. It would be another 100 years before Ramses II would become Ramses the Great, Pharaoh of Egypt. The chronological gap is therefore 692 years. (This chronology is demonstrated in "The Amarna Letters" section of this site.

Sir Alan Gardiner, one of the preeminent Egyptologists provides the "conjectural dates B.C." for Ramses II's reign as 1290-1224 B.C. (Egypt of the Pharaohs, p. 445). How can this be? In itself, this is a discrepancy of 399-455 years. But if we look back to the date of the Exodus, the discrepancy of time grows much, much wider. And this, by one of the most recognized preeminent Egyptologists.

But while these errant dates can be forgiven for Sir Alan Gardiner whose monumental work "Egypt of the Pharaohs" was copywrited in 1961, it is inexcusable for current Egyptologists in light of the evidence of our time.

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The follow is an excellent overview on the dating methods used by secular archaeologists and historians.

"As regards my methods for assigning dates to battles and the reigns of kings mentioned in the Bible, the earliest human event that can be tied to a specific year comes from the Egyptian priest Manetho, who about 300 B.C. wrote a history of Egypt in Greek. He divided the rulers of the Nile into more than a dozen family lineages, or "dynasties," a system that all subsequent historians have borrowed. Manetho identified the third king of the Twelfth Dynasty as Sesostris III and, having access to historic records that did not survive the subsequent burning of the library at Alexandria, noted that in the seventh year of Sesostris III's reign, the star Sirius rose at sunrise during the Nile's flooding season. Astronomers can track this event back through time as easily as they can track eclipses. The rising of Sirius described by Manetho occurs once every 1,460 years, and the only such rising close to the Twelfth Dynasty happened in 1872 B.C. -- which is now taken to be the seventh year of the reign of Sesostris III. The next specific date, obtained from an analysis of volcanic ash effects from the explosion of Thera in the Aegean, is Autumn 1628 B.C., during the reign of Thutmosis III (whose contemporaries vividly recorded natural phenomena and social upheavals associated with this event). Traditionally, dates have been set around shifting pottery styles, each new style being given an arbitrary life span of about fifty years. Dates given in this book are based upon a resetting of the pottery clock around the 1872 B.C. and 1628 B.C. time lines and will therefore differ somewhat from those given in earlier works. Thutmosis III, for example, appears to have reigned about 120 to 150 years earlier than was calculated from changing pottery styles alone." 

(Charles Pellegrino, Return to Sodom and Gomorrah, (Avon Books, New York, 1994, p. xiv)

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Assyrian History

Another approach to the problem [of the revision of ancient chronologies] comes from Assyrian history. Historians have credited Sheshonk I with the sacking of Solomon's Temple. Yet, there is evidence that the 22nd Dynasty Kings of Egypt were of Assyrian origin. The following is quoted from The Exodus Problem (Donovan Courville).

"The historian Rawlinson (George Rawlinson, Ancient Monarchies, 4th ed., 1897) early pointed out that the name Sheshonk, and the names of his successors (Ororkon and Takeloth), are not Egyptian names at all, but are rather of Assyrian origin. Brugsch refers us to inscriptions found on Egyptian soil which tell us clearly that an Assyrian monarch, known to the author of the inscription as Nimrod, marched his armies into Egypt, evidently to conquer the country, and met unexpected death on foreign soil. He was buried in Egypt, and his son Sheshonk became the first ruler of the XXIInd Dynasty of Egypt. Assyrian inscriptions from the time of Assurbanipal (668-626 B.C.), some 300 years after the time of Solomon, tell of a conquest of Egypt and of the setting up of local Assyrian rulers in the principal cities of Egypt. In the list of these local dynasts are to be found the names of Sheshonk, Pedubast, Ternekht, Auput, and others of Assyrian origin. It should be clear that Sheshonk and his dynasty are of Assyrian origin and that this dynasty does not belong to the era of Rehoboam, but rather to an era more than two centuries later, when the Assyrians were in actual control of Egypt.

The inscription of Sheshonk I thus refers to the late period of the divided monarchy of Israel after the fall of the northern kingdom to Assyria, and to the period when the kingdom of Judah is known to have been harassed by the Assyrians. In view of the nature of the inscription of Sheshonk I, the verity of the list as representing conquered cities (listed on the Temple at Karnak) may properly be questioned, though Assyria at this later time did have some degree of control over Palestine from the mid-8th century, which control extended far to the north of Palestine, thus allowing the interpretation that the list represented the boundary of such control.

Rawlinson referred to the anachronism that results from regarding Sheshonk and his dynasty as contemporary with the era of Rehoboam. He wrote:

"It is very remarkable that exactly in this interval of darkness, when Assyria would seem, from the failure both of buildings and records, to have been especially and exceptionally weak, occurs the first appearance of her having extended her influence beyond Syria, into the great and ancient monarchy of Egypt". (George Rawlinson (Ancient Monarchies, 4th ed., 1897.)

We are thus no less than logical and reasonable in concluding that the proposed synchronism between Sheshonk I and Shishak of Scripture rests on a most insecure foundation and, save for the demands of the conventional structure, it is not able to stand on its own feet. So sure have historians been about the general correctness of this chronological structure, in spite of this and other major weaknesses, that no serious thought has been given to the probability that Sheshonk and his dynasty belong to the period when Assyrian rulers of this name are known to have been in positions of authority in Egypt."

(Donovan Courville, The Exodus Problem, Vol. 1, (Challenge Books, Loma Linda, 1971)
pp. 261-263)

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Thus, by properly moving ancient Egyptian chronology to alignment with Assyrian history and the known Biblical record, we are able to follow another path to the synchronization of the histories of the ancient world.

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Biblical chronology is once again being confirmed by the archaeological record. The Bible, in spite of being maligned over the years by misinformed scholarship, demonstrates that it can be trusted.

© 2012 Gregory Drake