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Talk:Edwin Thiele

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Proposal to expand Thiele's biography and explain his chonology

From Latent 19:45, 12 September 2008 (UTC)

I intend to add to Thiele's biography and explain the principles of his chronology. I think this is necessary if users are to understand properly the issues involved in the Biblical chronology dispute article.

Although I will try to simplify the principles that Thiele found were operative in the Scriptural texts dealing with the chronology of the kingdom period, the issues are complicated enough that this explanation should not be made too short. For example, a clear statement needs to be made about whether Thiele's use of coregencies was in keeping with ancient Near Eastern practice and with the Scriptural texts themselves. I will summarize what Thiele explained about these issues in his Mysterious Numbers, while trying to keep the explanation succint but adequate enough to clearly explain the relevant issues.

One thing that I believe necessary to change is the statement in the present text that "Thiele believed that the king lists in I and II Kings were inconsistent with one another, and either in error or simply misinterpreted in light of the published history of teh Assyrians." This is contradicted by what Thiele himself has explained in his work (Mysterious Numbers 3rd edition, pp. 16,17), and which was further brought out in an article devoted to just this question by his colleague Kenneth Strand, "Thiele's Biblical Chronology As a Corrective for Extrabiblical Dates," AUSS 34 (1996) pp. 295-317. Notice that the title itself of this last-cited work contradicts the idea that Thiele was giving priority to secular dates over the Scripture. Furthermore, historically, Thiele's Biblical chronology has been used to correct what later proved to be erroneous secular dates; this has been brought out in some recent publications, and needs to be made known so that misconceptions will not continue in this matter.

From my knowledge of the relevant scholarly literature, I cannot find any basis for the statement that "Most evangelical scholars have accepted his work without question."

I would welcome proposed comments on these changes, hoping that any generalized statements declaring what Thiele's motives were will be substantiated by appropriate citations from reputable sources.

Latent 19:45, 12 September 2008 (UTC)

Full disclosure demands that I state, for the record, that I am an Ussherite and not a Thieleite as regards the chronology of the Divided Kingdoms Northern and Southern. That said, I didn't have access to the original texts of Thiele's papers. Much of what I understand of Thiele and his conclusions I have from Larry Pierce's article.
Any expansion on Thiele's argument would be more than welcome in this article.
I gather you have seen the Biblical chronology dispute article. Have you seen the synoptic table that I prepared? Do you find anything in the dates that I have down for Thiele's start and end dates for the Hebrew Kings that look off in any way?
I call your attention to one particular biography that, more than any other single one, makes me an inveterate Ussherite. Thiele has King Uzziah listed as accepting a viceregal appointment in a year that seems to have fallen eight years before he was born.
With regard to my statement, which you quoted, that Thiele seemed to be trying to reconcile the Hebrew King lists with the Assyrian: Pierce alleged that Thiele made much of the listing of an "A-ha-a-bu Si-ri-la-a-a" who was contemporary to Shalmaneser III. Pierce alleges that Thiele must have identified this "A-ha-a-bu Si-ri-la-a-a" with King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom, and on that account sought to move the dates of King Ahab's reign some forty-five years more recent than a strict consecutive count of the reigns from Ahab forward would have allowed.
As to the other statement with which you seem to take issue—that "most Biblical scholars accepted the Thiele chronology without question until along came Pierce to dispute him"—my primary basis is simply looking around and seeing Thiele's numbers being far more prominent than those of Ussher, or those of Floyd Nolan Jones, for that matter.
In any event: This article is indeed the right place to expand upon Thiele's arguments. Now if you want to argue that Thiele was correct in his dates, I look forward to reading that argument on Talk:Biblical chronology dispute.
Finally: what is, or ought to be, most at issue in any discussion of Thiele is not primarily his motivation but simply his starting point. That is, what fundamental premise did he start out with, to draw up the king lists as he did? I'm still trying to make that out. In the further interest of full disclosure, my own pastor is a Thieleite himself; he bases his date of the Exodus of Israel (1446 BC) on Thiele's chronology, while rejecting out-of-hand the "late date" arguments by secular Egyptologists.
This could be the start of a highly productive project. I've been waiting for years for someone to address the issues that I raised nearly two years ago.--TemlakosTalk 20:22, 12 September 2008 (UTC)

Initial response to Temlako's questions

Thanks, Temlakos, those were good questions. It's good you've expressed a willingness to learn, and I hope I can be equally teachable. You asked if there were any errors in your synoptic table that had Thiele's dates. I'll respond to that question first by showing Thiele's dates below, as taken from the third edition of Mysterious Numbers. I'll get this off now, and then shortly I intend to respond to your other inquiries.

Tables for chronology of Thiele and McFall's new figures

Thiele's table of Israelite kings

or rivalry
sole reign
Jeroboam I 931/30 910/09 22 (21)
Nadab 910/09 909/08 2 (1)
Baasha 909/08 886/85 24 (23)
Elah 886/86 885/84 2 (1)
Zimri 885/84 885/84 7 days
Tibni 885/84 880 not given
Omri 885/84 880 874/73 12 (11)
Ahab 874/73 853 22 (21)
Ahaziah 853 852 2 (1)
Joram 852 841 12 (11)
Jehu 841 814/13 28 (27)
Jehoahaz 814/13 798 17 (16)
Jehoash 798 782/81 16
Jeroboam II 793/92 782/81 753 41 (40)
Zechariah 753 752 6 mo.
Shallum 752 752 1 mo.
Menahem 752 742/41 10
Pekahiah 742/41 740/39 2
Pekah 752 740/39 732/31 20
Hoshea 732/31 723/22 9

A number followed by another number in parentheses (always one less) means that the first number is the number given in the Bible, but non-accession reckoning was being used by the court recorders so that for computation purposes the second number must be employed.

For the last 4 kings, Israel switched to accession reckoning. This table for the northern kingdom has not needed any change since Thiele first published it in 1944. (A switch of Jehu's accession from the first half of the (Nisan) year to the second half of the year in the third edition of Mysterious Numbers was not warranted.) Thiele's chronology of the northern kingdom has been used to correct dates in Assyrian history. It is derived from the Bible, not Assyrian history, although in order to give BC dates the Biblical chronology must necessarily be aligned with some one fixed point in either Assyrian or Babylonian history.

Thiele's table of Judean kings

<began>sole reign
Solomon 971 931/30 40
Rehoboam 931/30 913 17
Abijam 913 911/10 3
Asa 911/10 870/69 41
Jehoshaphat 872/71 870/69 848 25 (24)
Jehoram 853 848 841 8 (7)
Ahaziah 841 841 1 (0)
Athaliah 841 835 7 (6)
Joash 835 796 40 (39)
Amaziah 796 767 29
Uzziah 792 767 740/39 52
Jotham 750 740/39 732/31 16 (15)
Ahaz 735 732/31 716/15 16
Hezekiah 716/15 687/86 29
Manasseh 697/96 687/86 643/42 55 (54)
Amon 643/42 641/40 2
Josiah 641/40 609 31
Jehoahaz 609 609 3 mo.
Jehoiakim 609 598 11
Jehoiachin 598 597 3 mo
Zedekiah 598 597 11

Judah adopted Israel's non-accession reckoning during the rapprochement with Israel in the middle of the 9th century BC, hence the non-accession reign lengths for Jehoram through Joash. Coregencies are generally assumed to be by non-accession reckoning, although this can strictly shown to be the case for only two of the coregencies.

There are two problems that cannot be reconciled with the Scripture in this table, which was Thiele's last expression of his chronology. The first, and best known, is his omission of the Ahaz/Hezekiah coregency that started in 729/28. The other is that when looking closely at his dates for Ahaziah and Athaliah, the starting date for Athaliah is before the ending date for Ahaziah, whom she succeeded when Ahaziah was killed by Jehu. Both mistakes have been corrected by others who built on Thiele's work. An example of the improved Thiele chronology may be seen in the tables of Leslie McFall. His new chronological tables are listed at

McFall modified his chronology just last month (August 2008) by moving the reigns of Solomon through Jehoshaphat one year earlier than what McFall had published previously. This is shown in the table in the link.

McFall's modifications to Thiele's chronology are to be preferred. My opinion is that it is basically correct, although I differ in some details, the most important being that I believe that 587 BC, rather than 586, is the date for the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and the end of the Judean kingdom.

Well, my friend, the Thiele/McFall system still has one problem, and I don't think either man ever surmounted it. Here it is: Uzziah ascended to full rulership in Judah when he was sixteen years old. Hence that last table would appear to have him becoming co-regent, or viceroy, eight years before he was born.
I agree with you that Nebuchadnezzar's taking of Jerusalem must have happened earlier than is usually reckoned. My date is 588 BC. Oddly enough, Floyd Nolen Jones still sticks with 586 BC. I still have to sort through his tables, which are in PDF format on a supplied CD, to figure that one out.
Maybe the biggest point at which Ussher and Thiele differed is whether or not the Northern Kingdom ever had any interregna. Thiele says no; Ussher says yes. I ask you: Why not?
I'll still want to have another look at those tables, and compare them to the table I created. In the meantime, I recommend that you publish the tables you have shown on this page, either in the biographical article on Edwin Thiele, or in a new article that you can create yourself. Call it "Thiele chronology" if you like, and I'll link to it from Biblical chronology dispute. Regardless of which chronology we want to accept as "real," everybody ought to know the details of both, and where they derive.--TemlakosTalk 17:17, 13 September 2008 (UTC)

Responses to Temlakos's other questions from a basic Thiele/McFall standpoint

Temlakos: Thiele has King Uzziah listed as accepting a viceregal appointment in a year that seems to have fallen eight years before he was born.

I assume you're referring to 2 Kgs 15:2, which says that Azariah (Uzziah) was 16 years old when he became king. In Biblical Hebrew, there is no word for coregent. The same word is used for "king" and "coregent." The verbal form of the word may be translated "became king" or "became coregent." 2 Chron 23:1 says, "When David was old and full of years, he made his son Solomon king over Israel." Obviously the verb here could be translated "made Solomon coregent." The same root form is used in 2 Kgs 15:2. Uzziah was 16 years old when he became coregent over Judah.

Leslie McFall is an expert on Hebrew verbal forms. He wrote his PhD thesis on this and published a book that analyzes the use of Hebrew verbs, with particular attention to what is called, in English grammar, the tense aspects. A major purpose of his 1991 article in Bibliotheca Sacra was to address all these questions of when the verb should be translated as"became king" or "became coregent."

On p. 218 (Appendix C) of Mysterious Numbers, 3rd edition, Thiele shows Uzziah beginning his coregency at age 16.

Temlakos: Pierce alleges that Thiele must have identified this "A-ha-a-bu Si-ri-la-a-a" with King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom, and on that account sought to move the dates of King Ahab's reign some forty-five years more recent than a strict consecutive count of the reigns from Ahab forward would have allowed.

This identification is accepted by the Assyriologists. Chronologically, it fits in with the other contacts between Assyria and Israel, as calculated from the Thiele/McFall chronology. As I said, this chronology was derived from the Bible, not from Assyrian texts. Yes, I understand that it does not fit with the Ussherian chronology.

Thiele did not "move the dates of King Ahab's reign some forty-five years more recent . . . " This implies that the starting place of all reckoning should be the Ussherian chronology. Thiele did not start with Ussherian chronology. He started with the Biblical texts. After constructing a chronology from the Biblical texts that was relative only (i.e. internally consistent, with no BC dates chosen yet) he then looked for a place to attach his relative chronology to a fixed BC date so that BC dates before and after that fixed date could be assigned. This is stated explicitly in Thiele's writings, although apparently some people are not aware of it. That's why I want to get to an update of the Thiele page, so the misunderstanding can be cleared up.

Temlakos: That is, what fundamental premise did he (Thiele) start out with, to draw up the king lists as he did? I'm still trying to make that out.

That's what I plan to explain when I update the Thiele page.

Temlakos: Maybe the biggest point at which Ussher and Thiele differed is whether or not the Northern Kingdom ever had any interregna. Thiele says no; Ussher says yes. I ask you: Why not?

Ussher and Martin Anstey introduced interregna because they did not understand the principle of coregencies. When coregencies are denied, a reign length that was measured from the coregency will have an excess of just the length of the coregency when that figure is wrongly taken as the length of the sole reign. That is why the Ussher and Anstey chronologies are longer than any chronology that allows the possibility of coregencies, and why they had to introduce the whole concept of interregna.

Why rule out coregencies, when it is clear from the records of the pharaohs that they were used in Egypt, and it is clear from the Biblical texts that they were used in the Hebrew kingdoms?

Maybe I will put out the tables for Thiele and McFall, and maybe even the tables I myself prefer. I'm glad people here may be willing to consider them.

I will show in my update to the Thiele page that coregencies were used in the time of the divided kingdom. This will be from Biblical texts. Where is there a Biblical text that shows that there were interregna, beyond the fact that they must be introduced by any chronological system that, a priori, excludes coregencies?

Latent 18:02, 13 September 2008 (UTC)

To User:Latent

I'll have to write a more detailed response later on—after I have had time to prepare a spreadsheet giving some math for the Southern Kingdom. There's one other sticking point thus far, and that is how old Jehoahaz I (Ahaz) was when his son and successor Hezekiah was born. As soon as I can, I'll build a spreadsheet and try to illustrate the problem—unless you can show in the interim that there is no problem.--TemlakosTalk 19:32, 13 September 2008 (UTC)

Response regarding age of Ahaz when Hezekiah was born

From Latent 20:20, 13 September 2008 (UTC)

BC years are used here for approximation (i.e. years could be one year off either way)

Uzziah was 16 when he became coregent in 791, so he was born in 807.

His son Jotham was 25 when he became coregent in 750, so he was born in 775, when his father was 32.

Jotham's son Ahaz was 20 when he became coregent in 735. He was born in 755, when his father was 20.

Ahaz's son Hezekiah was 25 when he became sole ruler in 716, so he was born in 741 when his father was 14. This is an early date for modern society, but it was by no means too early in the ancient Near East, especially for a royal family.

Latent 20:20, 13 September 2008 (UTC)

All right, I'll run the reigns on a spreadsheet and verify that.
Ussher's traditional numbers have Ahaz even younger when he sired Hezekiah—ten years old. I at first had figured that this was a really wicked little boy, and that the girl involved had gone back to her daddy's house with ashes on her head, or something. Examples exist even today of a little boy siring a child when not much older than ten, but as an administrator, I don't care to name names in that sort of case—not when it's effectively in front of a user base of high-school students.
I think I'm ready to begin that prime test of self-consistency, i.e. building a spreadsheet and checking out the numbers. I seem to recall that Pierce challenged Thiele and McFall on two other points:
  1. That the verses in II Kings are suddenly assumed not to be in chronological order when, for example, Uzziah becomes viceroy.
  2. That Pekah and Menahem are assumed to "rule," each in a different part of the Northern Kingdom, beginning in the same year—the year that the usurper Shallum gets the ax.
First we test this system for self-consistency, and then we compare the Ussher and Thiele systems for Scriptural authority and see which one "wins." Here's a question that occurs to me now: How do we know that King Ahab fought in the Battle of Qarqar, other than Shalmaneser III's word on that?
I would ask my pastor to participate, but he's practically overextended right now, trying to get his ThD by the correspondence method. But I will literally be camping out with him inside of two weeks. I'd like to assemble a nice, clear, and concise "report" so that I can share this with him.
I also urge you to consider discussing the details of Thiele's chronology in an article separate and apart from his biography. We've got lots of biographies here on CreationWiki, and we don't usually discuss too many dissertation defenses and so on in the same articles. You can read our biographies on Jonathan Sarfati and Galileo Galilei for two examples of a contemporary and an historical scientist.--TemlakosTalk 22:49, 13 September 2008 (UTC)

Temlakos, it's a delight to work with you

It really is. I agree completely with your idea that we need to test the numbers to see if there is anything in Scripture that contradicts them. In the past, I have done this by preparing tables of all the synchronisms between kingdoms, and seeing if any of them contradict the starting years of a given chronology. If the Scripture is inerrant and authentic, as I hold it is, then we can have confidence that anything that doesn't pass a test like this can't be the correct Scriptural chronology and we need to keep looking.

It's especially refreshing to have someone offer constructive ideas after I came from trying to edit a page on Wikipedia that was heavily biased against a Christian scholar. Those people are frightened by some things, such as that a Christian, conservative, creationist scholar might be right after all.

I'll try to get some things available for you. There are definite answers to your queries above about Pekah and the chronological order. I think one of the things that would help you most is a table of all the synchronisms between kingdoms.

Regarding Pekah: there has been some recent scholarship that Thiele did not know about and which supports his contention that Pekah was a rival to Menahem and Pekahiah, and I'll tell you about that later. Also, there are numerous instances where a strict chronological order is not followed in the Scripture; so many it would be difficult to count them.

Latent 01:03, 14 September 2008 (UTC)

Thank you for saying that.
You will not receive anything but scorn from the worthies at Wikipedia if you try ever to suggest that the events depicted in the Bible were real, or that historians ought to spare any effort to synchronize king lists of various superpowers of the Middle East with those of the Hebrew kings. I have reviewed their scholarship on the matter of the Hebrew kings, and I can sum it up in one word: wretched. Oh, and one other word: stub.
I am writing an essay, that I will post on the Essay namespace (with a link here), on my findings. I must warn you right now: I have found a lot of Scriptural inconsistencies that positively beg explanation. They deal primarily with the accessions of Uzziah, Hoshea, and Hezekiah, but also with some minor inconsistencies in the method used to synchronize some of the various kings. Watch for a link to that essay, and then you'll have another Talk page (actually, Essay talk) to weigh in on.--TemlakosTalk 01:27, 14 September 2008 (UTC)

New essay

I have completed my review of the Thiele system. To do this, I built a spreadsheet to check the math, and also reviewed every relevant verse in 1_Kings 12-22 and 2_Kings 1-18 .

Here is my work product:

Briefly, I conclude that the Thiele system has too many inconsistencies with Scripture, and inconsistencies of internal method, to stand.

That Essay, of course, has its own Talk page. I encourage anyone so inclined to create that page and talk there—although I will still watch this one.--TemlakosTalk 02:40, 14 September 2008 (UTC)