The “Artaxerxes” Assumption

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” Those Jews who took Herod for the Messiah, and were thence called Herodians, seem to have grounded their opinion upon the seventy weeks of years, which they found between the Reign of Cyrus and that of Herod: but afterwards, in applying the Prophesy to Theudas, and Judas of Galilee, and at length to Barchochab, they seem to have shortened the Reign of the Kingdom of Persia.”   
Anyone care to guess who made the quote above? Would you believe that one of the most famous scientists of all time penned this in the early 1700’s?  It may come as a surprise to some that Sir Isaac Newton had a great interest in the Bible and Biblical prophecy. It was in his Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended, as quoted above, where he noticed the Jewish chronology was missing a couple of centuries. What’s fascinating is he traced the root of that missing chronology to an assumption made by early Jewish messianic expectants concerning the most important prophecy in the Bible.

It is worth considering the importance of that for a moment. Over two thousand years ago Jewish messianic believers made an assumption about the prophecy of 70 Weeks (found in the book of Daniel chapter 9) which led them to erase over two hundred years of history.  Ironically, Christian scholars today have made a similar mistake only instead of erasing two hundred years of chronology they have added seventy years. What is most amazing about these chronological errors is that they are both based in what could be called an “Artaxerxes Assumption.”

For over two millennia, the holy grail of messianic prophecies has been the prophecy of “70 Weeks” found in chapter 9 of the book of Daniel.  This is the only prophecy in the entire Biblical record which gives a specific datable event as a marker for the future appearance of the Messiah.  As quoted above, Isaac Newton believed the prophecy was in part responsible for over two hundred years of missing Persian chronology.  Though he was correct in tracing the missing chronology to an erroneous assumption concerning the prophecy of 70 weeks, Newton was incorrect in attributing that error to a starting point in the reign of Cyrus.

To get to the real root of the problem it is imperative to understand the prophecy within the context of the 2nd temple era of Jewish history. The starting point for the prophecy of Daniel 9 (which was the basis for each of the failed messianic claims noted by Newton) began with a “commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem”.

Daniel 9:25  25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks,

As explained in my article The Fifth Command there was only one “commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem” the Jewish people would have recognized.  That command was the Divine command given by YHWH, proclaimed by Haggai and Zechariah and witnessed by Ezra 6:14 (see my article The Fifth Command for further explanation).

Here is how the “Artaxerxes Assumption” enters the picture.  The Divine command “to restore and to build Jerusalem” was given in the 2nd year of Darius who was also known historically as “Artaxerxes”.  When the Asmonaeans calculated the 70 weeks of Daniel from the 2nd year of Darius it allowed them to claim that Judas Maccabaeus was the promised messiah. When he failed to usher in the Messianic kingdom, the prophecy was recycled for the next Jewish messianic figure. Since the Divine command was given in the 2nd year of Darius “Artaxerxes” the next generation of Jewish messianic expectants just shifted the prophecy to the 2nd year of another Persian Artaxerxes.   With the end of the Bar Cochab rebellion in the first part of the 2nd century the use of Daniel 9 to claim the start of the Messianic kingdom had run its course.  The Rabbinic Biblical calendar was reset and 241 years of Persian history were lost.

To this day the Rabbinic Biblical calendar still reflects this mistake.  Unfortunately, the “Artaxerxes Assumption” of the 1st centuries set in motion the chronological confusion which is still alive today. As a result of these errors, the only legitimate and contextually accurate fulfillment of the Prophecy of Seventy Weeks was obscured and eventually all but forgotten.

 

Around the turn of the twentieth century, a Scotland Yard investigator named Sir Robert Anderson (of Jack the Ripper fame) wrote a book on the prophecy of Daniel 9 called The Coming Prince. In his work on this great prophecy, Anderson made his own “Artaxerxes Assumption.” This time instead of erasing the Persian chronology, Anderson stretched the Biblical chronology of Ezra and Nehemiah by 58 years in order to fulfill his interpretation of the prophecy of 70 weeks.  Today, Anderson’s interpretation is the basis for most scholars’ writings on the subject of Daniel 9. Regrettably, his good intentions were a little short on reasonable chronological evidence from the Bible.

First, Anderson ignored the contextual relevance of YHWH’s command “to restore and to build Jerusalem.”  Unlike his 1st century messianic predecessors, Anderson saw no reason to begin the prophecy with the words of YHWH.  Next, Anderson assumed the “Artaxerxes” of Nehemiah and Ezra was Artaxerxes Longimanus. Unfortunately, he did not base this assumption upon any Biblical evidence but instead upon a single unsubstantiated opinion of the Christian historian, Rawlinson, in his translation of Herodotus, vol. 4, p.217 . That quote as taken from Anderson’s The Coming Prince is as follows:

Artaxerxes I. reigned forty years, from 465 to 425. He is mentioned by Herodotus once (6. 98), by Thucydides frequently. Both writers were his contemporaries. There is every reason to believe that he was the king who sent Ezra and Nehemiah to Jerusalem, and sanctioned the restoration of the fortifications.” – RAWLINSON, Herodotus, vol. 4., p. 217.

Anderson, by all accounts, was an exceptional Biblical scholar. To be fair to Anderson, his assumption was understandable considering Ussher, Newton, Rawlinson, and Josephus were of the same general opinion concerning “Artaxerxes.”  I mean, what kind of person argues with the opinion of some of the greatest Biblical chronologists of all time? Okay, I must admit I am raising my hand timidly from the back of the room. But with all due respect to these great men, it seemed to have been a case of each thinking the other had done his homework. In this case, their messianic zeal caused them to make an assumption which is unsupported by Biblical chronology.  I appreciate the fact that they believed Ezra and Nehemiah were contemporaries of Artaxerxes Longimanus, but is that sufficient proof upon which to establish the most important prophecy in the Scripture?  Kind of hard to believe, isn’t it? I encourage you to check it out for yourself. The Coming Prince can be read at Rapture Ready, one of the most respected Bible prophecy web sites on the internet. Here is what they say about Sir Robert Anderson and The Coming Prince:

“He helped establish the fact that 69 of Daniel’s 70 weeks have now transpired, and that the tribulation will be the 70th week. Sir Robert Anderson’s book, The Coming Prince, has become a foundational resource for all dispensationalists.”

With all due respect to the good folks over at Rapture Ready how can a belief about Daniel’s 70 weeks be an established “fact” when the “foundational resource” is based upon an assumption with no reasonable basis in Biblical chronology?

In closing, I would like to encourage those of you interested in Bible prophecy to check out the Biblical chronological evidence, before you make your own unfounded “Artaxerxes Assumption.”

 

 

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Editing for this article was provided by Bradley Rohr at:
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More Articles related to the prophecy of 70 Weeks and 2nd temple era chronology:
The “Artaxerxes” Assumption – The best kept secret of Old Testament chronology.
The Fifth Command – Why do prophecy teachers ignore it?
Ezra: Priest & Scribe – Part I – Defining “Artaxerxes” in the context of Ezra.
Ezra: Priest & Scribe – Part II – Ezra, Darius even “Artaxerxes”.
Nehemiah: The Governor– Nehemiah’s place in the 2nd temple chronology
Queen of Persia – Part I – Defining Esther is the context of the 2nd Temple era.
Queen of Persia – Part II – Defining Esther is the context of the 2nd Temple era.
A New Testament Cipher – The key to unlocking the prophecy of Daniel’s 70 Weeks.
Ezekiel’s 13th Month– Key to understanding Biblical “time” in the 2nd Temple era
6 milestones – Seventy Weeks – Defining the purpose of the Messiah within Daniel’s 70 “weeks”.
The Messiah Factors (Part I): Decoding 13 & 14 – Symbolism of the Messiah
The Messiah Factors (Part II): The Countdown – Proving Yeshua/Jesus is the Messiah promised in Daniel 9.

22 thoughts on “The “Artaxerxes” Assumption

  1. Randy Wills

    Your argument in “The Fifth Command” is compelling. But neither there nor yet in this article have you provided what you believe is the actual chronology of Daniel’s prophecy, in history. If the Asmoneans–who lived a lot nearer unto that time period than we do–got their dates wrong (notwithstanding they used the correct starting point?), where did they go wrong in their calculations? You’ve set forth a marvelous riddle. The singularly important question remains: Were all 70 weeks fulfilled at Christ’s coming?

    Reply
  2. William Struse Post author

    Thank you for your reply Dr. Wills,

    I will get to the fulfillment of the prophecy of 70 weeks but first I wanted to lay the foundation upon a solid Biblical basis. For too long this prophecy has had a roof and walls but no foundation. I hope to rectify that in this series of articles.

    Warm Regards,
    William Struse

    Reply
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  8. Amram Shapiro

    Dear Bill. I am incompetent to question the chronology question and of course bring a slightly different background to the material. The Jewish longing for the Messiah is so earnest and so long standing that as the “expectants” as you call them aptly, lose patience and follow false Messiahs. This has recurred in Jewish history to this day, when a Hassidic rebbe was declared Messiah; he is now dead.
    Shabtai Zvi converted to Islam. Etc.

    I take comfort in this cautionary tale to the expectant from the Talmud. A man, it is said, is planting a tree when another comes running past crying “The Messiah, the Messiah is here.” What, asks the Talmud, should the man do? He should finish planting the tree then go and see.

    I plant and plant.

    I will slowly read all these wonderful posts.

    BTW, I thought that Newton’s biblical work led to the questioning of the authenticity of scripture and therefore was never published in his remarkable lifetime. I learned this from the Isaac Newton biography published a few years ago.

    Reply
    1. William Struse Post author

      Good evening Amram,

      I appreciate your thoughtful replies. They make think! Tonight they made me think of a couple of New Testament quotes about trees and planting. One by Paul and the other by Yeshua:

      I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.

      And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.

      Re: Newton
      What an unusual character! From my limited understanding of his history it appears that his leanings towards “enlightenment” may have been a contributing factor.

      Warm Regards,
      Bill

      Reply
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  14. Jonn Mooney

    Why should we believe Artaxerxes Longimanus is the correct king? What Biblical proof do we have?

    Well, when Ezra arrives in Jerusalem the first thing he finds is that the people have corrupted themselves; they married strange wives and had children by them. Ezra 10:3 says “Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them…”

    So would you have us believe that as soon as the Temple is completed, before Ezra can even leave Babylon, all the people immediately ran out (including the Priests) and married wives and had children with them? The text is much clearer when we see that this corruption happened over a long period of time.

    Perhaps you believe that the people corrupted themselves under the strong hand of Zerubbabel and Jeshua and in the presence of Haggai and Zechariah during the final push to complete the Temple in the first place. This is highly doubtful. Again, the Scriptures are more clearly read by realizing a long period of time transpired here.

    Sixty years ago, most could not have imagined the depths that America would sink to and similarly the Jews also needed time to make their descent into corruption, this stuff doesn’t happen overnight.

    Jonn

    Reply
    1. William Struse Post author

      Hi John,

      In order to believe Artaxerxes Longimanus is the contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah you must discount the clear chronological evidence of the Biblical record concerning Ezra, Nehemiah and the returning Judean captives.

      Quote

      “So would you have us believe that as soon as the Temple is completed, before Ezra can even leave Babylon, all the people immediately ran out (including the Priests) and married wives and had children with them? The text is much clearer when we see that this corruption happened over a long period of time.”

      Ezra came to Jerusalem to teach the people the Torah. The generation which came back to Jerusalem had been immersed in the pagan culture of Persia for 70 years. They came back to Jerusalem to build the house of YHWH but for 16 years between Cyrus and Darius Hystaspes they accomplished little but building their own houses. 70 years of captivity was more than enough time for decent into immorality. 16 years was certainly enough time to marry the women of the land.

      I really do not see any justification for lengthening the chronology of the 2nd temple era in contradiction to the clear evidence of Biblical record.

      Regarding the decent of America into immorality, I must agree.

      Warm Regards,
      William Struse

      Reply
      1. Jonn Mooney

        William,

        They had the foundation laid and the altar built in just over 1 year; Herod’s temple was still under partial construction even after 46 years, so 20 years is not an overly long time for such a grand project.

        Plus they already had Jeshua, the Priests and the Levites with them so they had no special need for Ezra at that time. Why would Ezra show up and usurp Jeshua’s authority?

        Further, Ezra had also been in pagan Babylon and for an even longer time than Jeshua so he wouldn’t have been in any better position than Jeshua to teach the people. Certainly not to the extent that he would have plucked the hairs from his beard after arriving there.

        However, after 60 years there would again be a need for an Ezra figure to teach the Torah.

        It would seem the chronological evidence of the Biblical record supports the fact that Ezra shows up in 458 BC in Longimanus’ 7th year but I would be happy to read your evidence to the contrary, if you would respond and point me to the proper article that explains it.

        Lastly, 483 years from 458 BC takes us to 26 AD and the beginning of Jesus’ 3.5 year ministry, so I don’t see how devising complicated theories and dabbling in the “correcting” of the Bible is necessary, when simple math reveals the answer.

        Blessings,
        Jonn

        Reply
        1. William Struse Post author

          Hi John,

          I will do my best to answer your statements one by one.

          You said,

          “They had the foundation laid and the altar built in just over 1 year; Herod’s temple was still under partial construction even after 46 years, so 20 years is not an overly long time for such a grand project.”

          I’m not exactly sure where you are going with this statement but I here is an overview of the chronology based on Ezra. When Joshua and Zerubbabel returned in the 1st year they built the alter. The 2nd year they laid part of the foundation. Then construction on the temple stopped for over 15 years until the 2nd year of Darius Hystaspes. At this point YHWH gave a Divine command to return and build the temple. I encourage you to read Haggai and Zechariah in the context of how YHWH viewed the efforts and actions of the returning captives. It states plainly in Zechariah 1 that up until the 2nd year of Darius the people were still in a period of Divine anger.

          You asked: “

          Plus they already had Jeshua, the Priests and the Levites with them so they had no special need for Ezra at that time. Why would Ezra show up and usurp Jeshua’s authority?”

          According to the Old Testament record Ezra was the uncle of Jeshua. Ezra’s father was Seraiah the last high priest of Solomon’s temple. This made him Jeshua’s elder and likely the patriarch of that era. The youngest Ezra could have been in the 2nd year of Darius was 64 years old. To claim Ezra was still alive in the 7th year of Longimanus strains the credibility of your argument. To make matters worse Ezra was still alive 13 years later at the dedication of the wall. The simple and most reasonable rendering of Ezra’s chronology places him as a contemporary of Darius “the Great” Artaxerxes.

          You said:

          “Further, Ezra had also been in pagan Babylon and for an even longer time than Jeshua so he wouldn’t have been in any better position than Jeshua to teach the people. Certainly not to the extent that he would have plucked the hairs from his beard after arriving there.

          However, after 60 years there would again be a need for an Ezra figure to teach the Torah.”

          Please see my explanation above. Ezra would have been in the pefect position to “teach the people”. He was the son of Seraiah the last high priest Solomon’s temple. He was a contemporary of Daniel. By all rights he was an ancient man who was likely already alive at the start of the captivity. No person would have been in a better position to teach the people the Torah.

          You said:

          “It would seem the chronological evidence of the Biblical record supports the fact that Ezra shows up in 458 BC in Longimanus’ 7th year but I would be happy to read your evidence to the contrary, if you would respond and point me to the proper article that explains it.”

          So far you have not provided any of that evidence. If Ezra was a contemporary of Artaxerxes Longimanus then it is not to much to ask to just provide one verse which shows a reasonable contemporaneous relationship between the two. Ussher, Rawlinson, Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Robert Anderson and just about every prophecy teacher of the past 200 years has not provided that evidence. If, as you claim, “Ezra shows up in 458 BC” then I sincerely ask you to provide the evidence.

          You said,

          “Lastly, 483 years from 458 BC takes us to 26 AD and the beginning of Jesus’ 3.5 year ministry, so I don’t see how devising complicated theories and dabbling in the “correcting” of the Bible is necessary, when simple math reveals the answer.”

          John, there are several problems with your assertion that 458 BC is the starting point of 70 weeks, none of which involves simple math.

          1. As stated above the Bible does not show that Ezra was a contemporary of Longimanus.
          2. You must ignore the only commandment with any relevance to restoring and building Jerusalem. That commandment is the one given by YHWH, witnessed by Haggai and Zachariah and recorded by Ezra 6:14.
          3. Ezra 7 does not provide a date for “Artaxerxes” command. It simply states Ezra read a copy of the command given by “Artaxerxes” once he came to Jerusalem.
          4. The temple was already built by the time Ezra reached Jerusalem. The proclamation given to Ezra by “Artaxerxes” does not concern the building efforts. The proclamation of Ezra 7 has nothing to do with the “commandment to return and build Jerusalem”. This cannot be emphasized enough I encourage you to read my article The Fifth Command for further context.
          5. The balance of Biblical evidence places the start of Yeshua’s ministry in the fall of 27 AD. His death and resurrection took place in the spring of 30 AD. Despite tradition, the Bible only provides evidence for 3 Passovers during Yeshua’s ministry. Contextually the unnamed “feast of the Jews” (John 5) referred to Shavout. (“Yet four months to the harvest”)
          6. The Biblical calendar during the 2nd temple era was not based upon a 365.24 day year. It was based upon a certain number of lunar cycles. Daniel 9 must be understood within the context of a Biblical reckoning of time.

          Warm Regards,
          William Struse

          Reply
  15. Jonn Mooney

    William,

    Many of your dates are spot on, including the spring resurrection of 30 AD and Cyrus’ commandment in 536 BC. However, you have several things against you. First, your entire theory rests on “correcting” the Bible’s wording. You remind me of the 7th day Adventists trying to move the comma in Luke 23:43.

    Secondly, if Ezra were the elder priest to Jeshua then why didn’t Ezra go in the first place? Why wouldn’t they send their most qualified priest? I understand the so called “evidence” in the genealogies but these are not always profitable. Remember what the Bible says about them:

    1Ti 1:4 Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.
    Titus 3:9 But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

    Thirdly, do you have such a poor opinion of Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Haggai and Zechariah (described in your first response) that you would teach that they condoned (or tolerated) sinning against God even as they strove to complete His Temple?

    Lastly, if you are so concerned about when God issued His commandment then why don’t you pin down the timing of Isaiah 44:26-28. This is when it happened, around 200 years earlier, not in the 2nd year of Darius. If God had not issued His commandment first by the word of the prophet Isaiah then no one would have even known to start working on the thing to begin with.

    No doubt you will accuse me of not showing “proof” of a Longimanus/ Ezra link but indeed I have shown it via the serious problems that arise to the contrary. I credit you on some of your research but you are forcing this Darius issue in order to preserve a false understanding which you are not prepared to let go of.

    To summarize: 1. You correct the Word of God. 2. You focus on genealogies. 3. You express a low opinion of Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Haggai and Zechariah’s ability to lead the people. 4. You incorrectly handle the timing of God’s commandment. 5. You require a sign “proof” but none shall be given you. 6. Rather than repent you will likely continue in your error.

    I have told you the truth.

    Jonn

    Reply
  16. William Struse

    Hi John,
    Your quote,

    “First, your entire theory rests on “correcting” the Bible’s wording.”

    If a translator makes a mistake which goes against the clear context of the Scripture should we ignore it because it fits with our eschatology? I believe the Bible was inspired but I do not think the translators were faultless. The best example I can give you is with the most important word in the Bible. This word was translated incorrectly 6510 times in our English Bible because the translators followed tradition over the truth. The word I am talking about is the very name of YHWH. 6510 times in the Bible it has been translated LORD. They made it an impersonal title in place of a personal name. Today many believers don’t even know the name of the God they claim to worship because of this purposeful mistranslation. If you would like to be heartbroken then look up the word Baal (false god of the Canaanites) and see what the word means. Then read Jeremiah 23:7 in that context.

    Your quote,

    “I understand the so called “evidence” in the genealogies but these are not always profitable. Remember what the Bible says about them:”

    John do you really think the Paul’s admonition against “genealogies” is in reference to the very records of the Scripture? Clearly the context does not support that. I think the words of Paul best answers your charge:

    “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable…”

    Your quote,

    “Thirdly, do you have such a poor opinion of Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Haggai and Zechariah (described in your first response) that you would teach that they condoned (or tolerated) sinning against God even as they strove to complete His Temple?”

    John I have no poor opinion of the prophets of YHWH. That does not mean they could have kept the people from sinning. Jeremiah and Isaiah were great prophets of YHWH and they lamented the fact of Israel’s sin.

    Your quote,

    “Lastly, if you are so concerned about when God issued His commandment then why don’t you pin down the timing of Isaiah 44:26-28. This is when it happened, around 200 years earlier, not in the 2nd year of Darius. If God had not issued His commandment first by the word of the prophet Isaiah then no one would have even known to start working on the thing to begin with.”

    The command given to Cyrus as recorded by Isaiah, 2Chron., and Ezra is not contextually relevant to the Divine command to “return and build” given by YHWH thought the prophets Haggai and Zechariah and witnessed by Ezra 6:14. Up until the 2nd year of Darius the people were still under the 70 years of Divine indignation mentioned in Zechariah 1. Contextually the 2nd year of Darius was a focal point for YHWH’s plan of reconciliation for all mankind through the Messiah.

    I don’t see any need to respond to the rest of your post. You are most welcome to post here or on any other parts of my blog. I would ask though, that in the future you keep your posts related to the topic and not make it personal. I love to discuss the words of YHWH with you or anyone but there is no reason to do so in a manner that is not edifying. I know I don’t have all the answers but if you think I am incorrect in my understand you will have to convince me with the word’s of YHWH not opinion.

    Finally, since this thread has kind of become a moving target I would like to return it to the topic of the Artaxerxes Assumption. If you have relevant information related Ezra and Nehemiah’s relationship to the 2nd temple era then I would love to continue the discussion here.

    Warm Regards,
    William Struse

    Reply
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