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4.2.1 - Chronological Complexities

The following table lists events of significance to our study of the book of Daniel and was gathered during the author’s background study of the book of Daniel. As can be seen, some dates are closely agreed upon, whereas others reflect a range of values. Endnotes identify each source found within the table. Biblical chronology is one of the most complex areas of biblical study and has occupied some of the most devoted and best minds over the centuries. Since it is not an area of our expertise, we have drawn from a number of sources, some that are well known in the field. For the newcomer to Bible chronology, some of the date ranges in the table below may seem puzzling—sometimes exhibiting overlapping dates for sequential events dated by the same source. These artifacts often reflect underlying complexities familiar to the biblical chronologist which most readers may not have considered.

“Two systems of reckoning were used for the Hebrew kings, accession-year reckoning (postdating), and non-accession year reckoning (antedating). Since in the latter system the year in which a ruler began is termed his first official year, that year is counted twice, for it is also the last year of the previous ruler. Thus in a country where this system is used one year must always be deducted from the official total of every reign in order to secure actual years. Totals according to accession-year reckoning, however, equal actual totals.”1

“In working out the chronology of a nation, a primary requisite is that the chronological procedure of that nation be understood. The following items must be definitely established: (1) the year from which a king began to count the years of his reign—whether from the time of his actual accession, from the following year, or from some other time; (2) the time of the calendar year when a king began to count his reign; (3) the method according to which a scribe of one nation reckoned the years of a king of a neighboring state, whether according to the system used in his nation or according to that of the neighbor; (4) whether or not the nation made use of coregencies, whether or not several rival rulers might have been reigning at the same time, and whether interregna occurred; (5) whether during the period under review a uniform system was followed, or whether variations took place; and, finally, (6) some absolute date during the period in question from which the years can be figured backward and forward so that the full chronological pattern might be secured.”2

“It is evident that at least the following items must be noticed in the attempt to understand any system of reckoning by regnal years. (1) Accession. At what point is the reign considered to begin? This point most often coincides, no doubt, with the death of the preceding ruler, yet there may be an interval before the new king is selected, installed, or confirmed in office. Other possibilities as to when his reign is considered actually to begin include the time when a coregency is established, when a capital is occupied, when a decisive victory is won, or when some remaining rival is eliminated. (2) Factual year or calendar year. Is the regnal year counted from the actual accession to the annual anniversary of the same? If so, it may be called a factual year. Is the regnal year counted as equivalent to the calendar year? The latter is probably much more often the case, and therewith additional questions arise. (3) Accession year or non-accession year. If the regnal year is equated with a calendar year, is the reckoning by the accession-year or the non-accession-year system? . . . (4) Calendar. If the regnal year is equated with a calendar year, which calendar year is in use?”3


1 Edwin R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1983), 14.

2 Ibid., 43.

3 Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1964, 1998), 76-77.

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