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The paper The Prophecy of Prophecies: Correcting Harold Hoehner Interpretation of Daniel’s 70 Weeks has been catching my eye. The view presented hinges on a few things described by the author that I don't have enough knowledge or skill to verify. For this reason, I'm reaching out.

  1. Nehemiah is using a spring-to-spring calendar. This is the only way Nehemiah 1 can take place in the same "20th year". If Nisan was used as the new year (month 1) then it wouldn't be possible as Chislev would be in a different year.

  2. Although 465 BC is Artaxerxes' "first year", year 1 wouldn't have been counted until his first full calendar year of rule, so instead of 445 BC being his 20th year, it would have been 444 BC.

  3. Aramaic papyri which were excavated from the city of Assuan appear to indicate that in 446 BC, the Jewish months Tishri and Kislev began on September 19 and November 15, respectively. In 1942, historians Richard Parker and Waldo Dubberstein attempted to reconstruct the Jewish calendar of the fifth century BC by extrapolating data from the materials they had available to them at the time. However, they mistakenly assigned Tishri and Kislev of 446 BC as occurring one month later than what the ancient papyri from Assuan indicate. If the calendar constructed by Parker and Dubberstein is adjusted to correlate with the Aramaic papyri by being shifted backward one month, Nisan of 444 BC would begin on March 4. This is consistent with astronomical calculations which show that a new moon would have been visible after 10 PM on March 4, so a Jewish month would have begun on or shortly after this date. Hence, both lunar and historical data support a start date for Nisan of 444 BC to be approximately March 4.

March 4th as Nisan 1 seems to be extremely early, but it would be cool if this interpretation is accurate. Is this accurate dating?

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    This interpretation is only valid for those who subscribe to the futurism understanding of eschatology. Thus, it is not "bulletproof".
    – Dottard
    Jan 21, 2023 at 23:16
  • The first point's in error. Kislev can only predate Nisan in a fall-to-fall calendar.
    – A.O.
    Jan 22, 2023 at 19:01
  • Just saw this while perusing through Q's on the "Home" page. My Q and A, now pasted here, I think will go along way to answering your own excellent enquiry, which I will now upvote. hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/68388/… - While you may probably be able to note, I couldn't entirely agree with "The Prophecy of Prophecies" paper that you reference, the failings of "Anderson" and "Hoehner" were well pointed out by the proponents of said paper. Feb 25, 2023 at 20:04
  • @Dottard - I have to respectfully disagree with your comment. The reasons for which are laid out in my own comment here and especially in my Q and A. Feb 25, 2023 at 20:11
  • @A.O. - FYI, Nehemiah, Ezra, and even Daniel, used Tishri accession year reckoning for the regnal years of Artaxerxes I. See "Thiele/McFall" system summary, regarding the Jewish civil calendar. Feb 25, 2023 at 20:24

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The Persian (Achaemenid) empire adopted for administrative purposes the Babylonian calendar system, in which calendar years started on Nisannu 1, i.e. at the beginning of Northern spring (Mar/Apr), and regnal years were reckoned by the accession-year or post-dating method. This means that the year (Mar/Apr 465 BC - Mar/Apr 464 BC), during which Xerxes I was killed on Aug 4-8, 465 BC, was both:

  • the year 21 of Xerxes I, and

  • the accession year of Artaxerxes I.

Therefore, according to the official time reckoning system of the Persian empire, which was clearly the system used in the court of Artaxerxes I where Nehemiah worked:

  • year 20 of Artaxerxes I = (Mar/Apr 445 BC - Mar/Apr 444 BC)

  • year 21 of Artaxerxes I = (Mar/Apr 444 BC - Mar/Apr 443 BC)

Ossendrijver 2018 [1] concludes in p. 149 that the Persian empire officially adopted the 19-year intercalation cycle "between Xerxes year 8, [...] and Artaxerxes I year 8" and gives in table 1 of p. 140 the attested and inferred intercalations between Darius I year 27 and Artaxerxes II year 23. There we see that Artaxerxes I years 19 (Mar/Apr 446 BC - Mar/Apr 445 BC) and 21 had an intercalary month, in both cases an extra Addaru.

Referring now to Fred Espenak's Catalog of Phases of the Moon for the V century [2], and taking into account that...

these tables includes the year "0" while the traditional BCE - CE dating convention does not. Thus, the year "0" here corresponds to "1 BCE", the year "-100" is "101 BCE", and so on.

we have for the regnal years of interest of Artaxerxes I, in that convention:

  • year 19 began in Mar/Apr 446 BC = Mar/Apr -445

  • year 20 began in Mar/Apr 445 BC = Mar/Apr -444

  • year 21 began in Mar/Apr 444 BC = Mar/Apr -443

Since year 19 had an extra Addaru, year 20 began "late" with respect to the Northern vernal equinox, i.e. with the new Moon of Apr 11, -444. Since year 20 had 12 months, year 21 began 12 new Moons after that (counting in a modern, non-inclusive way), i.e. with the new Moon of Apr 1, -443. Summarizing then using back the BC convention:

Regnal year: new moon marking Nisannu 1 (which was 2-3 days after)

20: Apr 11, 445 BC

21: Apr 1, 444 BC

Therefore the answer to the original question is: No, March 4, 444 BC being Nisannu/Nisan 1 is not plausible either under the official calendar system of the Achaemenid empire at that time or under the observational intercalation system used by the Jews in later times in which the ripening state of barley was used by the Sanhedrin to decide whether the month following a new moon would be Nisan or a second Adar of the ongoing year.

References

[1] Ossendrijver, Mathieu, “Babylonian Scholarship and the Calendar During the Reign of Xerxes”, in: C. Waerzeggers & M. Seire (eds.), Xerxes and Babylonia: The Cuneiform Evidence (Louvain [etc]: Peeters, 2018 [= Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta, nr. 277]), pp. 135-163.

https://www.academia.edu/38285494/

[2] Espenak, Fred, “Phases of the Moon: -0499 to -0400 (0500 to 0401 BCE)”.

http://astropixels.com/ephemeris/phasescat/phases-0499.html

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  • If the "70 Weeks" prophecy had not been a "pet" project of mine, I could have seen myself falling for what you have laid out here. I've written extensively on this site about this all encompassing prophecy and have regarded all manner of "Academia", only to find that, while all have very salient points, they all fell short in one aspect or another. What I have pasted above, within my comment to the OP, is just one of several Q and A's posted by me on the subject. Consequently, I feel that you, albeit unintentionally, have only served to mislead our newly prospective poster. Feb 25, 2023 at 21:16
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The date of the 20th year of Artaxerxes in the month of Nisan that matches the text of Scripture would be in March of 455 BC using a 364-Day year calendar according to the website The Sacred Calendar and Earth's Sacred Calendar: The Dated Events of the Old Testament-Second Edition by Jim Liles 2019.

This event matches the end of Artaxerxes 51 year reign in 424 BC (having started in 475 BC) after the death of his father, Persian King Darius the Mead, aka Darius Hystaspis (Greek name) who was defeated by the Greeks at the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC.

The Jerusalem Wall was completed in September later on this same year in September on Elul 25 according to Nehemiah 6:15. The building of the Wall marked the beginning of the first seven weeks (49 years to 406 BC) of Daniel's 69 weeks ending on Passover in 30 AD, 483 years plus later (Daniel 9:25-26).

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    – agarza
    Sep 12, 2023 at 23:49
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In my opinion, the popular approach of counting the solar days and fitting them into 360-day lunar years is a form of the ever-popular "Texas Sharpshooter" fallacy. I certainly believe in Daniel's 70 heptads as prophetic, especially since they were alluded to by Yeshua in Matthew 18:22.

The first such order to rebuild Jerusalem was issued by Artaxerxes I of Persia in the late summer or fall of 457 BCE. 69 haptads or 483 solar years from 457 BCE results in the year 27 CE (there was no 0 CE), which was when Yeshua started his public ministry.

There are many articles on this subject, not all in agreement. Here are a couple of references:

Scriptural Support for the Decree of Daniel 9:25

The Decree of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7)

As a side note, it's likely, though controversial, that Yeshua was crucified by the Romans in the Spring of 30 CE (which provides a full 3 days and 3 nights in the tomb between Passover that year and the regular weekly Sabbath, given a Jewish sunrise-sunset day). The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the second Temple in 70 CE, 40 years later. This fulfilled 69 of the 70 heptads, leaving one remaining.

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