Mike isn't the first one to discover this problem, of course. Although I only watched this other video today (also very well done), Carlos Scienza posted it a few months ago:
I'll lay out the case below in a somewhat different way for those whose computers can't handle video so well for some reason or another (and believe me, I sympathize):
- Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians in 539 BC
- "The outstanding Absolute date from the B.C. period of the Hebrew Scriptures is that for the fall of Babylon as the capital city of the third world power at the hands of Cyrus, king of the Persians, October 13, 539 B.C., Julian calendar (or October 7 by our present Gregorian calendar), which event is referred to at Isaiah 45:1. This date is made absolute by reason of the archaeological discovery and dating of the famous Nabunaid Chronicle, which itself gives a date for the fall of Babylon and which figure specialists have determined equals October 13, 539 B.C., according to the Julian calendar of the Romans" (The Watchtower, 1 February 1955, p. 94)
- "It is well to understand that all Bible chronology dates for events prior to 539 B.C. must be figured backward from the Absolute date of 539 B.C." (The Watchtower, 1 February 1955, p. 95)
- "One such fixed or absolute date is in connection with the events recorded in the fifth chapter of Daniel, verses one to thirty-one. That was concerning the time when the Medes and the Persians under Cyrus the Great broke up Belshazzar's notorious carousal, capture the city of Babylon, and overthrew the Third World Empire. The year was 539 B.C.E. on the Gregorian calendar, four years after the Buddhist Era began in India" (The Watchtower, 15 August 1968, p. 490)
- "Recognized authorities of today accept 539 B.C.E. without any question as the year Babylon was overthrown by Cyrus the Great" (The Watchtower, 15 August 1968, p. 491)
- "Last supreme monarch of the Babylonian Empire; father of Belshazzar. On the basis of cuneiform texts he is believed to have ruled some 17 years (556-539 B.C.E.)" (Insight on the Scriptures 2:457)
- "Nabonidus' ascension to the throne followed the assassination of Labashi-Marduk" (Insight on the Scriptures 2:458)
- "[Neriglissar's] underage son Labashi-Marduk, a vicious boy, succeeded him, and was assassinated within nine months" (The Watchtower, 1 January 1965, p. 29)
- "[Evil-merodach] was murdered by his brother-in-law Neriglissar, who reigned for four years, which time he spent mainly in building operations" (The Watchtower, 1 January 1965, p. 29)
- "Evil-merodach reigned two years and was murdered by his brother-in-law Neriglissar..." (The Watchtower, 1 January 1965, p. 29)
- "The Babylonian king who succeeded Nebuchadnezzar to the throne in 581 B.C.E" (Insight on the Scriptures 1:773)
- Note that the date of 581 BC is based on JW belief in 607 BC, rather than the other way around. The same erroneous date of 581 BC is asserted elsewhere: "Amel-Marduk (Evil-merodach) as the oldest son succeeded Nebuchadnezzar to the throne in 581 B.C.E." (The Watchtower, 1 January 1965, p. 29). I'll discuss this issue further in a bit; for the moment, however, note that everything else up until this point shows that the date of 581 B.C.E. is inconsistent with other statements accepted by Jehovah's Witnesses.
- "Nebuchadnezzar, who reigned for 43 years, headed a dynasty that ruled over the Babylonian Empire" (Pay Attention to Daniel's Prophecy!, p. 50)
- "Finally, in 607 B.C.E., on Tammuz (June-July) 9 in the 11th year of Zedekiah's reign (Nebuchadnezzar's 19th year if counting from his accession year or his 18th regnal year), a breach was made in Jerusalem's wall" (Insight into the Scriptures 2:481)
- Note again that, while the publication falsely asserts the year to have been 607 BC, the important aspect of this quote is that it places the event in the 18th year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign. And, since it follows conclusively from other statements admitted in JW publications that Nebuchadnezzar's reign had to begin in 605 BC, the year of Jerusalem's fall can only be 587 BC--quod erat demonstrandum.
Every single quote involved here is available on the Watchtower Library CD-ROM. Anyone who has a copy can verify all quotes used here; I did, and they all check out solidly. It's undeniable--whatever arguments Jehovah's Witnesses use to attempt to establish a 607 BC date for the fall of Jerusalem, the fact remains that their own literature contains every single fact that, put together, show irrefutably that Jerusalem fell in 587 BC. But what about the statements that Evil-merodach's reign began in 581 BC, or that the fall of Jerusalem really did happen in 607 BC? It has to be noted that these are assertions inconsistent with others that appeared in JW literature. Furthermore, remember that it was admitted that every date before 539 BC has to be calculated backwards from 539 BC, not another date. The date of 581 BC can only be obtained by counting forwards from 607 BC, which in turn relies on a highly questionable jump backwards from 537 BC, rather than 539 BC. On the other hand, the date of 587 BC, as shown above, is derived from counting backwards from 539 BC through all the Babylonian rulers to show that Jehovah's Witnesses cannot consistently avoid the implication that Nebuchadnezzar's reign only began in 605 BC--the date universally accepted by all non-JW sources. Only Jehovah's Witnesses deny this, and as shown above they must do so inconsistently. Now, lest a JW apologist attempt to say that certain relevant names have been omitted here, consider the complete list of relevant Babylonian rulers, as excerpted from yet another JW publication:
Evil-merodach, 582 B.C.E
Belshazzar, died 539 B.C.E. (The Watchtower, 15 June 1960, p. 377)
So what we have here is a complete list of rulers. But Nabonidus, as Jehovah's Witnesses must admit, started ruling in 556 BC. Labashi-Marduk ruled for just nine months, while Neriglissar ruled for four years. At most, that could push the chronology back to 561 (though actually 560) BC for the start of Neriglissar's rule; but, since authoritative JW literature has already shown that Neriglissar ruled for only two years, rather than over two decades, there is simply no way to associate the year 582/1 BC with Evil-merodach, which ruins the proposed JW chronology. And the calculations that do so are simply impeccable.
And lest some JW apologist try to say that the calculations in the theocratic literature that demonstrate the 587 BC date were simply incorrect, consider that the entry on "Chronology" in Insight on the Scriptures indicates, fairly plainly, that their calculations are, for all intents and purposes, infallible, since they refuse to distinguish their understanding of the timeline from what the Bible actually says.
So what's the bottom line here? We have both a firm anchor point (539 BC), a complete order of consecutive reigns extending throughout the period in question, and lengths for each reign. Mathematically, without rejecting at least one of those three, there is simply no way to escape the truth: Jerusalem fell in 587 BC, thereby invalidating a substantial block of JW doctrine. That is, the only way to avoid the conclusion is to reject one of the following three propositions:
- We have a firm anchor point in 539 BC.
- We have a complete order of consecutive reigns, without considerable gaps, stretching from the destruction of Jerusalem to 539 BC.
- We have roughly accurate figures for the length of each reign of which we have record (that is, the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-merodach, Neriglissar, Labashi-marduk, and Nabonidus).
To deny the first is not open to Jehovah's Witnesses at all; it's too firmly entrenched in what they believe. What about the second? It doesn't seem so. Remember, not only does The Watchtower give what purports to be a complete "chronological chart" that admits of no gaps, but their discussions of the individual reigns doesn't appear to give any place to gaps beyond a few months or so at the most. Certainly nowhere to stuff two decades of either unknown rulers or anarchy! Note also that many of the figures in question came to power by killing their predecessors, which precludes the possibility of additional intervening rulers. So, how about the third? Could a Jehovah's Witness be justified here in denying that the reign lengths are accurate? Again, the answer must be no. The only candidates up for revision are Evil-merodach, Neriglissar, and Labashi-marduk. Assuming for the sake of argument that Jerusalem fell in 607 BC, we'd have to place the beginning of Evil-merodach's reign in 582/1 BC, and the end of Labashi-Marduk's reign in 557/6 BC, since Insight on the Scriptures unequivocally places the start of Nabonidus' reign in 556 BC; the Babylonian Chronicles, after all, definitely places the fall of Babylon as occurring in the 17th year of Nabonidus' reign (the particular tablet in question is the Nabunaid Chronicle cited by The Watchtower in one of the quotes above). So, then, we have to somehow cram at least 24 years into these three reigns, which The Watchtower has instead affirmed to have taken less than seven years! This, like the other two theoretical possibilities, will never work. (I also add that I have before me right now a translation of a Babylonian document from the reign of Nabonidus that makes clear that, at the very least, Neriglissar's reign was four years--see J. B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, p. 312. The text also explicitly affirms only 104 years from "the time of Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria, to the 6th year of Nabonidus, king of Babylon", which is also inconsistent with the 607 BC date for the destruction of Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar. I'll also mention, for those who might be interested, that other texts of the period mention Neriglissar and Labashi-Marduk by name.)
My challenge to all Jehovah's Witnesses is this: show how one of these three possibilities is genuinely viable. If none of them are, and thus if all three propositions above are true, then the data given in Watchtower publications shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jehovah's Witness chronology is in significant error, thus undermining JW teachings.