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Responses from Scholars Quoted in the Series "When Was Ancient Jerusalem Destroyed?"

 

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I wrote to some scholars* quoted in the series "When was ancient Jerusalem destroyed?", asking what they think of the conclusions published in the "Watchtower" (10/1/2011 and 11/1/2011), and the way they have been quoted to discredit the year 587 BC. Although there is a note in the magazine stating that "none of the secular experts quoted in this article hold that Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 B.C.E.," it is interesting to know what they think because Watchtower's writer tries to find in these experts some information that may weaken the date 587. In a role reversal, it is as if scholars were ignoring information in favor of a preconceived misconception.

 

Since these scholars may be being inundated with emails because of these recent articles published by the "Watchtower", maybe not all of them feel comfortable to answer. But those who give some feedback I will publish their answers here.

 

To see an answer, click on the desired link below. To return to the top of this page, simply click the name of the scholar.

 

1. Ronald H. Sack

 

2. John M. Steele

 

3. David R. Brown

 

4. R. J. van der Spek

 

5. Peter J. Huber

 

6. F. R. Stephenson

 

7. David M. Willis

 

8. Annette Imhausen

 

9. Salvo De Meis

 

10. S. M. Burstein

 

11. Leo Depuydt

 

12. Christopher Walker

 

13. G. J. Toomer

 

* I point out that some important scholars mentioned in the Watchtower magazine can not be asked about the issues because they have died. This is the case of Raymond P. Dougherty and J. Abraham Sachsª. Fortunately, the latter was interviewed on June 24, 1968 at Brown University, Rhode Island, by Raymond Franz, who had been charged by the Watchtower to write the article "chronology" of the Bible encyclopedia "Aid to Bible Understanding", in English (Franz later became a member of the "Governing Body" of the "Jehovah's Witnesses"). The purpose of this interview was to know from Dr. Sachs if had any evidence that would favor the date 607 BC for the destruction of Jerusalem. Raymond Franz tells in his book "Crisis of Conscience" that Sachs made it clear that there is no such possibility. - Crisis of Conscience, 4th edition, in English, p. 30 and private communication maintained with the author.

 

ª Dougherty is mentioned in footnote 10 and Sachs on pages 26 and 27, and some notes. - The Watchtower, 11/1/2011.

 

 

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1. RONALD H. SACK

 

On October 12, 2011 I wrote the following email to Dr. Sack:

 

Hi Dr. Sack,

 

The Watchtower magazine of November, 2011 published an article on Neo-Babylonian chronology. The magazine mentions that the sources that support the date 587 BC for destruction of Jerusalem are not reliable. To support this point of view, they quote you several times, among other experts. See a example below:

“What have experts said? R. H. Sack, a leading authority on cuneiform documents, states that the chronicles provide an incomplete record of important events. He wrote that historians must probe ‘secondary sources . . . in the hope of determining what actually happened.’

“What do the documents show? There are gaps in the history recorded in the Babylonian chronicles.3 (See the box below.) Logically, then, the question arises, how reliable are deductions”.

So I ask, do you agree somehow with Watchtower on this application? Is there really any chance of the year 587 BC be wrong?

I am a Brazilian researcher who writes about ancient Biblical history and I would appreciate your response.

Thank you,

 

Adelmo Medeiros

 

On October 13, 2011 Dr. Sack sent me the answer below:

 


 

2. JOHN M. STEELE

 

On October 12, 2011 I wrote the following email to Dr. Steele:

 

Dear Dr. Steele,

 

The Watchtower magazine of November, 2011 (published by Jehovah's Witnesses) quoted you several times in an article on Neo-Babylonian chronology. The author mentions the tablet VAT 4956, and says that its astronomical information could have been made by calculating backwards. In other words, such observations were calculated and not observed. To support this point of view you was quoted in Article, on page 24:

“But could the Babylonians project backward to calculate when eclipses had occurred in the past? ‘It is possible,’ states Professor John Steele, ‘that some of the earliest predictions could have been made by projecting the scheme backwards when the text was compiled’. (Italics ours.)”

So I ask, the above statement actually apply to the VAT 4956?

 

I am a Brazilian researcher who writes about ancient Biblical history and I would appreciate your response.

 

Thank you,

 

Adelmo Medeiros

 

Dr. Steele removed his email on site of the University of Durham. This seems to indicate that he no longer wants to answer emails on the subject published in the "Watchtower". Fortunately, Dr. Steele had already responded to an email with a similar content that was sent by Marjorie Alley, which is from the Archaeological Institute of America, as reported for Dr. Sack.

On September 2, 2011, Alley received the following response from John Steele:

 

Available at Jehovahs-Witness.net

 

3. DAVID RODNEY BROWN

 

On October 13, 2011, I wrote the following email to Dr. Brown:

 

Hi Dr. Brown,

 

The Watchtower magazine of November 1, 2011 published an article on Neo-Babylonian chronology. The magazine mentions that the sources that support the date 587 BC for destruction of Jerusalem are not reliable. To support this point of view, they mention your work, among other. See below:

 

“Professor David Brown, who believes that the astronomical charts included predictions made shortly before the recorded events, acknowledges that it is conceivable that some of these were ‘retrocalculations undertaken by scribes in the 4th and later centuries BC.’ If these are retrocalculations, could they really be considered absolutely reliable unless corroborated other evidence?”

 

Watchtower says that VAT 4956 is not reliable for the reasons above. In other words, the observations were calculated and not observed.

So I ask, do you agree somehow with Watchtower on this application of your work? Is there really any chance of the year 587 BC be wrong? The year 607 would be correct, for destruction of Jerusalem?

 

I am a Brazilian researcher who writes about ancient history and I would appreciate your response.

 

Thank you,

 

Adelmo Medeiros

 

On October 13, 2011, Dr. Brown answered:

 

 

Due to the above e-mail content, I post my answer here, sent on October 13, 2011:

 

Thanks for replying, Dr. Brown. Sorry to bother you with this matter. I did not know you did not work more in the field. I'll try to find the answer you gave about what I asked. But I confess that I do not really know where it is published.

 

Thank you,

 

Adelmo Medeiros

 

4. R. J. (BERT) VAN DER SPEK

 

On October 13, 2011, I wrote the following email to Dr. Bert van der Spek:

 

Hi Dr. van de Spek,

 

The Watchtower magazine of November 1, 2011 published an article on Neo-Babylonian chronology. The magazine mentions that the sources that support the date 587 BC for destruction of Jerusalem are not reliable. To support this point of view, they mention your work. See below:

 

“Even if an eclipse did occur on a certain date, does this mean that the historical information the writer of the tablet assigns to that date is accurate? Not necessarily. Scholar R. J. van der Spek explains: ‘The compilers were astrologers, not historians.’ He describes sections of the tablets that contain historical records as ‘more or less casual,’ and he warns that such historical information must ‘be used with caution.’”

Watchtower says that VAT 4956 is not reliable for the reason above, among other.

 

So I ask, do you agree somehow with Watchtower on this application of your work? Is there really any chance of the year 587 BC be wrong? The year 607 would be correct, for destruction of Jerusalem?

 

I am a Brazilian researcher who writes about ancient history and I would appreciate your response.

 

Thank you,

 

Adelmo Medeiros

 

On October 24, 2011, Dr. Bert answered:

 


5. PETER J. HUBER

 

On October 14, 2011, I wrote the following email to Dr. Huber:

 

Dear Dr. Huber,

The Watchtower magazine of November 1, 2011 published an article on Neo-Babylonian chronology, where it mentions that the sources that support the date 587 BC for the destruction of Jerusalem are not reliable.

The magazine also reports that the tablet VAT 4956 has evidence that the Neo-Babylonian period was 20 years longer than we think. To support this point of view your book Babylonian Eclipse Observations From 750 BC to 1 BC is quoted on p. 28 (see attached images).

Your work does really provide a clue to reach the above conclusion?

I am a Brazilian researcher who writes about ancient history and would appreciate receiving your response.

Thank you,

 

Adelmo Medeiros

 

On October 15, 2011, Dr. Huber answered:

 

 

6. F. R. STEPHENSON

 

On October 14, 2011, I wrote the following email to Dr. Stephenson:

 

Hi, Dr. Stephenson

I am a Brazilian researcher who writes about ancient history, and would like to know your opinion about a subject. I would greatly appreciate your response.

The Watchtower magazine of November 1, 2011 published an article on Neo-Babylonian chronology, where it mentions that the sources that support the date 587 BC for the destruction of Jerusalem are not reliable. In addition, the magazine also reports that the astronomical diary VAT 4956 has evidence that the Neo-Babylonian period was 20 years longer than we think.

By introducing the above subject, your article "The Earliest Datable Observation of the Aurora Borealis" is mentioned (as you know, it was published in Under One Sky - Astronomy and Mathematics in the Ancient Near East).

So, I ask, since you are an expert in archaeoastronomy, is there some possibility of these ancient astronomical diaries support this matter published in this magazine?

Regards,

 

Adelmo Medeiros


See the answer below from Dr. Willis, who also responded on behalf of Dr. Stephenson.

 

7. DAVID M. WILLIS

 

On October 14, 2011, I wrote the following email to Dr. Willis:

 

Hi, Dr. Willis

I am a Brazilian researcher who writes about ancient history, and would like to know your opinion about a subject. I would greatly appreciate your response.

The Watchtower magazine of November 1, 2011 published an article on Neo-Babylonian chronology, where it mentions that the sources that support the date 587 BC for the destruction of Jerusalem are not reliable. In addition, the magazine also reports that the astronomical diary VAT 4956 has evidence that the Neo-Babylonian period was 20 years longer than we think.

By introducing the above subject, your article "The Earliest Datable Observation of the Aurora Borealis" is mentioned (as you know, it was published in Under One Sky - Astronomy and Mathematics in the Ancient Near East).

So, I ask, since you are an expert in archaeoastronomy, is there some possibility of these ancient astronomical diaries support this matter published in this magazine?

Regards,

 

Adelmo Medeiros


Em 18/10/2011 Dr. Willis respondeu:

 

.................................................... one part was omitted temporarily at the request by the sender .............................................................

 

 

 

8. ANNETTE IMHAUSEN

 

On October 14, 2011, I wrote the following email to Dr. Imhausen:

 

Dear Dr. Imhausen,

I am a Brazilian researcher who writes about ancient history, and would like to know your opinion about a subject. I would greatly appreciate your response.

The Watchtower magazine of November 1, 2011 published an article on Neo-Babylonian chronology, where it mentions that the sources that support the date 587 BC for the destruction of Jerusalem are not reliable. In addition, the magazine also reports that the astronomical diary VAT 4956 has evidence that the Neo-Babylonian period was 20 years longer than we think.

When introducing the subject above, they cite the article “The Earliest Datable Observation of the Aurora Borealis” which was published in the work Astronomy and Mathematics in the Ancient Near East.

So, since you were editor of the book above (see attached image), I ask:

In your opinion, is there some possibility of these ancient astronomical diaries support this matter published in this magazine?

Regards,

 

Adelmo Medeiros


I got no answer from Dr. Imhausen.

 

9. SALVO DE MEIS

 

On October 16, 2011, I wrote the following email to Dr. De Meis:

 

Dear Dr. De Meis,

The Watchtower magazine of November 1, 2011 published an article on Neo-Babylonian chronology, where it mentions that the sources that support the date 587 BC for the destruction of Jerusalem are not reliable.

The magazine also reports that the tablet VAT 4956 has evidence that the Neo-Babylonian period was 20 years longer than we think. To support this point of view your book Babylonian Eclipse Observations From 750 BC to 1 BC is quoted on p. 28 (see attached images, I forgot to attach the files in another email).

 

So, I ask: Do you think your work does really provide a clue to reach the above conclusion?

I am a Brazilian researcher who writes about ancient history and would appreciate receiving your response.

Thank you,

 

Adelmo Medeiros


On October 18, 2011, Dr. De Meis answered:

 


 

10. STANLEY M. BURSTEIN

 

On October 16, 2011, I wrote the following email to Dr. Burstein:

 

Dear Dr. Burstein,

 

The Watchtower magazine of October 1, 2011 published an article on Neo-Babylonian chronology, where it mentions that the sources that support the date 587 BC for the destruction of Jerusalem are not reliable. To support this point of view your book is quoted on p. 29:

 

“How do other scholars view Berosus? ‘In the past Berosus has usually been viewed as a historian,’ states S. M. Burstein, who made a thorough study of Berosus’ works. Yet, he concluded: ‘Considered as such his performance must be pronounced inadequate. Even in its present fragmentary state the Babyloniaca contais a number of surprising errors of simple fact… In a historian such flaws would be damming, but then Berossus’ purpose was not historical.’”

 

So, I ask: Your book really provides information that leads to conclusion that the year 587 is not supported by reliable sources, being that the book of Berosus is one of them?

 

I am a Brazilian researcher who writes about ancient history and would appreciate receiving your response.

 

Thank you,

 

Adelmo Medeiros


On October 16, 2011, Dr. Burstein answered:

 

 

11. LEO DEPUYDT

 

On October 16, 2011, I wrote the following email to Dr. Depuydt:

 

Dear Dr. Depuydt,

 

The Watchtower magazine of October 1, 2011 published an article on Neo-Babylonian chronology, where it mentions that the sources that support the date 587 BC for the destruction of Jerusalem are not reliable. To support this point of view your book is quoted on p. 30:

 

“ ‘It has long been known that the Canon is astronomically reliable,’ writes Leo Depuydt, one of Ptolemy’s most enthusiastic defenders, ‘but this does not automatically dependable.’ ”

 

So, I ask: Your book really provides information that leads us to conclusion that the year 587 is not supported by reliable sources, being that the Canon of Ptolemy is just one of them?

 

I am a Brazilian researcher who writes about ancient history and would appreciate receiving your response, even if your answer is only a few words.

 

Thank you,

 

Adelmo Medeiros


On October 16, 2011, Dr. Depuydt answered:

 


(Korpela is a reader from Filand)

 

12. CHRISTOPHER B. WALKER

 

On October 16, 2011, I wrote the following email to Dr. Walker:

 

Dear Dr. Walker,

 

The Watchtower magazine of October 1, 2011 published an article on Neo-Babylonian chronology, where it mentions that the sources that support the date 587 BC for the destruction of Jerusalem are not reliable. To support this point of view your book Mesopotamian and Iran in the Persian is quoted on p. 30:

 

“Thus, Christopher Walker of the British Museum says that Ptolemy’s canon was ‘an artificial scheme desigened to provide astronomers with a consistent chronology’ and was ‘not to provide historians with a precise record of the accession and death of kings.’”

 

So, I ask: Your book really provides information that leads us to conclusion that the year 587 is not supported by reliable sources, being that the Canon of Ptolemy is one of them?

 

I am a Brazilian researcher who writes about ancient history and would appreciate receiving your response.

 

Thank you,

 

Adelmo Medeiros


I got no answer from Dr. Walker. Currently, he is retired and no longer works at the British Museum, as the person who is now in his place informed me.

 

13. GERALD JAMES TOOMER

 

On October 17, 2011, I wrote the following email to Dr. Toomer:

 

Dear Dr. Toomer,

 

The Watchtower magazine of October 1, 2011 published an article on Neo-Babylonian chronology, where it mentions that the sources that support the date 587 BC for the destruction of Jerusalem are not reliable. To support this point of view your translation of the Almagest is quoted on pp. 30, 31:

 

“By astronomical calculations, Ptolemy computed ‘back to beginning of the reign of Nabonassar,’ the first king on his list.” – Almagest, III, 7, translated by G. J. Toomer, 1998, page 166.

 

So, I ask: Do you think that your work really provides information that leads us to conclusion that the year 587 is not supported by reliable sources, being that the Canon of Ptolemy is just one of them?

 

I am a Brazilian researcher who writes about ancient history and one of the translators of "Gentile Times Reconsidered", a work on Neo-babylonian chronology written by Carl Olof Jonsson, from Sweden. I would appreciate receiving your response, even only a few words.

 

My best wishes,

 

Adelmo Medeiros

 

On 17 October 2011, a professor emeritus at Brown University sent me an email stating that Dr. Toomer is now retired and no longer works in the university.

 

 

 

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