Monday, March 21, 2005

A Blog Related to Purim...barely

In the Talmud, Mesechet Rosh Hashanah daf 3b, it says: "In the one place it speaks of Cyrus, and in the other of Darius. We have learned in a Boraitha that Darius, Cyrus, and Artaxerxes are all one and the same person."

Historically, we know such a statement is utter nonsense. See here.

Cyrus I 640 - 600 B.C.
Cambyses I 600 - 559 B.C.
Cyrus II, the Great 559 - 529 B.C.
Cambyses II 530 - 522 B.C.
Smerdis, (the Magian) 522
Darius I, the Great 522 - 486 B.C.
Xerxes I 486 - 465 B.C.
Artaxerxes I 465 - 425 B.C.
Xerxes II 424 B.C.
Darius II 423 - 404 B.C.
Artaxerxes II 404 - 359 B.C.
Artaxerxes III 359 - 339 B.C.
Arses 338 - 336 B.C.
Darius III 336 - 330 B.C.

As can be plainly seen, those kings are all different and ruled at different times. To be clear, the important kings in Tanach and those in the Talmud begin at Cyrus II since he was the first true king of the Persian empire free from Median overlordship. But this is just a clear example of how the Talmudic method shares no interest in empiricism and that the Talmud simply made all three kings into the same person to help support another argument. The manner of thinking is that since the argument must be valid, the facts must line up behind it. Quite the opposite to how science and empiricism operate.


Mis-nagid said...

It "worked" so well with textual facts, so why not with worldy ones? If an "extra" vav can mean "don't tie your laces on Wednesdays," why can't three kings be one?

The rabbis of the Talmud made up whatever they wanted, but went through great effort to robe their innovations in the the terms of aniquity. The very term "halacha lmoshe m'sinai is a fabrication to justify their reforms. Their practice of picking the way you want it to be and using textual chicanery to make it "supported" by evidence works just as well for kings as it does for bosor v'cholov, i.e. not at all.

avian30 said...

Unfortunately this error results in a serious problem for the traditional Jewish chronology. As a demonstration, consider this timeline on Aish HaTorah's website which follows the Jewish chronology.

Certain dates in this timeline are more than a century in error. For example:

* The Assyrian exile of Israel is placed in 555 BCE, but the correct date is 722 BCE.
* The Babylonian exile is placed in 422 BCE, but the correct date is 586 BCE.
* The Persian conquest and thus the end of the Babylonian exile is placed in 370 BCE, but the correct date is 539 BCE.

The reason for these serious discrepancies is that the Jewish chronology incorrect assigns ~52 years between the time Persia conquered Babylon and Alexander of Greece conquered Persia. The correct length of this period, however, is 208 years. Therefore, the chronology of the Persian period and all events prior to this are completely distorted. (Even if this discrepancy is corrected the dates are not accurate, but at least they are close.)

Ken Spiro, the author of the timeline above, is aware of the discrepancy but incorrectly claims that the evidence for the conventional chronology used by historians is weak. Other authors dismiss this conventional chronology as being based on "Greek tales." To be fair, these authors are probably unaware of the considerable amount of unambiguous evidence from Persian, Babylonian, and Greek sources contemporary to the time period, all of which demonstrates the correctness of the conventional chronology.

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