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TorahTimes Messianic Ministry

Teaching Truths about Torah, Time, and Messiah

A Cross Examination of Kenneth Frank Doig on
“The Division of Abijah”

John Chrysostom (ca AD 349 - 407) claimed that Zechariah was the High Priest, and that he was burning incense on the 10th of Tishri, on the Day of Atonement. Apparently Chrysostom did not read, or take Luke 1:9 seriously, He [Zechariah] was chosen by lot to enter the Temple of Yăhwēh. The High Priest was never chosen by lot to burn incense on the Day of Atonement. The High Priest was always appointed to that job. Therefore, Zechariah was not the High Priest doing a Day of Atonement service. Furthermore, Luke 1:11 states that the Messenger appeared on the right side of the altar of incense. This article of the sanctuary was in the Holy place, and not in the Most Holy Place. The incense altar was used daily by the priests to whom the lots to burn incense fell, and who were part of the regular divisions. Chrysostom missed two scriptures from which it can only be deduced that Zechariah was not the High Priest burning incense on the day of Atonement. Upon this erring foundation Chrysostom added six months from the conception of John to the announcement to Mary. He then counted 9 more months to December 25. Chrysostom used the year of his sermon (AD 386) as his example. Chrysostom put John’s conception on the first day of the feast of Tabernacles, which he suggested was on Sept 25 that year (the actual date was Sept 27). He counted six months: Oct 25, Nov 25, Dec 25, Jan 25, Feb 25, Mar 25. He then counted nine more: April 25, May 25, June 25, July 25, August 25, Sept 25, Oct 25, Nov 25, Dec 25. Chrysostom used Greek month names, but in his time they were equated to the Roman months, so I have dispensed with the confusion and have translated Chrysostom’s Greek month names into their Roman equivalents.

Kenneth Doig picks up on this deceitful argument of Chrysostom stating, A similar path can be followed in an attempt to demonstrate that Chrysostom was essentially correct. Along the way he also claims,

But, the cycle [of priestly rotations] begun by Solomon did not continue unbroken until the time of Josephus in the first century CE. When Hezekiah reinstituted the Passover in 715 BCE [724 BC] he also “appointed the divisions of the priests and the Levites to their divisions.” (2 Chron. 31:2) The chain was broken.

Doig is merely assuming that the chain was broken. Even if the translation “appointed” were correct, Hezekiah’s action does not prove the chain was broken! It only proves that the divisions that were supposed to be on duty did not show up until he made them show up. The Hebrew text reads, Then Hezekiah made stand the divisions of the priests, and the Levites upon their divisions, each according to the mouth of his service, for the priests, and for the Levites […] (2 Chronicles 31:2) The text does not say Hezekiah changed the times of the rotations. The Hebrew idiom “mouth of his service,” means that the divisions remembered their order, and that they gave oral testimony or commandment (by counting) to their order. “His service” means “its service”. There is no Hebrew pronoun for “it”. Each division commanded its own order in the rotation. This is to say every division was an independent witness of where they belonged. There were 24 divisions with 24 different accountings of 24 weeks. It does not say they served according to the mouth of the king’s commandment, but according to the mouth/commandment of its service, which means that there was already an ordering in place that they used. So the text is saying exactly the opposite of what Doig has claimed it says.

During a short disruption of the Temple, we may assume that there were communities of priests keeping their respective 24 week counts. The Babylonian exile was another matter. All the divisions were scrambled up during the exile, and only four returned. The exiles remembered when the Sabbath was, but did they remember in 515 BC how many Sabbaths had passed since 10 Av 587 BC? Doig remarks,

With the Babylonian destruction of Solomon's Temple in 586 BCE the priestly service ceased, and the cycle count with it.

Doig’s conclusion, although technically correct, is overstated. It is overstated, because they could recover the count after loosing it given certain information. The first Temple was destroyed on the day after the Sabbath (10 Av, 587 BC), which can be verified by astronomical calculation. The Seder Olam tradition states that it was destroyed on the day after the Sabbath, but we need not consider that piece of information reliable for my purpose here. If it is assumed that one of the priests remembered the division that was on duty, and which day of the duty it was, when the first Temple was destroyed, then the count of divisions could be recovered, even if no one counted in the 72 years between the destruction of the first Temple, and the opening of the Second Temple (587-515 BC). Or if even one of the other divisions remembered how many weeks their count was on when the Temple was destroyed, and the day of the week that the news reported the destruction to be. The calculation would be done according to the following procedure.

First the authorities observe which day and month prior to the opening of the Second Temple is the spring equinox. They do this by marking which day the sun first sets due west moving northward along the western horizon after the winter. They note that this event occurs on 17 Adar II, and that the day of the week is a Sabbath. The date in Julian terms is March 26, or Julian date 1533404.

Given: destruction of Temple 72 years earlier.                                      
Given: date of destruction 10 AV.                                                   
Given: destruction on a Sunday.                                                     
Given: division D was on duty (14).                                                 
Given: 72 years later the spring equinox was on 17 Adar II, a Sabbath.              
Given: year = 365.25 days (known by Babylonians and Persians).                      
Given: month = 29.53 days (known by Babylonians and Persians).                      
Find: which division will be on duty on the spring equinox 72 years later.          
72 years = 365.25 x 72 = 26298 days.  (72 x 365 + 72 x ¼)                           
26298 days/ 29.53 days/lunation = 890.55 lunations. (The hardest math problem)      
890.55 lunations = 890 lunations 16 days.                                           
Count back 16 days to 1 Adar II.                                                    
Therefore lunation 1 = Nisan 1 = spring equinox 72 years earlier.                   
Four months and 9 days = 29.53 x 4  + 9 = 127 days.                                 
Reduce the day count by 127 days: 26298-127 = 26171.                                
Divide by 7: 3738.71.  Round to nearest week: 3739.                                 
The first week = Division D.                                                        
The 3739th week = Division D + 3738.                                                
3738 MOD 24 = 18, so                                                                
The 3739th week =  Division D + 18.                                                 
D = 14.  D + 18 = 32. 32 -24 = 8.                                                   
Division 8 serves the week leading up to the spring equinox of 515.                 
Check: Since the spring equinox fell on the Sabbath, 3/26/515 BC (17 Adar II),      
the week leading it (#3739) began on 3/20/515 (11 Adar II). The Julian date for this
was 1533398.  Using the First Temple formula: [(JD + 1)/7 - 2] MOD 24 + 1:          
[(1533398 + 1)/7 - 2] MOD 24 + 1 = 8.                                               
Note: if the weekday of the destruction were forgotten, there there is a possibility
that the result could be the 9th division.                                          

Why does this calculation work? It works because counting backwards by the length of an average lunation (29.53 days) never deviates by more than 2 days from the true new moon (in a space of 72 years the cumulative error is only 12.56 hours vs. 29.530588). If the cycle is correctly synchronized then the deviation is only ±1 day. If an even more slightly accurate figure is used 29.5306, then the error accumulates much less slowly. The year length is only needed to determine the total number of lunations. The calculation is in trouble only if the equinox falls near the 15th of the month at the beginning of the year, putting in doubt the possibility of Adar II at the beginning of 587. Since the calculated equinox was on the first day of a month, there is no doubt that it is Nisan. In the actual case, Nisan 1, 587 BC was day 365 of the old year. So the calculation was off by only 1 day. It would have to be off by 14 days to put in doubt the number of lunations. Given these conditions, the nearest number of whole weeks can always be calculated, and therefore the weekly count of priestly divisions can always be recovered using only the knowledge of ancient times, and a valid historical record where the count left off.

The hardest mathematical operations involved are long division and long multiplication. The problem could certainly be worked out by the Persian Magi.

If the returnees thought it important to work out which division should be on duty counting the cycles in the 72 missed years, then they could have done it. But they did not do this. For we find that they probably had a different principle in mind. When counting back from 9 Av, AD 70, we find that the first week of Nisan 515 BC (the week containing the new moon of it) calculates to the 15th division, or the week prior to the 14th division, or the week leading the spring equinox, the 13th. Counting forward from Solmon’s Temple, the 8th division should have been on duty. This is a 5 week difference. No one makes a 5 week error, and no one synchronizes division 15 for the first of Nisan unless they are following a different principle. They either make no error counting through the 72 years, or they start again at the first division, OR they decide not to count through the 72 years, and to pick up the new rotations where the old left off. It appears that they picked up the count left off in 587 with either the 14th division in the week prior to Nisan 1, or with the 15th division in the week of Nisan 1.

It appears that no calculation was done at all, but it was simply remembered what division was on duty when the first temple was destroyed, and then the rotations resumed where they left off. The 14th division in 587 was simply followed by the 15th division in Nisan of 515 BC. Doig, of course assumes that the Temple was destroyed in 586 BC. This error is caused by not taking the 70 year periods correctly. Calculating from 586 BC comes up one year short. The correct calculation from 587 is shown in the Scroll of Biblical Chronology. Likewise, Doig’s date for the dedication of the first Temple is incorrect, because his date for the division of the kingdom, and Solomon’s reign is incorrect. We have to take account of the 390 years in Ezekiel 4:5. It is no accident that the number of years from the division of the kingdom to the date of Ezekiel’s prophecy work out to 390 years. This is proved by the internal evidence which I will not detail here. I will just give the simple calculation. Jehoiachin was exiled in 597 BC, ten years before the destruction of the First Temple. The year is confirmed by the Babylonian Chronicle. In the 5th year of exile, Ezekiel received his vision (Ezekiel 1:1, 4:5). The count is inclusive 597 = 1. Subtract 4. Add 4: 593 = 5. Therefore: 593 BC = 390th year. To figure the 1st year of the 390, add 389, subtract 389: 982 BC = 1. The synchronism was given for month IV in 593 BC. So we need to account for the epoch of the years, which may be determined from the epoch of the 30 years given in Ezekiel 1:1. This is a Tishri epoch counting from the year of Josiah’s Passover reformation. Solomon’s reign, likewise, uses a Tishri epoch. Month IV of 982 = year 1, and so the 1st of the 390 years began in 983 BC on Tishri 1. The Temple was dedicated in the 12th year of Solomon on the second week of Tishri. His reign was 40 years long. The 40th year was 984 Tishri to 983 Tishri. The 1st of the 390 years begin with the division of the kingdom, counted to the year starting 1 Tishri 983, when Jeroboam rebelled against Rehoboam in the first year of Rehoboam. Subtract/add 28 years to the limits of the 40th year: 12th year = 1012 Tishri to 1011 Tishri. In the second week of Tishri 1012 BC, the rotations began.

Doig remarks on the Second Temple:

[…] Then they appointed the priests to their divisions and the Levites in their orders for the service of God in Jerusalem." (Ezra 6:15,18) This was March 12, 515 BCE. Josephus noted there were "four courses of the priests." (Against Apion 2:8) The Talmud also notes at that time many Levites were missing, and "Four mishmaroth (divisions) returned from the [Babylonian] exile, and they were Jedaiah, Harim, Pashhur and Immer. The prophets amongst them arose and divided them and increased them to twenty-four. [Lots were prepared] and mixed and placed in an urn. First came Jedaiah . . . and Jehoiarib should be subordinate [to him.]" (BT, Ta'anith 27a. See also `Arakin 12b and Ezra 2:36-39) The original divisions were reestablished from the four priestly families, and the cycle count began anew. From the Talmud it seems that Jedaiah was then first, with Jehoiarib last; this would have advanced Abijah to seventh, but still eighth in relation to Jehoiarib. With the "abomination of desolation" by Antiochus Epiphanes on December 8, 167 BCE, (1 Macc. 1:60; Ant. XII 5:4) the priestly service of the divisions again ceased.

NT Chronology, Chapter 7

Ezra 6:15 states that the Temple was finished on 3 Adar. The date that Doig supplies is 12 March, 515 BC. This date can be eliminated from consideration as a completion date, because it was a Sabbath. There were two Adars this year, Adar I and Adar II. The text does not specify which Adar. The 3rd of Adar I was on Thursday, Feb. 10, 515 BC. And this was the completion date. The two month delay between the completion of the building and the dedication of the altar and priests should not disturb us. In fact, any less time is problematic. Solomon’s Temple was finished in the 8th month of his 11th year (1 Kings 6:38) and the dedication delayed to 1 Tishri in his 12th year, a total of 11 months. Gill remarks, Now, though the temple was finished in the eighth month, 1 Kings 6:38, it was not dedicated until the seventh in the following year; it required time to finish the utensils and vessels, and put them in their proper place, and for the drying of the walls, […] Ezra 1:7 says that the vessels from the First Temple were returned for the Second Temple. The building of the Second Temple took longer than the first, due to delays. I don’t think Gill’s supposition of the need for mortar to dry is a serious consideration. I assume no mortar was used at all. Probably the time was chosen because the 7th month was the best time logistically to open the new Temple. It may be supposed since there was no issue with the utensils, and due to the long delays, that the Second Temple could be dedicated much sooner than the first. It appears that the authorities decided upon the dedication with the new year:

Month: XIII ADAR_II, 515 BC  3624 A.M. Sab. Cyc: 6. Jub. Cyc: 48 Cycle No: 73
Q1: 1.791 A Q2: -0.199 D LG: 109m W: 1.336' AL: 23.4 AV: 22.4                
New Moon calculated for longitude: 35.17 and latitude 31.77                  
Location of calculations: Jerusalem Author: Daniel Gregg                     
        I        II        III       IV         V        VI        VII       
                                         ↑   │   1     │   2     │   3     │ 
       ADAR_II                           NM  │New Moon │         │         │ 
     │         │         │         │         │ MAR 10  │ MAR 11  │ MAR 12  │ 
     │   4     │   5     │   6     │   7     │   8     │   9     │  10     │ 
     │         │         │         │         │         │         │         │ 
     │         │         │         │         │         │         │         │ 
     │  11     │  12     │  13     │  14     │  15     │  16     │  17     │ 
     │         │         │         │         │         │         │ EQUINOX │ 
**     │         │         │         │         │         │   1     │ 
     │  18     │  19     │  20     │  21     │  22     │  23     │  24     │ 
     │  Seven  Days Dedicating Altar and Priests----------------------     │ 
     │         │         │         │         │         │         │         │ 
     │  25     │  26     │  27     │  28     │  29 ↑   │                     
     │  15th Division Begins regular Duty    │     NM  │                     
     │         │         │         │         │ APR 7   │                     

The other alternative is that the dedication was in the week before the spring equinox (** above), and that regular service followed with the 14th division. It is only a question of whether the 14th division, whose duty fell on 9-10 Av, 587 BC, was skipped or not, when the succession was resumed.

Josephus refers to the four divisions that returned from Babylon (Against Apion 2:108), yet early on these four were divided to restore the original number of 24, and the names of the missing courses were used. Ezra 6:18 indeed cites the book of Moses as the inspiration for the divisions, and the principle is contained there (cf. Numbers 3:6-8). The implication of Ezra 6:18 is that the divisions were put the way they had been before, based upon the principle in the Torah, and the details supplied in 1 Chronicles 24. The implication is that the rotations of 24 divisions were restored at the time the Second Temple was completed, even if only four divisions returned. Each of the four divisions was divided up, probably according to relative numbers among the 24 positions. It would hardly be a detail worth promoting to say, as it is written in the Book of Moses if the ordering of the 24 divisions had not been followed or restored. For David was held to be the interpreter of the meaning of the Torah on this point, from the wisdom given him by Yahweh. If the 24 divisions had not been restored, the objection could be immediately broached that it was not according to the divine plan. Even today the Temple Institute is concerned to restore everything just as it was before. Some might even say they are obsessed with the desire to replicate every tradition and detail of the past. Can we expect less of the exiles returning from Babylon? It would seem unlikely.

Now we need to examine the Mishnah, because it tells us exactly how the division was accomplished, and it was not as Doig suggests, that the order of the divisions was different:

Our Rabbis have taught: Four Mishmaroth returned from the [Babylonian] exile, and they were: Jedaiah, Harim, Pashhur and Immer [Ezra 2:36-39]. The prophets amongst them arose and divided them and increased them to twenty-four. [Lots were prepared] and mixed and placed in an urn. First came Jedaiah and took his portion and the portions of his colleagues,1 six [in all]; then came Harim and took his portion and the portions of his colleagues six [in all]; and likewise Pashhur; and likewise Immer. And the prophets amongst them stipulated that even if Jehoiarib, who was the chief of the Mishmaroth should go up to [Jerusalem]2 Jedaiah should not be ousted from his place, but Jedaiah3 should have precedence and Jehoiarib should be subordinate [to him].4

(1) I.e., those of his sub-divisions.
(2) In the First Temple, I Chron. XXIV, 7.
(3) [Who in the First Temple was second, v. I Chron. ibid.]
(4) [Because he refused to return at the time with Ezra, v. n. 4.]

The Numbers of priests were as follows: Jedaiah 973, Immer 1052, Pashhur 1247, Harim 1017. The numbers suggest that no adjustments needed to be made for relative population of the four divisions. Each numbered about 1000. Jedaiah divided 6 ways equals 162/division, Immer: 175. Harim: 169. Pashhur divided six ways equals 207/division. The numbers may have been greater and slightly different each when the four divisions were divided up. The number of years from Ezra 3:1 to Ezra 6:18 was 12½. The increase in population could not have been much.

It was first decided that division 14 or 15 would serve first following on from the first Temple when the dedication of the Second was Completed, as described above, and determined by working back from 9 Av, AD 70. Twenty-four lots were prepared. Lots 2, 3, 5, and 16 were placed (on the table) outside the urn. The rest of the lots were put in the urn. Each of the four divisions came and took their original lot off the table and five more out of the urn, making six total. “His portion” means the original portion assigned in 1 Chronicles 24, the lot left out of the Urn. The order of divisions was kept in place, as original. It is implied that Jedaiah drew the first lot among his other five positions. This may not be the case, as the Talmud is only giving a hypothetical. If the original first division later returned from Babylon, then the 162 Priests from Jedaiah (division 2) who had moved into the place of the first division, could not loose their place, because the failure of the first division to return was their transgression, and therefore, their place was lost.

So the case is not as Doig suggested, that division 8 shifted to position 7. Division 8 was kept in position, and its name adopted by 1/6th of one of the four divisions to draw the lot for Abijah. Doig suggests that the divisions lost count and had to begin again at the first after the desolation of Antiochus. This disruption was about three years. As shown with the disruption during Ahaz’s reign, the count was not lost during the first Temple. Even if the count was lost in 587, it could have been recovered, but they appear to have decided to follow the last division of the first temple rather than rotate them in the 72 years between. There is no question of the ability of the priests to figure continuous rotations over the shorter disruptions. They only have to remember the month, day, weekday, and number of the division serving when the disruption occurred. But it is likely that the count was kept through these shorter periods. Finally, onward from Pompey’s disruption (64 or 63 BC), there were no disruptions until the destruction of the Second Temple. Not even Doig argues this. Doig’s argument against the continuity of the divisions from 515 BC onward is fairly the same as Beckwith and Finegan, and appears to me to be purely based on assumption and speculation favorable to their theories. It seems to be rather prejudiced to be willing to accept the continuity of the Egyptian calendar through all of their calamities, and then to deny the ability of the Levitical Priests to keep and accounting over much smaller periods of time.

The Biblical material was not the only record keeping that the Priests had to go on. Scripture was preserved because it was copied. The amount of contemporary record keeping at the time of the first destruction by governments, and the writers of accounts, has to have been 10,000 times the biblical material. It was available as long as the original documents lasted. And it perished for the simple banal reason that it was not deemed worthy to copy. It would appear then that the supposition that the priests must have lost count, or that it was impossible to recover it, are ad hoc arguments against a continuous rotation of priests. Doig states:

However, the priestly cycle would have run uninterrupted from at least 67 BCE (Chart IV) until the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. The relationship of this last cycle to the cycles during Solomon's Temple or before the desecration of the Second Temple is unknown. However, the order of priests would likely have remained the same as originally given in Scripture.

As discussed above, we do know the relationship, because we know how it begun with the first Temple, and how it ended with the Second Temple. The formula for converting a Julian date during the First Temple (1012 BC to 587 BC) to a division number is: D = ([(JD + 1)/7 - 2] MOD 24) + 1. The corresponding formula for the Second temple is: D = ([(JD + 1)/7 + 3] MOD 24) + 1. The 15th division in the first week of Nisan in 515 BC is justified in that it follows the 14th division, whose duty it was, when the First Temple was destroyed. So we may additionally say that there is continuity between the two Temples, since the resumed count is taken from the old count.

Since the date of the destruction of the First Temple is important I will discuss it here anew. It is relevant to which division would be on duty from the inception of Solomon’s Temple in 1012 BC, a matter briefly proved before. There are two competing dates for the destruction of the First Temple, one in 587 BC and the other in 586 BC. The 587 BC date is the only one that agrees with Scripture. It states in Zechariah 7:5:

Say unto all the people of the land, and unto the priests, saying, ‘When you had fasted, and mourned in the fifth, and in the seventh, that is this seventieth year, fasting you have fasted for me?’

It should be noted that the cardinal of seventy is the same as the ordinal of seventy. For example in Leviticus 25:10, the plural of five חֲמִשִּׁים means “fiftieth.” In Ezekiel 1:1, the plural of three שְׁלֹשִׁים means “thirtieth.” Likewise the number forty and fortieth appear the same in Hebrew. Genesis 7:4: אַרְבָּעִים. Compare בִּשְׁנַת הָאַרְבָּעִים in Numbers 33:38, and in Deuteronomy 1:3. In may be conceded that the words could mean “these seventy years” also. But as some are bound to argue that they were only fasting during a predetermined 70 years, and that it was only the 69th of the seventy, I should point out the perfect tense in Zechariah 7:5, “you had fasted […]”. Further, the text is dated in 7:1 as in the 9th month, which is being past the 5th and 7th months that year, and also in the 4th year of Darius, and the 4th day. This date answers to 7 Nov, 518 BC, a Thursday. Counting back 70 fastings in the 7th month takes the timeline from the 4th year of Darius back to the 5th month of 587 BC. If the destruction were in 586, then the statement in Zechariah 7:5 appears to be untrue.

In Jeremiah 52:29, it states, in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar he carried away captive from Jerusalem 832 persons. According to standard Babylonian reign years, this also dates to 587 BC. But then Jeremiah 32:1 states that the 10th year of Zedekiah was the 18th of Nebuchadnezzar, implying the destruction in the 19th year (the 11th of Zedekiah). 2 Kings 25:8 states it was the 19th year, as also Jeremiah 52:12. Jeremiah 52:12 was likely sourced from 2 Kings 25:8. Similar discrepancies concern the year of the deportation of Jehoiachin in 597 BC. 2 Kings 24:12 says it was in the 8th year of Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah 52:28 implies that it was the 7th year. The Babylonian Chronicle puts it on 2 Adar in the 7th year, but the Babylonian Adar that year was the first month for Judah. So from the Babylonian point of view, it was the 7th year, but in the Judean approximation it was the 8th year. The solution for the 19th year problem is that 2 Kings 25:8 is counting the Babylonian reign by a non-accession method from Tishri 605 BC, and so that when it says the 19th year, this is the same as the 18th according to the Babylonians. The Judeans were known to count the Nisan years of Babylonian and Persian Kings on the basis of a Tishri equivalence. For example, see Nehemiah 1:1 and 2:1.

Besides the 70 years of fasting fitting only with 587, we have a second witness. Ezekiel 33:21 dates a report on the fall of the city to the 10th month and the 12th year of the exile, and the 5th day of the month, i.e. December 20, 587 BC. This is before the city was destroyed in the 586 scenario, and requires 586 advocates to advance the 12th year of the exile to start in the spring of 586 instead of Tishri 587. The exile years therefore, no longer track the Sabbatic periods. This has two other undesirable effects. Firstly, the 70th year of exile is pushed entirely into the 2nd year of Cyrus (a.k.a. Cambyses), whereas his decree of release was given in the 1st, and would effectively end the exile in the 69th year. Secondly, according to 2 Kings 25:27 Jehoiachin was released in the 37th year of the exile in the accession year of Amel Markuk (בִּשְׁנַת מָלְכוֹ אֶת־רֹאשׁ), in the month of Adar, on the 27th day. This was April 2, 561 BC, the eve of the Sabbath. According to Parker and Dubberstein, this was the 43rd year of Nebuchadnezzar, and the accession year of Amel Marduk. The first year of Amel Marduk began on 4/6/561 BC after the spring equinox. The text says that the release was in the year of his reign: the head one. But if the 37th year of the exile is advanced 6 months to accommodate a 586 date, then this synchronism no longer accords with the usual Babylonian accounting.

So we see that with a ready explanation for the discrepant dates of the 7th and 8th year, and the 18th and 19th, that the other evidence points to 587 BC. Doig states in summary fashion:

The destruction of Solomon's Temple occurred in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar in the year beginning in the spring of 586 BCE. For the fifth month the new moon was first visible at Jerusalem at 3:27 AM on July 9. Saturday, July 18, 586 was Ab 10 by sunrise reckoning and Ab 9 by sunset reckoning. This seems to satisfy Jeremiah, Josephus and the Mishna.9 The division of Jehoiarib was on duty. On that day Solomon's Temple was burnt, late Saturday afternoon, "the going out of the Sabbath" according to `Arakin 11b.


Doig’s calculations here are way off. The new moon was indeed on July 9th in 586, but his weekday for 10 Av (Jul 18) is way off. Here is the month he is talking about:

Month: V AV, 586 BC  3554 A.M. Sab. Cyc: 5. Jub. Cyc: 26 Cycle No: 72       
Q1: 0.853 A Q2: -0.604 G LG:  86m W: 0.829' AL: 18.8 AV: 15.6               
New Moon calculated for longitude: 35.17 and latitude 31.77                 
Location of calculations: Jerusalem Author: Daniel Gregg                    
        I        II        III       IV         V        VI        VII      
                     ↑   │   1     │   2     │   3     │   4     │   5     │
         AV         NM   │New Moon │         │         │         │         │
                 JUL 9   │ JUL 10  │         │         │         │         │
     │   6     │   7     │   8     │   9     │  10     │  11     │  12     │
     │         │         │         │Fast Day │         │         │         │
     │         │ JUL 16  │ JUL 17  │ JUL 18  │ JUL 19  │         │         │
     │  13     │  14     │  15     │  16     │  17     │  18     │  19     │
     │         │         │         │         │         │         │         │
     │  20     │  21     │  22     │  23     │  24     │  25     │  26     │
     │         │         │         │         │         │         │         │
     │  27     │  28     │  29 ↑   │                                        
     │         │ AUG 6   │    NM   │                                        

We see that the 9th of Av is as far away from the Sabbath as one can be, and even the 10th of Av is too far away. The whole series of days in the Scripture narratives, 7 Av to 10 Av, is midweek. The 10th of Av by sunrise reckoning (marked red) does not overlap the 9th of Av by sunset reckoning (marked blue). To indicate the night between 9 and 10 Av, one has to say that the 9th of Av by sunrise reckoning overlaps the 10th of Av by sunset reckoning. So we see that 586 BC satisfies nothing of the traditional dates. Let us now take a closer look at 587 BC:

Month: V AV, 587 BC  3553 A.M. Sab. Cyc: 4. Jub. Cyc: 25 Cycle No: 72       
Q1: 1.056 A Q2: -0.239 E LG:  88m W: 1.040' AL: 21.6 AV: 16.5          
New Moon calculated for longitude: 35.17 and latitude 31.77                 
Location of calculations: Jerusalem Author: Daniel Gregg                    
        I        II        III       IV         V        VI        VII      
                                                   ↑   │   1     │   2     │
         AV                                        NM  │New Moon │         │
                                             │ JUL 20  │ JUL 21  │         │
                                             │ 1507222 │         │         │
     │   3     │   4     │   5     │   6     │   7     │   8     │  9   ♦  │  10     │
     │         │         │         │         │         │         │ JUL 29  │Fast Day │
     │         │         │         │         │         │         │     │   10th  │
     │ 13th Division     │         │         │         │         │  9  xxxx
                                                           13th Division>|<14th Division-----
     │  10     │  11     │  12     │  13     │  14     │  15     │  16     │
     │Fast Day │         │         │         │         │         │         │
     │ 14th Division     │         │         │         │         │         │
     │  17     │  18     │  19     │  20     │  21     │  22     │  23     │
     │         │         │         │         │         │         │         │
     │         │         │         │         │         │         │         │
     │  24     │  25     │  26     │  27     │  28     │  29 ↑   │          
     │         │         │         │         │         │         │          
     │         │         │         │         │         │ AUG 18  │          

Because the critical spot on the calendar breaks on the weekend, I have tagged 10 Av onto the end of the Sabbath. Also I have shown the limits of 10 Av by sunset reckoning in the blue. The overlap I show with the red “xxxxx” for the night between 9 and 10 Av. The calendar is already formated for sunset reckoning, except for Sabbaths, which are indicated by █████▀▀▀▀▀, a night █████ and a day ▀▀▀▀▀. Besides the foregoing biblical arguments for 587 BC, the Temple was burned after the Sabbath on the first day of the week, on the 9th or 10th of Av, depending on the day epoch. Can we say that 587 was a post Sabbatical year? No we cannot. It is the 4th of the cycle as shown in the header. I would suggest that the “real” postsabbatical year event was the exile of Jehoiachin in 597 BC. This was the first year of the cycle. Someone was clearly confused when they suggested that the first Temple was destroyed in a post Sabbatical year. If this mistake was not Rabbi Ḥalaphta’s, he certainly used it in Seder Olam, to construct his devious theory of Daniel 9.

In the above calendar, note the 13th and 14th division times handing off at noon on the Sabbath prior to the burning of the Temple.

Doig presents us with the following chart, to which I have added notes in square brackets.

Chart XIV                                                                                    
Service of the Division of Abijah                                                            
8-5 BCE [5 to 8 BC]                                                                          
Division of Abijah Served      Conception of John     Conception of Jesus     Birth of Jesus 
5 [BC], Sept. 3-10             Sep. 10                Feb. 25                 Nov. 25, 4     
5 [BC], March 19-26            Mar. 26                Sep. 11                 June 11, 4     
6 [BC], Oct. 3-10              Oct. 10                Mar. 25                 Dec. 25, 5 [BC]
6 [BC], April 18-25            Apr. 25                Oct. 10                 July 10, 5     
7 [BC], Nov. 1-8               Nov. 8                 Apr. 23                 Jan. 23, 5     
7 [BC], May 17-24              May 24                 Nov. 8                  Aug. 8, 6      
7 [BC], Jan. 18-25             Jan. 25                July 10                 Apr. 10, 6     
[Incorrect Calculation]                                                                      
8 [BC], Aug. 3-10              Aug. 10                Jan. 25                 Oct. 25, 7     
[Incorrect Calculation]                                                                      

Doig manages to get the same calendar dates as John Chrysostom for the conception and birth of Jesus, but to do so, he has to go far out of the bounds of the Scripture. Luke 3:1 specifies that John began his ministry in the 15th year of Tiberius, which dates between the fall of AD 28 and AD 29. Luke 3:23 states that Yeshua was almost 30 toward the fall of this year. Accordingly he was born in 2 BC. Doig takes the supposed death of Herod in 4 BC as more reliable than Luke. The Scripture nowhere gives any calculation by which it can be determined which year Herod died, other than Luke 3:1 and 3:23. The supposed 4 BC death of Herod is based on an errant interpretation of an extra biblical source, namely the correlation of an eclipse mentioned in Josephus with an eclipse in March 4 BC. The identification is ambiguous because the Jan 9/10 eclipse in 1 BC also fits the narrative of Josephus. The whole narrative of Josephus as reconstructed by 4 BC historians has to be shifted forward in time. Using the relative chronology of Thomas Lewin, this can be done. This is because the whole narrative of Josephus was forced back to 4 BC in the first place.

Doig further claims that the “whole multitude” is only gathered at one of the three great pilgrim feasts (Luke 1:10,), and therefore, the partial overlap of the service of division 8 in October of 6 BC is presented by him as confirmed by Luke 1:10. The sense imparted by Doig to “multitude” is speculation, and such it does not confirm his argument. The Pulpit commentary states, And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. This would indicate that the day in question was a sabbath or some high day. The day in question was in fact a Sabbath. This is the case because Luke states that Zechariah fulfilled all the days of his service. If he had become mute on any previous day, he would have been dismissed from service as unfit. But since the incense offering of the morning on the Sabbath was the last service of his division, he was not dismissed early, but let go with the rest of the priests at noon after dividing up the Shewbread. Zechariah may have kept the extent of his muteness secret until the concluding ceremony was over at least. It would be quite embarrassing. Anyone with sense would have nodded away with reserved silence every possible opportunity to speak in that condition, or have made confused signs. The people assumed that he had seen a vision, and that his muteness was purely temporary. Had the service been earlier in the week, it would have been discovered that it was not muteness from just the shock of a vision, but from actual inability to speak. He would have been put on leave until he recovered, if he recovered. John Gill remarks:

And the whole multitude of the people were praying without,.... In the court of the Israelites, whilst Zacharias was in the holy place; though not in the holy of holies, where only the high priest entered: it looks, as Dr. Lightfoot conjectures, as if this was on a sabbath day, since there was such a multitude of people together; for on the weekday, there were only the priests and Levites of the course, and the stationary men, which represented the Israelites, and some of the more devout sort of the people; but here was the whole multitude of the people; or as the Ethiopic version renders it, “all the people were in a full congregation praying”: prayer, was wont to be made at the time of incense; hence it is compared to it, Psalm 141:2. And hence it is, that Christ is said to offer up the prayers of all saints, with his much incense, Revelation 8:3.

Benson remarks:

The whole multitude of the people, &c. — The manner in which the evangelist expresses himself here, shows that a more than ordinary concourse of the people was in the temple on this occasion, from which we may infer that it was a sabbath, or some high festival time; for often on ordinary week-days, few of the people were present at the morning and evening sacrifices, and therefore “four and twenty men were employed to attend this service, as representatives of the people of Israel, to lay their hands on the head of the sacrifice, to pray, and to receive the blessing. These were called, from their office, stationary men.” — Macknight.

The Expositor’s Greek Testament seeks to steer us away from the conclusion that it was a Sabbath, there might be a crowd within the temple precincts at the hour of prayer any day of the week, not merely on Sabbath or on a feast day (“dies solennis, et fortasse sabbatum,” Bengel).. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges says the opposite, This seems to shew that the vision took place either on a sabbath, or some great feast-day. Bengel states, It must therefore have been a solemn day, and perhaps the Sabbath, on which Zacharias entered upon his duty.

So we do not have to conclude with Doig that the day was a feast day. It was a regular Sabbath on July 13th, 3 BC. Doig states:

Zacharias no doubt hurried home with excitement after sunset on October 10. He lived nearby in the “hill country, a city of Judah.” (Luke 1:39) Since Elizabeth was previously barren, it is not necessary to consider a normal fertility cycle. Just as Mary was later immediately pregnant with Jesus after the Annunciation, it is also expected that the miracle of God was not here delayed. Elizabeth likely became pregnant with John the evening of October 10, 6 BCE.

Doig is correct that John was immediately conceived. He is also correct that Yeshua was conceived as soon as the Messenger left. We will find that his timeline to December 25th is therefore too long. Doig states that the second announcement was at the 5.5 month mark. Therefore October 10th + 5.5 x 29.5 + 266 should give us a birth date. Adding 428 days to October 10 results in December 11th, 5 BC. This is exactly 2 weeks short of his goal. Doig is implying the child was overdue, and unlikely event because the census appointment would not be that long. Luke 2:6 states that they were there, in Bethlehem when her days were fulfilled. So from the LMP it was 280 days, or 266 days from conception when they arrived in the town. Two weeks late, then, implies that they tarried there for two weeks. And this was more than enough time to conduct their business and go home again before the worst part of the winter.

The 5.5 months, Doig proposes is not itself impossible on the supposition that the 5 months is only approximate, but it begs with question why the text says that Elizabeth hid herself for five months and not six. Doig seems to have sensed this problem and has shortened Chrysostom’s time line at this point, choosing to add the necessary two weeks at the end to reach December 25th. Chrysostom, of course, was faced with a greater distance than Doig, in trying to make it from Sept. 25th to December 25th in the next year. There is another interpretation that agrees with the facts. The 6th month was in fact the new moon day of the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, and this was the day of the second announcement. Miryam immediately went to Elizabeth for want of confirmation and ended Elizabeth’s seclusion. That is why Luke says it was five months. Elizabeth conceived on V.1. The announcement to Miryam was on X.1. John was born on II.1, and Yeshua on VII.1 (Tishri 1), and the wise men visited on XI.1. Everything was timed perfectly, according to a perfect average gestation, and then all is confirmed by Revelation 12:1-2.