The Priestly Divisions
Obviously a lot depends on getting the timing of the priestly divisions correct. I have gone into much detail on this matter in the section on priestly divisions. Here I will summarize some salient points before delving more deeply into the topic. In order to allow the priests equal opportunity to serve, in accord with the Torah’s commandment in Deut. 18:8, it was necessary for the 24 divisions instituted at the beginning of Solomon’s Temple and renewed in the Second Temple to rotate continuously for 24 weeks:
Now if a Levite comes from any of your towns throughout Israel where he resides, and comes whenever he desires to the place which Yăhwēh chooses, then he shall serve in the name of Yăhwēh his Almĭghty, like all his fellow Levites who stand there before Yăhwēh. They shall eat equal portions, except what they receive from the sale of their fathers’ estates.
The only way to certify fair services is for the 24 divisions to rotate for 24 weeks and then start over again for the next 24 weeks. There are no gaps in this system, no skipped weeks, no weeks where the next division is postponed a week due to feast days, and no annual date upon which the divisions restart. Any of these innovations cause the commandment in Deut. 18:6-8 to be broken. It is also obvious from the Qumran material that a continuously rotating system was in place. The Scriptural system is called continuous because there is no annual interruption nor are there interruptions at feast days. All the other systems are discontinuous because their creators have allowed interruptions in the succession of priestly divisions, that is skipped weeks or resetting to the first division on either Tishri 1 or Nisan 1. There are therefore two witnesses that the system was continuously rotation, 1) Deut. 18:6-8, and 2) The Qumran material.
Even though we know the nature of the system now, it is necessary to discover the synchronization point between the divisions and history. That is a record of an actual historical week and the division serving upon it must be located or somehow computed. There are three different witnesses for this matter. Two are from Scripture and one is from Jewish history. Firstly, according to Seder Olam in a well known passage, the Second Temple was burned on the 9th of Av on the first day of the week when the division of Jehoiarib was serving. This is the first division. Seder Olam also adds that it was a post-sabbatical year, and the Talmud includes commentary pointing to AD 69. It is therefore necessary to sort fact from fiction out of this statement.
The first correction that needs to be made is that the Second Temple was destroyed in AD 70. Tacitus in his Histories, book IV.38 marks the beginning of AD 70 with the consulships of Vespasian and Titus. Book V opens,
At the beginning of the same year, which the editor notes is AD 70, and then proceeds to tell of the conflict in Judea. Another Roman historian, Dio Cassius reports:
1. Such was the course of these events; and following them Vespasian was declared emperor by the senate also, and Titus and Domitian were given the title of Caesars. The consular office was assumed by Vespasian and Titus while the former was in Egypt and the latter in Palestine.
4. Titus, who had been assigned to the war against the Jews, undertook to win them over by certain representations and promises; but, as they would not yield, he now proceeded to wage war upon them. The first battles he fought were indecisive; then he got the upper hand and proceeded to besiege Jerusalem. This city had three walls, including the one that surrounded the temple.....
Epitome of Book LXV
The consuls given are for AD 70. Now to these two witnesses we may add a third. The 9th of Av in AD 69 was not the first day of the week. It was the second. However, in AD 70 it was the first day of the week. Therefore we have two Roman historians and an have confirmed an astronomical synchronism with the weekday given.
Now it remains to explain the incorrect dating of the Talmud. The year AD 69 was assumed on the basis that the second Temple was destroyed in the first year of the sabbatical periods. Since the fall of AD 67 to the fall of AD 68 was Sabbatical then AD 69 in the summer was the first year of the cycles. The Jews, therefore, to satisfy their new theory of Daniel 9 calculated 70 sabbatical periods from the destruction of the first Temple to the second. This is explained as 70 years exile and then 420 years to hide the fact from Christians that they mean 490 years. The Second Temple they claimed was destroyed in the 421st year, i.e. after the 70th sabbatical year in 490 years. In order to make the theory work they had to shorten Persian history by near 162 years and assume the destruction of the Temple was in AD 69. Therefore, the postsabbatical dating was later overlaid on the other details given.
This leaves us with the 9th of Av, the first day of the week, and the division of Jehoiarib. We have seen that the month date and the weekday agree for AD 70. But what about the division identification (Jehoiarib)? Firstly, all the other priests in AD 70 would have remembered which division was on duty. All the divisions kept separate counts of 24 weeks. Some of the priests would have been safe in Galilee when the destruction occurred and some of the priests in training would have been as young as 25 years old and learning their division count. Therefore we may expect the memory to last that generation. Some of the priests would have reached age 90, which takes us 65 years later to AD 135. The author of Seder Olam was Rabbi Yose ben Chalaphta. He was born in Sepphoris, 6 km north-northwest of Nazareth. It is certain that his life overlapped the older of these priests, and certainly his teacher Rabbi Akkiba personally knew many of these priests. Also the priests had an interest in which division they left off with since the second division expected to serve first in any restoration of the Temple. Rabbi Halaphta could hardly have lied about which division was on duty to the Jewish community. Now indeed the continuing count of divisions could have been lost, as the count of years since the destruction of the Temple was lost or fogged by Chalaphta. But it is very unlikely that the historical memory of which division was on duty was lost. That the day of the week matches the day of the month for the correct year AD 70 shows us that we must be stingy with which parts of the statement to doubt. We should doubt only those parts we can prove false. And that doesn’t include the divisional notice.
It is very likely that some of the priests did serve in their divisional orders after AD 70 even without a Temple. Clement of Rome implies the Levitical service was ongoing (xli. 2, xl. 2) as does the author of Hebrews (x. 11). In Antiquities 3:224-36 Josephus describes the Levictical service as ongoing, and also in Against Apion 2:77 and 2:193-98. These services would have only come to an end shortly before the Second Revolt. If so the divisional counting would have continued along with the memory of which division was on duty for some time.
The second witness to the divisional synchronization with a known week is of course Luke himself. Using Luke 3:1 and 3:23 we come to 2 BC. Using Revelation 12:1-2 we come to Tishri 1, and counting back 14 months and 1 day we come to the end of the service for the eighth division. That the eighth division falls right at the point for a perfect chronology confirms the divisional arrangement to the degree one is willing to tolerate delays between the annunciations and conceptions and delays over the due date.
The third witness is that counting the divisions from Solomon’s Temple to 587 BC shows they left off just before division #15. And again calculations for 515 BC when the Second Temple was put into service show that things picked up with division #15 again.
These three witnesses agree. The AD 70 synchronization works exactly with Luke and the system seems to go back all the way the inauguration of Solomon’s Temple. Sure, there may be flaws in this explanation, but for now there seems to be no better way to explain it.