Correspondence: Reception of the Missing Millennium
January 2, 2012
Dear Dr. Aardsma,
I just received the January/February issue of Biblical Archaeology Review in the mail, and it contains an intriguing article entitled "When Did Ancient Israel Begin?" by the editor, Hershel Shanks. I decided to email you about this because it provides possible evidence for an Exodus/Conquest in the third millenium B.C.
The article explains that a new (to us) Egyptian hieroglyphic inscription has turned up that several Egyptologists from the University of Heidelberg believe mentions Israel. There is some question about this identification because the hieroglyph for "sh" appears in the name, rather than the hieroglyph for "s". However, it is difficult to imagine another entity that would fit this name, so it probably is a variant spelling for Israel. But the amazing thing is the date that paleography assigns to this inscription. Although there is some uncertainty, it seems that the inscription dates to about 1400 B.C. --- in other words, the time frame for the conquest of Canaan, according to the 15th century Exodus theory. And yet the inscription seems to mention Israel, not as a nomadic people, but as a settled entity within Palestine, much as the later Merneptah Stele does.
Of course, Hershel Shanks cites the views of liberal scholars that there may have been multiple entries into Canaan by different tribes, starting in the 16th century B.C. He even suggests that the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt might have constituted part of the Exodus. However, he concludes his article by saying, "Nothing conclusive here, but much food for thought." I must agree with that assessment. But one thing is certain. If this inscription is from the 15th century B.C. and if it actually mentions Israel as a settled entity in Canaan, it falsifies both the 13th and 15th century Exodus/Conquest theories. Of course, it can be interpreted along the lines of multiple entries into Canaan by different tribes. But it also dovetails nicely with your theory of an Exodus/Conquest in the 25th century B.C., which would also postulate a settled Israel in the 15th century B.C.
Clearly, this inscription is not "smoking gun" evidence in favor of an Exodus/Conquest in the 25th century, as it probably pertains to a period about a thousand years later. But as Hershel Shanks states, it does provide much food for thought. And if a second millennium Exodus/Conquest is ruled out, the only conservative, Bible-honoring option that remains is a third millennium Exodus/Conquest.
Thank you for bringing to my attention Hershel Shanks' most recent article, which I have now read. It adds yet another piece of evidence, this time inscriptional, in support of the 2450 B.C. Exodus date, as you observe. It dovetails nicely, in this regard, with the long-known references to the "Habiru", present in written sources back into the end of the 3rd millennium B.C. (See my A New Approach... p. 97, and BC22, p. 8.)
One can only wonder how long the Biblical Archaeology community, both liberals and conservatives, will be able to continue to ignore my missing millennium thesis, as Hershel has done in this latest article. This despite publication, well over a decade ago, of the missing millennium hypothesis in Radiocarbon, a scholarly journal devoted to chronological issues. [G.E. Aardsma, "Evidence for a Lost Millennium in Biblical Chronology" Radiocarbon 37, No. 2 (1995): 267--273; Proceedings of the 15th International 14-C Conference, edited by G.T. Cook, D.D. Harkness, B.F. Miller and E.M. Scott.]
Why do you suppose this particular scholarly community is so seemingly incapable of objective scientific methodology on this issue? There is certainly nothing intrinsically difficult to grasp about the hypothesis that a digit got accidentally dropped off a biblical chronology number vital to calculating the date of the Exodus. And if the hypothesis exists, as it does, and if it is corroborated by a great body of biblical, historical, and archaeological evidence, as it is, why can it not even be mentioned alongside other hypotheses, as part of the "food for thought"? Isn't formulating hypotheses, no matter how seemingly radical those hypotheses may appear at first sight, and then evaluating them relative to available evidence, what the business of science is fundamentally all about? And isn't Hershel's title, "When Did Ancient Israel Begin?", (my emphasis) clearly in the realm of chronology? So shouldn't a published hypothesis about the chronology of ancient Israel and it's Exodus from Egypt receive at least a passing mention in such an article?
With much appreciation,
P.S. Bob, I've taken the liberty to copy our correspondence to BAR (firstname.lastname@example.org). Hershel, we welcome your thoughts on this.
Dear Dr. Aardsma,
I hope that Hershel Shanks at least publishes your thoughts in "Queries and Comments." So many odd and even ridiculous ideas get published in the correspondence section of BAR that Hershel owes you that much.
I think people have trouble with your hypothesis because it sounds so radical at first. I admit that when I first heard it, I thought it was crackpot. After all, everyone who is at all acquainted with the Old Testament "knows" that Abraham lived around 2000 BC. To move him back to 3000 BC, and to move the Exodus to 2450 BC, seems so bizarre. It's almost like moving Christ back a thousand years. Also, I think you face a major hurdle because your 2450 BC date is so original with you. People reason that just one man could not be right when virtually no other scholar has come to this conclusion. But you have marshaled formidable evidence in favor of your view, and in light of that, I really think you are correct --- in spite of the fact that you are pretty much out on a limb by yourself. Sometimes a novel approach proves to be the right one because a researcher looks at data from a new angle, rather than being influenced by others, and that is what I think you have done.
I want you to know that at least a few scholars are listening and pondering what you have said. A few years ago, I sent a copy of your New Approach... book to Dr. Greg King, who at the time was professor of Old Testament at Pacific Union College. Dr. King took the time to read your book, and although he was not 100% committal, he stated that your proposal has considerable merit. I hope others will read your books also.
May God bless you in the new year.
September 17, 2012
This was written to Dr. Aardsma's wife, Helen, who was helping to fulfill a book order request.
... I'm curious why so-called Biblical scholars haven't seemed --- on the basis of my limited Internet searches, anyway --- to warm up to Dr Aardsma's thesis. As a retired physicist and conservative Christian, I find the thesis eminently acceptable (people do make mistakes which are often not caught) and the resultant harmonization of Scripture and archaeology very gratifying.
I suppose Dr Aardsma's response would be that I'd have to ask THEM why they haven't gotten it yet....
Your brother in Christ,
December 16, 2012
Blessings to you! I came across an article while seeking evidence for the Battle of Jericho after I learned in the Battle of Jericho Wikipedia entry that modern archaeology has proven the city to be empty during the time of Joshua. Of course I wasn't reading Joshua at the time I found the Wiki article, but the "people of Jericho" in Nehemiah dropped me into a rabbit hole and now my faith in the biblical narrative under attack. This is the article: https://www.biblicalchronologist.org/answers/millennium.php
In the article is an excerpt from your book A New Approach to the Chronology of Biblical History From Abraham to Samuel. I am wondering why the book is so hard to locate, why it's in such limited print, and why it has such a lackluster Amazon.com presence. I read your bio online, and was impressed, otherwise I wouldn't waste the time to ask.
Do you still stand by your chronology in the book? If so, I would like to learn where I can buy a copy. After all, if modern, dependable discursive tools continue to place the Bible's credibility in jeopardy (i.e., carbon dating, etc.), I'd like to know now that I've believed in a fraud---sooner than later---because ultimately I am simply a seeker of truth. However, I continue to cling on to hope that the biblical narrative isn't just a series of legends or myths for gullible children that grow up without ever questioning their beliefs. I put great hope in scientific researchers such as yourself, who go to great lengths to combat constant attacks disguised as scientific facts to discredit Christianity.
But before I delve into your theory, I need to know if you still believe in it. And if so, your book shouldn't be eradicated from the records, it should be revised and published and it should be read.
Thank you for your kind words and for your interest. You and I seem to be on the same track as far as motivation goes: to simply get at the truth.
A New Approach... was written several decades ago. Yes, I still stand by the chronology in the book. I have spent my life researching that chronology and its implications in various fields. Sane reasoning cannot help but conclude that it is simply true.
When you say you would like to buy a copy, I assume you mean a bound hardcopy, and that you have seen that a pdf version is available through the BC website (https://www.biblicalchronologist.org/products/book.php). There are no bound hardcopies of this book available at present, which is somewhat of an embarrassment to the book and its contents, as you have pointed up. The reason for this is strictly financial.
I strongly agree that "your book shouldn't be eradicated from the records, it should be revised and published and it should be read". If I could, I most certainly would get it at least reprinted. But I am a research scientist, not a businessman, or a popularizer. I spend my time researching---trying to get at yet more of the truth. Unfortunately, research to get at truth for which precious few are seeking or wish to hear does not pay very well monetarily.
There are, of course, other compensations.
Let me know if I can help further.
April 27, 2022
Dear Dr. Aardsma,
Sometime ago, I contacted you regarding new radiocarbon dates for Ancient Egypt. If we assume that the Exodus occurred in the 25th century B.C., these dates seemingly pose a challenge to correlating the Exodus with the end of the Egyptian Old Kingdom.
Due to Covid 19, I was delayed in locating this research that was published in Science, but I have finally tracked the articles down ["Dating Pharaonic Egypt" pages 1489--1490 and "Radiocarbon-Based Chronology for Dynastic Egypt" pages 1554--1557, both in volume 328, June 18, 2010].
According to the authors of these articles, they have eliminated the 300 years of uncertainty in dating the Egyptian Old Kingdom, and their new C-14 dates are roughly in line with the Cambridge Ancient History chronology for the Old Kingdom.
For this reason, I would appreciate it if you would evaluate these articles. If the C-14 dates that are proposed are accurate, it seems to me that it is no longer possible to correlate the Exodus with the time of Pepi II, Merenre Antyemsaf II, and the collapse of the Old Kingdom. A 25th century B.C. Exodus is still certainly possible with the new dating, but the nice correlation with significant events in Old Kingdom history is lost.
I would appreciate it if you would read the articles and let me know what you think. Thank you for your help with this matter!
These articles give the appearance of posing a threat to the correlation of the Exodus with the end of the Old Kingdom, but in actual fact they fail to do so.
Figure 2A (page 1555) of the primary article, "Radiocarbon-Based Chronology for Dynastic Egypt," pretty much tells the whole story. To aid this discussion, I have sketched a similar figure below.
My figure focuses on just the portion of the radiocarbon calibration curve of interest to the present discussion, i.e., the radiocarbon dating of the Old Kingdom.
I have used an older calibration curve (IntCal 98) for my figure than the one used by the article (IntCal 04). The two calibration curves will be highly similar but not identical. I have used the older curve only because I had it readily at hand and I am very pressed for time at present.
You will see immediately that, while the article boasts use of "211 radiocarbon measurements," only 14 of these measurements actually apply to the chronological positioning of the Old Kingdom by the model. Of these 14 measurements, 3 are replicates of the same sample. So this entire redating of the Old Kingdom by the model is dependent on just a dozen radiocarbon samples.
In this model, the accession dates of the pharaohs are all connected together by predetermined reign lengths. The model does not assess whether or not these reign lengths are correct. It treats the relative chronology of the Old Kingdom as a given. All it attempts to do is determine the most probable chronological placement on the timeline of this otherwise floating Old Kingdom chronology.
Unfortunately, 12 samples is very much on the shy side for this undertaking. Grimal, in his A History of Ancient Egypt," lists 29 rulers for the Old Kingdom. Ideally, one would use multiple radiocarbon samples for every ruler of the Old Kingdom in such a model. I realize that this is a bit much to hope for in the real world, but the model falls very short of this ideal. In fact, the 12 samples are inclusive of just four Old Kingdom rulers.
The method used by the model to establish the absolute chronology of the Old Kingdom is to match the pattern of the raw (uncalibrated) radiocarbon ages of the 12 samples to the radiocarbon calibration curve as closely as possible. This is not done one sample at a time but all samples collectively. Because the 12 samples are associated with four pharaohs whose relative chronology is assumed known, the relative calendar dates of the samples are all linked together. Thus, the graph of radiocarbon ages versus relative dates of the four pharaohs will produce a distinctive pattern. If the relative chronology is right, then this pattern should match to the radiocarbon calibration curve at the true, absolute location of the Old Kingdom on the timeline. You can see immediately that the more pharaohs one includes in the study the more complex the pattern will be and the more likely one will be of getting only the right match.
The first 9 data points (from 7 samples) are all associated with the pharaoh Djoser and are all plotted at the same (or roughly the same) date---which is why they appear as a vertical set of data points. I have not been able to find anywhere in the article the actual date(s) chosen for plotting these points on the graph, but I assume the midpoint of Djoser's reign (as determined by the output from the model) was utilized. I have done the best I can to get the dates from the original Figure 2A graph using a flat, transparent plastic ruler. For the 9 Djoser data points, this gave 2645 B.C. as the calendar date coordinate.
The next radiocarbon data point on the graph, we learn from Table S1, is plotted at the accession date of Sneferu. It is clearly an outlier (being far removed from the calibration curve), reducing the number of radiocarbon samples determining this redating of the Old Kingdom to 11.
The next set of vertical data points (2 in number) is plotted presumably at the midpoint of the reign of Sneferu determined by the model. I have gotten 2600 B.C. for the calendar date of these points from Figure 2A. This gives 11 radiocarbon samples and two rulers at this point.
The next point is for Djedkara (I got 2430 B.C.), giving 11 points and three rulers.
The final point is for Pepi I (I got 2345 B.C.), giving 11 points and four rulers. This final point is pretty far off the calibration curve and has some probability of being an outlier, but it is retained by the model.
That explains my sketch of the original Figure 2A.
I have made the sketch to show that there exists another reasonable solution for the model, in harmony with the expectation of biblical chronology.
When I take my sketch and add 190 years to all of the calendar dates assigned to the 12 radiocarbon data points, thus moving the floating Old Kingdom chronology to an older time, the following graph results.
My sketch is meant to show only that, visually, this alternate solution appears to be pretty much as good as the solution adopted by the model. You can see that the radiocarbon data points group around the calibration curve pretty much as well with this alternate solution as they did with the published solution.
This alternate solution needs to be firmed up using the actual calibration curve and calendar dates for the radiocarbon measurements used in the construction of Figure 2A, of course, but there is one point which stands out to me and seems sufficiently robust to mention at this point. The published solution places the Djedkara data point close to the calibration curve and the Pepy I point far from the curve. The alternative solution reverses this. Thus, the potential, Pepy I, old outlier of the published solution gets converted to a potential, Djedkara, young outlier by the alternate solution. In this regard, the alternate solution appears more probable because it is much easier to get young outliers than old outliers. A modern twig in an ancient grave produces a young outlier. An ancient twig in a modern grave produces an old outlier. You can see that it is easy for old sites to become contaminated with younger debris and much harder for old sites to become contaminated with yet older debris.
The existence of this alternate solution is itself remarkable. Clearly, there is no alternate solution at a more recent date than that chosen by the model. Try sliding all of the datapoints of the original graph together to the right and you very quickly wind up with all of the datapoints but one above the calibration curve. Try sliding all of the datapoints together more than a few centuries to the left and you wind up with all of the datapoints below the calibration curve. Alternate solutions are not abundant. Only when the data points are slid about 190 years to the left does an alternate solution emerge.
This is not coincidental. Modern Biblical chronology has been saying right along that the end of the Old Kingdom and beginning of the First Intermediate Period in the commonly accepted standard chronologies is several hundred years too late. Biblical chronology thus predicted existence of this alternate solution.
The published solution has already pushed the Old Kingdom back 50 to 100 years relative to standard chronologies, and this alternate solution pushes it back another 190 years, for a total somewhere between 200 and 300 years---as predicted.
As you know, I have previously shown that Joseph's Famine synchronizes with the solar perturbance responsible for the wiggle in the radiocarbon calibration curve giving rise to this alternate solution (implying the reasonable hypothesis that the 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of famine, which Genesis records, were caused by that solar perturbance) and I have previously discussed the likelihood that the biblical Joseph is one and the same person as the historical Imhotep, vizier of Egypt under Djoser. So the biblical record provides important synchronisms not only at the end of the Old Kingdom but also at its start. These synchronisms are of greatest importance to determining the absolute chronology of the Old Kingdom.
Unfortunately, this alternate solution is nowhere discussed in this Science article. Curiously, every inscription known from history bearing on the chronology question in hand is likely indirectly included in the Bayesian model this Science article sports---with the sole exception of the extensive biblical records of Joseph's Famine and the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and their associated biblical chronology dates. Even sketchy astronomical hypotheses get mentioned in this Science article. But the results of modern biblical chronology, though published by me on the Internet via www.BiblicalChronologist.org, in Biblical Chronologist articles, in published books, at international Radiocarbon conferences, and in Radiocarbon journal articles, are curiously completely missing.
While we do not have the luxury of proof positive in science, the likelihood that the catastrophic end of the Old Kingdom correlates with the biblical Exodus and that this correlation dates to roughly 2450 B.C. appears to be about equal with the likelihood that the sun will rise tomorrow morning.