Accelerated Ezra Chronology – An Examination
by Nelson Walters – 06/2018
This article is really the story of two books about Daniel’s 70 Weeks Prophecy: Daniel’s Seventy Weeks (2015), by William Struse, and my latest book, 70 Times 7 (2018). The article is being posted both on my website, at www.thegospelintheendtimes.com, and on Struse’s website, at www.the13thenumeration.com.
When Struse’s book was first published, I believed several of his insights were quite profound — specifically, that the “decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” in Dan. 9:25 was a command of the Lord (a dabar of the Lord) and that the “Prince who is to come” in Dan. 9:26 was the Lord himself. I incorporated both insights into a rough draft of my own book and sent it to Struse for review. I sent it to eight other teacher/authors who represented the full spectrum of eschatological thought as well. The insights of these teachers — some of whom agreed with me and some of whom did not — led me to revise my draft in very significant ways.
When Struse read what I had written in my book, we began a rather earnest email dialog, because it was clear that I no longer supported his position and had, in fact, come to believe in my own very different principles for the Daniel prophecy. Still, we found that as brothers in the Lord, we were able to share our differences and advance our common understanding of this important prophecy. It’s that discussion that led to this article and to the posting of the article on both websites.
With that background, I’d now like to “pull back the curtain” and share with the readers on our websites a little bit about how I came to write 70 Times 7, why some critical research didn’t end up in the book, and, perhaps most importantly, why it is important that Christians — regardless what theological interpretations divide us — must work together to advocate truth in scripture.
For generations, the 69 “week” countdown to the first coming of the Messiah (Dan. 9:25) has confounded the ekklesia (Church) and divided those seeking to interpret end times theology. In scripture, the angel Gabriel told Daniel that it would be 7 “weeks” and 62 “weeks” from the “going forth of the decree” to rebuild Jerusalem until the Messiah appeared. YHWH provided this countdown so that the ancient Jews would specifically recognize the arrival of the Messiah as the “time of their visitation” (Luke 19:44). The mystery of this countdown hinges on several key questions: First, what exactly was it that Gabriel meant by “weeks” or “sevens” — which are English translations for the Hebrew word shabuim? And second, what is the starting point of the countdown?
The most popular theory regarding the measurement of time for the countdown was introduced over a hundred years ago by Sir Robert Anderson in his classic book, The Coming Prince. Anderson proposed a starting point of 445 BC (the 20th year of “Artaxerxes”) and a “week” consisting of seven 360-day years. Although this has historically been Christian culture’s ”go-to” position regarding the Daniel 9 prophecy, both Struse and I disagree with Anderson — and our books contain dozens of proofs which collectively cast serious doubt on Anderson’s theory.
Additionally, although Struse and I both disagree with Anderson, we also disagree with each other; and each of us has proposed a different solution to the countdown included in the Daniel 9 prophecy. Accordingly, the remainder of this article will focus first on a presentation of my argument regarding the prophecy; then — in a follow-up article — we will look at what Struse believes. I strongly recommend that you pick up a copy of both of our books so that you will be able to more thoroughly evaluate the complexities of our presentations.
In the end, we leave it to our readers to consider our arguments and to draw their own conclusions. We ask only that you evaluate each argument with Christian charity and remember that perhaps only when Christ comes again will all things be made perfectly clear.
Nelson Walters’ Argument
Shabuim or “Weeks” (See 70 Times 7, Chapter Four)
In the days of Daniel, shabuim or “weeks” was a technical term for a sabbatical cycle of seven Hebraic lunar/solar years just as “decade” is a technical term for a period of ten years in our current culture. This word is used to refer to a seven-year period in Gen. 29:27. In Lev. 25: 1-7, the Lord commanded the Israelites to set aside the seventh year of the sabbatical cycle in the same way as a sabbath in a week of days was set aside. During this sabbath year, the land was to lay fallow and no agricultural work of tilling and reaping was to take place.
In addition to these scriptural references, the Dead Sea Scrolls refer to sabbatical cycles as shabuim in numerous documents including the Damascus Document and the Book of Jubilees. Based on all these references, it is obvious that this was a technical term in ancient Hebraic culture.
But Israel did not keep the sabbatical years. This lack of obedience was part of the reason for the 70-year exile in Babylon — so that the land could enjoy its rest (2 Chron 36:21, Lev. 26:34). Seventy shabuim (70 neglected sabbatical cycles) of sin resulted in 70 years of exile. So it was no wonder that Daniel who had been contemplating the 70-year exile would understand that the second grouping of 70 shabuim decreed by the angel Gabriel were sabbatical cycles of years as well; 70 shabuim of sin led to 70 years of exile which led to 70 more shabuim that would bring about the end of sin (Dan. 9:24). The symmetry was uncanny, and the direct link of the term shabuim to sabbatical cycles appears undeniable.
The Lord also commanded the Israelites to count off every seven sabbatical cycles (49 years) and to celebrate the fiftieth year as a Jubilee year. (Lev. 25:8-12). So the 70 shabuim declared by Gabriel in Dan. 9:24-27 were not just 70 sabbatical cycles, they were also a period of 10 Jubilee cycles of 49 years each. The Dead Sea Scroll’s document, the Melchizedek Pesher, clearly defines that Jews of the first two centuries BC considered the Daniel’s 70 Weeks Prophecy as ten Jubilee cycles with attendant sabbatical cycles called shabuim.
This biblical and non-biblical evidence about the use of the term shabuim in Dan. 9:24-27, that it was a technical term in ancient Israel, that neglected sabbath years were a cause of the 70-year exile Daniel was contemplating, and the fact that ancient Hebrews considered Daniel’s shabuim to be sabbatical cycles; clearly demonstrated to me that the term used in Dan. 9:24 can refer to nothing else but Hebraic sabbatical cycles. No other length of time is so clearly identified with shabuim in Scripture or in the Dead Sea Scroll literature.
The Decree to Restore and Rebuild (See 70 Times 7, Chapter Six)
Yet as I tried to apply this length of time (483 years) to the 69 “weeks” countdown, truly none of the proposed suggestions for the starting point of the prophecy made sense with the six biblical requirements for the starting point set forth in Dan. 9:25. Then while reading Ezra 6:14, the answer hit me.
They finished building according to the command of the God of Israel and the decree of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. (Ezra 6:14 NASB)
The starting point wasn’t the command of God alone (dabar) or the decree of any one of the gentile kings, but it was the “going forth” of that command of God through the combination of the first three human decrees and the resultant efforts of the Jews in Israel. In Dan. 9:25, the starting point is indicated as the “going forth” of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. Only after God’s dabar had completely “gone forth” to fulfill all of its six requirements found in Dan. 9:25, was the starting point reached where counting should begin. This occurred with the return of Ezra and the remaining captives in the 7th year of Artaxerxes. If traditional Second Temple Chronology is used, this would be the secular year 457 BC.
Exactly sixty-nine shabuim (483 years) later was the most likely year for the anointing of Yeshua at his baptism in AD 27. Since the end point of the countdown is given as to “Messiah the Prince,” and since messiah means “anointed one,” this seemed the most likely end point for the countdown. The exact precision of the starting point, the end point, and the 483 years made me realize I had likely uncovered the solution (see 70 Times 7, Chapter Six). Next, after testing this starting point against the six requirements in Dan. 9:25, I was even more convinced.
Then I began hundreds of hours examining the Gospel and historical records. Everywhere I looked, the records supported this view: The Elephantine Papyri, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, the Gospels of John and Luke, etc. I now was 95% convinced that I had found the answer. Only one aspect still held me back: The Second Temple Chronology my colleague William Struse had established in his book on Daniel’s 70 Weeks — and which was originally proposed by Dr. David L. Cooper in his classic work Messiah: His First Coming Scheduled (1939).
Both Cooper and Struse proposed that Ezra ministered during the reign of Darius the Great not Artaxerxes I. From this point on in the document, I will refer to this as the Accelerated Ezra Chronology Theory. If Ezra truly ministered during Darius the Great’s reign and not during the reign of Artaxerxes I as is considered by most traditional chronologies, my new hypothesis was meaningless because the starting point wouldn’t occur when I believed it did. However, because the new hypothesis (about the starting point being 457 BC) was so precise and backed by so much biblical and historical data, I reached an important conclusion:
Any conclusion regarding the Chronology of the Second Temple Period must be consistent with both the evidence about the identification of the Shabuim AND the precise 69 Shabuim between the return of Ezra to Jerusalem in 457 BC and Jesus’s baptism in AD 27. In order to over-ride this overwhelming evidence about the 69 Shabuim, proof of an early Second Temple Period Chronology must be just as overwhelming.
I now had a decision-rule for evaluating the Accelerated Ezra Chronology. Evidence for an early chronology must not be simply possible but must be overwhelming. This decision-rule can be stated in the reverse:
A REASONABLE DOUBT of the Accelerated Ezra Chronology Theory is all that is required to support the proposed 69 Shabuim countdown beginning in 457 BC.
I realized I did not have to prove a ministry of Ezra during the reign of Artaxerxes I, I only had to provide reasonable doubt as to the Accelerated Ezra Chronology Theory. The overwhelming evidence as to the makeup of the Shabuim and the proposed countdown beginning in 457 BC would override a doubt-plagued theory about the date of Ezra’s ministry.
When I first read William Struse’s Daniel’s Seventy Weeks and the proof for the Accelerated Ezra thesis, I had accepted it immediately because on the surface it makes sense. But I now realized that either my newly proposed countdown was wrong or the Accelerated Ezra theory was wrong. It was one or the other; and my gut told me the new 69 Shabuim countdown was right. It was simply too precise and backed by too much historic and biblical evidence.
Yet, the Accelerated Ezra theorem was convincing as well, and rested on five main points:
- In Ezra 6:14, there appears to be a hendiadys that equates Darius the Great with the name “Artaxerxes.” equating all future references to Artaxerxes in Ezra and Nehemiah to Darius based on this supposed link.
- Ezra’s genealogy in Ezra 7:1-7 seems to state that he was the physical son of Seraiah, who died in 586 BC, thereby making it nearly impossible for him to have ministered 140 years later during the traditional date of the ministry of Nehemiah.
- The supposed ages of the Chief Priests casts doubt on traditional theory.
- Only two governors of Israel are listed in Ezra and Nehemiah, Zerubbabel and Nehemiah, and it is assumed they served immediately one after the other.
- The names of the gatekeepers, priests, and Levites who returned in the first wave of captives in 538 BC were later mentioned as still living during the ministry of Ezra and Nehemiah. Struse claims it would have been nearly impossible for these men to have had lifespans of that length if Ezra and Nehemiah served during the reign of Artaxerxes I.
I realized that it would be necessary for me to examine all five of these claims if I were to publish a theory that requires Ezra and Nehemiah to minister during the reign of Artaxerxes I. Although I am a reluctant student of long lists of names, I realized I was going to have to delve into the “weeds” of this theorem to see what Cooper and Struse might have missed.
The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah
The books of Ezra and Nehemiah were probably assembled by a chronicler just like the one who also assembled I and II Chronicles and Daniel. Like the Book of Daniel, The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah contain direct quotes from the characters (Ezra and Nehemiah) and third person references (from the chronicler). Additionally, Ezra and Nehemiah contain a number of historical documents and lists. It is likely the chronicler had these letters, lists, and the personal writings of Ezra and Nehemiah at his disposal and assembled the books from that material.
One must remember that Chronicles and the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah were written by scribes nearly 2500 years removed from our current day and culture. We must be extremely careful when interpreting these documents so as not to impose our modern standards on these ancient texts. These factors will be evident as we work through this document.
Besides being of historical interest, the timing of Ezra’s ministry is of particular importance in determining both the events during the 70 Weeks of Daniel and the timing of ancient Jewish sabbatical years and jubilee years. So the chronology of his life and ministry is not trivial.
But, there is controversy about when Ezra was born and when he ministered. The traditional chronology is that he traveled to Jerusalem during the 7th year of Persian king Artaxerxes I Longimanus (457 BC). However, biblical historians, Dr. David Cooper and William Struse, disagree. Their unique claims are that Ezra and Nehemiah ministered a half-century earlier during the reign of Darius the Great — and that Darius the Great was the Artaxerxes of the Book of Ezra.
Since the Accelerated Ezra Chronology depends on the identity of the king titled “Artaxerxes” in Ezra 7, we should begin our investigation at this point. Unfortunately, all the names found in Ezra except “Cyrus” might be considered “throne names” (like Pharaoh was in Egypt). Any and all the kings could have utilized these names (Ahasuerus, Artaxerxes, and Darius). In Chapter Two of 70 Times 7, we demonstrate that Cyrus went by the throne name Darius the Mede.
However, we must consider that it is most likely that the kings named in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah are the kings that our current secular culture identifies by those names: Darius the Great, Xerxes I (Ahasuerus), and Artaxerxes I. But we really can’t be sure of their identities strictly from the names listed by the chronicler. Still, our default position must be that the names listed in Ezra refer to the kings who went by those names primarily in historical documents. The burden of proof must fall on anyone claiming something else.
Both Cooper and Struse present the argument that Darius the Great also went by the title Artaxerxes (meaning “Great King”), and he very well may have used this title. However, Cooper and Struse takes this one step further and suggests the Artaxerxes mentioned in Ezra 7-10 and the Artaxerxes of Nehemiah is Darius. This would be highly unusual. The language of the text found in Ezra 7 seems to prohibit this interpretation:
The chronicler of Ezra began the book by referring to this king as Darius and consistently referred to him as Darius until the end of chapter six. If the Accelerated Ezra theory is correct, then at that point, the chronicler would have switched and begun to refer to him as Artaxerxes and consistently referred to him as Artaxerxes thereafter —with no explanation or reason for the change in names.
This is a highly unlikely scenario!
In the Book of Daniel, two names are used to refer to the same king (Cyrus and Darius the Mede). However, the chronicler always refers to Cyrus as “Cyrus,” but when Daniel’s direct words are quoted, Daniel always refers to him as “Darius” or “Darius the Mede.” There is great internal consistency in how those names are utilized between the two authors. This is not the case in regard to the two names, Darius and Artaxerxes, in the Book of Ezra. In Ezra, the reign of one king is presented and then the reign of the second king is presented.
In fact, the use of the word “reign” in Ezra 7:1, is another powerful textual piece of evidence that Darius and Artaxerxes are different kings. The chronicler specifically mentions a new reign, the reign of a king with a new name. If it was the same king and the same reign, why mention both of these things?
There is a third piece of textual evidence in Ezra 7:1-7 that a new era had begun and that this was not the reign of Darius the Great. A rather uncommon Hebrew phrase translated “after these things” opens the verse. This Hebrew phrase is used in only two other places in the Old Testament and in both places, it implies a longer period of time. In combination with the mention of the “reign of Artaxerxes, King of Persia,” it is unlikely — highly unlikely — that only one year of time had elapsed since the previous verse in Ezra 6.
The only real suggested textual “proof” that Darius and Artaxerxes were one and the same rests in a supposed hendiadys:
They finished building according to the command of the God of Israel and the decree of Cyrus, [Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia]. (Ezra 6:14 NASB)
In Chapter Two of 70 Times 7, we demonstrate how a hendiadys was frequently used in scripture when giving both the king’s throne name and his proper name. Cyrus is equated with Darius the Mede with a hendiadys in Dan. 6:28. However, there are three reasons that the supposed hendiadys in Ezra 6:14 is not a hendiadys at all, but rather is a reference to three distinct kings.
First, in this case in Ezra there are three names not just two! The Hebrew text of this verse literally reads “the decree of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes, King of Persia.” The word “and” (Heb: waw) upon which the hendiadys depends is found between each of the king’s names. So if this truly was a hendiadys, how is it to be applied? It might be a “triple” hendiadys, and linguistically Cyrus would have been called by these other names (Cyrus even Darius even Artaxerxes). Or perhaps the hendiadys is comparing the names Cyrus and Darius (Cyrus was known as Darius, Darius the Mede after all). I do not agree with either of those options, however, the usage here involving three names is unique in Scripture. In no other instance is a hendiadys used in the midst of three names. This casts doubt that the usage here is a hendiadys.
Second, in the previously mentioned hendiadys in Dan. 6:28 and in the other well-known hendiadys in 1 Chron. 5:26, the throne names of the kings appear first and are followed by the proper names of the kings. In this instance in Ezra, the order of names is reversed. If this truly was an effort by the chronicler to equate Darius with Artaxerxes, the name “Artaxerxes” (the throne name) should appear first followed by Darius (the proper name). However, in this instance the names appear in the reverse order — which happens to be the exact historical order that these kings reigned (Cyrus then Darius then Artaxerxes I). Therefore, the order of the names of the kings in Ezra 6:14 also casts great doubt on this verse containing a hendiadys.
Third, in the Greek Septuagint, the word “kings” (plural) specifies that the conjunctive form of “and” is in use; not a hendiadys. So although the hendiadys in Dan. 6:28 is well accepted and footnoted in many bibles, the supposed one in Ezra is not — and for good reason. Rather, Ezra 6:14 is a reference to the decrees of three separate kings that caused the dabar or command of the Lord issued in Dan. 9:23 to “go forth” (see 70 Times 7, Chapter Six).
Finally, as we indicated earlier, Darius and Artaxerxes are not the only names of kings appearing in the text of the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. And these other names cast some doubt on the Accelerated Ezra theory as well.
Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from building, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their counsel all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. Now in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. And in the days of Artaxerxes, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel and the rest of his colleagues wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia. (Ezra 5:4-7)
As one can see, four separate kings are listed in this passage. According to the Accelerated Ezra theory, Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes were throne names for the kings that ruled between Cyrus and Darius (Cambyses and Bardiya). This is reasonable and possible. It is also very possible that these names refer to the kings that are best known by these names (Xerxes I [Ahasuerus] and Artaxerxes I). The four kings ruled in the exact order presented in this passage: Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes I, and Artaxerxes I. Either theory is possible, but the second theory casts doubt on the Accelerated Ezra proposition.
In fact, the use of “Artaxerxes” in Ezra 5 casts doubt on the Accelerated Ezra theory regardless of who the “Artaxerxes” was because it is very unlikely that the chronicler would use the name “Artaxerxes” to refer to one king in Ezra 5 (Cambyses or Artaxerxes) and then to Darius in Ezra 7.
In order for the Accelerated Ezra theory about Darius being Artaxerxes to be correct, a number of very unlikely occurrences all have to fall in line:
- The chronicler must have been willing to refer to Darius as “Darius” in one part of the document and as “Artaxerxes” in another part with no logic or reason given.
- The chronicler must have been willing to refer to both Cambyses and Darius as Artaxerxes without any explanation.
- The chronicler must have entered the textual clues “after these things” and “in the reign of” without meaning to indicate the passage of time or a reign of a new king.
- The chronicler must have meant to infer a hendiadys but in a way that is not found elsewhere in the Bible.
For all these reasons, Darius and Artaxerxes are most likely not references to the same king in the Book of Ezra.
CONCLUSION: REASONABLE DOUBT of the theory that the Artaxerxes of Ezra 7 was Darius the Great. This is the most important area of consideration, because if the Artaxerxes of Ezra 7 truly was Artaxerxes I, our discussion is over; and the 7th year of Artaxerxes would be 457 BC.
Ezra is introduced to us in the first seven verses of the seventh chapter of the book that bears his name. These verses provide great information and great mystery:
Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, there went up Ezra son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub, son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son of Meraioth, son of Zerahiah, son of Uzzi, son of Bukki, son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the chief priest. This Ezra went up from Babylon, and he was a scribe skilled in the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given; and the king granted him all he requested because the hand of the Lord his God was upon him. Some of the sons of Israel and some of the priests, the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers and the temple servants went up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes. (Ezra 7:1-7 NASB, emphasis mine)
This introduction tells us Ezra’s lineage, his home (Babylon), that he was skilled in the Law, and that he emigrated to Jerusalem with many Temple servants in the 7th year of a king named Artaxerxes. It is this final fact that most traditional chronologies depend upon to date Ezra’s ministry.
Ezra’s lineage in this passage may be a clue, however, to his age and the time of his ministry. This lineage is a “reverse transcription” from I Chron. 6:1-14 where a similar lineage is given. It is the lineage of the Chief Priests of Israel. Seraiah was the last Chief Priest of Israel prior to the Babylonian exile, and he was killed by Nebuchadnezzar himself in 586 BC (2 Ki. 25:18-21). If Ezra truly was the biological “son of Seraiah,” this would make him impossibly old in 457 BC. In fact, he would have been 129 years old (at a minimum) at that time, as he would have had to have been conceived prior to Seraiah’s death. Both Cooper and Struse assume the text of Ezra 7:1-7 means that Ezra was the direct physical son of Seraiah. That is a possible interpretation of the text, but of course, that is not the only interpretation.
Immediately after the extensive lineage is presented in Ezra, the chronicler (speaking of Ezra in the third person) said “This Ezra went up from Babylon.” Ezra was a common name (another Ezra is found in Neh. 12), and the chronicler wanted to point out which Ezra this was. The chronicler also wanted to present Ezra’s credentials, and his lineage was one of the most impressive in Israel, stretching all the way back to Aaron. Nearly every other lineage in the Book of Ezra is presented as only a single generation-long: “___ the son of ___.” However, Ezra’s lineage is taken back all the way to Aaron in order to establish his stature and standing.
Ezra may have been Seraiah’s physical son, but it is not impossible for a biblical lineage to skip certain generations and to list someone as the “son of” an individual, when in fact they were a later descendant. In Matt. 1, the lineage of Jesus is missing several of the kings of Israel. And in this specific lineage in Ezra 7, which delineates a 1000-year period from the exodus (from Aaron to Seraiah), only sixteen generations are given. One gap may be filled in by 1 Chron. 6:7-10, which supplies six additional names between Meraioth and Azariah. Therefore, this lineage, which the Accelerated Ezra Chronology depends upon, is incomplete! If it is incomplete in one aspect, might it be incomplete in more than one? That will be our working theory.
An additional example of an incomplete lineage from the Book of Ezra is the claim that Zechariah was the “son of Iddo” (Ezra 6:14). Zechariah wrote that he was actually the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo (Zech. 1:1). According to Zechariah, then, he was the physical son of Berechiah and the grandson or even an earlier descendant of Iddo.
Might it be that the lineage of Ezra is missing his true father’s name as well, and that he was the grandson or even the great-grandson of Seraiah? Jews of the second temple period would still consider a grandson worthy of the title “son of …” So Ezra would have been a “son of Seraiah” even if he was his great-grandson. If this theory is correct, Ezra’s biological father may have been an unknown or even unimpressive man. Most likely, his father stayed behind in Babylon and was completely forgotten by the time the chronicler wrote Ezra. But the chronicler knew Ezra’s remarkable pedigree and thus included it.
Another possibility, and perhaps the strongest reason for the inclusion of a “Seraiah-based” genealogy, is that at the time of Erza’s emigration to Israel, “Seraiah” had become one of the priestly “houses” or “courses,” and that when Ezra was referred to as a “son of Seraiah,” the reference was to his “priestly house.” We will discuss this later in the document. Interestingly, “Iddo,” was another of the priestly “houses” at this time which would explain the use of Zechariah’s title “son of Iddo” as well.
When suggesting that Ezra was a physical son of Seraiah, one must also consider the age of Ezra when he emigrated to Israel and why he waited until the 7th year of Artaxerxes to make the move. First, if Ezra was born in 586 BC (or earlier), the youngest he could have been in the 7th year of Darius the Great would have been 71. Although it isn’t impossible for a man of that age to make the four-month journey from Persia to Jerusalem, it is highly doubtful.
Second, we must question why Ezra would have delayed and not returned with the first captives in 538 BC when he was a much younger man (48 years old according to Cooper and Struse) and much more capable of making such a difficult journey. Isn’t it more likely that he was several generations removed from those who were the first emigrants and emigrated during the prime of his life in 457 BC?
All of these factors cast doubt on the theory that Ezra was the direct physical son of Seraiah. Remember the full weight of proof falls on the Accelerated Ezra Chronology Theory.
CONCLUSION: REASONABLE DOUBT that Ezra was the physical son of Seraiah.
Evidence from the lineage of the chief Priests
The Bible gives us other clues about the timing of the ministry of Ezra. By examining the careers of the chief priests of Israel, we can develop a reasonable range of years of this time. Let’s examine the chief priests during this period:
Jeshua became the father of Joiakim, and Joiakim became the father of Eliashib, and Eliashib became the father of Joiada. (Neh. 12:10 NASB)
Jeshua was the chief priest who returned with Zerubbabel (the governor) in the first wave of captives. He may have held his office until at least the second year of Darius (Hag. 1:1 — if this verse refers to the time of Darius the Great and not Darius the Mede). His son, Joiakim then became chief priest and held his office until Eliashib. And Eliashib was chief priest when Nehemiah first became governor (Neh. 3:1), which was the 20th year of Artaxerxes.
Let’s examine a second scriptural reference.
These served in the days of Joiakim the son of Jeshua, the son of Jozadak, AND in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra the priest and scribe. (Neh. 12:26 NASB)
This may indicate that the “days of Joiakim” and the “days of Nehemiah and Ezra” were not the same but were two different periods — in other words — that the service of the gatekeepers referred to in this verse extended from the days of Joiakim to the days of Nehemiah/Ezra. This concept is supported by the fact that the Chief Priest during the era of Nehemiah was Eliashib not Joiakim. Thus, Joiakim and Nehemiah served during mutually exclusive times. Because the “days of Ezra” are linked to Nehemiah in this verse, it also strongly implies that Eliashib (and not Joiakim) was chief priest during the days of Ezra.
Understanding the implication of all these clues requires a little bit of detective work. The 20th year of Artaxerxes I was 445 BC. We can make some assumptions and determine whether this seems reasonable, given the number of chief priests. If each chief priest served about 30 years (it is believed that chief priests served for life), this would seem a logical period of time. Jeshua’s 30th year of service would have then been 508 BC. Joiakim would have served until 478 BC, and Eliashib until 448 BC, which was almost exactly the year Nehemiah became governor. This estimate then, is reasonable.
Bible historian William Struse has provided an internet article on exactly this same topic — a very complex article which attempts to estimate the ages of the Chief Priests. His conclusion from this extensive work is that the youngest Eliashib could have been in 445 BC was 83 years old. This is based on assumptions as to the ages of the Chief Priests and when their sons were born. His assumptions are that the generational time between priests would be 20 to 30 years. We will look at his analysis of the age of Eliashib and its implications in a moment.
However, I want to first highlight the fact that in his article, Struse has confirmed our estimates of the years each Chief Priest would serve — 30 years. Since the reign of a Chief Priest in those days was lifetime, the reign of the priests would approximately equal the inter-generational time. In this case Struse has confirmed that a generational time of 30 years is reasonable, and thus our estimate of the time of service of each Chief Priest (30 years) is reasonable as well.
By utilizing the data in Neh. 12:26, we can even further examine this theory. We have already seen in Neh. 12:26 that both Jeshua and Joiakim probably had to have passed on their titles of Chief Priest before the “days of Ezra and Nehemiah.” This would have required Eliashib to be Chief Priest quite a bit earlier than the 20th year of Artaxerxes; he would have had to begin service no later than the 7th year of Artaxerxes (during the “Days of Ezra”). Hag. 1:1 implies that Jeshua was still Chief priest in the second year of Darius. If these assumptions are both correct, then Joiakim had a very short term of service of five years or less. Not impossible, but unlikely.
In regard to Struse’s calculation of the ages of the Chief Priests, he calculates Eliashib’s age in 445 BC as a minimum of 83 years old based on generational times of 20 to 30 years. Although 83 is a reasonable age for an elderly Chief Priest, Struse considers this an unlikely age for Eliashib because according to Neh. 3:1, Eliashib and his relatives built the Sheep Gate in that year. This logic fails for two reasons.
First, generational time, especially over a short number of generations (Seraiah to Eliashib) can be highly variable. Men frequently have children after 30 years of age. If only one of these men was born to a father in his fifties, Eliashib’s age at the time of construction of the Sheep Gate becomes even more reasonable.
Second, Scripture does not say that Eliashib participated in the construction. He may have simply overseen the construction (which was likely for a Chief Priest of any age). Even a man who was 83 years old could supervise a construction project.
Conclusion: REASONABLE DOUBT that the number of Chief Priests or the age of Eliashib precludes the 7th year of Artaxerxes being 457 BC.
The Sons of Sanballat
Further support for a ministry of Ezra and Nehemiah during the reign of Artaxerxes I Longimanus can be found in the Elephantine papyri. The “Petition to Bagoas” is a letter from 407 BC and mentions the “Sons of Sanballat.” Sanballat was one of the opponents of Nehemiah and is mentioned in Neh. 2:17. If Sanballat opposed Nehemiah in the 20th year of Darius the Great (502 BC) as the Accelerated Ezra Chronology suggests, nearly a hundred years would have passed before this reference to his sons appears. It is so unlikely as to be considered impossible.
Two Governors or More than Two
In his book, Daniel’s 70 Weeks, Struse suggests that because only two governors are listed by name in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, Zerubbabel served until the time of Nehemiah. Zerubbabel led the initial wave of captives back to Israel in 538 BC. If Nehemiah began his governorship in the 20th year of Artaxerxes I, Zerubbabel would have had to have served as governor well past 100 years of age — a near impossible condition. For this reason, Struse supports a ministry of Nehemiah during the 20th year of Darius the Great.
However, the Bible DOES indicate there were multiple other governors in Israel between Zerubbabel and Nehemiah.
Moreover, from the day that I (Nehemiah) was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes, for twelve years, neither I nor my kinsmen have eaten the governor’s food allowance. But the former governors who were before me laid burdens on the people. (Neh. 5:14-15)
Not only does this disprove the conjecture about only two governors, but it also supports a ministry of Nehemiah in the reign of Artaxerxes I.
We know from Ezra 6:15 that the Temple was completed in the sixth year of Darius. And we know from Zech. 4:9 that Zerubbabel completed it. Thus, in order for the Accelerated Ezra theory to be correct there must have been other governors (multiple) in the 14 years between the sixth year of Darius and the twentieth when this theory supposes Nehemiah took office. This is not impossible, but unlikely.
Conclusion: REASONABLE DOUBT that the number of Governors supports an Accelerated Ezra theory. In fact, there were multiple governors between Zerubbabel and Nehemiah.
Chronology of the Gatekeepers, Priests, and Levites
Both Cooper and Struse have suggested that the complex chronology of priests and Levites in Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah suggest a ministry of Ezra and Nehemiah during the reign of Darius the Great, not during the reign of Artaxerxes I. Both men have compared the names of those who returned in 538 BC with lists of names found in relation to events in the 7th and 20th Years of Artaxerxes. What they found were that numerous names coincided. Because the number of years between 538 BC and 445 BC were so extensive, the conclusion was reached that it was impossible that these men could have all had a lifespan that long. The deduction was that “Artaxerxes” must have been an earlier king, Darius the Great.
At first glance this theory seems insurmountable — and this was the proof that initially made me think that the Accelerated Ezra Chronology was correct. However, these lists of names are complex. First, the names of numerous priests and Levites were common and shared by multiple individuals. Names like Jeremiah, Ezra, Daniel, Zechariah, and Nehemiah as found in these chronologies belong to lesser known persons than the famous Bible characters bearing these names. Can we really be sure of any of the names in these chronologies? Frankly, I believe we need to question each name.
Second, and much more important, a number of the names appearing in the lists of priests and Levites were “houses” or lineages not individuals. Although it is unlikely a single individual would live more than a hundred years, it is possible or even likely that a “house” or lineage would maintain the same name for decades or even centuries.
In combination, these two factors undermine the Accelerated Ezra theory as we will see.
In Ezra, we are introduced to the gatekeepers who returned with the first wave of captives from Babylon:
The sons of the gatekeepers: the sons of Shallum, the sons of Ater, the sons of Talmon, the sons of Akkub, the sons of Hatita, the sons of Shobai, in all 139. (Ezra 2:42)
Notice all these gatekeepers that returned in 538 BC are referred to as the “sons” of a famous predecessor; in other words, they were of the house or lineage or family of that gatekeeper. In Chronicles, we are given a slightly different phrasing of this passage:
Now the gatekeepers were Shallum and Akkub and Talmon and Ahiman and their relatives (Shallum the chief being stationed until now at the king’s gate to the east). These were the gatekeepers for the camp of the sons of Levi. (1 Chron. 9:17-18)
This passage seems to indicate that Shallum, Talmon, and Akkub were actually the gatekeepers that returned from Babylon, and that Shallum remained the gatekeeper until the writer of Chronicles penned his work. Does that seem possible? I don’t think so.
First, only a few verses earlier, a similar linguistic construction is used in terms of the priests who returned to Jerusalem: “From the priests were Jedaiah, Jehoiarib, Jachin . . . (1 Chron. 9:10)” which is referring to three of the twenty-four courses of priests not to individuals. This strongly indicates that the writer of Chronicles used the linguistic device of referring to a “house” or lineage by the name of that house’s famous predecessor. So might references to Shallum, Talmon and Akkub also be references to “houses” of the gatekeepers? That will be our theory, and it appears to be supported by Shallum’s chronology, as provided in the very next verse:
Shallum the son of Kore, the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah, and his relatives of his father’s house, the Korahites, were over the work of the service, keepers of the thresholds of the tent; and their fathers had been over the camp of the Lord, keepers of the entrance. (1 Chron. 9:19)
Shallum is given as the great-grandson of Korah (the great – grandson of Levi himself).
The son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, the son of Israel. (1 Chron. 6:37-38)
Thus Shallum (the original Shallum the Gatekeeper) was the seventh generation from Jacob (through Levi). Since approximately 1300 years transpired from Jacob to the return from Babylon, we can easily say that the Shallum of 1 Chron. 9:19 was almost assuredly the “house of Shallum” (descendants of Shallum as supported by both Ezra in Ezra 2:42 and by Nehemiah in Neh. 7:45).
Second, the question of Shallum being present at the gate until “now” (the timing of the writing of 1 Chronicles) is relevant. 1 Chronicles is believed to have been written at the earliest in 410-400 BC. That would make a single individual who emigrated in 538 BC at least 150 years old — and still working at that point in time! That simply isn’t logical. What is logical is that the house of Shallum (the descendants of Shallum) continually guarded the gate until that time.
As we mentioned at the outset of this document, the scribes who assembled Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah wrote during a time and culture far removed from our day. And even a cursory reading of these books reveals an interest in lineage that we do not share today. We should not find it surprising, therefore, if names that appear to us as individuals are actually lineages or “houses.”
One can now appreciate the vast complexity of the chronicles found in Ezra and Nehemiah. When a “Shallum” is mentioned in Ezra, we cannot and must not assume this refers to a single man that emigrated to Jerusalem in 538 BC.
Of the singers there was Eliashib; and of the gatekeepers: Shallum, Telem and Uri. (Ezra 10:24)
This passage has been used as proof that this Shallum emigrated in 538 BC. We can now see that this mention was likely a namesake of the original Shallum (a common practice) or refers to the entire house or lineage of Shallum. In no way is this evidence that Ezra and a man who emigrated in 538 BC were contemporaries.
Names in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah which do not contain the addition of “the son of . . .” can be houses or lineages of a famous predecessor and are not necessarily individuals.
The Priests and Levites
Of even greater complexity than that of the gatekeepers is the chronology of the priestly families that returned to Jerusalem in 538 BC. Ezra tells us a total of 4289 of these priests returned (Ezra 2:36). So when Nehemiah specifically indicates that only 22 priestly names emigrated to Jerusalem in 538 BC, we must carefully examine this claim:
Now these are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, Shecaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, Iddo, Ginnethoi, Abijah, Mijamin, Maadiah, Bilgah, Shemaiah and Joiarib, Jedaiah, Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah and Jedaiah. These were the heads of the priests and their kinsmen in the days of Jeshua. (Neh. 12:1-7)
First, notice that at the conclusion of this passage Nehemiah refers to the priests as corporate entities, as “the heads of the priests AND their kinsmen.” This implies that these names were “houses” or lineages of priests, just like the lineages of gatekeepers we examined previously. Given the number of priests provided by Ezra, each “house” could contain approximately 195 priests.
Second, this assumption is further confirmed by the fact that none of these names are given as the “son of . . .” which is a very common practice in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah when referring to individuals, especially when referring to them for the first time. Notice that the name of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel is presented in this way, indicating he was an individual.
Third, the following passage indicates that under the next Chief Priest, Joiakim, new chief priests were established for these same “houses” or “courses” of priests:
Now in the days of Joiakim, the priests, the heads of fathers’ households were: of Seraiah, Meraiah; of Jeremiah, Hananiah; of Ezra, Meshullam; of Amariah, Jehohanan; of Malluchi, Jonathan; of Shebaniah, Joseph; of Harim, Adna; of Meraioth, Helkai; of Iddo, Zechariah; of Ginnethon, Meshullam; of Abijah, Zichri; of Miniamin and of Moadiah, Piltai; of Bilgah, Shammua; of Shemaiah, Jehonathan; of Joiarib, Mattenai; of Jedaiah, Uzzi; of Sallai, Kallai; of Amok, Eber; of Hilkiah, Hashabiah; of Jedaiah, Nethanel. (Neh. 12:12-21)
From this passage it is clear that the original names were “houses” — the “house” of Seraiah for instance. What other meaning could the phrase “of Seraiah” carry? I contend that this could be its only meaning.
The number of these priestly houses (22) is interesting, as well. We know from 1 Chron. 24 that there were originally 24 courses of priests. Were these 22 new courses parallel to the original 24 courses (here expressing different names)? It is my theory that the original number of courses were “reformed” after the immigration. This appears to be substantiated by the Book of Ezra. When the Book of Ezra describes the priestly lines that emigrated, it lists only four of the original houses from 1 Chron. 24:
The priests: the sons of Jedaiah of the house of Jeshua, 973; the sons of Immer, 1,052; the sons of Pashhur, 1,247; the sons of Harim, 1,017 (Ezra 2:36-39)
Were these four original courses redistributed into 22 new courses of priests? And were these new “courses” of priests the names we find in the passage in Neh. 12 above? There is no evidence of this directly, but it seems highly likely that this was the case. Many of the new names in Neh. 12 are of famous prophets and priests: Jeremiah, Daniel, Seraiah, Iddo, etc. Were these names chosen because of famous progenitors of the priestly lines? Possibly.
So when it is suggested that these names in Neh. 12:1-7 are individuals with those names and that they were still alive during the career of Nehemiah, I believe the suggestion is highly suspect. Let’s examine the specific second reference:
Now on the sealed document were the names of: Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hacaliah, and Zedekiah, Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, Pashhur, Amariah, Malchijah, Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah, Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch, Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin, Maaziah, Bilgai, Shemaiah. These were the priests. (Neh. 10:1-8)
Again, this list represents 22 priestly lines with only slight differences from the names of the priestly lines that formed in 538 BC. This slight difference in the corporate names of the priestly houses would be expected after the passing of 80-plus years. By listing the names of the courses of the priests, was Nehemiah indicating that representatives of these households signed the document on behalf of their entire household? Perhaps. Notice also that only one name, Nehemiah, is listed as the “son of . . .” indicating he is an individual. This is exactly parallel to the naming of Zerubbabel “the son of Shealtiel” as an individual in Neh. 12:1.
It is extremely interesting that the name “Erza” doesn’t appear on the document that is signed in Neh. 10, especially given that he was the featured speaker in Neh. 8! Also missing is “Elaishib” the Chief Priest. Is it possible, even likely, that one or both signed the document on behalf of the House of Seraiah, both being a “son of Seraiah?” I think it is. In fact, the absence of the names of Ezra and the Eliashib the Chief Priest on the document casts serious doubt on the theory that these names on the document are individuals.
The Men Who Stood Beside Ezra
There are several references to priests in the Book of Nehemiah that we know are individuals, not “houses.” One reference is found in Neh. 8 where 13 men stood next to Ezra when he read from the scroll of the Law. These men appear in the following Figure:
|Priests and Leaders in Neh. 8||Mention in other locations||Explanation|
|Mattithiah||Ezra 10:43||“A” Mattithiah had married a foreign wife, may not have been the same individual|
|Anaiah||Neh. 10:22||A leader of the people who did sign the document|
|Uriah’s son was present when those who returned with Ezra weighed out the gold they brought from Babylon
Uriah’s son helped repair the wall
|Hilkiah||Neh. 12:7||Hilkiah was one of the original “houses” of priests who came up with Jeshua. Was this Hilkiah in that group of priests? Hilkiah was a common name.|
|Maaseiah||Ezra 10: 18,21,22,30
|Four separate Maaseiahs were guilty of taking foreign wives.
Maaseiah was a leader of the people who did sign the document.
Maaseiah lived in Jerusalem
Two Maaseiahs sang with the choir
|Pedaiah made repairs to the wall
Nehemiah placed Pedaiah in charge of the storehouses
|Two separate Malchijahs had taken foreign wives
Three Malchijahs repaired the walls
A Malchijah was a priestly order or Chief Priest who signed the document
Malchijah sang in the choir
|223 “sons of Hashum” returned in 538 BC
Some of “sons of Hashum” took foreign wives
328 “sons of Hashum” returned in 538 BC
Hashum signed the document as a leader of the people
|This Zechariah could have been the prophet, but it would be unusual to not mention his titles: prophet or Son of Iddo.
Zechariah of the sons of Shecaniah and Zechariah of the sons of Bebai went up from Babylon with Ezra
Zechariah from the sons of Elam took a foreign wife
Zechariah son of Jonathan sang in the choir
|Meshullam was a leader among those who came to Jerusalem with Ezra
Meshullam supported Ezra’s edict on foreign wives
“a” Meshullam took a foreign wife
Two separate Meshullams repaired the walls
The son of Tobiah had married the son of a Meshullam
One of the houses of the priests had become Meshullam or he had signed the document
Two Meshullams became the chief priests of the priestly house of “Ezra” and “Ginnethon”
A Meshullam became a gatekeeper
A Meshullam sang in the choir.
The first thing that becomes evident in this list is how common many of these names were. For example, there were two Meshullams who became chief priests of the original priestly houses: Ezra and Ginnethon (Neh. 12:13,16). Another Meshullam became a gatekeeper, and one can assume yet a fourth became the father-in-law to Tobiah’s (Nehemiah’s nemesis) daughter. A large portion of the 13 names feature this repetition in the naming of several individuals. This commonness of names casts serious doubt on the use of names to prove the Accelerated Ezra Chronology.
The second thing to consider is that for these men to have stood next to Ezra on this significant occasion (the reading of the Law), they would have had to have been highly regarded spiritually. Yet only one of their names, “Hilkiah,” appears in the list of “priests” or priestly houses that emigrated in 538 BC.
If a number of the priests who emigrated in 538 BC and who are listed in Neh. 12:1-7 were still alive and able to sign the document in Neh. 10, why didn’t any of the other “priests” who emigrated in 538 BC (other than possibly Hilkiah) stand with Ezra? Isn’t it more likely that even “the Hilkiah” who did stand with Erza was a namesake of a famous Hilkiah and not a man who emigrated in 538 BC? We have already seen that famous names were held by multiple individuals. The lack of supposed priests who emigrated in 538 BC standing with Ezra casts enormous doubt on this theory that the similar names of priests in Neh. 12:1-7 and on the document in Neh. 10 were individuals.
Chief Priests Under Joiakim
We have already seen from the passage in Neh. 12:12-21, that new chief priests assumed the leadership of the priestly houses listed in Neh. 12:1-7 during the administration of Joiakim. A simple exercise would be to see how many of these chief priests “apparently” did not sign the document in Neh. 10. I have listed these names in the following Table:
|Priests signing the Document||Priests (apparently) not signing the Document|
|Hananiah, Meshullam, Hashabiah||Meraiah, Jehohanan, Jonathan, Joseph, Adna, Helkai, Zechariah, Zichri, Piltai, Shammua, Jehonathan, Mattenai, Uzzi, Kallai, Eber, Nethanel|
If we are to assume that the names of the priests signing the document in Neh. 10 are the names of individuals, we must ask, “Where are the names of the 16 chief priests under Joiakim who apparently did not sign?” Does this even make sense? Why would some of the most influential priests in Israel under Joiakim not sign the document, while older priests (found in Neh. 12:1-7) did sign? The only logical explanation is that these younger priests may have signed the document as representatives of their priestly houses; and that the names in Neh. 12:1-7 were those houses. This is further proof that the names of the priests found in Neh. 12:1-17, and as previously reflected on the document in Neh. 10, were the names of priestly houses, NOT the names of individuals.
In conclusion, although it is impossible to say with absolute certainty that the names in Neh. 10 and 12 were “houses” or “courses” of priests and not individuals, the overwhelming evidence certainly points in that direction. For this reason, it has been the opinion of the majority of theologians throughout the years that these names were “houses” of priests and not individuals (see: Ellicott, Barnes, Cambridge Bible, Pulpit Commentary, Keil and Delitzsch, etc.).
In my opinion, one should not use this evidence of reoccurring names to construct a different Second Temple Period chronology from the careers of Ezra and Nehemiah.
Conclusion: REASONABLE DOUBT that the names of priests found in Neh. 10 and 12 preclude the 7th year of Artaxerxes being 457 BC.
Summary of the Accelerated Ezra Chronology Theory
At the beginning of this document, we established a decision rule to evaluate the Accelerated Ezra Chronology. We determined we must rule out this theory unless there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. We established this decision rule because:
- There is overwhelming biblical and non-biblical evidence that the Shabuim of Dan. 9:24-27 are sabbatical cycles of years.
- A precise countdown of 69 sabbatical cycles of years exists between 457 BC and AD 27 in likely fulfillment of Dan. 9:25.
- The starting point of 457 BC meets all six requirements of Dan. 9:25 so as to be the date that the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem finally “went forth.”
- An Accelerated Ezra Chronology prohibits a simple, biblical definition of Shabuim being sabbatical cycles unless the modern secular chronology of Persian kings is mistaken (Cooper). And the Babylonian Astronomical Diaries establish the modern secular chronology of Persian kings is correct.
- So, the Accelerated Ezra Chronology and the biblically-supported theory of the 69 sabbatical-cycle countdown between 457 BC and AD 27 are mutually exclusive theories.
- Thus, the Accelerated Ezra Chronology must not simply be possible, but must be supported by overwhelming evidence to be accepted, because to do otherwise, ignores the substantial biblical and non-biblical evidence for the 69 sabbatical-cycle countdown.
So in conclusion, our decision about the viability of the Accelerated Ezra Chronology must not be made in a vacuum. Rather, it needs to be made in the greater context of all biblical evidence regarding the Second Temple period of time.
There is reasonable and significant doubt that Ezra and Nehemiah served during the reign of Darius the Great. For that reason, we must conclude that Ezra traveled to Jerusalem in the 7th year of Artaxerxes I, 457 BC.
This research on the Accelerated Ezra Chronology does not appear in my new book 70 Times 7, but it underlies everything that was written there. It is at the prompting of William Struse that it is being published here for everyone to consider. Struse is to be commended for supporting the publishing of theories contrary to his own. Only someone who truly loves the Word of God and the truth is willing to undertake something like that. Let us all applaud him.
 “Eliashib, Artaxerexes, and Sir Robert Anderson,”13th Enumeration, the last modified April 7, 2018, accessed May 26, 2018, http://www.the13thenumeration.com/Blog13/2018/04/07/eliashib-artaxerxes-sir-robert-anderson/
 “Biblical Archaeology 31: The Elephantine papyri,” theosopical ruminations, sept 7, 2011, https://theosophical.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/biblical-archaeology-31-the-elephantine-papyri/