Edwin R. Thiele

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Edwin Richard Thiele (born September 10, 1895 in Chicago , † April 15, 1986 in Angwin, Napa County , California ) was an American theologian , archaeologist , editor and author of German descent who worked as a missionary in China . He is best known for his chronological investigations into the time of the king in Israel .


Thiele grew up in his native Chicago and attended the Adventist Emmanuel Missionary College in Berrien Springs ( Michigan ) that in 1960 Andrews University has been renamed. There he received a bachelor's degree in ancient languages in 1918 . After two years as secretary for missionary affairs for the East Michigan Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, he served as a missionary in China for 12 years from 1920 onwards. During this time he was also the editor and manager for Signs of the Times in Shanghai .

After returning to the United States, he studied archeology at the University of Chicago and graduated with a master's degree in 1937 . During his PhD in Biblical Archeology , which he graduated in 1943, he worked in the theological faculty of Emmanuel Missionary College. His dissertation, which later appeared under the title The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings , is considered to be groundbreaking work in the field of the chronology of the kings of Israel. During this research he visited the Middle East several times .

Thiele also wrote a popular science book on Christianity with the title Knowing God . After his death, the study he began on the book of Job was completed by his wife Margaret and published under the title Job and the Devil . Thiele advocates the thesis that Leviathan and Behemot are related to ancient oriental myths about chaos and evil. Therefore, he suggests that Job depicts God's wrestling with the evil that is behind Job's doubts.

From 1963 to 1965 he was Professor of Ancient History at Andrews University. After retiring in 1965, he moved to California, where he continued his writing and died in 1986. He was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Berrien Springs.

Biblical chronology

The chronology proposed in The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings is based primarily on a series of royal letters and cross- references between the royal books and the books of the chronicle , in which the accession of all kings of the northern kingdom is dated in relation to the year of reign of the respective king of the southern kingdom and vice versa. Since these cross references apparently did not always fit, a king for whom a reign of 20 years was set could also have reigned 19 or 21 years.

Thiele found that the interconnections during the long reign of King Asa had a cumulative error of one year for each subsequent king of the Northern Empire. He was able to demonstrate that this is the result of two different calculation methods for government years: the accession year method and the non-accession year method. Compared to our current calendar, the only problem would be if the old king passed away on December 31st and the new king took the throne on January 1st. However, if a king died before the last day of the year, there was a gap of X days to the end of the year. The accession year method then began counting government years with the first day of the following year and designated the days up to the beginning of the year as the accession year. The non-accession year method started counting the years of reign directly with the accession of the new king and then continued counting regularly at the turn of the year. In addition, Thiele was able to show that the beginning of the year in the northern Reich was celebrated in spring, in the southern Reich, however, in autumn. These discrepancies in the dating of the beginning of the year and in the method of counting government years were responsible for the inconsistencies in the cross-connections. In addition, the southern realm under Atalja changed from the accession year method to the non-accession year method, which was previously only used in the northern realm. In his first publication he paid no attention to the results of the Belgian Valerius Couckes , who had achieved the same results a few years earlier, a fact that he only acknowledged in the third edition of his Mysterious Numbers .

With this understanding of the chronology of the royal era, Thiele was able to show that the 14 years between Ahab and Jehu were actually only 12 years. Since Ahab in the Kurkh monolith , which documents the battle of Qarqar (853 BC) between Assyrians and the Syro-Levantine population, and Jehu in the black obelisk Shalmaneser III. , who had an 841 BC BC is attested to mentioning that both kings could be precisely dated: Ahab must have fought in Qarqar in his last year of reign and Jehu must have paid the tribute in his first year of reign.

This enabled Thiele to adjust the chronological dates of the biblical books of kings and the chronicles, with the exception of the synchronism between Hosea and Hezekiah at the end of the Kingdom of Israel, for which he concluded that the writers had made a mistake here. A co-reign of Hezekiah with his father Ahaz was later set as a possible explanation for this synchronism .

Chronology of the Israelite kings according to Thiele

king Overlapping reigns Reign Duration king Name of the father Age at the induction as a coregent Age at the beginning of the only government Co-sponsorship Reign Duration Age at birth of successor Age at the participation of the son as coregent Age at death
Jeroboam I. 931/0 - 910/9 22nd Rehaboam Solomon 41 931/0 - 913 17th 59
Abija Rehaboam 913 - 911/0 3
Nadab 910/9 - 909/8 2 Asa Abija 911/0 - 870/9 41
Basha 909/8 - 886/5 24
Ela 886/5 - 885/4 2
Zimri 885/4 0.02
Tibni 885/4 - 880
Omri 885/4 - 880 880 - 874/3 12
Ahab 874/3 - 853 22nd Joschafat Asa 35 38 872/1 - 870/9 870/9 - 848 25th 23 54 59
Ahaziah 853-852 2 Joram Joschafat 32 37 853-848 848-841 8th 23 44
Joram 852-841 12 Ahaziah Joram 22 (42) 841 1 22nd 22nd
Jehu 841 - 814/3 28 Atalja Ahab 841-835
Jehoahaz 814/3 - 798 17th Joasch Ahaziah 7th 835-796 40 22nd 46
Joasch 798 - 782/1 16 Amaziah Joas 25th 796-767 29 15th 30th 54
Jeroboam II 793/2 - 782/1 782/1 - 753 41 Azariah
Amaziah 16 39 792/1 - 767 767 - 740/9 52 33 57 68
Zechariah 753-752 0.5
Schallum 752 0.08
Menahem 752 - 742/1 10 Iotam Azariah 25th 36 750 - 740/9 740/9 - 732/1 16 21st 44
Pekahya 742/1 - 740/9 2
Pekach 752 - 740/9 740/9 - 732/1 20th Ahaz Iotam 20th 735-732/1 732/1 - 716/5 16 16 40
Hoschea 732/1 - 723/2 9
Hezekiah Ahaz 25th 716/5 - 687/6 29 33 44 54
Manasseh Hezekiah 12 22nd 697/6 - 687/6 687/6 - 643/2 55 45 66
Amon Manasseh 22nd 643/2 - 641/0 2 17th 24
Joschiah Amon 8th 641/0 - 609 31 17 Jehoahaz
16 Jehoiakim
31 Zedekiah
Jehoahaz Joschiah 23 609 0.25
Joiakim Joschiah 25th 609-598 11 19th 36
Jojachin Joiakim 18 (8) 598-597 0.25
Zedekiah Joschiah 21st 597-586 11


Thiele's reconstruction of a chronology was not accepted by all scientists, but there is also no alternative that met with broad consensus. Overall, Thiele's work and that of his students have gained the broadest acceptance, so that the ancient orientalist Donald Wiseman wrote: “The chronology most widely accepted today is one based on the meticulous study by Thiele” and, more recently, Leslie McFall “Thiele's chronology is fast becoming the consensus view among Old Testament scholars, if it has not already reached that point. "

While many specific points in its chronology have received criticism, its work has received praise from those who disagreed with its ultimate conclusion. Nevertheless, even scholars who share Thiele's religious convictions have admitted that his argumentation has weaknesses such as unfounded assumptions and circular conclusions: "In his desire to resolve the discrepancies between the data in the Book of Kings, Thiele was forced to make improbable suppositions .. . There is no basis for Thiele's statement that his conjectures are correct because he succeeded in reconciling most of the data in the Book of Kings, since his assumptions ... are derived from the chronological data themselves ... "

In particular, the numerous extra-biblical synchronisms that he included in his chronology do not always correspond to the most recent results of ancient oriental research. For example, he often took undocumented events to confirm biblical dates.

In response to the circular argument, Kenneth Strand referred to several archaeological finds that were published after the creation of Thiele's chronology and that confirmed his chronology and assumptions compared to other chronological systems such as William F. Albright , which were postulated before Thiele's work. Within scientific methodology, the ability to predict new results that were not yet known at the time the theory was created is considered to be a clear support for the preliminary acceptance of such a theory.

Despite the criticism, Thiele's methodical approach remains the typical starting point for scientific investigations in the field to this day. His work is seen as establishing the exact date of division (931 BC) for the Israelite kingdom.

Publications (selection)

  • The Chronology of the Kings of Judah and Israel. In: Journal of Near Eastern Studies 3, 1944, pp. 137-186
  • The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings. Chicago, Chicago University Press 1951; 2. Impression 1955; Revised Edition Grand Rapids, Eerdmans 1965; Grand Rapids, Kregel, 1983. ISBN 0-8254-3825-X
  • A Chronology of the Hebrew Kings. Grand Rapids, Zondervan 1977, ISBN 0-310-36001-3
  • with Margaret Thiele: Job and the Devil. Boise, Pacific Press Pub. Association 1988. ISBN 0-8163-0747-4


  • Siegfried H. Horn: From Bishop Ussher to Edwin R. Thiele. In: Andrews University Seminary Studies 18, 1980, pp. 37–49 ( pdf )
  • Floyd Nolen Jones: Chronology of the Old Testament: A Return to the Basics. 2002. A refutation of Thiele's assumptions ( pdf ).

supporting documents

  1. ^ Edwin R. Thiele: The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings . 1st ed. Chicago, Chicago University Press 1951.
  2. Thiele's chronology is, among other things, the basis for the chronology of the Israelite monarchs in Cambridge Ancient History . With slight modifications, it was also used by Jack Finegan for his Handbook of Biblical Chronology .
  3. ^ Edwin R. Thiele: Knowing God . Southern Publishing Association, 1979.
  4. for example Siegfried Horn: The Chronology of King Hezekiah's Reign (1964) pp. 48-49 or TC Mitchell; Kenneth Kitchen: New Bible Dictionary (1962) p. 217.
  5. ^ Donald Wiseman: 1 and 2 King. In: Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries . Leicester: Intervarsity, 1993, 27.
  6. ^ Leslie McFall: The Chronology of Saul and David. In: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 53, 2010, p. 215.
  7. ^ Gershon Galil: The Chronology of the Kings of Israel and Judah . Leiden, Brill 1996, p. 4.