More Discussions for this daf
1. Gezeirah Shavah from the Navi 2. 4 meanings of "Ki" 3. Days of the Week
4. Daryavesh's years 5. Kings of Persia around the time of Nechemya 6. Dating Documents by Non-Jewish Kings
7. תוס' ד"ה אלא

R.Fagelston asked:

The context of the daf is very confusing, jumping from event to event, and listing the kins of the time in an order which seems contrary to the usual chronology. Would appreciate any help you can give to put things into context. Have tried to find a time line on the web, but so far have discovered nothing specfic to this period

R.Fagelston, Netanya ISRAEL

The Kollel replies:

Dear R.

Thanks for your comments. The issue of the Persian chronology of Chazal vs. science, is a very complex one. The discrepancy totals 165 years, which is something almost impossible to sort out. Numerous solutions have been offered with various approaches. We will not sort out this issue here.

First let me refer you to a chart on the Kollel website which explains Chazal's approach to the issue. Accordingly, our Gemara maintains that Ezra and Nechemya were contemporaries serving the Persian king referred to both as Daryavesh and Artachashasta (and in one case Koresh). He was the last king of the Persian Empire, defeated by Alexander the Great. The events discussed in our Gemora, all occurred during his reign.

Kol tuv.

Y. Landy

The Kollel comments:

Dear Yisroel,

Thanks for your response. You address the Persian History Chazal vs. science. I will add my input regarding the scientific approach of the Persian History.

You write:

"Our sources for that are NOT limited to Greek historians but to the Persian inscriptions and records themselves."

In my opinion this is inaccurate and misleading. Unlike the Assyrians who left us an abundance of historical sources, the Babylonians left us much less and the Persians very little. The only major Persian source of their history is the Bahistun Inscription written by King Darius. The Greeks later on reconstructed the chronology of the Persian History based on the Greek Historians (Herodotus and others).

Regarding the archeological evidence, I will mention a few interesting examples. At Naqsh i Rustam (near the Persepolis) there are four Royal Tombs carved into the rock. What happened to the rest of the kings?

In the Persepolis an archive of thirty thousand tablets were found. They all date to a period of fifteen years only (the end of the reign of Artexerses). What happened during the next hundred years? How about the "Unfinished Gate" which remained as such for over one hundred years? In short, the Persepolis has very little to show for in the last hundred years if they indeed did exist.

The archives found in Elephantine (Eygpt) are also limited to a short time span, fitting the historical approach of Chazal. Likewise, a document found in Wadi Delayah (Shomron Desert) bearing a seal mentioning Sanbalat, proves that Sanbalat mentioned in Nechemia was indeed around when Alexander the Great captured Eretz Yisroel. This is in contrast to the other approach who distances the two by one hundred years (approx.). Recently, an archive was found in Hirbet el Kom (near Hevron) and it also is limited to the short period which Chazal attribute to the Persian Empire.

So as you see, there is no absolute historical evidence against Chazal's approach. Furthermore, the archeological finds fit much better with this approach.

I therefore do not think that you can substantiate your claim that the scientific approach to the issue is the absolute truth.

All the best.

Y. Landy

P.S. I must point out the approach of Chayim Chefetz (Megadim 14) that the Chazal chronology is referring only to those years that the Persians controlled the Jewish People. It may well be that the empire began long before they defeated the Babylonians, but these years do not figure into the history of the Jewish People, and thus do not fit into the years listed for the Persian Empire.

Yisrael Dubitsky responds:

I can appreciate R Landy's desire to defend and maintain the inerrancy of talmudic, let alone biblical, mesorah. But where established facts contradict that mesorah one can either stick his head in the sand and deny the existence of those facts ....or one can choose to interpret the mesorah differently than had previously been done. This is an admittedly revolutionary method, but it has been done by gedolim vetovim, apparently in the past and currently in our time with regard to scientific statements of Hazal.

I am not sure why this is acceptable for scientific facts but where historical ones are at play it should be different.

I am afraid I fail to see how my statement was misleading or inaccurate. It is true that there are more Assyrian and Babylonian sources than Persian ones, but there are many sources other than Behistun (dated to 522 bce), some of which you even mentioned. And when the Greek historians' account matches what we know from the inscriptions and archives (and this happens often), mah tov! thats another source. I never implied otherwise.

Why there are only four royal tombs in Naqsh i Rustam is a good question but is hardly determinative. Not all pharoahs in Egypt built pyramids, does that mean they didnt exist? Especially where other historical sources show there were in fact more kings than four -- and an empire that lasted well beyond the 50 or so years designated by Hazal -- the four royal tombs alone do not testify to anything other than the four kings' lives. And in fact the other three tombs there may be the other Achaemenidian kings.

The Persopolis archives contain much more than merely 15 years worth of evidence. There are actually 3 types of documentary evidence there: Ritual texts in Aramaic which date from 479-436 bce or later; Fortification tablets (the largest group of texts and the ones you had in mind) in Elamite dating from 509-494 bce; and finally Treasury tablets dating from 492-458 bce. All told, Persopolis witnesses Persian history from 509-458 -- a period of over 50 years alone -- the reigns of Darius I, Xerxes, Artaxerxes. Three separate kings, not one. All these kings had separate relationships with the Jews in their empire, most especially in Judea, and this is all straight pesukim. Why would the Persians themselves, and the Jews in the Tanakh, refer to the same king with three different names, a king who would have had to rule for over 60 years to come close to the evidence of these sources? Add to that the evidence of Cyrus from the Cyrus Cylinder (testifying to his entering Babylon on 3 Heshvan 539 bce and overrunning Nabonidus), and he is also of course mentioned in Ezra and Divre hayamim as a separate king; the many references to Cambyses (530 bce) in Egyptian papyri and other inscriptions, although he is strangely missing from all of Tanakh references (it is only in this way relevant to say a king did not figure in Jewish history per se); the Jewish reference to a Darius in 419, obviously Darius II, in Elephantine; and finally a reference to another Darius, obviously Darius III, in the Samaritan papyri dating to 335 bce. Surely you do not believe the same Darius of Behistun in 522 lived until the time of Alexander in 332? Thus, evidence mentioned in this paragraph alone shows a Persian empire from 539 to 332, many more than allowed for by Hazal, and many of the kings in those years had specific mention in Tanakh as directly relevant to Jews; extra-biblical evidence proves other kings as well had direct involvement with the Jewish community.

Your jump from the Sanballat evidence in Samaria to Alexander's time is truly magnificent. The last governor of Samaria in the time of Alexander was an Isaiah, not Sanballat. The Sanballat in Nehemiah's time (ca 440 bce) was evidently the ancestor of the Sanballat mentioned in the papyri which are dated between 375 and 335. This is not simply a 2=1 equation used simply by the gemara; here clearly distinct dated material shows the dates of the two people in question are separated by many years and hence the two people are in fact two people with the same name.

I do not know of any recent finds at Khirbet el Kom, other than the famous ones that date to the 8th century, many years prior to the Persian empire. But if indeed there were recent finds relevant to the Persian empire their evidence is surely misunderstood by you. There can be no historical evidence that contradicts the mounds of evidence collected that supports the academic view of the Persian empire and its kings.

And Hefetz's article is not supported in a single iota by any reputable historian. Taking his article at face value is akin to accepting theses of scientific fact from a professional athlete. Scientists wouldnt do it and neither should you accept his revisionism merely because it seems to defend the history imagined by Hazal. To see a comprehensive critique of the theory see Alexander Eterman "Fixing the Mind": and ff.

How you can say the archaeological evidence fits much better with the approach of Hazal than with the academic one is beyond me. It is precisely the opposite!

I am afraid I never said the "scientific approach" is the "absolute truth" but I certainly did imply, and I still stand by that implication, that it is closer to the truth than what Hazal have presented us. I do not see it as a pegam in the kavod of Hazal to say they didnt have all the facts that we do now and therefore explained the pesukim and recreated a history that in fact never existed. Ein la-dayan ela mah she-einav ro'ot. They said what they said based on what they "saw"; we who can see further are expected to say differently.

Sorry for the...megillah. :)

Yisrael Dubitsky

The Kollel replies:

Dear Mr. Dubitsky,

Shalom and thank you for your reply.

Let me first clarify a few things. The points I raised were not to say that I have absolute proof, but rather these points fit much better into the Chazal chronology.

According to Chazal the Persian Empire takes up 34-40 years of the Second Beis Hamikdash Period. This is after the Beis Hamikdash was built (or also during the process of the construction). It does not include another eighteen years from Koresh's victory over the Babylonians, until permission was granted to build the Second Beis Hamikdash. Thus according to Chazal, the Persian Empire figures into the Jewish Chronology for 60-70 years, and surely came to an end in the days of Alexander the great.

The statement in the gemora Rosh Hashonah that Koresh Daryavesh and Artaxerxes are all one king is unfortunately often misunderstood, and thus used as one of the main points against Chazal's chronology. It is not implying that there was only one king, but rather that King Darayavush who succeeded Xerxes to the throne also can be referred to as Koresh and Artaxerxes.

Thus according to Chazal we have the following kings Daryavesh, Koresh, Xerxes (Achashveirosh) and Daryavush (who can also be referred to with two other names).

The archeological evidence in the Persepolis matches a similar time span just as you yourself mentioned. But the historians claim that the Persepolis stood for another hundred years (+-), yet they practically have no archeological evidence for this. In fact, archeologists are truly mystified by this. Why is there very little to show for these last hundred years?

You mention the years from Koresh to Alexander the Great, but the dating of Koresh is actually the issue. Is there any absolute proof for this dating? Was he in 539 BCE or perhaps 165 years later?

Regarding the Persian Historical records, there are bits and pieces which have to fit into a frame. There is no solid straight history as is the case with the Assyrians. (In the Neo Babylonian Empire we're also missing major portions of Nebuchadnezzar's life, leaving many issues not clarified.) So the historians place the bits and pieces into the frame they have already designed. But it could just as well fit into the Chazal chronology.

For this reason I declared that your statement was misleading or inaccurate. You imply that the Persian records cover the years of an extended Persian Empire, while in reality they only cover sixty years (+-). The other years must be filled in based on the Greek Historians.

I mentioned the four Royal Tombs at Naqsh i Rustam. Surely there may have been other Royal Tombs elsewhere. But had they been labeled and lined up together at Naqsh i Rustam, the Chazal chronology would have to deal with them. With only four tombs there (and knowing that these are Royal Tombs) it surely fits better with the Chazal chronology.

Regarding Sanballat, I'm not sure why you decided that he was no longer around by the time of Alexander the Great. Josephus clearly states that Sanballat approached Alexander

Here is the quote:

"But Sanballat thought he had now gotten a proper opportunity to make his attempt, so he renounced Darius, and taking with him seven thousand of his own subjects, he came to Alexander; and finding him beginning the siege of Tyre, he said to him, that he delivered up to him these men, who came out of places under his dominion, and did gladly accept of him for his lord instead of Darius."

Now as you mention historians have a problem with Sanballat and are thus forced to invent another Sanballat, placing one earlier and one later. They are also forced to invent another Kohen Gadol by the name of Yadu'a (the first and the second respectively), one who was around During the First Sanballat and the other who was around in the days of the later Saballat. Can I disprove this theory? No. But if we accept the Chazal chronology it definitely fits much better. I must also point out that having Kohanim Gedolim with identical names is unprecedented in Tanach.

I must point out that Sanballat died by the time Alexander made it to Eretz Yisroel and indeed the papyrus discovered in Wadi Delaya is from the son of Sanballat.

To sum it all up, there is no compelling evidence to prove that the archive in Elephantine and Wadi Delaya are not from the same time. Nor are we forced to place them outside the timeframe of the Chazal chronology.

As I mentioned, recently an archive was discovered in Khirbet el Kom which also is limited to a relatively short time period (the end of the reign of Artaxerxes). This of course does not prove my point, but once again fits nicely into the Chazal chronology.

I hope I clarified my approach.

Yehuda Landy