I am fascinated by history, and in browsing your website's Western Wall Tunnel Tour (http://www.aish.com/sem/wtt/). I was surprised by the dates of various events in Jewish history. According to your timeline, King Solomon built the First Temple in 825 BCE. Was it not completed in 957 BCE? The Babylonian exile is stated as beginning in 422 BCE. But didn't Nebuchadnezzar II destroy the First Temple in 586 BCE, the same year the Jews were deported to Babylonia?
Could you please explain this discrepancy in the dates? Thank you.
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
The source of this discrepancy is in the accounting of the Persian period. Greek historians (such as Herodotus, Ctesias, Xenophon, and others who lived after the events and collected oral histories) speak of 10 Persian kings who ruled for 208 years. By contrast, the biblical Jewish account speaks of four kings ruling 52 years.
The confusion stems from the fact that one person may have several names. For example U.S. President, Commander-in-Chief, and White House Occupant may all be names for the same person. So too, Arta-Khsharta is a title used by all Persian kings and means literally "Fit for the Kingdom" – yet Artaxerxes is listed separately as three kings in the Greek lists.
Another point of contention focuses on the war between Darius and Alexander. These are commonly thought to be an earlier Darius and Alexander, due to the "interposing" Artaxerxes kings. That makes Alexander the Great into Alexander II, and Darius who permitted the rebuilding of the Second Temple into a later Darius. Yet many Jewish scholars feel that both Alexanders are the same person; so too with Darius.
For more details, see Brad Aaronson's article "Fixing the History Books" (http://www.starways.net/lisa/essays/heifetzfix.html) and an interesting discussion on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missing_years).