Edwin R. Thiele
Edwin R. Thiele was an American  missionary
A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism or ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care and economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin...

 in China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, an editor
Editing is the process of selecting and preparing written, visual, audible, and film media used to convey information through the processes of correction, condensation, organization, and other modifications performed with an intention of producing a correct, consistent, accurate, and complete...

, archaeologist
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

, writer, and Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 professor. He is best known for his chronological studies of the Hebrew kingdom period.


A native of Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

, he graduated from Emmanuel Missionary College (which was renamed Andrews University
Andrews University
Andrews University is a Seventh-day Adventist university in Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States. Founded in 1874 as Battle Creek College in Battle Creek, Michigan, it was the first higher education facility started by Seventh-day Adventists, and is the flagship university of the Seventh-day...

 in 1960) in 1918 with a BA
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 degree in ancient languages. After two years of work as home missionary secretary for the East Michigan Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, he left in 1920 for mission service in China. During his 12-year work in China, he was an editor and manager for the Signs of the Times Publishing House in Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...


After returning to the United States, Thiele received an MA
Master of Arts (postgraduate)
A Master of Arts from the Latin Magister Artium, is a type of Master's degree awarded by universities in many countries. The M.A. is usually contrasted with the M.S. or M.Sc. degrees...

 degree in archaeology from the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

 in 1937. He then joined the religion faculty of Emmanuel Missionary College, while continuing his doctoral work at the University of Chicago. He obtained a PhD
PHD may refer to:*Ph.D., a doctorate of philosophy*Ph.D. , a 1980s British group*PHD finger, a protein sequence*PHD Mountain Software, an outdoor clothing and equipment company*PhD Docbook renderer, an XML renderer...

 degree in biblical archaeology in 1943. His doctoral dissertation, later published as The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings
The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings
Edwin R. Thiele's The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings is a reconstruction of the chronology of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The book was originally his doctoral dissertation and is widely regarded as the definitive work on the chronology of Hebrew kings...

is widely regarded as the definitive work on the chronology of Hebrew kings. He traveled extensively throughout the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 in the course of his research.

In addition, Thiele also authored a popular book on Christianity, Knowing God. After his death, his widow, Margaret, completed his study of the Book of Job
Book of Job
The Book of Job , commonly referred to simply as Job, is one of the books of the Hebrew Bible. It relates the story of Job, his trials at the hands of Satan, his discussions with friends on the origins and nature of his suffering, his challenge to God, and finally a response from God. The book is a...

 entitled Job and the Devil. In this work, Thiele argues that Leviathan
Leviathan , is a sea monster referred to in the Bible. In Demonology, Leviathan is one of the seven princes of Hell and its gatekeeper . The word has become synonymous with any large sea monster or creature...

 (and Behemoth
Behemoth is a mythological beast mentioned in the Book of Job, 40:15-24. Metaphorically, the name has come to be used for any extremely large or powerful entity.-Plural as singular:...

) are linked to Near Eastern myths for chaos or evil. Hence, Thiele suggests, Job pictures God struggling with Evil as lying behind Job's suffering.

From 1963 to 1965, he served as Professor of Antiquity at Andrews University
Andrews University
Andrews University is a Seventh-day Adventist university in Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States. Founded in 1874 as Battle Creek College in Battle Creek, Michigan, it was the first higher education facility started by Seventh-day Adventists, and is the flagship university of the Seventh-day...

. After retiring from teaching in 1965, he moved to California where he continued to write. He died in St. Helena, California in 1986. He is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Berrien Springs, Michigan.

Biblical chronology

The following is based on Thiele's book The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings
The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings
Edwin R. Thiele's The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings is a reconstruction of the chronology of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The book was originally his doctoral dissertation and is widely regarded as the definitive work on the chronology of Hebrew kings...


The chronology of the Hebrew kings rests primarily on a series of reign lengths and cross references within the books of Kings and Chronicles, in which the accession of each king is dated in terms of the reign of his contemporary in either the southern kingdom of Judah or the northern kingdom of Israel. Unfortunately some of these cross references did not seem to match, so that a reign which is said to have lasted for 20 years results in a cross reference that would give a result of either 19 or 21 years.

Thiele noticed that the cross references given during the long reign of King Asa of Judah
Asa of Judah
Asa was the third king of the Kingdom of Judah and the fifth king of the House of David. He was the son of Abijam, grandson of Rehoboam, and great-grandson of Solomon. The Hebrew Bible gives the period of his reign as 41 years. His reign is dated between 913-910 BCE to 873-869 BCE. He was...

 had a cumulative error of 1 year for each succeeding reign of the kings of Israel: the first cross-reference resulted in an error of 1 year, the second gave an error of 2 years, the third of 3 years and so on. He was able to demonstrate that this was due to two different methods of reckoning regnal years - the accession year method and the non-accession year method.

If we think in terms of our own calendar, if the old king died on December 31 and the new king started to reign on January 1, there was no problem. However if the old king died on December 1, what did you do with the remaining 30 days of the old year? Under the accession year method, those 30 days were called the "Accession year" and Year 1 of the new king's reign began on January 1. Under the non-accession year method the 30 days were Year 1 of the new king and Year 2 began on January 1.

If this were not complicated enough, Thiele was able to demonstrate that the northern kingdom (Israel) celebrated a spring New Year while the southern kingdom (Judah) held to an autumn New Year. Differing new years and different methods of calculating reigns were responsible for much of the confusion in the cross references, with the additional problem that the southern kingdom appears to have adopted its neighbour's non-accession method during the time when Athaliah seized power. Unknown to Thiele when he first published his findings, these same conclusions that the northern kingdom used non-accession years and a spring New Year while the southern kingdom used accession years and a fall New Year had been discovered by V. Coucke
Valerius Coucke
Valerius Josephus Coucke, 1888–1951, was a Belgian scholar and priest who was professor at the Grootseminarie Brugge in the 1920s. His importance to modern scholarship comes from his writings in the field of Old Testament chronology...

 of Belgium some years previously, a fact which Thiele acknowledges in his Mysterious Numbers.

With this understanding of chronology, Thiele showed that the 14 years between Ahab and Jehu were really 12 years, which meant that he could date their reigns precisely, for Ahab
Ahab or Ach'av or Achab in Douay-Rheims was king of Israel and the son and successor of Omri according to the Hebrew Bible. His wife was Jezebel....

 is mentioned in the Kurk Stele
Kurkh Monolith
The Kurkh Monolith is an Assyrian document that contains a description of the Battle of Qarqar at the end. Today it stands in the British Museum but it was originally found at the Kurdish village of Kurkh , near the town of Bismil in the province of Diyarbakır, Turkey...

 which records the Assyrian advance into Syria/Palestine at the Battle of Qarqar
Battle of Qarqar
The Battle of Qarqar was fought in 853 BC when the army of Assyria led by king Shalmaneser III encountered an allied army of 12 kings at Qarqar led by Hadadezer of Damascus and King Ahab of Israel...

 in 853 BC, and Jehu is mentioned on the Black Obelisk
Black Obelisk
The "Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III" is a black limestone Neo-Assyrian bas-relief sculpture from Nimrud , in northern Iraq, commemorating the deeds of King Shalmaneser III . It is the most complete Assyrian obelisk yet discovered, and is historically significant because it displays the earliest...

 of Shalmaneser III
Shalmaneser III
Shalmaneser III was king of Assyria , and son of the previous ruler, Ashurnasirpal II....

 paying tribute in 841 BC. As these two events are securely dated by Assyrian chronology at 12 years apart, Ahab must have fought the Assyrians in his last year and Jehu paid tribute in his first year.

Thiele was able to reconcile the Biblical chronological data from the books of Kings and Chronicles with the exception of synchronisms between Hoshea
See also Hosea, who has the same name in Biblical Hebrew.Hoshea was the last king of the Israelite Kingdom of Israel and son of Elah . William F. Albright dated reign to 732 – 721 BC, while E. R. Thiele offered the dates 732 – 723 BC.Assyrian records basically confirm the Biblical...

 of Israel and Hezekiah
Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz and the 14th king of Judah. Edwin Thiele has concluded that his reign was between c. 715 and 686 BC. He is also one of the most prominent kings of Judah mentioned in the Hebrew Bible....

 of Judah towards the end of the kingdom of Israel and reluctantly concluded that at that point the ancient authors had made a mistake. Subsequent writers have proposed an unattested coregency between Hezekia and his father Ahaz to explain the Hoshea/Hezekiah synchronisms. Among these writers are Thiele’s colleague Siegfried Horn
Siegfried Horn
Siegfried Herbert Horn was a Seventh-day Adventist archaeologist and Bible scholar. He is perhaps best known for his numerous books and articles and for his excavations at Tell Hesban in Jordan. He was Professor of History of Antiquity at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien...

, T. C. Mitchell and Kenneth Kitchen
Kenneth Kitchen
Kenneth Anderson Kitchen is Personal and Brunner Professor Emeritus of Egyptology and Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology, University of Liverpool, England...

, and Leslie McFall.


Thiele's chronological reconstruction has not been accepted by all of the scholarly consensus, but it should be pointed out that neither has any other scholar’s work in this field. Yet the work of Thiele and those who followed in his steps has achieved acceptance across a wider spectrum than that of any comparable chronology, so that Assyriologist D. J. Wiseman
Donald Wiseman
Donald John Wiseman OBE, FBA was a Biblical scholar, archaeologist and Assyriologist. He was Professor of Assyriology at the University of London from 1961 to 1982.-Early life and beliefs:...

 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.”

Although criticism has been leveled at numerous specific points in his chronology, his work has won considerable praise even from those who disagree with his final conclusions. Nevertheless, even scholars sharing Thiele's religious convictions have maintained that there are weaknesses in his argument such as unfounded assumptions and assumed circular reasoning.

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 response to the “circular reasoning” argument, Kenneth Strand has pointed out several archaeological finds that were published after Thiele produced his chronology, and which verified Thiele’s assumptions or conclusions vs. the chronological systems of other scholars such as Albright
William F. Albright
William Foxwell Albright was an American archaeologist, biblical scholar, philologist and expert on ceramics. From the early twentieth century until his death, he was the dean of biblical archaeologists and the universally acknowledged founder of the Biblical archaeology movement...

that were posited before Thiele’s work. In scientific methodology, the ability to predict new results that were not known when a theory was formulated is regarded as support for the provisional acceptance of a theory until a better theory can be produced.

Despite the various criticisms Thiele's methodological treatment remains the typical starting point of scholarly treatments of the subject, and his work is considered to have established the date of the division of the Israelite kingdom.

External links

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