Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The post-exilic chronology. Part 3: Is Darius Artaxerxes

In my earlier post I mentioned the possibility that Darius is Artaxerxes. Various versions translate Ezra 6:14b thus
  • And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. (KJV)
  • And they finished building according to the command of the God of Israel and the decree of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. (NASB)
  • They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia. (NIV)
  • They finished their building by decree of the God of Israel and by decree of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes king of Persia; (ESV)
  • They built and brought it to completion by the command of the God of Israel and by the command of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes king of Persia. (NET)
All of them mentioning 3 kings. Martin Anstey suggests the translation,
They builded and finished it according to the commandment of Cyrus and Darius (even Artaxerxes), King of Persia.
My translation,
They finished their building by decree of the God of Israel; and by decree of Cyrus and Darius, that is Artaxerxes, king of Persia.
This translation comes from the suggestion that the letter "waw" (ו), which is translated as "and", should be understood in this passage as being explanatory; and should be translated as "even", or "to wit", or "that is". Though this suggestion is not followed by any current Bible translations in this passage (that I am aware of), it is reasonable suggestion. "Waw" is translated like this elsewhere (eg. 1 Chronicles 5:26). Hence Anstey's translation identifies Darius as Artaxerxes.

It is known that some rulers may have more than one name. It was common in Egypt at least, and seen in Israel. But it may be that "Artaxerxes" was not a name as much as a title. Much as "Pharaoh" is a title for Egyptian kings. Anstey states,
The word Artaxerxes is an appellation like Pharaoh. The word Xerxes survives to this day. It is the ancient form of the modern "Shah." "Arta" signifies great or noble, and "Arta-Xerxes" is the exact equivalent of Darius the Great or Xerxes the Great. Similarly the son and successor of Darius Hystaspes, Xerxes in his Inscription at Persepolis, calls himself in one sentence "Xerxes the great King" and in the next "Darius the King."
And Anstey mentions several sources that propose as much,
Abraham Zacutus (15th Century A.D.), astronomer to Emanuel, King of Portugal, David Ganz of Prague (d. A.D. 1613) and the Sedar Olam Zeuta or the Lesser Chronicle of the Jews (Anonymous, A.D. 1123), all tell us that "Artaxerxes among the Persians was the common name of their Kings as that of Pharaoh was among the Egyptians."
We see that the Hebrew text allows Darius to be identified as Artaxerxes, and it seems reasonable that Artaxerxes could either be a 2nd name or possibly a title. Further evidence that Artaxerxes should be identified as Darius is the greater context of Ezra-Nehemiah. There is no decree by any other Artaxerxes to build the temple. The decree by Artaxerxes in Ezra 4 is to stop building the city. The decree of Artaxerxes in Nehemiah concerns building the city walls, and anyway it postdates the completion of the temple which Ezra 6:14 is referring to so the passage cannot refer to Artaxerxes' words to Nehemiah.

Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.

3 comments:

  1. Yet, I have seen the dates of these three kings listed in reputable commentaries.

    ReplyDelete
  2. http://www.farsinet.com/iranbibl/kings.html check out this site

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Bill. Yes, but what did those reputable commentaries base their ideas on?

    You may wish to read part 1 and part 2 of this series.

    Ideas can be modified as new information arises, or an individual becomes aware of information that is known, or we are introduced to new ways of understanding an issue. It is possible that commentaries base their ideas on previous reading and some of them may be unaware of these perspectives.

    ReplyDelete

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