Was Nehemiah Contemporary with Ezra in 458 BC? -- By: Leslie McFall

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 53:2 (Fall 1991)
Article: Was Nehemiah Contemporary with Ezra in 458 BC?
Author: Leslie McFall


Was Nehemiah Contemporary with Ezra in 458 BC?

Leslie McFall

The dominant factor affecting any study of the theology or literary arrangement of Ezra-Nehemiah is the question of the dates given to the missions of Ezra and Nehemiah.1 In this article it will be suggested that Nehemiah’s first visit commenced in the year 465 and his second in 445 (all dates are BC). These new dates will have implications for the literary arrangement of his book and set his missions in a new relationship to Ezra’s work.

Scholarly opinion since the turn of the century has accepted the immovability of Nehemiah. He has become the fixed point in the discussion.2 By contrast, throughout the past

century of research the moveable man has been Ezra.3 He has been placed in the 7th year of Darius I (515);4 the 7th of Xerxes (479);5 the 7th of Artaxerxes I (458);6 the 7th of

Artaxerxes II (398);7 the 7th of Artaxerxes III (351);8 the 27th of Artaxerxes I (438);9 the 32rd of Artaxerxes I (433);10 the 37th of Artaxerxes I (428);11 the 37th of Artaxerxes II (367);12 while some have even regarded him as the invention of the Chronicler—a fiction of his imagination.13 The caustic remark of C. C. Torrey is typical of this viewpoint:

No fact of Old Testament criticism is more firmly established than this; that the Chronicler, as a historian, is thoroughly untrustworthy. He distorts facts

deliberately and habitually; invents chapter after chapter with the greatest freedom; and, what is most dangerous of all, his history is not written for its own sake, but in the interest of an extremely one-sided theory.14

Of these dates the only serious contenders—to judge by modern treatments of the subject—are the 7th of Artaxerxes I (458)15 and the 7th of Artaxerxes II (398).

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