In our first article, we examined the Adad-Guppi Stele, an historical document which quickly demolishes Watchtower’s theory of possible gaps in the established line of Neo-Babylonian Kings.
For the next piece of primary evidence, we will look at the planet Saturn. This article will help us to comprehend how Saturn’s position in the sky can easily be used to establish the time period when Jerusalem was destroyed.
In our modern age, we take the measurement of time for granted. We can easily forget that all the technology is based on the movement of a planetary body, specifically our Earth. A year is the time it takes the Earth to make a full revolution around the sun. A day is the time it takes the Earth to make a full revolution around its axis. The movement of the planets are so consistent, so reliable, that ancient civilizations used the sky as a celestial calendar, a compass, a clock, and a map. Before GPS, a ship’s captain could navigate anywhere on earth with just a timepiece and the night sky to guide him.
The Babylonians were experts in astronomy. Over many centuries, they recorded precise planetary, solar and lunar movements as well as eclipses. The combination of these planetary positions locks them into an absolute timeline that we can trace back with precision. Each combination is as unique as a human fingerprint or a lottery ticket number.
Think of a chronological list of 12 lottery ticket numbers won on specific dates over a given year. What are the chances of those exact same numbers coming up on different dates ever again?
As we stated in the first article, our purpose here is to use the two-part article titled, “When was ancient Jerusalem Destroyed?”, published in the October and November, 2011 issues of The Watchtower to demonstrate clearly that the publishers had all the information necessary to reveal the truth that they had been wrong about 607 BCE all along, yet chose to ignore it and perpetuate a harmful false teaching.
To this end, let’s look at how Saturn’s location can be used to establish the dating of Nebuchadnezzar’s 37th regnal year. Why does that matter? It matters, because according to Jeremiah 52:12, “In the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month, that is, in the 19th year of King Neb·u·chad·nezʹzar the king of Babylon” Jerusalem was destroyed. The siege lasted over a year (Jeremiah 52: 4, 5). Jeremiah got a vision in the 18th year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign while the city was under siege (Jeremiah 32:1, 2) So, if we can fix with precision the 37th year of Nebuchadnezzar, it is an easy subtraction to arrive at the year of Jerusalem’s destruction.
You can be sure that if astronomical data pointed to 607 BCE, The Watchtower article would be all over it. Yet, no mention is made of Saturn’s position at all. They ignore this valuable piece of evidence entirely. Why?
Let’s look at the evidence, shall we?
VAT 4956 is a number assigned to a particular clay tablet which describes astronomical data relating to the 37th year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign.
The first two lines of the translation of this tablet read:
- Year 37 of Nebukadnezar, king of Babylon. Month I. (the 1st  of which was identical with) the 30th  (of the preceding month), the moon became visible behind the Bull of Heaven; [sunset to moonset:] ….[….]
- Saturn was in front of the Swallow.,  The 2nd, in the morning, a rainbow stretched in the west. Night of the 3rd, the moon was 2 cubits in front of [….]
Line two tells us that “Saturn was in front of the Swallow” (The region of the night sky today called Pisces.)
Saturn is much farther from our Sun than is Earth, and so it takes a lot longer to complete a full orbit. A single orbit is about 29.4 Earth years in fact.
Our modern clocks are divided into 12 hours. Why 12? We could have had 10 hour days and 10 hour nights, with each hour made up of 100 minutes each, and each minute divided into 100 seconds. Indeed, we could have divided our days up into segments of any length we chose, but 12 was what the time keepers long ago settled on.
The ancient astronomers also divided the sky into 12 segments known as constellations. They saw familiar star patterns and thought these resembled animals and so named them accordingly.
As Saturn orbits around the Sun, it appears to move through all 12 of these constellations. Just as the hour hand of a clock takes an hour to move through each of the twelve numbers on the clock, so Saturn takes about 2.42 years to move through each constellation. Thus, if Saturn was observed in Pisces—at the top of our celestial clock—in the 37th year of Nebuchadnezzar, it wouldn’t appear there again for almost three decades.
As we noted before, given the precision with which we can date events based on planetary movement data, one has to wonder why such an important fact was left out. Surely anything that would categorically prove 607 BCE as the date of Jerusalem’s destruction would have been front and center of the Watchtower article.
Since we know exactly where Saturn is today—you can even verify that yourself with the naked eye—all we have to do is run the numbers backward in 29.4 year orbital segments. Of course, that is tedious. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a piece of software to do that for us with the kind of precision a computer can offer? The November Watchtower article mentions a piece of software they used for their calculations. If they ran a calculation on Saturn’s orbit, they make no mention of it, though it is hard to imagine they wouldn’t have done so in the hopes of establishing 607 as the date.
Fortunately, we also have access to a wonderful software program that can be downloaded and run on a smart phone or tablet. It’s called SkySafari 6 Plus and is available on the web or from the Apple and Android stores. I would recommend you download it yourself so you can run your own research. Make sure you get the “Plus” version or higher as the cheapest version does not allow calculations for years before Christ.
Here’s a screenshot of the settings used for our own research:
The location is Baghdad, Iraq which is close to where ancient Babylon was located. The date is 588 BC. The Horizon & Sky is hidden to make it easier to see the background constellations.
Now let’s see if the date of 588 produces a match with what the Babylonian astronomers recorded for the position of Saturn during the 37th year of Nebuchadnezzar. Remember, they said it appears in front of the Swallow, which today is known as Pisces, “the Fish”.
Here’s the screen capture:
As we see here, Saturn was in Cancer (Latin for Crab).
Looking at the chart above showing the 12 constellations, we see that Saturn would have to move through, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpius, Sagittarius, Capricornus, and Aquarius, before reaching Pisces or the Swallow. So if we add 20 years and go with the date the Archeologists say was Nebuchadnezzar’s 37th year, 568, where is Saturn?
And there we have Saturn in Pisces, just where the Babylonian astronomers said it was in the 37th year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. That would mean that his 19th year would fall between 587/588 just as the Archeologists claim. According to Jeremiah, that was when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem.
Why would the Organization withhold this information from us?
In the November broadcast on tv.jw.org, Governing Body member Gerrit Losch told us that “Lying involves saying something incorrect to a person who is entitled to know the truth about a matter. But there is also something that is called a half-truth….So we need to speak openly and honestly with each other, not withholding bits of information that could change the perception of the listener or mislead him.
Would you think that withholding this vital astronomical data from us that pinpoints the year of Jerusalem’s destruction amounts to “withholding bits of information that could change the perception” we have about 607 BCE and 1914 CE? Is the Organization, through its chief teaching instrument, “speaking openly and honestly” with us?
We might excuse this as a mistake made due to imperfection. But remember, Gerrit Losch was defining what constitutes a lie. When a true Christian makes a mistake, the correct course of action is to acknowledge it and correct it. However, what about one claiming to be a true Christian who knows something to be true and yet conceals that truth to perpetuate a false teaching. What does Gerrit Losch call that?
What would be the motivation for such an action?
We must bear in mind that pinning 607 BCE as the year of Jerusalem’s destruction is the cornerstone of the 1914 doctrine. Move the date to 588, and the calculation for the start of the last days moves to 1934. They lose the World War I, the Spanish Influenza and the famines caused by the war as part of the their “composite sign”. Worse, they can no longer claim 1919 as the year Christ Jesus appointed them as the Faithful and Discreet Slave (Matthew 24:45-47). Without that 1919 appointment, they cannot claim the right to exercise authority in the name of God over Christ’s flock. They, therefore, have a powerful vested interest in supporting the 1914 doctrine. Still, it is hard to imagine that men you may have esteemed all your life could be capable of knowingly perpetrating such a colossal deception. Nevertheless, a critical thinker looks at the evidence, and does not allow emotion to cloud his thinking.
(For a thorough analysis of the 1914 teaching, see 1914 – A Litany of Assumptions.)
There is another piece of evidence which they have withheld. As we saw in the last article, they need us to accept the belief that there is a 20-year gap in the timeline of the kings of Babylon. That supposed gap allows them to move the date of Jerusalem’s destruction back to 607. They claim that there is 20 years of information missing from the written record. In the last article, we demonstrated that no such gap exists. Does the astronomical data also demonstrate the absence of any such gap? Here is the list of two predecessor kings to Nebuchadnezzar.
|Number of Years
|647 – 626 BCE
|625 – 605 BCE
|604 – 562 BCE
These names and dates are established by the “Saturn Tablet (British Museum Index BM 76738 + BM 76813) which is found in a book written by N.W Swerdlow, titled, Ancient Astronomy and Celestial Divination, chapter 3, “Babylonian Observations of Saturn”.[i]
Line 2 of this tablet states that in Year 1, month 4, day 24 of Kandalanu’s reign, Saturn was located in front of the Crab constellation.
Using the data from this tablet and the recorded years of each king’s reign, we can see that the astronomical data continues to match Saturn’s positions all the way back to King Kandalanu who began ruling in 647 BCE.
This second confirmation, after the evidence from our last article, deals a one-two punch to the Organization’s fiction of a 20-year gap. Undoubtedly, this is the reason why this evidence never found its way into the 2011 two-part article.
Examining The Watchtower’s Argument
On page 25 of the November 2011 issue, we find this argument in favor of 607 BCE:
In addition to the aforementioned eclipse, there are 13 sets of lunar observations on the tablet and 15 planetary observations. These describe the position of the moon or planets in relation to certain stars or constellations.18
Because of the superior reliability of the lunar positions, researchers have carefully analyzed these 13 sets of lunar positions on VAT 4956.
Why are they going for lunar positions over planetary observations? According to footnote 18: “Though the cuneiform sign for the moon is clear and unambiguous, some of the signs for the names of the planets and their positions are unclear. “
The trusting reader is not likely to notice that no mention is made of which “signs for the names of the planets…are unclear”. Additionally, we are not told who the researchers are who have carefully analyzed the “13 sets of lunar positions”. For us to be sure there is no bias, these researchers must have no connection with the Organization. Additionally, why do they not share the details of their research as we have done here in this article, so that the readers of The Watchtower can verify the findings for themselves?
For instance, they make this claim from the second Watchtower article:
“While not all of these sets of lunar positions match the year 568/567 B.C.E., all 13 sets match calculated positions for 20 years earlier, for the year 588/587 B.C.E.” (p. 27)
We have already seen in these two Watchtower articles that hard archeological and astronomical data and primary source evidence have been omitted or misrepresented. Gerrit Losch, in the video cited earlier, said: “Lies and half-truths undermine trust. A German proverb says: “Who lies once is not believed, even if he says the truth.”
Given that, they can hardly expect us to now take everything they write as gospel truth. We need to check things for ourselves to see if they are telling us the truth or misleading us. It may well be a challenge for those of us raised as Witnesses to believe that the leadership of the Organization could be capable of willful deception, yet the facts we’ve already uncovered make it difficult to look the other way. Given that, we will take the time in a future article to examine their claim to see if the lunar data does indeed point to 588 versus 586 BCE.
[i] Use https://www.worldcat.org/ to locate this book at your local library.