Damien F. Mackey
“Years later, when it pleased God, the Persian emperor sent Nehemiah back to Jerusalem, and Nehemiah told the descendants of those priests to find the fire. They reported to us that they had found no fire but only some oily liquid. Nehemiah then told them to scoop some up and bring it to him”.
2 Maccabees 1:20
This verse from Second Maccabees greatly intrigues me because, according to it, governor Nehemiah of the Persian era was in contact with priests of the Maccabean era.
Consider what this means from a chronological point of view.
Nehemiah, customarily dated to c. 445 BC, the Persian era, is said to have been personally in touch with “priests” of the Hellenistic era.
The “us” to whom these priests “reported” were, as we learn at the beginning of this Maccabean chapter, “the Jews of Jerusalem and Judea” (1:1), these living in “the year 169” of the Greeks (1:7), which date, we are told, “corresponds to 143 B.C”.
Nehemiah must have been extraordinarily old these three centuries (445-143) later!
Poor Nehemiah really gets played around with. As if three centuries of life span were not enough for him, “he” re-emerges later, supposedly – still as an agent of Persia – in the C7th AD. See my article:
Two Supposed Nehemiahs: BC time and AD time
Now that is really stretching things!
“If we are to put any confidence in the story of Josephus, then there must have been at least two Sanballats, and probably two Jadduas, and at two different times a son of a high priest must have married a daughter of a Sanballat”.
Conventional patterns of history are famous for having to invent extra persons of the same name (e.g. a “Sanballat” I, II and III; a “Jaddua” I and II) in order to bridge over-inflated chronological estimations. Thus we read in an article, “Ezra-Nehemiah”
…. Neither language nor style can be assigned as a ground for asserting a date later than the 5th century BC as the time of the composition of the book. A much stronger reason against placing the final redaction of the books at so early a time is the mention of a Jaddua among the high priests in Nehemiah 12:11,22, it being assumed that this is the same Jaddua whom Josephus mentions (Ant., XI, viii, 4) as having filled the high-priestly office in the time of Alexander the Great. In view of the fact that Josephus is the only source of information as to the period between 400 and 300 BC, it seems unfair to accept what he says as to the existence of this Jaddua, while rejecting substantially all the rest of the same chapter in Josephus which tells about Sanballat, Manasseh and Alexander’s meeting with Jaddua. Inasmuch as the Sachau papyri, written in the 17th year of Darius Nothus, that is, in 410-408 BC, mention the sons of Sanballat the governor of Samaria, the Sanballat who was their father must have lived about 450 BC. The same papyrus mentions Jehohanan (Johnnan of Nehemiah 12:22) as the high priest of the temple at Jerusalem, and Bagohi (Bagoas) was the Persian governor of Jerusalem in 410-408 BC. Since, according to Nehemiah 13:6, Nehemiah was governor in 434-433 BC, the 32nd year of Artaxerxes, Bagoas would be perhaps his immediate successor. If we are to put any confidence in the story of Josephus, then there must have been at least two Sanballats, and probably two Jadduas, and at two different times a son of a high priest must have married a daughter of a Sanballat. While this is not impossible, it seems better to suppose that Josephus has confused matters beyond any possibility of disentanglement, and we might be justified in throwing over entirely his account of a Sanballat, a Manasseh, and a Jaddua as living in the year 330 BC, when Alexander conquered Syria. As far, of course, as the Jaddua of Nehemiah 12:11,22 is concerned, he may well have been high priest as early as 406 BC, and have continued to serve till 330 BC. On the other hand, another of the same name, probably a grandson, may, for all we know to the contrary, have been high priest in 330 BC. ….
Such painful duplicating ceases to be necessary within my revision, according to which the Medo-Persian kingdom is to be greatly streamlined, enabling for Nehemiah himself to become a bridge between it and the Hellenistic period inaugurated by Alexander the Great.