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Edwin R. Thiele

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Edwin R. Thiele
Born(1895-09-10)September 10, 1895
DiedApril 15, 1986(1986-04-15) (aged 90)
Resting placeBerrien Springs, Michigan
EducationEmmanuel Missionary College
Alma materEmmanuel Missionary College
University of Chicago
Occupation(s)Archeologist, Scholar, Missionary
Notable workThe Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings

Edwin Richard Thiele (10 September 1895 – 15 April 1986) was an American Seventh-day Adventist missionary in China, editor, archaeologist, writer, and scholar of the Old Testament. He is best known for his chronological studies of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel.


Thiele was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, on September 10, 1895. He graduated from Emmanuel Missionary College, which later became Andrews University in 1960, in 1918 with a Bachelor of Arts 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 years in China, he was an editor and manager for the Signs of the Times Publishing House in Shanghai.

After returning to the United States, Thiele studied archaeology, obtaining a Master of Arts degree from the University of Chicago 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 in biblical archaeology in 1943. His doctoral dissertation, The Chronology of the Kings of Judah and Israel,[1] was later expanded and published as The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings[2] which became widely regarded as an important work on the chronology of Hebrew kings.[3] He traveled extensively throughout the Middle East in the course of his research.

Later Thiele also authored a popular book on Christianity, Knowing God.[4] After his death, his widow Margaret completed his study of the Book of Job entitled Job and the Devil.[5]

From 1963 to 1965 he served as Professor of Antiquity at Andrews University. 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.

Reception of chronological work[edit]

Thiele's chronological reconstruction has not been accepted by all scholars.[6][7] Nonetheless the work of Thiele and those who followed in his steps achieved acceptance across a wider spectrum than that of any comparable chronology; as Assyriologist D. J. Wiseman (1993) wrote, "The chronology most widely accepted today is one based on the meticulous study by Thiele."[8] More recently in 2010, Leslie McFall asserted that "Thiele's chronology is fast becoming the consensus view among Old Testament scholars, if it has not already reached that point."[9]

Although criticism has been leveled at numerous specific points in Thiele's chronology,[10] his work has won considerable praise even from those who disagree with his conclusions.[11] On the other hand, even scholars sharing Thiele's religious convictions have sometimes 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 ...[12][13]

In response to the "circular reasoning" criticism, Kenneth Strand has pointed out several archaeological finds that were published after Thiele produced his chronology and that verified Thiele's assumptions or conclusions as against the chronological systems of other scholars such as Albright that were posited before Thiele's work.[14]

Despite the various criticisms Thiele's methodological treatment remains the typical starting point of scholarly treatments of the subject,[15] and his work is considered to have established the date of the division of the Israelite kingdom.[16][17][18][19][20][21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ MVT. E.R. Thiele, The Chronology of the Kings of Judah and Israel (1944).
  2. ^ Edwin Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, (1st ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1951; 2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965; 3rd ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Kregel, 1983). ISBN 0-8254-3825-X, 9780825438257
  3. ^ Thiele's chronology is accepted in several recent study Bibles, and is the chronology used for the Hebrew monarchs in the Cambridge Ancient History (T. C. Mitchell, "Israel and Judah until the Revolt of Jehu (931-841 B.C.)" CAH 3, Part 1, p. 445). Thiele's chronology with the slight modifications of Leslie McFall, ("A Translation Guide to the Chronological Data in Kings and Chronicles," Bibliotheca Sacra 148 [1991], pp. 3-45) is accepted in Jack Finegan's influential Handbook of Biblical Chronology, rev. ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1998), p. 249. See also, in the notes below, the list of scholars who accept his date for the beginning of the divided kingdom.
  4. ^ Thiele, Edwin R., Knowing God, Southern Publishing Association, 1979
  5. ^ Thiele, Edwin R. and Thiele, Margaret R., Job and the Devil, Southern Publishing Association, 1988.
  6. ^ 'Not all scholars are convinced by this solution, and commentators on the prophetic books often accept that dates can only be approximate.', McConville, G. (2002). Exploring the Old Testament, Volume 4: The Prophets (viii). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
  7. ^ 'Despite that fact of scholarly dedication, neither Thiele's carefully argued University of Chicago dissertation, nor anyone else's, has achieved as yet universal acceptance.', Kaiser, W. C. (1998). A history of Israel : From the bronze age through the Jewish Wars (293). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
  8. ^ Donald J. Wiseman, 1 and 2 Kings in Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Leicester: Intervarsity, 1993), 27.
  9. ^ Leslie McFall, "The Chronology of Saul and David," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 53 (2010) 215, n. 101.
  10. ^ 'but his harmonizing approach has not gone unchallenged, especially because of the many shifts in the basis of reckoning dates that it requires (e.g., Jepsen 1968: 34–35)—shifts which were unlikely in actual practice.', Freedman, D. N. (1996). Vol. 1: The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (1006). New York: Doubleday.
  11. ^ 'Driver described Thiele's system as an "important work, which comes very near to, if it does not actually reach, a final solution of the problem of the dates of the kings of Israel and Judah."4 Leslie McFall writes that "Even a critic of Thiele's system who accused him of manipulating variable factors to achieve his goal of fitting the biblical evidence into Near Eastern history and who described his work as "more a study in numerical ingenuity than in scholarly research" had to admit that "Thiele's assumption is validated by the results achieved: inner consistency and harmony and conformity with the fixed dates of ancient Near Eastern history." "', McFall, Leslie, 'A Translation Guide to the Chronological Data in Kings and Chronicles', Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 148. 1991 (589) (4). Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary.
  12. ^ Galil, Gershon (1996-01-01). The Chronology of the Kings of Israel and Judah. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-04-10611-6.
  13. ^ 'The numerous extrabiblical synchronisms he invokes do not always reflect the latest refinements in Assyriological research (cf. E.2.f below). In many cases, he posits an undocumented event in order to save a biblical datum (e.g., the circumstances surrounding the appointment of Jeroboam II as coregent; Thiele 1983: 109).', Freedman, D. N. (1996). Vol. 1: The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (1006). New York: Doubleday.
  14. ^ Kenneth A. Strand, "Thiele's Biblical Chronology As a Corrective for Extrabiblical Dates," Andrews University Seminary Studies 34 (1996) 295-317.
  15. ^ 'Thiele's work has become a cornerstone of much recent chronological discussion (cf. De Vries IDB 1: 580–99; IDBSup: 161–66);', Freedman, D. N. (1996). Vol. 1: The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (1006). New York: Doubleday.
  16. ^ 'Following Thiele's revolutionary work, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings,3 a consensus has emerged that the kingdom under Solomon divided at his death in 931 B.C.4 This date must be the starting point for any chronological reconstruction of previous events.', Merrill, Eugene H, 'Fixed Dates in Patriarchal Chronology', Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 137. 1980 (547) (237). Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary.
  17. ^ Finegan, Handbook p. 249.
  18. ^ Gershon Galil, The Chronology of the Kings of Israel and Judah (Leiden: Brill, 1996), p. 14.
  19. ^ McFall, "Translation Guide," p. 33-34.
  20. ^ T. C. Mitchell in Cambridge Ancient History, "Israel and Judah until the Revolt of Jehu," pp. 445-446.
  21. ^ Finkelstein, Israel; Silberman, Neil Asher (2002-03-06). The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Sacred Texts. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-2338-6.