There is a discrepancy between rabbinic and secular sources regarding when the first Temple was destroyed -- a difference of some 165 years or so, which are called the "Missing Years."

My question is not about how to account for those years or even which one is correct. Rather, I am wondering: If someone believes in the secular dating to be accurate and the information in Seder Olam to be inaccurate, does this constitute heresy or a failure of emunas chachomim, or is this an opinion with which a person is entitled to disagree?

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    Which of the 13 do you think it violates?
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 17:07
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    I suppose the question would be: does the traditional chronology constitute Torah MiSinai in some way?
    – Premundane
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 17:14
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    @DoubleAA - Someone who denies anything in the Written or Oral Torah is classified as a heretic, as stated in Rambam, Hil. Teshuva 3:17. The question here is seemingly whether the dating given by Seder Olam constitutes an integral, universally-agreed-upon part of Torah She'b'al Peh, or ... ?
    – Dave
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 17:14
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    @Dave It's 3:7 in standard editions BTW, and it seems to be limited to matters of halacha especially as it relates to Ta and not Nach.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 1, 2012 at 18:04
  • @Dave See here for more about the Rambam's view judaism.stackexchange.com/a/23344/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 4, 2013 at 0:24

4 Answers 4


The discrepancy has been raised repeatedly over the centuries, by scholars Jew and non-Jew, Orthodox or not, alike.

Rabbi Shimon Schwab penned an essay on it whereby he very much raised the possibility that the non-Seder-Olam chronology may be correct, though later referring to it as a "thought experiment."

In his taped lectures on the history of the Universe, Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer at one point says something to the effect of, "While I hate to say this, it may be that we cannot always trust Chazal with regards to timelines."

The alternate chronology does not violate any of Rambam's Thirteen Principles. Here's more on what exactly "emunas chachamim" means, though note that the phrase does not appear in the Babylonian Talmud.

Personally I find an approach that casts Chazal in a negative light to be ... well, not prohibited or heretical per se, but just plain distasteful. I'm okay living with: "It could be Chazal are right on this and the secular sources are wrong. It could be both are right and we've misunderstood the discrepancy. And it could be that Chazal had valid reasons for listing a different chronology."

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    re "An approach...": how much an approach casts Chazal in a negative or positive light is more based on presentation than content. If you have to speak super respectfully to your parents whether they are right or wrong or being nice or being mean, how much more so must we always speak in a respectful manner about Chazal!
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 19:28
  • It seems R' Bechhofer has recanted rygb.blogspot.com/2019/02/… Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 4:01

R. H. Shachter notes in a shiur here (beginning at minute 66)1 that the Baal HaMeor seems to have embraced the secular chronology (to the ire of the Raavad) and added that Chazal's fallibility is affirmed by the Maharshal and Tosafos Rid, concluding that if the Me'or Einayim were published today, he doesn't think it would cause such a storm (over the suggestion that Chazal erred historically).


In the book "Jewish History in Conflict", Mitchel First compiled and categorized many of the Jewish responses to the discrepancy between the Seder Olam and secular dating. It would seem that at least some maintain that disregarding the Jewish dates conflicts with belief in the Torah:

ה' יצילנו מדעת החיצונים כילדי נכרים יספיקו המוסיפים הרבה במנין מלכי פרס ומאריכים שנותיהם מאד ולא ימצאו ידיהם ורגליהם בבית המדרש כי בהכרח יצטרכו להכחיש גם המקראות - May G-d save us from the view of those outsiders, who "please themselves in the children of strangers" (Isaiah 2:6), who add many to the number of Persian kings and increase their years greatly. They do not know their way in Jewish learning because they will necessarily be forced to contradict the biblical verses as well... (Rabbi Yaakov Emden, commentary on Seder Olam pg. 88)

(The author notes that R' Emden does not specify which verses he is referring to which contradict the secular dating, but writes that he probably was referring to Daniel 11:2).

  • "at least some": Does he mention at least some who maintain the other way?
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 4, 2013 at 1:40
  • @DoubleAA The book is really comprehensive, he brings from pretty much all the different views on the subject.
    – Michoel
    Commented Feb 4, 2013 at 1:48
  • So if the OP sought views on the issue, why would you only present one side?
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 4, 2013 at 1:48
  • @DoubleAA There is already an answer which presents the other side. Is there something wrong with presenting one perspective?
    – Michoel
    Commented Feb 4, 2013 at 2:09
  • I didn't say there was anything wrong with it. I only asked why you didn't include the information you had in front of you. Since I assume his treatment is more thorough and well sourced than Shalom's, I submit that my question has not been answered.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 4, 2013 at 2:23

Too long for a comment :

  • The week has a seven-day cycle.

  • The moon has a 19-year Metonic cycle.

  • The sun has a four year Julian cycle, known to the ancients.

  • The sun and the week together have a 4 x 7 = 28-year Solar cycle.

  • The sun and the moon together have a 4 x 19 = 76-year Callippic cycle.

Forming a great cycle of 532 years.

Yielding a total period of LCM(49, 532) = 3,724 years.

Hint : What major event in Jewish history is said to have happened 3,724 years after Creation, and/or the molad tohu of the first year of the Hebrew calendar ?

I've noticed you put a great deal of importance on accuracy and exactness, but have you ever taken into consideration the beauty and depth-of-meaning inherent in numerical symbolism, which was at least as, if not more, important to the ancients ? Or does the latter simply elude your interest ?

Adding some more perspective :

Something similar happens in Christian chronology, which roughly follows the Greek text of the Septuagint, which puts an even 5,000 years between Creation and the dawn of the Ptolemaic era, to which it owes its very existence.

  • Thus, the Alexandrian era counts back 76 Callippic cycles of 76 years each before the beginning of Diocletian's Era of Martyrs in the autumn of 284 CE, only to arrive at the autumn of 5,493 BCE, accommodating the aforementioned longer chronology.

  • Likewise, the Byzantine era of Constantinople, based on 15-year Indiction cycles, starting in the autumn of 312 CE, counts back 388 such cycles before that time, finally arriving at the autumn of 5,509 BCE, for rather similar reasons.

  • The very start of the current Common Era is ultimately based on counting back 15 x 19 = 285 years, representing the least common multiple of the Indiction and Metonic cycles, before the first Passover moon of Diocletian's Era of Martyrs.

In short, though all these various Biblical eras, both Jewish and Christian, do indeed provide a rather decent approximation for the events they aim to signify, accuracy itself is not their ultimate goal, but rather symbolism and convenience.

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