The classic Jewish sources (Seder Olam, accepted and cited Bavli in several locations; for example, see the discussion on Avoda Zara 9a) state that Bayis Sheini (the Second Temple) stood for 420 years. I have a vague recollection that other (accepted!) Jewish sources give other numbers, but I cannot remember which sources or what numbers they give. Can anyone help out?

Please note I am asking for specifically (traditional) Jewish sources. I know many secular historians like the number 586; that's not what I'm looking for.

Update: Although I accepted @Joelk's answer, this question (like many that may be asked on Mi Yodea) can have more than one valid answer; specifically, other numbers cited by other sources.

  • Can you edit to define "accepted" and "Jewish sources"? What if I find you a rabbi who agrees with the "secular historians"? Motion to close as unclear.
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 22:41
  • 3
    @DoubleAA How would you word it? "Jewish sources" rather than "secular sources", even if the author of the secular source happens to be Jewish. I would not think examples are needed, but I would accept any alternate view cited in Bavli, Yerushalmi, or a Midrash. Or a view stated by one of the Geonim, Rishonim, or Acharonim.
    – Menachem
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 23:02
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Menachem
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 23:48
  • Rabbi Ishmael spoke of roughly 700 years spanning from the destruction of Solomon's Temple at the beginning of the Babylonian captivity to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, in the middle of the Jewish-Roman War (66-73 CE).
    – user18041
    Commented Aug 21, 2019 at 1:18
  • A more in-depth explanation can be found here.
    – user18041
    Commented Aug 21, 2019 at 1:26

1 Answer 1

  1. Don Yitzchak Abravanel in his Haggadah Zevach Pesach on the passage of Baruch Shomer Havtachato (page 2 in the linked pdf) writes:

    ועמד הבית השני בבנינו תכ"ה שנה

    And the Second Temple stood built for 425 years.

  2. Ralbag writes in his commentary to chapter 7 of the book of Daniel (page 325 in the linked scanned copy):

    ובית שני עמד ארבע מאות ושבע ושלושים שנה וחצי

    And the Second Temple stood for 437 and a half years.

  3. R. Azariah dei Rossi writes in Me'or Einayim, Imrei Binah chapter 36 that, apart from these two sources, he found very few who argued explicitly on Chazal's chronology.

    However, he does infer that R. Yehudah HaLevi and R. Eshtori HaParchi necessarily hold of a period longer than 420 years.

    They both write that the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah only started 40 years after the building of the Second Temple. Shimon HaTzaddik is said to have been active at the end of the period of the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah, and was present when Alexander the Great conquered Judea from the Persians, which took place 380 years (or possibly 386 years) before the destruction of the Second Temple. Thus, if these Rishonim held that the Second Temple lasted for only 420 years, there would be no time during which the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah were active (because 40 + 380 = 420).

  • +1 The vast majority of Rishonim not only would have had little to no reason to doubt Chazal's number, they wouldn't have had much basis for proposing any alternative. They weren't exactly avid readers of early Greek/Persian historical texts, if they even had access to them
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 15:25
  • @DoubleAA. Sure. Although note Ba'al HaMaor to Rif Rosh HaShanah 1a where he disagrees with Chazal's identification of Darius and Artaxerxes. This would seem to imply that there were more than the 34 years allotted by Seder Olam for the period between the building of Bayit Sheni and Alexander's conquest.
    – Joel K
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 18:49
  • Yes I'm familiar with that source, but while there can be lots of places where people disagree with a specific point, they don't generally develop whole alternate consistent chronologies. (Which makes it seem like they didn't view the whole chronology as that significant or sacred but just one opinion as a baseline, or else they'd struggle to compensate somewhere else.)
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 19:22

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