Edwin R. Thiele bigraphy, stories - American archaeologist

Edwin R. Thiele : biography

1895 - 1986

Edwin R. Thiele (1895–1986) was an American missionary in China, an editor, archaeologist, writer, and Old Testament professor. He is best known for his chronological studies of the Hebrew kingdom period.


Thiele's chronological reconstruction has not been accepted by all of the scholarly consensus,'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.'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. but it should be pointed out that neither has any other scholar’s work in this field. Yet the work of Thiele and those who followed in his steps has achieved acceptance across a wider spectrum than that of any comparable chronology, so that Assyriologist D. J. Wiseman wrote “The chronology most widely accepted today is one based on the meticulous study by Thiele,”Donald J. Wiseman, 1 and 2 Kings in Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Leicester: Intervarsity, 1993), 27. and, more recently, Leslie McFall: “Thiele’s chronology is fast becoming the consensus view among Old Testament scholars, if it has not already reached that point.”Leslie McFall, “The Chronology of Saul and David,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 53 (2010) 215, n. 101.

Although criticism has been leveled at numerous specific points in his chronology,'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. his work has won considerable praise even from those who disagree with his final conclusions.'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. Nevertheless, even scholars sharing Thiele's religious convictions have 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..."'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.

In response to the “circular reasoning” argument, Kenneth Strand has pointed out several archaeological finds that were published after Thiele produced his chronology, and which verified Thiele’s assumptions or conclusions vs. the chronological systems of other scholars such as Albright that were posited before Thiele’s work.Kenneth A. Strand, “Thiele’s Biblical Chronology As a Corrective for Extrabiblical Dates,” Andrews University Seminary Studies 34 (1996) 295-317. In scientific methodology, the ability to predict new results that were not known when a theory was formulated is regarded as support for the provisional acceptance of a theory until a better theory can be produced.

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