Dr. Michael Brown and Jewish dating.


In Volume 1 p.70-73 of his work ‘Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus’ we see a discussion of the famous teaching in the Talmud that the world exists for 6000 years. There Dr. Brown claims that due to an error of the Rabbis calculation of the dates, they had it wrong and the correct dating places the Messianic age in the time of Jesus. He then brings a teaching of the famous Vilna Gaon, and says that based on it

“When you make the adjustment for his error (sic) in chronology (as pointed out above with regards to Rashi’s calculation) he is telling us in effect that the Messianic age began at the time of Jesus.”[1] 


How does he get to this result? This teaching says that the world exists for 6000 years, 2000 years of emptiness, 2000 years of Torah and 2000 years of the Messiah.[2] Now on page 71 he gives his calculations. Based on Rashi’s calculations (i.e. Seder Olom)

“the expected time of the Messiah’s arrival is roughly 200 C.E.”

He claims this is a miscalculation of “almost 200 years”, which he later revises to around 180 years based on the calculation that the temple ‘really’ stood for about 600 years, while the Rabbis claim it was only 420 years. By taking 180 from 200 you get to the time of Jesus. As he says:

“we find ourselves right in the middle of the time of Yeshua. He was the one who came at the time the Messiah was expected to come, and this according to a Rabbinic tradition.”[3]


Now this sounds convincing. We should certainly expect a scholar of the caliber of Dr. Brown to be familiar with the dating issues, and Jewish history. Does Dr. Brown tell the facts? Let’s examine it. This year (2003) is the Jewish year 5763. It is an easy calculation to make in order to find out when the year 4000 was. 5763 – 4000 = 1763. So 1763 years ago was the year 4000 on the Jewish calander. So when was the year 4000? If we look back 1763 years ago we get to 240 CE. That is quite a few years after 200. In fact if we take 180 from 240 it is 60! Certainly is it not in the time of Jesus, it is actually quite a few years after the dates assigned for his death. Now Dr. Brown certainly knows what the Jewish year is and can make this calculation.


There is more to this. According to the figures given in Jewish sources the second temple was built in 351 BCE and the first temple was destroyed 70 years earlier 421 BCE. Now as Dr. Brown knows the scholars chronology disagree with the Jewish chronology and they say the destruction occurred 586 BCE. That is a difference of 165 years. So if we make this ‘correction’ we get to 75 CE. (240-165) That is well after the death of Jesus. That is after the destruction of the second temple. Certainly not ‘at the time of Jesus’ as Dr. Brown falsely claims. Significantly this places the date after the destruction of the temple!


How can we believe anything someone, who writes such distortions, says about Judaism, Jewish history, Rabbinic writings or anything else? These dates appear in any secular scholarly source, and are not even up to question. I am just astonished at this lack of scholarship.


© Moshe Shulman 2003 http://www.judaismsanswer.com

For more information, questions answered, or help with missionaries you can reach Moshe Shulman at outreach@judaismsanswer.com.


[1]    Page 73.

[2]    Now the correct understanding of this teaching is NOT that the Messiah comes in the year 4000, just like the Torah was not given in the year 2000 which was when Avraham lived. It means, just as the Vilna Goan indicates, that this is when the time leading to the coming of the Messiah starts. Similarly the year 2000, when Avraham was alive, was the start of the period leading up to the giving of the Torah.

[3]  Page 71.