Artaxerxes date dispute

A frequent question asked of me surrounds the date of King Artaxerxes, who is recorded by scholars as having begun his rule in the year 465 BC. This date is in dispute because many scholars are unable to explain why King Artaxerxes is mentioned in the book of Ezra along with King Cyrus and King Darius (Ezra 6:14), as this gives an inaccuracy of 64 years when aligned with other recognized dates.

One of the main reasons for this confusion is because some historians view other historical documents as ‘truthful’ pieces of history (e.g. Persian, Babylonian, Greek), and therefore if there is any evidence that conflicts with biblical literature (where these particular scholars seem to prefer the writings of the Greek historian Herodotus), then the biblical text has been seen as secondary. This secondary preference is due to discrepancies in the ‘genealogies’. For example, the Cyrus Cylinder does not mention Artaxerxes, nor does the Behistun Inscription; compared to the books of Herodotus, the books of Esdras, and the book of Ezra, all share similar characters which makes it difficult for scholars to unify. This has made some believe that Darius the Mede is a fictional character as they find no other supporting evidence in non-biblical documents.

I personally find it a sad day when hearing biblical scholars giving preference to non-biblical text. Nevertheless, we must remember that the Daniel 9 prophecy is a biblical prophecy… and therefore should be researched within the context of biblical literature.

Subsequently, if we read the book of Ezra as an authority of historical evidence, we will observe that the mentioned Artaxerxes is the same Artaxerxes mentioned in the book of Nehemiah. Both books portray this significant figure during the rebuilding of the Temple foundations and the rebuilding of the Temple Walls. According to Ezra, the “adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” tried for many years to stop the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple, but failed under the protection of King Cyrus (Ezra 4:1-5). However when King Cyrus died in 529BC, these surrounding nations then wrote to King Artaxerxes, where it is recorded that he and his companions (together with Persian soldiers) went up to Jerusalem and put an end to the construction work (Ezra 4:6-23). Thus it is reasonable to assert that the very reason why King Artaxerxes is mentioned in the book of Ezra, along with King Cyrus and King Darius, is simply because he was there.

Consequently, this would logically place King Artaxerxes’ first year of reign in 529 BC (after the death of King Cyrus), which makes the supposed date of 465 BC anachronistic.