Perhaps you are reading this in order to verify the claims of the November 1, 2011 Watchtower. If not, you may wonder, why is this important?
The astronomical diary VAT 4956 points to Nebuchadnezzar’s 37th regnal year. By knowing his 37th year, we can calculate back to his 18th year, the year he destroyed Jerusalem.
If Year 37 was 568 BC, Year 18 was 587 BC.
If Year 37 was 588 BC, Year 18 was 607 BC.
Footnote 18 of the November 2011 article says of VAT4956, “They also list 15 sets of planetary observations. (Pages 72-76) Though the cuneiform sign for the moon is clear and unambiguous, some of the signs for the names of the planets and their positions are unclear. (Mesopotamian Planetary Astronomy—Astrology, by David Brown, published 2000, pages 53-57) Because of this, the planetary observations are open to speculation and to several different interpretations. Since the moon can easily be tracked, the positions of those other celestial bodies mentioned on VAT 4956 and connected to the moon can be identified and their positions dated with a good measure of certainty.”
Footnote 19 says, “Because the cuneiform signs for many of the planetary positions are open to speculation and to several interpretations, these positions were not used in this survey to pinpoint the year intended by this astronomical diary.”
Is this claim true? Are the planetary names on VAT 4956 unclear, ambiguous, open to speculation and interpretation?
The reference for this is listed as the work Mesopotamian Planetary Astronomy—Astrology, by David Brown, pages 53-57. Is this what the scholar David Brown says about VAT 4956? Have you looked up the reference for yourself to make sure?
Below are scans of the pages in question. In it you will find references to VAT 4956 as “-567 Diary”, the name referring to the conventional date the diary points to: 568 BC. However, the passage is a study of not just VAT 4956, but the usage of planetary names on Babylonian astronomical tablets in general.
In all these various tablets, David Brown makes five categories in regard planet names. The category he calls “A-names”, described as “unique to Jupitar, Venus, Mars, Mercury, Saturn, the Sun, and the Moon respectively. They are never used for any other celestial bodies.”
However, B-names can be “shared only with other planets and usable under any circumstance”. Similarly C-names, D-names and E-names are not unique.
In the following pages, he calls out these A-names, referencing among other astronomical tablets where these Babylonian planet names appear -567 Diary–that is VAT 4956.
Therefore from this we can conclude that VAT 4956 uses A-names, which are unique and never used for other celestial bodies. And indeed, if you read a translation of VAT 4956 this is what you will find. They are clear and unambiguous, NOT open to speculation or interpretation.
Pages 53-57 are as follows: