A major difference exists between the traditional rabbinic date for the Destruction of the First Temple and the date given by secular historians. Traditional sources, based on the second-century rabbinic work Seder Olam, place the Destruction in the year 3338, or 422 BCE. Secular historians date this event as occurring in 587 BCE, or 165 years earlier than the rabbinic date. This gap between the two chronologies narrows to 20-25 years at the time of Alexander’s conquests, with secular sources dating it 334 BCE and traditional ones 312 BCE, and virtually disappears at the destruction of the Second Temple, with just a one- or two-year difference.

The source for this discrepancy is the time frame assigned to the Persian-Median period. Talmudic sages state that there were four Persian-Median kings, Darius I, Cyrus, Ahasuerus, and Darius II, spanning 52 years (3390-3442 or 370-316 BCE). Conventional, or secular, chronology, based on the works of Herodotus, a Greek historian, and cuneiform inscriptions found at excavations of ancient Persian palaces, indicates that there were more than 10 Persian kings over a 207-year period. Volumes have been written trying to solve this historical conundrum, but the rabbinic tradition is regarded as authentic. Nevertheless, secular dating unfortunately creeps into Jewish life. In 1996, the State of Israel celebrated Jerusalem 3000, based on the secular date of 1004 BCE for King David’s conquest of Jerusalem. For Torah-observant Jews, however, it was only Jerusalem 2865.