Ezra mentions that Cyrus wrote this :  [editor’s note, this is from Ezra chapter 1]  “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 Every survivor, at whatever place he may live, let the men of that place support him with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, together with a freewill offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.'”

But the Cyrus quote [editor’s note: in the Cyrus Cylinder] in question actually says this: Line 1: “[When … Mar]duk, king of the whole of heaven and earth, the ……. who, in his …, lays waste his….”   From… to Assur  and [from] Susa, Agade, Esnunna, Zamban, Me-Turnu, Der , as far as the region of Gutium, the sacred centers on the other side of the Tigris whose sanctuaries had been abandoned for a long time, I returned the images of the gods, who had resided there [i.e., in Babylon], to their places and I let them dwell in eternal abodes. I gathered all their inhabitants and returned to them their dwellings.

While it is notable that a proclamation of Cyrus was in fact given, it would seem that this Cyrus Cylinder did not give credit to the Hebrew God as being the God of Heaven but instead, to Marduk . And It does not say anything about Jerusalem , Judah, or rebuilding of the house of the Lord. Wouldn’t this be evidence that Ezra may have revised Cyrus’ proclamation to suit his own belief at the time?  In other words, why or how do Christians use the ” cyrus cylinder ” as evidence of the historical accuracy of the bible’s recording?


You seem to be making an assumption, which is that Cyrus only made one decree of this sort during his career. This is probably not a correct assumption. It is likely that Cyrus made slightly different specific proclamations for the each of the nations he sent home. We cannot prove this, but it is a reasonable assumption. The proclamation we have in the British Museum was found in Babylon, which, one can reason, would be the generic one that Cyrus gave to all the people he liberated from the Babylonian yoke. Christians rightly see the Cyrus cyllinder as evidence to support the Biblical account in Ezra. If we did not have the Cyrus Cylinder, skeptics would rightly say that in the ancient world, the kind of decree found in Ezra would be an extreme oddity and would break the pattern of what all powers did when they subjugated nations. The Cyrus Cylinder confirms that a decree of this sort was given to all the nations conquered by Cyrus, making it seem far more reasonable to accept the reliability of the decree he gave to the Jews, which is recorded in Ezra. Another reason to believe that the decree in Ezra 1 is genuine is that the letter in Ezra is in Aramaic, not Hebrew. If a later editor were to change the decree, he or she would probably created a Hebrew version of the letter. I cannot prove that the author of Ezra did not change the decree of Cyrus to aid his purposes, but without evidence that this was done, I believe the explanation that there were different decrees to different peoples is reasonable.

John Oakes

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