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Edwin Richard Thiele (1895-1986)
Bruce W. Lo, March 2019

Edwin R. Thiele was a Seventh-day Adventist pastor, editor, administrator, archaeologist, Old Testament scholar, and university professor, who served as a missionary in Shanghai, China for 12 years1.

Thiele, who was born on September 10, 1895 in Chicago, Illinois, graduated from Emanuel Missionary College (now Andrews University) in 1918 with a BA degree majoring in ancient language.  He began his work as a home missionary secretary for the East Michigan Conference,of Seventh-day Adventists. In 1920 he left for mission service in China for 12 years. From 1920 to 1932, he served as Editor of the Signs of the Times Publishing House in Shanghai, the last two years of which he was also the manager of the Publishing House1,2.

While on Furlough back in US, he taught religion at Washington Missionary College, Takoma Park, MD. After permanent return to the United States, Thiele continued his graduate studies at the University of Chicago, receiving an MA degree in archaeology in 1937. He then joined the teaching staff of the Religion Department of Emmanuel Missionary College, while continuing his doctoral studies at the University of Chicago, receiving his PhD degree in Biblical Archaeology in 19435.

Thiele continued to pursue an academic career and became a well respected Old Testament scholar. He expanded his doctoral dissertation, The Chronology of the King of Judah and Israel, and published the findings as a full book, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, in 1951, which was widely regarded as the definitive work on Hebrew ancient chronology by  biblical and even many secular historians and scholars. The book was so well received that it went through three editions from when it was first published to 19835. Below is a sample of selected quotes showing the wide acceptance of Thiele's chronological findings:

"It (the book) is considered the classic and comprehensive work in reckoning the accession of kings, calendars, and c-regencies, based on biblical and extra-biblical sources.6"

Noted Assyriologist, D.J. Wisenman, wrote in Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries 1993, "The chronology most widely accepted today is one based on the meticulous study by Thiele.5"

World renounced Egyptologist, Kenneth Kitchen, used Thiele's date for the division of the kingdom to refine the dates of Egypt's 21st and 22nd Dynasties.5 

Thiele's chronology is the one used for the Hebrew monarchs in the Cambridge Ancient History,1

Edwin Thiele taught at Andrews University for a total of 29 years, where he later became Professor of Antiquity from 1963 to 1965. In addition he publish many papers and books, including the popular book on Christianity, Knowing God (1979), and Job and the Devil (1988), co-authored with his wife, Magaret Thiele. After retiring in 1965, he moved to California where he continued to do research and write.  He died on April 14, 1986 in St. Helena, California, and was buried  in Rose Hill Cemetery in Berrien Springs, Michigan 1,2.


Figure: Edwin R. Thiele in his Office
(Source: Public Domain photo from Editorial Office of Focus, Andrews University)


Figure 2: Thiele's best known work The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings
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