Foto Marburg/Art Resource, NY

A gaunt Nehemiah guards the portal on the west facade of the Church of St. Lazare, in Avallon, central France. As governor of the Persian satrapy of Yehud (Judea), Nehemiah oversaw the repair of Jerusalem’s walls. In the Bible, Nehemiah is closely linked with Ezra as leaders of the fifth-century B.C.E. returnees from the Babylonian Exile, with Ezra the priest and scribe the authority in matters of ritual and law and with Nehemiah the governor in charge of civil matters.

Though the two leaders were both in Jerusalem at the same time, it is not clear which of them returned to the city first. A simple reading of the biblical chronology seems to place Ezra’s arrival in Jerusalem 13 years before Nehemiah’s, but the biblical account describes Nehemiah finding the city depopulated, while Ezra returns to a thriving city. Author Aaron Demsky, in the accompanying article, resolves the chronology problems by suggesting that the Ezra and Nehemiah narratives use different dating systems.