Archive for the ‘Genesis Chronology’ Category

As I’ve been writing about some differences between ancient Bible manuscripts, it seemed best to deal with the genealogies in chapter 11 of Genesis along with chapter 5. Chapter 11 contains a genealogical chronology from the time period just after Noah’s flood. I intend to go back to the flood itself shortly, but there’s another problem that should perhaps be addressed first.

Several simple explanations can be proposed for the problem. The names in the manuscripts (with variations in spelling) are the same from Adam to Abraham, with one exception. It isn’t certain whether Arphaxad was actually the father, or grandfather of Salah.

In some manuscripts of the Septuagint, and also the Samaritan Pentateuch according to some sources, a man named Cainan is identified as the son of Arphaxad, and the father of Salah (note that this is not Caanan, the son of Ham). The Hebrew doesn’t mention Cainan in Genesis 11:12, but names Arphaxad as the father of Salah, leaving many to believe that this particular Cainan didn’t exist.

Cainan is listed in Luke 3:36 in our modern Bibles, yet some argue that Cainan isn’t in all ancient manuscripts of Luke. It could yet be possible that someone copying a manuscript of Luke might have omitted Cainan thinking he didn’t belong there. It’s also easy when hand copying something, to blink your eyes, and skip a line, especially if some of the information is repetitive as it is in this case.

This sort of thing doesn’t obliterate the truth, but can make it harder to get to. It would be easier to make this sort of mistake than to add the name of Cainan, seemingly out of nowhere. Corrected copies could have been made later, while not all incorrect copies were replaced.

It appears to me that the argument over Cainan is very ancient. It goes back so far that the differences exist in separate manuscripts of the Septuagint. Wherever there is confusion, Satan is the author of it. Sin and human error complicate all of life. Confusion just seems to come natural to us, and a lot of trouble can be made over a little difference.

The Septuagint gives the same ages for Arphaxad and Cainan when a son was born, and also the same years lived afterward. That seems odd, but it is possible. If there was some doubt as to whether Cainan had existed or not, this could have been the deciding factor in the mind of an ancient translator.

There are other ways that two different versions could originate. I had a friend who was killed in a car accident. His death was one of the things that caused me to take life more seriously, and I eventually came to believe in Jesus. Before his death, he fathered a son by his half-sister, and for many years the son didn’t know who his real parents were. I don’t remember for certain whether he was told that his grandparents were his mother and father, or if it was an aunt and uncle.

He was eventually told the truth, but if a genealogy had been written during the time when the scandal was hidden, it would have omitted the name of the actual father. The Bible doesn’t try to hide the scandals of humanity if they are relevant to the history being given. They are reported in much the same way as news is reported. I’ve seen broadcasters cringe at the news they were forced to report.

At the same time, we know that we don’t all hear everything. There may have been an unreported scandal involving Arhaxad and Cainan. Some of the situations recorded elsewhere in the Bible could have led to similar problems if they had gone unreported. Phares, who appears in the genealogy in Matthew 1:3, and also in Luke 3:33, was the son of Judah and a woman named Tamar (Thamar).

Judah fathered two sons by Tamar, who was the widow of his son Er. Er died without leaving Tamar children. The story of Judah and Tamar is found in chapter 38 of Genesis. If something of that sort happened with Arphaxad in Genesis 11:12, “Cainan” could have been left out of the picture.

In chapter 5 of 1st. Corinthians, Paul wrote about a young man in the church who was in a sexual relationship with “his father’s wife.” We don’t know if his father was still living, had more than one wife, or had simply remarried. It is likely that this young man sought forgiveness, and that this is what Paul was referring to in 2nd. Corinthians 2:1-11. The church, and Paul, had disowned the young man for a time, but now Paul was suggesting that he should be accepted again.

Arphaxad may have had a son named Cainan, but may have disowned him because of something similar to the situation at Corinth. Any of these things could have resulted in two manuscripts. The argument over Cainan could be so ancient that it affected decisions to include details of scandals in later scriptures.

I personally believe the account in Luke is correct, though most conservatives seem to believe otherwise. Either way, Jesus said the scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35), so the existence of Cainan does not annul the truth of the Script.

If one news source gets some detail of its report wrong, that doesn’t make them all wrong, even if we don’t know which is correct at a particular point. If a news agency reports propaganda, or outright lies concerning an event, that doesn’t mean the event didn’t occur. The invention of pseudo-science, false ideas, ideologies, and idols doesn’t mean that truth is non-existent, and neither do the mistakes of honest people.

Most science books promote Evolutionism, but the inclusion of those beliefs does not void the actual science contained in the books. We exist, and we all have a different version of life. Much of that which is believed by humans isn’t real, and that complicates reality, but yet reality exists. Even if none of the rest of us get it one hundred percent correct, God knows the truth. God is the truth, and God is reality.

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The Script would need to be recopied many times for it to endure to the present. It would have had small beginnings, with Adam and Eve conveying their history to interested children and grandchildren. The story would have been told many times, and written down very early.

In the beginning, human beings lived much longer than today. Adam lived to the age that he could have known Enoch, or Noah’s father, Lamech. No doubt there were several copies of the earliest writings of Genesis even before the days of Noah. It would be inevitable that while many copies would preserve correct information for future generations, copy errors would be generated at the same time.

If someone has read much that I’ve written, they would know that I believe the Bible is a supernatural book. Nature can’t fully explain it, and copy errors do not change that fact. The Bible contains knowledge and revelation beyond what mankind could have learned by science at the time it was written. I also believe that God has directly intervened at times in human history to preserve this revelation.

God also uses believing human beings in his labor, and I think we often get the wrong idea about that. I believe he uses human beings in spite of their weaknesses, not because they are free from them. This should give birth to hope in us who realize our own errors.

Bible translators have labored with the understanding that they are responsible to God for their work. The variations in the manuscripts have been diligently compared, and I’m sure we can trust that God has guarded the things we really need to know. If we want to follow God, he isn’t going to let us wander off too far. We can also be sure that the things Jesus said about the scriptures came from God’s own mouth. That’s who Jesus is; the Logos, the Reason, the Word of God.

There can be much for people to argue about in the details, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Discussion could lead to greater understanding, whereas dogmatism on either the scientific side or the religious, keeps everyone in the dark ages.

Science has many factions just as religion does, because “belief” is involved in the interpretation of all types of knowledge. Much of the mystery of the manuscripts of Genesis would be solvable if it weren’t for friction between so many factions. “People problems” are the greatest problems affecting the mystery of the Genesis manuscripts.

I can identify a couple of patterns within the manuscripts that I haven’t mentioned previously. The Hebrew and Samaritan manuscripts agree on all numbers concerning Enoch, and the Septuagint differs by the usual 100 years. All three manuscripts agree on the age of Enoch when he was raptured from the earth, and they agree on all numbers associated with Noah. The greatest differences between the three are in the ages of Mathuselah (Methuselah), and Lamech.

The Hebrew age of 187 years at the birth of Methuselah’s son becomes 167 years in the Septuagint (still a related number). The Samaritan also changes the 8 to a 6, but it then drops 100 years becoming 67 years (it would be beneficial to have a comparison chart to refer to as this is read).

The Septuagint agrees with the Hebrew that Methuselah lived a total of 969 years, but the Samaritan adds 67 years to “653” years lived afterward, which changes the total. Then the Samaritan gives “53” as the age of Lamech when Noah was born, and “653” as his age at death.

Lamech’s age of 182 (at Noah’s birth) in the Hebrew, becomes 188 in the Septuagint (a related number), and the years lived afterward change from 595 to 565 (also related). The sum of those numbers in the Septuagint are 753. That could be where the number “53” originated.

I suppose that Noah and his family, on their long ocean voyage, would have made copies of the early Genesis manuscripts. Shem, Ham, and Japheth would likely each have possessed a copy. As they went their separate ways, some copies would suffer less deterioration than others, and be updated while in a more readable condition.

Updates would have happened at different times. The genealogy from Shem to Serug appears to have been added to an older record. At that point the Samaritan agrees with the Septuagint on practically all numbers, and the 100’s problem appears in the Samaritan. A few differences from the Hebrew also appear which seem to simply be changes in the order of the numbers.

The Samaritan continues to give the ages at time of death, while the others discontinue that practice. Some copyists might drop the “age at death column” if they thought it was redundant. If the column was added again later, a couple of unreadable numbers could result in a sum of “753” appearing there. Part of that number could then pop up in neighboring equations, as copyists struggled to piece together fragments.

Another pattern appears with Shem’s son Arphaxad besides the common problem in the 100’s column; the number order in “403,” becomes 330 (100 less) instead of “303.” The “3” and the “0” appear to have exchanged places. This problem occurs a few times in the manuscripts, and could easily have happened because of the similarity between the Hebrew words for “three” and “thirty.” If a scribe copied text which another person read aloud, that could explain a lot of things.

Taking each manuscript variation, problem by problem, a good explanation can be found for most of them. I think I’ve given enough information to dispel fears and doubts surrounding these numbers. There’s nothing here to be afraid of. The manuscripts are working with the same numbers. That is evidence that the genealogies in chapters five, and eleven of Genesis are  an accurate history.

The manuscripts are in agreement again when we get down to Abram (Abraham). It’s very likely that several people separately recorded portions of these genealogies. That is perfectly legitimate, and a difference in style between manuscripts, such as whether to include an age at death, shouldn’t be counted as a mistake.

God later used Moses to string these records together and to continue the history. The manuscript differences are simply the sort of things that happen over a period of time. There is enough agreement between them to build confidence in the Bible we’re using today.

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Most of my posts on the Script don’t stand alone. It would be best for someone reading this to also read the previous post. This is a complex subject, yet I’m trying to keep my work confined to written communication because of time constraints. The preparation of charts and such would mean staying on this one subject, which I can’t afford to do right now.

I have also noticed a few mistakes and disagreements among the charts that I’ve consulted on this. Some charts also create extra numbers in places where there are none in a particular manuscript. They obtain their number by adding the two other numbers together, but doing so can make the number of differences between the manuscripts appear larger. It would take a careful study to determine which charts are correct.

The numbers given in various manuscripts for chapters five and eleven of Genesis point to one source. That is probably one of the most important points. It means that honest people have attempted to preserve this information for us the best they could. Even where there’s disagreement in the manuscripts on some numbers, you can easily see that most of them are yet related to each other.

To begin with, the total length of the lives of Adam through Mahalalel are the same in the Hebrew, the Samaritan Pentateuch, and the Septuagint. That agreement is another important point. The Hebrew and Septuagint are in total agreement on Jared, but the Samaritan is different. It gives Jared’s age at the birth of Enoch as 62 rather than 162 (100 less).

Until we get to Jared, the Samaritan agrees with the Hebrew on all numbers; the age of the man when a certain son was born, the years from then until his death, and the total years of his life. The Septuagint has each of these men being 100 years older at the son’s birth, and living 100 years less afterward, leaving the total years of their life the same.

It appears as if the years lived after the birth of the sons may have been adjusted to fit the total years. Each of these numbers being seven hundred and something could be the actual reason this version was called the Septuagint. When we get to Jared, it is the Septuagint that is in total agreement with the Hebrew.

Giving three numbers instead of one or two was a good plan. It makes a number sentence, so that if one number became unreadable, it could yet be determined from the other two. My opinion is that, if for any reason two of those numbers could not be understood, they should never have been guessed at. It looks as if that has happened in some of the manuscripts, but there’s another possible explanation.

If you mistook one of the numbers or symbols from the previous word for something else, you might record that which you thought was the correct number; filling in the blank for the second number would then be more understandable. Two or three other solutions would be needed to solve the mystery of the 100’s. I see several possibilities, but they all basically involve changes in expression, and number order over a period of time.

At times like this, I wish there was an English version of the Bible that actually translated the Hebrew word for word, with no change in the word order. Yes it would be difficult to read, but it would simplify some types of study. If the earliest Hebrew that we now have is true to the original language, Genesis 5:3 would read, “And lived Adam thirty and a hundred years and fathered a son…”

The word “one” doesn’t seem to be there. Numbers seem to have been written with first the one’s given, then the ten’s, and then the hundreds. There may have been some exceptions; the number in Genesis 6:3 is written “a hundred and twenty years,” instead of “twenty and a hundred.” “Hundred,” in that verse is spelled “Mah,” instead of “Mat.” “Mat,” could have originally been “Math,” since the symbol for “t” also represented “th” before the invention of the Hebrew vowel indicators.

Another exception is, the first time 200 is written in Genesis 11:19, it is not written “two hundred,” but “hundred doubled,” with a shortened form of the word “two” attached to end of the word for hundred. Somewhere, in the mind-numbing story of math, there’s a good explanation for the differences in the manuscripts. I am confident that the good Lord will give us the full explanation someday.

Can you imagine the shame that a college professor will feel who has used this sort of thing to undermine some young person’s faith. There’s nothing here that should disturb anyone. The closer I look at the Script, the more confident I am that it can be trusted.

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I gave this post its name because history in this precise area is very sketchy. The era we’re dealing with predates Babylonian mathematics, which we do know something about. This history is from a time long before Egypt existed. The chronology given in the fifth chapter of Genesis, and continued in Genesis 11:10-32, predates Babel, where the different languages originated. It’s no wonder there’s disagreement among the manuscripts over some of the numbers.

The great age of the mathematical system of the early Genesis genealogies is likely the main reason for the disagreements. Those who are critical of the Bible point to the slight disagreements as evidence against its authenticity. That’s why I think it’s important to investigate this. I’ve called the problem with the numbers “slight,” because the accumulative effect only adds up to a few hundred years.

The fact that these differences exist between the Septuagint, other ancient manuscripts, and the Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts, doesn’t mean that our Bible is wrong. If God himself had personally written every word in the Bible, we would still have problems in certain areas with it today because of translation and copying difficulties. The variations we see today are indications that the system of numerical notation in use in early Genesis, whatever it was, changed over time. Some of those who updated, or translated, copies of the Script apparently weren’t sure what to make of the math.

The biblical book of Genesis is an accurate history.  Indirectly, it gives us clues and understanding relating to all subjects, including math. If the discrepancies were due only to deterioration of the previous manuscripts, they should appear to be more of a random nature. Instead, besides a few that do appear random, there are patterns to the variations. It is the patterns that make me so curious about these numbers (more on this later).

I’m sure the Bible bears a true record, and if it does, that would mean that the genealogies would have been compiled over a long period of time. There’s around two thousand years from Adam to Abraham. If the record was pieced together over that length of time, there would have been great changes in language and writing over that period. Look at the changes in the English language over the last four hundred years. Few people today could read more than a few words from the first English translations of the Bible. There is evidence within the Bible, especially in the Hebrew, of these sorts of changes over time.

Some Bible versions today have taken time to harmonize the spellings of names of people from the times of the Old Testament to New Testament. It makes for easier reading, but obscures the history. No doubt, some of that sort of thing has occurred in the manuscripts.

I’m going to give just a few generalities for now, and try to go into more detail in my next post. The numbers may have originally been written as numeral symbols. The Hebrews used letters of their alphabet as numeral symbols, besides having a name for each number which could be spelled out. Using letters in two different ways could lead to confusion, and their alphabet also changed over time.

I don’t know how the numbers were communicated in Paleo-Hebrew writing, and I don’t know if we have any fragments of Genesis written in Paleo-Hebrew. The Hebrew manuscripts today, as far as I know, all have the names of the numbers spelled out. That method would make for a little less confusion.

We don’t know how old the idea of writing the numbers out is. Did this come about as an attempt to standardize a way of communicating numerical information to a broader audience? Many ancient clans and families seem to have fostered local variations in symbols. The original manuscripts of the Bible, written in classical Hebrew, had no capital letters, no spaces between words, no vowels, and no punctuation. Some Hebrew letters are shaped differently when they are the last letter of a word, but we don’t know exactly when that method came into use.

There are variations in the spelling of words also, besides the standard variations of masculine spellings, feminine, plural, duel, and others. To me, the use of “constructs” in some of the Hebrew spellings of “hundred,” is interesting because most of the differences between the numbers in the manuscripts are exactly one hundred.

The patterns don’t hold true throughout the entire genealogies however. Some of the numbers are the same in most manuscripts, but I’ll have to continue this later. Ancient Hebrew would have been very hard to read, and to translate, but that doesn’t mean that what we have isn’t the true story. These things are the marks of authenticity, and not the other way around.

I feel like I have to apologize for the complexity of this post, but I also feel like it’s necessary. If I can inspire someone to take a close look at the Script, rather than dismissing it prematurely, then I have accomplished my purpose. Those who look into it deeply, and into their own soul, come to believe in it.

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