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GENESIS 5 AND 11: CHRONOGENEALOGIES IN THE BIBLICAL HISTORY OF BEGINNINGS
Gerhard F. Hasel
Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Theology
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WHAT THIS ARTICLE IS ABOUT
The genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 have sharply divided biblical scholars into two separate camps. On one side are those who view these chronologies as a descriptive device to demonstrate a lineage from Adam through Noah. By comparing this chronology with others in Scripture, they posit that the time- related statements do not necessarily carry validity. In this paper, the author claims a uniqueness for these chronologies. Calling them chronogenealogies, he postulates that they have special properties and that they are not easily explained away. In his examination of the Masoretic text, the Samaritan Penta- teuch, and the Greek Septuagent, he compares the chronologies of each and shows several reasons why each should be considered closer to the original. Because certain manuscripts contain longer time periods between Adam and Noah, these have been adopted by some to add more time to their own studies so that the anomalies they find may be easily fitted into a biblical time frame. Dr. Hasel’s study will create uncertainty in this approach.
In an attempt to synchronize discrepancies in the geological and archaeological literature with the genealogies of Genesis, some have postulated the accounts in Genesis 5 and 11 to be taken only as lineage statements. The author presents data to challenge this view.
A recent article on biblical genealogies by a scholar who has devoted a doctoral dissertation to the subject of Old Testament genealogies and its ancient Near Eastern setting (Wilson 1977) has stated at the outset:
Both general readers and modern scholars have traditionally neglected biblical genealogies. Most readers have seen the genealogies as unwelcome interruptions in the flow of the biblical narrative, while many scholars have regarded the genealogies as deserts which can be crossed only with great difficulty and which in the end yield little that is interesting or worthwhile (Wilson 1979, p. 11).
This statement applies to biblical genealogies in general. An investigation of the so-called genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 reveals that this is partially true also of Genesis 5 and 11. Yet there are some studies of the modern period (Bosse 1908, pp. 1-73; Bertheau 1878, pp. 657-682; Euringer 1909, pp. 427-459; Jones 1909, 322 pp.; Fischer 1911, pp. 241-255; Bork 1929, pp. 206-222; Jepsen 1929, pp. 251-255) that must not be neglected aside from the investigations of more recent years (Finkelstein 1966, pp. 95-118; Malamat 1968, pp. 163-173; Makloet 1956/7, pp. 234-236; Meysing 1962, pp. 26-30; Meysing 1963, pp. 22-26; Stenring 1965; Johnson 1969; Larssen 1973; Earle 1974, pp. 15-24; Wilson 1977; Hasel 1979). These investigations indicate a renewed interest in biblical genealogies in general and in Genesis 5 and 11:10-26 in particular.
It is important to consider Genesis 5 and 11 in view of: 1) their unique nature and function in the book of Genesis and in relation to other genealogies, 2) their textual history, and 3) their interpretation. It shall be the purpose of this paper to reflect on the first two of these areas of importance.
II. NATURE AND FUNCTION IN THE BOOK OF GENESIS AND IN RELATION TO OTHER GENEALOGIES
The subject of the nature and function of Genesis 5 and 11:10-26 is of significant importance for a number of considerations. Let us consider several points. It is customary among modern commentators to designate Genesis 5 as the "Sethite Genealogy" (cf. Johnson 1969, pp. 7-14). In actual fact this is hardly correct for two reasons: a) Genesis 5 is the list of generations from Adam to Noah as verses 1-32 clearly indicate, and b) the superscription informs us otherwise. It reads: "This is the book of the generations of Adam" (verse 1). More precisely Genesis 5 is a list of generations of Adam through the line of Seth, his third son.
No genealogy of the generations of Abel is provided in the sacred record, because he appears to have been killed while he was childless. In the case of the oldest son of Adam, namely Cain, the situation is different. In Genesis 4:17-24 the so-called "Cainite Genealogy" is provided. Aside from tracing father-son relationships, it provides information regarding places of settlement (verse 17), the introduction of polygamy (verse 19), the origin of sheep-breeding (verse 20), musicians (verse 21) and metal-workers (verse 22). In other words it explains the origin of an antediluvian culture in terms of its beginnings. Thus it has its place in the history of beginnings of Genesis 1-11 and beyond. The Cainite line did not survive. It was overwhelmed by the waters of the flood. After Genesis 4 the Cainite line remains outside the purview of the sacred writer, except indirectly in the story of Genesis 6:1-4.
This brief mention of the Cainite genealogy accords with the method of the book of Genesis. However, the carriers of the divine promise receive more detailed treatment than those who do not figure prominently in God's redemptive plan. Let me illustrate this. Later in the book of Genesis the genealogy of the descendants of Abraham through his wife Keturah (Genesis 25:1-4) and through his son Ishmael (Genesis 25:12-18) are only briefly reported, but a more detailed account is given of Isaac (Genesis 25:19-34). Much is reported about him. The same is true of the offspring of Esau in Genesis 36 which provides a succinct listing. The story of the heirs of Jacob is related at length (Genesis 37-50), but Esau is never again mentioned in the book of Genesis.
This matter of treatment reveals that the detailed list of descendants of Adam in Genesis 5 has the function of tracing the godly line, the carriers of God's promises from the man God created to Noah, the flood hero, who is the progenitor of the survivors of the flood and thus of postdiluvian mankind (Genesis 11:20-26). As such they are the links from creation to the flood and the flood to the Father of Israel, known by the name of Abraham.
It may be suggested that this internal pattern of treatment in the book of Genesis itself is of great importance. This internal function seems more important than the sociological role of genealogies or the function of genealogies in portions of the modern non-Western world (Wilson 1979, pp. 12-13) or in the ancient Near East (Wilson 1977, pp. 11-136; Wilson 1979, pp. 13-18). These latter sources of information are nevertheless valuable and indispensable. They can correct various hypotheses but they can also be misused as exclusive keys to the interpretation of the biblical materials against the setting in which they are found. The view that Genesis 4:17-24, the Cainite genealogy, is a Kenite tribal genealogy (see Ewald 1853-1854, pp. 5-8; Johnson 1969, pp. 9-14) can be laid to rest (Wilson 1979, p. 19), because of "the relational functions appropriate to linear genealogies" (Wilson 1979, p. 19). Nevertheless the methodological issue of the nature of the genealogy within the function in the given text where it is found remains the ultimate norm for its nature and meaning.
A second major aspect relating to the nature and function of the information of Genesis 5 and 11 is a unique feature in these chapters in contrast to the various genealogies in the Old and New Testaments. Genesis 5 and 11:10-26 contain time specifications which provide evidence "for the necessity of distinguishing these from the latter [genealogical] lists" (Johnson 1979, p. 28). To be more precise, we have to conclude that among the variety of forms of genealogies in the Old Testament, where we have a great number of them (cf. Genesis 22:20-24; 25:1-4, 12-18; 29:31-30:24; 35:16-20; 35:22-26; 39:9-14,40-43; 46:8-27; 1 Samuel 14:50-51; 1 Chronicles 1-9; Ruth 4:18-22), and the New Testament (Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38; cf. Brown 1977, pp. 57-95), there are none that have the time features as we find them in Genesis 5 and 11:10-26. In view of this unique phenomenon we must be careful not to interpret the nature of the lists in these two chapters in the same way as in the genealogies in the remainder of the Bible. It may be suggested, therefore, that the designation "genealogy" for the lists in Genesis 5 and 11 does not truly reflect the unique features of these lists which they share with each other in contradistinction to the other biblical genealogies. We suggest a designation that more accurately reflects the nature of the features of Genesis 5 and 11:10-26 by the choice of the name of chronogenealogy. This compound term reflects both the repeated time elements by means of the word chrono- and the linear succession of generations by means of the term genealogy.
III. THE NUMBERS AND THEIR TEXTUAL HISTORY
A. Preliminary Considerations
Our attention must turn next to the time elements or chronological aspects of Genesis 5 and 11:10-26 for which there are differing textual recensions. There is a textual history that is evident for these numbers to which we must give attention. This involves primarily an investigation of the Hebrew text (called Masoretic text), the Samaritan Pentateuch and the texts of the Greek Septuagint version.
The informed individual will wonder why we restrict our discussion to the Hebrew text and two major textual recensions of the ancient versions of the Septuagint and the Samaritan Pentateuch when in fact there are other ancient sources from Palestine that contain chronologies that reach back to creation. It has been suggested, for instance, that the Jewish historian of the first century A.D. Josephus "confirms the chronology of the LXX" (Zurcher 1960, p. 60) in the sense that the years of the antediluvian patriarchs are 2,656 years (Ant. I.3.3-4), which is exactly 1,000 more than in the Hebrew text (MT) and relatively close to the figure of the LXX (Alexandrian text), which has 2,262 years to the flood. In actual fact, however, Josephus contradicts himself at several points. He states in Ant. I.3.3:
Now he says, that this flood began on the twenty-seventh day of the second month; and this was two thousand six hundred and fifty-six [2,656] years from Adam the first man; and the time is written down in our sacred books, those who then lived having noted down with great accuracy both the births and the deaths of illustrious men (Whiston's translation).
It may come as a surprise that the figure of 2,656 years from Adam to the flood is contradicted by Josephus in his enumeration of antediluvian patriarchs and the figures provided which add up for the antediluvian period to 2,256 years (Ant. I.2.3-4).Is this but a computational error of 400 years, or is the higher figure actually a reflection of the Hebrew text plus 1,000 years (Jones 1909, p. 48)? Is Josephus familiar with the figures of the MT?
A.F. Jones has argued on the ground that the figure 2,656 is but a confusion of the 1,656 of the Hebrew, and that Josephus "was perfectly familiar with the figures of the Hebrew version ... [and this] is a testimony to the existence of the Hebrew figures and their being regarded as of value in the first century of our era" (Jones 1909, p. 48). Whether or not this is the case, Josephus preserves in the same book (Antiquities of the Jews) two more chronologies that conflict with the longer chronology of 2,256 or 2,656 years respectively from Adam to the flood. In a later section Josephus informs the reader that the period from Adam to the flood is 1,662 years (Ant. VIII.3.1) and later yet he states that this period is only 1,556 years long (Ant. X.8.4-5). This chronological information appears to make it evident that Josephus had knowledge of a longer chronology which corresponds more or less to the LXX recensions of 2,262 (Alexandrinus) and 2,242 (Vaticanus) years and conflicting shorter chronologies (Johnson 1969, p. 265) which corresponds more or less with the Hebrew text of 1,656 years for the same period of time. Evidently Josephus does not simply confirm the longer chronology of the LXX, but has a long chronology and two conflicting short chronologies which cannot be reconciled with either the LXX or the Hebrew text. We may draw several conclusions at this point regarding Josephus. 1) It seems fairly certain that Josephus was familiar with long and short chronologies. 2) He did not attempt to harmonize them. 3) He may be an indirect witness to both LXX and to the Hebrew text with its shorter chronology. 4) He has contradictory chronological information as regards the time from Adam to his own time. He can speak of a "little short of three thousand years" (Against Apion I.8), whereas he has given the time from Adam to the building of the Temple in one place as 2,102 years (Ant. VIII.3.1); which was about 1,000 years before his day, and in another place as 3,043 years (Ant. X.8.4-5). In short, Josephus does not seem to be of much help in answering the question of the time element in the chronogenealogies of Genesis 5 and 11:10-26.
A brief word shall be accorded to the Book of Jubilees, which is dated from the second century B.C. (Larsson 1973, p. 31) to the early Christian centuries. In this work all events from creation to the Exodus are arranged in their chronological order within the framework of jubilees, that is, the periods of seven sabbatical cycles of 49 years. It has been demonstrated that for the period before the flood, the Book of Jubilees follows largely the chronology of the Samaritan Pentateuch (Cassuto 1961, p. 265; Larsson 1973, p. 59) with a total of 1,306 years (1,307 in the Samaritan Pentateuch), but for the period thereafter it is not in agreement with any other ancient source. The writer of the Book of Jubilees keeps the history within the given frame, i.e., 50 jubilees or 2,450 years from the creation to the Exodus. If the time from the Exodus to Christ is ca. 1,440 years, the total would be 3,890 years, a figure that may be near to that of Josephus' figure of 3,043 from Adam to the building of the Temple, plus 1,100 years from that to the time of Josephus. These figures converge around 4,000 years, plus-minus 200 years from Creation to Christ. But caution is in order in view of the systematization evident in the Book of Jubilees.
B. Biblical Text and Versions
Let us hasten to move on to the biblical text and the ancient versions to which attention is to be accorded from now on. From a methodological point of view we will attempt to follow the basic principle of A. Bosse (1908, pp. 1-73), F. Thilo (1924), and A. Jepsen (1929, p. 251) in contrast to others (Bousset 1900; Fischer 1911, pp. 241-243) whereby each chronological system is investigated in the form in which it comes to us in relationship to each other without any source reconstruction.
1. The Hebrew Text Compared With the Samaritan Version
The chronology of the Hebrew text is well preserved in the Hebrew textual form. This means that all known Hebrew manuscripts agree in both Genesis 5 and 11:10-26 in the listing of the antediluvian and postdiluvian patriarchs and the respective time information for each one.
The Masoretic Text actually dates in the presently available manuscripts from the ninth century A.D. onward. The famous Dead Sea Scrolls have not yet yielded any manuscript evidence for the relevant sections of Genesis that would predate the MT. This may change once the tens of thousands of fragments from Cave 4 of Qumran are published.
From time to time doubts are entertained regarding the accuracy and faithfulness of the manuscript tradition of the Masoretic text. These can be safely laid to rest upon the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 and onward, because these discoveries have shown with what meticulous care the books were handed down through the centuries. Thus the age of the manuscripts is not in actual fact a sure sign of the age of the information contained. We have seen already that Josephus seems to witness indirectly not only to the Septuagint version but also to the Hebrew text in his divergent chronological informations.
A unique feature of the Hebrew text is its lack of a scheme or system. The antediluvian patriarchs have relatively long life-spans which do not reflect any pattern, system, or scheme. This is different in the Samaritan Pentateuch, where the life-spans are decreasing (with the exception of Enoch, who is taken to heaven, and thus no life-span from birth to death is available and Noah, whose life-span corresponds more or less to that of Adam). Both share in common their function as the progenitors of postdiluvian and antediluvian mankind.
The year of the first-born again reveals no pattern, system or scheme in the MT. It moves back and forth from Adam to Noah, whereas in the Samaritan text it is decreasing, except for those who are born in the sixty-year range. The figures of the Samaritan text reveal a significant degree of regularity and on this account are much more schematic.
The Samaritan text adapts itself to the flood. The figures from Adam to Mahalalel are identical in the Hebrew and Samaritan texts. But the Samaritan text reduced the great ages for Jared and Lamech by 100 years when they begat their first sons and by 120 years in the case of Methuselah. It adjusted also the life-span of these patriarchs to have them on a declining scale and most of all to have them die before the flood. In the Samaritan system Jared, Methuselah and Lamech died together in the year of the flood.
The evident schematization of the Samaritan recension with the general pattern of decreasing ages of the first-born and decreasing life-spans of the antediluvian patriarchs and the addition of 100 years to the ages of the begetting of the first-born (except for 50 years in the case of Nahor) leads to the supposition that the non-schematic figures of the Hebrew text are original. "So the figures in the Samaritan text may well be explained as alterations from the Hebrew text. But an alteration from the almost perfect Samaritan system to the irregular Hebrew system seems quite incredible" (Larsson 1973, p. 57). The scholarly consensus is that "the Hebrew text has preserved the original figures in their purest form" (Euringer 1909, p. 15; cf. Jones 1909, p. 61; Bosse 1908, pp. 71-72; Earle 1974, p. 23; Jepsen 1929, p. 252, only for antediluvian period). Exceptions are those of Bertheau in an essay from 1878, who argues for the priority of the Samaritan Pentateuch over the Hebrew text on account of a system of adding of figures of the first column in the Samaritan text of Genesis 5. One adds from the flood the years of age when the first son was born and arrives at the total age of the respective patriarch (Bertheau 1878, pp. 664-670). The following chart shows the system:
In 1929 A. Jepsen also argued that the Samaritan text of Genesis 5 has priority over the Hebrew text, because the latter has "the simpler figures" (Jepsen 1929, p. 252) when compared with the Samaritan text. We have found this not to be the case. If the system indicated by Bertheau has any value, then the principle of the simpler being the later and the complex being the earlier still holds. Jepsen's arguments point in the opposite direction and thus he has not found any following (Cassuto 1961, p. 254). It appears that the Hebrew text contains the original figures when compared to those in the Samaritan Pentateuch.This system only works for the Samaritan text. Therefore, it is said to have priority over the Hebrew text. This is precisely its weakness. The harmonious systematization of the Samaritan text seems to be evidence for alteration from irregular Hebrew figures. The principle employed for making a decision of priority is that the irregular is prior because there is no reason why something regular is to become irregular.
2. The Hebrew Text Compared With Textual Recensions of the Septuagint Version
The question before us is whether the textual recensions of the LXX version contain the original figures or whether they are found in the Hebrew text. This is a difficult matter, because scholars who understand the figures of the chronogenealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 to provide guidelines for a short life on earth would, on account of geological, anthropological and primarily historical considerations, wish to adopt the longer chronology of the LXX. These modern concerns are of great importance and provide the key for some interpreters to move into the direction of accepting the longer figures of the LXX, which provide beyond the Hebrew text an additional 1,386 (LXX Alex) or 1,466 (LXX Vat) years respectively from Adam to Abraham. From the flood to Abraham it means 780 (LXX Alex) or 880 (LXX Vat) years in addition to the 292 years given in the Hebrew text. Evidently the LXX figures are attractive for several reasons.
In comparison with the manuscript evidence for both the Hebrew text and the Samaritan Pentateuch for which textual variants are absent (Jones 1909, p. 42), the LXX does not fare as well. We have at our disposal two major uncial manuscripts (MSS) of the LXX from the 4-5th century A.D. One MS is that of the Vatican Library called Vaticanus and the other is called Alexandrinus.
It would be well to discuss the variants in these textual recensions. The two LXX MSS disagree in the age at the son's birth in the case of Methuselah. LXX Alex (also D,E,M and many LXX miniscules) agrees with the MT that Methuselah's age at the birth of his first son was 187 years, but LXX Vat (pm) deducts 20 years and gives 167 years without reducing the total life-span of 802 years. The end result is that according to LXX Vat, Methuselah outlived the flood by 14 years. Later MSS make a correction of the total life-span to 782 years, "in order to avoid the awkward situation of placing the death of Methuselah after the Flood" (Johnson 1969, p. 264, n. 2). Jerome (c. 345-c. 419) does not seem to have known any LXX MS with the figures 187 and 782 respectively (Migne S.L 23.3.col.955; Preuss 1859, p.33 as cited by Bertheau 1878, p. 671) which seem to have been widely used since the time of Origen (3rd century) (Bertheau 1878, p. 671).
A second textual variant involving figures occurs in the postdiluvian period. Nahor's age at the birth of his first son is given as 79 years in LXX Alex, but as 179 in LXX Vat. The additional 100 years reflect the usual custom of adding 100 years. In the cases of both Methuselah and Nahor it is exactly 100 more than the years of birth of the oldest son in the Samaritan Pentateuch, which has 67 and 79 years respectively (see chart below). These additions account for the differing figures from Adam to the flood, namely 2,262 in LXX Alex and 2,242 years in LXX Vat.
Another unique feature of the LXX is the introduction of a Cainan in the list of generations from the flood to Terah. After Shem and Arpachshad a second Cainan is listed who lived 460 years and who was 130 years when his first-born son was born. The puzzle of this Cainan remains largely unresolved.
This Cainan does not appear in the Hebrew text, neither is he found in the Samaritan Pentateuch, Vulgate, or Syriac versions. Josephus does not have him either. He is found in the Book of Jubilees. M.D. Johnson suggests that "the LXX interpolates Cainan between Arpachshad and Shelah" (Genesis 11:13b), making the parallel between the two lists [of Genesis 5 and 11] more obvious" (Johnson 1969, p. 25, n.2). U. Cassuto regards it as "a later interpolation of no value" (Cassuto 1964, p. 251) and refutes the suggestion that the LXX list is the original form of the text in order to arrive at ten generations from Shem to Terah. "The tenth generation is not that of Terah but of Abraham" (Cassuto 1964, p. 251 against Bork 1929, p. 209). There is apparently no reason to insert this second Cainan in the Hebrew text and the Samaritan Pentateuch (with Euringer 1909, p. 445 against Fischer 1911, p. 244). Whether he goes back to an ancient tradition (Bork 1929, p. 209) remains a moot question. The Book of Jubilees (8:1-5), which is generally thought to be dependent upon the LXX in certain figures, is the only ancient extra-biblical document which has this second Cainan. Whereas the LXX gives the figure of 130 as the age of Cainan at the time of the first-born, the Book of Jubilees assumes the figure of 57 years (Bork 1929, p. 222).
Is this second Cainan a historical figure? Why do we find this name in the Septuagint manuscripts? The reason for the insertion of the second Cainan is difficult to come by. In view of the schematization evident in the figures of the LXX, it has been suggested that Cainan was inserted in order to arrive at a figure which comes up with 4,260 years from creation to the building of the Solomonic Temple (Bosse 1908, p. 76). In this case the assumption is that behind the figures in the LXX is a symbolic meaning.
Alternatively it may be suggested that a scribal error is the cause of the second Cainan in the LXX. The eye of a copyist may have inserted from memory after the words "and became the father of . . ." in verse 12 the name Cainan mentioned in Genesis 5. The figures for Cainan and for Shelah who follows are identical. In this case we have a homoioteleuton for the figures.
The second Cainan of Genesis 11 in the LXX calls for a little further consideration in view of the fact that this name also appears in other genealogical lists of the Old Testament according to the LXX version. In Genesis 10:24 this Cainan also appears in the LXX MSS as a part of the Table of Nations. He appears again in 1 Chronicles 1:18,24, according to a number of LXX MSS, whereas others omit him.
At this time a word regarding the appearance of this Cainan in the genealogy of Jesus in Luke's list may be in place. In Luke 3:36, according to the majority reading of MSS, we find the words "of Cainan." It is not certain whether Luke found this name in his source or whether it was later added by copyists. The contemporary first century A.D. authors of Luke, such as Philo and Josephus, do not have this second Cainan. In 1 Chronicles 1:18, 24 the MSS of the LXX are divided; some contain it and some do not. For instance, the uncial Codex D does not have these words. It has, therefore, been suggested that it is likely that the words "of Cainan" were later added (Euringer 1909, p. 444) in the Luke MSS.
Turning our attention from textual variants in the LXX MSS to a consideration of the figures in the LXX as compared to the Hebrew text, a number of observations are in order. The LXX has a far greater schematization and regularity than the Hebrew text (and the Samaritan Pentateuch). We observe that in both the antediluvian and the postdiluvian lists the LXX regularly has 100 years more for the ages at the begetting of the first-born sons, except where we have a textual variation between 79 (LXX A) and 179 (LXX B) in the case of Nahor. Consistent exception to the addition of 100 years is found in the cases of Jared, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah, Shem, Terah, and Abraham.
The second point in the systematization of the LXX is observable in the fact that the years of life subsequent to the birth of the first-born son for each patriarch is 100 years shorter in the antediluvian period, but the total life-span in this list (Genesis 5) is the same as in the Hebrew text, except for the case of Lamech. The small alteration in the case of Lamech may be due to the LXX desire to place his death and that of Methuselah in the year of the flood.
The third point of systematization is evident in the fact that the LXX has a consistent decrease of ages at the begetting of the first-born son until we reach Jared (230, 205, 190, 170, 165, 162), signifying a "going down" (Cassuto 1961, p. 265), and thereafter there is a steady increase until we reach Noah (162,165,187,188, 500). In the postdiluvian period we observe again the same alternating pattern of decrease-increase in the ages at begetting (135, 130, 130, 134, 132, 130, 79 [or 179 for LXX B]), whereas the pattern of total life-span is steadily decreasing with the exception of Eber in LXX A or Nahor in LXX B.
A comparison of the years of death in relation to the births of the patriarchs is also instructive. The Hebrew text does not reveal any pattern or order in this point. Irregularity is the mark of the Hebrew version. The LXX reveals as also the Samaritan Pentateuch that "the deaths of the patriarchs fall in the same approximate order as their births" (Larsson 1973, p. 58). For instance, in the Hebrew text, Shem, Shelah and Eber died after Abraham. Likewise Shem was still alive when Jacob was an old man and Noah did not die before Abraham was almost sixty years old. This situation is changed in the LXX. The deaths of the postdiluvian patriarchs occur in the approximate order of their births, which means a relatively regular sequence of the years of death.
What may be the cause for the divergences between the figures of the LXX MSS and those of the Hebrew? On the hypothesis that the LXX preserves the original figures, it is argued that the Masoretic (Hebrew) text used a subtraction method compared to the tradition provided in the LXX chronology (Zurcher 1960, pp. 50-55). One major reason for the subtraction method is a supposedly six-thousand year millennial speculation of Persian origin. But this has been cited as the very reason for the longer LXX chronology (Bork 1929, pp. 214-215). It has been suggested by Bork that the chronology of the Masoretic (Hebrew) text argues against Persian speculations, which at the same time would suggest that "it was produced before Alexander the Great" (Bork 1929, p. 218), i.e., before the LXX was produced.
However that may be, the majority scholarly opinion holds that the less schematized and the more irregular chronology has claim to originality. It will have to be admitted that the LXX has by far the more symmetrical, schematic chronology. This we are forced to note time and again. The reasons for the addition of time in the LXX version may never be known with any fair degree of certainty. It may be conjectured (see Larsson 1973, pp. 58-59) that the LXX translators who are known to have produced their work in Alexandria, Egypt, were influenced (also) by the Egyptian chronology of Manetho. Manetho produced his chronology of the Egyptian Pharaohs at least a half a century before the LXX translators began their work. His chronology, which incidentally is also a key in modern chronological schemes by Egyptologists, dated the first "historical" Pharaohs to about 3,000 years earlier, so that the flood could not have been until before that time. This meant a lengthening of the Hebrew chronology which appears to have been achieved by adding the additional 100 years to the patriarchal ages at the begetting of their first-born sons. The extra Cainan in the postdiluvian period also contributed to reaching a period of time approximate to that of the Egyptian chronology. In this process of addition a certain systematization could be achieved which removed the irregularity of the Hebrew text. In this process the period of time from creation to the flood was lengthened by 606 years (LXX A) or 586 years (LXX B) respectively which means that creation took place not in the year 1656 before the flood (MT) but in the year 2262 or 2242 (LXX) respectively. More significant for historical reasons is the longer period of time being added since the flood, which, in place of the short 292 years from the flood to Abraham, in the MT has 1,072 (LXX A) or 1,172 (LXX B) years, thus reaching 3,334 or 3,414 years respectively from creation to Abraham. The Samaritan system is closer to that of the MT by the total figure of 2,249 years from creation to Abraham as compared to the 1,948 years of the MT.
In summary, the conclusion to be reached is that the MT has a non-schematic presentation of figures, whereas the Samaritan Pentateuch and the LXX version give evidence of schematizations with the LXX being the most schematized. If the principle of order and schematization is invoked as that of later reflection, then the systems of figures in both the Samaritan Pentateuch and the LXX versions are later than that of the MT. If it is possible to convince oneself that the purpose of the MT is to bring irregularity and non-system out of regularity, schematization and system, then both the LXX and the Samaritan Pentateuch may be conceived to have priority over the Hebrew text. Unfortunately, at the present it is impossible to decide on the basis of external MS evidence which figures have priority and can claim originality. There is evidence for both systems of figures, the MT and the LXX, for at least to the time of the 1st century A.D. A significant point of weakness in the LXX figures is the textual variation found in certain LXX MSS. On the whole, it does not seem possible to argue with absolute certainty whether the MT or the LXX has priority, even though certain considerations are available that seem to point more strongly in one direction than in the other.
- Bertheau, E. 1878. Die Zahlen der Genesis. Jahrbücher der deutschen Theologie 23:657-682.
- Bork, F. 1929. Zur Chronologie der biblischen Urgeschichte. Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 47:206-222.
- Bosse, A. 1908. Die chronologischen Systeme im AT und bei Josephus. Vorderasiatisch-Ägyptische Gesellschaft. Mitteilungen 13:1-73.
- Bousset, D.W. 1900. Das Chronologische System der biblischen Geschichtsbü. Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 20:136-147.
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- Cassuto, U. 1961. A commentary on the book of Genesis, Vol. 1. Magnes Press, Jerusalem.
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