DO THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE HEBREW AND GREEK OF GENESIS 5 & 11 REALLY MATTER?

DO THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE HEBREW AND GREEK OF GENESIS 5 & 11 REALLY MATTER?

The Bibles that we use today are based on a Hebrew Refined Master Text, usually the Biblica Hebraica. A comparison of the genealogies in Genesis 5:1-32 and 11:10-26 of what is in our Bibles, which translated from the Hebrew, with the Greek Septuagint version, reveals that the Greek version has more years between the time of Adam’s creation and Abraham, because (1) The man’s age when his child is born is longer, usually by 100 years, and (2) Cainan is included in the Greek, but not in the Hebrew.

The following three articles by Henry B. Smith, which are available on the internet, clearly document the case for using the Septuagint genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11, in preference to the standard Hebrew text that all of our Bible translations have:

(1) MT, SP, or LXX? Deciphering a Chronological and Textual conundrum in Genesis 5

(2) Methuselah’s Begetting Age in Genesis 5:25 and the Primeval chronology of the Septuagint: A Closer Look at the Textual and Historical Evidence

(3) From Adam to Abraham: An Update on the Genesis 5 and 11 Research Project: Dec 16, 2017

The fact that Luke’s genealogy includes “Cainan” (Luke 3:36), gives much credence to the case that the Septuagint genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 are more accurate than the Hebrew text’s. This has the net effect of adding at least 1,250 years to the time from Adam’s creation to Abraham. Expressed slightly differently, it would mean that Adam was created at least 1,250 years earlier, meaning that humans have been on earth for at least 7,250 years.

However, as strong as the case may be for the Septuagint’s genealogies, it is wise not to be dogmatic. Why? The very fact that the inclusion of “Cainan” in Luke 3:36 differs from the standard Hebrew text of Genesis 11, should also give us pause. If God allowed his Word, the Bible to have such a difference indicates that using genealogies to create a chronological timetable, or timeline, may not be what God wants us to do! This is one area where there is enough doubt as to which genealogical table is correct, the Hebrew or the Greek, that we can conclude it is not really important.

See the upcoming article: Are Genealogies Important for Christians?

2 thoughts on “DO THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE HEBREW AND GREEK OF GENESIS 5 & 11 REALLY MATTER?

  1. If God did exist and the Bible was the word of God, then there wouldn’t be all this confusion, doubt, and disagreement on the text. God would not allow it. But there is. Therefore, either God does not exist or the Bible is not the word of God or both. Which is it?

  2. It is important to note that, while the original writings of the Bible were inspired by God (none of which are extant today), the subsequent copies, and translations were not inspired by God (2 Timothy 3;16,17), although God made sure that his Word would be accurately preserved to the extent that He deems necessary (1 Peter 1:24,25).
    There is no doubt about God’s existence, or the Bible being the Word of God. Neither is it questionable that the people listed in the genealogies of Genesis 5 & 11 & Luke 3:23-38 existed, including Cainan. What is in question is some of these men’s ages when they had their sons. But since people lived for much longer periods of time back then, both the Hebrew text’s figures or the Septuagint’s figures could be true. For example, today a man could be 22 when his first son is born, or he could be 42. Both are plausible. So it is in these genealogies.Genesis 5:3 (Hebrew) says Seth was born when Adam was 130 years old, but the Greek says that Adam was 230 years old when Seth was born. There are two factors that make either age entirely plausible: (1) Seth was not born until Cain and Abel had grown up, and Cain had murdered Abel (Genesis 4:25); and (2) Adam lived for 930 years total, according to both the Hebrew and the Greek accounts.
    The ambiguity in the textual differences makes no difference in any Bible teachings or doctrines, neither does the difference in the time that humans have lived on earth, although the Greek text’s ages do fit a little better into the currently known historical timetable. However, since Biblical genealogies have some gaps, it is not possible to construct an absolute chronological timetable, nor is it even necessary.
    Most important, the very fact that there is some ambiguity in the text regarding relatively minor matters, such as these men’s ‘begetting’ ages, is a proof in itself that the Bible is not edited by fiction writers to ‘smooth out’ the story. It is an actual record of things that God wants us to know (2 Timothy 3:16,17).

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