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David Splane and Doing the Math

Do the Math

In the September JW Broadcast David Splane gave a talk on the above title. In it he raised the question whether Noah and Abraham knew each other. He claims that doing the math could help you answer that question. He begins by stating that, according to Insight on the Scriptures, we know for a fact the flood occurred in 2370 B.C.E. He lived for 350 years after the flood so that means he died in 2020 B.C.E. Abram entered Canaan in 1943 B.C.E. At the time he is 75 years old. Add 75 to 1943 means Abram was born in 2018 B.C.E. so, doing the math helps us to establish that Abram was born 2 years after Noah died.

In Genesis Chapter 11, it gives a genealogy from Shem all the way down to Abram.

And it says how old each person was when their son was born. It says that Arpachshad was 35 when his son was born, and Shelah was 30 when his son was born. But what David Splane did not take into consideration is that modern translations of the Bible are translated from the Hebrew Masoretic text, which is not the original Hebrew. But rather, a copy of the Hebrew, called the Leningrad Codex, which was produced in the 11th century A.D. But the Greek Septuagint was translated more than 1,000 years before, in 250 B.C., and would not have been translated from the Hebrew on which the Masoretic Text was based. But rather, from an older Hebrew text, which is no longer available. The Samaritan Pentateuch also pre-dates the Masoretic text and would also have referenced an older copy of the Hebrew. The Jewish historian Josephus agrees with both the Septuagint and the Samaritan Pentateuch.

In the Greek Septuagint it says that Arphaxad was 135. And it says that Shelah was 130. The Greek Septuagint has an extra 100 years on those ages in the six generations from Arphaxad down to Serug. Also, the Masoretic text says that Nahor was 29 years old when he fathered Terah Abrams father. The Septuagint says he was 79.

The Greek Septuagint has an extra 100 years on each one of those ages. But it's not just the Greek Septuagint. The Samaritan Pentateuch includes those extra hundred years and so does Flavius Josephus. That means there is an extra 650 years of history between Arpachshad and Serug. Noah lived 350 years after the flood. (Gen.9:28) Arpachshad was born 2 years after the flood. (Gen. 11:10) According to the Septuagint:

Arphaxad 135 years until Shelah

Shelah 130 years until Eber

Eber 134 years until Phalek

Phalek 130 years until Ragau

Ragau 132 years until Serouch

Serouch 130 years until Nachor

Nachor 79 years until Thara

Thara 27 years until Abram

Adding the above gives us a total of 897 years between Arphaxad and Abram. Adding two years between Arphaxad and the flood gives us 899 years. Subtracting 350 years of Noah’s life after the flood means Noah died, not two years according to Splane, but 549 years before Abram was born. This is the result if you “do the math” based on the Septuagint.

Interestingly, accepting these figures calls into question another statement of David Splane. In a previous broadcast he commented on the age of the Sphinx as dated to 2,550 B.C.E. by historians being wrong because it conflicted with the Bible account of the flood. But that’s only if you accept the Masoretic text figures as being correct.

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On 9/7/2019 at 9:43 PM, Jack Ryan said:

The Greek Septuagint has an extra 100 years on each one of those ages.

Those who have too much invested into the MT will often word this as 'for some reason the LXX translators decided to change the age at which the various patriarchs begat sons and their ages at their death.' Of course, this begs the question about whether the LXX was original and it was the Masoretes who decided to change the ages. But it wasn't the fault of the Masoretes, as this question had already been noticed by Eusebius (4th century, 260-340 CE) and others before the Masoretes came on the scene.

A good, well-documented article on this is here:


Note that it says:

  • Most ancient Christian scholars argued for the originality of the LXX’s primeval chronology. This strong consensus lasted for over 14 centuries until the Reformation, when the MT supplanted the primacy of the LXX in the western church.

Josephus uses the LXX, and the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures (NT) nearly always quoted from the LXX, so it would be natural that Christian scholars would defend the LXX.

----edited to add----

For those wondering what the DSS would say here, we have only this answer from another good article:

A2: No fragments or manuscripts of Genesis 5 and 11 with the numbers were found in the Dead Sea caves, so there is no evidence from those discoveries to directly help us. One tiny fragment was found in Cave 4 at Qumran. Text from Gen 4 is on the right side of the fragment, on the far left, one word from Genesis 5:13 or 14 appears, "Kenan."

The best external evidence we have that corroborates the longer chronology found in the LXX are from four sources that pre-date the second century AD: Demetrius (Greek, third century BC), Eupolemus (Hebrew/Greek, second century BC), Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum (LAB, Hebrew-based, first century AD), and Josephus (Hebrew-based, first century AD).

The article is here: https://biblearchaeology.org/research/biblical-chronologies/2530-from-adam-to-abraham-an-update-on-the-genesis-5-and-11-research-project

The conclusion of that article was that it was 2nd century rabbis, 300 years AFTER the LXX, and which therefore had the influence on the later MT:

There are two main hypotheses that have been presented in the academic literature: it was either the Alexandrian Jews who translated the LXX Pentateuch in Egypt in 281 BC (the LXX “inflation” hypothesis), or the second century AD rabbis in Israel. We encourage you to read "Primeval Chronology Restored" and "Who Was Born When Enosh was 90?" to understand why it cannot be the Alexandrian translators, and why the rabbis had strong motive, unique means, and rare opportunity to deliberately reduce the primeval chronology on the order of 1250 years. We submit that only the rabbis could have gotten away with such an egregious and large-scale manipulation of the biblical texts in the proto-MT textual tradition. We will also examine the antediluvian chronology in the Book of Jubilees, its close affinities with Genesis 5 in the Samaritan Pentateuch, and then propose how (many of) the figures in Genesis 5 SP originated.

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